Thursday, August 9, 2018

#OTD #Unpresidented*

In an unprecedented act in American history, Richard Nixon, the 37th president of the United States, abdicated his office 44 years ago today, on August 9, 1974. On the evening of August 8, he made a nationally-televised speech laying out his decision, noting at the outset that it was the weakening of his political base that motivated his resignation rather than any particular moral, ethical, or legal concerns related to Watergate and other matters:
Throughout the long and difficult period of Watergate, I have felt it was my duty to persevere, to make every effort possible to complete the term of office to which you elected me. In the past few days, however, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress to justify continuing that effort. As long as there was such a base, I felt strongly that it was necessary to see the constitutional process through to its conclusion, that to do otherwise would be unfaithful to the spirit of that deliberately difficult process and a dangerously destabilizing precedent for the future. But with the disappearance of that base, I now believe that the constitutional purpose has been served, and there is no longer a need for the process to be prolonged. [full transcript]
As for the 45th president, Donald Trump, articles of impeachment have already twice been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives: H. Res. 438 (July 12, 2017) and H. Res. 621 (November 15, 2017).

* Noted for his innumerable Twitterisms, president-elect Trump tweeted the misspelled "unpresidented" rather than "unprecedented" in a bellicose tweet directed at China on December 17, 2016, well before assuming office. In contrast, it was a diplomatic highlight of Nixon's tenure [1969-1974] that he pursued rapprochement with the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.), lifting a trade embargo in 1971, and in February 1972, engaging in direct talks with Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong during the first trip by an American president to the P.R.C. At the conclusion of the seven-day visit, both parties jointly issued the Shanghai Communiqué, which laid the groundwork for the subsequent establishment of diplomatic relations. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Happy Birthday, Andy Warhol!

Today is the 90th anniversary of the birth of artist Andy Warhol [1928-1987]. The eponymous Andy Warhol Museum is said to be the largest in the United States dedicated to the work of a single artist, and houses the largest collection of Warhol art and archives in the world.

Among the Museum's holdings is Warhol's experimentation in 1985 with digital art using an Amiga 1000 computer supplied to him by Commodore International. Using ProPaint software, Warhol executed a portrait of singer Debbie Harry of Blondie during a live product launch. Warhol later made several other electronic images, including a version of one of his notorious Campbell's Soup paintings, a series of 32 varieties first exhibited in 1962.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

RAGBRAI XLVI: Book It To Iowa City

The 20,000 or so riders on RAGBRAI XLVI, the 46th iteration of the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, will begin streaming into Iowa City on the morning of Friday, July 27, 2018. For this penultimate segment of the week-long ride, bicyclists will be covering 58 miles from Sigourney to Iowa City; the last stretch, Day 7, will cover the final 69 miles to Davenport. Every year the ride commences somewhere along the Missouri River and ends somewhere along the Mississippi River. This year's route, which originated in Onawa, measures approximately 428 miles, and includes some 12,576 feet of climb.

The first ride, in 1973, was the brainchild of journalists Donald Kaul and John Karras of the Des Moines Register, and the ride has since evolved into an internationally renowned event, the oldest, largest, and longest such bicycle ride in the world. Unfortunately, one of the co-founders, Donald Kaul, died at age 83 on Sunday, July 22, 2018, coincidentally the first day of this year's ride.

Kaul was especially well known for his nationally-syndicated column "Over the Coffee," which skewered hypocrites of all political stripes, including himself, if necessary. Kaul's writing manifested good sense, an agile wit, as well as deep compassion and human decency, qualities which are always needed but often lacking, then as now. Three collections of Kaul's columns have been published, and an archive of later work (2008-2016) can be found online at OtherWords. "Newspaper Nostalgia" recounts some of the many changes Kaul witnessed in over 50 years of journalism, beginning with the start of his career at the Register in the early '60s.

The Common Curator rode RAGBRAI in 2012, details of which can be found in the post, Livin' XL.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Microfinance Worldwide: Kiva by the Numbers

Founded in 2005 as a non-profit organization to alleviate poverty through microloans to small entrepreneurs worldwide, Kiva has facilitated $1.18 billion in total lending to some 2.9 million entrepreneurs in over 80 countries. Having established a global network of microfinance field partners, Kiva currently has a repayment rate of 97% across all loans. 

