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World’s Largest Digital Art Display Will Go Live This Fall in Chicago

Smithsonian Magazine

When Chicago’s Merchandise Mart opened in 1930, commanding two-and-a-half city blocks in the city's downtown Loop, it was the world’s largest building.

That title stood for more than ten years, until the art deco building was usurped by the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., in 1943. Now, the historic space is poised to take on a new "world's-largest" mantle—this time for its art. A new initiative will turn its limestone exterior in the world’s largest digital art display, reports Jay Koziarz for Curbed Chicago.

Called ‘Art on theMart,’ the permanent large-scale lighting installation will be a digital canvas spanning across nearly 3 acres of its river-facing façade. The project was announced Sunday by Chicago Mayor Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the city’s department of cultural affairs and special events, and property owner Vornado Realty Trust, who will fund the large-scale installation.

The San Francisco-based Obscura Digital, which has created temporary video projects on the façades of the Guggenheim Museum, Sydney Opera House and the Vatican, will lead the project, in partnership with local architecture firm Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, Koziarz reports.

The display is expected to go live in October 2018 with 34 projects mounted above the riverwalk projecting images onto the Mart façade, according to Steve Johnson of The Chicago Tribune.

Jon Seidel at The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the project will only screen public art, not commercial or sponsored content. Artists will be allowed to submit their work for possible projection, and a board overseeing the curation of the display, which will include representatives from the Mart the city and the arts community, is currently in the works. 

While hours of display are still being worked out, the Mart’s chief operating officer Myron Maurer tells Johnson that it could run for a couple of hours a night, five days a week.

The Merchandise Mart, originally designed to serve as a central marketplace for stocking retailers, and ​now the home of art galleries, tech incubators and wholesale decorating showrooms, alike, has changed quite a lot over the years. But it has remained a Chicago landmark—one that promises to be even more luminous come fall.

Chicago Cancels Sale of Kerry James Marshall's 'Knowledge and Wonder'

Smithsonian Magazine

Kerry James Marshall’s “Knowledge and Wonder” is staying put. Following protests by the artist and civic leaders, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced this week that the city will not auction off the large-scale public artwork, as Steve Johnson at The Chicago Tribune reports.

According to Anny Shaw at The Art Newspaper, the controversy followed the record-breaking sale of another of Marshall’s large-scale paintings, “Past Times,” which state-owned McCormick Place convention center in Chicago sold for $21.1 million at Sotheby’s in May. That sale was the largest amount ever paid for a work by a living African-American artist. The rise in valuation of Marshall’s artwork that followed led to the realization that “Knowledge and Wonder,” the roughly 10-by-23-foot piece was hanging, with little protection, in the Legler Branch of the Chicago Public Library, where it had been commissioned for $10,000 back in 1995.

According to Katya Kazakina at Bloomberg News, Christie’s contacted the city in September “offering an attractive estimate.” The mayor agreed to the auction, unveiling plans in October to use the funds of the sale, estimated to be around $10 million, to expand and update the Legler branch into a regional library for the city’s west side and create a new fund to commission public artwork from up and coming artists.

Immediately following the announcement, however, critics lambasted the sale, calling it a theft from the public and an affront to the artist. Marshall himself, who is now 63 and lives in the Chicago neighborhood Bronzeville, denounced the decision. Last year, he had donated a new mural to the city, accepting just $1 for the commission. “It just seemed like a way of exploiting the work of artists in the city for short-term gain in a really shortsighted kind of way,” he tells Johnson of the Tribune. “It certainly would make one believe there’s no reason to do anything because you have some kind of civic pride as a citizen.”

The backlash, and Marshall’s objections, in particular, led to the cancelation of the sale. “I was swimming and thought, ‘This is not what I wanted, given the city’s contributions to public art, and Kerry’s a friend and also a great ambassador for Chicago,’” the mayor tells Johnson. “I reached out to him and said, ‘Look, I don’t want this. If you’re not happy, I don’t want to go forward.’”

Christie’s also stepped back from the controversy, releasing a statement that read: “All parties involved are delighted that Kerry James Marshall’s ‘Knowledge and Wonder’ will stay in Chicago–that had been a shared goal for the city and Christie’s throughout the sale process, and one we were actively working towards together these last weeks.”

The massive painting is now scheduled to be reinstalled in the library, according to Kazakina in a separate piece for Bloomberg.

Marshall, for one, is happy the painting, which depicts a group of 15 black children and adults gazing upon super-sized books, the Tree of Knowledge as well as celestial objects, will remain to inspire library-goers in the predominantly African-American neighborhood of West Garfield Park.

“That piece, because it was made for that library, it belonged in that library. It wasn't just a picture. It was a very specific thing for a very specific place,” he tells Johnson in a separate article for the Tribune. “You never expect public works to be sold at any time. And so it was a surprise on a lot of levels that that work was going to come up for sale.”

In the wake of the controversy, Marshall announced he is leaving public commissions behind. “I’ve done about all the public art I think I really want to do,” he says. “The work I do now, I want to be less accommodating and less compromising … There’s too many contingencies that go with public art, and there are more compromises than I think I’m going to be willing to make from here on out.”

There’s certainly a market for whatever he does next. In another story for The Art Newspaper, Shaw explores the recent surge in interest in acquiring Marshall’s art over the past few years, reporting that museums and high-profile collectors including Michelle Obama, Beyoncé and Sean Combs, who purchased “Past Times,” are among those seeking out the artist’s highly stylized, narrative-rich work that is known for asserting a space for black protagonists within the Western art canon.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like a Horde of Herpes-Infected Monkeys?

Smithsonian Magazine

In the 1930s, a Florida cruise boat operator named Colonel Tooey (Colonel was in fact his first name) had a grand idea for jazzing up his tours. He decided to deposit six rhesus macaques on a man-made island near Silver Springs, hoping to entice tourists with the promise of monkey sightings. What he did not appear to know, however, is that rhesus macaques can swim.

Tooey’s star attractions quickly hightailed it into Silver Springs State Park, where they established a troop that now numbers around 300 individuals. The monkeys are cute and popular with tourists. They are invasive and about a quarter of their population is infected with the herpes B virus. Now, according to Anne Schindler of First Coast News, their population appears to be expanding.

The macaques were already known to range beyond the limits of Silver Springs State Park, but recently, for the first time, they were spotted in Jacksonville, nearly 100 miles away in the northeastern part of the state. “Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officials call the reports credible,” First Coast News reports, “a likely expansion of the feral monkey population in Central Florida.”

Though they are typically skittish around people, the macaques have been known to get aggressive. In 2017, parts of Silver Springs State Park had to be shut down because the monkeys were getting tetchy about human visitors. According to Carlos E. Medina of the Ocala Star-Banner, there is concern that a continued increase in the macaque population will mean more chances of interactions and conflicts with humans—which is disconcerting, in part, because of the monkeys’ herpes problem.

Macaques shed the virus in their saliva, urine and feces, reports Hannah Knowles of the Washington Post. Humans can contract herpes B from infected monkeys through scratches, bites, or contact with an infected animal’s nose or mouth. If untreated, the disease can lead to brain damage or even death—but according to the CDC, “B virus infections in people are rare.” Since 1932, there have been only 50 people with documented herpes B cases in the country, 21 of whom died.

“Hundreds of bites and scratches occur every year in monkey facilities in the United States,” the CDC notes, “but people rarely get infected with B virus.”

Steve Johnson, a University of Florida wildlife ecologist, tells First Coast News that the concern about herpes B transmission from macaques comes down to “low risk, high consequence.” A more pressing worry, perhaps, is the possible impact of the monkeys on the native environment. In the 1970s, rhesus macaques decimated red mangroves in the Florida Keys, “leading to massive vegetation loss and shoreline erosion,” according to the FWC. Between 1984 and 2012, around 1,000 of Florida’s feral monkeys were removed or sterilized as part of a state-sanctioned initiative—one that abruptly came to a halt when the public discovered that the trapped monkeys were being sold for biomedical research.

Since then, the FWC has prohibited the feeding of wild monkeys, but there are no population control efforts currently in place, according to First Coast News. Sterilizing the monkeys is expensive, and culling them is unpalatable. So officials are facing what Johnson describes as a “lose-lose situation.”

“It’s not an issue if it’s catching pythons,” he tells the Ocala Star-Banner, referencing the invasive Burmese pythons that Florida hunters are encouraged to “humanely kill.” “No one cares about snakes. When it’s a furry, charismatic animal, it makes it different.”

But letting the macaques proliferate unchecked is not a viable option, either. “Unless there is some management action by the state to curtail their numbers,” Johnson says, “it’s going to create a situation where they will be forced to take more drastic action due to a serious incident.”

New Exhibition Highlights Story of the Richest Man Who Ever Lived

Smithsonian Magazine

The title of richest person on Earth seems to ping-pong between tech titans every few years. But for all their wealth, Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates won’t come close to being the richest human of all time—that would mean besting people like Augustus Caesar who personally owned all of Egypt for a period or Song Dynasty Emperor Shenzong, whose domain at one point accounted for 25 to 30 percent of global GDP. But the wealthiest of them all is believed to be Mansa Musa, the ruler of the Mali Empire.

If you aren’t familiar with the name, a new exhibition opening at Northwestern University’s Block Museum is exploring Musa’s legacy as part of a new exhibition called “Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture and Exchange Across Medieval Saharan Africa.” As Stephanie Pappas at LiveScience reports, the show details the impact of Saharan trade routes throughout the medieval world, and illustrates how—contrary to the view of West Africa propagated during and after the slave trade—West Africa and the Sahara were home to strong, vibrant, wealthy and artistic cultures during that time.

“The legacy of medieval trans-Saharan exchange has largely been omitted from Western historical narratives and art histories, and certainly from the way that Africa is presented in art museums,” Kathleen Bickford Berzock, associate director of curatorial affairs at the Block, says in a press release.

“Caravans of Gold,” which has been eight years in the making, pushes back against misconceptions, and demonstrates Africa’s “pivotal role” in world history through 250 artworks and fragments from West African nations, including Mali, Morocco and Niger.

One of these items is a reproduction of the Catalan Atlas, produced on the island of Majorca around 1375, which includes pages depicting the vast trade routes near and through the Sahara. At the center of it is an illustration of Mansa Musa.

The 14th-century king, as Thad Morgan details for History.com, took power at a time when the Mali Empire was already a source of much of the natural resources, such as gold and salt, used by Europe, Africa and the Middle East. But under Musa’s rule, the empire’s territory, influence and wealth increased even more. Eventually, under his rule, the Mali Empire enveloped present-day Mali, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Mauritania.

