Sunday, December 31, 2017

No Loitering

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Field of Dreams, La Bamba, and Memento among 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 annual selections for 2017 cover a wide gamut of genres and time periods, from such early films as The Sinking of the Lusitania and Gentleman's Agreement to such later works as Boulevard Nights and Memento. The full list for 2017 is as follows:

Memento (2000)

4 Little Girls (1997)                                  
Titanic (1997)
To Sleep with Anger (1990)                 

Field of Dreams (1989)
Die Hard (1988)
Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1988)                  
La Bamba (1987)                                 
The Goonies (1985)

Boulevard Nights (1979)     
Superman (1978)
Time and Dreams (1976)
Lives of Performers (1972)
Wanda (1971)                                                                                              

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)              
Spartacus (1960)

Ace in the Hole (aka Big Carnival) (1951)

Gentleman’s Agreement (1947)
Dumbo (1941)

Only Angels Have Wings (1939)                      
With the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain (1937-1938)

Fuentes Family Home Movies Collection (1920s-1930s)                  
He Who Gets Slapped (1924) 

The Sinking of the Lusitania (1918)         

Interior New York Subway, 14th Street to 42nd Street (1905)       

Further information on the Registry as well as the films themselves can be found on the Library of Congress' web site. All 725 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.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Wapsipinicon Almanac No. 24

The latest 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 24 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 Elizabeth Munger of Iowa City, and depicts The Black Angel, a well-known local statue in Oakland Cemetery. 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.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Net Neutrality Is Being Upended

Net neutrality is the principle that all data or content should be treated equally, without discrimination, by every Internet Service Provider (ISP). Net neutrality thus ensures that all stakeholders share an equitable platform for communication, commerce, and other purposes.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be voting on December 14, 2017 to approve or reject Chairman Ajit Pai's draft order to undermine the current framework as articulated in the FCC's 2015 Open Internet Order. Organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), among many others, are partners in the Battle for the Net coalition, which is actively advocating for the complete rejection of Chairman Pai's new order.

To learn about what you can do to make your voice heard, visit the Battle for the Net website, which provides links to an online petition, information about upcoming protests around the United States, and details about contacting your elected officials as well as communicating your views directly to the FCC.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Heirloom Variety Is the Spice of Life

The always-amazing annual catalog from Seed Savers Exchange (SSE), featuring heirloom, untreated, non-hybrid, and non-GMO seeds, is now available online; a print copy of the 2018 catalog can also be requested free of charge online.

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.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

In Case You Missed It . . . H. Res. 621

1st Session

H. RES. 621

Impeaching Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, of high crimes and misdemeanors.

November 15, 2017

Mr. Cohen (for himself, Mr. Gutiérrez, Mr. Yarmuth, Mr. Al Green of Texas, Ms. Fudge, and Mr. Espaillat) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


Impeaching Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Resolved, That Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following Articles of Impeachment be exhibited to the Senate:

Articles of Impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives of the United States of America in the name of itself and all of the people of the United States of America, against Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, in maintenance and support of its impeachment against him for high crimes and misdemeanors.



In his conduct while President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, as well as his constitutional obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice, and has to that end engaged personally, and through his subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or scheme designed to delay, impede an investigation, and to conceal information sought by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the course of its investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 United States Presidential election, including any possible collusion between Russia and Donald J. Trump’s campaign.

[ . . . ]

Note: The remainder of the text for Article I, as well as the text for Articles II, III, IV, and V can be read at the site. The entire text for H. Res. 621 can also be downloaded as a PDF

Readers may also be interested in H. Res. 438, introduced by Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA-30) on July 12, 2017, that contains a single article of impeachment; the text of this earlier Resolution can be found at the Common Curator post, In Case You Missed It . . . H. Res. 438.  

Friday, November 17, 2017

Salvator Mundi

Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi, or "Savior of the World," has just set a new world record for a work of art sold at auction, realizing $450,312,500 (including buyer's premium) at Christie's in New York on November 15, 2017. The work is one of a small number of surviving paintings attributed to da Vinci, and according to Christie's, was the last not already in a museum collection. The buyer has not as yet been publically revealed. The art conservator Dianne Dwyer Modestini spent several years restoring the painting, beginning in 2005.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Great Cornell Pumpkin Prank

On the morning of October 8, 1997, it was observed that a pumpkin had mysteriously been placed overnight atop the spire of Cornell University's McGraw Tower. The Common Curator had just begun work at Big Red, and recalls the great buzz that the pumpkin created across campus--and beyond. Twenty years later, the identity of the perpetrator(s) of one of the greatest college pranks is still not known with certainty, although various explanations have been put forward.