To date, the Common Curator has made 200 microloans for projects in 84 countries in the following sectors: agriculture; food; retail; services; arts; construction; clothing; health; education; personal use; manufacturing; housing; wholesale; and transportation. 

To learn more about how Kiva works and its history, visit the organization's website and consider joining the effort to fund entrepreneurs around the world. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

John Coltrane's Lost Album

Recorded in one day by the John Coltrane Quartet at the Van Gelder Studios in Englewood, New Jersey on March 6, 1963, the long-overlooked album will finally be released as Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album by Impulse! Records on June 29, 2018. Coltrane gave the reference tape for the original session (the master tapes are presumed lost) to his first wife, Juanita Naima Coltrane, shortly after it was recorded, but only recently was it rediscovered by her and brought to the attention of the label.

The album contains seven tunes, including two new compositions never before heard, as well as the first recorded versions of several earlier songs. The quartet features Coltrane on saxophone, McCoy Tyner on piano, Elvin Jones on drums, and Jimmy Garrison on double bass, along with several guest musicians. Jazz great Sonny Rollins has observed that the present album "is like finding a new room in the Great Pyramid." The video above previews "Untitled Original 11383," and is accompanied by a graphic visualization of the audio track. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Seed Savers Exchange Conference & Campout

Registration is now open for the 38th annual Seed Savers Exchange Conference & Campout to be held July 20-21, 2018. The event will feature speakers, tours, and other activities on the grounds of Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa. Program speakers and topics include: Marilyn McHugh & Chris Kennedy (Life in the Soil--A Journey); John Whitman (On Cold Climate Gardening); Rosalind Creasy (Edible Landscaping); Jovan Savage (The Migration of Southern Foodways); and, Rowan White & Lee Buttala (Keeping Seeds Where They Belong--in situ and ex situ Preservation). A full schedule as well as registration details can be viewed on the conference website.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

"Whistler's Mother" Rearranged

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, himself an avid philatelist, took a strong interest in stamps as a means to communicate. He had a close working relationship with the Postmaster General James A. Farley, and contributed several design ideas for stamps issued during his time in office (1933-1945).

Among these was Roosevelt's suggestion that "Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1," the iconic painting by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, be used as the basis for a stamp commemorating Mother's Day. Also known as "Portrait of the Artist's Mother," or simply, "Whistler's Mother," the subject of the painting was prominently featured on a 3-cent stamp that was issued in 1934, just 20 years after Mother's Day became an official national holiday.

Though a seemingly faithful representation, the stamp drew criticism both for the manner in which the painting was cropped and for the addition of a vase of flowers. The American Artists Professional League went so far as to telegram the Postmaster General, stating the stamp was "a mutilation of the artist's original picture, robbing it of much of its charm." The painting is currently held by the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, and today's viewers can make their own aesthetic judgement.

More of Roosevelt's stamp designs can be seen as part of the National Postal Museum's online exhibition, Delivering Hope: FDR & Stamps of the Great Depression.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Support Net Neutrality Today

Take Action today by contacting Congress to show your support for Net Neutrality.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

MayDay 2018: Saving Our History

Since 2006, the Society of American Archivists (SAA) has designated May 1st as MayDay, or a day of action for both individuals and organizations such as archives, libraries, museums, and historical societies to improve their capacities to deal with emergencies that can threaten or destroy historical collections. The ravages of natural disasters such as the tornadoes and hurricanes of recent years are just some of the physical risks facing cultural heritage institutions.

Although the landmark study, A Public Trust at Risk: The Heritage Health Index Report on the State of America's Collections (2005), systematically documented that most institutions lack an adequate disaster preparedness plan, the SAA has worked to mitigate these deficiencies. The SAA web site provides recommendations for MayDay activities, as well as a compilation of resources, including technical literature and tools, disaster plan templates and examples, tutorials and courses, bibliographies, and other resources.

In recent years, the State Historical Society of Iowa (SHSI) has undergone severe cuts to both collections and services, which are documented in detail in a recent White Paper produced by the Save Iowa History Alliance. Leading historians on both a state and national level have addressed their concerns directly to Governor Branstad and to Mary Cownie, Director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, which oversees the SHSI.

Further details on these efforts, as well as contact information for key decision-makers, is available in the previous Common Curator posts: Save Iowa History and Save Iowa History 3. The complete White Paper on the State Historical of Iowa can be downloaded as a PDF.