Despite his vast wealth, the wider world did not know much about Musa until the devout Muslim pilgrimaged to Mecca in 1324. He didn’t exactly travel lightly; for The Chicago Tribune, Steve Johnson reports that in the introduction to “Caravans of Gold,” it details that Musa took "8,000 courtiers, 12,000 slaves, and 100 camels each carrying 300 pounds of gold” with him on the journey.

When Musa passed through Egypt, so much gold flowed, according to Morgan that it actually devalued the metal and led to a currency crisis that took Egypt 12 years to dig itself out of.

There’s probably no accurate way to estimate just how rich Musa was in modern terms. In 2015, the late Richard Ware of Ferrum College in Virginia told Jacob Davidson at Money that people had trouble even describing Musa’s wealth. “This is the richest guy anyone has ever seen, that’s the point,” Ware said. “They’re trying to find words to explain that. There are pictures of him holding a scepter of gold on a throne of gold holding a cup of gold with a golden crown on his head. Imagine as much gold as you think a human being could possess and double it, that’s what all the accounts are trying to communicate.”

And gold was what made West Africa indispensable to the rest of the world during the Middle Ages. Berzock tells Johnson she wants the Block exhibition to demonstrate “Africa’s role as a kind of fulcrum in that interconnectedness.”

“It’s because of the gold resources and the importance of gold in economies of that period of time,” she continues, “That is the impetus for this trade to really expand. But along with that comes a lot of other things: People move and ideas move and other types of materials move. And what the exhibition does is it traces all of those things, and you begin to see how these networks really extend across a very vast area.”

The story of Musa—and that fact that many people outside West Africa have never heard of him—shows just how much the history of the region and its artifacts have been buried over time. “Why didn't we understand,” Lisa Graziose Corrin, director of the Block Museum asks, “how important Africa was to that period where, you know, the greatest and purest gold reserves in the world sat in Mali and in the hands of the emperor of Mali?”

The exhibition continues at the Block until July 21 before moving to Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum in September and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in April 2020.

‘Hamilton: The Exhibition’ Opens in Chicago to Eager Fans

Smithsonian Magazine

On Saturday, April 27, hundreds of fans waiting in line for the opening of "Hamilton: The Exhibition" received a special surprise: The man behind the hit Broadway musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda himself, appeared on the scene with donuts in hand, ready to reward the so-called "Hamilfans" who had braved the dismal Chicago weather with sweet treats and selfies.

As Michael Paulson reports for The New York Times, a specially constructed 35,000-square-foot structure on Chicago’s Lake Michigan shoreline is the first locale to host an immersive, surprisingly educational exhibition on "Hamilton." Dubbed "Hamilton: The Exhibition," the show features an in-depth look at the eponymous Founding Father’s life, correcting historical inaccuracies seen in the musical while simultaneously fleshing out events and themes raised by Miranda’s Tony Award-winning creation.

Catering to the musical enthusiasts sure to flock to the space, the exhibit also includes an audio guide narrated by Miranda and original cast members Phillipa Soo and Christopher Jackson, a reworked instrumental version of the soundtrack recorded by a 27-piece band, and 3-D footage of Miranda leading the Washington, D.C. cast in a performance of the musical’s opening number.

Amazingly, "Hamilton: The Exhibition" cost $1 million more to launch than its Broadway predecessor. Built to travel (at least with the aid of 80 moving trucks), the show carries a hefty price tag of $13.5 million, as opposed to the musical’s $12.5 million—a fact that may account for its high admission rates, which stand at $39.50 for adults and $25 for children. Although the exhibit’s Chicago run currently has no fixed end-date, Jeffrey Seller, the musical's lead producer and the individual in charge of this latest venture, tells Paulson it will likely stay in the Windy City for several months before moving on to cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles.

According to the Chicago Tribune’s Steve Johnson, Miranda, who served as an artistic advisor for the exhibition, describes the show as a “choose-your-own-adventure” experience. Those hoping to delve into the details of the Revolutionary War, federalism and early 19th-century fiscal policy will want to pay attention to wall text and audio narration, while those more interested in the musical will enjoy interactive visuals, games and set pieces crafted by exhibit designer David Korins.

Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, Miriam Di Nunzio highlights several of the exhibition’s 18 galleries: There’s the “Schuyler Mansion” ballroom, dominated by bronze statues of Alexander Hamilton, the Schuyler sisters, and George and Martha Washington, and a recreation of the Battle of Yorktown that Seller, in an interview with the Sun-Times’ Mary Houlihan, likens to “a giant [animated] Risk board.” Also of note are a “Hurricane” room centered on Hamilton’s youth in St. Croix, a gallery dedicated to Eliza Hamilton’s efforts to ensure her husband’s legacy following his death in 1804, and a “Duel” space featuring life-size statues of Hamilton and Aaron Burr with their pistols raised.

In essence, "Hamilton: The Exhibition" strives to fill the historical gaps left by its namesake musical.

“I couldn't even fit Ben Franklin in my show,” Miranda tells the Daily Beast’s Kimberly Bellware. “I couldn't get the state of Pennsylvania in. But here, we can do a deeper dive on slavery in the north and the south. We can talk about Native American contributions, [and] we can talk about women in the war effort.”

As Bellware observes, one such nod to these hidden histories is a statue of an enslaved woman standing at the edge of the Schuyler ballroom. Rather than providing a cursory overview of slavery in colonial America, the accompanying audio narration urges visitors to consider the figure as an individual, asking, “Where was she from? Who did she love? What were her dreams?”

Focusing on Hamilton specifically, The New York Times’ Jacobs points toward an unassuming sign clarifying the “ten-dollar Founding Father without a father”’s stance on slavery: Although the song “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” finds Eliza stating, “I speak out against slavery / You could have done so much more if you / only had— / Time,” the exhibit notes, “The real Hamilton wasn’t an abolitionist, but he did oppose slavery.”

It’s worth noting that "Hamilton: The Exhibition" has its flaws: For the Chicago Tribune, Johnson notes that the show features a cast of reproductions, as the warehouse’s climate has yet to prove stable enough to house actual artifacts, and argues that it too often relies on heavy blocks of text to convey the history behind the musical’s catchy tunes. Still, Johnson concludes, these are just “quibbles.” Overall, “there are a thousand choices on display in this exhibition, and almost all of them at least satisfy, while a great number go beyond that to surprise and delight.”

In the words of "Hamilton"’s King George III—the musical's resident source of comic relief—you’ll be back.

Nodding Woman

Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Evolution of Sex Could Have Provided a Defense Against Cancer Cells

Smithsonian Magazine

Why organisms began having sex, rather than simply reproducing asexually as life did for billions of years—and still does, in the case of single-celled organisms and some plants and fungi—is a bit of a mystery. Sexual reproduction evolved around a billion years ago or more, despite the additional energy required and the seeming hinderance of needing to find a suitable mate. Prevailing theories hold that sex became the dominant form of reproduction due to the benefits of greater genetic diversity, allowing offspring to adapt to changing environments and keeping species one step ahead of parasites that evolved to plague the parents.

But in a new paper in PLOS Biology, a team of scientists led by the University of Montpellier in France and Deakin University in Australia suggest another reason life started and kept having sex: the threat of transmissible, cancerous freeloaders.

“We suggest that sexual reproduction evolves to prevent invasion by transmissible selfish neoplastic cheater cells, henceforth referred to as transmissible cancer cells,” Frederic Thomas, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Montpellier and lead author of the study, says in an email. “To our knowledge, this selective scenario for the initial evolution of sex across the tree of life is novel.”

Cancer wasn’t a problem for the earliest life forms, prokaryotes, or single-celled organisms that lack a cell nucleus, such as bacteria and archaea. These creatures reproduce asexually, making a copy of their singular chromosome and essentially cloning themselves.

But things changed with the evolution of eukaryotes more than 2.5 billion years ago. These organisms contain central nuclei encompassing their genomes in a set of chromosomes. Groups of eukaryotes joined together to form the first multicellular organisms—the predecessors of all complex life on Earth, from plants to insects and reptiles to mammals. When these organisms reproduce, genetic material is contributed from two mates, creating genetically unique offspring.

“Sex seems to have accompanied, directly predated or actually marked the transition to eukaryotic life,” says Maurine Neiman, an associate professor of biology at University of Iowa who studies sexual reproduction but was not involved in the new study. The big question in evolutionary biology, she says, is why.

Sex is really complicated and inefficient. Many organisms must invest biological resources in traits that serve the sole purpose of attracting a mate, such as peacock feathers. Even the act of copulation itself carries risk. “Organisms are often literally stuck together, and that’s not really a great situation be in,” Neiman says. The idea that a creature successful enough to reach reproductive maturity would want to mess with the genetic formula is also odd. “You’re kind of a sure thing if you have grown up and been successful. Why would you go and make a baby different from you?”

By blending genetics, sexual reproduction produces greater genetic diversity in a population, limiting the transmission of cancer cells across individuals in the population. (Thomas et al. / PLOS Biology 10.1371)

One leading theory is known as the Red Queen hypothesis. The idea suggests that as multicellular life evolved, so did the parasites and pathogens that plagued it. By using sex to create offspring with unique genetic traits, some of the offspring may acquire resistances to the bugs that would otherwise threaten entire species. Sexual reproduction serves as a way to stay a step ahead the evolutionary arms race. (The name of the hypothesis comes from a statement by the Red Queen to Alice in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass: “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”)

The new study suggests that cancer cells can be considered another form of parasite. As early cells banded together to form single, eukaryotic organisms, these organisms would have needed to guard against member cells that refused to subordinate themselves to the whole—“internal cheater cells,” or cancer cells. Early multicellular organisms would also have needed to develop defenses against invading malignant cells from other organisms, or transmissible cancers.

Such early immune systems would have had an easier time differentiating between healthy cells and malignancies, the study argues, if sexual reproduction created offspring that were genetically distinct from surrounding organisms. Targeting cancerous cells could have created an evolutionary pressure to embrace sex, similar to the pressure from parasites and other pathogens.

“Malignant cells—at least in our opinion—have the same importance in evolutionary biology and ecology as non-self parasites and therefore should be considered as important as parasites and microbiota,” Thomas says. “Cancer is not only a disease, it is an evolutionary force.”

This idea could be a powerful new way of thinking about evolution, according to Steve Johnson, a biologist studying the evolution of sex and host-parasite interactions at the University of New Orleans. “The more I think about it, I really believe this could be a very important new approach,” he says in an email. “I especially like their linking Red Queen modeling with the idea that sexual reproduction reduces a unique kind of parasite, the transmissible cancer cells.”

“You can think of cancer as this selfish phenomenon that dies with the individual,” Neiman adds. “But what if it didn’t? How would that change the evolutionary landscape?”

