Monday, December 24, 2018

Earthrise, 12.24.68

Fifty years ago today, on December 24, 1968, NASA astronaut William Anders, a member of the three-person Apollo 8 crew then orbiting the moon, took the photograph above, which later came to be known as "Earthrise." It was the first time such a view of Earth had been documented by humans in space. As Anders later recounted
"And up came the Earth. We had had no discussion on the ground, no briefing, no instructions on what to do. I jokingly said, 'well it's not on the flight plan,' and the other two guys were yelling at me to give them cameras. I had the only color camera with a long lens. So I floated a black and white over to [Frank] Borman. I can't remember what [James] Lovell got. They were all yelling for cameras, and we started snapping away."
The iconic photo is available from NASA's website; NASA has also just released a new video describing the world's first mission to orbit the moon: "Apollo 8: Around the Moon and Back."

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Univeral Declaration of Human Rights at 70

Human Rights Day is celebrated annually on December 10 to mark the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This year's campaign theme is Stand Up 4 Human Rights. At the recent UN event, "Good Human Rights Stories," Secretary-General António Guterres observed:
"As we mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we should never forget the profound progress that has been made over the decades--and, indeed, that is happening as we speak. The good stories deserve to be shared--not only to celebrate the achievements of those who made it happen. But to serve as an example and inspiration for others around the world. Just as the denial of human rights is part of the problem, the active promotion of human rights is part of the solution. So, too, is spreading the stories and the lessons of doors opened, rights secured, and victories won."
The Declaration was proclaimed on December 10, 1948 through United Nations General Assembly Resolution 217 A (III):
. . . as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
Although not itself a binding legal document, it has "inspired more than more than 60 human rights instruments which together constitute an international standard of human rights." 

The Declaration has been translated into more than 500 languages and dialects, from Abkhaz to Zulu. The English version is available here, while other versions are available via an online database. A guide to UN Human Rights documentation as well as various related UN databases are also accessible on the UN Human Rights website. A showcase of UDHR-related materials from around the world is available here.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Final Number of the Wapsipinicon Almanac

The latest--and final--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 25 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 Will Thomson of Iowa City, his seventh cover overall for the almanac. 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.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Corita Kent: Artist Extraordinaire at 100

Corita Kent [1918-1986] was born 100 years today, on November 20, 1918, in Fort Dodge, Iowa, and subsequently became world renowned for her work as a serigrapher (or screen printer), as well as for commissioned works both large (the Rainbow Swash on a massive gas storage tank outside of Boston) and small (the 1985 U.S.P.S. Love stamp, of which more than 700 million were sold).

As a Catholic nun, Sister Corita headed for several years the Art Department at the Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, California, where she instilled her artistic values of close observation, imagination, and social justice in her many students. A creative iconoclast in her own work, she famously formulated what could be considered "Corita's Decalogue," otherwise known as the "Immaculate Heart College Art Department Rules," of which Rule 7 is: "The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It's the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things." Although she plainly cites artist John Cage in Rule 10, the ten rules are frequently misattributed to Cage rather than Corita herself.

Corita eventually left the order of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and reentered secular life in 1968. She continued her prolific artistic output, which rivalled or surpassed many other artists of the era, including fellow screen printer, Andy Warhol. Corita was posthumously awarded an AIGA medal in 2016, and her legacy is sustained today by the Corita Art Center, which offers her original prints as well as ongoing programming. A recent major exhibition catalogue, Someday Is Now: The Art of Corita Kent, features much of her artwork and serves as an excellent introduction to her life and philosophy.

Corita died on September 18, 1986 at age 67, and her obituary in the Los Angeles Times can be read here. The video above, "Become a Microscope: 90 Statements on Sister Corita," is a short documentary produced by Aaron Rose to celebrate the 90th anniversary of her birthday. Below is one example of Corita's work, "We Can Create Life Without War," a poster commissioned in 1983 by the organization, Physicians for Social Responsibility. An illustrated chronology of Corita's life can be viewed at the Corita Art Center website.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month 1918: Armistice!

Chronicling America, the Library of Congress' historic newspaper database, includes a selection of around 90 newspapers that on November 11, 1918 hailed the news of the Armistice which brought World War I to an end.

A number of foreign language newspapers published in the United States also carried the momentous news, such as La Prensa (Spanish, San Antonio, TX); Tägliche Omaha Tribüne (German, Omaha, NE); Svět (Czech, Cleveland, OH); America (Romanian, Cleveland, OH); Draugas (Lithuanian, Chicago, IL); and Dziennik Chicagoski (Polish, Chicago, IL). The full issue of the The Washington Times shown above can be viewed here.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Vote Early, Vote Surely

As everyone surely knows, the midterm general elections are this Tuesday, November 6th. For those still needing to register, Iowa and 14 other states, as well as the District of Columbia, allow election day registration. Further information regarding voting regulations can be found at

The above Common Curator graphic is based on Robert Indiana's iconic "Love" logo. Indiana died earlier this year at 89; his obituary can be read in the New York Times.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project

Jazz bassist and composer Rufus Reid will be performing "Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project" along with his large jazz ensemble at Hancher Auditorium on Saturday, October 13, 2018. Reid's composition was inspired by the sculptural work of artist Elizabeth Catlett [1915-2012], an African American woman who in 1940 was among the first three students to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa. Catlett's thesis advisor was Grant Wood. A video interview with Catlett conducted toward the end of her life can be viewed at the National Visionary Leadership Project.

