Mary and Max

When I read the news of Philp Seymour Hoffman’s passing I did a quick mental inventory of the movies I’ve seen that he is in, there are so many. The one that sticks out the most, and that I think he got the least amount of credit for, is the animated film Mary and Max. The film takes place from 1976 to 1998 and tells the story of the unlikely pen-pal friendship that lasts for 22 years between Mary (Toni Collette), a lonely 8-year-old girl who lives in Australia, and Max (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a 44-year-old, severely obese, secular Jew atheist with Asperger syndrome who lives in New York City. The central focus of the movie is the letters shared between Mary and Max and the stories behind their life and the lives of people around them. This dark comedy deals with very mature themes, such as death/suicide, mental health, and dark depictions of childhood innocence. It also deals with the themes of love, friendship and forgivness is a way that will leave you thinking about it long past the 92 minutes it will take to watch it.

Peter Seeger, iconic folksinger and political activist, has died

Pete Seeger, as beloved for his enduring folk songs as for his principled political activism for six decades, has died.

Seeger began his singing career as part of the Weavers in 1948, performing tunes of peace. Just seven years later, McCarthyism caught up with Seeger. The singer refused to testify. After years of legal wrangling, Seeger was convicted of contempt in 1961. A year later that conviction was overturned on a technicality.

For years, Seeger was blacklisted and banned from performing in schools and concert venues. He refused to be silent, writing and demonstrating whenever he could.

He was the inspiration for many folksinging giants, including Joan Baez who said of Seeger: "We all owe our careers to Pete Seeger." and Peter, Paul, and Mary who made famous Seeger's If I Had a Hammer. Other long-enduring Seeger classics are Where Have All the Flowers Gone and Turn! Turn! Turn!.

In 1994, the National Endowment of the Arts bestowed on Seeger the National Medal of Arts. In 1996, he won his first Grammy and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Twelve years later, he won his second Grammy. And just one year later, in a stunning moment of political validation, he performed at a celebratory concert in Washington, D.C. two days before President Barack Obama's first inauguration.

Seeger stayed politically active until the end of his life. In 2011, he marched in New York City with the Occupy Movement. He performed in last year's FarmAid concert and, as a lifelong environmentalist, this past November he asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to release the Arctic 30 who were granted their freedom the following month.

In 2012, Seeger published Pete Seeger: In His Own Words.

Seeger, who was 94, died of natural causes.

Pete Seeger is no stranger to area music lovers. He made several trips to perform here. His benefit concert for the Ark is fondly remembered. Check out these Old News articles on this beloved muscian.

Suicide Prevention & Addiction

There is an alarmingly high prevalence of suicide among people with addiction and people in early recovery, and the period of early recovery from addiction is especially high risk. Family, friends and professionals are often strategically positioned to recognize suicidal thinking and intervene to help. This program will raise awareness of the signs of suicidal thinking, describe ways to offer support and obtain help for people who may be contemplating suicide. Participants will learn how to recognize suicidal thinking, reach out and offer support to others contemplating suicide, obtain help when suicidal thoughts are present, and access local and national suicide prevention and intervention resources.

Adulting and The Defining Decade are great reads for twenty-somethings!

Young adulthood can be a challenging time. As someone who is navigating the ups and downs of my twenties right now, I am frequently surprised at the unique and unexpected situations that I am presented with as I continue to grow up. As young adults have become more forthcoming about the trials and tribulations of their twenties in recent years, many authors—some of them still young adults themselves—have stepped up to write books giving advice to twenty-somethings and sharing their own experiences. Hoping for some tips, I read two of these such books, both of which you can check out from AADL.

In Adulting, 27-year-old Kelly Williams Brown gives hilarious and practical advice to young adults on a huge variety of topics. She covers cooking, cleaning, moving to a new area, relationships with friends, family and significant others, jobs and working, and many other areas of importance. Brown admits that she is still growing up herself and shares many of her own successes and failures throughout the book. The idea for this book came from Brown’s blog, which you can peruse here.

The Defining Decade is written by clinical psychologist Dr. Meg Jay, and outlines why one’s twenties are an extremely important time period if one wants to be successful later in life. Jay argues against the “thirty-is-the-new-twenty” mentality and offers advice to those in their twenties while also sharing stories from her own practice and from the young people who come to her seeking help.

I found both of these books to be extremely interesting, entertaining and helpful, and I found myself agreeing with most of what the authors put forward. These two books are a great read for anyone in their twenties, for anyone who interacts with people in their twenties, and for anyone who feels like they may still have some growing up to do!

Teen Novel: A Cautionary Tale of Sexting

Thousand Words by acclaimed author Jennifer Brown is a wrenching piece of realistic fiction that shows – not in a preachy way – that sexting is stupid and dangerous. This new book, written for readers in about grades 9-11, stars tenth-grader Ashleigh, who is pressured by her friends into texting a full-frontal nude photograph of herself to her boyfriend. The photo is meant for his eyes only, but when he leaves for college, there is a nasty break-up. Seeking revenge, he sends the photo to everyone on his contact list.