In the paper, Thomas and colleagues lay out some of the changes to the evolutionary landscape they would expect to see if their hypothesis is correct. Transmissible cancers, for example, would likely be rare in sexually reproducing species, and this is in fact the case. Only a handful of examples exist, such as Tasmanian devil facial lesions and leukemia in some clams.

The team also predicts that most asexually reproducing species would either be relatively young or els specially adapted to resist cancer. And, indeed, they found that around half of known asexual lineages are estimated to be less than 500,000 years old. “The remaining 50 percent of lineages consist of evolutionarily scandalous” organisms known to be resistant to mutagens, the new paper says. Such organisms, Thomas says, could be worth studying to learn more about their anticancer protections for medical use.

But there is a reason the origin of sex is considered a tough problem in evolutionary biology. In Neiman’s estimation, there are elements of the new theory that don’t quite add up—at least not yet. The rarity of transmissible cancers among creatures today, for example, may not support this new theory.

A “universe in which cancer was explaining sex would require that those contagious cancers were really quite common,” Neiman says. She also wonders about one of the central assumptions of the theory, that the genetic distinctness of parents and offspring would actually be a factor in successfully fighting off cancerous infection. “I am not sure it’s been well tested, and it’s a very key assumption.”

Thomas admits his team’s hypothesis needs to be validated through experimentation, which at this point is lacking. “We propose in the paper several directions for that, the most elegant one would be to use animal cloning to evaluate the risk of cancer cell transmission associated with asexual reproduction,” he says. If the new theory of sexual reproduction is correct, the likelihood that a mother passes cancer cells to her offspring should be higher if the embryo is an implanted clone of the mother, rather than a genetically distinct embryo.

The team is also working with cloned hydra, marine organisms that can reproduce both sexually and asexually depending on environmental conditions. According to Thomas Madsen, a life scientist at Deakin University and coauthor of the new study, the goal is to “try to ‘infect’ healthy clonal hydras with cancer cells and investigate their evolutionary response.” If the new theory of sex is correct, infected hydras should choose sexual reproduction over asexual.

But the origin of sex has always been messy, and Neiman believes it will stay that way. “I think the complexity and just messiness of biology is often going to demand what we call pluralistic or multiple explanations,” she says. “I don’t think there is going to be a general, elegant, single, simple solution, ever.”

Pregnant Woman

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Wacky, Wonderful, Wild Hops Could Transform the Watered-Down Beer Industry

Smithsonian Magazine

Beer is a remarkable beverage: a liquid as old as human civilization made of four simple, relatively inexpensive ingredients. It can be made from any grain, in any place. Andean communities, for instance, make beer from corn, root vegetables and fruits, while Japanese make sake—mistakenly identified as wine rather than beer—from fermented rice. Beer doesn’t belong to a single culture or geographical area. It’s democratic and belongs to everyone.

One of the greatest flavor enhancers in beer is hops, often referred to as the “spice” of beer. Brewers use the hop strobiles—the cone-shaped fruits of the plant that contain bitter acids and essential oils commonly known as hops—as a natural preservative and for bittering and aromas ranging from floral to minty.

Hops likely originated in China, but the first documented use was in the 8th century when Benedictine monks used them for brewing in a Bavarian abbey outside of Munich, Germany. Before hops, beer was flavored and preserved with gruit, a combination of heather, mugwort and other locally grown herbs and spices. The change was a tough sell, author William Bostwick explains in his book, The Brewer’s Tale. He writes, influential Christian mystic and naturalist Hildegard of Bingen is believed to have written, hops “were not very useful. [They] make the soul of man sad, and weigh down his inner organs,” while British physician and beer aficionado Andrew Boorde claimed hops made men fat and bloated.

Fast forward to the 21st century. Today we’re experiencing a “hop rush” and the introduction of beers that are so bitter they exceed 100 IBUs, the maximum amount of bitterness “units” humans can detect. This diversity of hops reflects a diversity of tastes and traditions that are part of an extraordinary evolution in beer—particularly in the United States, where American-style lager once defined beer in much the same way Folgers defined coffee. In the 1980s and 1990s, the image of American beer, the Brewers Association explains, “was simply that of a mass-produced commodity with little or no character, tradition or culture.”

Long before I drank from my first plastic cup of Bud Light, I remember beer marketers imploring beer drinkers to “Lose the carbs, not the taste.” Stores and bars were saturated with light, low-calorie lager and little else. The light beer explosion helped grow Big Beer and, by the end of the 1970s, industry experts predicted there would soon be only five brewing companies left. (This drop was also rooted in earlier history, a product of Prohibition when more than 800 breweries closed their doors.) As Randy Mosher writes in Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink: “The trend toward light, pale beer reached its low point with the introduction of Miller Clear in 1993. This water-clear beer, stripped of all color and much of its flavor by a carbon filtration process, was, thankfully, a step too far.”

Commercial beer, like commercial coffee or chocolate, is about consistency of experience. “We forced the diversity out of our food system,” Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver explains, “and we did it on purpose. It was done for commerce, so that one bland, long-lasting, well-preserved version of almost every food could be sold to us using mass advertising. And, with that, the memory of real food faded.” This is why a Corona—or the Taco Bell 7-layer burrito that might accompany it—tastes the same in Dallas as it does in Seoul. It’s not necessarily because the ingredients are the same, but because they have been modified to taste the same, year after year.

And, in the case of Corona, beer after beer.

Craft beer is forecasted to grow into an $18 billion industry by 2017. (Brent Hofacker / Alamy )

The two main yeast varieties used in beer also contribute to consistency in flavor. Yeast is what separates the ales from the lagers: Lager yeasts ferment at cooler temperatures and drop to the bottom of the fermenter when they’re done. Appropriately known as bottom-fermenting yeast, lager yeasts produce clean and crisp beers, like Corona, Heineken, Bud and Pabst Blue Ribbon. They are considered more commercial because they’re uniform, controllable and don’t produce the depth of flavor we find in ales. “If you want to attract a lot of people, then you make the beer as bland as possible,” says Ben Ott, head brewer at London’s Truman’s Brewery. That strategy seems to work: Lager is the most popular beer in the world.

It makes sense for companies to create beers that appeal to large audiences—and for us, the drinking public, to want something familiar. It’s reassuring to be able to go anywhere in the world and have consistency in our favorite beverage (as the rise of Starbucks attests). It’s easy and safe. But, in some ways, it’s almost like going nowhere.

“What’s better than beer?” one retailer asked. “Cheap beer!” But value is different from price. We’re getting what we pay for. Is cheap beer—inexpensive sameness built on cheap labor and cheaper inputs—really what we want? In today’s rich, complex world of beer, can we reach for something more? That’s what a small group of brewers who had less interest in light lager sameness decided to explore, sparking a taste revolution that has transformed beer culture.

Back in 1980, a burgeoning movement of craft brewers started evolving away from tasteless lagers to beers that more closely resembled European varieties. As Mosher details in Tasting Beer: “The lack of a living beer tradition worth preserving left [the United States] free to build a new beer culture from scratch.” The primary reason we lost diversity in beer—changing taste preferences—has now become the route to reclaiming it.

This effort included then up-and-coming American brewer Sierra Nevada, which released a hoppy pale ale made with domestic Cascade hops. Those hops offered a taste of place distinct from European (Old World) hops; they’re genetically unique varieties with very different flavors and stories.

Old World hops are reserved and earthy; they have been grown in Europe for over 1.5 million years and include some of the oldest, most traditional varieties of hops, known as noble hops. Noble hops are highly aromatic and bring a subtle bitterness to beers; they are as prized and geographically specific as a sparkling wine from the Champagne province in northeast France (the only place that can call its effervescent wine “Champagne”). Only four hop varieties are truly “noble”—and only when they’re cultivated in the areas in Germany and the Czech Republic where they are traditionally grown.

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American hop varieties, on the other hand, reflect a distinctly American spirit: There’s nothing subtle about them. They are intense and varied, known for being bright, citrusy and resinous. A number of these varieties can be used for both aroma and bittering, but they are best for bittering, as they tend to have higher concentrations of the alpha acids that are largely responsible for beer’s bitterness. While they are well suited for all pale ales, they have become a defining characteristic of American craft beer, especially American-style IPAs.

IPAs were developed in the 18th century when the British colonized India. There are multiple explanations for how the pale ale became hoppier and more alcoholic, but suffice to say the Brits wanted their beer, so they tweaked it to better withstand the grueling passage from England to India.

Food writer Maggie Dutton does the most interesting job of describing the English-American hops divide: “On the tongue, English-style IPA feels much the same as a strong black tea that has been brewed too long: Your taste buds will feel like suede rubbed the wrong way,” she writes. “With an American-style IPA, you’re likely to think tiny kittens have just skidded across your tongue, claws blazing, leaving your mouth scoured of all but the hint of hop.”

Not only is the personality of these hops decidedly American; so is its production. “The hop industry—though outwardly sexier than corn or soybeans—is still a product of modern industrial agriculture, where centralization and tradition reign supreme,” Natasha Geiling wrote in Smithsonian.com in 2014. “The United States produces nearly one-third of all the hops in the world—of that, 79 percent is grown in Washington state. Nearly half of all hop varieties grown in Washington state fall into four hop varieties: Zeus, Cascade, Columbus/Tomahawk and Summit.”

Growing a limited range of crops increases risk, including vulnerability to disease. For hops, most of the danger lies in two crop-devastating fungi—downy mildew and powdery mildew—for which there’s no known cure. Farmers have been instructed to manage the pathogens by cultivating disease-resistant varieties, pruning plants, applying fungicides and killing any wild varieties of hops that could be possible carriers of disease.

But those wild hops might also include varieties that are resistant to diseases or other menaces—or expand the diversity of flavors the market craves. It’s why Todd Bates and Steve Johnson, organic farmers from New Mexico who established one of the first hopyards in the area back in 2002, have tried to change the “kill wild hops” mandate.

Bates has been curious about the medicinal properties of plants since he was a kid. A child of the ’60s, he started collecting wild hops in northern New Mexico that were so distinct from the ones grown in other parts of the U.S. they were given their own taxonomic designation (a distinct variety of common hops called neomexicanus). But when he and Steve decided to dedicate a portion of their land to growing them—and asked neighboring farms to do the same—people thought they were crazy.

“The response people gave me was ‘Why? That shit grows all over my fence. Why would I want to grow it?’” Bates says.

Farmers weren’t the only ones questioning Bates’ sanity. “I went into a meeting with Ralph Olson, the CEO of [Washington-based] craft hop supplier Hopunion, and he was really nice,” he says. “But I could tell I was being treated as the goofy guy who was a little touched. And then I got it: I was in a place surrounded by signs telling people to eradicate all wild hops.”

