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.

Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story

On January 16 come to the Downtown Library at 7 pm to hear prize-winning author and historian Timothy B. Tyson talk about Blood Done Sign My Name: A True Story, a carefully researched memoir of a 1970 racial murder in Oxford, N.C. The book is being made into a movie. I'm eager to hear the author speak. I'm also wanting to respectfully ask his opinion of The New Republic article about the unfortunate book Angel at the Fence: the true story of a love that survived.

Will the real Anne Boleyn please stand up?

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I recently watched the movie The Other Boleyn Girl, based on the novel about the ill-fated relationship of King Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn, and was disappointed in the lack of historical accuracy. Seeking the truth behind the Hollywood version, I started looking for the story of the "real" Anne Boleyn and was quickly overwhelmed by the numerous conflicting accounts of this infamous woman. After some sleuthing, I've discovered two authors/Tudors scholars with reputable accounts of her life. Alison Weir is a fantastic author to start with if you seek information about Tudor history. Check out her book The six wives of Henry VIII for information on all of of the monarch's wives, including Anne Boleyn. Another well-respected British historian to check out is Eric William Ives. Try his book The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn for a well-researched, well-written account of this controversial figure. For those of you who prefer the steamier Hollywood adult version of Tudor history, the AADL has Season One of the Showtime series The Tudors on dvd.

T-o-o-o-o-o-t! Trains in Toyland sounds fun

Tomorrow Dec. 13 the Washtenaw County Historical Society opens its Trains in Toyland exhibition which runs through Sunday Jan. 25 at the Museum on Main Street, 500 N. Main St. Hours are 12-4 p.m. Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday, and demos will be offered each Saturday and Sunday by the Ann Arbor Model Railroad Club. Firefly the Magic Clown is scheduled for Sunday Dec. 14. Remember, the exhibition will be closed Dec. 24 and 31, but open on Jan 19 Martin Luther King Day. Sounds like a good winter outing for young train fans, who may want to prepare by checking out a train book, maybe C is for Caboose: Riding the rails from A to Z or Puff, puff, chugga-chugga.

¡Feliz Cumpleaños Diego!

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Today marks the birthday of famed Mexican artist and revolutionary Diego Rivera (1886-1957). Born in Guanajuato in 1886, Rivera showed an interest in art from a young age, and by the time he reached his twenties he had become a well established painter. In 1907, Rivera left Mexico for Europe where he would remain for fourteen years. Rivera was heavily influenced by the Italian Renaissance style of painting known as the fresco form. Upon returning to Mexico, Rivera began using the fresco form in a number of his works. Feeling that it was important to bring art to the people where they lived and worked, Rivera painted murals in public buildings such as universities, hotels, schools, etc. These giant murals often depicted scenes of Mexican history, industrialization, and the worker’s struggle. In the early 1930s Rivera worked on commissions for a number of prominent American businessmen. One of these works included a mural entitled "Detroit Industry" commissioned by Henry Ford to be painted on walls of the Detroit Institute of Art. A tribute to the American industrial worker, the 27 panel mural depicts industrial life in the United States, and that at the Ford Motor Company in particular. Diego was also well known for his marriage to another prominent Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. For more information on Rivera’s life and works, check out author Anne E. Neimark's biography entitled Diego Rivera : artist of the people. The 2002 film Frida also provides an entertaining view of Diego and Frida's tumultuous marriage. If you are intersted in seeing Rivera's Detroit Industry mural in person, you can check out a pass to the Detroit Institute of Art from the ADDL, for more information visit http://www.detroitadventurepass.org/index.php.

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