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ARCHIVES - NOVEMBER 2005 TO APRIL 2006

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NEWSPAPERS AND READERS SWAP IDEAS
Two newspapers, the Modesto Bee in California and the Brisbane Courier-Mail in Australia, have developed truly inter-active websites, making it easy for staff writers and readers to exchange ideas. Let's hope they're blazing the trail for other publications around the world. Perhaps they're giving us a glimpse into the future look of newspapers everywhere. Visit these innovative websites after reading our story, by clicking on the TRAIL-BLAZERS. 0604

BEES HAVE BUZZED SINCE PLATO'S DAY
How did those Californian newspapers, the Sacramento Bee, Fresno Bee and Modesto Bee acquire such odd names? There are even quirkier titles in other states: De Queen Bee in Arkansas and the Beeville Bee-Picayune in Beeville, Texas. The mystery has been solved at last, thanks largely to two dedicated bloggers, Dan Brekke and Ted Shelton, who have this year launched the most recent Bee of all, The Personal Bee, an experimental US online news publication. To read about those strange newspaper mastheads, click on THE BEES. 0604

WONDERFUL 1844 STEAM-POWERED FLYING MACHINE
Back in 1844, almost 60 years before the Wright Brothers' historic first flight, W.H.Phillips, of London, claimed to have invented a steam-powered aerial machine that would carry 10 to 12 passengers 1000 miles in 10 hours. This amazing development was described in an article in The Colonial Observer, a Sydney newspaper. To read this remarkable story, click on THE AERODIPHROS. 0604

WHO FIRST WROTE ABOUT GRANDMA'S APRON?
American housewife and poet Tina Trivett was ropable (or fit to be tied), and apparently with good reason. Years ago, she wrote a delightful poem, Grandma's Apron, in memory of her much-loved grandmother, and in 1999 posted it on a poetry website chosen at random. Since then, she says, it's been stolen, mutilated, with various lines changed, and posted in at least 10 versions on hundreds of websites around the world, usually attributed to "author unknown." For this story, click on GRANDMA'S APRON. 0604

WAS THIS TWO-TON SUNFISH A WORLD CHAMP?
Almost a century ago, on September 18, 1908, the Australian steamship Fiona accidentally struck and killed a huge sunfish about 40 miles (65 km) from Sydney and towed it to a harbourside wharf, where it was measured and placed on a weighbridge. According to the December 10, 1910 issue of the The Wide World Magazine (London), the marine monster was 10 feet (3.1 m.) long, 14 feet (4.26m) wide, and weighed two tons four hundredweight (4927 pounds). But the world's largest fish, whale sharks, are more than six times as heavy. Read the details by clicking on SYDNEY'S SUNFISH. 0604

GREAT PHOTO, BUT SOMEONE'S KIDDING
A delightful photo of an albino whitetail fawn has been lost in cyberspace. The little deer may have been stolen from its owner. It seems to have strayed to Stanley, North Dakota; the Bolivar Peninsula or Glen Rose, Texas; West Liberty, Kentucky; somewhere in the wilds of Wisconsin, and countless websites. Admire the photo, read the story, and if you have any more clues, contact your nearest wildlife refuge. First, click on the ALBINO FAWN. 0604

THE POWER OF TWELVE
"If you gargle daily, you will know that we have just had the 12th birthday of wordsmith Anu Garg's internet feature, A Word A Day, an occasion which should not pass unmarked," South African columnist John Penn wrote on March 22. "Naturally, Anu celebrated '12 years of spreading the magic of words' by musing about the number 12 and words associated with it. If you have about 12 minutes to spare, you might care to browse through his readers' responses." Wordlovers can enjoy this entertaining review by clicking on the Durban MERCURY. 0604

CLEVER CLERIC'S VARIED LIFE
Readers from a dozen countries entered emails in our GuestMap last month. One of them was the Rev. Rodney C Simmonds, who mentioned his website, which we promptly visited. What a varied life the Rev Rodney has led! As a young man, he was a mathematician/programmer, working on aircraft in Britain. He studied theology in Switzerland and the US, and later lived in Nepal and Pakistan. He can speak a dozen languages, and now teaches English and gives piano lessons in Austria. His bio reads like an adventure story. You can read it by clicking on his web page. 0604

