Lewis Carroll wins March Madness Bracket!

We’ve already exhausted the ‘March Hare Mad-Hatter-ness’ pun on this blog a few years ago, but Lewis Carroll is making basketball news during the college playoffs! His contributions to bracketology were discussed at length at the Wall Street Journal in two articles:

In addition to writing “Alice in Wonderland,” Lewis Carroll was a mathematician who was offended by blind draws in tennis tournaments. So Carroll devised a method to ensure that the most skilled players would survive to the latest rounds.

So in the spirit of adventure, The Wall Street Journal put Carroll’s radical format to the ultimate test: this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament. If we assigned the 64-team field randomly, then played out the tournament based on the NCAA selection committee’s overall ranking for each team, what would happen? Would the teams that got unlucky draws or suffered early upsets still make it through to the late rounds? And would there be enough surprises to keep people entertained? [continue reading]

-Rachel Bachman, from “Introducing the Lewis Carroll Method,” The Count, Wall Street Journal, 22 March 2012.

The excellent illustration for the WSJ article by Scott Brundage


Then Bachman expanded the idea into a printed WSJ article:

When The Wall Street Journal undertook a search to figure out who invented the concept of the tournament bracket, nobody had any idea where the search might lead. It’s fair to say nobody imagined it would bring us to the same neighborhood inhabited by Alice, the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter.

After our March 17 story, in which we speculated that an 1878 pairings list from Wimbledon was among the first brackets used in sports, we received a number of letters offering fresh leads. The most intriguing one came from a longtime reader, Joel Chinkes, who lives in Luna County, N.M.

Chinkes had in his possession a version of an 1883 monograph written by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a 19th-century English mathematician better known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll. Carroll, as you may recall, is the author of Alice in Wonderland. Chinkes thought we should have a look at the monograph.

The monograph, “Lawn Tennis Tournaments, The True Method of Assigning Prizes with a Proof of the Fallacy of the Present Method,” is just about what it seems to be: a proposal for a better way to conduct a sports tournament. Let’s get one thing straight: Carroll didn’t invent the bracket. In writing this nine-page plan, his only goal was to make it better. [continue reading…]

-Rachel Bachman, from “A Bracket Through the Looking Glass,” Wall Street Journal, 23 March 2012.

In quasi-unrelated sports news, did you know the team name for Lincoln High School in Vincennes, Indiana, is the Lincoln Alices? Apparently they’ve been called that for so long that no one remembers why. (If anyone actually does know why, please tell us in the comments.) Anyway, congratulations on being the  2012 Sectional Champions!


Washington Ballet photoshoot gives a taste of next month’s new Alice production

Washington Life, March 2012

The world premiere of Septime Webre’s ballet Alice (in Wonderland) in Washington, D.C., is less than a month away and Washington Life magazine is readying the town with a front cover photoshoot for their March edition. Sneak peak pictures are below and more can been seen online at Washington Life.

Also on the website is a behind-the-scenes account of the photoshoot, which involved trampolines, live white rabbits, and photographer Dean Alexander snapping the camera at just the right moment.

Alice (in Wonderland) will run April 11-15 at The Kennedy Center, Eisenhower Theater, Washington, D.C..






Alice Starring Maki Onuki (Photo Dean Alexander. Produced by Design Army)

Tweedledum Starring Nayon Iovino & Tweedledee Starring Corey Landolt (Photo Dean Alexander. Produced by Design Army

Jabberwocky in American Sign Language is a clear winner

The Omaha World-Herald has reported some great news from Iowa where the national Poetry Out Loud competition at the Iowa School for the Deaf was won with a performance of Jabberwocky. First-time contestant Gabby Humlicek wowed the judges with her choice. “It was a really challenging poem to turn into American Sign Language,” Humlicek said. In rendering Carroll’s nonsense words Humlicek said it helped that “I’m a gregarious signer, and I practiced.” The newspaper reports that Gabby will go on to the state competition in De Moines this March – success there could lead to Washington D.C. and a bid for the national title. We wish her luck!

I couldn’t find an online video of Gabby’s performance, but for the curious I did manage to find another anonymous performance on YouTube. It’s fascinating to try and follow along with the poem. I am not sure what is happening 40 seconds in but I think it might be the frumious bandersnatch and, if so, it is pretty scary. It would be great if any readers of this blog who know ASL could offer us a commentary.