Reid is currently undertaking a short residency at the University of Iowa as an Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Knock the Vote: A Public Service Announcement

Time is running out to register to vote. One can register on many platforms, including of course the official U.S. government voter registration site, which details rules, deadlines, etc. for all jurisdictions. The HeadCount web site also offers information for young, first-time voters, who in most cases can register even before turning age 18. The above public service announcement was produced by ACRONYM, and employs a bit of reverse psychology to cajole indifferent voters as the midterm elections quickly approach; their registration website can be found at

Monday, October 1, 2018

NASA Turns Sixty

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) began operations on October 1, 1958, and was created by the National Aeronautics and Space Act which was signed by President Eisenhower on July 29, 1958. NASA supplanted the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), and T. Keith Glennan served as its first administrator. On October 11, 1958, NASA launched its first mission, the Pioneer 1 satellite (note that the first U.S. satellite overall was Explorer 1, launched January 31, 1958). A timeline of NASA's rich and illustrious history can be found at NASA's 60th anniversary website.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Books Are Weapons in the War of Ideas

Sponsored by the American Library Association and allied organizations, Banned Books Week is an annual celebration of the freedom to read. It began in 1982 in response to widespread censorship of books, and since that time over 11,000 books have been challenged in communities throughout the United States.

The American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom has been documenting cases of challenged and banned books since 1990, and the ALA's Library Bill of Rights strongly supports free and unfettered access to information and ideas. Internationally, the Index on Censorship is an organization that promotes and defends the right to freedom of expression.

Note: The World War II poster shown here features a quotation by Franklin Roosevelt and was illustrated by S. Broder. Published in 1942 by the U.S. Government Printing Office, it was distributed by the Division of Public Inquiry within the Office of War Information.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The 10th Annual Iowa City Book Festival

Designated in 2008 as one of the very first UNESCO Cities of Literature in the world, Iowa City will be hosting the tenth annual Iowa City Book Festival, October 1-7, 2018. In conjunction with the University of Iowa, FilmScene, the Iowa City Public Library, and the Iowa Arts Council, as well as other organizations and individuals, the seven-day event will feature a Book Fair, readings by dozens of authors, and non-stop programming at many venues in and around downtown Iowa City.

As usual, many of this year's events will involve the University of Iowa's International Writing Program, which was founded in 1967 by Paul Engle and Hualing Nieh Engle. During this period, over 1,400 writers from more than 140 countries have spent a residency in Iowa City, where they have enriched the writing culture of the community while experiencing firsthand life at an American university. Sponsored by the City of Coralville, the annual Paul Engle Prize will be awarded to a writer who "makes an impact on his or her community and the world at large through efforts beyond the page." 

The 2018 Program can be downloaded as a PDF, and full details can be found at the festival website.

Monday, September 10, 2018

De gustibus non est disputandum

This recent display at the Iowa City Public Library featured books disliked by staff, as well as titles selected by disapproving patrons. As the ancients said about such matters: There's no accounting for taste. 

Monday, September 3, 2018

The First Monday in September

To commemorate Labor Day 2018, here is musician Billy Bragg's version of "There Is Power in a Union," a song written in 1913 by Joe Hill [1879-1915], a Swedish-American labor activist and member of the Wobblies, or Industrial Workers of the World.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The 2018 National Book Festival

The 18th annual National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress, will be held on Saturday, September 1, 2018, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The festival is free and open to the public.

More than 100 authors, poets, and illustrators will be making presentations throughout the day on stages for Children, Teens, Youth Poetry Slam, Fiction, History & Biography, Understanding Our World, and other themes or genres. Speakers include such writers as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Amy Tan, Dave Eggers, Jon Meacham, Annie Proulx, Robert Hass, U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, and many others. 

Further information, including a schedule of events and a map of the festival grounds, can be found at the festival website. Mobile apps are also available for the Festival. This year's poster was designed by Gaby D'Allesandro; a gallery of all Festival posters from 2001 to 2018 can be viewed here.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Iowa City Press Co-op Rocks the Chalk

The Iowa City Press Co-op (ICPC) was well represented at the 3rd annual Rock the Chalk, a community art festival sponsored by MidWestOne Bank on August 10, 2018. Artist Carla Bryant based her design for ICPC on the California job case, a standard layout that has been used by letterpress printers for generations to organize and store lead type. The image is anchored by a quotation said to be from Poor Richard's Almanack, which was published annually from 1732 to 1758 by the polymath Benjamin Franklin.

Several members of ICPC assisted in transforming Carla's outline into a polychromatic piece of street ephemera. The chalk image on the other side of the center-line features a portrait of the New York designer and fashion icon, Iris Apfel. Dozens of artists and community organizations participated in this year's event.

For those interested in printing and the book arts, the ICPC offers both equipment and workshops. The Fall 2018 schedule has just been released, and can be viewed at the ICPC web site.