Ashleigh is shocked to find herself arrested and facing community service, and her ex-boyfriend may be headed for prison. The community – where Ashleigh’s father is superintendent of schools – is an uproar. Gradually, Ashleigh is able to work through layers of issues and find hope in a future, with help from a shy, kind and troubled young man she meets in community service. This is an engaging, beautifully written novel that parents and teens probably should discuss together. I thought it was an utterly believable story and a valuable literary cautionary tale.

"Don't Call Me Inspirational: A Disabled Feminist Talks Back"

Harilyn Rousso, author of "Don't Call Me Inspirational: A Disabled Feminist Talks Back," will read from her book Nov. 13 at 1 p.m. in Palmer Commons, Great Lakes Room South, at the University of Michigan. Her appearance is sponsored by a number of groups including Services for Students with Disabilities, Council for Disability Concerns, Women's Studies, Center for Education of Women, the LSA Disability Culture class, and Nicola's Books. Refreshments and Screenline CART services will be provided. Later the same day, the author will participate in a reading and panel discussion at 6:30 p.m. at the U-M School of Social Work. Refreshments and CART services will be provided. People planning to attend the later event should RSVP by emailing Carolyn Grawi at cgrawi@umich.edu.

"Don't Call Me Inspirational" is a collection of essays, poems, and personal memories by the author, who was born with cerebral palsy and now is a psychotherapist, disabilities activist and artist. Her book, published earlier this year, was widely and favorably reviewed. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson wrote in Ms. magazine that it is "less a memoir of endurance than a fine model for feminist development."

Terrifying and Poignant, 'Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock'

Matthew Quick is a talented and prolific author, having written The Silver Linings Playbook (2008), Sorta Like a Rock Star (2010), Boy21 (2012) and now Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. His new young adult novel will terrify many because the narrator, Leonard Peacock, takes a gun to school and plans to kill his former best friend and himself.

Leonard is a seriously disturbed young man. His father, a former rock star, has disappeared. His mother, a narcissistic fashionista, is in New York City. Leonard stalks adults to determine if they are happy; most do not appear so. He hangs out with his sick, elderly neighbor, who watches Humphrey Bogart films. In school, Mr. Silverman, who teaches Leonard's Holocaust class, urges him to write "Letters from the Future," to connect with imaginary future soulmates, as a strategy to find happiness in high school.

The dark action unfolds on Leonard's 18th birthday, which no one remembers. Carefully, Leonard moves toward executing his murder-suicide plan. Although it is hair-raising to read the thoughts of a crazy kid concealing a gun, readers are allowed to hope that Leonard's plan will somehow fail. I found the novel poignant and thought provoking. The New York Times review is
here.

Call the Midwife Season 1 & 2

The winds are blowing colder, so as you're tucking in for winter and looking for new entertainment, take a look at the spectacular and riveting BBC/PBS production, Call the Widwife. The series, set in east London in the 1950s, is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth. Catch up with Seasons 1 & 2 this winter and you will be prepared for Season 3 when it airs on PBS in spring 2014.

The story follows new midwife Jenny Lee and the work of the midwives and the Sisters of Nonnatus House, a nursing convent that is part of an Anglican religious order. The women deal with the medical problems in the impoverished Poplar district of East London. Each episode includes the fascinating, sad, tragic, shocking, gritty and heartwarming stories of the pregnancies, births and challenges of the new mothers and their caretakers. As the series progresses, the friendships and relationships that develop between the midwives and the nuns pulls the viewer in as much as the complex stories of their patients. From Jenny’s culture shock upon arrival to London’s East End to shy, insecure Chummy and the glamorous Trixie, the midwives develop a closeness with the complex Sisters of Nonnatus House.

Amazon Teen Bestseller: I Am Malala

Check out I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, which currently is #7 (hardcover) and #12 (Kindle edition) on Amazon's list of Best Sellers in Teen & Young Adult Books. The book is by Malala Yousafzai with help from Christina Lamb. From Amazon: "When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive . . . "

Film & Discussion: Where Soldiers Come From

Tuesday October 22, 2013: 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

This event is intended for adults and teens (grade 9 and up).

Winner of a 2011 Emmy and the Independent Spirit Award, "Where Soldiers Come From" follows the lives of northern Michigan best friends, Dominic and Cole, and other recent high school graduates as they join the National Guard and are eventually sent to Afghanistan.

The young men quickly realize their carefree days are over as they spend their time sweeping for roadside bombs. Repeated bombs blowing up around their convoys lead to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) symptoms. They have all become increasingly disillusioned about their mission.

The challenges really begin to surface when they return to their families and communities in Michigan. "Where Soldiers Come From" looks beyond the guns and policies of an ongoing war to tell a human story about family, friendship, and community and how they all change when people go off to fight.

Film director Heather Courtney will lead the discussion following the film.

This event is cosponsored by the University of Michigan Community Scholars' Program.

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