Stephen Colbert on Alicegate: Chewbacca in Wonderland

Stephen Colbert weighed in the Obama White House Alice in Wonderland Halloween Party scandal on last night’s The Colbert Report. It’s worth watching just for Colbert’s epic nerdy rant about Chewbacca in Wonderland:

Alicegate? Scandal involving “lavish” White House Alice in Wonderland Party

Star-studded photo from the White House 2009 Halloween Party

Mad Tea Parties and politics are in the news again, but this time thrown by the Democrats. President Obama’s 2009 Alice in Wonderland-themed “star-studded” Halloween party is central stage in a mini-scandal, coming to light because of details in a new book called “The Obamas” by Jodi Kantor of the New York Times. Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing criticizers of the President are claiming the party was secret and extravagant. The White House has responded that the party was for military families and not at all secret. From the Huffington Post article “Limbaugh: Media Helping Obamas Cover Up Secrets“:

“The Obamas,” by New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor, has already prompted a fierce response from the White House to its stories of infighting between Michelle Obama and her husband’s staff. But the media has latched onto another story in the book. Kantor alleges that the White House deliberately downplayed a lavish, Tim Burton-designed Halloween party held in 2009 so as not to appear out of touch with economically struggling voters.

Though they did not mention the details of the party in official briefings at the time, the White House has pushed back on this story as well, saying that the news of the party was mentioned in a Tennessee paper and on a Johnny Depp fan website.

And another Huffington Post article “Obama’s ‘Alice In Wonderland’ White House Party With Tim Burton” describes the party in more detail:

Kantor writes (via the NY Post) that Burton made up the room “in his signature creepy-comic style… He had turned the room into the Mad Hatter’s tea party, with a long table set with antique-looking linens, enormous stuffed animals in chairs, and tiered serving plates with treats like bone-shaped meringue cookies… Fruit punch was served in blood vials at the bar. Burton’s own Mad Hatter, the actor Johnny Depp, presided over the scene in full costume, standing up on a table to welcome everyone in character.”

George Lucas, the book says, sent over the original Chewbacca costume for the occasion. Kantor also writes that the President and First Lady’s daughters, Malia and Sasha, and their friends were entertained with a magic show in the East Room.

Local children and military families were also invited.

I don’t remember if anyone at the LCSNA was aware of the party, but we certainly weren’t invited. Pictures of the party are on the White House website.

Walrus seeks Carpenter, must have own loaf of bread

Mowbury Park Walrus, Copyright Helen Wright

Mowbury Park Walrus, Copyright Helen Wright

Oh shed a tear for the lonely Wearside walrus! For eleven long years he has sat alone, gazing across Mowbray Park and Winter Gardens in Sunderland, UK. Now friends of the park hope to raise the money to commission a companion for him.

“We thought it was right to do this,” said Sylvia [chairman of the Friends of Mowbray Park]. “The poem is The Walrus and the Carpenter, but all we have is the walrus. It could be any old walrus without its carpenter.

“It is unlikely though, if we get enough money to go ahead, that we will base the designs for the carpenter on the original drawings – as he might scare the children!

“We would prefer a kindly carpenter visitors can sit on. People always used to sit on the lions in the past, but they don’t seem to any more. Perhaps we can start a new tradition!”

Read more about the fundraising campaign and Lewis Carroll’s connection to Wearside on the Sunderland Echo website.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland read in Scientology Cruise Training Routines

An article by “Explainer” Brian Palmer at Slate.com seeks to answer the question “What do you do on a Scientology Cruise Ship?” “They hang out in the Starlight Room, play shuffleboard, and achieve Operating Thetan Level VIII,” is part of his explanation. And, according to him, our favorite novel is also included in training  routines:

"Alice: Ace of Diamonds" by Annie Rodrigue, deviantart.com. 5x7 watercolour, ink and acrylics on hot pressed watercolour paper.

Coursework on the Freewinds is a combination of independent book study, cooperative activities, and personal counseling sessions. In lecture halls, students complete lists of assignments that include reading book chapters and using modeling clay to demonstrate their understanding. They also participate in “training routines” to improve their communication skills. Classic examples include staring another student in the face for hours without blinking, or reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to each other. [continue reading.]

