Saturday, October 25, 2008
The Man Who Pawned the World
Too Bad They Can't Censor Irony
There is a long tradition of the military suppressing news that it considers detrimental to national security by slapping a D-notice on it. But when the D-notice committee decided that the time was ripe to publish its own official history, nobody imagined that it would fall victim to its own system. The history of the D-notice committee has, in effect, had a D-notice slapped on it by the D-notice committee.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
(A nice touch: music that roughly synchs with the constant bobbling of the camera.)
Saturday, October 18, 2008
A Book Town, Eh?
SIDNEY, B.C. - Stroll down Beacon Street, Sidney's main drag, and it won't take long to realize this quaint Vancouver Island town is chock-a-block with bookstores - 11 within a five-block area, with number 12 due to open next month....It's worth pointing out that Sidney may avoid the the problems that I pegged as dooming Archer City and other would-be book towns.
"It wasn't our idea," says the U.K.-born Clive [Tanner], 74, a one-time B.C. Liberal provincial politician.
He says it was his Canadian-born wife's fondness for visiting Britain that resulted in their discovery of the original "Booktown" in Hay-on-Wye, a tiny village that straddles the border between Wales and England. An eccentric by the name of Richard Booth, often called the "King of Hay," turned the once-sleepy backwater of 1,100 people into a home to roughly 40 bookshops and the largest annual literary festival in the English-speaking world.
The Tanners have met Booth on several occasions.
"He's as nutty as a fruit cake, quite honestly," says Clive, who some might consider a wee bit "out-of-round" himself.
"But the idea he had was that more bookstores invite more people. We thought it was a hell of a good idea."
From that Stubble post in 2005:
If I were to guess, I'd say that that if a Hay-scale book town (I know, I know, Nevada City is trying) ever arises in the US, it will be in a neglected old mill town -- you need some good old 19th-century brick commercial buildings sitting about -- with a densely built walkable downtown. It will be within a hour's drive from a city with an airport... preferably a city served by Jet Blue or Southwest, since bookworms like me are cheapskates... oh, and within reach of one of the rail or bus corridors, since a lot of us are crap drivers. And it wouldn't hurt to have some bucolic rural landscape outside of town.Sidney's a harbor town -- so it probably has a charming and walkable center with good storage space -- and it's just a half-hour from Victoria.
Sounds like it might do quite nicely.
Everything Sounds Better in French
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Price Slashed! Motivated Seller!
I'm in New Scientist this week with a favorite obsession of mine -- Orson Fowler and his Victorian fad for octagonal houses. Many old octagons are still around -- check out this strangely engrossing website that exhaustively catalogues them -- but the Fowler's own home in Fishkill NY isn't among them. The massive 60-room octagon that came to be known as "Fowler's Folly" had, shall we say, a checkered history.
Although it had been vaguely known that a Cuban and a falsely identified "murderess" occupied the home in its later years, digging around in archives for this article turned up new details of just how weird things got:
After the typhoid outbreak, the home ran through a succession of colourful owners. Cuban revolutionary Andrés Cassard used it in the 1860s to house a "Cuban Institute and Military Academy." Later, one Emma Cunningham ran it as a boarding house, until she was misidentified as an infamous jilted lover of the same name who had stabbed her dentist beau to death with his own instruments. Her boarders fled and the house went up for sale again.Last year the Times covered Cunningham's case in all its jawdropping detail when new headstones marked "the most hideous, dysfunctional, psychopathic couplings between man and woman that I’ve ever read."
Saturday, October 04, 2008
I had to give up. This sentence is not for diagramming lightweights. If there's anyone out there who can kick this sucker into line, I'd be delighted to hear from you. To me, it's not English—it's a collection of words strung together to elicit a reaction, floating ands and prepositional phrases ("with that vote of the American people") be damned. It requires not a diagram but a selection of push buttons.It just so happens that someone has come up with that exact schematic. Via Andrew Sullivan, it's the...