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ARCHIVES - NOVEMBER 2004 TO APRIL 2005

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AMERICANS INVADE AUSTRALIA!
Nicole Kidman and Mel Gibson are world-famous Australian actors... but both were born in the United States. Thousands of other Americans have settled in Oz. The Australian Society of American Descendants (ASAD) aims to identify, document, preserve and promote awareness of the contribution of American Australians. For this story, please click on AMERALIANS. 0504

OGOPOGO: CANADA'S LOCH NESS MONSTER
Everyone knows about Scotland's famous Loch Ness monster, but comparatively few people have ever heard of Canada's Ogopogo, which hundreds of locals and visitors claim to have seen in Okanagan Lake in British Columbia, some 250 miles east of Vancouver. Ogopogo has been described as being dark green, 15 to 50 feet long, one to two feet wide, with a head like that of a horse or goat with a beard. Truth or fiction? Decide for yourself, after clicking on OGOPOGO. 0504

WEIRD AND WONDERFUL LETTERBOXES/MAILBOXES
Twenty-five strange and funny letterboxes formed one of the most popular exhibits at Sydney's Royal Easter Show last month. They were the pick of 68 entries in The Great Australian Letterbox Competition, which included replicas of flying pigs and rockets, golf clubs and an emu. For details and photos of laughable letterboxes and mirth making mailboxes around the world, click on WEIRD AND WONDERFUL. 0504

PRINCE CHARLES DOWN UNDER
Charles, Prince of Wales, the soon-to-be married (again) heir to the British throne, who may or may not become King of Australia one day, made headlines around the world when he said in Melbourne on March 3, "Gradually, as the actress said to the bishop, it all became too big for me." The language was fruitier and the jokes a little more risqué, Caroline Davies reported. Royalists and Republicans can read more about this incident by clicking on RISQUE. 0504

I LIKE BEING OLDER!
A friend in Florida sent us a delightful essay by an anonymous author, which many over-50s are sending to friends everywhere. If you know who wrote it, please let us know so that we can give him a well-deserved byline. His remarks express our own sentiments, except that we octogenarians would revise the sentence "I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 50s & 60s" to read "I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 30s and 40s." Anyone over 50 (and perhaps under-50s as well) should read this consoling ESSAY. 0504

FOUR DOTS IN Ajijic
When world traveller Norm Gillespie, in Ajijic (pronounced ah-hee-HEEK), Mexico, posted a message on our GuestMap, we emailed him, commenting on the four successive dots in the town's name. He said he made home movies of his travels, in which the opening credit was A Four Dots Production. "Are there four dots over any other place name?" he asked. Find the answer by clicking on FOUR DOTS. 0504

THE LONG ARM OF THE WEB
At home in Boorowa, a small town in the New South Wales outback, Andrew Pritchard was checking out a live image webcam half-way around the world, in Devon, England, when he spotted two people acting suspiciously. Quick as a flash, he made a long-distance phone call to the Devon police. A few minutes later, still watching the action through the webcam, he saw two patrol cars pull up and.... To read what happened next, click on BBC. 0504

MARCH FEEDBACK
We've received stacks of interesting feedback about our March issue, notably Popular Piccolo Player Performs in Palo Alto, A Lot of Hot Air and Read the Taos Daily & Horsefly! To see these and other contributions, click on FEEDBACK. 0504

KILOMETRE-HIGH SOLAR TOWER PLANNED FOR OZ
If all goes to plan, a solar tower a mind-boggling one kilometre (3280 feet) high - nearly twice the height of the world's tallest building - will be built in a remote part of Australia appropriately named Sunraysia, by the end of 2010. Cynics scoff at the idea, saying they'll believe it when they see it. To read about this ambitious plan, click on SOLAR TOWER. 0503

WEASELS AND WEASELWORDS
The internet is full of pleasant surprises. Searching for Don Watson's Australian weaselwords website to read about his war against bureaucratic jargon, we tapped in "weaselwords.com", only to find it's an American website devoted not to fuzzy words but to small furry animals called ferrets. To read more about ferrets and words, click on WEASELWORDS. 0503

WANTED: PACIFIC RADIO MEMORABILIA
David Ricquish and the New Zealand based non-profit organisation, the Radio Heritage Foundation, have embarked on a gigantic task. They plan to collect and publish on the internet, details of every one of thousands of radio stations, past and present, that have broadcast in the wider Pacific region from the 1890s to the present day. For details, click on RADIO HERITAGE. 0503