Initially, it was unclear if the object was actually a pumpkin, as the tower is 173' tall. For pumpkin skeptics and conspiracists, a recent Cornell Chronicle article features a photo of the "Certificate of Authenticity" from the Kingsbury Commission (which intensively studied the matter) that unequivocally states: "It's a pumpkin." A thorough and fascinating summary of the events, and speculation, surrounding the incident has also recently been published by Atlas Obscura.

To mark the 20th anniversary, Cornell University Library is hosting a "PumpkinCam Redux," with much--but not all--of the content of the original website. Bits and cucurbits both decay, after all. Happy Halloween!

Note: the photo above is a Cornell University file photo.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

UNESCO Statement on the Withdrawal of the United States from Membership

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, delivered on October 12, 2017 a statement of "profound regret" on the decision of the United States to withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization effective December 31, 2018. Bakova stated that "Universality is critical to UNESCO’s mission to strengthen international peace and security in the face of hatred and violence, to defend human rights and dignity," and delineated numerous initiatives, collaborations, and projects that have involved the United States, which was one of the original signers of the Constitution of UNESCO on November 16, 1945.

One notable UNESCO program achievement, in 2008, was the designation of Iowa City, Iowa as a UNESCO City of Literature. It was just the third city in the world to be accorded such recognition, and to date is the only such city in the United States. Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature Executive Director John Kenyon, in an article in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, observed that he was personally very disappointed by the withdrawal, and noted that "This decision has not made things better for UNESCO." He also remarked that "UNESCO's ability to better the world was compromised" when the United States ceased paying membership contributions in 2011 under the Obama administration.

A press statement by the U.S. Department of State earlier today indicates that UNESCO was informed, despite the withdrawal, of the United States' ongoing:
. . . desire to remain engaged with UNESCO as a non-member observer state in order to contribute U.S. views, perspectives and expertise on some of the important issues undertaken by the organization, including the protection of world heritage, advocating for press freedoms, and promoting scientific collaboration and education.
Meanwhile, the Iowa City Book Festival continues this week with its full slate of activities, including events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the International Writing Program. Festival highlights for today also include the bestowal of the Paul Engle Prize to this year's recipient, Alexander Chee.

It is worth recalling that the Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO begins with the assertion "that since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed." And today that must include the minds of everyone.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Sputnik I Launches the Space Age 60 Years Ago

Euronews recounts in its Legends of Space series the story of the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth, Sputnik I (Спутник-1), which was launched by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The 9th Annual Iowa City Book Festival

Designated in 2008 as one of the first UNESCO Cities of Literature in the world and still the only one in the United States, Iowa City will be hosting the ninth annual Iowa City Book Festival, October 8-15, 2017. 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 expanded eight-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.

In addition, many of this year's events will commemorate the 50th anniversary of 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. Also as part of the festival, this year's Paul Engle Prize will be awarded to Alexander Chee.

The 2017 Program can be downloaded as a PDF, and full details can be found at the festival website.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Banned Books Week: Challenge Censorship

Sponsored by the American Library Association and allied organizations, Banned Books Week (September 24-30, 2017) 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.

Friday, September 1, 2017

2017 National Book Festival

The 17th annual National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress, will be held on Saturday, September 2, 2017, 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 in the theme-based pavilions for Children, Teens, Books to Movies, Contemporary Life, Fiction, Food & Home, Graphic Novels, History & Biography, International, Poetry & Prose, and Science. Speakers include such writers as David McCullough, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Dava Sobel, Ibram X. Kendi, Elizabeth Strout, Jesmyn Ward, Margot Lee Shetterly, 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 Roz Chast; a gallery of all Festival posters from 2001 to 2017 can be viewed here

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Petition to Congress for the Censure of the President

The following petition has garnered over 32,000 signatures to date. As noted in the press release announcing the petition, "the censure of Presidents and members of Congress has been sought and imposed at least 40 times" in the past. After further signatures are gathered in the coming weeks, it is planned to present the petition to every member of the Senate and House of Representatives for "appropriate action." Further information can be found at the petition website and at the petition webpage at (Note also that on July 12, 2017, U.S. Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA) submitted an article of impeachment (H. Res. 438) to the House Committee on the Judiciary.) 

Petition to the Congress of the United States for the Redress of Grievances under the First Amendment Requesting That President Trump Be Censured 

The undersigned, exercising their inalienable right, deriving from the Magna Carta and enshrined in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” do hereby request of each member of the United States Senate and House of Representatives that the Senate and House, separately or jointly, adopt a resolution censuring President Donald J. Trump for the misconduct described below.

The undersigned have concluded, after due deliberation, that President Donald J. Trump, from the day he took office on January 20, 2017 as the forty-fifth President, to the present, has betrayed his obligations to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” and to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed" by engaging in the following unlawful conduct, and conduct that contravenes, betrays, disparages and denigrates the values enshrined in the Constitution, and demeans the office of President. Far from embracing our constitutional rights and obligations, President Trump has demonstrated that he lacks allegiance to, respect for, or even knowledge of, those rights and obligations.

