Dave Brubeck, jazz giant, has died

Dave Brubeck, known for as a mesmerizing improv jazz pianist and for merging many elements of the classical and jazz genres for a uniquely appealing sound, has died.

Brubeck, born in 1922 to a cattle rancher father and a mother who was a classically trained piano teacher, was born with a musical ear. As a child Brubeck was able to hide his inability to read music by his ability to play a piece after hearing it once or twice. In fact, the University of the Pacific only agreed to graduate him with a degree in music if he promised never to teach music.

After serving in the Army during WW II, he studied under the famous French composer, Darius Milhaud, who encouraged Brubeck to pursue his obvious gifts in jazz. In 1951, Brubeck formed the The Dave Brubeck Quartet which solidified his lifelong association Paul Desmond, who wrote the iconic Take Five, Brubeck's haunting piece that blends his knowledge of European harmonies with his irresistible attraction to African rhythm.

Brubeck disbanded the Quartet in the late 1960s and focused renewed interest in composing jazz symphonies and sacred music

Despite the best efforts of harsh jazz critics to take Brubeck down a notch or two over the decades ("...[Brubeck plays]...as if a man who knew 500 words of French were to attempt a novel in that language." - Joe Goldberg. Or this: "...the galloping pomposity of his piano solos." -- Dave Gelly), his fans apparently didn't get the word; Brubeck continued to pack any venue where he performed. His sons joined him in concert tours starting in the 1970s.

Brubeck, who would have been 92 tomorrow, died of heart failure while on his way to a regularly scheduled appointment with his cardiologist.

November's Books to Film

Anna Karenina, is the adaptation of the classic 19th century novel by Leo Tolstoy It explores the capacity for love. As one woman questions her happiness and marriage, change comes to all around her. Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Johnson star in this holiday blockbuster.

Based on Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello, Hitchcock is story of Alfred Hitchcock and his wife and collaborator, Alma Reville, during their most daring filmmaking adventure --- that of Psycho. The story of their love and marriage is interwoven with the trials and tribulations involved in changing the genre of horror forever. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson.

Director Ang Lee's new epic Life of Pi is based on the Man Booker Prize winner by Yann Martel in which Pi, a zookeeper's son finds himself in the company of a hyena, zebra, orangutan, and a Bengal tiger after a shipwreck sets them adrift in the Pacific Ocean.

Steven Spielberg helms his long-in-the-making biopic of Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln, with Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role. Tony Kushner penned this adaptation of Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals: the political genius of Abraham Lincoln which chronicles the President's time in office between 1861 and 1865 as he dealt with personal demons and politics during the Civil War.

Midnight's Children is the adaptation of Salman Rushdie's novel. On midnight of the night India declares independence, two boys are born. One to a wealthy couple and one to a poor couple. However, when the boys are switched in the hospital, they are fated to live one another's lives tied in with the new life of India as an independent country.

Life doesn't always go according to plan. Pat Solatano has lost everything - his house, his job, and his wife. He now finds himself living back with his mother and father after spending eight months in a state institution on a plea bargain. Pat is determined to rebuild his life, remain positive and reunite with his wife, despite the challenging circumstances of their separation. All Pat's parents want is for him to get back on his feet - and to share their family's obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles football team. When Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own, things get complicated. Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Julia Stiles star in this adaptation of Matthew Quick's The Silver Linings Playbook.

2012 National Book Award winners have been announced

Last night, the The National Book Award winners for 2012 were announced at a gala event at the posh Cipriani on Wall Street.

The big winners were:

Louise Erdrich, 58, received the fiction award for The Round House. An adult Joe Coutts looks back in time when, as a teenager, he went in search of the man who brutalized his mother on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. This winning title is part two of a trilogy. The Coutts family was first introduced in The Plague of Doves (2008). Erdrich's win is especially poignant as, shortly after she started writing The Round House, she was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer, which she has beat.Ms. Erdrich, who is part Ojibwe, delighted last night's audience by addressing some of her remarks in her tribal tongue.

Katherine Boo, 48, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer for the The New Yorker, received the nonfiction award for Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life,Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, a wrenching account of a teenage boy who lives in the slums that are hidden from view by some of India's luxury hotels.

Poet David Ferry, 88, tearfully accepted what he described as "preposterous pre-posthumous award" for his Bewilderment; New Poems and Translations. "We're all in this apart" (From FoundSingle-Line Poems). Ferry has a PhD from Harvard and is the Sophie Chantal Hart Professor Emeritus of English at Wellesley, where he taught for many years.

