March's Books to Film

The most anticipated feature film this spring is perhaps The Hunger Games (PG-13), to be release on March 23rd, based on the novel by Suzanne Collins. In a bleak future, the United States has been reduced to a dictatorship with 12 districts. Every year, in order to prevent uprisings, the ruling Capitol forces one boy and one girl from each district to fight each other to the death in a nationally televised arena --- and only one will survive. Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts and make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love if she's ever to return home.

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax is the 3D-CG adaptation of the classic tale of a forest guardian who shares the enduring power of hope. The animated adventure follows the journey of a 12-year-old as he searches for a real Truffula Tree, the one thing that will enable him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams. To get it, he must find the story of the Lorax, the acerbic yet charming character who fights to protect his world.

John Carter, a Disney production (PG-13) based on Sci-fi novel A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton, this sweeping action adventure set on the mysterious and exotic planet of Barsoom (Mars) tells the story of John Carter, who is inexplicably embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions amongst the inhabitants of the planet, and discovers that the survival of Barsoom and its people rests in his hands.

Based on the fairy tale of Snow White by The Brothers Grimm, Mirror, Mirror (rated PG) retells a wicked enchantress's schemes and scrambles to control a spirited orphan's throne and the attention of a charming prince. A star-studded cast - with Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen; the fresh-faced Lily Collins as Snow White; gorgeous leading man Armie Hammer as the Prince, and the incomparable Nathan Lane as Brighton, the Queen’s right hand man.

Already out on the coasts but hopefully coming to theaters near us is Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, starring eye-candy Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt, and the dynamicKristin Scott Thomas; directed by Lasse Hallström (Chocolat)

Based on the 2007 novel by Paul Torday, where a visionary sheik believes the peaceful pastime of salmon fishing can enrich the lives of his people, and he dreams of bringing the sport to the not so fish-friendly desert. Willing to spare no expense in order to turn the dream into reality, he enlists Britain's leading fisheries expert and the Prime Minister's overzealous press secretary. This unlikely team will embark on an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible, possible. Check out the recent review and trailer in EW.

I am the Lorax! I speak for the trees!

Celebrate The Lorax and Read Across America at our Toast to The Truffula Trees craft program on Thursday, March 15 at 7 pm at the Downtown Library! Families with children of all ages are invited to make a ridiculous Truffula Hat out of recycled materials from our favorite treasure trove, the Scrap Box. A dramatic reading of The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss, will entertain creators as they color, cut and glue with pom poms, pipe cleaners, stickers and lots of colorful recycled junk!

Andrew Breitbart, controversial conservative blogger, has died

Andrew Breitbart, conservative blogger who has captured the headlines time and again with his controversial approach to journalism, has died.

Breitbart, author of last year's Righteous indignation : Excuse me while I save the world! has emboldened the right and inflamed the left with his involvement in many hot news stories, including those about former Congressman Anthony Weiner and Shirley Sherrod who lost her job at the Department of Agriculture following Breitbart's actions. The status of her lawsuit against Breitbart and two other individuals, for defamation is unclear.

His propensity for intense journalistic activism was so intense that social media this morning were flooded with messages skeptical of his passing until several independent sources confirmed it with the UCLA Medical Center where he died shortly after midnight this morning of natural causes.

Breitbart was 43.

The Art of Emblems

The art of emblems goes way back to the “impresa” which wealthy people used to create their personal mythology. An emblem or logo may represent schools, countries or even types of gardens. Emblems can be windows into cultures and eras of human history. Of course Ann Arbor’s emblem has something we are famous for. One of the most recent popular emblems plays a dramatic role in the book , The Hunger Games, also coming soon to a theater near you!

Feeding the Downton Fever

If you are one of the 142 library patrons waiting to catch up on the First Season of the PBS Masterpiece Theater's Downton Abbey, or you'd scheduled your Sunday activities around the Second Season now in progress, then read on.

This immensely popular British period drama set in a grand country house in North Yorkshire is largely the creation of actor/writer Julian Fellowes (with illuminating behind-the-scenes tidbits), whose niece, author Jessica Fellowes has published The World of Downton Abbey (photography by Nick Briggs) - a companion book about the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants, as well as insights into British society in the early years of the twentieth century.