Researchers cautioned against any experimentation with wild hops, Bates said, because of “500 years of people saying no one would drink beer made from them.” Venturing out into the great (wild) unknown had real financial consequences for farmers and brewers. Growers had no desire to cultivate wild varieties that most considered weeds, and had none of the sensory properties brewers were looking for. Bates was at a standstill, but he knew he had something special. His hops thrived in the worst of drought. “And they had crazy, psychotic vigor,” he adds. “But the term ‘wild hop’ was infectious. No one wanted to touch it. I just meant hops from the mountains—pure American hops.”

These varieties thrive in challenging places and offer flavors that aren’t necessarily unpalatable—sjust unfamiliar. So Bates teamed up with hop farmer Eric Desmarais to identify what brewers would want. Desmarais runs a family hop farm in Moxee Valley, Washington, one of three distinct growing areas in the Yakima Valley that contains about 75 percent of the total U.S. hop acreage. He had already developed the El Dorado,a hop known for its tropical fruit flavors, and was eager to explore further.

Bates gave Desmarais 80 varieties, which Desmarais then narrowed down to two he thought would make good beer. One of them, Medusa, made its national debut in Sierra Nevada’s Harvest Wild Hop IPA series of special-release beers. The company was blown away by Medusa. “These bizarre, multi-headed, native U.S. cones have a flavor like nothing we’ve tasted, and for the first time, we’re showcasing their unusual melon, apricot and citrus aromas and flavors in our beer,” it wrote.

Medusa and other local hops have the potential to not only transform craft beer, but also reshape the entire brewing industry. Native to America, their hardiness might provide an advantage against global warming and allow growers to expand into places that haven’t had much success cultivating the plant—ranging from San Diego to the mountains of New Mexico.

Diversity in hops reflects a diversity in tastes and traditions that craft brewers in the United States are bringing to the fore. Craft beer is small, independent and traditional. According to the nonprofit Brewers Association, in order to be identified as “craft,” two-thirds of a brewing operation has to be owned by craft brewers, with an annual production of 6 million barrels or less of beer (not flavored malt beverages).

While fine chocolate is gaining traction and specialty coffee is expanding, craft beer has been on a steady growth trajectory since 2003. The sector nearly doubled between 2007 and 2012 (from $5.7 billion to $12 billion) and, in 2014, succeeded in edging out the self-proclaimed King of Beers, Budweiser. Craft beer is forecasted to grow into an $18 billion industry by 2017—a far cry from the 1980s, the era in which I was introduced to beer.

In craft beer, what was old is new again—an attempt, in both ingredients and brewing techniques, to return to the origins of what makes beer special. “We’re going back to our roots,” says Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery. “It feels like a new invention, but I say to my fellow brewers, ‘Get over yourselves.’ People have been brewing beer for over 20,000 years. We forgot almost everything—and now we’re remembering.”

From the book BREAD, WINE, CHOCOLATE: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love, released in paperback in October 2016. Copyright © 2016 by Preeti S. Sethi. Reprinted with permission by HarperOne, a division of HarperCollinsPublishers.

Smithsonian’s 2010 Notable Books for Children

Smithsonian Magazine

In the pages of this year’s titles, one may travel backward—or forward—in time; find the rewards of courage, hope and creativity; observe what it means to beat the odds or make a difference. Conjuring up settings from a Maine cottage, shuttered snug against winter, to the forests of Kenya or the hidden mountain canyons of Tibet, each book evokes a world where we may discover our shared humanity.

The age categories listed below are, of necessity, arbitrary. Adjust any choices to the age and reading level of the individual child.

For the Youngest Readers
(Ages 1-6)

Madeline at the White House by John Bemelmans Marciano
The “twelve little girls in two straight lines” troop straight into the Oval Office.

Beaver Is Lost by Elisha Cooper
Adrift on a log, stranded in the maze of city streets: Will he ever make his way back to the den on a lake deep in the forest?

Who’s in the Garden? By Phillis Gershator, illustrated by Jill McDonald
An inventive lift-the-flap book reveals the creatures hidden in the green world of furrows, blossoms and flourishing vegetables.

Boo Cow by Patricia Baehr, illustrated by Margot Apple
Down on Chicken Noodle Farm, everyone is at a loss when a benevolent bovine ghost suddenly melts into thin air.

How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills
An affectionate paean to reading readiness.

Sleepover at Gramma’s House by Barbara Joosse, illustrated by Jan Jutte
It’s every toddler’s dream destination—and in these pages, we understand why.

The Chicken Thief by Beatrice Rodriguez
A dreamily compelling—and wordless—picture book contemplates the essence of friendship.

Tuck Me In by Dean Hacohen and Sherry Scharschmidt
A turn-the-flap tome recreates a reassuring nighttime ritual.

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
Fractured fairy tales pepper an uproarious take on the bedtime book.

Creak! Said the Bed by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Regan Dunnick
On a cold and windy night, you might think that there couldn’t possibly be room for one more—but there you would be wrong!

Mr. Putter & Tabby Clear the Decks by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard
Four irrepressible friends head out to sea in the latest installment in a first-reader series that has no equal.

What’s the Big Idea, Molly? By Valeri Gorbachev
Creativity and persistence go hand in hand, as a young poet and her artist friends discover.

Slow Down for Manatees by Jim Arnosky
A dramatic rescue saves a mother and calf from disaster.

A Balloon for Isabel by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Laura Rankin
What’s a spiky hedgehog girl to do when she sets her sights on an all-too-fragile toy? A case study in thinking outside the box.

Grandma Drove the Snowplow by Katie Clark, illustrated by Amy Huntington
When Christmas celebrations are jeopardized, not even the heaviest snowfall of the year stands in the way of Grandma once she resolves to bring yuletide cheer to the Maine town she calls home.

The Lonely Phone Booth by Peter Ackerman, illustrated by Max Dalton
That plexiglass enclosure on the corner might seem a forlorn anachronism—until an unexpected crisis strikes an urban neighborhood.

Side by Side/Lado a Lado by Monica Brown, illustrated by Joe Cepeda
How Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez joined forces to improve conditions for farmworkers.

Little Wolf’s Song by Britta Teckentrup
It’s up to a cub to find his own special howl.

For Middle Readers
(Ages 6-9)

The Inside Tree by Linda Smith, illustrated by David Parkins
Large-hearted Mr. Potter never wants any living thing to be left out in the cold.

A Boy Named FDR: How Franklin D. Roosevelt Grew Up to Change America by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher
From his childhood on, compassion and determination were watchwords for the boy who would one day see the nation through the Great Depression.

The Humblebee Hunter by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Jen Corace
At his lively country house, Charles Darwin enlisted his children as helpers in his hands-on natural history experiments: an ingenious introduction to the scientific method.

Wolf Pie by Brenda Seabrook, illustrated by Liz Callen
Can three little pigs and a sworn enemy ever be friends? Only time will tell in this clever chapter book.

Big Night for Salamanders by Sarah Marwil Lamstein, illustrated by Carol Benioff
On early spring nights across North America, a network of volunteers fans out to help the spotted amphibians cross roads during spring migration. The authors celebrate that annual community effort to save a species.

Yasmin’s Hammer by Ann Malaspina, illustrated by Doug Ghayka
On the streets of Bangladesh, a girl devises a secret plan to seek her heart’s desire: a chance to attend school.

Henry Aaron’s Dream by Matt Tavares
One of baseball’s all-time greats started out on sandlots where he had little more than his dreams—and a burning love for the sport.

The Good Garden: How One Family Went from Hunger to Having Enough by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Sylvie Daigneault
In the hills of Honduras, a visionary teacher forever alters the lives of villagers.

The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco
The author—a national treasure if ever there were one—turns to another chapter in her autobiography, recalling the talented misfit kids she met in an extraordinary teacher’s classroom.

Henry Knox: Bookseller, Soldier, Patriot by Anita Silvey, paintings by Wendell Minor
Critical to the success of the Revolution, but lesser known today, the fearless and fiercely intelligent Knox was an unlikely hero beloved by General Washington.

Everything But the Horse by Holly Hobbie
The artist recalls her family’s move to the country in an homage to her happy childhood.

Seeds of Change by Jen Cullerton Johnson, illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler
How Wangari Maathai overcame every obstacle to save the landscape of Kenya—one tree at a time.

The Can Man by Laura E. Williams, illustrated by Craig Orback
Simple acts of reciprocal kindness transform two lives.

Game Set Match: Champion Arthur Ashe by Crystal Hubbard, illustrated by Kevin Belford
The traits of perseverance and empathy defined an athlete who defied barriers to become the top-ranked tennis player in the world.

Lilly and the Pirates by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Rob Shepperson
A delightful read-aloud and imaginative recital of high adventure on the seven seas.

The Taxing Case of the Cows: A True Story About Suffrage by Iris Van Rynbach and Pegi Deitz Shea, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
In 1869, when a pair of sisters refused to pay a property tax levied by a town council they couldn’t elect, the two of them set America’s women on the path to winning the vote.

Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
In the early 1950s, an African-American family traversing the Jim Crow South makes its way to Alabama with the help of an indispensable travel guide, and the kindness of strangers.

The Chiru of High Tibet: A True Story by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Linda Wingerter
A thrilling recent interlude in the history of field science recounts the expedition of wildlife biologist George Schaller and his companions, who faced down hardship and danger to locate the remote calving grounds of the endangered goat-antelopes prized for their wool.

Image by Candlewick Press. "Creak!" Said the Bed by Phyllis Root, illustrated by Regan Dunnick. (original image)

Image by Boxer Books. Little Wolf's Song by Britta Teckentrup. (original image)

Image by Harper. The Inside Tree by Linda Smith, illustrated by David Parkins. (original image)

Image by Boyds Mills Press. Big Night for Salamanders by Sarah Marwil Lamstein, illustrated by Carol Benioff. (original image)

Image by Kids Can Press. The Good Garden: How One Family Went from Hunger to Having Enough by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Sylvie Daigneault. (original image)

Image by Philomel Books. The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco. (original image)

Image by Carolholda Books. Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper. (original image)

Image by G.P. Putnam's Sons. Hope for Haiti by Jesse Joshua Watson. (original image)

Image by Barefoot Books. The Arabian Nights by Wafa' Tarnowska, illustrated by Carole Hénaff. (original image)

Goal! By Mina Javaherbin, illustrated by A. G. Ford
In a dusty South African township, an ordinary soccer match represents far more than a simple game.

Rain School by James Rumford
The author drew on his experience of teaching in Chad to portray a village’s commitment to educating its children—against all odds.

Lucky Beans by Becky Birtha, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell
In the depths of the Depression, times are hard and getting harder for a struggling family—until young Marshall applies his talent in math to save the day.

Lincoln Tells a Joke by Kathleen Krull & Paul Brewer, illustrated by Stacy Innerst
A humanizing glimpse of the 16th president reveals his capacity to laugh—even at himself.

