Food, Glorious Food!

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Washtenaw County Employment Training & Community Services will be distributing Federal Surplus Food while supplies last. Items such as green beans, canned beef, tuna and carrots will be distributed on Thursday February 21st from 9:00 a.m. until commodities run out. Services are available to income eligible individuals at the Washtenaw County Human Services building: 555 Towner Street, Room 107 in Ypsilanti.

Father of ecology activists

Today, January 29th is the birthday of author and environmentalist, Edward Abbey. Abbey was born in Indiana, Pa. in 1927. He's best known for his novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang about four men who liberate parts of Utah and New Mexico wilderness through sabotage. Abbey moved to the Southwest as a young man and worked in Arches National Park as a fire lookout and a ranger. His book, Desert Solitaire is about that experience. In it, he says, "This is the most beautiful place on earth. There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of an ideal place, the right place, the one true home,..." Abbey went on to write many essays that foretold our current environmental dilemmas.

A "Room of Her Own"

Today, January 25, is the birthday of writer, Virginia Woolf who was born in London in 1882. She never went to school but read books chosen by her scholar father. At 22, she began to write literary criticism for the Times Literary Supplement. In 1917, Woolf and her husband, Leonard Woolf established the Hogarth Press which allowed Woolf to publish her experimental fiction in which she tried to capture the inner lives of her characters. Her first success was Mrs. Dalloway about the thoughts of a middle-aged woman on the day she gives a party. The whole story takes place in one day in which she muses on the city sounds around her and about her past and present. Other books followed including To the Lighthouse and The Waves. But she was also one of the greatest essayists of her day. One of her longest, A Room of One's Own is an admonition to women to explore their creativity: "So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters..."

Taking the cure

In Andrea Barrett's latest novel, The Air We Breathe, she picks up some of her characters from her short story collection, Ship Fever and places them in a sanitarium for tuberculosis patients in the Adirondacks. It's 1916 and the U.S. is about to enter World War I. The patients are mostly European immigrants who share tales of life in their homelands and in the New York tenements. Barrett narrates with a collective "we" which lends a tragic, Greek chorus aura to the story. The plot hinges on the heartbreak of war and dislocation. Barrett is a master of the evocative scene as evidenced in some of her other books in which she masterfully injects scientific knowledge into her narrative.

Poet who speaks for the workers

Today, January 10 is the birthday of poet, Philip Levine who was born in Detroit in 1928. After working in advertising and hating it, he got a job in the auto plants and realized that the workers didn't have a voice. So he decided to speak for them in his poetry. In one of his collections, Mercy, come these last lines from the poem, "Drum:"

The slow light of Friday morning in Michigan,
the one we waited for, shows seven hills
of scraped earth topped with crab grass,
weeds, a black oil drum empty, glistening
at the exact center of the modern world.

1964- a groundbreaking year

On January 8, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty that began a series of programs that among other things would help educate pre-school children, fund health care for millions of Americans and help college students finance their education. Johnson in his March, 1964 speech before Congress, charted a new course that would change indelibly the government's role in helping the poor and underserved.

The classic coming of age story

It was on December 29, 1916 that James Joyce published his first novel, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The book was originally serialized by Ezra Pound in the periodical, The Egoist. Semi-autobiographical, the novel describes the early years of Joyce's alter ego, Stephen Dedalus. The first section is written in childlike language reflecting Stephen's early years, moving on to the final fifth section where he uses his stream-of-consciousness style. This technique has since become an established writing tool used to evoke a rich interior monologue.

What Science has Learned about the Human Condition

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Osher Lifelong Learning Institute presents the Thursday Morning Lecture Series #3 beginning January 10, through February 14, 2008 at the Best Western Conference Center on Jackson Road. Beginning with The Evolving World: Evolution in Every Day Life by David Mindell, author of a book of the same name followed in consecutive weeks by local professors Thad A. Polk, Ph.D, Elizabeth Petty, Dr. John Greden, C. Loring Brace and Jennifer Crocker. The series titled “What Science has Learned about the Human Condition” is pretty heady stuff. That’s why they named it Lifelong Learning, not Shuffleboard.

Unique Gift of Story with a Local Flavor

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I think the best part about the CD Time Warp Tales is that it will spark memories and get the family telling stories together. These growing up tales from members of the Ann Arbor Storyteller's Guild are clever, warm and funny. How can you go wrong with stories entitled The Worm with a Face Like a Cat, Grandpa's Claim to Fame or The Search for Laughing Sal? I was especially moved by the last tale written by Sunnie Tait, beloved Ann Arbor school librarian and teller, who lives on through her stories. You will find the CD for sale at Nicola's Books, Sixteen Hands or Peaceable Kingdom.


Today, December 17 marks the beginning of the seven day festival of Saturnalia in honor of Saturnus, the Roman god of seed and sowing. Saturnalia was a celebration of the winter solstice and a time for revelry and mischief. In a reversal of roles, slaves were served feasts and wore their masters' clothes. It was also a time of gift giving and prayer but celebration was the main event.

To read fictional portrayals of Saturnalia and ancient Rome, try the Marcus Falco mysteries of Lindsey Davis.

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