Ah, "this day in German culture," if you can call it that ...
I love math; I miss math. That makes math sound like meth, an addiction, or obsession. Snorting, shooting, swallowing math—your daily dose of geometry, your algebra fix, a number theory flashback.
That reminds me that I owe that such-and-such firm a firm reply, a polite thanks but no thanks; they managed to spam as many Budapest math program folks as possible, including my old roommate, who likewise provided them with a polite but perhaps more direct response, for when he sees, feels, or thinks something he is not wont to couch it in veiled terms. So he told them what was wrong with their strategy and what they should do to improve their recruitment returns.
As for today and math, January 28th is the birthday (1540–1610) of Ludolph van Ceulen, born in Hildesheim (in Lower Saxony). He later moved to the Netherlands and ended up in Leiden, where van Ceulen taught fencing and mathematics. Ah, the merging of two great loves.
By the end of his life he calculated π to 35 digits by hand (using polygons with 262 sides); and in some circles π was (and occasionally is) known as the "Ludolphine number."
- An old and expensive book (Fundamemta arithmetica et geometrica cum eorum usu. In varii problematis, geometricis, partim solo linearum, ductu, partim per numeros irrationales, & tabulas sinuum, & algebram solutis. Authore Ludolpho A Ceulen Hildesheimensis & vernaculo in latinum translata a Wil. Sn. R.F.)—EUR 5,500.00
- What is Algorithmic Number Theory?: "Why were we celebrating Van Ceulen and his pi computation now, and at a number theory conference? For one thing, pi computation is surprisingly close to algorithmic number theory."
At home Johnny Cash plays; at work Beethoven's piano sonatas. Regarding the former I've got three and a half (of about 12?) hours to go, but that mass of songs will have to wait. As for the latter, I just pick and choose when I'm in the office and need something to help me work.
- Alcohol: 28
- Ice Cream: 28
- Finishing a book: 0
- Finishing a comic: 0
- Watching a movie: 0
The trailer for the upcoming waste of Al Pacino, 88 Minutes, seems to have decent production values, but I see nothing that differentiates it from any other post-Silence of the Lambs "thriller"—given the rest of its cast, it looks like a high-budget TV episode in terms of plot(ting). I can't say that Romulus, My Father, will be a better movie than 88 Minutes, or even a good movie, but it looks as if it at least uses its cinematography to artistic and story-telling effect. Variety reviewed it such: "Warmly felt but haltingly told meller 'Romulus, My Father' holds the attention with fine perfs and exquisite lensing, but never really grips the imagination." The World Socialist Web Site also gave it a mixed review.
A few other links:
- Reads Like a Book, Looks Like a Film: "It is also an obvious source of his talent. [Brian Selznick's] obsessions with old French movies, automatons, clockworks and the filmmaker Georges Méliès inspired 'Hugo,' which earlier this month won the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children."
- Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler: We've discussed the topic on this site ad nauseum (eating local, organic, XXX-fed, you name it), and it's a topic that's been discussed in books and such for a couple years now. And now the N.Y. Times talks about it (not as a book review), which reminds me of when years after all my friends were drinking them they decided to "review" lambics, and years after bourbon was no longer a backwoods, overall-wearing second-class (at best) whiskey, they "reviewed" that as well (last November?). My colleague K provided the proper response to their years-after-the-fact "reporting" of such matters for their print audience: "Hello?"
- Bits & Pieces (old archive page)
- Back to the N.Y. Times, this time on Ezra Pound (Charles McGrath reviewing A. David Moody's biography): "[Pound] challenged the poet Lascelles Abercrombie to a duel on grounds of 'stupidity' so great it amounted to 'public menace,' and he called The Times of London a 'slut-bellied obstructionist,' a 'fungus' and a 'continuous gangrene.'"
I finally got around to finishing The Black Dossier while consuming my coffee late this afternoon. The 3D glasses rock.
I'm eagerly awaiting Volume III.
Tonight I have Antonioni to watch; the DVDs are due back tomorrow.
Last week some time I read Jack Finney's Body Snatchers (1955) after watching 2007's less than inspiring adaptation, The Invasion. There are tales of how the Wachowski brothers and James McTeigue were brought in to do late rewrites and re/new-shooting after the studio was unhappy with Oliver Hirschbiegel's (Der Untergang [Downfall]) version; I can't say whether the "original" version was better or worse than what they released, only that what they released has a so-so script, decent enough performances, and rather bad editing. There are jump-cuts, and then there are sloppy cuts, and this has the latter. The added special/visual effects and car chase crap were unwelcome additions. I like to think there was a darker, moodier, more claustrophobic film hidden away in Hierschbiegel's product or at least his imagination ... but, alas ...
And that's what brought me to Body Snatchers. Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon writes:
The original 1956 "Body Snatchers" served as either a Cold War fable about the evils of communism or a deft condemnation of our sheeplike fear-mongering about the same, depending on your interpretation. Philip Kaufman's 1978 remake was a timely exploration of the post-Watergate and Vietnam generation's collective loss of trust. Abel Ferrara's 1993 reworking of the tale focused on what happens when we put our faith in the military. So now, in an era when the term sleeper cell is the stuff of headline news, what better time to reinvent science fiction's allegorical heavyweight champ?
As the critique continues, it's The Ivasion's failure to be timely that is ... well, it's failure, and there is something in that. The argument goes, each generation gets its generation-specific adaption of Body Snatchers; this parallels, I think quite aptly, the observation that each generation also gets its adaption of I am Legend, and given the similar ages of the stories and how close together the most recent adaptations of each hit theaters this is even more worthy of an essay, one that I surely won't be the one to write.
The version of the book I read was put out by Gregg Press (in the Gregg Press Science Fiction Series), a division of G.K. Hall & Co., in 1976. The run was limited by contract to 400 copies, and I was lucky enough to run across one of them, for this version contains a very nice introduction by Richard Gid Powers (Richmond College, CUNY). Powers rightly points out that the politics of the 1956 movie (and of the later versions) is lacking in the novel, though, Powers continues, Finney's brand of American traditionalism was for quite a while merged in the minds of many and interpreted as anti-communism. There is but one political reference in the novel, early on, when it is mentioned that the county (in California) had gone Republican in the last election, and Eisenhower is mentioned by name. That's it. As a confrontation with modernity, though, the slender volume might be dated but it's still quite interesting.
Better than expected.
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