"Smoke gets in your eyes," Mr. Kern

Today, January 27, is the birthday of American composer, Jerome Kern. Kern was born in New York City in 1885. In addition to writing scores for stage and screen, Kern wrote many memorable songs like "Ol' Man River" and "The Last Time I saw Paris." His song, "The Way You Look Tonight" won an Oscar for the best song of the year in the film, "Swing Time." Who can forget those sweetest of verses:

"Lovely...Never, ever change.
Keep that breathless charm.
Won't you please arrange it?
'Cause I love you...Just the way you look tonight."

To the Moon!


NASA plans to return to the moon by 2020 and hopes to build a moon base by 2024. While you are waiting for the Ares I & V to launch, take a look back at other trips to the moon: Project Apollo and Méliès.

From the Earth to the Moon a superbly done HBO series, produced by Tom Hanks, and based on the book A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin, takes you through the entire Apollo program.

Moon Shot: the inside story of America's race to the moon by astronauts Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton.

First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen.

Méliès the magician contains the 1902 "La Voyage dans la lune" along with other films by Méliès.

And the Nominees are...

The Oscar nominations came out Tuesday and, as usual, there were plenty of surprises, most notably the absence of Dreamgirls in the Best Picture category. Most titles are not yet available on DVD, but you can check out Little Miss Sunshine (on order) or Meryl Streep's nominated performance in The Devil Wears Prada. We also own this year's top contender in the Best Animated Feature category, as well as Monster House. My favorites for actress and actor this year are Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker.

"There's gold in them thar hills!"

On January 24, 1848, James W. Marshall noticed some flakes of gold in the American River while building a sawmill. That discovery started what became known as the California Gold Rush, the frenzied migrations of thousands to California to strike it rich. At that time, California was still technically part of Mexico. Only a week later, The United States purchased land that later became California and other southwestern states for only $15 million. If Mexico had only knwn.

The Gold Rush caused an increase in California's population from 2,700 to 200,000 in two years. Few people actually became wealthy from panning gold but revenue increased enough to help expand the American West.

One person who did become wealthy was Levi Strauss, an immigrant from Bavaria who was a traveling merchant specializing in trousers made from sailcloth held together with copper rivets. These, of course, were the precursors of modern jeans.

New DVDs on Michigan history

We've recently added several documentaries on Michigan history to the collection. Check out Indian History of Michigan's Thumb Region; Mackinac Island: A 600 Year History; and Michigan's Lumbering Days.

More DVDs on Michigan History.

Off to see the world—three days at a time

Kino’s Journey is a story in the tradition of Gulliver’s Travels. In each episode, we follow Kino, a young adventurer, and Hermes, Kino’s talking motorcycle, as they travel through new and strange lands. Their journey has only one rule: they won’t stay in any one country for more than three days and two nights. While Kino’s world isn’t exactly magical—well, aside from the talking motorcycle—it has a certain dreamlike, fairy-tale quality, and the viewer soon begins to see the truth in Kino’s words: “The world is not beautiful; and that, in a way, lends it a sort of beauty.”

Sundance Festival 2007

The 2007 Sundance Film Festival is being held in Park City, Utah from January 18-28.This is the top US festival for independent filmakers. More than 120 feature-length films and more than 80 shorts are shown. Although most believe that Robert Redford, founder of the Sundance Institute, was also the founder of the festival, it was originally established by some film people from Utah as a retrospective. But the focus changed with Redford who opened up the festival to new, independent filmmakers. And it's been this way ever since. If you can't get to Utah, The Library has many of the films originally shown at the festival.

Happy Birthday, Archibald!


Celebrate the 103rd anniversary of the birth of Archie Leach (better known to most as Cary Grant – b. January 18, 1904; d. November 29, 1986) by watching him in one of his many roles on DVD! The library owns many titles for you to check out and enjoy. The Awful Truth, where the Cary Grant "persona” began; The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, with Myrna Loy and a teenaged Shirley Temple; The Philadelphia Story, with Jimmy Stewart and Katharine Hepburn; and, directed by the great Alfred Hitchcock: Suspicion, Notorious, To Catch a Thief, and North by Northwest.

Ann Arbor is getting krump!

Tommy the Clown and the Hip-Hop Clowns are coming to Ann Arbor as part of the 2007 Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium, an annual series of events honoring the life and vision of Dr. King at the University of Michigan. Tommy the Clown invented clown dancing and has since offered membership in his dance team to youth as an alternative to gangs. They will perform a tribute to Dr. King, Wednesday, February 7th at the Michigan League Ballroom at 7:30pm.

If you want to learn more about an incredible new style of dance, check out Rize. This exhilarating movie documents the origins of krumping and clown dancing in South Central Los Angeles.

History Bits - Civil Rights

We remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s leadership in the 1960's and the African-American Civil Rights Movement. The following movies can be watched as a family, or a classroom, and illustrate important messages that can be further discussed. Ruby Bridges who "went to school and taught a nation a lesson."; Martin's Big Words; Rosa Parks And The Civil Rights Movement; The Rosa Parks Story.

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