Just think how impressed your holiday guests will be when you share your knowledge about Tom Waits, Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen, Orchard House, Wanda Coleman, flying snakes, and an infamous error in a Bible printed in England. Oh, go ahead; show off a little!
✦ The experience of homelessness is the subject of a collaborative poetry and photography project by singer-songwriter Tom Waits and photographer Michael O'Brien. The pair's book, Hard Ground, which will be published in March 2011 by the University of Texas Press, is Waits' first poetry collection.
✦ The 115th anniversary of Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen's discovery of electromagnetic radiation — x-ray — was celebrated on November 8, 2010. Roentgen won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901.
Roentgen's Discovery of X-Ray, British Library Bodies of Knowledge
Deutsches Rontgen Museum (A version of the site in English is forthcoming.)
✦ Pigs may not fly any time soon but certain kinds of snakes do: the Chrysopelea — or, as it is more commonly known, flying snake. Found in Burma, southern Thailand, parts of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and parts of the Philippines, the Chrysopelea sinuously parachutes from tree to tree. The subject of ongoing research (including Defense Department-funded studies), the snake even has it own Website, where you will find FAQs, aerial images, and video.
✦ A 1631 printing of the Bible in England contains an infamous misprint of the Seventh Commandment. It seems, according to this interesting recent article, that a most important three-letter word — not —was not included. The Bishop of London dutifully reported the not-so-little and grievous error of the royal printers Barker and Lucas to King Charles I, who in turn stripped the men of their license and set a fine upon the heads. To the scandalized Archbishop of Canterbury's eternal regret, that version ever thereafter has been known as "The Wicked Bible".
✦ Louisa May Alcott's "Orchard House", the setting for Little Women and the place where Alcott wrote her much-loved classic, has a Website of its own. It's even possible to tour its rooms without leaving your desktop. A good thing that is, because the house is shown by guided tour only and you would not want to arrive unexpected. Fire laws of Historic Concord, Massachusetts, where the house is located, restrict the number of visitors at any one time and parking can be a dreadful problem. Still, the "very basic" guide to the National Historic Landmark is available not only in English but Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, and Esperanto; moreover, several staff are trained in American Sign Language.
Alcott, by the way, would have turned 178 on November 29.
✦ Who says poets aren't well-rounded? She was a bronze-medal finalist for a National Book Award for Poetry in 2001, won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize in 1999 — the first African-American woman to do so — and has Guggenheim Foundation and NEA fellowships in her resume. She's been a medical secretary, a magazine editor, a journalist, and a scriptwriter. She's worked in dance and collaborated with musicians. And she's the subject of this marvelous drawing by Norn Cutson. This "High Priestess of Word", who has profiles at Poets.org and the Poetry Foundation, is Wanda Coleman. Read an interview with her here.