William Joseph Alexander, 36, is a first-time novelist who captured the Young People's Literature prize for his fantasy, Goblin Secrets. In this steampunk/witch-infested tale, Rownie escapes Graba who 'adopts' orphans to do her bidding, and sets out on a quest to find his missing older brother.

Rounding out the evening, host Faith Salie, a media star on NPR, the BBC and CBS Sunday Morning, bestowed two special awards. Detroit author, Elmore Leonard, 88, accepted the Distinguished Contribution to American Letters prize. New York Times publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., 61, was honored for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. NPR's Fresh Air host, Terry Gross, introduced Mr. Sulzberger and said the New York Times Book Review was like "...a shopping catalog...[for] authors I've overlooked."

Each winner received $10,000.

Tellebration Time!

Every year we celebrate Tellebration at the Pittsfield Branch. This year we have dynamic storytellers Jeff Doyle, Kathleen Wright, Darryl Mickens and
Judy Schmidt on Sunday, November 10 at 2 pm. For grown-ups looking for a captivating storytelling potpourri, check out the Ann Arbor Storyteller's Guild Tellebration QuiltTellebration QuiltNovember 9th evening program!

Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012: Tips for Voters

-Don’t forget to bring your photo ID to vote. Voters who do not have acceptable photo ID will be required to sign an affidavit in order to vote.
-Peak voting hours are from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Voters who want to avoid long lines are encouraged to vote during midday hours.
-Polling place hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day. If you are standing in line by 8 p.m. then you are eligible to vote.
-In-person requests for absentee ballots will be accepted at the City Clerk’s Office, 2nd floor of City Hall, until Monday, November 5 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
-Ann Arbor Public Schools are closed on Election Day. Polling places located within schools are open.
-Signs will be posted at all polling locations to assist voters.

View your sample ballot, check your polling location and much more at Michigan Votes.

Washtenaw County election results are televised on Community Television Network’s CitiTV Channel 19 beginning at 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012—after the polls close—and will continue throughout the night.

Arlington Cemetery's Gravesites Now Searchable

Arlington National Cemetery recently launched a searchable database that will help people "find gravesites and explore Arlington's rich history" with apps for Apple products, Android, Blackberrys, as well as a desktop version.

Arlington's website says, "The Army photographed 259,978 gravesites, niches and markers using a custom-built smart phone application and instituted a rigorous process to review each headstone photo with existing cemetery records and other historical documents. The end result was the creation of a single, verifiable and authoritative database of all those laid to rest at Arlington that is linked to the Arlington's digital mapping system."

Russell Means, activist/advocate for Indian rights, has died

Russell Means, the Oglala Lakota Indian (Means said the designation "Sioux" was derogatory) whose controversial political activism on behalf of America's Indian tribes first became headlines in the 1973 siege of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, died today on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Born on Pine Ridge in 1939, Means' transfer to a nearly all-white California high school resulted in daily relentless bullying. First Means fought back, then he fell into alcohol and substance abuse for several years before getting his footing in 1969 at the American Indian Center in Cleveland, OH. It was in Ohio that Means met Dennis Banks, co-founder of the new American Indian Movement.

In 1972, Means and other prominent Indian activists organized a mass demonstration on Washington, D.C. to coincide with the election. The housing they were promised by the Department of Interior was rat-iinfested and overcrowded so the demonstrators took over the Bureau of Indian Affairs and renamed it the Native American Embassy.They were evicted four days later when they were promised that investigations of programs that were supposed to help Indians would take place.

Three months later, Means and 200 armed supporters began a 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee where, in 1890, the U.S. military massacred more than 300 men, women, and children of the Sioux/Lakota tribe.Several weeks later, Means went to Washington, D.C. to try to broker an end to the siege. He was arrested and jailed when he rejected the unconditional surrender offer. The remaining protesters surrendered on May 8th, 1973. Means and other principles talked about this action in the 2005 documentary Wounded Heart: Pine Ridge and the Sioux.

His 1974 trial for his role in Wounded Knee ended after seven months when the Judge dismissed all charges after it was revealed that a member of Means' own defense team was an FBI informant who supplied information to the prosecution.

In 1994, Means sought the limelight on the silver screen. He played Chingachgook in the 1992 move, The Last of the Mohicans. Means' autobiography, Where White Men Fear to Tread: The Autobiography of Russell Means, was published in 1995. He used this venue to rail against the term 'Native Americans' and the whole notion of Native American Heritage Month.