MEET JIM VICTOR, FOOD SCULPTOR
Talented Conshohocken, Pennsylviania (US) sculptor-constructionist Jim Victor produces superb sculptures from bronze, terra cotta, wood... and food! For a Columbus Day parade in New York's Little Italy, he made replicas of the sailing ships Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria from parmesan cheese, using pizza dough for the sails, roasted red peppers for the crosses, spaghetti for the rigging, and spinach lasagna for the sea. Marvel at Jim's artistry, by clicking on his FOOD SCULPTURES. 0604

BANKSY'S NOW A COLUMNIST!
"The biggest loser of the Commonwealth games is Melbourne's street art scene - and London could be next for the whitewash" graffiti artist Banksy wrote in The Guardian (London) on March 24. (We wrote about Banksy and other notorious graffitists last August). You can read his interesting story by clicking on THE GUARDIAN. Anti-graffitists responded the next day. 0604

TWO ANAGRAM GENIUSES
Several years ago, without any help from a computer, I found that the letters spelling ANAGRAM GENIUS could be re-arranged to reveal his NAME IS ANU GARG. That thoroughly confused me, since I knew that the original Anagram Genius was William Tunstall-Pedoe, a talented Cambridge (UK) software developer and entrepreneur, who had developed the Anagram Genius software. If you too enjoy playing with words, click on these TWO GENIUSES. 0603

AUSTRALIA POST'S GOLD MEDAL ENCORE
During the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Australia Post printed stamps celebrating all Australian gold medallists within 24 hours of each medal presentation. Now they're planning to do much the same for Melbourne's 2006 Commonwealth Games (March 15 to 26). And the Royal Australian Mint is offering collectors special coins. For details, click on STAMPS AND COINS. 0603

IRISH NEWSPAPER'S WORLD SCOOP
August 23, 1776 was a memorable day for the Belfast (Northern Ireland) daily, News Letter, when it achieved one of the greatest newspaper scoops of all time. It published the full text of the American Declaration of Independence before that famous document was delivered to King George III and the British Parliament. To read this account of one of the greatest news "leaks" of all time, click on NEWS LETTER. 0603

FM RADIO'S "OPEN SLATHER" IN NEW ZEALAND
On a recent visit to Auckland, New Zealand's largest city (population 1.3 million), I was astonished at the number of FM stations I could pick up on my pocket radio - many times the number I could hear in Sydney (population four million). It was bedlam, a Tower of Babel. To read David Ricquish's explanation of this strange state of affairs, click on OPEN SLATHER. 0603

NEVER TOO OLD TO MEANDER THE WEB
Dear Bill. "I can never find anything interesting on the internet," you told me over lunch the other day. To show you (and many other over-50s) just how wrong you were, I'd like to tell you how I spent a pleasant hour meandering through the web after returning home. You can show this story to your over-50 friends who don't know the joys of surfing the internet, by clicking on MEANDER. 0603

WEAVING FORANGE, FAKE BASEBALL AND BLORANGE
Last month's stories prompted some interesting contributions from readers. See contributions from around the world by clicking on FEEDBACK. 0603

THIS WILL LIFT YOUR SPIRITS!
Need a little something to lift your spirits and make your day go better? May You Be Blessed is a short flash presentation being passed around the internet by emailers around the world. It was launched on January 21, 2006, along with the One Million Blessings Experiment it inspired. Both are the brainchild of writer/coach Kate Nowak, who lives in the small community of Strawn, in Texas. Check out her delightful message by clicking on BLESSING. 0603

STATUE OF A FORGOTTEN EARL
Few of the 8000 residents of Cockermouth, in England's scenic Lake District, near the Scottish border, know why they possess a fine statue of the Earl of Mayo, or even who he was. Local websites don't even mention him. We searched the web, and found some intriguing descriptions of his life and death. To read about them, click on MAYO. 0602

SHAKE THE KETCHUP TO THE KING OF BUM
Shake, shake the ketchup bottle/First none'll come, and then a lot'll. No, the famous U.S. humorist Ogden Nash (1902-1971) was NOT the author of that immortal couplet, although many people claim he was. (He DID write Candy / is dandy / But liquor / is quicker.) To read about hard-to-rhyme words, click on KETCHUP. 0602

I AM WOMAN! CHANGED OUR LIVES
How did you react when you first heard Australian-born pop singer Helen Reddy declare "I am WOMAN!" back in 1972? Were you inspired, annoyed, or (as I was) just plain amused? Don't tell me. Tell Dr Michelle Arrow, a Sydney historian, writer, teacher and TV presenter. To read how my beloved wife Jerry returned to office work to escape the drudgery of being a housewife, click on REDDY. 0602

