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ARCHIVES - MAY 2006 TO OCTOBER 2006

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Kiwi covers Korea by motorbike
New Zealand money guru, travel writer and avid motorcyclist Gareth Morgan, who a few months ago gave 40 million dollars from his dot.com fortune to charity, has been gobsmacked by South Korea's progress since his previous visit to the country eight years ago. He says that in some ways Korea is like New Zealand. Read his interesting travel diary, by clicking on GARETH MORGAN. 0610

"If you can read this, thank your teacher"
We should all spare a thought on October 5 for those patient chalkies who guided us through school. It will be World Teachers' Day, which UNESCO inaugurated in 1994 to focus attention on the extraordinary contributions and achievements of teachers. To read an affectionate tribute from a Dubai writer, click on CHALKIES. 0610

Conkers: conquerors compete in quirky quest
Recalling carefree days playing conkers in an Essex (UK) primary school yard 80 years ago, I'd like to be in Ashton, an English village near Oundle in Northamptonshire, on October 8, for the World Conker Championships. After that, I'd make my way to County Kilkenny to watch the Irish Conker Championship on October 29. Conkers is another offbeat British pastime that, like worm charming, attracts thousands of spectators. For details, click on CONKERS. 0610

Offbeat artists make their marks
Britain's brilliant 3D pavement (sidewalk) artist Julian Beever tricked passers-by in central London with a realistic drawing showing comic characters Batman and Robin scaling the wall of a burning building to rescue a terrified occupant, while a crowd below gazed up at the drama. In fact, it was a two-dimensional picture in chalk. To read about Beever, Banksy, Bennett and Wade and view their work click on OFFBEAT ARTISTS. 0610

Let's have a World Punctuation Day!
On September 24 the United States celebrated the third National Punctuation Day, the brainchild of Jeff Rubin, a Californian newsletter designer and writer. Teachers, writers and other wordlovers greeted the idea with enthusiasm. Americans aren't the only ones who worry about faulty punctuation. It's far too common in Britain, Australia, and many other countries. Let's have a World Punctuation Day! For details, click on PUNCTUATION. 0610

Prairie Dogs: Pest or Pets?
Prairie dogs, those cute little animals that sit up on their hind legs like kangaroos and meerkats, are multiplying to plague level in some US western states, in the same way that rabbits and mice have in Australia from time to time. Despite their lovable looks, prairie dogs are not related to domestic dogs. In fact, they're rodents, like rats, mice, hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs. For a story about the prairie dog battle being fought between people wanting to kill them and those trying to protect them, click on PRAIRIE DOGS. 0610

Website for all ages
If you'd like to discover how much the internet knows about you (and you'll be surprised at the amount), just type out your date of birth on Paul Sadowski's irresistible website. Paul, a computer expert in Western New York State, has cleverly collated information from other internet sources, and serves it up to you at a single hit. Try it! To do so, click on BirthDay Calculator. 0610

Goats race in Uganda and US, and sheep in Caragabal
Last month we chuckled over a report of the Royal Ascot goat races in Uganda. Pursuing our interest in weird sporting events around the world, we invite you to share our amusement by reading about the Running of the Goats in Falmouth, Pennsylvania, US, and sheep races in the hot, parched Australian outback town of Caragabal (normal population 100) in drought-stricken New South Wales. 0610

World's shortest poem and other feedback
What is the world's shortest poem? We rashly suggested last month that our poem

O worm
U squirm

might be the world's shortest ode. Several of our readers disagreed. See their interesting comments by clicking on SHORTEST POEM. 0610

Author, publisher now on speaking terms
The author of this e-book, Eric Shackle in Sydney, Australia, and its publisher, Barry Downs in Kimberley, South Africa, have never shaken hands. They ran into one another on the internet in 1999. Since then, they have exchanged thousands of emails, and have become close yet distant friends. To read how two free telephone services now enable them to speak to each other, click on SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION. 0609

"Ahoy thar, me hearties"
Don't be surprised if friends, or even strangers, greet you that way on September 19 (or on September 22 in Australia). Just smile back, and repeat the greeting to them, and to anyone else you meet. It's contagious. Normally-sane people in more than 40 countries will celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day, a unique annual event that began almost accidentally one day in 1995, when two Americans, John Baur and Mark Summers, were playing racquetball. For a story about this annual fun day that earns money for charities in many lands, click on PIRATE TALK. 0609

No more “Press button one”?
Paul English must have felt he was a canary surrounded by hungry cats when he addressed 1000 representatives of the telephone and speech technology industry in New York last month. He’s the helpful computer genius who has publicly disclosed secret codes used by America's big businesses, so that anyone in the US viewing his website can ensure that a phone call goes directly to a real live person. For more about this, click on gethuman. 0609