A quick Google search finds dozensof other articles corroborating that AAIW is used. The Wikipedia article on Training Routines (Scientology) describes TR-4 called “Dear Alice” thusly: “The student reads several lines from Alice in Wonderland to the coach as if saying them himself. The coach either acknowledges the line or flunks the student according to whether the line is communicated clearly.” The footnotes reference Cooper Paulette’s 1971 book The Scandal of Scientology and Jon Atack’s A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics & L. Ron Hubbard Exposed (1990). By the way, Jon Atack is a great name for a writer of exposés. Anyway, I wonder which edition of AAIW they use…

Secret supper club leads diners down the rabbit hole

Secret supper clubs are all the rage, so we’ve heard (we’ve never found one). Right now, somewhere in Vancouver, the Swallow Tail Supper Club is entertaining diners with fine food, cocktails, and live entertainment on a Wonderland theme. Local blogger Ariane Colenbrander seems to be in on the secret:

The evening starts at the outskirts of a moonlit forest, where guests are greeted by a frantic White Rabbit, who ushers them down the rabbit hole, to a nostalgic world of childhood fairytale characters. The Mad Hatter pours tea and soup is served in a “Drink Me” bottle labeled either “Big” or “Small”. The bottle guests drink from will determine their next course. More...

According to the same blog, celebrity chef and Food Network star Bob Blumer may also be involved, though it is not clear how. The supper club will be operating for only a few more days—they don’t seem to be sold out yet. Tickets cost $129 a head.
Tenniel's Leg of Mutton

Alice’s great-grandson writes for Huffington Post

Hugh St. Clair: interior designer, creative consultant, columnist for the Lady Magazine—and great-grandson of Alice Liddell. An article by Hugh appeared yesterday on the Huffington Post: What Was the Real Alice in Wonderland Like? Her Great-Grandson is Fascinated.

The short article contains no shocking revelations from the family vault, (except, perhaps, his admission, “As a child I never read Alice,“) but it is interesting to see what the family is up to these days. Do you think Lewis Carroll would have liked one of these armchairs for his rooms in Christ Church? It is upholstered in Hugh St. Clair’s own fabric, “Large Oval Flamingo.”

Hugh St. Clair fabric

George Smith chair with Hugh St. Clair fabric

Celebrating Looking-Glass Day in Puerto Rico

In celebration of Looking-Glass Day, we have a heart-warming report from guest blogger and LCSNA member Emily Aguilo-Perez in Puerto Rico.

Today, Friday November 4, 2011 I celebrated Looking-Glass Day with my elementary school students. Now, I am not sure if Looking-Glass Day is an “official Carrollian” holiday, but I like to find any reason to celebrate. This day was no exception.

To honor the day when Alice’s second adventure takes place and the day in which her age is “seven and a half exactly,” I decided to prepare a reading day for my students, who are in first, second, and third grade. For this, I put to use some of my Alice memorabilia and costumes to bring the story to life. Putting on my Mad Hatter’s hat and taking out my collection of Disney Alice in Wonderland plush dolls I began reading a short version of the story to my students.

For time’s sake I had to use a Disney version of the story, since it was shorter and had many pictures in them (and as we all know, Alice likes her books with pictures). So I opened my Little Golden Book titled Alice in Wonderland Meets the White Rabbit and began the adventure through Wonderland. In some of my classrooms I gave students a doll, so when their character was mentioned, they had to act out what was happening. With other groups I read the story and acted out the scenes using the dolls, similar to a puppet show.

Disney plush dolls I used for the story

What I truly enjoyed about reading the book was that students had fun, asked questions, and recognized the story and characters. Of course, this is mainly thanks to the two Disney film adaptations rather than the original books. However, this showed me precisely that through movies, children (and even adults) can develop an interest in reading great literature such as Carroll’s. My students were telling me what was going to happen next, they knew who the characters were, and they even acknowledged the differences between the animated Disney version and Burton’s adaptation. It also reminded me of how I first encountered the Alice stories – through the animated film – and it gave me hope that maybe someday my students will read and come to love the books as much as I do.

It was a frabjous experience sharing my favorite story with my students! I just wish I could’ve had more time to play games, sing, or even have a Mad Tea Party. I hope you had a Wonderful Looking-Glass Day as well!