Gods and Monsters

The rush is on at the AADL to get a few scary movies before Halloween night, but if you're in the mood for something topical that's more riveting and less frightening, then check out Gods and Monsters on DVD. Released to critical acclaim in 1998, actor Ian McKellen plays the aging horror director James Whale, of Bride of Frankenstein and The Invisible Man fame, who is coping with the effects of a stroke when he befriends a young gardener, Clayton (played by Brendan Fraser), who sparks in him a reexamination of his life and work. Both an homage to Whale's pioneering horror films and a heartbreaking story of the deterioration of a brilliant mind, Gods and Monsters is a stirring film that sheds light on the early dark era of filmmakers.

Campaign Commercials

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Tired of all the presidential campaigning that's been going on for so incredibly long? Take a break from all the political ads with some...um, political ads. The Museum of the Moving Image has created an online exhibit that charts the history of presidential ads on television, beginning with Dwight Eisenhower's first commercials 56 years ago. The Living Room Candidate contains over 300 commercials from the last 15 presidential elections, with analysis of the themes that pop up over and over, election after election. Let yourself be charmed by 1952's singing cartoons or reminded that attack ads and calls for change as strategies to win elections are not recent inventions.

What are you reading: Mary Morgan recommends 'Magnetic North' by Linda Gregerson

Mary Morgan: Mary Morgan and her restless housecat, Elle. Morgan recommends "Magnetic North," by Ann Arbor poet Linda Gregerson to AADL readers.Mary Morgan: Mary Morgan and her restless housecat, Elle. Morgan recommends "Magnetic North," by Ann Arbor poet Linda Gregerson to AADL readers.

Mary Morgan's transformation into an entrepreneur probably shouldn't surprise anyone, since she started her journalism career as a business reporter. In August, after 16 years as a newspaper journalist, Morgan gave up editorship of the opinion pages at the Ann Arbor News and became the publisher of an online newspaper. The Ann Arbor Chronicle was born Sept. 2, 2008. It features articles written by Morgan, by her husband Dave Askins (host of another well-known site, Teeter Talk), and by other local writers. The site is supported by local advertising.

We convinced Morgan to take a break from writing, editing and managing the business side of the site, just long enough to recommend a book for library patrons. Here it is.

This Date in Music History

Jazz saxophonist John Coltrane was born on September 23, 1926 in Hamlet, NC. His first major recordings were with Miles Davis' First Quintet (1955-1957), playing tenor sax on such cool era albums as Relaxin', Workin', and Steamin'. After a bout with heroin that resulted in a rift with Davis, Coltrane began recording under his own name, producing Blue Train andGiant Steps, two albums that secured his reputation as one of the most gifted improvisers in jazz.

From '60-'65, Trane recorded with his most prolific lineup, the "Classic Quartet," which featured McCoy Tyner on piano and Elvin Jones on drums. From this period, check out Coltrane's best-selling album, My Favorite Things, and his magnum opus, A Love Supreme. Trane's legacy includes groundbreaking work in modal improvisation, avant-garde jazz, Eastern composition, and influencing a legion of followers, such as Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Redman, and Kenny Garrett who continue to explore the limits of jazz today.

Oprah Knows

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First, AADL picked The Story of Edgar Sawtelle for our Cover-to-Cover book discussion. Then Oprah, obviously noticing the excitement over our selection, made it the latest Oprah's Book Club choice. There are a limited number of books reserved for AADL cardholders who register for the book discussion. Call the Traverwood Branch at 327-4200 if you would like a copy for the discussion.

Today in Music History

On September 18, 1970, rock legend Jimi Hendrix was pronounced dead on arrival at St. Mary Abbot's Hospital in London at the age of 27. The details of this fateful night are the stuff of lore, but the facts are that Jimi took several sleeping pills and later choked to death on his own vomit. Legend has it that the guitar hero left a message for his manager that said "I need help bad man" earlier that evening.

His reign as master showman and songwriter may have lasted only 4 years (1967-1970), but his influence on rock music is perhaps only eclipsed by The Beatles. Known for writing some of the edgiest and most memorable riffs set to wax, one needs only mention the titles Purple Haze, Fire, Foxy Lady, or Hey Joe, and the visceral imprint of the songs immediately returns. If you haven't revisited Hendrix' work with The Jimi Hendrix Experience or with Band of Gypsys, you may be surprised how well these classics have aged.

Bearded Ballads

I heard Fleet Foxes for the first time at a concert festival this summer, where I was censured by a devoted fan. "Shhhh, I'm trying to listen here!" the enraptured audiophile spat. I tried to be mad at her, but the rest of the crowd looked like they were at Dylan's 1966 Royal Albert Hall show (if only more bearded and plaid), so I shut my mouth and listened. There must be something to this band.

Fleet Foxes' eponymous debut LP combines CSNY harmonies with naturalist lyrics straight out of an Appalachian songbook. Although the lyrical tone is optimistic, Pecknold refrains from the saccharine. The best songs on the record are pop structured, uptempo ballads best suited to summer nights around a campfire. After a few turns through this filler-free 40 minute album you'll likely be crooning along, the key to every successful Sub Pop release.

The Dresden Dolls

Bad pickup lines and corny jokes are two things I never tire of overhearing. So you can imagine how happy I was to eavesdrop on the following at a recent concert. "My name's John, are you into the Brechtian punk cabaret scene?" I was overwhelmed. Would this be the worst pickup line or the world's corniest joke? I waited with baited breath, soon to discover that this earnest young gent was trying unsuccessfully to get a date. Moreover, through his sermon I learned all about The Dresden Dolls, who indeed self-describe their brand of vaudevillian rock as John had. After checking out The Dresden Dolls' latest release, No, Virginia, from the AADL, I wished that things had ended better for our hero, for the band's unique blend of raucous female vocals and driving, Weimar-era piano lines was quite refreshing. My hope is that somewhere he found a soulmate because the music -- like Hesse's Magic Theatre -- is "not for everybody," and perhaps "for madmen only."

McCarthy's The Road Coming to Theaters

Before film production began on Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Road, there must have been a rather interesting debate over the city that would provide a suitable backdrop for the desolate, ruined landcape so critical to the story. How does one decide between Detroit, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, or the many other crumbling post-industrial cities? Perhaps the final vote came down to abandoned coal mines versus abandoned auto plants, so as coal is a fossil itself, Pittsburgh won the crown. Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron will star in the film that is set to be released this November. Check out pictures of the upcoming movie, or borrow the book or the audiobook from the AADL before the film hits the theaters this fall.

Summertime, the living is easy

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"Summer parties are so easy: throw something on the grill, reach into the fridge for cold beverages and sides, call friends. But wait, it gets easier. Barbecue guru Steven Raichlen's Barbeque! Bible is available in a 10th anniversary edition this year, while newcomers to hosting will find everything they need to know in Party Basics for New Nesters, the latest book from Maria McBride, author of a series of wedding planning books".

And if you are a fan of the Foodnetwork and find yourself still watching those re-runs of HGTV programs, why not sign up for the Lifestyle newsletter from our new service - BookLetters.

Once a month, you will receive via email or RSS feed a list of the best new cookbooks, gardening guides, pet care manuals and more - from self-help and fitness to home decor, books designed to fit your active lifestyle and renew your spirit.

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