That Cat Can’t Stay by Thad Krasnesky, illustrated by David Parkins
There’s really no point in putting your foot down, when the entire household is bent on taking in just one more stray. This droll tribute to dads who are softies at heart is sure to become a family favorite.

Eight Days: A Story of Haiti by Edwidge Danticat, illustrated by Alix Delinois, and Hope for Haiti by Jesse Joshua Watson. Two picture books convey the indomitable spirit of islanders rebuilding a future in the wake of the devastating earthquake.

The Arabian Nights by Wafa’ Tarnowska, illustrated by Carole Henaff
The Lebanese-born author offers a magnificent new translation of eight tales from the legendary story cycle, based on a 14th-century manuscript.

Lafayette and the American Revolution by Russell Freedman
Invincible and deeply admired by General Washington, the young marquis made a new nation’s cause his own.

Come See the Earth Turn by Lori Mortensen, illustrated by Raul Allen
On February 3, 1851, Leon Foucault, a genius laboring in obscurity, unveiled an experiment that proved what no other scientist had succeeded in demonstrating: that the earth spins on its axis.

The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry, illustrated by Jules Feiffer
Wit and whimsy abound in a tale of a princess who throws off the shackles of a stultifying existence.

Blue Jay Girl by Sylvia Ross
The vivid novel evokes the lost world of California’s Yaudanchi tribe and honors its legacy of traditional healing.

Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elspeth Graham, illustrated by Juan Wijngaard
In a Himalayan kingdom long ago, a young girl seeks her fortune with the help of kindly monkeys—and magic.

Our Earth: How Kids Are Saving the Planet by Janet Wilson
From a self-taught Malian boy who built a windmill to generate electricity for his village, to a Costa Rican girl who founded a rainforest-preservation NGO, it’s kids to the rescue.

Dinosaur Mountain: Digging Into the Jurassic Age by Deborah Kogan Ray
In 1908, adventurer and field scientist Earl Douglass set off for a remote corner of northeastern Utah—and became a renowned paleontologist.

Movie Maker: Everything You Need to Know to Create Films on Your Cell Phone or Digital Camera! By Tim Grabham et al. For the aspiring director on your list, whether the goal is creating dramas, documentaries or animation, an amazing hands-on kit. For all ages, 8 or so and beyond.

Theodore Roosevelt for Kids by Kerrie Logan Hollihan
The life and times of the ebullient 26th president, with activities to bring history alive.

For Older Readers
(Ages 10 and up)

Scumble by Ingrid Law
The Wild West—and the lexicon of the tall tale—form the backdrop for the heroics of 13-year-old Ledger Kale, who hasn’t quite grown into his magical powers.

A Gift From Childhood: Memories of an African Boyhood by Baba Wagué Diakité
The author recalls the Malian village that nurtured him and sustains him today.

As Easy as Falling Off the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins
The novelist brings her prodigious talents to the tale of Ry, a teenager who meets up with a good Samaritan in the nick of time, after he is stranded in what seems the middle of nowhere.

Penny Dreadful by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Abigail Halpin
For 10-year-old Penelope Grey, cosseted her entire life, the real saga commences only when everything has been lost.

The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan and Peter Sis
A phantasmagorical rumination on the childhood of the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda is rooted in a belief that words possess the power to mend the spirit and change the world.

Smells Like Dog by Suzanne Selfors
The whimsical tale turns on droopy-eared Dog—and two resourceful siblings who leave their farm in search of a secret society of explorers. A winner, first page to last.

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
The author based this novel on the childhood experiences of Salva Dut, born in Sudan but now living in the United States. It is a testament to undaunted courage. (Contains mature content)

Around the World in 100 Days by Gary Blackwood
The springboard for this rip-roaring historical novel was an actual globe-spanning automobile race of 1908.

Northward to the Moon by Polly Horvath
Horvath’s inimitable voice, sense of fun and quiet belief in the power of tolerance—here applied to the odyssey of a plucky young heroine and her family—showcase the writer at the height of her powers.

Crunch by Leslie Connor
The Marriss family’s bike-repair business is not exactly a going concern—until the day that the gas pumps run dry across the nation. Connor’s high-spirited romp pays tribute to the rewards of a can-do spirit.

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
Rollicking good fun, Holm’s touching novel transports readers to the Depression-era Florida Keys, where 11-year-old Turtle finds a whole new world after her aunt Minerva Curry takes her in.

Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers
There is nothing more difficult than turning your back on the past and the choices one made, as Reese discovers when he is sent to a juvenile facility. Myers has few peers in summoning the world of at-risk kids who are trying to make their way toward a better future. (Contains mature content)

Ashes by Kathryn Lasky
In a novel set in 1932 Berlin, 13-year-old Gabriella Schramm perceives the burgeoning threat shadowing their neighbor, a physicist named Albert Einstein, and her own scientist father.

Earth Heroes: Champions of the Wilderness by Bruce and Carol L. Malnor, illustrated by Anisa Claire Hovemann; Earth Heroes: Champions of the Ocean by Fran Hodgkins, illustrated by Cris Arbo; Earth Heroes: Champions of Wild Animals by Carol L. and Bruce Malnor, illustrated by Anisa Claire Hovemann.
The series on conservationist scientists continues with profiles of figures from pioneering environmentalist Aldo Leopold to ichthyologist Eugenie Clark and ethologist Jane Goodall.

The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt
When his older brother returns from a tour of duty as a Marine in the Middle East, high-school age Levi leaves everyday life behind to help his brother begin to heal from post-traumatic stress disorder. (Contains mature content)

Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl by Daniel Pinkwater
Wacky, big-hearted and wildly original, the novel unspools the escapades of big Audrey, whose feline lineage takes her far after a UFO touches down behind the big stone barn.

Efrain’s Secret by Sofia Quintero
For a gifted high-school student in the South Bronx, the yearning to escape the streets and attain an Ivy League education can become a dangerous aspiration. Quintero’s sensitive and fast-paced novel depicts the daunting challenges facing a boy who is attempting to transcend his circumstances. (Contains mature content)

And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle
In the mountains of Switzerland in 1949, a boarding-school student meets a mysterious boy—and soon finds herself enmeshed in the aftermath of the war. L’Engle’s novel, re-issued in a new edition, contains an introduction by her granddaughter.

Flash by Michael Cadnum
A meditation on unintended consequences and the cost of violence explores dual narrative threads, the first involving brothers who set themselves on a self-destructive trajectory, and the second introducing a pair of siblings who thwart the mayhem before it can be fully unleashed. (Contains mature content)

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman
At the fantastical New York Circulating Material Repository—which lends out objects rather than books—magical artifacts from the Brothers Grimm fairy tales begin to disappear. That’s when our heroine begins hurtling into an alternative reality, in a tour-de-force fantasy novel also grounded fully in the here and now.

Martin Luther King Marching for Voting Rights with John Lewis, Reverend Jesse Douglas, James Forman and Ralph Abernathy, Selma, 1965

National Portrait Gallery
Conclusion of the march from Selma to Montgomery, March 25, 1965

(left to right): Ralph Abernathy, James Forman, Martin Luther King Jr., Jesse L. Douglas, John Lewis

King launched a major initiative in January 1965 to register black voters in Selma, Alabama, and later called for a fifty-mile protest march from Selma to Montgomery. He was conducting Sunday services in Atlanta on March 7 as marchers crossed Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge and were confronted by state troopers and local lawmen. When the protesters did not retreat, they were tear-gassed and savagely attacked. Returning immediately to Selma, King led a second march to the bridge on March 9 but turned back rather than violate a federal restraining order. After a federal judge issued a decision permitting the march to proceed, King and other civil rights leaders led the triumphant Selma-to-Montgomery march that reached Alabama’s capital on March 25. The events of "Bloody Sunday" in Selma galvanized support for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which passed both Houses of Congress and was signed into law by President Johnson on August 6, 1965.

Jazz. Vol. 3 [sound recording] : New Orleans / edited by Frederic Ramsey, Jr

Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections
Program notes by Frederic Ramsey, Jr. and bibliography (3 p.) inserted in container.

NEW ORLEANS WANDERERS: George Mitchell, Cornet; Kid Ory, Trombone; Johnny Dodds, Clarinet; probably Stomp Evans, Alto Saxophone; Lillian Hardin Armstrong, Piano; Johnny St. Cyr, Banjo; Baby Dodds, Drums.

BUNK'S BRASS BAND: Bunk Johnson, Kid Shots Madison, Trumpets; Jim Robinson, Trombone; Isidore Barbarin, Alto Horn; Adolphe Alexander, Baritone Horn; George Lewis, E-flat Clarinet; Joseph Clark, Tuba; Baby Dodds, Snare Drum; Lawrence Marrero, Bass Drum.

DALLAD JUG BAND: Unknown personnel: Woodblocks, Washboard, Cowbells, Stringed Instrument (Banjo, Ukelele, Mandolin) Kazoo, Jug, Whistle.

KING OLIVER'S CREOLE JAZZ BAND: King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Cornets; Honore Dutrey, Trombone; Johnny Dodds, Clarinet; Lillian Hardin Armstrong, Piano; Baby Dodds, Drums; Bud Scott, Banjo; Bill Johnson, String Bass.

BUNK JOHNSON'S ORIGINAL SUPERIOR BAND: Bunk Johnson, Trumpet; Jim Robinson, Trombone; George Lewis, Clarinet; Walter Decou, Piano; Lawrence Marrero, Banjo; Austin Young, Bass; Ernest Rogers, Drums.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG AND HIS HOT SEVEN: Louis Armstrong, Cornet; Kid Ory, Trombone; Johnny Dodds, Clarinet; Lillian Hardin Armstrong, Piano; Johnny St. Cyr, Banjo; Pete Briggs, Tuba; Baby Dodds, Drums.

THE NEW ORLEANS RHYTHM KINGS: Paul Mares, Trumpet; George Brunies, Trombone; Leon Rappolo, Clarinet; Glen Scoville, Saxophone; Jelly Roll Morton, Piano; Lew Black, Banjo; Steve Brown, Bass; Ben Pollack, Drums.

THE RED ONION JAZZ BABIES: Louis Armstrong, Cornet; Charlie Irvis, Trombone; Sidney Bechet, Soprano Saxophone; Lillian Hardin Armstrong, Piano; Buddy Christian, Banjo; Josephine Beatty (Alberta Hunter) and Todd, Vocal.

JOHNNY DODDS AND HIS ORCHESTRA: Natty Dominique, Trumpet; Honore Dutrey, Trombone; Johnny Dodds, Clarinet; Lillian Hardin Armstrong, Piano; Bill Johnson, Bass; Baby Dodds, Drums.

