Sunday, February 18, 2018

Happy Year of the Dog / 狗 年 旺 旺 !

The Year of the Dog is now underway, the new lunar year having begun on February 16, 2018. The image above is a woodcut from Edward Topsell's bestiary entitled The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents . . . , which was published in London in 1658. A digitized copy of this text is available online via the Internet Archive. For a modern take on the life of canines, check out artist Laurie Anderson's contemplative film, Heart of a Dog (2015).

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Bicentennial of Frederick Douglass' Birth

Born into slavery 200 years ago, on February 14, 1818, Frederick Douglass represents one of the most consequential figures in American history. His life's work as an abolitionist, social reformer, orator, author, publisher, and statesman are without parallel.

To learn more about Douglass, there are a number of significant research collections to explore. The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress contains approximately 7,400 items, with the bulk of the material dating from 1862 to 1865. Many of Douglass' early writings were destroyed when his house in Rochester, New York, burned in 1872.

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) has created a digital edition of the Frederick Douglass Papers, and at the University of Rochester, the Frederick Douglass Institute, in conjunction with the Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections, is seeking to digitize all of the Douglass-related materials at the University Library. The National Archives has deep collections in African American history generally.

The National Park Service maintains the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, which preserves and interprets Cedar Hill, where Douglass lived from 1877 till his death in 1895 at age 77. The Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Community has a number of online resources that are also of interest.

Note: The photograph above was taken by George Francis Schreiber on April 26, 1870, and is in the collections of the Library of Congress.

Portraits of President Obama and First Lady Unveiled at Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

The collections of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, which holds the nation's only complete set of presidential portraits outside the White House, were recently augmented as newly-commissioned portraits of the 44th president, Barack Obama, and former First Lady Michelle Obama, were unveiled on February 12, 2018 at a ceremony presided over by Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton and National Portrait Gallery Director Kim Sajet. The President's portrait was painted by artist Kehinde Wiley, and the First Lady's portrait by artist Amy Sherald.

National Portrait Gallery Director Sajet observed:
As a museum of history and art, we have learned over the past half-century that the best portraiture has the power to bring world leaders into dialogue with everyday Americans. These two paintings fall into that category, and we believe they will serve as an inspiration for generations to come.
Wiley and Sherald are the first African American artists that have ever been commissioned for official portraits of a President or First Lady.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Indiegogo Campaign for "Joe Frank: Somewhere Out There"

Independent filmmaker D.P. Carlson has just launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $75,000 for the release of his documentary film, Joe Frank: Somewhere Out There. Music was a vital component of Joe Frank's radio artistry, hence much of the funds raised will be utilized to obtain licensing for musical works included in the film, as well as for final sound editing and mixing, and other expenses associated with screenings on the 2018 film festival circuit.

In his video appeal above, Carlson notes that Frank, who died just two weeks ago, had himself seen the final cut of the documentary, and was "really excited about sharing it with audiences." To catch a glimpse of what the excitement is about, check out the trailer at the film's website, and then help support Carlson and his team get this feature film tribute in front of both longtime Joe Frank aficionados and a new generation of listeners. Perks for donating include a thank you in the film credits and an array of premiums.

Monday, January 22, 2018

RIP Joe Frank, Radio Artist Extraordinaire

The pioneering radio artist, Joe Frank, died one week ago on January 15, 2018 at the age of 79. Frank produced an extensive and unique body of work during a career of over forty years. Known for his monologues and ensemble casts of characters, Frank utilized both scripted and improvised segments that were set to entrancing music that propelled the mood, action, and emotion of his novel form of storytelling.

Attuned to the philosophical quandaries of life, a deep humor runs through every dramatic episode as Frank employs any manner of historical, cultural, and artistic references to explore and express the absurdities and follies of human existence. In certain respects, Frank is a great moral fabulist who revels in chaos as much as he rebels against it, either with or without cause. His art is truly sui generis, and resistant to facile description; it is best to simply listen to the work itself to understand and appreciate Frank's radio alchemy.

Some of Frank's shows are still being broadcast on various radio stations around the country, including WFMU and KCRW, and the Joe Frank website offers several options to purchase his work, including CDs, DVDs, flashdrives, as well as streaming subscriptions. A number of tributes have been offered in the last several days, a compilation of which can also be found at the Joe Frank website. Slate magazine has just published his last interview, "Joe Frank Signs Off," and his obituary has appeared in the New York Times, among other publications.

