Ages 18+.

Stan Berenstain, 1923-2005

Stan Berenstain, co-creator of the beloved Berenstain Bears, died Saturday, November 26, 2005.

Berenstain, with his wife Jan, created the popular illustrated All in the Family feature 49 years ago. All in the Family first appeared in McCall’s magazine, running from 1956-1969. In 1970, the column moved to Good Housekeeping magazine for twenty years.

In the early 1960s, Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss), who was then head of Random House’s children’s publishing, worked with the Berenstains to develop a series of books for kids featuring the Bears. Thus was launched a hugely popular series, totaling more than 200 titles. The Berenstain family saga is a sort of ongoing ursine Leave It to Beaver tale of innocent capers and misadventures, full of gentle resolution.

Satiric Saga Skewers Shopping

Sellevision: A Novel by Augusten Burroughs is a wickedly funny book, as it skewers the on-screen personalities of a fictional shopping channel. I read the book in two evenings for a book group, and frankly, it was much more fun than shopping.

Religious CD Honors JFK

After President John Kennedy was assassinated Nov. 22, 1963, his widow Jaqueline Kennedy commissioned Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers in his honor. The composer and conductor was Leonard Bernstein. Based on a Catholic mass, the piece was both controversial and memorable. Some selections may sound familiar, particularly “Almighty Father“ and “A Simple Song.”

Living Longer and Healthier

The Play Ground

Hallelujah, Hallelujah redux. If classic Messiah isn't your cup of eggnog, the Motor City is presenting "Too Hot to Handel" at the Detroit Opera House on December 17 & 18th. This jazz gospel Messiah features The Rackham Symphony Choir with red hot performances by pianist Alvin Waddles, bassist Marion Hayden and beebop saxophonist George Benson.This is being billed as a "hand-clapping, soul-stirring holiday rapture." A good way to keep warm.

New Fiction Titles on the New York Times Bestseller List (11/20/05)

Talk about a change of pace! Two very well-known authors enter the list this week with something entirely different from any of their previous work.

At #4 is Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice: Neither her fans nor her detractors could ever have imagined that Rice would write a novel with Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, as the narrator.

At #7 is Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow: stepping out of the courtroom and away from the backrooms of Chicago, the author goes back to World War II to tell the story of his father’s military experiences in Europe.

Jon Stewart wins the 2005 Thurber Prize for American Humor

Funny guy Jon Stewart (host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) and fellow writers David Javerbaum and Ben Karlin, won the 2005 Thurber Prize for American Humor. Their book, America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction exposes the foibles and quirks of American Democracy with Stewart’s trademark tongue-in-cheek mix of dead-on assessment, to the delight and, sometimes, outrage of his audience. Karlin and Javerbaum both previously wrote for The Onion. Karlin is now the executive producer for The Daily Show and Javerbaum, who used to also write for The Late Show with David Letterman, is The Daily Show’s supervising producer and head writer.

Remembering Nuremberg

Sixty years ago, on November 20, 1945, the war crimes trials against 24 former leaders of Nazi Germany began in Nuremberg. The trials were the first significant international attempt to hold national political and military leaders accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Besides exposing some of the most horrible crimes of the 2Oth century, the trials' legacy has resonated in some form ever since (e.g. Vietnam, Cambodia, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and Iraq). Among the many books dealing with the subject are Earl Rice's The Nuremberg Trials, Joseph E. Persico's Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial, Leon Goldensohn's The Nuremberg Interviews, R.J. Overy's Interrogations: The Nazi Elite in Allied Hands, and the opening statement by American prosecutor Robert H. Jackson The Case Against the Nazi War Criminals. There are also some documentaries and films of note including The Nuremberg Trial and Judgment at Nuremberg. Additional useful infomation can be found at

The Play Ground

Hallelujah, Hallelujah! When UMS started presenting Messiah concerts in 1879, it was a rarity. Today, Messiah is the sacred sign of the season for almost every community, with a variety of stylistic choices from small Baroque renditions to all-gospel versions. Messiah was composed in only 21 days when Handel was 56 years old as part of a series of concerts that the composer was giving in Dublin to benefit various charities. Although the premiere was largely considered successful, the oratorio’s popularity blossomed only after Handel’s death. Featuring the UMS Choral Union and the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra with Jerry Blackstone, conductoing. At Hill Auditorium Dec 3rd & 4th.

Thank you Earlene!

New Fiction Titles on the New York Times Bestseller List (11/13/05)

It is a given that some authors will make the list with every new book they publish. The only question is where they enter the list.

At #1 is Predator by Patricia Cornwell: the increasingly dark and grisly adventures of Dr. Kay Scarpetta continue in yet another serial killer mystery.

At #3 is The Camel Club by David Baldacci: who will believe it when eccentric conspiracy buffs stumble across an actual government plot?

At #4 is Toxic Bachelors by Danielle Steel: her fans are legion and with the Mediterranean setting providing a romantic backdrop, she does not disappoint with this latest adventure in love.

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