JELLY ROLL MORTON'S QUARTET:Omer Simeon, clarinet; Geechy Fields, Trombone; Jelly Roll Morton, Piano; Tommy Benford, Drums.

Also issued as FA 57 (1950).

Your Life Is a Book and Every Day Is a Page

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Tile Gap Filler, Shuttle, STS-114

National Air and Space Museum
Strips of ceramic insulation fabric like this were inserted between thermal protection tiles on the Space Shuttle as a barrier to heat and airflow. This particular tile gap filler was removed from the underside of the orbiter Discovery in space when it became dislodged during the STS-114 mission in 2005. Concerned that the protruding strip of fabric might cause problems during reentry, NASA decided to send an astronaut outside to remove this gap filler and another one. In the first-ever spacewalk underneath the vehicle and out of sight from the Shuttle crew, astronaut Steve Robinson, mounted on the International Space Station's robotic arm, gently removed both strips.

After post-flight analysis NASA transferred this one to the Museum.

Jazz [sound recording] : vol. 2: the blues / edited by Frederic Ramsey, Jr

Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections
Program notes by Frederic Ramsey, Jr. (4 p.) inserted in container.

CAB CALLOWAY ORCHESTRA: Lamar Wright, Doc Cheatham, Edwin Swayzee, Trumpets; De Priest Wheeler, Harry Wright, Trombones; Arville Harris, Eddie Barefield, Andrew Brown, Walter Thomas, Saxophones; Benny Payne, Piano; Morris White, Guitar; Al Morgan, Bass; Le Roy Maxey, Drums.

PAUL WHITEMAN ORCHESTRA: Bix Beiderbecke, Charlie Margulies, Herny Busse, Bob Mayhew, Trumpets; Tommy Dorsey, Willy Hall, Jack Fulton, Bruce Cullen, Trombones; Frankie Trumbauer, Izzy Friedman, Rube Crozier, Charles Strickfadden, Chester Hazlitt, Nye Mayhew, Hal MacLean, Jack Mayhew, Saxophones; Malneck, Dieterle, Russels, Bowman, Gaylord, Violins; Lennie Hayton, Piano; Roy Bargy, Piano; Mike Pingitore, Banjo; Mario Perry, Accordion; Steve Brown, Bass; Mike Trifficante, Tuba; Min Leibrook, Baritone Saxophone.

DUKE ELLINGTON ORCHESTRA: (on "It Don't Mean a Thing") Cootie Williams, Arthur Whetsel, Freddy Jenkins, Trumpets; Joe Nanton, Lawrence Brown, Trombones; Barney Bigard, Clarinet; Johnny Hodges, Alto Saxophone; Harry Carney, Baritone Saxophone; Duke Ellington, Piano; Fred Guy, Banjo; Wellman Braud, Bass; Sonny Greer, Drums.

ELLA'S SAVOY EIGHT: Taft Jordan, Trumpet; Sandy Williams, Trombone; Pete Clark, Clarinet and Baritone Saxophone; Teddy McRae, Tenor Saxophone; Tommy Fulford, Piano; John Trueheart, Guitar; Beverly Peer, Bass; Chick Webb, Drums.

COUNT BASIE ORCHESTRA: Edward Lewis, Harry Edison, Buck Clayton, Trumpets; Dan Minor, Eddie Durham, Benny Morton, Trombones; Jack Washington, Earl Warren, Alto Saxophones; Hershal Evans, Lester Young, Tenor Saxophones; Count Basie, Piano; Freddy Green, Guitar; Walter Page, Bass; Joe Jones, Drums.

JIMMY DORSEY ORCHESTRA: Shorty Cherock, Sy Baker, Ralph Muzzillo, Trumpets; Bobby Byrne, Sonny Lee, Don Matteson, Trombones; Milton Yaner, Sam Rubinowitch, Charles Frazier, Alto Saxophones; Herbie Haymer, Tenor Saxophone; Joe Lippman, Piano and Arranger; Jack Ryan, Bass; Buddy Schultz, Drums.

VIC DICKENSON QUINTET: Vic Dickenson, Trombone; J. Lipschita, Piano; Arvin Garrison, Guitar; Harold West, Drums; Vivien Garry, Bass.

DIZZY GILLESPIE ORCHESTRA: Dizzy Gillespie, Elmon Wright, Dave Burns, Matthew McKay, Trumpets; William Shepherd, Ted Kelly, Trombones; Howard Johnson, John Brown, Alto Saxophones; Joe Gayles, George Nicholas, James Moody, Tenor Saxophones; Cecil Payne, Baritone Saxophone; John Lewis, Piano; Al McKibbon, Bass; Kenny Clarke, Drums; Chano Pozo, Congo Drums.

Oral history interview with V. V. Rankine, 1990 Mar. 2-22

Archives of American Art
Transcript: 34 p.

An interview of V. V. Rankine conducted 1990 Mar. 2-22, by Liza Kirwin, for the Archives of American Art.

Rankine discusses the evolution of her nickname, V.V.; discovering her dyslexia; growing up in Boston; auditioning for a part in, "The Philadelphia Story"; her art studies with Amedee Ozenfant from 1944 to 1946; her studies at Black Mountain College with Josef Albers and Willem De Kooning in 1947; her friendship with Morris Louis and watching him work; living with her brother-in-law Arshile Gorky, in New York City; her first one-woman show at the David Herbert Gallery in New York in 1962; exhibiting at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York and at the Jefferson Place Gallery in Washington, D.C.; Robert Richman and the Institute of Contemporary Arts; the relationship between her painting and her sculpture; favorite shapes and materials; and her summer home in East Hampton and artist friends there. Rankine also recalls Robert Rauschenberg, Jack Youngerman, Manoucher Yektai, Betty Parsons, Ibram Lassaw, Buckminster Fuller, Elaine De Kooning, Arthur Penn, Richard Leopold, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Ken Noland, Morris Louis, Ray Johnson, Kenneth Snelson, David Hare, Frederick Kiesler, Raphael Soyer, Moses Soyer, Jean Renault, Agnes Gorky, Esther Magruder, James Johnson Sweeney, Jim Brooks, John Graham, Phillip Guston, Duncan Phillips, Theresa Helburn, Augustine Duncan, Tom Downing, Gene Davis, Alice Denney, Nesta Dorrance, Kevin Merrill, Sam Gilliam, Dylan Thomas, Kay Halle, Kit Kennedy, Naum Gabo, President Lyndon B. Johnson, Anne Truitt, Wretha Nelson, Franz Bader, Louise Nevelson, Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Bonnie Newman, Alexander Russo, Walt Sheridan, Gilbert Kinney, Saul Sherman, Steve Pace, Lee Krasner, and others.

Day 4: Touring By Helicopter

Smithsonian Magazine

You won’t find many roads in Antarctica and those you do find don’t go far. If you need to get someplace on land, you’ll be going by air and if where you’re going doesn’t have a runway, you’ll need a helicopter. McMurdo Station keeps a fleet of helicopters operating almost full time during the summer months. They are particularly useful here because scientists are the kind of folks who want to go places that are hard to get to and where hardly anyone else would want to go, such as the Dry Valleys of Antarctica or far out on the ice. The scientists typically set up a camp at remote sites consisting of a few tents and sometimes a lab module—a small prefabricated structure that can be flown in by helicopter—if you can prove you warrant one.

Helicopters deliver the scientific teams to their sites and provide them with supplies that will last for the period of the work, often weeks or a month or two. Field work of necessity is intense, focused on an all-out effort to get as much done as possible in the short summer, record the data and take specimens for subsequent analysis in the more substantial labs found at McMurdo. It takes a special kind of person to make this kind of effort given that the “pay” for the work is essentially only the excitement of discovery.

Today we have the opportunity to visit field sites in one of the McMurdo helicopters, and we have another beautiful day for this trip. There is hardly a cloud in the sky and the temperatures hover around freezing, positively balmy for this clime. You can see forever in these conditions and the view never fails to inspire awe.

At 8 a.m., we arrive at the heliport where helicopters are already taking off for different locations. We are briefed on helicopter safety and given a helmet with a cord to plug into the helicopter’s voice system. We are weighed with all of our gear to make sure our cumulative weight will not create an overload. Fortunately, we pass the test and we board our helicopter. Because there are only five of us (not including the pilot and co-pilot)—Kristina Johnson, Steve Koonin, Tom Peterson, me and Dr. Alex Isern, an National Science Foundation employee program officer in the office of polar programs—we all get window views. Alex proves be adept in helping us understand the ways of the helicopter as well as being knowledgeable about all of the science we will see.

This morning our trip will focus on the famous Dry Valleys of the Antarctic, the driest places on earth. The only other places comparable to them are thought to exist on other planets, such as Mars. The Dry Valleys of Antarctica receive only the barest precipitation, and as best as can be determined, have seen no measurable precipitation for more than 2 million years. That’s a right pert dry spell by anybody’s calculation.

That is not to say that there is no water or moisture in the Dry Valleys because they do have massive valley floor glaciers as well as alpine glaciers that spill down the valley walls attempting to reach the valley floor. The valley glaciers move at a “glacial pace” of truly epic slowness toward the sea, not by virtue of snowfall in the valleys themselves, but because of small annual snowfalls up in the mountain peaks that are the glaciers’ source.

The “hanging glaciers” on the valley walls more often than not cannot ever reach the floor of the valley because the annual snow falls in the mountains that drive them are so small the glacial front reaches an equilibrium point where its ice front sublimates, or passes from solid directly to water vapor, as fast as the front tries to advance. Still, on a few rare warm summer days some of the ice of the valley glaciers and hanging glaciers does melt. Scientists call this melting a “pulse” because it occurs infrequently and for a short period of time. The pulse water flows into lakes that form in the valleys between the fronts of the valley glaciers. The flow into the lakes is so small and so much of the water evaporates during the summer that it gradually creates a salt lake, much like those you would find in a desert area.

As scientists learn more about these lakes they have found that the salinity is stratified with some depths more saline than others. The lakes range in depth from 25 to 40 feet, and are of great interest not only to biologists but also those who expect to find such features on the dry surfaces of planets that do not have as rich an atmosphere as the earth. NASA has even sent a submersible to these lakes to explore them at depth because it is believed if there are extraterrestrial lakes they might look just like those found in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. Our helicopter lifts off around 9 a.m. and we take a flight path to the northwest across the sea ice of McMurdo Sound with sweeping views of Mount Erebus to the east and the snow-covered mountain ranges that contain the Dry Valleys. As if to emphasize that we are in the Antarctic, a group of large surprisingly rectilinear icebergs lounge at the boundary of sea and sea ice.

