Saturday, February 13, 2016

Grant Wood at 125

Today is the 125th anniversary of the birth of artist Grant Wood [1891-1942]. Pictured above is the house in Eldon, Iowa that is portrayed in the background of his most famous painting, American Gothic. An iconic work that has been parodied countless times since its execution in 1930, Wood based the taciturn farm couple on his own sister and dentist. The painting won a bronze medal in a competition sponsored by the Art Institute of Chicago, where it has remained as part of their permanent collection.

Further information on Grant Wood can be found in previous Common Curator posts: Grant Wood Sketchbook Returns to Figge Art Museum and 120th Anniversary of Grant Wood's Birth.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Happy Year of the Monkey / 猴 年 快 樂 !

A Chinese street performer and his costumed monkey are putting on a show for an appreciative crowd. This photograph was taken by the Common Curator during travels in the People's Republic of China.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

RAGBRAI 2016 Overnight Towns Announced

The eight overnight towns for RAGBRAI XLIV, the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, were just revealed at the annual Route Announcement Party: Glenwood > Shenandoah > Creston > Leon > Centerville > Ottumwa > Washington > Muscatine. As has been the case since the inaugural ride in 1973, the ride begins at the Missouri River and ends at the Mississippi River.

This year's seven-day ride takes place July 23-30, 2016, and will be 420 miles in length with 18,488 feet of total climb, making it the 3rd shortest and 24th flattest route since RAGBRAI began. Registration for the world's oldest, largest, and longest recreational bike touring event is currently open, with a deadline of April 1, 2016 for online applications. Lottery results will be announced May 1, 2016.

Monday, January 11, 2016

R.I.P. David Bowie

The incomparable David Bowie [1947-2016] is shown above performing on December 8, 1983 at the Hong Kong Coliseum during the final concert of his Serious Moonlight world tour. The concert featured songs from his recently released album, Let's Dance, including of course the local favorite, "China Girl." As the concert happened to fall on the third anniversary of John Lennon's death, Bowie also sang Lennon's "Imagine," prefacing his moving tribute by observing that it was in Hong Kong that he had last seen his friend, with whom in 1975 he had famously co-written (along with Carlos Alomar) his first American No. 1 hit, "Fame." (Note: The photo here was taken from a balcony seat by the Common Curator with a 50mm lens and 800 ASA film, hence the graininess.)

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Year Ahead: Tempus Fugit


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wikipedia: #Edit2015


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

National Film Registry Selects 25 Films for 2015

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 2015 cover a wide gamut of genres and time periods, from such early films as Edison's Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze and Dream of a Rarebit Fiend to such later works as Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One and The Shawshank Redemption. The full list for 2015 is as follows:

1990s
L.A. Confidential (1997)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Sink or Swim (1990)

1980s
Top Gun (1986)
Ghostbusters (1984)

1970s
Being There (1979)
Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer (1975)

1960s
The Inner World of Aphasia (1968)
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (1968)
Portrait of Jason (1967)
Seconds (1966)

1950s
Imitation of Life (1959)
Winchester '73 (1950)

1940s
John Henry and the Inky-Poo (1946)
The Story of Menstruation (1946)
Hail the Conquering Hero (1944)

1930s 
The Old Mill (1937)
Our Daily Bread (1934)
Dracula (Spanish version) (1931)

1920s
Black and Tan (1929)
Humoresque (1920)
The Mark of Zorro (1920)

1910s
A Fool There Was (1915)

1900s
Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906)

1890s
Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (1894)

Further information on the Registry as well as the films themselves can be found on the Library of Congress' web site. All 500+ 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.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Wapsipinicon Almanac No. 22

The latest annual installment of the eclectic Wapsipinicon Almanac is now available. 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 22 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 Thomas Agran of Iowa City. 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.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Jackson Pollock's "Mural": The Story of a Modern Masterpiece



The new documentary, "Jackson Pollock's "Mural": The Story of a Modern Masterpiece," was directed and produced by Kevin Kelley, and premiered earlier this fall in Iowa City. Pollock's largest and arguably best work, "Mural" has been owned by the University of Iowa since it was donated by Peggy Guggenheim in October 1951.

Rescued in 2008 from encroaching floodwaters along with countless other artworks from the UI's Museum of Art, the painting later underwent intensive analysis and conservation treatment beginning in 2012 courtesy of the Getty Conservation Institute. The Getty's research was published in the book, Jackson Pollock's Mural: The Transitional Moment, which serves as the basis for much in Kelley's documentary.

