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Life Begins at 80...on the Internet
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ARCHIVES - NOVEMBER 2003 TO APRIL 2004

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BLUEBONNETS FOR BAGHDAD
It's April, and bluebonnets, the beautiful wildflowers Texas chose as its emblem in 1901, are blooming in many parts of that vast State, to the delight of residents and visitors. Next year they may also decorate the courtyards of Saddam Hussein's former palace in Baghdad. To read this little-known news story , which began in Paris, click on BLUEBONNETS. 0404

CRONKITE, COOKE AND GRIFFIN
Life Begins at 80
salutes three famous writers and broadcasters who led or are still leading active lives long after becoming octogenarians: veteran U.S. broadcaster Walter Cronkite, 87, who once was voted "the most trusted man in America"; British-born radio and TV icon, the late Alistair Cooke, 95, of Letter from America fame, and A. Harry Griffin, 93, who still writes a regular column, Country Diary, for a London newspaper. Read more about them by clicking on C C and G. 0404

ONE PERSON'S TRASH IS ANOTHER'S TREASURE
If it's useless to you, and you can't sell it, don't throw it out - give it to someone else living nearby! That's the philosophy behind the worldwide Freecycle network, which will celebrate its first anniversary next month. The idea, born in Tucson, Arizona, quickly caught on, and has spread nationwide and to Canada, the UK, Japan, India, Australia and other countries. Read about it by clicking on FREECYCLE. 0404

WAWA HERE, WAWA THERE, WAWAS EVERYWHERE
We mentioned the small Canadian town of Wawa, Northern Ontario last month, in a story headed North Pole to Guatemala. Since then, we've discovered that, just as the virtual world is full of SPAM, SPAM, SPAM, the real world is full of WAWA, WAWA, WAWA. For details, click on WAWA. 0404

SCHOOL THAT DISAPPEARED
From time to time over the last 50 or more years, I've had nostalgic thoughts about my first school, in faraway England. Two months ago, I thought I could easily find out how South Chingford Primary School was faring by consulting the internet. Wrong. To my surprise, not one of the search engines seemed to have heard of it. After an arduous search I discovered why. Read The Strange Case of the School That Disappeared, by clicking on CHINGFORD. 0404

WHY TYPEWRITER'S A ONE-LINE WORD
We think we now know why the letters forming the word TYPEWRITER are all on the same line of most typewriters and computer keyboards. Believing it to have been more than a coincidence, we asked the half-million word lovers who receive Anu Garg's weekly roundup, AWADmail, if they knew the reason. To read the full story, click on TYPEWRITER. 0404

AMAZING TYPEWRITER ARTIST
Eighty-two-year-old Paul Smith is a heart-warming and inspiring example of one man's triumph over adversity. Unable to walk, read or write, and confined to a wheelchair, he has drawn hundreds of superb pictures by using an old-fashioned typewriter. And he's been doing that for 60 years. Many of his sketches and paintings can be seen on the internet, by following the links shown at the end of this story about PAUL SMITH. 0403

WHO WAS JIMMY VALENTINE?
Listening to people discussing St. Valentine's Day with Sydney ABC talkback radio presenter James Valentine, we recalled a once popular song, Look out for Jimmy Valentine. Who, we wondered, was Jimmy Valentine? We searched the internet, and found the answer on a most unlikely website. To read this story, and enjoy a few hilarious rhymes with a sting, click on VALENTINES. 0403

FINLAND'S SHOUTING MEN
Have you seen a very funny photograph of a group of men dressed as penguins serenading the crew of an ice-breaker stuck in arctic pack ice? The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) posted it on its popular website early last month, and it's been copied (often without attribution) by dozens of "humor" sites around the world. To hear and see more of this unique choir, click on SHOUTING MEN. 0403

