Archive for March, 2009

War Child is a documentary about the once-Sudanese child soldier, Emmanuel Jal, who is now settled in London and is a hip-hop artist. He fought in several battles until he was smuggled to Kenya by Emma McCune and sent to school there.
Emmanuel Jal tells his story, often in flashbacks, as the civil war broke out to his success as a musician. He doesn’t say much about his experiences as a child soldier, but provides moving flashbacks about his difficult relationship with his father, who left him to join the SPLA and never checked on him when he was among the survivors of a boat accident. This is shown on the most moving part of the documentary, which is when Emmanuel travels back to his home village to meet his family. I think War Child was a very good film because Emmanuel is very articulate and the film included rare footage of Emmanuel as a child. I didn’t enjoy his music, but I think it was very suitable as background music for the film.

my rating: 3.5 out of 5
check out his book, War Child


Read Full Post »

About a month ago my dad bought me Microsoft Student with Encarta Premium which is a package for students containing study tools, dictionary tools, an encyclopedia and more. I’ve been using it ever since, so I’m going to post my thoughts on it.

First of all, its articles are pretty good and solid. The encyclopedia is an excellent tool for reading about the US Industrial Revolution or about what causes the seasons.The encyclopedia gives you a basic overview about any topic; and if you want to learn more you could follow the online links available, often of documents available online and simulations. However, I think there should be more links provided, and I’m not sure whether they are updated or not. The ‘visual browser’ is a very cool tool to navigate through topics and material. A note I’d like to add is that if you’re researching on a small specific topic, the encyclopedia would not provide you with enough material and information. You could read one of the articles available to know the overview, but you’ll have to go online if you want to dig deeper into the topic. Encarta provides very informative literary articles and book summaries of many books taught in schools. They’re not just book summaries; you could read characters analyses, theme analyses, symbols, historical contexts, etc.

Science media is particularly good; graphic simulations are available to help you understand the moon phases of the seasons better; they’re very helpful. Those may not be so easy to find online.

Student 2009 offers a lot of templates and tutorials for literary writing and scientific writing. There are a lot of writing and graphic resources at the ‘papers and reports’ section. These are very helpful aids. So are the foreign language tools, which provide a few links, verb conjugation and translation tools for Spanish, French, Italian and German.

The things in Encarta may seem simple, but if you dig deeper into them you’ll discover that they have some really good stuff.  The ‘games and fun stuff’ section provides animations, visual tours, games and videos covering all subjects. I expected the games to be more advanced and not so simple as they are. The animations and videos are very good, but I wish they covered more topics. The visual tools are not very good. They’re not made of the newest 3D technology, and I remember using the exact same Abu Simbel tour in Encarta 2003 when I was 6 or 7. It’s very difficult to navigate in their tours.

The Math tools are not bad. I find the ‘equation solver’ the most helpful tool because it shows you how to actually solve any equation you type in. The ‘math concepts’ explains a wide range of math lessons. There are a couple of other math tools available such as the ‘unit conversion tool’ and the ‘triangle solver’. However, I could use more tools, such as one which could show me how to create symmetrical snowflakes.

Among the numerous things Microsoft Student with Encarta Premium includes are geography tools and graphic learning essentials. Overall, it is certainly an essential software for students, but it doesn’t contain everything, and it’s not perfect.

note: the package costs about $50, to learn more click this link:


image: http://www.jamdeal.com/uplimg/img_172381_e9cc7fbc62989ffc9962b83a50b5b642.jpg

Read Full Post »

Azur and Asmar is a French animated film set 18th century France. It is about a nurse who raises her black infant, Azur, along with her master’s white, blue-eyed baby, Asmar. The two boys grow up together as brothers. The nurse always tells them stories about the majestic ‘Djinn Fairy’, who is waiting to be freed from her prison by a gallant prince who shall become her husband. As Azur and Asmar grow older, they are separated when the master sends his son Asmar to another place to get tutored, and viciously lays off the nurse and her son Azur even though they have no where to go. In the future, Asmar, now a young adult, decides to venture the world to find the Djinn Fairy, and gets shipwrecked. He ends up meeting Azur and his mother, who are now wealthy people. The climax begins when the two brothers start an adventure to find the Djinn Fairy, and only one of them will succeed.