Gruntin' for worms in Sopchoppy
Sopchoppy, Florida, US (population 253) holds an annual Worm Gruntin' Festival that seems to resemble the recent Worm Charming contest in the English village of Willaston, Cheshire (pop. about 4000), where Tom Shufflebotham made a record catch of 511 worms in 30 minutes. We wrote about the Charmers last month. Now read the sequel, by clicking on SOPCHOPPY. 0609

Royal Ascot Goat Races
Royalists, fashionistas and followers of the world's most unusual sporting events will enjoy reading an account of the Royal Ascot Goat Races, held in Kampala, Uganda (one of the world's poorest countries) on August 26. Read Elizabeth Kameo's literary cameo by clicking on her report of the event in Africa News. Make sure you click on the five photos too. And you can read about Elizabeth and see her photo here. [By the way, 10,000 Uganda shillings are worth 7.1 Australian dollars, 5.4 US dollars, or 2.8 UK pounds]. 0609

Helen of Wales was a "Big Brother" star
Helen of Wales was probably more famous in Britain a few years ago than Helen of New York is in America today. By a remarkable coincidence, her amusing comments on life were also listed as Helenisms, a word that American computer wiz Steve R. White claims to have coined to describe his wife's hilarious mixed metaphors, as we recounted in our August edition. For more about Britain's Big Brother blonde, click on HELEN OF WALES. 0609

Now it's Butter My Butt And Call Me A Biscuit!
We couldn't help chuckling when we read in a food review by Mandy Erickson in the San Francisco Chronicle, that the Lil' Biscuit House in San Mateo was displaying a sign reading "Butter my butt and call me a biscuit." Tim Sanders, contributing editor of The Post, in Centre, Alabama contributes a great list of amusing southern phrases, that you can see by clicking on Butter my armpit and call me a hamster. 0609

Is Perth really a slow city?
Glancing at a BBC webpage one day last month, we were surprised to learn that Perth wants to be classified as one of the world's slow cities. "A move to win Cittaslow status for the Fair City has received backing from the council and enterprise company," said the report. "Cittaslow, which means 'slow city', began in Italy in 1999 and aims to improve life in small towns and cities." We found indications that Perth, Western Australia's capital, has been a slow city since Queen Victoria named it in 1856, but there's a simple explanation that you can learn by clicking on PERTH. 0609

Pesky pelican piece pleases pundit
We are honoured that Ted Nellen's interesting New York website Cyber English has displayed a link to last month's story, Pecked by a Pesky Pelican, as a "fun" example of alliteration. Cyber English is read by thousands of English-language teachers worldwide. 0609

The face that launched a thousand quips
Helen of Troy was immortalised as the face that launched a thousand ships. Now Helen of New York is rapidly gaining world fame as the face that launched a thousand quips. What's more, she has inspired a new word: Helenism (not to be confused with Hellenism with two Ls). It's not yet in the dictionaries, but Google has found 11,700 references to it. For examples of these delightfully mixed metaphors, please click on HELENISM. 0608

Seventy years in journalism
Claire George, a professional journalist and staff writer of the citizen reporters' website OhmyNews International, has published an interview with a veteran Sydney contributor who has been a compulsive writer for 70 of his 87 years. To read it, please click on SEVENTY YEARS. And for his story about the origin of an Australian icon, click on LAMINGTONS. 0608

How Tom Shufflebotham charmed 511 worms
Of all the world's weird and wondrous sporting events and pastimes, the gentle art of worm-charming surely takes the cake as the most bizarre. "On Saturday 5th July 1980 local Willaston farmer's son, Tom Shufflebotham amazed a disbelieving world by charming a total of 511 worms out of the ground in half an hour," says an article on a British website. To read more about this remarkable event, click on SHUFFLEBOTHAM. 0608

Baldrick is a comical character
A whimsical cartoon character called Baldrick, drawn by the Rev. Rod Bower, minister of Gosford Anglican Church (80km north of Sydney), is evoking chuckles around the world. Baldrick's witty remarks are sermonettes for the 21st century. Read about the Rev. Rod's cartoons, St. Baldrick's Foundation, and Blackadder and Baldrick, by clicking on these FUNNY BALDRICKS. 0608

Alaska to Siberia by dinghy?
Nearing the end of his epic motorcycle journey through North America, intrepid New Zealand adventurer Gareth Morgan has failed in a daring attempt to cross the Bering Strait from an Eskimo village 40 miles northeast of Nome, Alaska, to Siberia, 60 miles away, in a one-man plastic inflatable dinghy that cost only $11.50. Morgan, an investment adviser, achieved fame by giving $40million to charity, as described in our May edition. You can read a graphic account of his latest escapade by clicking on World by Bike. 0608