If you and your friends are caught up in the Downton fever that's sweeping the country, the New York Times has some smashing ideas that involve theme parties (tiaras optional, menus suggested).

If your participation tends to be the solitary variety, or you are already suffering from fear of withdraw once the last episode airs on February 19, then be comforted that the major publishers have already anticipated your needs with a further reading list.

Readers Advisory Guru (and my good friend) Neal Wyatt has come up with her impeccable suggestions in this RA Crossroads article "What To Watch (and Read) After Downton Abbey" that is sure to bring you many hours of reading/viewing/listening pleasure until Season 3.

Zoom Zoom Zoom: Watch the Snow Plows Go

Chicago, Schimago. Ann Arbor was first. Track A2 city snowplows as they plow through the streets (when we get snow to plow) at Snow, the new Automatic Vehicle Location web page. Zoom into the city snow route map to see the real-time locations and status of snow plow activity, where the plows are right now and what they are doing. You'll know whether they're salting or plowing and can even find out what kind of truck is being used on any street. So how many miles of plowing are we talking in A2? The city’s street maintenance unit is responsible for snow removal on 358 lane miles of salt route roadway and 10 bridges.

More December's Books to Film

Steven Spielberg directs Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson and David Thewlis in War Horse (PG-13), based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo - a tale of loyalty, hope and tenacity set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War.

It begins with the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and a young man called Albert, who tames and trains him. When they are forcefully parted, the film follows the extraordinary journey of the horse as he moves through the war, changing and inspiring the lives of all those he meets.

John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is adapted by Director Tomas Alfredson for Universal Pictures into a feature film starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, and Tom Hardy.

This international espionage action-thriller is set at the height of the Cold War when George Smiley, a disgraced British spy, is rehired in secret by his government in fear that MI-6 has been compromised by a double agent working for the Soviets.

Christopher Hitchens, brilliant, acerbic columnist, has died

Christopher Hitchens, contributing editor of Vanity Fair magazine and best known for his unapologetic defense of atheism, died December 15th in Houston.

Hitchens, born in Great Britain in 1949, was a lightning rod for fury from both the left and the right. Conservative Christians were shocked by his 2007 bestseller, God Is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and his dissing of Mother Teresa in The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice (1995). The left howled in outrage over Hitchens' full-throated support for the US war in Iraq and for his skewering of President Clinton in No One Left to Lie to: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton (1999).

Hitchens was drawn to political hotspots and wrote about these conflict for The Nation and England's The New Statesman.

A lifelong heavy drinker and smoker, Hitchens, who was 62, died of complications from esophageal cancer.

Vaclav Havel, author, dissident, and world leader, has died

Vaclav Havel, author, dissident, and former president of Czechoslovia and the Czech Republic, died Sunday.

Havel first gained fame as a playwright and essayist, writing brilliant anti-communist pieces that landed him in jail for many years followed by decades being followed by the secret police.

He was credited with orchestrating the Velvet Revolution in 1989, a bullet-free street demonstration revolt that resulted in the toppling of the four-plus decades Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. Havel was appointed the country's tenth and last President.

In 1993, when the country was split in two, he became the first President of the Czech Republic. Under his leadership, the CR joined NATO and the European Union.

After his 2003 retirement, world leaders continued to meet with him for political advice and analysis. President Obama remarked on his passing that Havel "...proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon."

Havel, who was a lifelong heavy smoker, was 75 when he died of severe respiratory distress.


Kim Jong-il, North Korea's elusive dictator, is dead

Kim Jong-il, brutal dictator of North Korea for the past seventeen years, died December 17th.

Kim Jong-il was mocked and ridiculed for his short stature, elevator shoes, and fascination with all things Hollywood. However, US diplomats who met with him, learned to reassess that caricature as he continually surprised them with his political knowledge and dexterity.

Relations between the US and North Korea have teetered on a fragile balance for a very long time as Kim Jong-il pursued the development of nuclear weapons despite coordinated international condemnation and sanctions.

Kim Jong-il, secretive to the end, was 69 or 70 years old.

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