October 28th 2004 Pi

Last night, I celebrated the first “Weekly Wednesday Night Slack-Fest”. This festival, which I hope to continue on a weekly basis, is one night in which I can shrug off the stress of college life and relax. What does this festival entail? Basically, it means putting off all my work until another day. Japanese lit reading? Do it tomorrow morning before work. Psych? Study tomorrow. Papers? Work on them another night. Wednesday night is now a guilt-free way to escape work by simply not doing any.

How did this (hopefully) weekly ritual come about? Through a long and convoluted process. Yesterday I got off work at approximately 5:00, and arrived back at my dorm room around 5:15. (Yesterday was a great day at work because finally, at long last, I finished my major Housing project, but that’s beside the point.) I watched a DVD of Da Ali G Show in a friend’s room until 6:15, then I slept until 6:45. Around that time I headed up to Coleman 055 to watch Fires on the Plain for my East Asian Studies course. The movie was not that good, but that’s not the focus of this entry, is it? Anyway, it was a fairly typical evening up until that point—nothing special. The movie ended around 9:00, and I headed to The Bison to get dinner, since I had not eaten yet. As I waited in line for food, my friend Andrew tapped me on the shoulder. Andrew eats some pretty odd times so I wasn’t surprised to see him. We sat down and ate our food, and presently his friend Nicole met us. Around 10:00, we finished eating. I had planned on heading back to my room to do some (read: a lot of) reading for EAST 220, but Nicole invited me to watch a film.

After much debate, the three of us decided on the movie Pi. Pi turned out to be a fairly good film, albeit a bit strange. The plot revolves around this brilliant but mentally deranged mathematician named Max. Max’s goal in life is to discover a pattern to the stock market. He first attempts to apply π, but that approach fails, so he switches to the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden ratio. In the meantime, he attracts the attention of a stockbrokerage, who naturally is interested in his work, and a Hassid Jew, who believes that Max finds the key to a new Messianic age. Unfortunately, all his work slowly drives Max to the brink of insanity.

Who knew math could be so exciting?

Although hard to follow at times, Pi is a wonderful movie nonetheless, filled with rich drama and a fair amount of artistic value. An independent film, it won the Director’s Award at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. Shot in grainy black and white, the film cost less than $50,000 to produce—a minuscule amount compared to the tens of millions spent on a typical Hollywood film. The protagonist, Max Cohen, is a character with whom you can quickly and easily sympathize. Obviously a genius, he clearly does not have it all together upstairs. Seen through his deranged and hallucination-prone mind, his story takes on a life all its own. While many might find a “mathematical thriller” rather dull and boring, Pi is a film that quickly pulls you in and never lets go. I highly recommend it to anyone searching for a thrilling film that’s a departure from the Hollywood blockbusters you might be used to.