For further information, including details on upcoming screenings, visit the documentary's website. A previous Common Curator post may also be of interest: The Value of Jackson Pollock's "Mural".

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Get a Jump on 2016 with Heirloom Seeds

The amazing 2016 Catalog from Seed Savers Exchange, featuring heirloom, untreated, non-hybrid, and non-GMO seeds, is now available online as a PDF; alternatively, a copy in print can be requested free of charge.

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.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Kiva Celebrates 10 Years of Microlending



Founded in October 2005, Kiva currently networks with 302 Field Partners in 83 different countries, and has provided $733,911,800 in microloans to 1,787,306 borrowers. To date, the Common Curator has made 142 loans through Kiva to small entrepreneurs in 79 countries. Kiva loans are interest-free and the overall repayment rate presently stands at 98.47%. As loans are repaid, most Kiva lenders choose to reloan their funds to new borrowers of their choosing.

Visit the Kiva website to learn more about microfinance and how the lending process works, as well as the many milestones in Kiva's history as an organization dedicated to alleviating poverty around the world.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Tim Smith (pictured third from right), the owner-operator of the Smith Farm in north-central Iowa, was recognized in Washington, D.C. on October 26, 2015 as one of twelve White House Champions of Change for Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture. The event in its entirety is viewable via the White House's YouTube channel. As stated in the White House press release:
These individuals were selected by the White House for their achievements and will be honored for exemplary leadership and innovation in agricultural production and education. The Champions have helped implement agricultural practices that promote soil health and energy efficiency, improve water quality, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change can no longer be seen as a distant threat. It is already impacting forest, grassland, and cropland systems in the United States, and is threatening agricultural producers and their communities. These Champions understand the challenges our nation is facing from a changing climate and are taking steps to build resilience to the impacts of climate change, which also protects their bottom line. The program will feature remarks by United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
Smith's accomplishments were described as follows:
Tim Smith is a fourth-generation farmer who raises soybeans, corn and cover crops on his family’s Century Farm in Wright County, Iowa. In addition to raising crops, Tim is focused on strengthening soil health and improving water quality. He has worked with a number of organizations, including the Iowa Soybean Association and the Soil Health Partnership, to implement new farming methods. Tim travels throughout Iowa and the United States advising farmers on how to approach new sustainability efforts. 
The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals who are doing extraordinary things to inspire and empower members of their communities. Previous Common Curator posts about conservation practices on the Smith farm include: Iowa Soil Conservation Farmer of the YearCover Crops Reduce Nitrogen Run-Off, Improve Water Quality and The Boone River Watershed: Why Strip-Till and Cover Crops Matter.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Iowa City Book Festival

One of just eleven UNESCO Cities of Literature in the world and the only one in the United States, Iowa City, Iowa is hosting the seventh annual Iowa City Book Festival, October 1-4, 2015. In partnership with the University of Iowa's International Writing Program and Writers' Workshop, FilmScene, the Mission Creek Festival, as well as other organizations and individuals, the four-day event will feature a Book Fair, readings by numerous authors, and non-stop programming at many venues in and around downtown Iowa City. The 2015 Program can be downloaded as a PDF, and full details can be found at the festival website.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Scenes from Seed Savers Exchange's Annual Conference at Heritage Farm


The above photographs were taken at Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa during the 35th Annual Conference and Campout at Seed Savers Exchange held July 17-19, 2015.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The National Book Festival: "I Cannot Live without Books"

The 15th annual National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress, will be held on Saturday, September 5, 2015, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The festival is free and open to the public.

To observe the 200th anniversary of the purchase of Thomas Jefferson's personal library by the Library of Congress, the theme of this year's festival is the following well-known quotation from Jefferson's letter of June 10, 1815 to John Adams: "I cannot live without books."

As in prior years, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are honorary chairs for the event. More than 170 authors, poets, and illustrators will be making presentations throughout the day in the theme-based pavilions for Children, Teens & Children, Fiction & Mystery, History & Biography, Contemporary Life and Poetry & Prose.

Further information, including a schedule of events and a map of the festival grounds, can be found at the festival website. The 2015 poster, shown here, was designed by Peter de Sève.

An earlier Common Curator post provides more background on the Library of Congress' acquisition of Jefferson's library: The British "Light Up" the Library of Congress.