Helen Thomas, longtime White House journalist, has died

White House news correspondent, Helen Thomas, is dead at 92. Ms. Thomas will always be noteworthy in American journalism for having shattered the glass ceiling as the foremost White House correspondent of her generation. An iconic and prickly writer of conscience, she was always willing to speak her mind and was at her best when she once growled, Listen up, Mr. President. In 2009, we brought Ms. Thomas to Ann Arbor for a special event at the Michigan Theater cosponsored by Michigan Radio. We also had the good fortune to interview Ms. Thomas. We have both the video and interview available for streaming and downloading.

He is Legend

The world-renowned author and screenwriter, Richard Matheson died last week. He is remembered for having written numerous episodes for the legendary TV series, the Twilight Zone, but also for his science fiction novels , many of which were made into movies, such as I am Legend (made into 3 different movies: the Last Man on Earth; the Omega Man; and, most recently, I am Legend with Will Smith); the Shrinking Man (made into the 1957 classic movie, the Incredible Shrinking Man); Bid Time Return (made into the movie filmed at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Somewhere in Time); and Steel (most recently made into the movie, Real Steel). He has a long list of screenwriting credits to his name including the classic Edgar Allan Poe movie adaptations directed by Roger Corman like the Pit and the Pendulum. For me the most memorable piece he ever wrote was an episode of the Twilight Zone called Nightmare at 20,000 Feet with William Shatner as the airplane passenger who sees a monster tearing apart the plane’s wings as they are in flight. This was also remade in Twilight Zone: the Movie. He was creative all his life, having been first published at eight years old and writing through his 80’s. He was 87 when he died.

Locus Magazine announces the winners of the 2013 LOCUS Awards

Locus Magazine, the monthly magazine for the latest news and reviews in the world of science fiction, fantasy, and horror literature, has announced its 2013 winners.

John Scalzi received the Locus for Science Fiction Novel for Redshirts. At first, Ensign Andrew Dahl is enjoying serving aboard the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid until he realizes a horrifying pattern. All journeys involve deadly confrontations with aliens and its the lower ranking crew members who are at risk. Listen to Wil Wheaton read the audiobook version.

The Fantasy Novel award went to Charles Stross, for The Apocalypse Codex. The Laundry, Britain's highly secretive intelligence agency charged to protect the Queen and the realm from occult intrusions, employs the beautiful, volatile Persephone Hazard to investigate U.S. televangelist/healer, Ray Schiller. Gideon Emery narrates the audiobook.

The Young Adult award went to China Mieville for Railsea, a hugely imaginative mix of steampunk, cyberpunk, and a fantastical spin on Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Sham is an apprentice to the doctor serving the railsea train Medes. Sham is excited to be on his first hunt for moldywarpes, gigantic moles who live beneath the earth, erupting to the surface in life-and-death battles with all who track them down.

The Non-fiction award was given to William Gibson for his collection of essays in Distrust that Particular Flavor, 30 years of thoughtful pieces about the past, present, and future as influenced by technology.

The Art Book award was bestowed on Spectrum 19: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art. According to the publisher, "With exceptional images by extraordinary creators, this elegant full-color collection showcases an international cadre of creators working in every style and medium, both traditional and digital"

For a complete list of the winners, check out this link.

James Gandolfini, a.k.a. the iconic Tony Soprano, has died

James Gandolfini, an award-winning actor on both large and small screens, has died.

Gandolfini blasted his way into the public's consciousness with his nuanced portrayal of Tony Soprano, the complicated head of a New Jersey mob family in HBO's popular series, The Sopranos, which first aired in 1999. Tony Soprano was, by turns, violent enough to beat a man to death for dissing the memory of his dead horse, henpecked by his wife, Carmela (Edie Falco, cowed by his mother, Livia (Nancy Marchand), and anxious enough to see a psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco).

Mr. Gandolfini, a Jersey man through and through, was a graduate of Rutgers. He came late to acting, having sat in on a friend's acting class when he was 25. His first acting role was in Sidney Lumet's 1992 A Stranger Among Us (on order). Many other silver screen roles followed, including the 2001 Brad Pitt/Julia Roberts film The Mexican, in which Gandolfini handily stole the show from both megawatt stars playing a gay hit man.

Mr. Gandolfini racked up an impressive number of awards for Tony Soprano, including three Emmys for outstanding lead actor in a drama, a Screen Actors Guild (2000) and a Golden Globe.

Mr. Gandolfini, who was on vacation in Italy when he died yesterday, was 51.

Michael Hastings, brilliant journalist who brought down a General, has died

Michael Hastings, author and award-winning journalist for Buzzfeed, died yesterday in Los Angeles.

In the June 22, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, Hastings wrote a blistering piece on then-General Stanley McChrystal who was commander of American forces in Afghanistan. Quotes from McChrystal and his aides were so highly critical of President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden that the General resigned shortly thereafter. Hastings received a 2010 Polk Award for this article.

Hastings' early career as a driven, heat-seeking missile for the truth included writing for Gentleman's Quarterly and Newsweek. Then in 2007, Hastings' world was rocked. He and his fiancee, Andi Parhamovich were both stationed in Baghdad (he was writing for Newsweek; she was an aide worker for The National Democratic Institute. Andi died in an ambush on January 17th and Hastings returned to his parents' home in Vermont, where holed up in their attic for two months while he wrote I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story (2008), a keening, bitter, loved-filled tribute to Andi.

Hastings' last hard copy book, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War on Afghanistan came out last year. His last book, published earlier this year in Kindle-only format, is
Panic 2012: The Sublime and Terrifying Inside Story of Obama's Final Campaign

Superman flies back into theaters this weekend in Man of Steel!