Our first stop takes us up Taylor Valley to Lake Hoare where a research team working with Diana Wall of Colorado State University is studying interactions between climate and other global changes on the abundance, diversity and distribution of soil biota. Looming like a massive white curtain wall across the east side of the valley floor is the 50-foot front of a glacier that has intruded itself just downstream of Lake Hoare after travelling down from a higher valley and making a sharp right turn into Lake Hoare where it appears like an uninvited guest. As we take a moment to look around, we are surprised to come upon the bodies of a penguin and a seal lying at the foot of the glacial front. Amazingly, these creatures had apparently made their way across the vast expanse of the glacier lying in the entrance to Taylor Valley only to fall over the precipice of the front. We are told these animals likely lost their way due to some failure of their natural navigation system and just kept going until their fate was sealed. In this arid and cold climate without the presence of scavengers, bodies mummify and remain for years. The Antarctic does not give mercy to those who make mistakes.

Lake Hoare lies in a valley surrounded by steep walls with exposed, bare rock showing sculpted scars created by the valley glaciers during the last period of glacial advance around 20,000 years ago. The valley walls exhibit faults and magmatic dikes that cut across the beds. These rocks are much older than the Antarctic continent itself, having been part of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana before it separated into today’s many parts. Standing in this spot you can see direct evidence for the power of nature and sense its patient processes: Tectonic plate movements that move continents and make mountains where none existed, winds that scour rocks and pulverize them, glaciers that silently move and strip bare rock walls, gravity that brings down big boulders so that the bounce like toys into the glaciers below, and freezing water that expands and cracks even the hardest rock. Humans have a difficult time appreciating all of this even though it is massive and constant because nature works on such a long time scale. We live on average 75 years and our species only goes back about 200,000 years, a blink in the eye of nature. Yet we are beginning to become something of a geologic force ourselves, because the cumulative impact of 7 billion of us on the planet is having an effect.

The camp at Lake Hoare consists of a few buildings, mainly housing laboratory equipment, and a series of individual tents for the scientists, set apart from each other to provide some degree of privacy.

This camp has more than the norm in the way of facilities because it is a base for other camps up the valleys. Its operations are run by Sharon (Rae) Spain, a contractor for the NSF Polar Program, who is famed for her ability to make things work in this remote and difficult environment. Rae is so outgoing and enthusiastic it is immediately apparent that she loves the life she lives here.

In fact, every member of Diana’s team is enthusiastic about the work they are doing and each brings different skill sets to the project at hand. I am pleased to meet Dr. Fred Ogden from the University of Wyoming, a hydrologist studying water and moisture movement, who is also a research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. Antarctica is a long way from the tropics, and I ask about his research. He is studying water flow to develop better hydrologic models for forecasting as part of the Agua Salud project. Shallow subsurface water flow is an important part of the Panama Canal watershed and since all subsurface water flow is shallow in Antarctica because of the permafrost, it is actually simpler to study.

Image by G. Wayne Clough. A minke whale breaches the surface of the shipping channel in McMurdo Sound. (original image)

Image by Tom Peterson. G. Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian, at Lake Hoare. (original image)

Image by Tom Peterson. An Adelie penguin and a chick rest on the rocks. Hundreds of Adelies and their chicks call McMurdo Sound home. (original image)

Image by Tom Peterson. Clough approaches the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. (original image)

Image by G. Wayne Clough. A dark pulse of melt water can be seen in front of this glacier in Taylor Valley. The ice wall is about 50 feet high. (original image)

Image by Tom Peterson. Algae stain the face of a glacier at Blood Falls near Lake Bonney in the Taylor Valley. (original image)

Image by G. Wayne Clough. Blocks of ice that have broken from the edge of the shipping channel. (original image)

Image by Tom Peterson. These unusual tracks show how penguins use their flippers to propel themselves on their bellies over the ice. (original image)

Image by G. Wayne Clough. Edward Shackleton's hut at Cape Royd. (original image)

Lake Hoare itself is not a large lake, but is significant and saline. The beach is composed of a dark soil with inclusions of rocks that have fallen into it from the valley walls. There are octagonal patterns in the soil that mimic those seen in dry lake beds in the desert. Talus deposits of soil and rock (or scree, broken bits of rock) rise from the beach towards the valley walls. Where these deposits have a smooth surface, they are often eroded with V-shaped channels that appear to have been created by water. Beneath them as they lead to the lake, the soil appears darker.

The science team helps us understand what we see. Fred and Joe Levy from Portland State University explain that the V-shaped features we see in the talus slopes are indeed water induced, forming during an especially warm day as a pulse of melt water from the glaciers above flows in small streams downward toward the lake. The dark areas on the soil are created by the melt water but reflect small flows that continue from above but remain underground. As to the octagonal features, these develop with freezing and thawing cycles in the permafrost, much as are seen in permafrost in the Arctic.

So, there is water here in the soil but it is intermittent and comes very rarely. How is life sustained in the frigid, arid environment of the Dry Valleys? This is another matter of study for Diana and her team. They look for a creature known as a nematode that is all of a millimeter long and resides in the soil. A nematode may be small, but it is mighty in its evolved ability to survive in a hostile environment. This tiny creature understands that it lives two lives, one for the long dry times and one for the fleeting times when a small drop of moisture might come its way. During dry times it can give up almost all of its body moisture and simply stop normal body activities. It can lie patiently dormant for tens of years, but give it a bit of moisture and it will absorb it and come back to life, making the most of the moment. Why should any of this be of interest to us? First, as noted, these dry valleys may mimic similar environments on moisture-deprived Mars and other planets. We can learn how to look for life on other planets by studying these unusual creatures. Second, with climate change, creatures like the nematode may disappear, so we need to do all we can to understand them now. We can best deal with the effects of climate change if we understand what it does in all of its ramifications for the earth.

Although we could have stayed all day to hear more about the research at Lake Hoare, our schedule dictates we have to move on and we lift off to head further up Taylor Valley. However, shortly after lift-off we are notified that winds at higher elevations are reaching dangerous levels for helicopter travel—and indeed, the helicopter is already pitching and yawing. We reach the site of Blood Falls, a glacial front at Lake Bonney in the Taylor Valley. The ice contains algae that create an unusual red color on the front of the glacier. It is believed this algae is related to those that cause red algal blooms along coastal areas from time to time.

Alex and our pilot agree that we should return to safer air and we turn back down the valley and land at Lake Fryxell where Dr. John Gillies of the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nev., and his colleague William Nickling are studying the aeolian—or wind-driven—processes that act on the valley soils and rocks. We are shown a rock with a split personality: One side has faced the winds that roar down the valley in the winter months while the other side was protected. Where it was exposed to the winds the surface is smooth and pitted with very tiny indentations. The protected side shows the rough rock surface one would expect: a graphic demonstration of the power of wind erosion.

Our next stop is for lunch at Marble Point, a site on the west side of McMurdo Sound that serves as a fuel depot for the helicopter fleet. It also is known for its gregarious cook, Karen Moore, who has prepared her famous chili for us. Maybe it is just the beautiful setting, the cold weather, or the excitement of being here, but this chili is maybe the best I have ever had. Topped off with cornbread fresh from the oven and it is a feast fit for a king. We can’t stay long, but we owe a debt of gratitude to Karen for making this stop both special and satisfying.

We board the helicopter and fly along the edge of the shipping channel that has recently been cut in the sea ice by the Swedish icebreaker Oden in preparation for the arrival of the annual fuel tanker and supply ship. The wind has disappeared and the air is calm. To the west, Mount Erebus stands in all its glory. Down below is the deep, clear water of McMurdo Sound. Suddenly, whales! Minke whales take advantage of the ship channel just as a car uses a freeway by cruising along the edge of the ice in pods of two or three. They glide through the water, occasionally coming to the surface for a blow and a breath of air before resuming their course.

Our pilot says he can land on the ice where it is around 30 inches thick if we want a closer look. Needless to say, we do. He lands about 100 yards back from the ship channel and the co-pilot uses an ice auger to measure the thickness of the ice. It checks out and we proceed on foot toward the channel; Alex warns us to look for cracks that form near the edge and to make sure that we stay on the main ice sheet. Waiting with anticipation, we are thrilled as several of the whales rise to the surface, blowing air and water vapor before they head down again. You have to be quick to get a picture since you never know where they will surface next, but we get lucky more than once.

The whales are the very essence of grace and seem not the least concerned by our presence. After our first delighted exclamations each time a whale breaches the surface, we grow quieter. Alex notices it first: A pinging noise followed by some low vocalizations. The whales are moving through the water below the ice we are standing on and using sonar to locate fish. Alex tells us Minke whales do not hunt creatures on the top of the ice as Orcas do at times, so we feel reassured the pinging is not about locating us as prey.

It really doesn’t get much better than this. We are standing on the sea ice of McMurdo Sound on a beautiful sunny day with no one else in sight. The quiet is so profound it seems as if we are in a vacuum. The dark surface of the water is a mirror, reflecting the shimmering mountains fronted by Mount Erebus. A rectilinear block of ice that broke off when the ice breaker passed through floats near the edge of the channel. Through the clear dark water its underwater mass gleams as an emerald green jewel, seemingly unconnected to the body of the gleaming white mini-iceberg above. And, under us and beside us are the graceful whales sliding through the water, allowing us to vicariously join them through their vocalizations. We are mesmerized momentarily by the seductive beauty of it all.

The spell is broken as we are called to board the helicopter for our next and final stop. The schedule must hold for we have an event this evening we must attend. This last leg of our helicopter tour will take us back in time and at the same time allow us to see yet another of the remarkable creatures that populate the regions of the sea ice.

Our destination is Cape Royd on Ross Island, the site of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s base as he prepared for his march to the Pole in 1907 as leader of the Nimrod Expedition. The hut he and his companions built at Cape Royd, along with 33 other sites from the “historic era” of Antarctic exploration, is protected by the Antarctic Heritage Trust, a New Zealand non-profit. The hut is a rough structure with an enclosure that was used when the explorers considered using Siberian ponies to help pull the sleds. The food for the ponies is still there, hay and oats, spilling out from the bins. Nearby are crates of foodstuffs and other supplies for the men that were left behind when the expedition locked up and left in 1909.

Inside, the hut is permeated by a human presence. Sweaters, pants and socks used by Shackleton and his men lie on the bunks. Canned goods, writing paper, cured hams and candles are stored neatly on shelves and in spare rooms. Down in a root cellar the curators recently found a case of Scotch whisky was Irish) that is thought to be still drinkable. The expedition used an ingenious gas lighting system to illuminate the hut and make it as liveable as possible. The names of the expedition members are inscribed above the bunks they slept; and above one, Ernest Shackleton has written his name in his own handwriting. In the quiet, you can almost hear them, men who were about to undertake an expedition that would challenge them to the core. I feel honored to be able to sign the guest book as a measure of paying respects to these brave souls.

