Wednesday, December 31, 2014

From Billions to None: The Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon

The last known passenger pigeon, called Martha, after Mrs. Washington, the first First Lady of the United States, died on September 1, 1914 at the Cincinnati Zoo. Although the murmurations depicted in the trailer for the documentary, From Billions to None: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction, are not particularly convincing simulations of the long-gone massive flocks, the story of the extinction of a superabundant avian species is nevertheless a fascinating if unfortunate one. It is estimated that the passenger pigeon, once the most common bird in North America, had attained a population of several billion at its peak in the 19th century. Project Passenger Pigeon, organized by scientists, educators, conservationists, and others, seeks to provide "lessons from the past for a sustainable future."

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wapsipincon Almanac 21 Ready for Delectation

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 21 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 $2.50 for postage; Iowa residents should also include 63-cents for sales tax.

The front and rear covers shown here were designed by Will Thomson. 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.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New Cohort of 25 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 selections for 2014 cover a wide gamut of genres and time periods, from such early films as Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day and The Power and the Glory to such later works as Little Big Man and Into the Arms of Strangers.  The full list is as follows:

13 Lakes (2004)
Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000)

Saving Private Ryan (1998)
The Big Lebowski (1998)

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Luxo Jr. (1986)
Moon Breath Beat (1980)

Please Don't Bury Me Alive! (1976)
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Little Big Man (1970)

Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Felicia (1965)

Rio Bravo (1959)
House of Wax (1953)

The Way of Peace (1947)
V-E + 1 (1945)
The Gang's All Here (1943)
Down Argentine Way (1940)

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)
The Power and the Glory (1933)
State Fair (1933)

The Dragon Painter (1919)
Unmasked (1917)
Shoes (1916)
Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day (1913)

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.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

#Rights365: Human Rights Day Is Every Day

Human Rights Day is celebrated annually on December 10 to mark the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year's theme is Human Rights 365, for which United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon exhorts: "I call on States to honour their obligation to protect human rights every day of the year. I call on people to hold their governments to account."

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 300 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.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Library at UK's Imperial War Museum Facing Elimination

The Imperial War Museum (IWM) in the UK is facing substantial cuts to collections and services, particularly its Library. Founded in 1917, the IWM maintains significant research collections related to "all aspects of twentieth- and twenty-first century conflict involving Britain, the Commonwealth and other former empire countries." Over 11,000 supporters have so far signed an online petition urging a reversal of the proposed closure of the Library, reduction of educational programs, and job losses.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Tomatoes and Proclamations

Although not without detractors, President Washington on October 3, 1789 signed the first Thanksgiving Proclamation, employing the language of the resolution passed by the First United States Congress, and further expressing gratitude for "tranquility, union, and plenty." Presidents Adams and Madison later issued similar proclamations, as did President Lincoln, who on October 3, 1863 finally and definitively established Thanksgiving Day as the third national holiday (after Independence Day and Washington's Birthday), to occur on the fourth Thursday of every November.

To commemorate this year's Thanksgiving, the above photo depicts a sampling of Abraham Lincoln heirloom tomatoes raised by the Common Curator using seeds harvested during a 2013 workshop at the Seedsavers Exchange's Heritage Farm.

For those who have had an especially prosperous 2014, one of only two known copies of Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation is currently on offer from the antiquarian bookseller, Seth Kaller, Inc. Asking price? 8.4 million dollars, plus $3.50 for shipping.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sex and Broadcasting: A Film about WFMU

The long-awaited documentary about freeform radio station WFMU by filmmaker Tim K. Smith will be having its world premiere at the DOC NYC film festival on November 15 & 17, 2014. Originally entitled Freeform or Death for its Kickstarter campaign, which raised over $81,000 from 736 backers during the summer of 2012, the film is now called Sex and Broadcasting, after the book of the same name by community radio pioneer Lorenzo Milam.

WFMU first hit the airwaves on April 24, 1958 at the now-defunct Upsala College and has never looked back. Currently based in Jersey City, New Jersey, WFMU broadcasts at 91.1 Mhz and via a second signal at 90.1 Mhz in Mount Hope, New York. The station has also been a leader for years on the Internet, streaming in multiple formats and archiving all shows online.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Iowa City Book Festival 2014

One of just seven UNESCO Cities of Literature in the world, Iowa City, Iowa is hosting its sixth annual Book Festival, October 2-5, 2014. 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 2014 Program can be downloaded as a PDF, and full details can be found at the festival website.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Grant Wood Sketchbook Returns to Figge Art Museum

Missing for several decades, a sketchbook by world-renowned Iowa artist Grant Wood [1891-1942] was recently reclaimed by the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa. Part of a collection acquired in 1965 from Wood's sister, Nan Wood Graham, the sketchbook contains notes and plans for the stained glass window he designed for the Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids in 1928.