It's a startling word indeed!
For many years our favourite word has been stifle, because it's an anagram of itself, which you must admit is pretty clever. Now we've found another word that's really startling. Just as a cockroach when threatened by a human predator sheds one of its parts to save its life, so does startling. To read about this amazing word, click on STARTLING. 0608

Where are the world's five tallest towers?
Here's a question that would stump most trivia quiz contestants: In which countries are the world's five tallest towers? The surprising answer is: Canada, Russia, China, Iran and Malaysia (in that order). To read about them, and see their photos, click on TOWERS. 0608

Positive putdown for negative hairdresser
This is something to think about when negative people are doing their best to rain on your parade. So remember this story the next time someone who knows nothing and cares less tries to make your life miserable. Hundreds of websites have stolen/copied this hilarious story, after changing the names of people, places, airlines, and the wording of the punch line, without any mention of its author. So have we! You can read it by clicking on the HAIRDRESSER. 0608

Eric Utne: he's a cosmos doogooder
Thousands of avid readers of Cosmo Doogood's Urban Almanac must be dismayed that it has run out of puff. "It saddens me to inform you that there will be no 2007 edition," says Utne. "It simply has not sold enough copies to cover its costs and I can no longer afford to cover the losses." If you too mourn the loss of this unique annual, you can read about it by clicking on ERIC UTNE. 0607

CITIZEN REPORTERS EVERYWHERE
I've just registered with five citizen news sites: OhmyNews, in Seoul (South Korea), NowPublic (Vancouver, Canada), MySpace (global, based in US), Scoop (New Zealand), and Brookmans Park Newsletter (UK). These and similar citizen writers' websites, where the readers write the news, are sweeping the world and may help change the face of newspapers. To read more about them, click on CITIZEN REPORTERS. 0607

BEN FRANKLIN'S APOLOGUE STILL RINGS TRUE
In an article about almanacs, just published by the innovative South Korean website OhmyNews, we mentioned Poor Richard's Almanac that Ben Franklin wrote in 1732. Since then, we've enjoyed reading Ben's tribute to older women. His acute observations remain largely true 274 years later. And former child movie star and current TV curmudgeon Andy Rooney was NOT the author of An Essay in Praise of Older Women. 0607

PECKED BY A PESKY PELICAN
In my time I've suffered absolute acute agony after an attack by an angry and aggressive ant, been bitten by a bellicose bull-ant, clawed by a cunning, calculating cat, savaged by a sneaky, snarling schnauzer, and received painful injuries from other members of the animal kingdom. To read the sad story of how I was picked on and pecked by a pugnacious pelican, please click on PESKY PELICAN. 0607

Born in Tweebuffelsmeteenskootmorsdoodgeskiedfontein
Paul Kleynhans, who lives in Pretoria, South Africa, is lucky that his parents didn't name him after his birthplace. He was born on a farm with a 44-letter name, the Afrikaans word for "two-buffaloes-with-one-shot-starkdead-shot-fountain". Read Paul's delightful story by clicking on TWO BUFFALOES. 0607

NOW WE KNOW WHO WROTE THE RAIN RAINETH
Our prolonged search for the name of the author of the well-known verse The rain raineth has succeeded, thanks to Linda Jessup, a farmer and attorney in a small community a few miles from Tehachapi, California, who found the poem with attribution in her 1959 edition of a book of humorous verse. To see emails from Linda and other helpful readers, click on SOLVED AT LAST. 0607

Now it's HIP shape and Bristol fashion!
Britain's quirky headline-hunting graffitist and talented artist Banksy, mentioned several times in previous editions of this e-book, has amused/shocked residents of his home town, Bristol, by painting on a brick wall a realistic-looking picture of a nude man apparently jumping hurriedly through a bedroom window. For more details about Banksy and sequels to several of our other stories, click on FEEDBACK. 0607

GUMBOOTS FLY IN FINLAND
We'd like to be in Vasteras, Sweden, today (July 1). We'd be watching the World Gumboot-Throwing Championships. Lena from Sweden told us about them in an email. For details of this weird sport, click on GUMBOOTS. UK readers may prefer to click on WELLINGTONS. 0607

SUPERMAN RETURNS TO SYDNEY
Sydneysiders are flocking to see the new blockbuster Superman Returns, one of the most expensive films ever made, which has just opened in the US and Australia. It was shot here last year, with Sydney street scenes disguised as Metropolis, the fictional city where Superman battles Lex Luthor. One sequence, showing several New York-style yellow cabs, was shot outside Wynyard railway station. For details, click on SUPERMAN RETURNS. 0607