Means was just a few weeks shy of his 73rd when he died of esophegeal cancer.

Senator George McGovern has died

Sen.George McGovern, decorated WW II pilot in the Army, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, of the U.S. Senate, and a two-time Democratic candidate for President of the United States, and a United Nations ambassador, died October 21st in Sioux Falls, SD.

McGovern, born in S. Dakota in 1922, had an illustrious political career marked by his unwavering commitment to progressive principles. He was an early and unwavering voice opposing the Vietnam war, an advocate for the eradication of hunger in the U.S. and worldwide , and always a champion for civil rights.

He joined the Army when Pearl Harbor was attacked and became a fighter pilot of great courage. When his plane was severely crippled by flak in December of 1944, McGovern managed to land the plane safely, saving the lives of his crew. A grateful nation awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross.

He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1957 to 1961 and in the U.S. Senate from 1963 to 1981.

He ran for President twice; once, briefly in 1968. Four years later, he won the nomination of his party, but suffered an insurmountable blow with his choice of Thomas Eagleton as his Vice Presidential pick and with his unpopular opposition to the war in Vietnam. He lost to Richard Nixon in an epic landslide. He won just 17 electoral votes (Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.) to Nixon’s 520.

Sen. McGovern remained an active citizen of the world and a tireless force to push the Democratic party to strongly embrace principles of idealism and concern for the common citizen. He wrote several books; the last one, What It Means to Be a Democrat, was released last year.

Earlier this month, his family released a statement that Sen. McGovern had been admitted to a Sioux Falls, South Dakota hospice. He was 90 years old.

Hilary Mantel wins her SECOND Man Booker Prize

Last night in England, British author Hilary Mantel broke several literary records when she captured the 2012 Man Booker Prize for her novel, Bring Up the Bodies, the second entry in her trilogy about Thomas Cromwell.

She was the first woman to win the Booker twice. In 2009, she got the nod for the trilogy's first book, Wolf Hall; no other Booker author has won for a sequel. And neither of the other two double-Booker winner -- Peter Carey and J.M. Coetzee -- took home the top honors in such a short amount of time.

In Wolf Hall, Cromwell counsels King Henry VIII on the latter's seven year quest to marry Anne Boleyn. In Bring Up the Bodies, Henry now has buyer's remorse and again, Cromwell steps in to give the Kiing what he wants.

Sir Peter Stothard, chair of the judging panel had this to say about Ms. Mantel's historic accomplishment: "This is a unique accolade. This is something that no other woman has done before. This is an extraordinary book in its own right.It’s about novels, not novelists. It’s about texts, not reputations.This prize was set up for books that will be around for decades to come. They are texts that will live on because each time you read them it’s a different text".

Ms. Mantel's accomplishments are all the more remarkable for the personal struggles she has fought all her life. Plagued by health ailments from a young age which were misdiagnosed and which frequently drained her energy. She wrote of these challenges in her 2003 memoir, Giving Up the Ghost.

The Man Book Prize is given to an author from the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, or Ireland. The winner goes home with a purse of £50,000, instant international recognition and skyrocketing sales.

Ms. Mantel, who is 60, is already hard at work on the conclusion of her massive, compulsively readable trilogy.

Arlen Specter, longtime U.S. Senator, has died

Arlen Specter, a tough-as-nails Senator from Pennsylvania for almost 30 years, died yesterday at his home in Philadelphia.

Specter was a sandwich Republican (he began and ended his long political career as a Democrat) from 1965 to 2009 who was known for being a moderate in an increasingly hard right Party. He thrived on using his Yale law degree as a member and Chair of the Judiciary Committee where he infuriated the GOP by sinking the nomination of Judge Robert H. Bork and by enraging the Democrats with his unbridled interrogation of Anita Hill during the successful confirmation hearings of Justice Clarence Thomas.

In 2009, Specter returned to his Democratic roots in his run in the primary for his Senate seat which he lost to Joe Sestak who, in turn, lost the Senate race to Republican Pat Toomey.

Earlier this year, Sen. Specter published a book with Charles Robbins about the struggle within the GOP for its future direction. Life among the Cannibals: A Political Career, a Tea Party Uprising, and the End of Governing as We Know It. He describes his role in creating the Tea Party and his two deciding votes which helped pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 a.k.a. the stimulus, and the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare.

Senator Specter, who had battled several bouts of cancer and heart trouble, died from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He was 82.

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