The window depicts soldiers in privates' uniforms from the six major U.S. wars up to that time: the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and the First World War; the soldiers are surmounted by a large female figure said to represent the Republic. To oversee the fabrication of the window directly, Wood travelled to Munich, Germany, one of several trips to Europe he made early in his career.

The recovered sketchbook is thought to have been stolen shortly after its acquisition by the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery, the Figge's predecessor. Andrew Wallace, the Figge's current Manager of Collections and Exhibitions, was instrumental in researching the loss of the sketchbook and in negotiating its return after it was slated for auction. More information on this fortunate turn of events can be found in an article in the Quad-City Times.

Much of Grant Wood's personal archive has been digitized. The University of Iowa hosts the Figge Art Museum Grant Wood Digital Collection and several dozen images have been digitized by the Archives of American Art in their Grant Wood Collection, 1930-1983.

The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art is home to the world's largest collection of Grant Wood artwork, and features the Grant Wood Gallery. Curious individuals can discover more about Wood's life and times by visiting stops along Iowa's Grant Wood Trail. American Gothic, Wood's iconic masterpiece painted in 1930, is housed in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Note: Top image is from the Quad-City Times; bottom image is from the Veterans Memorial Building. A previous Common Curator post of related interest is the 120th Anniversary of Grant Wood's Birth.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How Writers Write Fiction: An Iowa MOOC

The International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa is offering a Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC, entitled "How Writers Write Fiction: Talks on Craft and Commitment." The course is the IWP's third MOOC, and will run from September 26 to November 21, 2014.

Lead instructors will be Christopher Merrill, Director of the IWP and Professor of English at Iowa, and R. Clifton Spargo, author of Beautiful Fools: The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald and Dixon Professor of Creative Writing at Wittenberg University.

The course is free, but requires registration. Information about the Writing University as well as other MOOCs is also available online.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Making a Case for Books

Architect and fine craftsman Frank Howarth portrays in the above stop-motion video the manifold steps it takes to create beautifully functional bookcases out of walnut veneer plywood. The video comprises approximately 6,400 frames selected from some 11,700 frames that Howarth shot of the process. More woodworking projects can be viewed at Howarth's YouTube channel.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

2014 National Book Festival

The 14th annual National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress, will be held on Saturday, August 30, 2014, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The festival is free and open to the public.

As in prior years, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are honorary chairs for the event. More than 100 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.

Schedules are available online for the Author Pavilions and the Library of Congress Pavilion. Further information on the Festival can be found here, and a map of the festival grounds can be viewed here.

The Festival website features an archive of photos, video webcasts, and audio podcasts. The 2014 poster, shown here, was designed by Bob Staake.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The British "Light Up" the Library of Congress

Two hundred years ago today, on August 24, 1814, British troops burned the U.S. Capitol, which then housed the books of the Library of Congress. Rear Admiral George Cockburn is said to have asked his men, "Shall this harbor of Yankee democracy be burned? All for it shall say 'Aye'". The resulting fire destroyed the Library's entire collection of some 3,000 volumes, but Thomas Jefferson soon thereafter offered his own substantial library for sale to Congress, writing:
"I have been fifty years in making it, and have spared no pains, opportunity or expense, to make it what it now is. While residing in Paris I devoted every afternoon . . . in examining all the principal bookstores, turning over every book with my own hands, and putting by everything which related to America . . . ." 
Jefferson's 6,487 volumes, which constituted the largest personal library in the country at the time, were appraised at $23,950, and on October 10, 1814, the Senate unanimously approved its purchase. Some in the House of Representatives expressed strong opposition, however, noting that the library contained many titles in foreign languages, as well as philosophical works by such authors as Voltaire, Locke, and Rousseau. Daniel Webster suggested buying the whole collection, but then returning to Jefferson "all books of an atheistical, irreligious, and immoral tendency." The measure eventually passed by a 10-vote margin, and the library was purchased intact, thus seeding the rebirth of the Library of Congress.