Kiwis are world's best egg-throwers
Kiwis hens are world champions for birds laying the largest eggs in proportion to their body weight. Now two male Kiwis have won the World Egg-Throwing Championship, held in the English village of Swaton, Lincolnshire, on June 25. To read more about this quirky contest, click on KIWIS. 0607

RAIN RAINETH, BUT WHO WROTE IT?
Does anyone know for sure just who wrote this much-quoted verse? It's posted on dozens of websites without its author being named: The rain it raineth every day / Upon the just and unjust fella / But more upon the just because / The unjust hath the just's umbrella. Take your pick from four witty authors who might have written it. Click on RAIN RAINETH. 0606

BBC'S CLASSIC BLACK-AND-WHITE COMEDY
When Congolese economics graduate Guy Goma applied for a job in the BBC last month, he was ushered into a TV studio and interviewed live to air. He was mistaken for Guy Kewney, a well-known computer journalist, despite the different colours and ages of the two Guys. Enjoy this hilarious story by clicking on the MAIL ON SUNDAY, then go to GUY GOMA'S WEBSITE. 0606

WAS THE BEE AUSTRALIA'S FIRST SUNDAY NEWSPAPER?
A little-known colonial weekly publication called The Bee of Australia, published in Sydney in 1844, could well claim to have been Australia's first Sunday newspaper. The four-page broadsheet, a black-and-white hand-set production without illustrations, was published "every Saturday Afternoon by 4 o'clock," and charged subscribers seven shillings and six pence a quarter. Fortunately for us, we can now read all its pages on the internet. To read interesting excerpts that give an insight into everyday life in the young colony of New South Wales, click on THE BEE. 0606

EGG THROWERS SCRAMBLE FOR WORLD TITLE
"Every four years, world athletics and swimming records are broken, but the egg-throwing record has survived for more than a quarter-century," we wrote in September 2004. "We'd like to see this bizarre sport included in future Olympic Games." That hope may yet be achieved. The newly-formed World Egg Throwing Federation plans to hold a championship event for the global title in the tiny village of Swaton (population 184), in Lincolnshire (UK), on June 25. You can read the details by clicking on EGG-THROWING. 0606

WHIMSICAL WAYS OF COUNTING SHEEP
There's more than one way to skin a cat, and there's more than one way to count sheep. David Halperin read last month's story about Cumbrian shepherds having counted yan, tan, tethera, instead of one, two, three, and told us in an email that we should read a book called Ounce Dice Trice by Alastair Reid. To read Reid's hilarious ways of counting sheep, click on OUNCE, DICE, TRICE. 0606

HENRY'S POEM, IAN'S PARODY, DOWNSHIFTING
Henry Lawson (1861-1922), Australia's favourite bush poet and writer, spent his early years on his father's "poor selection in the Mudgee district" of New South Wales, before moving to Sydney, where he was acclaimed as "the poet of the people." In 1891 he wrote a poem about Eurunderee (yu-RUN-duh-ree), a tiny village near Mudgee. In 2006, my son Ian Shackle, who lives in nearby Frog Rock, wrote an amusing parody. 0606

BONZER! EDITOR FLATTERS E-BOOK AUTHOR
Alan Wheatley, editor of the Australian literary webzine BONZER!, threw the spotlight on one of his magazine's Sydney correspondents in the May issue. Anyone interested can read this flattery by clicking on BONZER! 0606

MANY A PUN SPOILS THE FUN
"Too many mediocre -- and just plain bad -- puns ... make it into papers every day," Nicole Stockdale, a copy editor at The Dallas Morning News, rightly wrote in her blog. She was commenting on a report that Robert Rivarde, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, had banned all puns in headlines after seeing nine of them in a single issue of his newspaper. For more on this subject, click on PUNS. 0606

JOURNOS GET CLOSER TO THEIR READERS
Two months ago, we described how two newspapers, the Modesto Bee in California and the Brisbane Courier-Mail in Australia, have made it easy for staff writers and readers to exchange ideas. Last month, the Modesto Bee moved even closer to its readers. It published a special Kids' Day edition, which managing editor Dan Day and staff members sold on street corners to raise funds for the Salvation Army. In the UK, a small-town newspaper gave five of its staff time off to work with charities, emphasising the newspaper's links with the community as part of Local Newspaper Week. For details, click on MODESTO BEE and CARLISLE NEWS & STAR. 0606