The above video is a trailer for D.P. Carlson's documentary, "Joe Frank: Somewhere Out There," which will be released later this year.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Martin Luther King, Jr. [1929-1968] would have turned 89 today. It was during the March on Washington, held on August 28, 1963, that Dr. King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream Speech." The speech galvanized the civil rights movement, and in 1964, James Blue released the film, "The March," which documented the events of the March as well as King's speech.

The film was produced for the Motion Picture Service unit of the United States Information Agency, and was intended for foreign audiences. In 2008, the documentary was inducted into the National Film Registry maintained by the Library of Congress. A full digital restoration of the original negatives was later undertaken by the Motion Picture Preservation Lab to coincide with the March's 50th anniversary in 2013; details of this painstaking process are available at the National Archives website.

The National Archives has many other resources related to King and to African American history, and there are several prior Common Curator posts regarding King's legacy as well.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

No Loitering

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Field of Dreams, La Bamba, and Memento among Films Added to National Film Registry

Established by the National Film Preservation Act of 1988, the National Film Preservation Board is an advisory body for the Librarian of Congress. The Board helps shape national film preservation planning policy, and also recommends films for the National Film Registry.

Chosen for their cultural, historic, or aesthetic significance, the Board's 25 annual selections for 2017 cover a wide gamut of genres and time periods, from such early films as The Sinking of the Lusitania and Gentleman's Agreement to such later works as Boulevard Nights and Memento. The full list for 2017 is as follows:

Memento (2000)

4 Little Girls (1997)                                  
Titanic (1997)
To Sleep with Anger (1990)                 

Field of Dreams (1989)
Die Hard (1988)
Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1988)                  
La Bamba (1987)                                 
The Goonies (1985)

Boulevard Nights (1979)     
Superman (1978)
Time and Dreams (1976)
Lives of Performers (1972)
Wanda (1971)                                                                                              

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)              
Spartacus (1960)

Ace in the Hole (aka Big Carnival) (1951)

Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
Dumbo (1941)

Only Angels Have Wings (1939)                      
With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain (1937-1938)

Fuentes Family Home Movies Collection (1920s-1930s)                  
He Who Gets Slapped (1924) 

The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918)         

Interior New York Subway, 14th Street to 42nd Street (1905)       

Further information on the Registry as well as the films themselves can be found on the Library of Congress' web site. All 725 films selected for the Registry since 1989 can also be browsed online. In addition, the public is encouraged to make nominations for next year's selections to the National Film Registry.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Wapsipinicon Almanac No. 24

The latest annual installment of the eclectic Wapsipinicon Almanac is now available for purchase and perusal. Published and letterpress printed since 1988 by Timothy Fay of Route 3 Press, the present issue, as with previous numbers, features an engaging mix of essays, reviews, fiction, poetry, art, wit, and wisdom.

Number 24 can be purchased at bookstores and other establishments or by writing the publisher directly at Wapsipinicon Almanac, 19948 Shooting Star Road, Anamosa, Iowa 52205. Single copies are $9, plus $2.70 for postage; Iowa residents should also include 63-cents for sales tax.

The front cover shown here was designed by Elizabeth Munger of Iowa City, and depicts The Black Angel, a well-known local statue in Oakland Cemetery. A brief history of the publication can be viewed at the Almanac's website, and a video of "Linotype Operator Emeritus" Eldon Meeks in action can be viewed here.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Net Neutrality Is Being Upended

Net neutrality is the principle that all data or content should be treated equally, without discrimination, by every Internet Service Provider (ISP). Net neutrality thus ensures that all stakeholders share an equitable platform for communication, commerce, and other purposes.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be voting on December 14, 2017 to approve or reject Chairman Ajit Pai's draft order to undermine the current framework as articulated in the FCC's 2015 Open Internet Order. Organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), among many others, are partners in the Battle for the Net coalition, which is actively advocating for the complete rejection of Chairman Pai's new order.

To learn about what you can do to make your voice heard, visit the Battle for the Net website, which provides links to an online petition, information about upcoming protests around the United States, and details about contacting your elected officials as well as communicating your views directly to the FCC.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Heirloom Variety Is the Spice of Life

The always-amazing annual catalog from Seed Savers Exchange (SSE), featuring heirloom, untreated, non-hybrid, and non-GMO seeds, is now available online; a print copy of the 2018 catalog can also be requested free of charge online.

