Commencement: “Your Body of Work is Never Done”

President Barack Obama’s Arizona State University commencement address to 9,000 graduates on May 13: The Class of 2009.

Be inspired: This is a good one. Methinks he wrote it himself. Videos after the fold.

In three parts:


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NOW: “On Thin Ice”

NOW on PBS is consistently one of the best shows on television. Here the team takes an up-close look at global warming by traveling to the Gangotri Glacier in the Himalayan Mountains.


Watch the program here and float around on the site to watch some great television journalism. I’ll be posting items on must-see NOW programs regularly so stay tuned.

As always, support independent public journalism — it makes our democracy thrive. /soapbox.


The Arts: NEA Nominee Announced

I was wondering when this was going to happen: A new chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts has been nominated. According to the White House, it’s Rocco Landesman

[P]resident of Jujamcyn Theaters, a company that owns and operates five Broadway theaters and produces Broadway shows[,] including the landmark productions “Angels in America,” “Proof,” “Smokey Joe’s Café,” “The Grapes of Wrath[,]” and “Caroline, Or Change.”

At first glance, the 61-year-old producer appears up to the  job, but it likely didn’t hurt that he held a big fundraiser in 2007 for then-presidential candidate Obama.

If confirmed by the Senate, Landesman’s main task will be to advocate for congressional approval of the 2010 NEA budget, chair and appoint members to the National Council on the Arts, and generally try to create interest in and drum up support for NEA’s arts programs – not an easy task when his budget will be but a drop in the federal funding bucket. It will be interesting to see how Landesman makes the transition from big man on Broadway to head of a tiny, somewhat obscure, federal office, and if he can raise the profile of performers and artists during this time of severe economic anxiety. 

[Pictured: Esperanza Spalding, performing at last night’s poetry, spoken word, and music event at the White House.]

Recovery Act and Jobs

Amid conflicting reports of continuing layoffs in the government and other economic sectors and optimism elsewhere that the worst of the “Great Recession” may be over, a new Obama administration document outlines the job-creation methodology to be used as implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act continues. Whether this turns out to be “simple, conservative and accurate,” as the White House states, or complicated, hyperbolic and largely an exercise in guesswork, remains to be seen. It’s fair to say that the state and local reporting requirements will be burdensome, but filed without complaint as needed, but perhaps insufficient, relief trickles in.

According to recently released data from the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate in April was 8.9 percent, a 25-year high.


Event: The News Industry

The Brookings Institution will host an event May 18, 2009, on “The Future of the News Industry” to:  

“[D]iscuss how to ‘re-engineer’ the traditional business model of the news industry and to improve media coverage of public affairs. Time’s Karen Tumulty will moderate a discussion with Brookings Vice President and Director of Governance Studies Darrell West, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Aspen Institute’s Walter Isaacson, and journalist Michael Kinsley. Brookings President Strobe Talbott will offer introductions and opening remarks.”

After the program, panelists will take audience questions.The following participants will take part:

Strobe Talbott, president, The Brookings Institution


Karen Tumulty, senior writer and national political correspondent, Time


The Honorable Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), United States Senate

Walter Isaacson, president and CEO, The Aspen Institute

Michael Kinsley, writer and columnist

Darrell M. West, vice president and director, Governance Studies

Cardin has introduced the Newspaper Revitalization Act (S. 673), which would create a new option under the Internal Revenue Code for a “qualified newspaper corporation,” allowing newspapers to operate under 501(c)(3) status for educational purposes, according to a May 6 press release. It would be the same IRS status that is used by churches, hospitals, educational institutions, public broadcasting, and other nonprofits. However, as a recent Senate hearing demonstrated, there is very little consensus on how to solve the problems facing the newspaper industry.

The Arts: Trevor Young, Edward Hopper, and the Federal Arts Budget

A Washington Post article tips me off to artist Trevor Young’s interesting-looking “Non-Places” exhibit at Flashpoint, a gallery in Washington, D.C. This piece (right, courtesy of Flashpoint’s website), as the article notes, evokes Edward Hopper, whose works I also enjoy. Apparently, unlike other artists working during the Great Depression, Hopper fared well during that period. Let’s hope Young and his peers make it through today’s “Great Recession,” if that’s what we’re calling it.

What individual artists won’t be eligible for, however, is any direct support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the federal arts agency. President Barack Obama’s FY 2010 budget request for the NEA — released May 7th — pleased agency supporters for requesting a roughly 4 percent increase — to $161.3 million for the fiscal year that beings Oct. 1, 2009 — or $6.3 million more than the current budget of $155 million. That’s still less than some Clinton- and Reagan-era appropriations and doesn’t remove a nearly universal ban on funding for individual artists, a policy established as a result of the decency wars of the 1990s. Still, for those in favor of federal funding of the arts, it’s better than a modern low of less than $97.6 million, allocated in fiscal 2000.

Science Friday: How to Catch a Flammulated Owl

What is a Flammulated owl you ask? Also known as a schreech-owl, Otus flammeolus is a small owl found in mountain pine forests “in scattered localities throughout the West,” according to The Cornell Lab of Orthinology.

Look how tiny they are in the picture at right. This video features Colorado College ornithology professor, Brian Linkhart, who has studied Flammulated owls in Colorado for almost 30 years.