Paolo Soleri, creator of counterculture architectureal wonder, Arcosanti, has died

Paolo Soleri whose signature architectural Arizona community combined his love of design with his passion for sustainability, has died.

Soleri, a Frank Lloyd Wright apprentice, put his ideas about the cons of urban sprawl and the necessity for simplicity into practice by building Arcosanti in the Arizona desert. Using the principles of his coined beliefs, arcology (blending architecture with ecology), Soleri put them into practice at Arcosanti, his living laboratory located 67 miles north of Phoenix. The unique bee hive buildings in this compact community opened in 1970 and remains a viable neighborhood with more than 50,000 visitors every year.

Soleri believed that, in order for nature to survive, the human population must minimize its footprint on the planet. Soleri envisioned 5000 residents at Arcosanti, but the actual population never exceeded more than a few hundred people. Some of the features of the buildings at Arcosanti are the use of concrete poured on site, ceramic tiles made on site, and a large patio that has 12-foot swinging glass doors that can be closed to accommodate the greenhouse effect.

Soleri studied with Franklin Lloyd Wright, moving from Italy in 1947 to work with Wright at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, AZ.

Soleri, who was 93, died yesterday and was buried at Arcosanti.

Former Mouseketeer, Annette Funicello, has died

Annette Funicello, who, as a child, turned to acting to help deal with her shyness, died this moning in California.

In 1955 at a dance recital in Burbank, CA, where she was the Swan Queen in Swan Lake, she was discovered by Walt Disney who immediately added her to his stable of child actors for his new TV show, The Mickey Mouse Club.

Her popularity with children sent her acting career in many directions. She had a role in the second and third seasons of The Spin and Marty Show and in the short-lived Walt Disney Presents: Annette, which lasted just long enough for her performance of the song How Will I Know My Love? to be released as a single.

When she got older, she appeared in several Disney movies, including The Shaggy Dog (1959) and Babes in Toyland (1961). From there, she and Frankie Avalon became the darlings of the Beach Party movie scene.

In 1992, Ms. Funicello went public with the fact that she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, only after rumors persisted that her unsteady gait was due to a drinking problem. She was named a Disney Legend that same year. A few months later she opened her Annette Funicello Fund for Neurological Disorders.

Ms. Funicello was 70 years old.

Les Blank, innovative documentary filmmaker, has died

Les Blank, whose much-praised documentaries covered topics as disparate as garlic, the blues, and shoe diets, has died.

Born in Florida in 1935, his first documentaries focused on musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Lightnin' Hopkins. Then he broadened his subjects to include food, women with gapped teeth, and the German director, Werner Herzog.

In the 1980s, Blank came to The University of Michigan for a showing of his sweetly weird Garlic Is as Good as Ten Mothers. To the delight (and digestive torture) of his audience, Blank had arranged to have garlic roasting in the back of the theater. Currently, this iconic Les Blank film is unavailable in DVD format, which is a shame. In 2004, the Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the United States’ National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Another famous Blank documentary made in 1980 is Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, a 20-minute film of the famed director fulfilling a bet he lost to eat his footwear. Herzog wagered that director Errol Morris would never make a film. Morris collected on the bet with the release of his first documentary, The Gates of Heaven,1978, about a California pet cemetery. This odd meal can be seen in the DVD, Burden of Dreams, 1982, Blank's examination of Herzog's challenges in filming his award winning Fitzcarraldo, 1982.

Blank, who had been diagnosed with cancer less than a year ago, was 77.

Margaret Thatcher, England's first woman prime minister, has died

Margaret Thatcher, known as The Iron Lady, for her tough conservative policies implemented during her tenure as Prime Minister of England from 1979 to 1990, has died.

First elected to the House of Parliament in 1959, after years as a tax and patent law barrister, Thatcher's political career as a powerful, extremely conservative Tory leader, led to her election as Prime Minister in 1979. Determined to get Great Britain out of its economic doldrums through her focused steely will (hence the Iron Lady moniker), she used privatization (of Rolls Royce and British Telecom), deregulation, free trade, tax cuts for the rich, and attacks on the unions to push through her policies.

Her popularity was revitalized with the UK's participation in the 1982 Falkland Islands War, as described by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins in their 1983 book, The Battle for the Falklands. This 74-day conflict with Argentina was a successful naval operation.

Thatcher's friendship with President Ronald Reagan was legendary, as they worked together to transform their nations in their shared vision. One of the books she wrote, Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World, 2002, was dedicated to Reagan.

In her memoir, The Downing Street Years, 1993, Thatcher wrote about her defeat (after three unprecedented terms as Prime Minister) in 1990 to the more moderate conservative beliefs of her successor, John Major.

Baroness Thatcher, who had suffered from dementia for many years, died from a stroke this morning. She was 87.

Roger Ebert, beloved Chicago movie critic, has died

Just one day after announcing he was taking a 'leave of presence' from his 46-year gig as movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and his 31-year career on TV reviewing films, Roger Ebert lost his long public battle with salivary and thyroid cancer.

His announcement yesterday said he would just review the movies HE wanted to see and leave the rest of the reviews to his trusted colleagues at the paper. When he lost part of his jaw and thus his ability to eat or speak, he used his good humor and courage to write about his experience fighting, and often triumphing, against, his devastating illness.

Ebert's long career resulted in a 1975 Pulitzer Prize, the first movie critic to receive this honor. The Webby Awards named him their 2010 Person of the Year. And Hollywood, which lived and died by Ebert's laser-beam ethical demand for excellence in all things film, honored him with his own Walk of Fame star in 2005.