Guido and George's incredible art
We're intrigued by the work of two talented artists, Guido Daniele, of Milan, Italy, who paints human hands as we've never seen them before, and George Witham, of Townsend, Massachusetts, (US), whose painted rocks resemble razors, racing cars and roosters. Read about them, and marvel at their artistry, by clicking on GUIDO AND GEORGE. 0602

CAUGHT OFF A WRONG 'UN
Back in 1934, thousands of fans in this cricket-mad country used to listen on "the wireless" (now called radio) long after midnight, enthralled by vivid ball-to-ball descriptions of test matches being played in England. We thrilled to the thump of ball on willow. It seemed as real as today's live telecasts. We didn't know (or at least I, as a 14-year-old schoolboy, didn't know) that the excited commentator wasn't watching the action at London's famous Oval, but was sitting in an ABC studio in Sydney. To read about those fake broadcasts, click on SYNTHETIC CRICKET. 0602

VARIATIONS TO TWINKLE, TWINKLE
By a happy coincidence, just a week after we published a story about the authorship of the world-famous poem Twinkle Twinkle Little Star last month, The Syracuse (New York) Symphony Orchestra presented Hungarian composer Ernö Dohnányi's "Variations on a Nursery Song" for piano and orchestra. For details of the concert and the composer, click on TWINKLE. 0602

YE OLDE FIGHTING COCKS
We've learnt more about one of Britain's oldest pubs, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, that we mentioned last month. The main section of the ancient building is octagonal, since it was once a pigeon house. Originally near St. Albans Abbey, it was moved to its present site after dissolution of the abbey in 1539. Its foundations were even older, dating from about 793. First known as The Round House, the pub was renamed Ye Olde Fighting Cocks early in the 19th century, when cock fights took place in its main bar area. For more details, click on FAT BADGERS. To see a great photo of the present pub, click HERE. 0602

MULTI-LINGUAL ENDORSEMENT!
Our multi-national and now multi-lingual e-book has won approval from a prestigious European group, Conference Interpreters International (CII). "I have recommended your book to those on our website photo," Burckhard M Doempke told us in an email from Brussels, Belgium. Many thanks, Burckhard. Beaucoup de mercis, Viel Dank, Molti ringraziamenti and Muchas gracias. 0602

DON'T CALL ME VINTAGE!
"Please, please don’t call me vintage," pleads Peter Hinchliffe, editor of the very interesting daily newszine Open Writing. "I don’t wish to be mistaken for a bottle of Bordeaux’s best red. Don’t call me mature either. Makes me sound like an ageing chunk of Cheddar cheese." Most of us over-50s heartily endorse those views. Read his complete article by clicking on HINCHY. Octogenarian readers will enjoy another story that's only too true. Just click BEFORE YOU FORGET. 0602

CRIKEY! COLUMNIST (106) IN THE NEWS
Philip Mayne, "The World's Oldest Columnist", whom we saluted in July 2003, hit the headlines in the UK last month, when, now 106 and Yorkshire's last surviving Great War era veteran, he met Henry Allingham,109, a survivor of the Battle of Jutland and veteran of the Royal Naval Air Service. One of his grandsons is Stephen Mayne, founder of the fearless Australian daily webzine "Crikey!". You can read Philip's story in the Yorkshire Post. And we're pleased to learn that in Florida (US), Mike Strauss, 93, is still working happily as sports editor of the Palm Beach Daily News. 0602

ABC'S WARTIME TRICKERY
Just before Christmas 1943, thousands of Australian radio listeners fondly imagined they were hearing Gladys Moncrieff singing in a frontline concert for Australian troops in the muddy, sweaty, dangerous New Guinea jungle. "Our Glad," as the nation's favourite musical comedy star was called, was in New Guinea all right, but she was performing in the comparative safety and comfort of the Port Moresby headquarters of the Army newspaper Guinea Gold. For an account of this "terrible swindle," click on GUINEA GOLD. 0601

QUIXOTE WINERY'S GOLDEN DOME
Carl Doumani's offbeat Quixote Winery in the Napa Valley, near San Francisco, flaunts a huge gold-leaf onion dome, a startling array of brightly-coloured ceramic tiles, and a grass-covered roof. That sounds just like the famous public toilet in Kawakawa, New Zealand, and the newly-opened Green Citadel in Magdeburg, East Germany. No prize for guessing the name of the offbeat architect/artist who designed all three of these buildings. Read more details by clicking on QUIXOTE. 0601