CANDIDATE FOR A PULLET SURPRISE
Ten years ago, Professor Jerrold Zar composed a brilliant poem, which he called Candidate for a Pullet Surprise. Since then, thousands of readers around the world have chuckled over the poem and emailed it to their friends. It's also a favourite on the internet. Hundreds of sites have copied the original words, or posted versions amended by various wits and halfwits. Some have retitled it as Owed to a Spelling Checker or Spellbound, without naming the author. To read Zar's story, and the original poem, click on PULLET SURPRISE. 0403

THREE SISTERS GET AROUND
The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney are one of Australia's greatest tourist attractions. Meehni is 922 metres high, Wimlah 918 metres, and Gunnedoo 906 metres.But they're not alone. In the US, three volcanoes in Oregon are known as the Three Sisters, as are huge monoliths in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Utah. For good measure, Canada and South Africa also have Three Sisters. Read about these spectacular landmarks, and see some great photos, by clicking on THREE SISTERS. 0403

NORTH POLE TO GUATEMALA
We are delighted to find that this unique e-book, written in Australia and published in South Africa, is read in places as far apart as North Pole (Alaska), Wawa (Canada), Buffalo (New York) and even in tropical Guatemala, Central America. Readers from all those place sent us encouraging emails last month. Their friendly messages prompted us to make virtual visits to all those places. Join us on that fascinating trip, by clicking on NORTH POLE. 0403

GOOD NEWS FOR THE OVER-50s
"Life may begin at 40 but the fun starts at 50, according to the latest in a series of studies showing that life for the over-50s is becoming better than ever," Susan Bisset wrote in the London Telegraph on February 22. The Sydney Morning Herald ran the same article the next day. You can read either version by clicking on LONDON or SYDNEY. And then take a look at Silver Surfers' Day. 0403

WAS SHAKESPEARE A CON MAN?
Some people are convinced that the Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe, officially reported to have been killed in a knife fight at the age of 29, had in fact faked his death and fled to Italy. There, they believe, he continued to write, his work being published in England in Shakespeare's name. Australian film maker Mike Rubbo has made a controversial documentary about it. For our story, click on Much Ado About Something. 0402

BRAS, BOOTS AND BIKES
New Zealanders let it all hang out - on rural fences. They display vast collections of used shoes, bras, bicycles, and even skins of feral pigs, on roadside fences that have become tourist attractions. In many parts of the US and a few in Canada, old shoes decorate trees instead of fences. To read about this strange craze, click on FENCES. 0402

SOCKET POCKET PACKET IS VICTIM OF A RACKET
Back in 1994, Professor Gene Ziegler wrote a long and witty poem containing these ludicrous lilting lines:
If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port,
and the bus is interrupted as a very last resort,
and the address of the memory makes your floppy disk abort
then the socket packet pocket has an error to report!
Then some villain cut his poem in half, retitled it, and posted it on a website as the work of an anonymous writer. Since then, hundreds of webmasters have copied the "stolen" poem, without mentioning its author. Discover his true identity by clicking on GENE ZIEGLER. 0402

FRUITCAKES AND FRUITCAKES
Why do so many Americans hate fruitcakes? We first became aware of this phenomenon when we read a story by the New Zealand Herald's New York correspondent, Roger Franklin, under the heading A time when aliens feel like fruitcakes. "For some reason, on this side of the Pacific, fruitcakes are not merely disliked, they are detested and vilified," Roger reported. For details of this nutty story, click on FRUITCAKES. 0402

UNO-ers ARE A PAIN IN THE EAR, YOU KNOW
UNO-ers afflict the English-speaking world. We're not referring to members of the United Nations Organisation. We mean people who persist in inserting the words you know between phrases and sentences. You find them in full flight, you know, on talkback radio, and in TV interviews you know, with footballers, jockeys and even a few politicians, you know. Do French speakers similarly interpolate vous savez, Germans Sie wissen, Italians sapete, and Spanish-language speakers usted sabe?. "People around the world fill pauses in their own languages as naturally as watermelons have seeds," Michael Erard wrote in the New York Times on January 3. You can read his diverting story by clicking on PAUSE FILLERS. 0402