NEWSPAPER IS ACTUALLY NAMED THE FISHWRAPPER
Newspapers around the world are often contemptuously called fishwrappers, the suggestion being that that's all they're fit for. Now we have discovered a newspaper that proudly flaunts the name The Fishwrapper on its masthead. To read about it, click on FISHWRAPPER. 0503

HORSE MILK "GIFT FROM HEAVEN"
Before long, many people may be drinking milk from horses (more precisely, from mares) instead of from cows. Horse milk is rapidly winning converts in several European countries. It's rich in vitamins and minerals, is easily digested, and contains only 1.5 per cent fat, compared with 3.7 per cent for cows' milk. To read about this, click on HORSE MILK. 0503

MESSAGES FROM MANY LANDS
"I've been inspired! Tired, retired, almost expired, and now inspired!" That's the message posted on our GuestMap by Mary Thorman, of Costa Rica. Other messages last month came from South Korea, India, Kuwait, Ireland, South Africa, China, Greece, United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia. To read them, please click on our GUESTMAP. 0503

NIGERIAN EMAIL SCAMMERS SCAMMED
A clever English "scambaiter" and his quickwitted colleagues have turned the tables on some of those obnoxious Nigerian email scammers, by conning them in the same way that the conmen trick thousands of gullible victims. Their strings of messages, posted on the internet, are hilarious. In a classic case of man bites dog, the head baiter, Mike, claims to have tricked six different "419" email scammers into paying out amounts totalling more than $US1200. Anyone who's fed up with receiving spam from Nigeria (and elsewhere) should read this story, by clicking on SCAMBAITER. 0502

SLAP MY ASS AND CALL ME SALLY!
We burst out laughing when we read that wonderful phrase in an email from our friend Rocky Rodenbach, of Tampa, Florida, the other day. Slap my ass and call me Sally!, he said, was a common expression in his neck of the woods. An internet search revealed further details about Sally. To check them out, click on SMAC. 0502

SILHOUETTE MEN IN OZ AND US
Two gifted Scissorhands, one in Sydney (Australia), the other in Tennessee (US), both call themselves The Silhouette Man. They are keeping alive the ancient art of cutting black paper silhouettes of people's faces. Many of their superb portraits can be seen on the internet. Silhouettes were the most popular means of capturing a likeness until the camera was invented. For further details, click on SILHOUETTES. 0502

FAREWELL, DOLLY DYER
Senior Australians were saddened to learn that Dolly Dyer, a much-loved star of radio and early black-and-white television, died from a stroke on Christmas Day, aged 84. For my wife and me it was a personal loss, as 50 years ago Dolly and her famous American-born husband Bob Dyer were our friends. As public relations officer for the oil company sponsoring their national show, BP Pick-a-Box, I was closely associated with them for several years. For this story, please click on BOB AND DOLLY. 0502

WILD WEST'S WEEKLY ALIBI
Here's an amusing story by US newspaperman TV Hagenah, who shares our interest in the many odd names given to newspapers. To read about the Weekly Alibi and the Truth and Consequences Herald, click on WILD WEST. 0502

MESSAGES FROM AROUND THE WORLD
The World's First Multi-National e-Book lived up to its name last month, proving to be truly global. Successive messages in our GuestMap came from visitors in Lithuania, Belgium, India, Canada, USA, Scotland, Canada, India, Hawaii, USA (with an Afghan flag), and France. Earlier in January we heard from readers in Iran, Poland, Mexico and Australia. To read these messages, click on FEEDBACK. 0502

BBC'S REVOLVING DOOR
Being preoccupied on Christmas Eve, we missed hearing or reading about a helpful BBC directive to its staff, on how to cope with revolving doors. Even at this late stage, the report is well worth reading. Just click on REVOLVING DOORS. 0502

NAME AND SHAME IS A WORLDWIDE GAME
Have you noticed how Naming and Shaming is the latest craze sweeping around the world? In olden days, law-abiding citizens imprisoned reprobates in stocks and hurled eggs and verbal abuse at them.. Today, Laura Norder supporters punish mischief-makers and evildoers with Name and Shame ridicule. To read this story, click on NAME AND SHAME. 0501

PREACHER'S DONKEY WAS A HORSE 60 YEARS AGO
The hilarious story The Preacher's Donkey is a classic example of an anecdote that has improved with age. Thanks to expert advice from Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University, we've traced its origin back to the 1930s or 1940s, when famous US radio comedan Bob "Bazooka" Burns recounted a similar tale about a horse instead of a donkey, to a nationwide audience. To read how Burns's horse developed longer ears over the years, click on THE PREACHER'S HORSE. 0501

