Thursday, July 21, 2011

Marshall McLuhan: Medium or Messenger?

Media theorist Marshall McLuhan [1911-1980] would have turned 100 today, July 21, 2011. Known for such provocative formulations as the medium is the message, McLuhan's work on communications and information technology anticipated much that is now commonplace in today's global village, another of his terms. The video here contains a dialogue between McLuhan and Norman Mailer, and was originally shown in 1968 as an episode of "The Summer Way" by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). The CBC's Digital Archives features McLuhan in a number of other television and radio clips that may also be of interest.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Amnesty International at Fifty

The impetus for the founding of the human rights organization, Amnesty International, was an article in the Observer in 1961 by English lawyer Peter Benenson entitled, "The Forgotten Prisoners." It concerned two Portuguese students who had been imprisoned for toasting freedom, and a worldwide campaign, "Appeal for Amnesty 1961," was subsequently launched. The first international meeting was held in July 1961, with delegates from several countries agreeing to establish "a permanent international movement in defence of freedom of opinion and religion."

The organization's many causes and accomplishments over the decades can be traced through an online history and timeline. On July 15, 2011, Amnesty International will be starting Amnesty TV, a YouTube channel that will feature multimedia content on human rights issues. The brief trailer above introduces the new intiative, which is described as ". . . our new video magazine show that mixes satirical comedy, campaign stunts, short documentaries, outspoken opinion and real news."

Friday, July 8, 2011

Third Annual Iowa City Book Festival

The Iowa City Book Festival will celebrate books, reading, and writing, July 15-17, 2011. Sponsored by the University of Iowa Libraries, the three-day festival will begin Friday with an author dinner in the Main Library. Saturday will feature booksellers, music, children's activities, food vendors, book arts demonstrations, readings and panel discussions in Gibson Square, and Sunday will be "A Day in the City of Literature."

Among the many events for this year's festival will be Novel Iowa City, an attempt to produce a communal Twitter novel, a genre that is yet in its infancy. Nonetheless, for those interested in joining the experiment, the ground rules are as follows:
Beginning at noon on Friday, July 15 and continuing through 5 pm, Sunday, July 17, commissioned authors and interested community members will contribute tweets to create a text that can be read in real time, as it is written, via the Internet.

Anyone with a Twitter account is welcome to contribute to the project, and can do so by using the hash tag #icbfn in their tweets. There are no strict guidelines for the content of contributions, other than the 140-character limit of tweets.

In 2008, Iowa City was designated as a UNESCO City of Literature, one of just four such cities worldwide, the others being Edinburgh, Scotland (2004), Melbourne, Australia (2008), and Dublin, Ireland (2010). The long literary tradition fostered by the University of Iowa's creative writing programs was a major factor in attaining UNESCO recognition. Beginning in 1922, Iowa was the first university to grant advanced degrees for creative works in artistic disciplines, including poetry, fiction, music, and art. The Iowa Writers' Workshop is the oldest such program in the country, and is this year celebrating its 75th anniversary. A key element supporting the practice and study of the book arts is Iowa's Center for the Book, which will begin its own M.F.A. degree program this fall. Other noteworthy programs include the International Writing Program, and the constellation of programs affiliated with The Writing University.

As a side note, the Common Curator earned an M.F.A. from Iowa's Translation Workshop, then based in the Department of Comparative Literature (now Cinema & Comparative Literature), and also served as assistant editor and designer for the first several years of the multilingual publication, Exchanges: A Journal of Translation. The journal presented en face the original language of all translations, and contained translator commentaries, along with scholarly articles on the art and practice of literary translation. Exchanges is still being produced, though in recent years has only been available online; after a one-year hiatus, submissions are being solicited for fall/winter 2011.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

First Annual Ladies of Letterpress Conference

Ladies of Letterpress (LoLP), a trade organization for letterpress printers and aficionados of fine printing everywhere, will be holding its inaugural conference August 5-7, 2011 in Asheville, North Carolina. The schedule is loaded with events, including:

Panel Discussions:

--Letterpress As a Business
--Running and Starting a Community Print Shop
--Artist Books + Fine Press
--The Future of Letterpress!
--Teaching Letterpress in a University Settting
--Printing Collaborations for Community
--Lead Tweets: Or, How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Business


--The World of Handmade Paper
--Vandercook Care and Maintenance
--Making the Dead Feminist Broadside Series
--Getting to Know Your Tabletop Press
--Wood Engraving
--Catherine Realce of visualchemist

Speakers and demonstrators from leading small presses around the country will be on hand, with the keynote presentation to be delivered by Judith Berliner of Full Circle Press. In addition, a Printer's Fair and Trade Fair will run during the conference. A reduced rate for registration will be available through July 12, 2011.

The co-founders of Ladies of Letterpress are Jessica White, of Heroes and Criminals Press, and Kseniya Thomas, of Thomas-Printers. Further information about the organization and the conference can be found on the LoLP and conference web sites. (Note: The shirt pictured above was designed by Todd Thyberg of Angel Bomb Design, and can be ordered online.)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Mark Twain's Independence Day Peroration

While attending a family reunion in Keokuk, Iowa, in July 1886, Mark Twain was enlisted for some Independence Day speechifying. The festivities actually took place on July 3rd, and Twain's remarks were duly reported in the Keokuk Weekly Constitution (July 7, 1886):
"Ladies and gentlemen: I little thought that when the boys woke me with their noise this morning that I should be called upon to add to their noise. But I promise not to keep you long. You have heard all there is to hear on the subject, the evidence is all in and all I have to do is to sum up the evidence and deliver the verdict. You have heard the Declaration of Independence with its majestic ending, which is worthy to live forever, which has been hurled at the bones of a fossilized monarch, old King George the III, who has been dead these many years, and which will continue to be hurled at him annually as long as this republic lives. You have heard the history of the nation from the first to the last--from the beginning of the revolutionary was, past the days of its great general, Grant, told in eloquent language by the orator of the day. All I have to do is to add the verdict, which is all that can be added, and that is, 'It is a successful day.' I thank the officers of the day that I am enabled to once more stand face to face with the citizens that I met thirty years ago, when I was a citizen of Iowa, and also those of a later generation. In the address to-day, I have not heard much mention made of the progress of these last few years--of the telegraph, telephone, phonograph, and other great inventions. A poet has said, 'Better fifty years of England than all the cycles of Cathay,' but I say 'Better this decade than the 900 years of Methuselah.' There is more done in one year now than Methuselah ever saw in all his life. He was probably asleep all those 900 years. When I was here thirty years ago there were 3,000 people here and they drank 3,000 barrels of whisky a day, and they drank it in public then. I know that the man who makes the last speech on an occasion like this has the best of the other speakers, as he has the last word to say, which falls like a balm on the audience--though this audience has not been bored to-day--and though I can't say that last word, I will do the next best thing I can, and that is to sit down."
Some thirty years prior, in 1856-7, Twain had contributed several travel dispatches to the Keokuk Post under the name Thomas Jefferson Snodgrass. These were notable for Twain's early experimentation with writing in the vernacular., the source of the above passage, contains an abundance of interesting Twainiana.

To supply the requisite noise that Twain alludes to at the beginning of his speech, the following video by Jeremiah Warren depicts the launches of several celebratory rockets that have been affixed with a wide-angle camera. Twain himself was an early adopter of new technologies, notably the typewriter, and refers in the speech to the progress made possible by several major inventions of the day--the telephone, telegraph, and phonograph.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Artifice of the Artist's Statement

Charlotte Young is an artist, author, and comedian. She maintains the Today I Made Nothing blog and is available for hire.