WEBZINE'S BONZER STORIES
One of Australia's most interesting webzines, BONZER! has begun including a story from our e-book in each issue. Bonzer! is a free, monthly online journal by, for and about seniors. Run entirely by volunteers, its editors, writers and readers live in Australia, Canada, Holland, India, New Zealand, UK and US. Its editor, Alan Wheatley (Melbourne) says: "Bonzer! tends to be a quasi-literary journal, but has no pretensions, I hope. We simply publish what we consider to be good writing, both fiction and non-fiction, from seniors." To read the magazine, click on BONZER! 0402

BIRTHDAY GREETINGS FROM THE QUEEN
Nimble ninety-niners in the UK, Australia, and some other Commonwealth countries can relax. Contrary to a report in a Sydney newspaper, they WILL receive messages from the Queen on their 100th birthdays. The report wrongly stated that "500,000 is the number of centenarians in Britain. Letters of congratulations from the Queen were dispensed with some time ago because the milestone is now too common." Someone mistook a crystal ball story by Robin McKie in the London Observer, set in 2060, for a current report. Read the original story by clicking on The Observer. 0402

FORTY VAN GOGHS: REAL OR FAKES?
Forty chalk drawings, sketches and paintings signed Vincent, on display in the Breda Museum, in southern Holland, until February 1, have the potential to touch off a furious argument among art experts around the world: are they genuine Van Goghs, or worthless fakes? Vincent Van Gogh committed suicide in 1890, when he was only 37, after a career of less than 10 years. He produced hundreds of paintings, but sold only one, to his brother. Today, some of his paintings, especially his later work, are worth millions of dollars. To read more , please click on VINCENT. 0401

LIFE BEGINS AT 80... ON THE RADIO
Radio presenter Scott Levi browsed through this website while questioning me about it, in a novel interview broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission's Central Coast station at Gosford, New South Wales, one day last month. "It's fantastic, it's New Age publishing," he said. "It's one of the best radio websites I've ever seen." For a transcript of this interview, please click on ABC. 0401

NEW YORK: BAGHDAD-ON-THE-SUBWAY
"O Henry had another name for New York City - Baghdad on the Hudson," a reader who was born in New York told us after reading last month's story Gotham: Paradise of Fools, in which we listed odd nicknames for American cities. But that's not the name O Henry bestowed on his beloved city. He called New York Baghdad-on-the-Subway. For the full story, click on BAGHDAD. 0401

HUNT FOR TWO BUFFALOES
Here in Australia we have a Kangaroo Island, a Kangaroo Point and a Kangaroo Valley. In America, New York State has a city called Buffalo, named after the bison which used to drink from the nearby Buffalo Creek. South Africa went one better, by naming a place Twee Buffels (Afrikaans for Two Buffaloes), said to be short for Tweebuffelsmeteenskootamperdoodgeskietsfontein. We surfed the internet to find this place, with surprising results. For details, click on TWEE BUFFELS. 0401

SMALL CURATE VISITS PENNY LANE
We wondered whether we could find something of interest about Penny Lane (the place, not the famous song) on the internet. Among many references, we found a great description in "Notes from a Small Curate" whose parish is in the Beatles' home town of Liverpool. To read extracts from the Rev. John Davies's entertaining diary, click on PENNY LANE. 0401

DO YOU REMEMBER THIS?
This day and age we're living in gives cause for apprehension, with speed and new invention and things like fourth dimension. Yet we get a trifle weary with Mr. Einstein's theory, so we must get down to earth at times, relax, relieve the tension. Those wise words might well have been composed this year, but in fact they're the opening lines of a song that was little known when first recorded back in 1931, yet is now a classic. Guess the song's title before you click to learn the ANSWER. 0401

COONBOTTOM AND COWBOYS
"The official name of my teeny-tiny town is Concord, a suburb of slightly larger Havana (kiddingly pronounced HAY-vana), Florida, but folks hereabouts call the area Coonbottom.," says reader Linda Jamison, commenting on our recent story about odd U.S. place names. For Linda's and another reader's comments, click on FEEDBACK. 0401