BLOODSUCKING LEECHES REGAIN POPULARITY
Leeches, those small, slithery black worms that cling to your feet and legs and suck your blood if you venture into their territory, are making a medical comeback. They're being widely used to prevent veins from clotting after skin grafts, reconstructive surgery or amputation. To read about this development, click on LEECHES. 0501

SADDAM LONG WAY FROM OZ
Etta Long, who won a prize in a Shaggy Dog contest two years ago, is now serving with an Australian unit in Baghdad. Etta sent us this parody based on Irving Berlin's famous White Christmas, which we have compared with the original version. To read the two versions, click on ETTA LONG. 0501

NEWTS, LIKE PARROTS, GET SQUIFFY
In spite of some 70 years of familiarity with slang and colourful, often crude, expressions, I have never heard 'pissed as a parrot' before, though 'pissed as a newt' was in common use in my distant student days. - Dr Hugh de Glanville, a member of the Queen's English Society, commenting on last month's story about intoxicated parrots. To discover how cute newts behave like pickled parrots, click on NEWTS. 0501

...TO TALK OF SEALING-WAX
Having already written about shoes, ships, cabbages and kings, we felt obliged to pen a story about sealing-wax. You rarely see a wax-sealed letter these days, but you may spot wax seals on professional certificates proudly displayed in doctors' and dentists' waiting rooms. And they're sometimes used to decorate formal wedding invitations. For more on this topic, click on SEALING-WAX. 0501

CHICAGO TOO IS FOND OF FALCONS
A story in our November issue, Peregrine Falcons Love High Buildings, told how the world's fastest birds nest in tall buildings in Brisbane (Australia) and in the US cities of New York, Columbus Ohio, Harrisburg Pennsylvania, Atlanta Georgia, and elsewhere. "I was a little miffed to see that Chicago was excluded from your list," Richard Hugunine told us by email. "Chicago did, after all, give birth to the skyscraper." To read about the Windy City's falcons, click on CHICAGO. 0501

E-BOOK FOR SENIOR CITIZENS ACHIEVES AIM
Just four years ago, a retired Australian journalist and a South African webmaster launched The World's First Multi-National e-Book, Life Begins at 80... on the Internet, in a bid to encourage senior citizens around the world "to ride the magic carpet of the internet." Starting from a modest readership of a few dozen, our virtual visitors now number many thousands. Lecturers and senior citizen advisers recommend the book to their students. - To see a selection of readers' messages, click on FOURTH BIRTHDAY. 0412

FOOD CRITICS HATE BEING CRITICISED
Food critics the world over often write ruthless reviews, but when one of their victims hits back, they squeal like stuck pigs (and that's a particularly appropriate phrase, if the allegations are correct). In the UK, a vicious but at times hilarious war of words began when restaurant critic Matthew Norman described the up-market restaurant Shepherds as "the eighth circle of hell", "among the very worst restaurants in Christendom" serving "meals of crescendoing monstrosity." For the rest of this story, click on CRITICS. 0412

HOW PARROTS GET (ahem) PISSED
We've discovered at last how that colourful phrase "pissed as a parrot" originated. For years, we'd wondered why humans under the affluence of inkohol are sometimes said to act like parrots. If that pee word offends you, then read no further. Otherwise click on TIPSY PARROTS. 0412

FROM HILLBILLY ZEB IN TEXAS TO A SOLDIER FROM EROMANGA
It's not often that a story makes us laugh out loud, but this one did. It was so amusing that we set out to find the name of its author. To our surprise, we found different versions of the same story on dozens of US and Irish websites. It gradually improved with age. Compare three versions, by clicking on ZEB. 0412

COOKIE ANDERSON'S 53,000 PEACE CRANES
In a unique 30-year bid to promote world peace, Cookie Anderson has fashioned 53,000 origami peace cranes by painstakingly folding squares of colored paper. Her achievement is particularly praiseworthy since Cookie, who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (US), suffers from the effects of polio and a car accident, and looks after her 92-year-old mother. For details, click on PEACE! 0412

PAT SOLLEY'S EXALTATION OF SOUPS
Of the many thousands of food writers crowding the Internet, Pat Solley is probably the wittiest
, we wrote in 2001. The good news is that Pat has written a book, An Exaltation of Soups : The Soul-Satisfying Story of Soup, As Told in More Than 100 Recipes, which will become available on December 28 - too late for Christmas, but it would make a souper New Year gift. To read more about Pat and her book, click on EXALTATION. 0412

