95th Anniversary of Triange Shirtwaist Company Fire

On March 25, 1911, 146 women, mostly immigrants, died in a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City. Many of the women were trapped on the ninth floor because the doors were locked. Some fell to their deaths from open windows. The event, though tragic, was a turning point in labor history. New laws were passed requiring reforms in health and safety.

The book, Ashes of Roses by Mary Jane Auch, is written for teens but has universal appeal for lovers of historical fiction. Auch conveys the horror of the fire and all that leads up to it from the perspective of Rose Nolan, a 16 year old Irish immigrant, who lands a job at the factory and is one of the survivors. Auch is good at evoking early twentieth century New York in all its color and squalor.

Remembering the Tuskegee Airmen

This week, in 1941, one of the most renowned and decorated African-American military units of the Second World War came into being as the 99th Pursuit Squadron [later the 332nd Fighter Group]. Better known as the Tuskegee Airmen, the group had 992 black airmen who flew P-39, P-40, P-47 and P-51 fighters in more than 15,000 sorties in North Africa, Sicily and Europe during World War II. A number of books highlight the contributions of these flyers, including Black Knights: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen by Lynn M. Homan; A-Train: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman by Charles W. Dryden; Red Tails, Black Wings by John Holway; Red Tail Captured, Red Tail Free by Alexander Jefferson and Flight: The Story of Virgil Richardson. There's also a fascinating documentary, Nightfighters which depicts the exploits of the group. For more information on the group see The Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. web site and the tribute on the National Park Service web site.

Has Title IX been good for sports?

Would Tennessee’s Candace Parker, whose two dunks last weekend were the first ever in NCAA tournament play, and Oklahoma’s Courtney Paris, whose powerful play has coaches comparing her to Shaq, be pushing the basketball envelope if Title IX had never become law?

A new book, A Place on the Team: The Triumph and Tragedy of Title IX explores the controversial law. While some say the law has provided girls and women more opportunity to grow and excel in athletics, others would say Title IX’s mandate that women and men athletes be treated equally has come at too great a cost. To comply with Title IX some colleges and universities have shifted money to women’s sports while reducing funds for or even cutting “lesser” men’s sports like wrestling and crew. Is that fair or is it a case of two wrongs don’t make a right?

Children of Paradise

The University of Michigan’s Institute for the Humanities has a free public screening of the 1945 film Les Enfants du Paradis (Children of Paradise) on Tuesday, April 4 at 4 pm in Rackham room 0520. Filmed in Vichy-era France with writing by Jacques Prévert, the film follows a group of nineteenth-century pantomime actors centered around the alluring, philosophically light-hearted Garance. Roger Ebert wrote that “few achievements in the world of cinema can rival it." If you can’t make it to the screening, try the beautifully restored DVD of director Marcel Carné’s masterpiece.

Everything bad for you is not so bad

It's okay. Despite everything you've heard, pop culture is not completely rotting your brain.

In Everything Bad Is Good for You, Steven Johnson lays out a theory about how popular media are helping us develop better creative problem solving, social networking, and analysis skills. (That isn't to say that this book is against good old intellectual development through, well, books.) Johnson provides a smart take on neurological development, Dragnet, and The Sims that will just probably convince you that you're smarter than you thought.

So, whether you've been up for twelve hours trying to get the powerup and win the game, or you've been blogging about how guilty you feel when you watch Desperate Housewives, read this book and feel a little better.

Shakespeare To Go

The 2006 Stratford Festival of Canada season is fast approaching. This year’s Festival selections from the Bard include Coriolanus, King Henry IV Part One, Much Ado About Nothing, and Twelfth Night.

Need a little brush-up on the Bard? Shakespeare—the Word and the Action, a lecture series from the Teaching Company, will let you expound with the best of them during intermissions in the garden. Dazzle them at the pre-play lectures after listening to The Age of Shakespeare and Will in the World.

The Play Ground

Several years ago The Play Ground was privileged to see Ewa Podles when she stepped in for Cecilia Bartoli who was ill. She was marvelous and since then, her reputation has soared. The University Musical Society is lucky to have her back, this time performing in Rossini's Tancredi with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, March 25 at Hill Auditorium. This opera, based on a play by Voltaire, tells the story of a banished 11th C knight who secretly returns to his homeland only to discover that his king is now allied with his archenemy.

Hello, Dragon!

Word is out that martial arts superstar Bruce Lee will be the subject of a new Broadway musical featuring music by David Bowie. Director Matthew Warchus (who is currently about to unveil The Lord of the Rings musical) is also attached to the project. To prepare yourself for this side-splitting East Side Story, check out Enter the Dragon or The Bruce Lee Ultimate Collection recently added to the aadl collection.

Also in the works is a musical version of the hit martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

What did you see at the Ann Arbor Film Festival last night?

Phantom Canyon

And what did you think? The 44th Ann Arbor Film Festival runs from March 21-26. Visit the AAFF blog and screening schedule for more information.

Coincidence?

March is National Caffeine Awareness Month and National Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Awareness Month. So put away the coffee pot, put on the headphones and learn to create and channel healthy energy. Judy Orloff offers a program to transform stress into strength in Positive Energy. Daniel Amen’s Making a Good Brain Great teaches you how to “exercise” your brain for better mental health.

Want to meditate on your options first? Try Reginald Ray’s Meditating With the Body or Spontaneous Awakening by Adyashanti. Listen to them all and you’ll be ready to celebrate National Fly a Kite month in April.

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