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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

This 50th edition of the Digital Digest perfectly captures the eclectic spirit of the collected items we've been sending your way on Wednesdays. Today's mix of topics ranges from politics to poetry to penguins.

They're among the offerings designed to make sure you continue to enjoy what you,ve come to value from Smithsonian Associates: programs and experiences that are entertaining, informative, eclectic, and insightful.

Biden's First 100 Days

The 100-day mark has been the traditional perspective from which to assess how a new president is doing ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt surged into office in 1933 with a blaze of energy and a rush of legislation. After four years of turbulence and partisan combat, President Joe Biden wants to settle the country down, lower the nation's political temperature, and work with his adversaries. He's moving to reverse many Trump-era policies, such as those on immigration, taxes, and climate change and to mend fences with global partners. His actions are generating strong dissent and hard feelings among Trump loyalists—and could lead to the legislative gridlock that many Americans abhor. In a Monday, April 19 Smithsonian Associates program, journalist and historian Ken Walsh looks at the high and low points of the new presidency as he reviews Biden's first 100 days in office. He also discusses how the president overcame sustained efforts to undermine the legitimacy of his election, and areas where work still needs to be done.

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Waddling Across the World

Macaroni penguins

Have you made your plans to celebrate World Penguin Day on Sunday, April 25? (You knew it was coming, right?) If not, join Charles Bergman, a photographer and author of Every Penguin in the World, in a Smithsonian Associates Streaming program that takes you to the world's wild places to discover these fascinating creatures. Bergman knows penguins' futures are threatened because of climate change, so he's made it his mission and passion to tell their stories and show them off to the world. From the Galapagos, South Africa, and Antarctica to some of the most remote islands and back again, Bergman shares stories and vibrant photos from his 20-year adventure encountering all 18 species of penguins in their natural environment.

Among all those penguins in the world, one seems to have overlooked the formal black-and-white dress code. In 2019, photographer Yves Adams encountered an extraordinary yellow-colored king penguin during a two-month photography expedition to the South Sandwich Islands. Though king penguins usually have a tinge of yellow at the throat and white feathers on the front of their bodies (their "tuxedo shirt"), this one is brightly hued. Adams attributes the unusual coloring to leucism, a condition where melanin is only partially lost and some parts of the penguin's body retain color. Take a look at the rare yellow-and-white bird in a Smithsonian magazine news report.

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Rising Sun

Smithsonian Archives, Acc. 89-024, Box 4., Smithsonian Institution Archives.

A search through an old box of graphic design files and typewritten memos at the Smithsonian Institution Archives unearthed an unexpected, historic discovery: a sketch that became the prototype for the now-familiar Smithsonian sunburst. It was the work of Crimilda Pontes, the Smithsonian's first official graphic designer hired by Secretary S. Dillon Ripley in 1965. Pontes produced the graphite drawing as she sketched potential symbols to be used during that year's bicentennial celebration of the birth of James Smithson. A note from the designer reads, "As a good graphic design, the sun seemed not only appropriate for its scientific element, but as a symbol for enlightenment to the whole world—and less hackneyed than the usual torch. It is also an important element in the Smithson arms and crest." A blog post from Smithsonian Libraries and Archives tells the story of the find and brings to light the role Crimilda Pontes played in creating an enduring symbol of the institution.

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In His Own Voice

Robert Frost in 1941 (Fred Palumbo, Library of Congress)

Here's the perfect audio companion for a walk during National Poetry Month: two collections of Robert Frost poems read by the author. Recordings made in 1951 and 1956 were curated by Open Culture into two albums available on Spotify, and hearing Frost's own voice speaking his words adds a dimension and meaning to the poems that a printed page can't match. The persona that emerges isn't the avuncular New Englander you remember from high school English class. As writer and musician Josh Jones observes, "Frost is a prickly, challenging, even somewhat devious character whose pleasingly musical lines and quaint, pastoral images lure readers into poems that harbor much less cheerful attitudes than they expect to find, and much more complex and mature ideas." And what better voice to have in your ears than Frost's if you encounter two roads that diverge on your next woodland hike? Smithsonian magazine has the story.

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Into the Virtual Wild

(Photo: Russell Gammon)

Iconic safari destinations like Kenya and Botswana have long attracted visitors, but cutting-edge ecotourism companies are increasingly pioneering small-group excursions to new destinations that offer unique wildlife encounters for more adventurous travelers. Let wilderness guide and wildlife photographer Russell Gammon lead you on a Smithsonian Associates Streaming series of virtual safaris to hidden corners of the world in search of some of the rarest and most iconic creatures. On Saturday, May 8, he explores India and Nepal, where areas of untouched wilderness are home to the world's largest population of wild tigers and the critically endangered one-horned rhino, as well as Indonesia, where visitors to the forests of Borneo can encounter a dazzling diversity of plant, insect, and animal life. The destinations for May 15 include Brazil, where the continent's most voracious predators glide through the waterways of the Panatal, the largest tropical wetland on earth, and Uganda, the only country in Africa that offers both chimpanzee and gorilla trekking.

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