Shackleton’s hut is located a short walk from an Adelie penguin rookery that is protected as a natural wildlife area. The setting for the rookery is a rocky promontory rising from the dark water of McMurdo Sound that is lashed by cold winds. Several hundred Adelies and their gray down-covered chicks call this spot home. Waves crash against the rocky outcrops and white blocks of ice wallow and roll in the shallows. Adelies hop from one block to another and enjoy the action as the blocks are roiled by the water.

For the Adelie colony this point would seem to be a protected place to raise chicks, but success in survival also comes down to access to food. Unfortunately, researchers studying the colony have found its numbers declining. The reasons for this are not completely understood, but there are signs that herring, a major source of much of the Adelies’ diet, are moving to new locations, possibly as a result of global warming. Penguin colonies in many areas in the Antarctic are under pressure as their food sources abandon their old haunts and depart to other parts of the ocean. Looking out over this place of rough beauty, I am struck by the fragility of the balance of life in the Antarctic and more firmly convinced than ever of the importance of the research done here to understand how best to conserve the diversity of this part of the planet.

We lift off from Cape Royd considering the contrast of Shackelton’s Hut juxtaposed against the penguin rookery. Antarctica is the last continent on earth where man’s first dwellings still stand but only because humans have never been a part of the ancient cycles of life here. We fly back to McMurdo for a special celebration that is fitting in view of what we have just seen. At 5 p.m. we join a contingent of New Zealanders from Scott Base to inaugurate the operation of three windmills that will supply green energy to Scott Base and McMurdo Station and help reduce the reliance on carbon-based fuels that have to be brought in on ships through dangerous waters. The Kiwis invite us over to Scott Base for a wonderful reception and dinner to close out a most fulfilling day.

As the day ends, I realize that tomorrow I will leave Antarctica and start the long trip back. The morning arrives only too early and the McMurdo team takes the few hours left to show us around the logistics operations for the station. The support staff and facilities are as remarkable as the scientists who are here to help understand this unique continent. The entire station exists to serve about 125 science projects and the people who are here to conduct them. The logistics are daunting: Everything must be shipped in and everything that is not consumed must be shipped out to keep the environment pristine. As we look out over the port we see the annual fuel ship arriving and the supply ship will not be far behind. As soon as the supply ship is emptied, it will be filled with waste to be sent back for proper disposal.

We pack up and are ferried out to Pegasus Airport. Our C17 lifts off from the ice sheet in gleaming sunshine and I feel fortunate to have had this second chance to see this remarkable continent. I am also proud to be a member of the Smithsonian family and of having had a chance appreciate the Institution’s long involvement in helping to understand the Antarctic and its future.

Jazz. Vol. 4 [sound recording] : jazz singers / edited by Frederic Ramsey, Jr

Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections
Program notes by Frederic Ramsey, Jr. (2 p.) inserted in container.

LOUIS ARMSTRONG ORCHESTRA: Louis Armstrong, Zilmer Randolph, Trumpets; Lester Boone, George James, Alto Saxophone; Albert Washington, Tenor Saxophone; Preston Jackson, Trombone; Charlie Alexander, Piano; Mike McKendrick, Banjo; John Lindsay, Bass; Tubby Hall, Drums.

DUKE ELLINGTON ORCHESTRA: (on The Mooche) Arthur Whetsel, Bubber Miley, Trumpets; Joe Nanton, Trombone; Barney Bigard, Clarinet; Johnny Hodges, Alto Saxophone; Harry Carney, Baritone Saxophone; Duke Ellington, Piano; Lonnie Johnson, Guitar; Fred Guy, Banjo; Wellman Braud, Bass; Sonny Greer, Drums.

MCKINNEY'S COTTON PICKERS: Langston Curl, John Nesbitt, Trumpets; Edward Cuffee, Trombone; Don Redman, George Thomas, Prince Robinson, Saxophones; James P. Johnson, Piano; Dave Wilborn, Banjo; Billy Tayor, Bass; Cuba Austin, Drums.

JELLY ROLL MORTON AND HIS RED HOT PEPPERS: George Mitchell, Cornet; Kid Ory, Trombone; Omer Simeon, Clarinet; Jelly Roll Morton, Piano; John St. Cyr, Guitar; John Lindsay, Bass; Andrew Hillaire, Drums.

CAB CALLOWAY ORCHESTRA: Lamar Wright, Doc Cheatham, Edwin Swayzee, Trumpets;

De Priest Wheeler, Harry Wright, Trombones; Arville Harris, Eddie Barefield, Andrew Brown, Walter Thomas, Saxophones; Benny Payne, Piano; Morris White, Guitar; Al Morgan, Bass; Le Roy Maxey, Drums.

PAUL WHITEMAN ORCHESTRA: Bix Beiderbecke, Charlie Margulies, Herny Busse, Bob Mayhew, Trumpets; Tommy Dorsey, Willy Hall, Jack Fulton, Bruce Cullen, Trombones; Frankie Trumbauer, Izzy Friedman, Rube Crozier, Charles Strickfadden, Chester Hazlitt, Nye Mayhew, Hal MacLean, Jack Mayhew, Saxophones; Malneck, Dieterle, Russels, Bowman, Gaylord, Violins; Lennie Hayton, Piano; Roy Bargy, Piano; Mike Pingitore, Banjo; Mario Perry, Accordion; Steve Brown, Bass; Mike Trifficante, Tuba; Min Leibrook, Baritone Saxophone.

DUKE ELLINGTON ORCHESTRA: (on "It Don't Mean a Thing") Cootie Williams, Arthur Whetsel, Freddy Jenkins, Trumpets; Joe Nanton, Lawrence Brown, Trombones; Barney Bigard, Clarinet; Johnny Hodges, Alto Saxophone; Harry Carney, Baritone Saxophone; Duke Ellington, Piano; Fred Guy, Banjo; Wellman Braud, Bass; Sonny Greer, Drums.

ELLA'S SAVOY EIGHT: Taft Jordan, Trumpet; Sandy Williams, Trombone; Pete Clark, Clarinet and Baritone Saxophone; Teddy McRae, Tenor Saxophone; Tommy Fulford, Piano; John Trueheart, Guitar; Beverly Peer, Bass; Chick Webb, Drums.

COUNT BASIE ORCHESTRA: Edward Lewis, Harry Edison, Buck Clayton, Trumpets; Dan Minor, Eddie Durham, Benny Morton, Trombones; Jack Washington, Earl Warren, Alto Saxophones; Hershal Evans, Lester Young, Tenor Saxophones; Count Basie, Piano; Freddy Green, Guitar; Walter Page, Bass; Joe Jones, Drums.

JIMMY DORSEY ORCHESTRA: Shorty Cherock, Sy Baker, Ralph Muzzillo, Trumpets; Bobby Byrne, Sonny Lee, Don Matteson, Trombones; Milton Yaner, Sam Rubinowitch, Charles Frazier, Alto Saxophones; Herbie Haymer, Tenor Saxophone; Joe Lippman, Piano and Arranger; Jack Ryan, Bass; Buddy Schultz, Drums.

VIC DICKENSON QUINTET: Vic Dickenson, Trombone; J. Lipschitz Piano; Arvin Garrison, Guitar; Harold West, Drums; Vivien Garry, Bass.

DIZZY GILLESPIE ORCHESTRA: Dizzy Gillespie, Elmon Wright, Dave Burns, Matthew McKay, Trumpets; William Shepherd, Ted Kelly, Trombones; Howard Johnson, John Brown, Alto Saxophones; Joe Gayles, George Nicholas, James Moody, Tenor Saxophones; Cecil Payne, Baritone Saxophone; John Lewis, Piano; Al McKibbon, Bass; Kenny Clarke, Drums; Chano Pozo, Congo Drums.

TEDDY WILSON ORCHESTRA: Roy Eldridge, Trumpet; Ernie Powell, Clarinet; Benny Carter, Alto Saxophone; Teddy Wilson, Piano; Danny Barker, Guitar; Milton Hinton, Bass; Cozy Cole, Drums.

FATS WALLER AND HIS RHYTHM: John Hamilton, Trumper; Gene Sedric, Clarinet and Alto Saxophone; Fats Waller, Piano; Joe Smith, Guitar; Cedric Wallace, Bass; Slick Jones, Drums.

Also issued as FA 59 (1951).

So You Want to Be an Astronaut? NASA Is Hiring

Smithsonian Magazine

If your aspirations have always felt a little too lofty for this warm, watery world, you might be in luck: For the first time in more than four years, NASA is accepting applications to its astronaut training program, giving eager Earthlings the chance to explore the moon, Mars and more.

These extraterrestrial opportunities are huge—but for now, it would be wise to stay prudent and keep your expectations down to Earth. The agency’s last round of selection, which began in late 2015, picked just 12 individuals out of a pool of 18,300, reports Elizabeth Howell for Space.com. After one person resigned during training, the final 11 recruits left in the cohort—nicknamed “The Turtles”—completed training earlier this year.

“Becoming an astronaut is no easy task, because being an astronaut is no easy task,” Steve Koerner, NASA’s director of flight operations and chair of the Astronaut Selection Board at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, says in a statement. “Those who apply will likely be competing against thousands… But somewhere among those applicants are our next astronauts.”

Given the nature of the job, NASA has set strict requirements for eligibility. According to the agency’s website, aspiring astronauts should be United States citizens who hold a master’s degree in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) field, or have completed an equivalent amount of coursework and training. They must also have at least two years of “related, progressively responsible professional experience” under their belts, or have logged a minimum of 1,000 hours command-piloting a jet aircraft.

Additionally, applicants will need to pass a two-hour online assessment, as well as NASA’s long-duration spaceflight physical. The physical checks for things like good vision, a physique compatible with a spacesuit, and the physical competence to withstand spaceflight and perform spacewalks, which are comparable to scuba diving.

The hurdles also don’t stop at final selection, which NASA hopes to complete sometime in mid-2021. Even after being chosen, finalists still aren’t guaranteed to jet off into space. Rather, they’ll remain “candidates” who must undergo an additional two years in basic training and evaluation, after which they’ll have a shot at being designated as full-fledged astronauts.

All told, the first missions this crop of astronauts will be available for won’t begin until at least the mid-to-late-2020s, around the time NASA plans to begin its next batch of crewed moon landings as a part of its Artemis program. They could also end up living and working aboard the International Space Station, or even launching on a future mission to Mars that—if all goes to plan—will put the first humans on the Red Planet by 2040.

NASA has selected some 350 astronaut candidates since 1959, when the agency inducted seven male pilots into its training program. The lineup has since become considerably more diverse and inclusive of different genders and backgrounds, with doctors, schoolteachers and more joining the cosmic ranks.

You can throw your hat in the ring at this link until applications close at 11:59 p.m. EDT on March 31.

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