Information, Answers & Reviews

Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State

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This six part documentary produced by the BBC looks not only at the horrors that took place in Auschwitz; but at the developments, both political and technological that resulted in what many consider the worst of all the Nazi internment camps -- Auschwitz, along with its immediate aftereffects. I can't say that this documentary was a pleasure to watch but it was educational, important, and horrific.

The Book of the Maidservant

Do you think you've had bad luck being squeezed between two obnoxious air travelers? Imagine what it was like in the 15th century to be forced to take a religious pilgrimage to Rome with your boss (a fervent woman who screams her prayers out loud) and a fierce man from your English town who threatens you daily. Plus, after an arduous day climbing mountains and fording dangerous rivers, the other pilgrims demand that you cook their evening meal (dried peas, anyone, or how do you skin a rabbit?) Afterwards when the pious folk are resting by the fire, they send you out to do their washing in the nearest frigid stream.

Whip It

No, this post is not an ode to Devo (though I do love that song), but rather a look at the world of roller derby. I attended my first bout the other night and had the opportunity to see Bloomington's Bleeding Heartland Roller Girls win. Afterwards, I was inspired to pick up the feature film Whip It, a look at one teen's coming of age through the roller derby.

Young Adult Fiction Debate - How Dark is Too Dark?

Part Time IndianSeveral weeks ago, a contributor for the Wall Street Journal wrote an article entitled Darkness Too Visible. The author's complaint was that contemporary YA literature, aimed at the broad range of 12-18 year-olds is inappropriate for it's heavy inclusion of "explicit abuse, violence and depravity".

Then the internet blew up. Several interesting responses have come from NPR, one from pop culture expert Linda Holmes, and another interview with a YA librarian, YA authors, and the original author of the WSJ article.

Mind over money.

Imagine that you had a group of people in a room; let's say twenty people. Then let's say that you held up a twenty dollar bill and that you were going to auction it off to the lowest bidder. Finally, you allow the participants to begin bidding. What would you expect to happen? Of course some people would bid one dollar for a twenty dollar bill. Other bids would come in as high as ten or nineteen dollars. Even at nineteen you still stand to gain a dollar if you win the bidding war. What would you say if participants bided as high as twenty-seven dollars for a twenty dollar bill? That is exactly what this documentary explores. We are used to a theory of economics that says that we all pursue our rational self-interest, but then how to do we explain the obvious irrational behavior in the experiment above?

Freedom

If you listen to politicians and talking heads speak, you'll instantly recognize that "freedom" is a particularly powerful buzz word in American culture. Franzen achieved notoriety for a famous run-in with Oprah about his book The Corrections being included in her book club. He complained that this might scare men away from reading his book, so Oprah withdrew the nomination. In another bizarre twist, last fall a fan stole the author's eyeglasses and offered them for ransom. In this mega-novel of 562 pages, Franzen tackles the theme of what constitutes freedom in our closest relationships. He writes about a family, the Berglunds, who helped transform an old St. Paul neighborhood into a thriving community.

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