A catalog of Jefferson's library arranged alphabetically by title was issued by the Library of Congress in 1815. At Jefferson's request, Nicholas Trist in 1823 restored the intellectual classification scheme that Jefferson had used to arrange his collection at Monticello. Thomas Jefferson's Library: A Catalog with the Entries in His Own Order, edited by James Gilreath and Douglas L. Wilson, can be viewed online. Although unaffiliated with the Library of Congress, LibraryThing also offers an online "Legacy Library" devoted to Jefferson's various collections

The history of Jefferson's library is further complicated by another fire in the U.S. Capitol in 1851, which destroyed two-thirds of his former books. In 1998, Mark Dimunation, Chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division at the Library of Congress, commenced an effort to restore the lost books through the purchase or donation of identical editions. Today the Library of Congress ranks as the world's largest, and owes much to the breadth and depth of Jefferson's intellectual pursuits.

Note: The image above is from "The Library of Congress," an article by Ben Perley Poore in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. XLVI, no. CCLXXI, December 1872, pp. 41-50, at p. 44.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

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

The above photographs were taken at Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa during the 34th Annual Conference and Campout at Seed Savers Exchange held July 18-20, 2014.

From the top: View of barn and tents; painting by Valerie Miller of Steel Cow Studio; Diane's Garden adjacent to the barn with Lillian Goldman Visitors Center at rear; a workshop session in the Diversity Garden; Professor Susan McCouch of Cornell University delivering her keynote address, "Gene Flow and Genetic Isolation: A Case Study in Rice"; taste-testing of SSE produce; several photos of pollinators in action; Ancient White Park cattle at pasture.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Risking Everything: The Mississippi Freedom Summer Project of 1964

1964 was a critical year for the Civil Rights Movement, seeing the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Public Law 88-352) and the establishment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It was also the year of the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project, which was a campaign to register African-American voters and support equal rights.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Summer Project, the Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) has launched a new digital collection, which draws upon its substantial archival holdings of civil rights organizations, such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), as well as activists, including Amzie Moore, Mary King, and Howard Zinn. The collection contains over 25,000 pages of manuscript material and images, and offers complementary resources for educators.

In addition, WHS Press has published Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Reader, an anthology of documents from the project. Its editor, Michael Edmonds, is featured in an interview in the video above. To learn more about the Wisconsin Historical Society, visit its website, and peruse its many online collections.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

People for Bikes: Join Today

People for Bikes began as Bikes Belong in 1999, and currently advocates for greater safety and opportunities for bicyclists throughout the United States. At the state level, the Iowa Bicycle Coalition also works to improve safety and develop transportation and recreation networks.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Buck Starts Here

The United States Mint issued a new commemorative one-dollar coin for Herbert Hoover in its presidential series on June 19, 2014. Herbert Clark Hoover [1874-1964] was the 31st American president and served from 1929-1933. The only president from Iowa, Hoover hailed from West Branch, where the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum is administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. The new coins are being minted in Philadelphia and Denver, and are currently available for sale via the U.S. Mint's online shop. A first day of issue coin cover will be available July 10, 2014.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

2014 Seed Savers Exchange Conference

Registration is now open for the 34rd annual Seed Savers Exchange Conference and Campout to be held July 18-20, 2014. The event will feature numerous speakers, workshops, and other activities on the grounds of Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa. A full schedule can be downloaded here [pdf]; early registration ends June 15.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Quad Cities Criterium 2014

The 49th annual Quad Cities Criterium, sponsored by the Quad Cities Bicycle Club (QCBC), took place on Memorial Day, May 26, 2014. After many years in Moline and Rock Island, this year's event was staged for the first time in the Village of East Davenport, Iowa.

The all-day event featured men's and women's races in various age classes, as well as a children's race. The men's pro class was won by Daniel Holloway of Morgan Hill, California, and the women's pro class was won by Gwen Inglis of Lakewood, Colorado.

Founded fifty years ago in 1964, the Quad Cities Bicycle Club is one of the oldest and largest in the United States, with over 1,200 members. The QCBC organizes many events, including the upcoming two-day Tour of the Mississippi Valley (TOMRV), which began in 1978 and currently draws 1,500 riders a year. In addition, a large contingent of club members rides on the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). More information about the club's activities and membership is available on the QCBC website.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Kiva 101

Since Kiva was founded in 2005, it has networked with 250 Field Partners in 75 different countries to provide $566,835,175 in microloans to 1,317,699 borrowers. To date, the Common Curator has made 101 loans through Kiva to small entrepreneurs in 64 countries. Kiva loans are interest-free and the overall repayment rate is currently 98.86%. 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.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Book Collecting Contest for College Bibliophiles

Entries are now being accepted for the 2014 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest. Begun in 2005 by the Fine Books & Collections magazine for young bibliophiles, the competition is now jointly sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America, the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies, as well as the Center for the Book and the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.