DAVID ATTENBOROUGH'S 80th BIRTHDAY
Life Begins at 80 congratulates David Attenborough for having become a fellow octogenarian on May 8. Few media personalities have given so much pleasure to TV viewers around the world as has (to give him his full title) Sir David Frederick Attenborough, OM, CH, CVO, CBE, FRS, broadcaster, naturalist and humanist. Read the BBC's tribute by clicking on SIR DAVID and his grim warning of CLIMATE CHANGE. 0606

ON ON AND ON'S CLEVER CRYPTIC PUZZLES
Cryptic crossword puzzles are hard enough to solve, but a brilliant young Japanese web designer called On has gone one better. He's devised cryptic internet game puzzles that are twice as difficult. First you have to work out how to play one of the games, then how to achieve a high score. For more about On, his puzzles, and his homely blog, read ON. 0605

GENEROUS KIWI GOES MOTOR-BIKING
New Zealand economist, adventurer and writer Gareth Morgan, who achieved world fame last month by giving $40million to charity, has quietly set out by motorcycle on a 117-day, 13,903 mile (22,374 km.) journey through North America. His epic journey with a group of fellow adventurers was planned long before he hit the dot.com jackpot a few weeks ago. He left New Zealand on April 12, and expects to return on August 1. To read about this unique benefactor, and his present and previous adventures, click on GARETH MORGAN. 0605

EDITOR WROTE 31.5 MILES OF STORIES
In 56 years writing for The News-Banner, in Bluffton, Indiana, Jim Barbieri churned out an estimated two million single-column inches, or 31.5 miles, of reports. He attended every imaginable gathering, knew everyone, and wrote about them at length. When he died last month, aged 77, the small town (population 9500) mourned the editor's passing. Read about this outstanding offbeat editor who never missed a story, by clicking on JIM BARBIERI. 0605

TEXAS EDITOR SYNDICATES COMIC STRIP
Another versatile small-town newspaper editor, Don Cooper, of The Hereford Brand (so named because Hereford is in Texas Panhandle cattle country) has launched a weekly nationally syndicated comic cartoon showing 21st century cowboys dealing with technology. It features Caleb, an old-timer trying to adapt to new technology and his younger friend, Bubba Joe, who carries his cell phone and I-pod in hip holsters. They work for Boss, a woman who delivers calves in the morning and hosts formal dinner parties at night. She likes to stay in touch with her cowboys with e-mail, text messages and cell phone calls. For more details, click on MILD/WILD WEST. 0605

COUNTING SHEEP (yan, tan, tethera) MAY HELP YOU SLEEP
Close your eyes and count some sheep, and very soon you'll fall asleep, we were told as children. English-born Ian Scott-Parker, who now lives in Hurricane, Utah (US), can do that in one of the strangest languages we've ever heard. "My father taught me to count yan, tan, tethera, methera, pimp, sethera, lethera, hovera, dovera, dic almost as soon as I had learned to count in the more common one, two, three," he told us. Read the strange words for other numbers by clicking on CUMBRIA. 0605

SITES SHOW SYDNEY'S SUPERB SCENERY
"After years of swaggering self-promotion, the dream is finally coming true: Sydney really is on the verge of joining the ranks of the world’s great cities," New York Metro declared last month, endorsing what every Sydneysider knew long ago. Today, of course, Sydney IS one of the world's great cities. If you doubt that swaggering self-promoting statement, you should click on SYDNEY. 0605

PRISCILLA IS A BEER-SWILLING PIG
Pyengana's Pub in the Paddock in Tasmania is training a piglet to drink beer, Australian radio listeners were informed the other day, in a news item we wrongly suspected was a delayed April Fool story. "The pub is world-famous for its beer-drinking pig, called Priscilla, who can scull a watered-down stubby in seven seconds," said the news reader. "Priscilla is getting old, so a mischievous successor, Priscilla Babe, is being trained as a replacement. Tourists from all over the world travel to Pyengana just to buy Priscilla a beer." To read about Priscilla and other porcine performers, please click on BEER-SWILLING PIGS. 0605

HAND ART STORY GROWS LEGS
We applauded Italian artist Guido Daniele in our February edition. Now, as part of Animal Planet's Hero of the Year campaign, AnimalPlanet.com is featuring Guido's amazing transformation of human hands into animals. London's Sunday Mirror ran a two-page spread about his art, headed I'm a paw trait painter. Two other London newspapers, the Daily Mail and the Daily Express, then took up the chase, publishing stories headed respectively Hand Gogh and Finger Painting, and a few days later Radio Scotland interviewed the artist. You can see Guido's montage of UK publicity by clicking on GUIDO. 0605

All above articles copyright © 2002.  Eric Shackle

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