MARY POPPINS: AMERICAN REALITY VERSION
Stella Reid, a 40-year-old British-trained nanny who has worked in the US for the last 15 years, is one of three nannies who will appear in the popular US TV show, Nanny 911, this season. Although dressed like Mary Poppins, her actions are nothing like those of the beloved Mary Poppins described in last month's e-book. The reality show depicts methods of dealing with unruly children. To read an interview with Stella Reid, click on JACKSONVILLE DAILY NEWS. 0412

THREE MORE NOTABLE NONAGENARIANS
Senior citizens may like to read about two of Sydney's nimble nonagenarians. At 93, Dorothy de Low flew to Japan in May to compete in the 12th World Veterans' Table Tennis Championships (click on DOROTHY). And Nancy Phelan (91) has won a prestigious literary award (click on NANCY). And in California, Emeryville's New College held a party on November 29 to mark the 97th birthday of Thomas C Fleming, doyen of black journalists, and named its library in his honor. You can read about it in the OAKLAND TRIBUNE. 0412

RACING SHEEP AMBLE IN EMMAVILLE, BOLT IN BIDEFORD
Champion racehorses burst from their starting boxes and charge towards the finish line, eager to win. Racing sheep, by contrast, usually prefer to amble. That's why horse races are more popular than sheep races. But an English farmer claims one of his racing rams established a world record by covering a 220-yard course (which included a "ewe-turn") in just 17 seconds. To read about these tardy and speedy animals, click on SHEEP RACING. 0411

MARY POPPINS: THREE STATUES
In what country was the author of one of the world's most-loved children's books, Mary Poppins, born? Since it tells the story of a London nanny, most people would promptly reply "England." But they'd be wrong. The book, published in 1934, shows the author's name as P L Travers, but her earlier name was Helen Lyndon Goff, and she was born on August 9, 1899, in an upstairs room of a stately bank building in Maryborough, Queensland (Australia). To read the story, click on Mary Poppins. 0411

PEREGRINE FALCONS LOVE HIGH BUILDINGS
Birdlovers around the world are enjoying frequent visits to a website in Brisbane, Australia's third-largest city, to see live camera shots of four peregrine falcon chicks, whose nest is on the roof of one of the city's most prestigious high-rise apartment buildings. In the United States, peregrine falcons' nests have been found on skyscrapers in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia and elsewhere. For this story, click on FALCONS. 0411

SLOW CITIES SAY IT'S THE WAY TO GO
We've heard of small towns in Australia and America where the most exciting thing you can do is watch wet paint dry in the sun, but none of those places wants to be proclaimed a Slow City. Yet dozens of towns in Italy and others in Great Britain, Germany, Greece, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden. Japan and Brazil are seeking that honour. Read about this valiant bid aimed at improving the quality of life, by clicking on CITTASLOW. 0411

WHO WROTE THE PREACHER'S DONKEY?
Does anyone know the name of the author of the hilarious story The Preacher's Donkey? It's posted on dozens of fun and joke websites, but none of them discloses its origin. Compare these two versions by clicking on CHRISTIAN and MUSLIM. 0411

HOW THE EGG WAR ENDED
George Bisbee, organiser of a planned re-enactment of an 1825 egg war in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin, scheduled for October 2 (see last month's story), sportingly offered himself as a target for disappointed spectators after the war was called off. Because of atrocious weather, the planned sea battle had to be abandoned in favor of a land battle, then some of the rival teams chickened out. So George handed out 500 eggs to the crowd, donned protective clothing, and invited them to take pot-shots at him. See George with egg on his face by clicking HERE, and then read a story by Sean Schultz in the Green Bay Press-Gazette. 0411

FLYING PHIL IN SOUTH AFRICA
Flying Phil Rabinowitz, the world's speediest centenarian, who divides his time between Australia and South Africa, was one of 56,000 participants in Sydney's annual City to Surf fun run in August, as we reported in our September edition. For an encore, Phil and some of his children and grandchildren took part in the Cape Times FNB Big Walk in South Africa last month. The newspaper says the annual event attracts 25,000 contestants, "large and small, young and old, pale-skinned and dark, rich and poor." For the full report, click on CAPE TIMES. 0411

LOVABLY CRANKY OLD CODGERS
"If I have to get old, I want to be like the codgers I know - politically incorrect and lovably cranky," says US humorist Gerald Nachman. "At sixtysomething, I am rapidly approaching Codgerville, where suddenly - and alarmingly - I feel almost at home." Senior citizens will enjoy reading this story from the October 11 issue of NEWSWEEK. 0411

All above articles copyright © 2004-5.  Eric Shackle

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