Inspired by comics such as Mark Waid's Superman: Birthright, Man of Steel tells the story of Clark Kent's transformation from lonesome farmboy to greatest hero the world has ever known. A survivor of the distant alien planet of Krypton, Clark struggles to determine his purpose in life on Earth. Knowing his tremendous power may inspire fear in others, he keeps to himself, a secret guardian angel. But with famed reporter Lois Lane on his trail, and the murderous kryptonian General Zod seeking vengeance, Clark must choose whether to claim his birthright and step into the light as Earth's protector.

With 75 years of history behind him, Superman has a mighty presence at the library and AADL can help you go up, up, and away! Having seen the beginning, why not check out the end? Find out the answer to the question "What would Superman do if he knew he was dying?" in the Eisner award-winning graphic novel from Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly, All-star Superman. Or read all about how the hero has developed and influenced the world in journalist Larry Tye's Superman: The High Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero. You can even discover how the superhero helped thwart real-life villains.

The League of Women Voters Ask: What's The Question?

You decide, you submit, and the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area will ask the candidates for the 3rd & 4th Ward Ann Arbor City Council August 2013 Primary. The public may submit questions to candidates via lwv.ann.arbor.area@gmail.com on a link at LWVAA website. The deadline for questions is Thursday, June 20, 5 p.m.

The Candidate Forums will be held Wednesday, July 10th, at the Community Television Network Studio, 2805 South Industrial in Ann Arbor. The forums will be broadcast until the day before the election and can also be viewed on the CTN website.

Jean Stapleton, a.k.a. Edith Bunker to a whole generation of adoring fans, has died

Jean Stapleton, who forever endeared herself to millions of TV viewers in her role of the ditzy-but-wise Edith Bunker, has died.

As Edith Bunker, sweet wife to the unapologetic, stuck-in-his-ways, working class Queens, NY conservative bigot Archie Bunker (played by the late Carroll O'Connor) in the popular 1970s sitcom All in the Family, Stapleton packed whole essays of timid disagreement into her nasally, softly screechy "Oh, Archie" or "Oh, my!". And when Archie would go too far and Edith stood up to him, Archie cowed and audiences cheered.

Ms. Stapleton played against character. She was a strong feminist playing the role of a meek, submissive, taunted housewife to Archie's often-derisive persona. As the women's movement gained traction on the national political stage, the shows' writers kept pace. One of the most memorable episodes centered on Edith's rare flare-up, pushing back against Archie's resistance to her volunteer work in a senior citizens' residence.

In addition to the four consecutive Emmys that the show won, Ms. Stapleton earned three (19721, 1972, and 1978) or her own.

For those who thought glass would shatter on a weekly basis with the opening song of All in the Family, sung by O'Connor and Ms. Stapleton, whose latter contribution was to hit impossibly loud off-key fingers-down-the-blackboard notes, it may come as a surprise to learn that Ms. Stapleton had a lovely voice, as evidenced by her extensive work on Broadway, the movies Bells Are Ringing (2005), and TV (she sang with The Muppets).

Ms. Stapleton, who was 90, died Friday in New York.

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D) from New Jersey, has died

Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D) of New Jersey, who was the last living World War II veteran serving in the U.S.Senate as well as its oldest member (he turned 89 in January), died early this morning at a New York Hospital.

Sen. Lautenberg was a first-generation American (his parents were Polish and Russian). He and two childhood friends founded the first automated payroll system in the U.S. (ADP -- Automated Data Processing) which became a worldwide company.

In 1982, Sen. Lautenberg won his first term in the U.S. Senate and retired at the end of 2000. Just two years later, he was drafted by NJ Democrats to save the 2002 Senate race from sinking due to the multi-scandal-ridden career of Democratic Sen. Robert Torricelli. He won that election and the election of 2008 with wide margins.

Sen. Lautenberg was one of the most liberal members of the Senate and proud of it. He won successful legislative battles to ban smoking on airplanes and to prevent domestic abusers from owning guns. He tightened the drunk driving laws and was instrumental in getting the drinking age raised to 21. He was one of the most active Senators -- he cast his 9000th vote in in December of 2011.

As his health failed earlier this year, he announced that he would serve out this term and not seek re-election in 2014.

Sen. Lautenberg died of complications stemming from viral pneumonia.

Father Andrew Greeley, bestselling novelist and Catholic scholar, has died

Father Andrew Greeley, devoted and devout Chicago Catholic priest, author of forward-thinking (read: controversial) scholarly articles on the future and relevancy of the Catholic Church, and bestselling author of mysteries and stand-alone romances that were so steamy, they earned him the label,of a clerical Harold Robbins, has died.

Father Greeley was ahead of his time on a number of social issues that still make headlines today. He believed in the ordination of women. For decades he urged the Catholic Church to relax its stand on birth control and divorce. He never stopped pushing the Church to stop defending and hiding priests guilty of child sex abuse. He did, however, never waver in his support of the Church's opposition to abortion.

It was his bestselling novels and the popular Father Blackie Ryan mystery series (i.e., The Bishop in the West Wing (2002) and The Bishop in the Old Neighborhood (2005) that really put him at odds with the Catholic Church, so much so that Cardinal Bernardin (Chicago) rejected Father Greeley's million dollar pledge from his book royalties.

In 2008, Father Greeley published the last Blackie Ryan mystery -- The Archbishop in Andalusia. That same year his clothing got caught in a taxi's closed door. The resulting head injury ending his writing and speaking career.

Father Greeley, who was 85, died in Chicago at home.

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