A number of contests are currently held at colleges and universities around the U.S., with Swarthmore College's competition being the first in the 1920s. College-level students from all educational institutions, however, are encouraged to participate. Entries for this year's competition are due by May 30, 2014. Contest rules and further information are available at the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America website. Winners of the last several years can be viewed here: 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010. Update: Winners for 2014 have also now been announced.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

MayDay 2014: 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.

May 1st, of course, is also International Workers' Day, which serves to commemorate the anniversary of the Haymarket Affair in Chicago. The eight-hour workday was a central demand of the Chicago labor movement in the 1860s, and a week-long, city-wide strike began on May 1, 1867. The strike collapsed, but the issue remained, with the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions in 1884 calling for workers to take direct action and begin observing the eight-hour day on May 1, 1886. More on IWD can be found in the Common Curator post, the 125th Anniversary of the Haymarket Affair.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Surf Zombies: It's a ... Thing!

Practitioners of the tsunami school of surf music, The Surf Zombies have recently issued their fourth album, It's a ... Thing!. A medley video of their latest tunes can be viewed on YouTube.

Their first album, the self-titled Surf Zombies, appeared in 2008, and was followed by Something Weird in 2009, with Lust for Rust being released in 2012.

Their latest album can be purchased on CD Baby. For those interested in seeing the band perform live, the Surf Zombies will be appearing at Torque Fest 2014 in Dubuque, Iowa at 7 pm, Friday, May 2, 2014.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Kickstarting the Morbid Anatomy Museum

Spearheaded by Joanna Ebenstein, creator of the Morbid Anatomy blog in 2007, the Kickstarter campaign for the new Morbid Anatomy Museum located in Brooklyn, New York has just surpassed its goal of $60,000. There is, however, still another five days to contribute to this worthwhile project, which will:
. . . feature permanent and temporary exhibitions, a café/bar, a gift shop, an expanded library and more ambitious programming. It will be a beautiful and inspiring space to foster our unique international community of supporters, friends, artists, rogue scholars and like-minded enthusiasts; a place which enshrines that which we hold dear, a place to study, to delight; a place to “meet the others.”
To learn more about this ambitious undertaking, visit the Morbid Anatomy Museum project page on Kickstarter. Ebenstein, along with co-editor Colin Dickey, recently concluded another highly successful Kickstarter project with the publication of The Morbid Anatomy Anthology, a well-illustrated and handsomely-produced volume of essays on a number of fascinating topics.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


The above image is an on-site installation in Pakistan. Produced by an artist collective, the large scale of the portrait is intended to put a visible human face on potential targets of drone missiles, which are sometimes referred to by drone operators as "bug splats." More information on the project is available at the #NotaBugSplat website.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Plant a Tree, or a Million, for Arbor Day

To commemorate Arbor Day, check out the free PDF version of The Forest Where Ashley Lives, an educational book about the value and care of urban forests, written by Mark A. and Ashley L. Vitosh, and illustrated by John L. Smith. Intended for elementary school readers, the text has won an Arbor Day Foundation Education Award. The book is also available in print from the Iowa State University Extension online store.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Laughing Song and Hallelujah among Latest Entries to the National Recording Registry

In the twelfth year of the National Recording Registry, Librarian of Congress James Billington has announced 25 sound recordings as the official entries for 2013, stating: "These recordings represent an important part of America’s culture and history. As technology continually changes and formats become obsolete, we must ensure that our nation’s aural legacy is protected. The National Recording Registry is at the core of this effort." Under the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, selected recordings must be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and at least ten years old.