I think this was a beautiful and amazing movie. Although the graphics weren’t 3D and therefore not realistic-looking, they really suited the film, although looked a odd at some parts. There is a fair amount of Arabic in the film, which I enjoyed, especially in songs. Azur and Asmar is a very unique and subtle film, and funny in some parts! The ending was lovely and graceful. The thing I liked about this movie, which resembled an ancient fairytale, was that it introduced the audience to new cultures and languages. I think it was middle eastern with an African blend in it.

my rating: 9/10 (a beautiful and unforgettable movie)

Read Full Post »

In Marquez’s detailed 2003 memoir, Living to tell the Tale, he recounts the details of his life as a struggling writer and journalist, until the day he proposed to his wife. The book begins when the author’s mother, after several years, visits her poverty-stricken son to ask him to accompany her back to his hometown, Aracataca, to sell his grandmother’s house. She also tries to convince him to fulfill his father’s wish by going to law school and earning a degree in law. In his memoir Marquez recounts not only the people but also the writer and poets who shaped his life as an author. His dry wit was inspired by his grandfather, with whom he shared a close friendship. His novel, Love in the Time of Cholera, were based on the events of his parent’s life. Marquez blends his elements of wit from One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera into this masterful autobiography, where he explains his various struggles as a journalist against the backdrop the events in Colombia, such as the War of a Thousand Days.

Unfortunately I have read a couple of other books while reading this book, which I have finished quite some time ago, so I don’t have a fresh memory of what is inside it (that won’t happen next time).

my rating: 10/10 – a masterful book and a gem for Marquez fans

Read Full Post »

Gabriel García Márquez: A LifeI have just discovered that a biography of Gabriel Garcia Marquez by Gerald Martin is going to be released in May 2009. The book is called Gabriel García Márquez: A Life. The book consists of 672 pages and it is the first biography of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I’ll certainly buy this book once it comes out because I’m interested to know how Marquez is portrayed by a point of view, other than himself.

view the book at amazon

read the book review

book cover from amazon

Read Full Post »

In the book Escape from Slavery, Francis Bok tells the story of his abduction from his Dinka village by militiamen and his 10-year enslavement. As a slave, he had to do hard labor, eat rotten food, and get frequently beaten by his owner, Giema Abdullah, and his children, in addition to receiving death threats from Giema Abdullah’s angry wife.

I find Escape from Slavery a deeply poignant and insightful look at modern slavery. It is not complicated nor is it too long. Francis Bok also talks about how he manages to escape through Cairo and Khartoum, Sudan after a couple of unsuccessful trials. Not only is Francis Bok a witness to modern slavery, but he is also a nation-wide speaker who travels all over the country to educate people and urge them to take action. He had accomplished great achievements, including meeting the United States President and bearing the torch at the 2002 Winter Olympics. A fascinating collection of pictures are available in the middle of the book.

I highly recommend this deeply captivating and insightful book.
This book is also great for educating middle – and –high school students.

buy at Amazon

Read a one-page summary about Francis Bok

Escape from Slavery lesson plan (highly recommended)


Read Full Post »

What is the What, an autobiographical novel, tells the story of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, Valentino Achak Deng, who had to walk from his attacked through Ethiopia to Kenya.

The novel begins with Valentino in the United States, as he is attacked by two thugs. He starts remembering his childhood at the Sudanese village where he was born and the day militiamen started attacking his village and its people. The book then continues, between flashbacks, with Valentino narrating his journey to Ethiopia then to Kenya, where he was attacked by armies and wild animals and stricken by hunger, and also his life after he is settled in United States.

I think this is an excellent and thoughtful book, one of the best portrayals about Lost Boys in Sudan. Not only does it include the politics of Sudan in an interesting way for the reader, but it also includes a personal story. Dave Egger’s witty and cleverly humorous writing made me eager to continue reading this book.

The tone of the book is not boastful or offensive, but very creative, making the reader have sympathy for the main character.

Another important aspect in this book is portraying the Valentino’s life in the United States. Even though he is now settled, he still misses his village and is faced with myriad new challenges.

This is an enlightening book which everybody will enjoy, one that you’ll want to read more than once.

note: I haven’t gotten into detail in this review because I’ve read it almost a month ago, so I just wrote what I remember; sorry about that!

website to check out:

http://www.valentinoachakdeng.org/ (Valentino Achack Foundation)

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/24/books/review/Prose.t.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=what%20is%20the%20what&st=cse (What is the What New York Times book review)

http://www.ted.com/index.php/speakers/dave_eggers.html (Dave Egger’s website)

buy What is the What at amazon

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »