What's in there?
The works of George Orwell (remember the link from the previous page?). Dark Shadows (the original series). Feijoada. Caspar David Friedrich's paintings, especially Cloister Graveyard in the Snow, destroyed by Allied bombs during the Second World War. Movies, submarines, even movies about submarines. Aircraft of all kinds, most especially wonderfully strange thangs. William Shakespeare's works (here's his Sonnet 29). The (American) Civil War (also see here), or, "The Late Unpleasantness." The works of H. P. Lovecraft (what would Lovecraft make of this?). John James Audubon's Birds of America (with heartfelt thanks to Richard R. Buonanno) - most especially the five wonderful birds I will never see alive: the Great Auk, the Eskimo Curlew, the Passenger Pigeon, the Ivory- Billed Woodpecker and the Carolina Parakeet.
April 28 2005: could it be? Have they really found the Lord God Bird?
The paintings of Gustav Klimt, especially Danae. Robert Lowell's poem Skunk Hour (1959). Apple Computer's products, both new and old. Dr. Bronner's magic soap, especially Peppermint. (I remember rinsing this stuff off under icy mountain waterfalls, and reading the label copy afterwards. Say what you will about the late Doctor's religious prose, his heart was in the right place.) The works of P(elham) G(renville) Wodehouse. Animal hoarding. Cocktails, especially the Martini (Lowell Edmunds' book on the subject is, at least in my opinion, definitive; if you can find it, also read the first edition, The Silver Bullet - published 1981). Daffodils. Just about anything playing at Atom Films. The works of Mervyn Peake. Marine cryptozoology and cryptozoologists - also here, here and here. As a child I was fascinated by stories of the Loch Ness Monster. As an adult I am even more interested in real animals: those once thought to be extinct (e.g. Latimeria chalumnæ, the coelacanth - see also here), those only recently discovered (e.g. Megachasma pelagios, the megamouth shark), or those about which virtually nothing is known (e.g. Architeuthis dux, the giant squid - see also here). (Another first during my lifetime: Architeuthis photographed in the wild!) Even animal carcasses can be mysterious, as when a very dead basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) is mistaken for a plesiosaur, or the separated lower jaw of a dead baleen whale is believed to be a tusked sea monster, the "ataka." Also, I like the term 'Globster' in reference to mysterious marine remains. Hinds' Feet Farm, directed by my old friend Marty Foil. If you are looking for a non-profit organization that deserves your support, look no further. Peter Warlock's Capriol suite. My Word!, with (obviously) Frank Muir and Denis Norden, although I came to it late enough in its life that the women panelists were the critic Dilys Powell and the writer Anne Scott-James. Roadside America, "Your Online Guide to Offbeat Attractions." The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. K. C. Johnson's invaluable Durham in Wonderland blog. (All playful Carolina-Duke rivalry aside, I am appalled by the behavior of so many administrators, trustees, faculty, attorneys, police and elected officials involved in this scandal.) The works of Raymond Briggs. I have a lot of respect for Roger Ebert's movie reviews, even though I don't always agree with him.
How do you know?
Other than Cecil Adams, no one can know everything. Therefore it's a question of where you get your news, information and commentary. Here're a few of my sources. The Onion. National Public Radio. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Slashdot. The CIA World Factbook (frankly, there are many worse ways to spend our tax dollars). NewsScan. The New York Times. The Washington Post. The Dead People Server. The Library of Congress. The Encyclopædia Britannica (this is the free one. In gratitude for this version, I acknowledge that there may well be advantages to subscribing to the fee-based Encyclopædia Britannica, as they claim.) The Oxford English Dictionary (available over the Web only by subscription. Whatever it costs, it's worth it. I am lucky enough to own the two-volume Compact Edition - thanks, Mom and Dad!) The Word Detective (and an allied site, How Come?). LESTER (developed by my colleagues at the DeWitt Wallace Library). The Internet Movie Database. The Perseus Project at Tufts University. The Urban Legends Reference Pages at www.snopes.com. The Hoaxbusters pages, jointly maintained by the Computer Incident Advisory Capability and the U. S. Department of Energy. Time and date.com. The Skeptic's Dictionary. NewsScan.com. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. World Wide Words ("Michael Quinion writes about international English from a British viewpoint"). FactCheck.org. Professionally, I value the collaborations fostered by the Consortium of Liberal Arts Colleges. Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog. Digital Forsyth County, NC.
What've you done?
Born and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Proud graduate of Messiah Moravian Church Kindergarten. Attended Whitaker Elementary, the NC Advancement School (the old City Hospital; the school closed in 1976) and Kimberly Park Elementary. Moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1975. Survived Riverwood high school (believe me, today's Riverwood is light-years ahead of the minimum-security prison I endured). In truth, the most positive and formative experiences of my adolescence had nothing to do with school, but were centered around summers at Camp Sequoyah and, during the rest of the year, spiritual growth at Home Moravian Church and later at Holy Innocents' Episcopal Church. Went to college. Joined American Mensa to win a bet. Went on to graduate school studying English and American literature - completed my M.A. in 1987 and my Ph.D. in 1994. (Understand this was back in the day when two semesters of Anglo-Saxon/Old English, including Beowulf, were required of all students regardless of major or minor field.) Discovered the five uncomfortable truths of teaching film criticism while teaching guess what. Cooked at a restaurant that's not there anymore, but which boasted the best mixed drinks in Chapel Hill. Worked at a wilderness summer camp, managing the stable and running the horseback riding program. (It was not Sequoyah - nothing could ever duplicate Sequoyah! - but it comes as close as I'm likely to find in this life.) Joined the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Got engaged, then married (same woman). Got a job in the computer center of a Midwestern liberal-arts college. Learned to love the Midwest by living there. Later, moved on to another job with another Midwestern liberal-arts college (but you knew that), also in the IT office. Wrote a book guaranteed to conquer insomnia. I have sung baritone, or tried to, with the now-defunct Macalester Festival Chorale. Attended the Frye Institute as a member of the 2001 cohort. Thrilled to be a father. I still like to cook - try one of my recipes. A good friend has introduced me to the joys of duck hunting on the Mississippi; during some of our most memorable hunts, we've not fired a shot. After forty years, I have finally seen bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in the wild. I find spiritual energy, strength and challenges at Saint Clement's Episcopal Church, and currently serve as Clerk of the Vestry. Encouraged by my children, I have taken up taekwondo at a local dojang and currently hold a purple belt. Encouraged by no one, I have also taken up haidong gumdo and currently hold an orange belt. I cannot remember ever losing a game of Trivial Pursuit, but then again most people who know me won't play me anymore. I have been complimented on my turkey-carving and martini-mixing skills.