In chronological order, the selections for 2013 are as follows:
  1. "The Laughing Song" (single)—George Washington Johnson (c. 1896)
  2. "They Didn’t Believe Me"—Harry Macdonough and Alice Green (1915)
  3. "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime" (singles)—Bing Crosby; Rudy Vallee (both 1932)
  4. "Franz Boas and George Herzog Recordings of Kwakwaka’wakw Chief Dan Cranmer (1938)
  5. "Were You There" (single)—Roland Hayes (1940)
  6. "The Goldbergs": Sammy Goes Into the Army (July 9, 1942)
  7. "Caldonia" (single)—Louis Jordan (1945)
  8. "Dust My Broom" (single)—Elmore James (1951)
  9. "A Night at Birdland" (Vols. 1 and 2) (albums)—Art Blakey (1954)
  10. "When I Stop Dreaming" (single)—The Louvin Brothers (1955)
  11. "Cathy’s Clown" (single)—The Everly Brothers (1960)
  12. "Texas Sharecropper and Songster" (album)—Mance Lipscomb (1960)
  13. "The First Family" (album) (1962)
  14. Lawrence Ritter’s Interviews with Baseball Pioneers of the Late 19th and Early 20th Century (1962-1966)
  15. Presidential Recordings of Lyndon B. Johnson (Nov. 22, 1963 – Jan. 10, 1969)
  16. "Carnegie Hall Concert with Buck Owens and His Buckaroos" (album)—Buck Owens and His Buckaroos (1966)
  17. "Fortunate Son" (single)—Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969)
  18. "Theme from ‘Shaft’" (album)—Isaac Hayes (1971)
  19. "Only Visiting This Planet" (album)—Larry Norman (1972)
  20. "Celia & Johnny" (album)—Celia Cruz and Johnny Pacheco (1974)
  21. "Copland Conducts Copland: Appalachian Spring"—Aaron Copland (1974)
  22. "Heart Like a Wheel" (album)—Linda Ronstadt (1974)
  23. "Sweeney Todd" (album)—Original Cast Recording (1979)
  24. "The Joshua Tree" (album)—U2 (1987)
  25. "Hallelujah" (single)—Jeff Buckley (1994)
The full National Recording Registry currently numbers 400 recordings, and can be viewed here. The Registry solicits nominations for inclusion on the registry; further information on the criteria and procedures for making nominations is available at the Registry website  

Monday, March 31, 2014

Play It Hard: A Tribute to Norman Borlaug

Biology Fortified and The International Center for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT) have produced a tribute video to Nobel Laureate, Dr. Norman Borlaug, who would have turned 100 on March 25, 2014. For further information on Borlaug's work, see the related Common Curator post, Statue for the Green Revolution.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Statue for the Green Revolution

A newly commissioned statue by the State of Iowa was unveiled today in the U.S. Capitol Building's National Statuary Hall to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nobel Laureate Norman E. Borlaug, known as the father of the Green Revolution [video]. An Iowa native, Dr. Borlaug [1914-2009] spent his career developing disease-resistant and high-yielding wheat varieties and other cereal grains that greatly increased food production around the world. His work is estimated by some to have saved as many as one billion people from starvation.

Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, and later received the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the National Medal of Science, the only American to have ever earned all four honors. In his Nobel Lecture, entitled "The Green Revolution, Peace, and Humanity," Borlaug stated:
. . . the first essential component of social justice is adequate food for all mankind. Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world. Yet today fifty percent of the world's population goes hungry. Without food, man can live at most but a few weeks; without it, all other components of social justice are meaningless. 
In 1986, Borlaug created the World Food Prize to recognize those who have "advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world."

The Borlaug statue, shown above, was created by artist Benjamin Victor. Each state is permitted two statues in National Statuary Hall; the statue of Borlaug will replace James Harlan, and will join Samuel Jordan Kirkwood's statue, which was installed in 1913 by Vinnie Ream, the first woman and youngest artist to receive a U.S. Government commission. She is known for her statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Capitol Rotunda.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring, Finally

This robin was sighted a day before the vernal equinox.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sunshine Week 2014

March 16-22, 2014 marks Sunshine Week, an annual event which serves to raise awareness of the need for transparent and open government at all levels. Also observed this week was Freedom of Information Day, which coincides with James Madison's birthday. In 1822, Madison stated:
A popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.
Such sunshine laws as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and open meetings laws provide essential legal rights and remedies for citizen access to government records and information. FOIA, which was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 4, 1966 and went into effect one year later, created a "right to know" as the basis for access whereas previously citizens needed to demonstrate a "need to know." As Johnson observed at the time:
This legislation springs from one of our most essential principles: a democracy works best when the people have all the information that the security of the Nation permits. No one should be able to pull curtains of secrecy around decisions which can be revealed without injury to the public interest.
For further information, the following resources may be of interest: The National Freedom of Information Coalition; The National Security Archive; The OMB Watch; The American Civil Liberties Union; The Electronic Frontier Foundation; and, for news of international freedom of information advocacy,

Saturday, March 8, 2014

International Women's Day 2014

March 8, 2014 marks the 103st anniversary of International Women's Day. The United Nations' theme for International Women's Day 2014 is "Equality for Women Is Progress for All."  The video above features remarks by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

First celebrated on March 19, 1911 by more than one million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland after a proposal by Clara Zetkin [1857-1933] in 1910 at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, International Women's Day is now observed in many nations throughout the world.

