Archive for Tolkien

The Hobbit (3 hours long and it’s only the start..)

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , on January 5, 2013 by xi'an

On X’mas evening, I went to the movies with both my kids, such a rare event it deserves a special mention! Unsurprisingly, the common denominator for the three of us was The Hobbit (I), on its second week. The small Norman cinema where we went was far from packed, no wonder for a X’mas evening, and it reminded me of the time I took my brother-in-laws to see Time Bandits in the same room, with a crowd close to 12 people total! (Yes, it was a while ago, as Time Bandits came out about 1981…!)

Anyway, we watched the movie together and came out with divided opinions! My daughter liked it, my son thought it was not as good as the Lord of the Rings, not enough fighting maybe?, or simply less convincing orcs, and above all a missing Legolas!, and I considered the whole affair just ridiculous! I had misgivings from the start as Tolkien’s Hobbit is a kids book, which does not make for a proper setting for Jackson’s usually grandiose fantasy operas… It is also a short book and I could not see why it required three movies altogether! Well, I still do not see, except for providing the producers with more revenues. Continue reading

Back from Oxford

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2012 by xi'an

Several interesting questions were raised during my seminar talk at Oxford. First, David Cox suggested I looked at the collection of the two p-values in the Poisson and geometric cases to check whether or not they could point out at a disagreement. (I am however unsure at how the p-values should be computed in this case, maybe as a likelihood-ratio test…) Chris Holmes asked about what happened to the ABC Bayes factor when both models were wrong. I had not thought of this earlier and will look into it: my first impression is that there is no reason for the same model to be chosen. It depends on the relative tail behaviour of the distribution of the summary statistics under both models… Stephen Lauritzen mentioned prior to the seminar a highly relevant book by a Copenhagen mathematician, whose definition of conditional densities was perfectly suited for constructing a convergence proof for ABC (to be incorporated in my Roma slides, if feasible). During the talk, he also pointed out at other (counter)examples of models where sufficient statistics remained sufficient across models: e.g., contingency tables with pairwise interactions. Arnaud Doucet got back to the Potts model (counter)example to stress that we needed perfect sampling to make it work and that our MCMC alternative could be adding another level of approximation to the process, which is quite right!

On the less academic side, I was in Oxford only for a short while, being due back in Paris for a presentation of our Statistics Master: I stil managed a short run in the morning in a nearby park where I saw a heron (blurred above!), as well as hints of the coming Spring (left) but I wish I had had more time (and indications!) to run along the rowers as I did in Cambridge. (I also wish I had had time to visit Tolkien’s favourite pub! Although I had a beer at the Lamb and Flag, which served as a meeting place for the later members of the Inklings…)

Some of my favourite books

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2009 by xi'an

books3Last night, I took some of my favourite books out of my bookcases: here they are from bottom to top (picture-wise!). Obviously, they are not all comparable in terms of literary “quality”, but they are books I like to re-read from time to time or books that impacted me the first time I read them…

  • Heckmair’s My Life, already mentioned in that post about Messner’s book, for the heart-stopping tale of the climb of the Eigerwand. There are better written (more literary) books about mountaineering, but this remains my favourite;
  • Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings that I read so often it is almost virtual by now. This is not here as my favourite fantasy book, but simply as one of my favourite books, because it subsumes the [fantasy] genre into a larger one, borrowing from Nordic sagas as well as Celtic folklore and German tales;
  • Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, which is the most metaphysical love story he wrote. If I had only one book to carry around that would be the one! (I also love very much his novel Brighton Rocks, another unusual and dark love story);
  • Céline’s Voyage au bout de la Nuit, also discussed in that earlier post, which is for me the most impressive French novel of the xxth century, inventing a new style and seeing beyond the current ideologies;
  • Joyce’s Dubliners, so uniquely modern as well, especially the first short story, The Dead, with its conclusion of quiet despair. John Huston made a movie of it, where he superbly managed to convey the different currents in the story;
  • Hugo’s Quatrevingt-treize, his novel about the French Revolution (and the Breton counter-revolution), with an unforgivable trio of characters, the father, the son, and the defrocked priest, as well as a superb style. Certainly my favourite novel from Hugo with L’Homme qui rit;
  • Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, for translating both the horror of the war and the ultimate feeling of camaraderie only extreme situations can induce (also a favourite of my son in his rare excursions outside fantasy). The following novels by Remarque like The Road Back and Drei Kameraden carried the same feelings of hopeless friendship, but with less intensity;
  • Chandler’s The Long Good Bye, for, if you think Chandler wrote detective stories, read him again! This is a very deep and sad novel, mostly about jilted friendship, with a detective side that is quite incidental;
  • Dostoievski’s Brothers Karamazov, the quintessential Russian novel with the triptych of brothers as an idealisation of humanity and the undercurrent of spiritual questioning;
  • Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, for the bittersweet taste of wasted opportunities and things past;
  • Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, a literary genre by itself…

(to be continued for the remainder of the book pile…)