Old Capitol Criterium 2018

Long a springtime tradition in Iowa City, the annual Old Capitol Criterium was held on Sunday, April 29, 2018 on the classic one-kilometer course that encircles the University of Iowa's Pentacrest and includes a short section through downtown Iowa City. The race began in 1977, and was originally spearheaded by Dan Nidey and Bill Casey. Results for all classes of riders at this year's race are available at the USA Cycling website. The Iowa City Cycling Club hosts the Old Capitol Criterium along with the Iowa City Road Race that together constitute the Chris Lillig Memorial Cup Race Weekend.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

For Earth Day, Plant a Tree or a Forest

Earth Day was first celebrated on April 22, 1970. Founded by former US Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in, Earth Day is now coordinated by Earth Day Network, with extensive programming and events around the world. In 2009, the United Nations also declared April 22 to be International Mother Earth Day, an observance that "recognizes a collective responsibility, as called for in the 1992 Rio Declaration, to promote harmony with nature and the Earth to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations of humanity."

To commemorate both Earth Day and the upcoming Arbor Day, check out The Forest Where Ashley Lives, an educational book about the value and care of urban forests. Written by Mark A. and the eponymous Ashley L. Vitosh, and illustrated by John L. Smith, it is intended for elementary school readers. The book has won an Arbor Day Foundation Education Award, and was published by Iowa State University Extension; a PDF version is available for download from Urban Forestry South.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Peace Sign at Sixty

Now nearly universally recognized as a symbol of peace, the above logo (sans "60," of course) was designed by George Holtom in February 1958 to support the cause of nuclear disarmament. Varying accounts exist regarding its precise origins, but it was quickly adopted by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the U.K., and has been used by countless millions in various contexts ever since.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Republication of Edward S. Curtis' The North American Indian

Edward S. Curtis [1868-1952] published The North American Indian [Being a Series of Volumes Picturing and Describing the Indians of the United States and Alaska] during the period 1907-1930. It comprised 20 volumes of narrative text accompanied by 20 portfolios of photogravures; the text tallied over 5,000 pages, and the photographic images numbered over 2,200. Less than half of the projected 500 sets were ultimately produced.

The original prospectus described this project as "The most gigantic undertaking in the making of books since the King James edition of the Bible . . . ." Curtis both authored the text and photographed the images, and was supported in his field work by the patronage of J. Pierpont Morgan. Frederick Webb Hodge, who worked at the Bureau of American Ethnology from 1905 to 1918 and later at the Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, served as the editor for the series. Theodore Roosevelt contributed a brief foreword.

In the course of his research, Curtis took over 40,000 photographic images of some 80 tribes, recorded over 10,000 wax cylinders of Native American languages and music, and observed and described many aspects of Indian traditions, customs, and ways of life. As valuable as Curtis' documentation is--and in many cases, it is the only such historical information available--it also reflects certain attitudes and mindsets no longer current among scholars and historians. Among other criticisms, the staging of some photographs raises important questions of representation and interpretation in Curtis' work.

To mark the sesquicentennial of Curtis' birth, Christopher Cardozo Fine Art is republishing Curtis' magnum opus in its entirety, with meticulous attention to reproducing the quality of the original set. The video above gives a brief overview of the process and rationale for the undertaking. Further details as well as ordering information is available at the publisher's website.

An online edition of The North American Indian is also available as part of Northwestern University's Digital Library Collections. The digitization of the set was largely funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services. The Library of Congress holds more than 2,400 silver-gelatin photographic prints by Curtis that were acquired through copyright deposit from about 1900 to 1930; of these, 1,608 were not included in The North American Indian. Over 1,000 prints in the Curtis Collection have been digitized and individually described.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was fatally shot on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, 50 years ago today. The day after his assassination, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Presidential Proclamation 3839 declaring a national day of mourning for April 7, 1968 and that flags were to be flown at half-mast at governmental and military facilities both within the United States and abroad until King's internment. Johnson begins the Proclamation by stating: "The heart of America grieves today. A leader of his people--a teacher of all people--has fallen."

For previous Common Curator posts related to King's life and work, see: The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom; Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence; The Quest for Peace and Justice; and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The New York Times has also recently republished its original obituary for King, which was first published April 5, 1968.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

All Fools All the Time

What? Don't Worry! MAD magazine, founded in 1952, is being rebooted after 550 issues, and will recommence later this month with issue No. 1 of its new series. Stay tuned for more satire from Alfred E. Neuman and the Usual Gang of Idiots.