GOTHAM: PARADISE OF FOOLS
Most of the world's great cities have nicknames, some complimentary, others derisive. We lucky people living in Sydney, Australia (The Harbour City, The Emerald City, and (until Black Saturday) Home of the Rugby World Cup) unkindly refer to our rival city of Melbourne as Bleak City... To read about the colorful nicknames of some of the great cities in the United States, click on GOTHAM. 0312

BARMY ARMY SHOULD CHANGE ITS TUNE
Jonny Wilkinson became Britain's national hero when he kicked a magnificent winning field goal in the last minute of extra time, in the heart-stopping Rugby World Cup final against Australia in Sydney last week. His thousands of supporters, the Barmy Army, time and again sang their theme song, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. Why didn't they sing Oh Jonny, Oh Jonny, Oh? ... To read more, please click on JONNY. 0312

COBBERS, LIKE CONCORDS, ARE HISTORY
Most Australians these days never use the word COBBER. The only time we hear it is when it's uttered by oversea visitors, who are misled by their travellers' guides. It's been superseded by MATE. A Canadian writer claims the word was originally applied to passengers in Cobb & Co's horse-drawn CONCORD coaches in outback Australia. Read about it by clicking on COBBER. 0312

FIVE BEAUT AUSSIE WORDS
In case you missed seeing them when they were first published a few weeks ago, here are stories about five great Aussie words: FURPHY, FOSSICK, WOWSER, YABBER and DINKUM. Please click on FURPHY. 0312

READERS LOVE FURPHIES
Our recent stories about Australian and New Zealand words, some in this e-book, others in A Word A Day, have prompted comments from readers around the world. To read their interesting comments, click on FEEDBACK.

WORDSMITH'S ASIAN TOUR
Anu Garg, mastermind of the global newsletter A Word A Day, has returned home to Seattle (U.S.) after a three country, five city, seven week, 10 speech tour of Asia. He travelled in planes, trains, trams, buses, taxis, and rickshaws, and encountered people speaking Mandarin, Thai, Hindi, Punjabi, English and other languages. During a five-week visit to his former homeland, he was featured in one of India's best-known online magazines, Rediff. You can read the interview by clicking on ANU GARG. 0312

PAPERCUTS AREN'T JUST FOR KIDS
In the western world, paper-cutting (folding a sheet of paper, then cutting or tearing pieces out of it, to form patterns) is usually confined to the kindergarten. But in China, it's an ancient art form. You'll appreciate the skill of some of the world's best papercut artists, and the beauty of their work, if you follow the links at the end of a story you can read by clicking on PAPERCUTS. 0312

UK WEBSITE JOINS GRAYPOW NETWORK
We are delighted to announce that Age-Net, "Britain's biggest and best age related website," has joined our global Graypow Network, which unites five of the world's best websites for senior citizens, in the UK, US, Canada, Australia and South Africa. To see links to those websites, please click on GRAYPOW NETWORK. 0312

THAI TEENAGER'S WEDDING
Two years ago, we raved about a Thai Teenager's Great Websites. Last month that same talented young man, Nattawud Daoruang, married his childhood sweetheart ... and proudly installed a live cam to show the ceremony from his Thailand Life website. "Since I was 12 years old, I have been inviting people into my life in order for them to learn about the Thai culture," he said. "I am proud that not only my family and friends in Thailand could see my wedding but also the many friends I have made in over 100 different countries around the world." To see his wedding photos, click on NATTAWUD. 0312

eMAIL VIRUS WARNING
Our computer has been attacked by an annoying virus which has corrupted many of our recent e-mails, both in and out. We warn all readers that their computers too may be affected. You can check out the danger symptoms by clicking on VIRUS. 0312

