# Culture



Freight writing

Kurt Meyer writes a weekly column for the Nora Springs – Rockford Register, where this essay first appeared. He serves as chair of the executive committee (the equivalent of board chair) of Americans for Democratic Action, America’s most experienced liberal organization.

I don’t know when I first encountered the word “graffiti.” It probably happened in high school. I vaguely recall a late-night adventure that included spray painting “class of ‘72” on a few country bridges… and maybe on the rear window of a school bus. Upon reflection, I think our gang of (mostly) benign rascals was simply ahead of our time. Graffiti was not a major public nuisance at the time.

Then, too, maybe our semi-legible scribbling was an early example of graffiti art, arguably the only visual art form with its origin in the U.S. Since graffiti art is too broad a subject to tackle here, I will concentrate more narrowly on freight graffiti, defined as expressive painting on train boxcars.

Continue Reading...

We won't stop watching

Ira Lacher was an assistant sports editor at the Des Moines Register during the 1980s.

Wait for it.

As Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin continues to lie, inert, connected to whatever devices keep him alive, someone is sure to call for American football, a sport unique in the world, to be banned.

Certainly what occurred on the turf of Paul Brown Stadium on Monday night, January 2, 2023, bears introspection. How are you supposed to feel when you witness a 24-year-young man almost dying, in full view of tens of thousands of spectators, and millions more watching on high-definition television?

Continue Reading...

New film puts new definition on “Woke”

Gerald Ott of Ankeny was a high school English teacher and for 30 years a school improvement consultant for the Iowa State Education Association.

I saw the trailer for Will Smith’s new film “Emancipation.” Smith’s character Peter is the enslaved man whose terribly scarred back was photographed in 1863 and viewed by millions during the Civil War era and beyond.

I immediately thought of Governor Ron DeSantis saying, “Florida is the state where WOKE goes to die.” He was speaking, wife and kids at his side, just after the November election where he was re-elected with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

Continue Reading...

Through story and song

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

I was excited when I learned Simon Estes would narrate the Iowa public television documentary “Lost in History: Alexander Clark.”

Ahead of the premiere showing at Muscatine Community College in March 2012, the Muscatine Journal highlighted the bass-baritone’s role in “the 27-minute film by award-winning New York producer Marc Rosenwasser that chronicles Clark’s life from his birth in western Pennsylvania in 1826 to his death in 1891.”

Continue Reading...

The boy written out of "The Music Man"

Kurt Meyer writes a weekly column for the Nora Springs – Rockford Register, where this essay first appeared. He serves as chair of the executive committee (the equivalent of board chair) of Americans for Democratic Action, America’s most experienced liberal organization.

I led a life-long learning class at North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City this month. My subject: “Midwestern History as Told by Midwestern Authors,” a topic I selected last fall, when pandemic-limited plans prompted me to read (or re-read) various regional writers.

My premise has always been that history is much more than just key dates and major events. We benefit from knowing how previous generations lived, what they valued, and how they engaged in society. Greater understanding gives us a more enlightened perspective while strengthening our community ties. This doesn’t generally come about by reading history tomes – since most of us won’t – but rather by reading authors who set their fictional or autobiographical works in the Midwest.

In preparation, I stumbled upon a story that ran in the New York Times last December, although I missed it at the time. It involves North Iowa’s own Meredith Willson.

Continue Reading...

Breaking up is hard to do

John Whiston ponders a troubling dynamic: political disagreements are becoming more personal, and “negative partisanship” more prevalent.

A couple of days ago, I saw a Facebook post from a woman I knew in high school out west, one of those manufactured right-wing memes that gets so casually forwarded in some circles. It was a picture of Donald Trump with this caption: “When I look at all the people who hate this man, I like him even more!”

The post stuck in my mind because it resonates so strongly with a new concept I stumbled upon reading the recent best-seller by David Graeber and David Wengrow, The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity. That idea gave me my big word of the month: “schismogenesis,” that is, the origin of schism or separation between social groups. An obscure footnote in the anthropological literature since the 1930s, it is described by Garber and Wengrow this way:

Continue Reading...
View More...