FOUND! WORLD'S OLDEST WEATHER STONE
Three rousing cheers, hooray, yippee and wacky-doo! We've found the world's oldest weather stone! In last month's edition, we described weather stones in New Zealand, Iceland, Germany, Bermuda, Canada and Ireland, and wondered where those comical tourist attractions originated. Now we've found a stone that may well be the daddy of them all - it's said to be more than 500,000 years old! To read about this amazing stone, click on CAPTAIN FRANK. 0601

GUESS WHERE THE ROYAL GAZETTE IS PUBLISHED
The Royal Gazette, with a coat-of-arms showing the lion and the unicorn fighting for the crown on its masthead, isn't published in London, as you might imagine. A search to find its home city revealed some interesting sidelights. To learn more, click on ROYAL GAZETTE. 0601

PUBS' AGES, LIKE PEOPLE'S, ARE RELATIVE
Old is a relative term. You can have old relatives in their 80s, or old churches that date back 1000 years, and even older pubs. European tourists are not impressed when New Zealanders proudly display their "historic" buildings going back only to the mid-19th century. A few weeks ago we visited what Kiwis claim to be their oldest hotel. It was built in the 1850s. To read about the world's oldest hotels, click on PUBS. 0601

BUSH IS NOW THE FALL GUY
"This pretty blonde will fall for you," we wrote last August, when we displayed a link to a fascinating game featuring Tetka, an attractive animated blonde high-diver bouncing into huge bubbles. You could (and still can) control her movements with a flick of the cursor. Now someone has adapted her figure, and you can make US President George Bush perform similar gymnastics. To watch the president dive (you can even make him move to the left), click on BUSH FALLS. 0601

MULTI-NATIONAL E-BOOK GOES MULTI-LINGUAL
The World's First Multi-National e-Book is now multi-lingual as well. Thanks to an automated translator called BabelFish, our stories can be converted to any one of eight languages in a few seconds. We can't vouch for BabelFish's accuracy, as it makes a literal translation, one word at a time, and struggles to make sense of some of our Aussie words and phrases. For instance, it informs us that the correct pronunciation of our champion racehorse Makybe Diva in French is muh-KY-est la DEE-Virginie. For more about BabelFish, read this BBC story. 0512

WHO WROTE "TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR"?
"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" is one of the world's best-known and most-loved poems. Millions of English-speaking people can recite the first verse from childhood memory, but few know who wrote it. For the full story, click on THE TAYLORS. 0512

WAIUKU'S WHIMSICAL WEATHER STONE IS RARELY WRONG
Visiting New Zealand recently, we were intrigued to see what must be the world's most accurate weather forecaster, in the tiny township of Waiuku, 42 km (26 miles) south of Auckland. It's a huge stone, shaped like a brick, suspended from a hardwood gallows, with witty forecasts on a nearby notice board. We wondered whether Waiuku's whimsical weather stone was unique, or merely a copy of similar tourist magnets in other countries. To read the answer, click on WEATHER STONES. 0512

HARNESSING WIND AND WAVE
Two exciting scientific developments may solve major problems facing today's world. In Australia, a Sydney company plans to produce drinking water cheaply by harnessing the power of ocean waves, while in the United States an experimental tower has been built in Utah, to produce miniature tornadoes capable of generating electricity. To read the fascinating details, click on WIND AND WAVE. 0512

GREEN TEA IS ALL THE GO
In the 19th century, many of the world's last great sailing ships raced to deliver thousand of tons of black tea from the Far East (notably India and China) to Britain and Australia. Today, both the UK and Oz have begun growing their own green tea, much of it to be sent to Japan. For details, click on GREEN TEA. 0512

AUSTRALIA'S SUPERMARE
Christmas came early for happy punters (including us) after a seven-year-old mare named Makybe Diva (muh-KY-be DEE-va) won this year's Melbourne Cup for a record third time last month. Work throughout the nation came to a halt (as it does every year) while nearly everyone watched the race on TV. Melbourne Cup Day is a public holiday in Victoria. Makybe Diva, hailed as Australia's greatest racehorse, has become a national icon, in the same class as Phar Lap. To read more about this amazing queen of the turf, click on Who is Makybe Diva? 0512