Ebert's career took off in a new direction when he and Chicago Tribune movie critic, Gene Siskel, took their 'point/counterpoint' routine to television in 1975. Originally titled Coming Soon to a Theater Near You, PBS picked it up and renamed it Sneak Previews three years later. There were two more name-changes: In 1981, it morphed into At the Movies. Five years later, accompanied by their signature 'thumbs up, thumbs down' rating system, it settled on Siskel & Ebert & the Movies.

Sadly, Siskel died in 1999. He had had brain surgery for brain cancer but it was complications from another surgery that ended his life.

Despite his long fight with illness, Ebert wrote almost seventeen books on movies, the internet, his life (Life Itself: A Memoir, 2011), and yes, even a cookbook for rice cookers (The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker, 2010).

Ebert, who was 70, died today in Chicago.

Irish character actor, Milo O'Shea, has died

Milo O'Shea, an Irish character actor known for his bushy eyebrows and lovely brogue, has died.

Best known in this country for his roles in the campy science fiction film, Barbarella (1968), starring Jane Fonda and the 1982 courtroom thriller, The Verdict, starring Paul Newman, he also enjoyed considerable success in TV. His large body of work included appearances in The Golden Girl, Cheers, Frasier, and in the fifth season of The West Wing, as Chief Justice Roy Ashland.

He also did some stage work, notably performing in Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys.

Mr. O'Shea, who was 86, died yesterday in Manhattan.

William Ginsburg, high profile attorney, has died

William Ginsburg, a successful medical malpractice lawyer who had some high profile cases before he shot to the top of the celeb attorney list when he was tapped by Monica Lewinsky's physician father, to represent her in THE political scandal of 1998, died in California on Monday.

Ginsburg won cases for Liberace's doctor who was accused of hiding the performer's cause of death (AIDS) and for the heart doctor who gave the go-ahead for basketball player Hank Gathers,23, to play just days before the Loyola Marymount University star athlete died on the court of a known heart condition. Those wins paled in comparison to the notoriety surrounding his representation of Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern who was caught having a consensual affair with then-President Bill Clinton.

No detail was too salacious for gossip-hungry Americans, fed juicy tidbits by a cooperative fourth estate who covered Solicitor General Ken Starr's determination to try Ms. Lewinsky who escaped prosecution but did appear before a grand jury. President Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives for perjury and obstruction of justice and later was acquitted by the Senate in February 1999.

Mr. Ginsburg, who was 70, lost his battle with cancer.

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, award-winning screenwriter and novelist, has died

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Oscar-winning screenwriter and much-honored novelist, died today in Manhattan.

Ms. Jhabvala was born in Germany to Jewish parents who fled to England in 1939. In 1951, Ms. Jhabvala married an Indian architect. They lived in New Delhi for a quarter of century, an experience which informed much of her examination of the privileged lifestyle of the British upperclass in India.

In the early 1960s, she was discovered by filmdom's producer/director power team, Ismail Merchant and James Ivory. They had read her 1963 novel, Householder (on order) and asked her to write the screenplay for the film (on order) by the same name which was released later that year.

Thus began a long successful partnership. The Merchant/Ivory/Jhabvala 22-film collaboration resulted in two Oscars for Ms. Jhabvala -- A Room with a View (1986) and Howards End (1993).

Ms. Jhabvala was also feted with many literary awards, as well. In 1975, she won the then-called Booker McConnell Prize for Fiction (now known as the Man Booker Prize) for Heat and Dust. In 1984, she was tapped for one of the much-coveted MacArthur Foundation fellowships.

Ms. Jhabvala's last novel, My Nine Lives was published in 2004. Her final book, a collection of short stories, A Lovesong for India came out two years ago. Her very last piece of published writing appeared in the March 25, 2013 edition of The New Yorker. It is a short story called The Judge's Will.

Ms. Jhabvala, who was85, died of an unspecified pulmonary ailment.

Ann Arbor ranks in the top 10 of Well-Being Cities study

Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index conducted a survey between January 2 and December 29 of last year. In the list of Top 10 Metro Areas with Best Overall Well-Being, Ann Arbor was number 8.

And it gets even better. When residents were asked questions about six categories -- Life evaluation, Emotional Health, Work Environment, Physical Health, Healthy Behaviors, and Access to Basic Necessities -- Ann Arbor was #1 (just as it was in 2011) in Life Evaluation (a category that asked participants if they felt they were thriving, struggling, or suffering. Ann Arbor showed improvement over 2011 in their ranking in Basic Access (in 2011, AA was #7; last year, AA was #5).

Ann Arbor lost ground in Emotional Health (in 2011, the score was 13; last year, that number plummeted to 77). There was a dip in perceived Physical Health (2011=12; 2012=21) and Healthy Behavior (2011=36; 2012=54). Area employers may want to pay attention to the change in Ann Arbor's Work Environment score (2011=64; 2012=100).

Two other Michigan cities got good news in this survey.Holland and Grand Haven scored the highest in the Basic Access category.

The complete report can be found here.

A Movie in the Making - Divergent

Veronica Roth says, "Okay, so you may have seen/heard rumors of this already, so it's not exactly new news, but it is Officially Official, which means that I can tell you my thoughts. KATE WINSLET has been cast as Jeanine Matthews! What can I say? When I found out, I was floored. I grew up watching Kate Winslet in movies, whether it was Titanic or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or The Reader, and she is an incredible actress, and I am sure that she will be extraordinary as Jeanine. I'm excited to see the complexity and depth she'll bring to the role."

The film is now in pre-production, and will be coming to theaters sometime in 2014. But you can read the book and it's sequel, Insurgent, now. Roth is in the process of writing the as-yet-untitled third book in the series, which will be published October 22, 2013.

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