The United Nations first began celebrating March 8 as International Women's Day during International Women's Year in 1975, and in 1977 approved a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women's Rights and International Peace for member states.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

WFMU Marathon 2014: Support Free-Form Radio

Love free-form radio? Then consider supporting independent station WFMU during its annual fundraising Marathon that runs February 23 through March 9, 2014. WFMU first hit the airwaves on April 24, 1958 at the now-defunct Upsala College and has never looked back. Currently based in Jersey City, New Jersey, WFMU broadcasts at 91.1 Mhz and via a second signal at 90.1 Mhz in Mount Hope, New York. WFMU has also long been an Internet pioneer, streaming its programming 24/7 in multiple formats, including iPhone and Android. Past shows are archived at the station's website, which also features WFMU's entertaining and content-rich blog.

What is free-form radio you might ask? WFMU describes itself as follows:

WFMU's programming ranges from flat-out uncategorizable strangeness to rock and roll, experimental music, 78 RPM Records, jazz, psychedelia, hip-hop, electronica, hand-cranked wax cylinders, punk rock, gospel, exotica, R&B, radio improvisation, cooking instructions, classic radio airchecks, found sound, dopey call-in shows, interviews with obscure radio personalities and notable science-world luminaries, spoken word collages, Andrew Lloyd Webber soundtracks in languages other than English as well as country and western music.
And because the station is listener-supported, WFMU DJs have for years maintained complete autonomy and control over their own programming, which is extraordinarily eclectic. Check out the current WFMU audio smorgasbord, and see for yourself!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mary Poppins and Pulp Fiction among Additions to 2013 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 selections for 2013 cover a wide gamut of genres and time periods, from such early films as A Virtuous Vamp and King of Jazz to such later works as Judgment at Nuremberg and The Right Stuff.  The full list is as follows:

Decasia (2002)

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Roger & Me (1989)
The Lunch Date (1989)
Bless Their Little Hearts (1984)
The Right Stuff (1983)

Brandy in the Wilderness (1969)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)
Cicero March (1966)
Mary Poppins (1964)
The Hole (1962)
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Forbidden Planet (1956)
The Quiet Man (1952)
Notes on the Port of St. Francis (1951)

Gilda (1946)
Men & Dust (1940)

Martha Graham Early Dance film (1931-44)
Midnight (1939)
Wild Boys of the Road (1933)
King of Jazz (1930)

Ella Cinders (1926)
Daughter of Dawn (1920)

A Virtuous Vamp (1919)

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 selections to the 2014 National Film Registry.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

2014 RAGBRAI Overnight Towns Announced

The eight overnight towns for the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa XLII were announced recently at the annual Route Announcement Party: Rock Valley > Okoboji > Emmetsburg > Forest City > Mason City > Waverly > Independence > Guttenberg. The 40 pass-through towns for RAGBRAI will be announced in early March. This year's ride takes place July 20-26, 2014 and will be 418 miles in length, with 11,316 feet of total climb, making it among the shortest and flattest since RAGBRAI started in 1973.

Registration for the world's oldest, largest, and longest recreational bike touring event is currently open, with a deadline of April 1, 2014 for online applications. Lottery results will be announced May 1, 2014.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Year of the Horse

马 年 快 乐 !  恭 禧 发 财 !!  Eight things you (probably) didn't know about the Year of the Horse, via the Guardian.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rest in Peace, Pete Seeger

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" as a MOOC

The International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa is offering a Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC, entitled "Every Atom: Walt Whitman's Song of Myself." The course is the university's inaugural MOOC, and will run from February 17 to March 29, 2014. Lead instructors will be Professors Christopher Merrill, Director of the IWP, and Ed Folsom, Co-Director of the Walt Whitman Archive and Editor-in-Chief of the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review. The course is free, and registration can be accomplished online. Information on additional courses can be found at The Writing University's web site.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Dada Vinci Archive

The Dada Vinci Archive (DVA) is comprised of a large collection of oil paintings, works on paper, collages, letterpress printing and the book arts, photography, digital video, and works in other media. A representative sampling of new and older artworks can be seen in the DVA gallery at the Bucktown Center for the Arts, 225 East 2nd Street, Davenport, Iowa. Contact the Common Curator (commoncurator @ for further information.

From the Top