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.