The holidays may be over but that's no excuse for not keeping up with the facts. Today's edition reveals why George Bush was a lot more proficient with technology than he let on, identifies the locations of our country's meager number of poetry-only bookstores, uncovers the largest fortress in the Western Hemisphere, marks the 50th anniversary of crime writer Dashielle Hammett's death, highlights a new book imagining the life of one of the "Tiffany Girls", and brings you up to date on the status of the iconic Texas Theatre. You just never know what knowing this kind of stuff could do for you!
✦ Who knew "W" was such a conservationist? According to this article, George Bush's presidential library will house 80 terabytes of digital data, including 200 million e-mails, the latter alone the equivalent of 600 million printed pages. Now, that's a lot of trees saved.
✦ We keep hearing that poetry doesn't sell, so perhaps it's not surprising that the United States has just three poetry-only bookstores within its borders. Those stores are at opposite ends of the country. One's in Seattle, Washington (Open Books: A Poem Emporium), one's in Harvard Square, in Cambridge, Massachusetts (The Grolier Poetry Book Shop), and the third (Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe), described here, recently opened in Boulder.
✦ It's the largest fortress in the Western hemisphere, with 16-foot-thick walls and ramparts 130 feet high. It's stood on a Haitian mountaintop since its construction just after the country's independence in 1804. It's called Citadelle Laferriere. Details about this World Heritage Site are available here. Photographer Marvin T. Jone's images and description of the fortress are here. Many other images may be viewed here.
✦ A master at writing detective stories, Dashielle Hammett (b. 1894) likely developed more than one good idea while working for the Pinkerton Agency (now part of Securitas Security Services USA, Inc.). Marking the 50th anniversary of Hammett's death in 1961, The Baltimore Sun ran this feature about the places the mystery/crime writer frequented while a resident of the city. The Reader's Almanac blog of The Library of America cites the Baltimore Literary Heritage Project as another source for facts about Hammett and the places in Baltimore where he "cut his writing teeth."
✦ One of the designers at Tiffany Studios was a woman, Clara Driscoll, whose employment by the company was discovered in 2005 by two Tiffany scholars through a cache of correspondence. The find led to a book about Driscoll, A New Light on Tiffany: Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls (D. Giles, Ltd., 2007), and, most recently, a novel, Clara and Mr. Tiffany (January 2011), in which author Susan Vreeland imagines Driscoll's life in Gilded Age New York. A recent NPR interview with Vreeland is here.
✦ The historic Texas Theatre, which was opened in Dallas in 1931 by Howard Hughes and is owned by Oak Cliff Foundation, was the first movie house in the city to be equipped with air conditioning. It is also the place where John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald tried to hide out; he entered the theatre without paying and was arrested there. The theatre was closed in 1989, purchased the next year by the Texas Theatre Historical Society, closed again in 1992, rescued from the wrecking ball, and almost done in by a fire in 1995. For a number of years thereafter, abandoned, its mortgage payments unpaid, it was vandalized and in disrepair. Today, thanks to Oak Cliff, it's a community-run movie house that also hosts special events. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, and in August 2010, handed off to Aviation Cinemas Inc. The latter's plans for the theatre were the subject of this Dallas South News story last September.