Founded in 1975 by Diane Ott Whealy and Kent Whealy, Seed Savers Exchange is now the largest non-governmental seed bank of its kind in the United States. With over 13,000 members, SSE conserves and maintains heirloom seeds for thousands of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. Its mission is: 
. . . to save North America's diverse, but endangered, garden heritage for future generations by building a network of people committed to collecting, conserving and sharing heirloom seeds and plants, while educating people about the value of genetic and cultural diversity.
Located on the 890-acre Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa, SSE is open to visitors from April to October, and sponsors special events such as seed starting, grafting, and gardening workshops. It also hosts an annual conference and campout. To learn more about Seed Savers Exchange and the benefits of membership, visit its website.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

In Case You Missed It . . . H. Res. 621

1st Session

H. RES. 621

Impeaching Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, of high crimes and misdemeanors.

November 15, 2017

Mr. Cohen (for himself, Mr. Gutiérrez, Mr. Yarmuth, Mr. Al Green of Texas, Ms. Fudge, and Mr. Espaillat) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


Impeaching Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Resolved, That Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following Articles of Impeachment be exhibited to the Senate:

Articles of Impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives of the United States of America in the name of itself and all of the people of the United States of America, against Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, in maintenance and support of its impeachment against him for high crimes and misdemeanors.



In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, as well as his constitutional obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice, and has to that end engaged personally, and through his subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or scheme designed to delay, impede an investigation, and to conceal information sought by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the course of its investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 United States Presidential election, including any possible collusion between Russia and Donald J. Trump’s campaign.

[ . . . ]

Note: The remainder of the text for Article I, as well as the text for Articles II, III, IV, and V can be read at the site. The entire text for H. Res. 621 can also be downloaded as a PDF

Readers may also be interested in H. Res. 438, introduced by Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA-30) on July 12, 2017, that contains a single article of impeachment; the text of this earlier Resolution can be found at the Common Curator post, In Case You Missed It . . . H. Res. 438.  

Friday, November 17, 2017

Salvator Mundi

Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi, or "Savior of the World," has just set a new world record for a work of art sold at auction, realizing $450,312,500 (including buyer's premium) at Christie's in New York on November 15, 2017. The work is one of a small number of surviving paintings attributed to da Vinci, and according to Christie's, was the last not already in a museum collection. The buyer has not as yet been publically revealed. The art conservator Dianne Dwyer Modestini spent several years restoring the painting, beginning in 2005.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Great Cornell Pumpkin Prank

On the morning of October 8, 1997, it was observed that a pumpkin had mysteriously been placed overnight atop the spire of Cornell University's McGraw Tower. The Common Curator had just begun work at Big Red, and recalls the great buzz that the pumpkin created across campus--and beyond. Twenty years later, the identity of the perpetrator(s) of one of the greatest college pranks is still not known with certainty, although various explanations have been put forward.

Initially, it was unclear if the object was actually a pumpkin, as the tower is 173' tall. For pumpkin skeptics and conspiracists, a recent Cornell Chronicle article features a photo of the "Certificate of Authenticity" from the Kingsbury Commission (which intensively studied the matter) that unequivocally states: "It's a pumpkin." A thorough and fascinating summary of the events, and speculation, surrounding the incident has also recently been published by Atlas Obscura.

To mark the 20th anniversary, Cornell University Library is hosting a "PumpkinCam Redux," with much--but not all--of the content of the original website. Bits and cucurbits both decay, after all. Happy Halloween!

Note: the photo above is a Cornell University file photo.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

UNESCO Statement on the Withdrawal of the United States from Membership

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, delivered on October 12, 2017 a statement of "profound regret" on the decision of the United States to withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization effective December 31, 2018. Bakova stated that "Universality is critical to UNESCO’s mission to strengthen international peace and security in the face of hatred and violence, to defend human rights and dignity," and delineated numerous initiatives, collaborations, and projects that have involved the United States, which was one of the original signers of the Constitution of UNESCO on November 16, 1945.

One notable UNESCO program achievement, in 2008, was the designation of Iowa City, Iowa as a UNESCO City of Literature. It was just the third city in the world to be accorded such recognition, and to date is the only such city in the United States. Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature Executive Director John Kenyon, in an article in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, observed that he was personally very disappointed by the withdrawal, and noted that "This decision has not made things better for UNESCO." He also remarked that "UNESCO's ability to better the world was compromised" when the United States ceased paying membership contributions in 2011 under the Obama administration.

A press statement by the U.S. Department of State earlier today indicates that UNESCO was informed, despite the withdrawal, of the United States' ongoing:
. . . desire to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute U.S. views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organization, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms, and promoting scientific collaboration and education.
Meanwhile, the Iowa City Book Festival continues this week with its full slate of activities, including events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the International Writing Program. Festival highlights for today also include the bestowal of the Paul Engle Prize to this year's recipient, Alexander Chee.

It is worth recalling that the Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO begins with the assertion "that since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed." And today that must include the minds of everyone.