John Dingell Day in Michigan

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It's official, John Dingell is now the longest-serving representative in Congress. And to make it really official, Governor Granholm has issued a proclamation declaring today, February 11, 2009, John Dingell Day. Mr. Dingell has served over 53 years (19,420 days and counting) in Congress. (Only Senator Robert Byrd has served longer.) Dingell will be a special guest on NPR's Political Junkie today. PJ is part of Talk of the Nation at 2 p.m. on Michigan Radio.

Underground Railroad Display

Enjoy colorful creations by Judy Schmidt of Ann Arbor Storyteller’s Guild fame who incorporated the Monkey Wrench, Flying Geese, Bear Paw and other designs into her beautiful quilts. Stop by the glass case in the Downtown Youth Department to see books about the Underground Railroad and the much discussed Quilt Code and then check out Karen Simpson's lovely quilts on the far wall of the Youth Department. Maybe they will inspire you to color a quilt design of your own and hang it beside hers!

Please Pass The Potato Chips

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Craving a salty snack? Pick up a copy of Crunch!: A History of the Great American Potato Chip. Dirk Burhans (past publisher of Greasy Spoon magazine) takes readers on a journey from locally made treats to the multimillion dollar empire of today's snack food industry. Fans of pop culture and American trivia will enjoy the wealth of potato chip history found in this book. Being a midwesterner is also helpful, since Burhans' view is obviously influenced by his Ohio roots. Although the writing didn't always hold me glued to the book, I loved the illustrations - full color images of early advertising art, wacky historical photos (check out the 1952 National Potato Chip Institute Convention), and quirky potato chip paraphernalia. Please pass the dip.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian

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On Feb. 1st, the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian launches its digital showcase to give everyone the opportunity to look into its archives. Eventually, they hope to have their entire collection online.

Assembled at the turn of the twentieth century by wealthy New Yorker George Gustav Heye (1874–1957), the collections are distinguished by thousands of masterworks, including intricate wood and stone carvings and masks from the Northwest Coast of North America; elegantly painted and quilled hides, clothing, and feather bonnets from the North American Plains.

This museum also hosts frequent exhibitions in both New York and Washington, D.C. Perfect excuse for a spring vacation to these great destinations!

Former anti-war activist to speak at U of M

Remember all the hoopla surrounding Obama's supposed relationship with William Ayers who was involved in a bombing during a Vietnam protest by the Weather Underground in the 1960's? Ayers, currently a professor of education at the University of Illinois in Chicago, will be speaking and then reading from the re-publication of his 2001 book, Fugitive Days: Memoirs of an Anti-War Activist, at 7 p.m. Jan. 26 at Hatcher Graduate Library Gallery, Room 100. He will be joined by his wife, law professor Bernadine Dohrn. To read some of Ayer's recent thoughts on education and Obama's cabinet picks, check out his blog.

Inauguration Day - Past and Present

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Since George Washington's inauguration in 1789, the transfer of presidential power has become an American tradition. If the upcoming festivities have you curious about this time-honored ceremony, check out Presidential inaugurations for a light, yet concise, history of each president and their beginnings. (This book is great for fans of presidential trivia) The upcoming inauguration of Barack Obama, the 44th president, will commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln with the theme "A New Birth of Freedom". For related historical information check out Lincoln's greatest speech : the second inaugural from the AADL's collection. Visit Barack Obama's official inauguration website if you seek more information about Tuesday's upcoming events. If you find yourself wanting to relive history, Bartleby.com has the full text of ALL Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the United States from George Washington to George W. Bush. "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country."

Quetzalcoatl, Venus, and 2012

While reading the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads book Seeing in the dark : how amateur astronomers are discovering the wonders of the universe by Timothy Ferris, I ran into a familiar character, Quetzalcoatl, a god associated with Venus. I first learned of Quetzalcoatl in Daniel Pinchbeck's 2012 : the return of Quetzalcoatl and Legends of the plumed serpent : biography of a Mexican god by Neil Baldwin.

Quetzalcoatl is described as a plumed serpent god of the Toltecs and Aztecs who is supposed to return with the planet Venus in 2012. In the 1500's the Mayans watched the skies and noted a relationship between the orbits of Earth and Venus as Mr. Ferris sums up: "once in every 52 years these two cycles synchronize with each other, whereupon Venus appears in the same spot in the sky, on the same date, that it did 52 years earlier". (page 90)

God is a pretty heavy topic but on the lighter side Quetzalcoatl catches the imagination...a god in the form of a snake with feathers...how cool is that? No offense Quetzalcoatl fans but I think Quetzalcoatl would make a great graphic novel character.

If you are interested in this type of thing you might enjoy reading about the expected galactic alignment in 2012. Check out John Major Jenkins "Galactic Alignment: The Transformation of Consciousness According to Mayan, Egyptian, and Vedic Traditions".

Youth interested in Quetzalcoatl may like:
Quetzal : sacred bird of the Cloud Forest by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent.

Che bio-pic in 2 parts

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A new movie in limited release, Che, about Ernesto 'Che' Guevara is slated for U.S. release this month. The award-winning Benicio del Toro portrays the revolutionary and he has already picked up a best acting award at the Cannes Film Festival for his role. The movie is directed by Steven Soderbergh, best known for his Oscar award winning movie Traffic (which del Toro won best supporting actor in as well). The movie will be shown in 2 parts, Che Part 1 and Che Part 2, with an intermission since it runs just over 4 hours. It is mostly in Spanish with English subtitles. The first part starts with his meeting Fidel Castro and his eventual involvement with the Cuban revolution. The second part continues his life story ending with his tragic death. The movie (or movies) are based on two diaries by Guevara entitled The Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War; and the Bolivian Diary. Learn more about Che Guevara.

How Did We Get to Now?

With a mouse click on the aadl.org Research tab you can read basic articles on American and World history and biography. Two of the databases there are History Resource Center: US & World, and Biography Resource Center. These can be searched even without a library card from any AADL building, or with your library card number from anywhere else. You will have free access to articles about things of interest to you from the past; give it a try and you’ll get hooked on history! Also, check out the other free databases for finance, genealogy, literature, popular magazines, historical photographs, and other topics.

The real Italian mafia

The non-fiction book, Gomorrah by Italian writer Roberto Saviano is an inside look into Italy's Neopolitan mafia families or Camorra. The book was first published in Italy in 2006 and was an immediate sensation. Unfortunately for Saviano that included death threats from the Camorra, a police escort, and eventually he was forced into hiding. The book is now an award winning film (Grand Prize winner at Cannes) and is nominated for best foreign film at the Golden Globes (to be announced 1/11/09). The movie merges 5 fictional storylines, one written by Saviano, with the facts behind the Camorra families of Naples, shot in a documentary style. If you like mob and real life crime drama, this may be the book to read and a film to look forward to seeing. You can read more about the book from the New York Times by clicking here. Read more about the movie here.

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