New dvds mentioned on Amazon coming soon to your library!

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The following three dvds are currently on order. Holds are piling up quickly, so get your name on the list:

The Promotion. Two managers in a Chicago supermarket vying for the same promotion (Seann William Scott and John C. Reilly) each show their ugly side in this low-key but very funny take on one side of the corporate world.

Then She Found Me. Helen Hunt both directs and stars in this film about a divorced woman (Hunt) who meets her birth mother (Bette Midler) after her adoptive mom dies. Also on the scene are Matthew Broderick (her ex) and her divorced dad (Colin Firth). Hunt does a great job portraying April who must deal with enormous changes, showing all her rough edges.

Married Life. Chris Cooper plays Harry who decides he must kill his wife played by Patricia Clarkson so that she will not suffer when he leaves her for a younger woman. But the plot thickens when Harry's friend, Richard falls for the same woman and plans go awry.

Sept. 4 - Osher Lifelong Learning at UM Fall Kickoff

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It’s a big colorful gathering, a beehive of vigorous older adults milling about information tables for this year’s array of lifelong learning opportunities for age 50 and up. The choices are vast and some very helpful people will be on hand to explain all the ins and outs of the offerings and how to register for them. The kickoff with refreshments takes place at 9:30 am, at Best Western Conference Center, 2900 Jackson Ave., in Ann Arbor. At 10:00 am, Allan Gilmour, retired Vice Chairman of Ford Motor Co. will talk about “Our Aged – Liabilities or Assets?” If you are at all curious about the high quality activities for seniors in the Ann Arbor area, this is the place to be!

"Lives of quiet desperation" in Maine

While vacationing in New Hampshire and not feeling "quietly desperate," I read Olive Kittridge by Elizabeth Strout which takes place in the neighboring state of Maine. In a series of interlocking stories, Strout portrays the lives of both the title character, a sharp-tongued but deeply caring schoolteacher and people she knows who live in the small coastal town. Strout touches on many themes: depression, suicide, resentment and grief, all with penetrating insight and humor. I grew to care about these hard-edged, private and passionate people as much as Strout must have in writing about them.

GBS- Playwright and social activist

Today, July 26, is the birthday of George Bernard Shaw, British playwright, famous for his wit and social commentary in plays like Pygmalion, later made into the hugely successful My Fair Lady. Shaw was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1856 to a mother who was a professional singer and an alcoholic father who was a failed merchant. He moved to London in his twenties and tried unsuccessfully to write novels. Under the auspices of the socially progressive Independent Theatre, Shaw had several of his plays performed but he was given the most artistic freedom and support by Harley Granville Barker, manager at the Court Theatre. Shaw was also very active in the Fabian Society, a group that advocated the rise of socialist ideology and policy in Britain.

Among the many oft quoted lines of Shaw's is this one: "Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children."

Father of American psychiatry

Today, July 22 is the birthday of Karl Menninger, psychiatrist and founder of the Menninger Clinic. Menninger was born in 1893 in Topeka, Kansas. His views on psychiatry were influenced by Freud but expanded to include family and environment as factors leading to mental illness. His clinic started as a thirteen bed facility in a converted farmhouse and grew to a campus, currently in Houston, of thirty buildings and over nine hundred staff. Menninger believed that a caring, therapeutic family setting and meaningful work went a long way in healing troubled people. Later in his life, he devoted himself more to social causes such as prison reform, child abuse, the rights of Native Americans and the environment.

Estate Planning

Have you been thinking about getting your affairs in order? It is a necessary but daunting task. A recent survey estimates that upwards of 60% of Americans do not have a will. If you keel over without a will or a living trust, probate court makes all the decisions. That means a big, sad mess for your surviving loved ones.

The state of Michigan agriculture

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Acclaimed local author and English professor at Eastern Michigan University, Janet Kauffman has written a new book titled Trespassing: Dirt Stories & Field Notes. Kauffman grew up on a farm and now lives and works on one. As witness to the demise of the family farm by industrial agriculture, she knows what she's writing about. A combination of short stories and essays, the book, in writer Keith Taylor's words, is "a new form of literature and advocacy...The result is eloquent rage and despair, always tempered by a deep love for her southern Michigan landscape and even by the tenuous possibility of hope."

Hear Ms. Kauffman read from her work this Wednesday, July 9 at 7 p.m. at Shaman Drum Bookshop.

"A woman precedes me up the long rope...."

Today, June 27th, is the birthday of poet Lucille Clifton who was born in 1936 in Depew, New York. Clifton's first book, Good Times, was entered into a poetry competition by Robert Hayden, an acclaimed poet who taught at the University of Michigan. Clifton's poetry like that of other African-American poets of her time including Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez described the lives of African Americans, using free verse and the cadences of language she heard around her. Later in her writing, she dealt with themes related to being a woman and described social conditions, always drawing from her own experience. Clifton is also well known for her books for children, especially those about her beloved character, Everett Anderson.

Carnegie Medal winner a riveting read

In Tamar, a compelling story of courage, love and betrayal, Mal Peet, winner of Britain's 2005 Carnegie Medal for the best children's and young adult books, takes us back and forth in time, from the Dutch resistance movement during World War II to the 1990's. Tamar, named by her grandfather who was a code breaker in Holland during the war, is shocked by his suicide and determined to solve the puzzle he's left her in some old maps. But the most exciting sections of the book take place in Holland where Tamar and Dart, both code breakers, try to organize the resistance in the most dangerous of circumstances with the Nazis on their heels at every moment. Add romance to this mix in the person of Marijke who is Tamar's love but also the object of Dart's passion. A tightly constucted plot with unrelenting suspense and sound characterization will hold you hostage till the last page.

Sam Spade will never die.

Today, May 27 is the birthday of two great mystery novelists, Tony Hillerman who was born in 1925 and Dashiell Hammett who was born in 1894. Hillerman, a former journalist and past president of Mystery Writers of America is best known for his mysteries about the Navajo in which Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn chase down culprits in the often brutal sun of the Southwest.

Hammett was best known for his hard-boiled detective novels that featured cynical, fast talking characters who got things done. Hammett based some of his stories on work he had done with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. The movie, The Maltese Falcon was based on his book and starred Hunphrey Bogart as Sam Spade.

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