1. President Trump acted improperly by
       (i) firing Director James Comey of the FBI for refusing to terminate the FBI’s investigation into charges that the Russian Government had sought to influence the outcome of the November 2016 presidential election, and then offering contradictory explanations of the reasons for that firing, one or more of which explanations must have been false.
       (ii) interfering in the FBI’s investigation of Michael Flynn, who had been National Security Advisor until his recent firing by the President, by asking FBI Director Comey to terminate that investigation.
       (iii) disclosing highly classified intelligence information to Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, and the Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergei. Kislyak, in a private meeting in the Oval Office on May 10, 2017.
       (iv) abusing the powers of his office and the integrity and independence of the Justice Department by admonishing Attorney General Sessions for having recused himself from involvement in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

2. President Trump has disgraced his office by repeatedly making false statements publicly in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001 which provides, in relevant part, that "...whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully...makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation...shall be fined,...imprisoned not more than 5 years...or both.
       (i) President Trump asserted on March 4, 2017 that his predecessor, then President Barack Obama, had tapped his phone at Trump Tower in New York City. Neither President Trump nor anyone else has offered any evidence to support this claim, which must, therefore, be concluded to have been false.

3. President Trump has ownership, leasehold, licensing or other interests in numerous hotels in Washington, D.C., elsewhere in the United States and abroad in which individuals holding office in foreign governments have stayed and/or enjoyed meals and entertainment, and has thereby violated Article 1, Section 10 (the “Emoluments Clause”) of the United States Constitution. Further, President Trump continues to hold and benefit from his many assets, both foreign and domestic, receiving profits and benefits, such as trademarks, from foreign powers, which constitute wrongfully received emoluments. By engaging in those violations, President Trump has also violated his oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

4. President Trump has disparaged, demeaned and ridiculed women, including statements referring to the lack of intelligence and the physical appearance of a television commentator. Such conduct betrays our Nation’s values and undermines the hard-fought equality of women in our Nation.

5. By announcing on May 31, 2017 that the United States is withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords signed by 195 nations, President Trump has acted recklessly, without justification and contrary to the wishes of the great majority of the American people, and has thereby jeopardized the residents of our country and their descendants.

6. President Trump has refused, and made clear that he will continue to refuse, to disclose his previously filed or future federal income tax returns in violation of a long-standing tradition of disclosure honored by former Presidents. That refusal has deprived and will deprive Congress and the American people of information necessary to determine
       (i) whether, and if so, the extent to which, President Trump violated the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution;
       (ii) the President’s past, continuing and future relations with foreign individuals and entities; and
       (iii) the personal impact on President Trump of any proposed amendments to the Internal Revenue Code.

7. From the moment of his inaugural address to date, President Trump has publicly and repeatedly disparaged and defamed his predecessor as President, members of Congress, the Judiciary, Government officials, political opponents, members of the press, and other individuals in a crude, and insulting manner. In addition, he has called into question the legitimacy of the other equal branches of our government, so as to undermine seriously these institutions in the eyes of our people and the world. Thus he has made us fear that our nation is headed in the direction of becoming an authoritarian dictatorship.

8. In June, 2016, Donald Trump’s agents, campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, willfully, knowingly, and improperly, sought to obtain from Russian government sources, damaging information regarding Hillary Clinton for the purpose of aiding Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. On July 13, 2017 President Trump defended the foregoing improper actions.

WHEREFORE, the undersigned respectfully request that President Donald J. Trump be censured for the acts, statements and conduct specified above.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Sussex Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, but there has long been disagreement on which day (or days) it was actually signed. Although the evidence is not clear-cut, some historians consider August 2 rather than July 4 to be the day the document was signed by all (or most) of the delegates to the Second Congressional Congress. What is not in dispute, however, is that ultimately 56 signatures were affixed, and that these are grouped by state, with the exception of Congress President John Hancock, whose iconic signature appears at the head of the others. This founding document was engrossed on parchment and is permanently housed in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom at the National Archives Museum in Washington, D.C.

The original Declaration (also known as the Matlack Declaration) is now complemented by the Sussex Declaration, which is the only other known manuscript copy of the Declaration on parchment from the late 1700s. Danielle Allen and Emily Sneff, researchers at Harvard's Declaration Resources Project, first came across the document in August 2015; it derives its moniker from the West Sussex Record Office in Chichester, U.K., the repository where it is located.

The Sussex copy is the same size as the Matlack Declaration, but is oriented horizontally. More notably, some of the signers' names are misspelled, and the names are not grouped by states. Allen and Sneff believe that James Wilson, a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, is the person who likely commissioned the Sussex Declaration. They discuss many of their findings in Discovering the Sussex Declaration, a lecture delivered at the National Archives on July 6, 2017.