FEEDBACK: ANOTHER FAMOUS ARTIST
Last month's story about the eccentric Austrian artist Frederick Hundertwasser and his funny dunny in Kawakawa, New Zealand, prompted Ian Scott-Parker, an English-born resident of Hurricane, Utah (US) to send us his boyhood memories of the famous and witty British artist Osbert Lancaster's visit to his school 30 years ago. To read Ian's amusing story, click on Cartoonist. 0512

ELWOOD CALLS IT A DAY AT 86
Elwood P Smith began work as an office boy on the Philadelphia Daily News back in 1937. I was a cadet (cub) reporter on the Brisbane Courier-Mail in that year, so I dips me lid (doff my hat) to him, and wish him well. He's just retired at the age of 86. Read about his long and distinguished career as a photographer by clicking on Steve Volk's story in the PhiladelphiaWeekly (it's easier to read if you click on the print version beneath the story). After reading the story, see the photos. 0512

EARL HAMNER RECALLS HIS MAN AND DOG STORY
World-famous writer and TV producer Earl Hamner, now 82, has told us how he came to write his memorable story about the man and his dog wanting to enter Heaven. His description is just as heart-warming as the usually anonymous story which for 40 years has charmed countless readers around the world. Read the message completing our long search for the unknown author, by clicking on EARL HAMNER. 0511

3D ARTISTS' DAZZLING DISPLAY OF DEPTH
Thousands of pedestrians in the real world, and millions of surfers on the Internet have been astonished by remarkable 3D drawings made by two talented pavement (sidewalk) artists, Kurt Wenner of the US and Julian Beever of the UK. It's almost impossible to believe their works are actually presented on a flat surface. To view examples of this amazing art, and to read how it's done, click on 3D ARTISTS. 0511

FUNNY DUNNY IN KAWAKAWA
When tourists flock to the remote New Zealand town of Kawakawa, they head for the public toilet, not so much to use its facilities as to gaze in awe at the building's unique architecture and bizarre artwork. It's a lasting memorial to a gifted but eccentric Austrian designer and artist, Frederick Hundertwasser (born Friedrich Stowasser) who, after visiting New Zealand in 1970 to exhibit his work, decided to settle in that country. To read the details, and see photos, click on FUNNY DUNNY. 0511

WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE A TWIKE?
We've never spotted a twike in Australia, but we stumbled across a reference to it on the internet. Intrigued by the name, we sought more details Could you eat it, or did it bite, we wondered. We quickly discovered that a twike is an electric-powered twin bike, hand-assembled in Switzerland, where several hundred have been sold. They offer cheap transport in these days of rocketing oil fuel prices. For full details, click on TWIKES. 0511

ANU GARG'S NEW BOOK IS HILARIOUS
Anu Garg, the world's favorite wordsmith, has just published his second book, called "Another Word A Day." It's the funniest book I've read this year - a laugh on every page. It includes dozens of amusing anecdotes and quips from some of the 600,000 wordlovers who receive his free newsletter A Word A Day. It would make an ideal Christmas present for readers of all ages. For details, click on ANU GARG. And you can read an interesting article about Anu by clicking on the WOODINVILLE WEEKLY. 0511

BONKING CAN BE SO DIFFERENT
Bonking is a popular British pastime, but it's different in America, as we discovered when we read two conflicting stories on the Internet the other day. The first, on the New Zealand Herald's website, was headed Brits into bonking, brawls and booze. The second report indicated that bonking is not quite the same in the US. To solve this puzzle, click on BONKING. 0511

DARE YOU KISS WHILE CHEWING GUM?
Many years ago, when I was young and foolish, I left a wad of chewing gum in my mouth while munching a chocolate. To my surprise, the gum promptly disintegrated, merged with the chocolate, and disappeared down my throat . I thought no more about it until a few weeks ago, when I read about an American gumchewer having reported a similar experience. Read how The World's Smartest Human Being explained this phenomenon, by clicking on STRAIGHT DOPE. 0511

OUTBACK ARTIST WINS TOP PRIZE
Australian outback artist Chris McClelland has won the main prize at the Queensland Wildlife Artists Society's "Nature in Art" International Wildlife Art Exhibition, with a fine action drawing of a family of elephants in Africa. You can admire Chris's drawings by clicking on his WEBSITE. Then you may like to read a story about Chris (written before he retired as manager of a sheep station) in CLEVER MAGAZINE. 0511

 

All above articles copyright © 2006.  Eric Shackle

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