Is chess a game or a science?

That very question is posed in Searching for Bobby Fischer when a chess teacher talks with the father of a 7-year-old boy, Josh, who shows an amazing gift for playing chess. The teacher goes on to say that, "Bobby Fischer got underneath it like no one before and found at its center, art." And what's Josh's answer? When talking on the phone with a buddy, Josh explains, "Chess. It's a game, like Monopoly."

If you've never seen this flick, check it out. And, if you enjoy playing chess, come this Sunday, April 6 (1-4 p.m.), to Pittsfield Branch for Chesstastic. It's a chance to play a whole variety of opponents from the youngest age to senior citizens.

The power of myth

Today, March 26 marks the birth of one of our foremost mythologists, Joseph Campbell who was born in New York City in 1904. Entranced by Native American culture from an early age, he began to make associations with myths from other cultures and in 1949 published a seminal study of mythology called The Hero with a Thousand Faces which looked at the common theme of a spiritual quest. But it was only when Campbell was featured in a series of penetrating interviews with Bill Moyers in the 1980's called Joseph Campbell and the The Power of Myth that his name became known to the more general population. In the first of the series, they take on the subject of heroes who range from Buddha and Jesus to metaphors present in Jungian psychology and the movie, Star Wars. Filmmaker, George Lucas was heavily influenced by Campbell in his making of the film and the interviews were conducted at his Skywalker Ranch.

Celebrate India!

We can't wait for the India Family Cultural Celebration this Sunday, February 3 at 2:00 pm at the Downtown Library! Join us for storytelling with Rohit and Amanda Setty, Tabla and Sitar music by Meeta Banerjee, John Churchville and Dan Piccolo, delicious gulab jamoon and a colorful rangoli craft that the whole family will enjoy!

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.

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