OUR AUSTRALIAN CHRISTMAS
We offer all our readers our best wishes for Health, Wealth and Happiness. If you would like to read a long and interesting description of how we Aussies spend our summertime Christmas, we invite you to read a story by septuagenarian Tom Wills, who lives in Sussex Inlet, a picturesque coastal resort 204km (127 miles) south of Sydney. His favourite motto is "Growing old is mandatory - acting old is optional." To read his story, click on CHRISTMAS. 0312

TEN PIGEONS UNDER A MOCKAMOCK TREE
Although separated by only 1200 miles (2000 km) of the Tasman Sea, Australia and New Zealand, both former British colonies, have drifted poles apart in their choice of English words and the way they pronounce their vowels. When a New Zealander says "six" an Australian hears "sex" or "sux"; when an Aussie says "six" the Kiwi hears "seeks." For a story about some odd-sounding Kiwi words, click on TEN PIGEONS. 0311

FAIR DINKUM JACKEROO, DINGO AND KANGAROO
Addressing Australia's Federal Parliament in Canberra on October 23, U.S. President George W. Bush lavished praise on Prime Minister John Howard. "You might remember that I called him a 'man of steel' - that's Texan for 'fair dinkum,'" he said. Dinkum and other odd Oz words will be explained if you click on FAIR DINKUM. 0311

REBECCA'S 139 STREET CHILDREN
Rebecca Tsiane has unselfishly dedicated her life to the plight of street children in her South African home town of Kimberley. A few weeks ago, at a ceremony arranged by Kimberley Rotary Club, she received a Paul Harris Fellowship, an award made to her by the Rotary Club of Brownsburg, Indiana (US). To read this inspiring story, please click on REBECCA. 0311

CONDOM, INTERCOURSE, CLIMAX!
Readers of this e-book have told us of dozens of their favorite weird place names, after reading last month's story about Pity Me (England), Intercourse (Pennsylvania), Hell (Michigan), and Moron (Cuba). Checking out some of those places, because they sounded so unlikely, we found two websites with huge lists of even weirder U.S. place names. For full details, click on ODD PLACES. 0311

'AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE' AT RUGBY WORLD CUP
Will spectators excitedly chant Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! at the Rugby World Cup matches in Australia this month? Whenever that rousing chorus echoed around the world on TV and radio from the Olympic Games three years ago, those shouting it unknowingly boosted the worldwide popularity of that ubiquitous but peculiar British dish, the Cornish Pasty. For this story, please click on AUSSIE CHANT. 0311

SHACKLE'S UNSHACKLED
Nearly 50 years ago, my ever-loving wife, Jerry Shackle, weary from coping with our four young children and a heedless husband, heard a gramophone (phonograph) recording of a popular song being played on the "wireless." Russ Columbo sang "I need no SHACKLES to remind me/I'm just a prisoner of love." She shrugged her shoulders and gave me a rueful smile. On rare occasions, to this very day, she (and most wives the world over) has probably wished she was UNSHACKLED. In Chicago, a long-running religious radio program is strangely called UNSHACKLED. Read why it was so named, by clicking on UNSHACKLED. 0311

CLARISSA MAY SELL JOHN PEEL
We suggested last month that Clarissa Dickson Wright, one of the BBC's Two Fat Ladies, should change the colour of her car from red to gray. In naming it JOHN PEEL, we said, she has perpetuated a popular myth, since John Peel's coat was gray, not red. Sadly, Clarissa may now have to sell her lovely red Saab convertible, instead of respraying it, as her lawyers have filed for bankruptcy (for the third time). We found an amusing story about this latest setback to her colorful career, in a famous U.K. newspaper. You can read it for free (and thus confirm the accuracy of the anagram, HASN'T COST ME) by clicking on THE SCOTSMAN. 0311

FUN WITH WORDS
Word-lovers will enjoy roaming through English university student Daniel Austin's new website, dedicated to amusing quirks, peculiarities, and oddities of the English language. Daniel presents more than 500 pages of word puzzles, games, amazing lists, and fun facts. You can visit it by clicking on FUN WITH WORDS. 0311

All above articles copyright © 2004.  Eric Shackle

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