Mar. 8th, 2009

keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
Happy (belated) birthday, [ profile] lady_puck9999! And happy (real) birthday to [ profile] laitma, whose early-party I recently returned from.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
The Tales of Beedle the Bard
by J.K. Rowling
111 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/YA

Such fun meta-fiction! Dumbledore's commentary is not entirely truthful, prompting me to go back and selectively reread book 7. This is a collection of five Wizarding bedtime stories, with sagely snarky comments following each. In fact, Dumbledore's comments are much more interesting than the stories themselves. It's not worth the outrageous price for a slim hardcover volume, however pretty; but your local library will have it, and for HP fans 'tis a speedy, amusing read.

In the first story, "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot," a Muggle-helping wizard passes away, leaving his lucky cooking pot cauldron to his cranky son. The pot, which has been carefully enchanted, begins to hop and clang incessantly until the young wizard continues his father's kind acts and is allowed to put a slipper on the pot's metal foot. Second, three witches ally together to quest for "The Fountain of Fair Fortune". By seeming coincidence, a bedraggled knight joins their party. On the way to the fountain, each has resolved his or her tragic misfortunes without any magic from the fountain at all. In "The Warlock's Hairy Heart," a young warlock cuts out his heart to protect himself from the infatuations of love. When he finally falls in love (of a sort) with a maiden, he shows her his hairy heart in its casket. The maiden pleads with him to put his heart back, but in its long absence the heart has gone mad and takes over the warlock's body, causing him to cut out the heart of his beloved maiden. And then, of course, he kills himself in tragic love. "Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump" is a funny tale about a foolish Muggle king decides to learn magic and hires a charlatan to help him. The charlatan enlists Babbitty the old witch (who delightfully reminds me of Pratchett's Granny Weatherwax) to help him, but the king attempts to resurrect a dead hound, the charlatan is unveiled and Babbitty pulls a trick of her own in revenge. Finally, "The Tale of the Three Brothers" discusses a certain set of three brothers and their encounter with Death. Readers, of course, know perfectly well that the three gifts from Death are utterly false and imaginary. Of course.
keilexandra: Adorable panda with various Chinese overlays. (Default)
The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges and Who Gets Left outside the Gates
by Daniel Golden
334 pages (trade paperback)
Genre: Nonfiction/Education/College

Golden is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning Wall Street Journal reporter, and this is a book destined for the college-admissions canon--its relatively recent publication date, 2006, also helps with dating issues that plague other books in the subgenre. On the other hand, knowing that the information is relatively accurate doesn't exactly induce fluffy cheer and joy. Golden reveals the hard truth about "the price of admission" and supports his assertions with numerous anecdotal reports from admissions offices and other sources; he is clearly credible, but that only depresses the reader more in reading about development, celebrity, legacy, athletic, faculty-brat, and racial preferences. The aforementioned groups are disproportionately white and wealthy, leading Golden to his conclusions regarding privilege and the American aristocracy.

Still, Golden appears to reluctantly support affirmative action because it remains "necessary"; he devotes an entire chapter to Asian discrimination, for which he blames every admissions preference except AA. I'm skeptical about why affirmative action gets to be special like that in avoiding criticism. The final chapter, "Suggestions for Reform," was disappointing--Golden's idealistic suggestions would work, if they were ever implemented--but he proposes few incentives for colleges to change the system. Sure, colleges could work harder like Caltech to fund-raise without legacy preference; but why would any college bother with the difficult transition, when they're getting along just fine by trading admissions slots for large donations?

This is a must-read if you want to understand the college admissions process. I'd rank it up there with Jacques Steinberger's The Gatekeepers and Avery et al's Early Admissions Game.


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January 2011


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