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November 9, 2009

'Mr. Ron's Basement' celebrates 1,500th episode

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Ron Evry of Woodbridge, Virginia, to be more precise.

Long story (the subject of John Kelly's column in today's Washington Post) short: Tonight Evry will go to down to his basement and record himself reading aloud a story written by newspaper humorists of yore, the 1,500th installment in his ongoing series begun over five years.

Evry has singlehandedly resurrected a feature of newspapers of a century ago.

Sure, Mark Twain and O Henry are names that spring to mind but Evry brings to the fore Stanley Huntley, Fanny Fern, Ellis Parker Butler, Stephen Leacock and many, many other now lost in time names.

Free, the way we like it.

Here's Kelly's column.

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A new voice for the humorists buried deep in the newspaper bin

In the basement of his Woodbridge home — surrounded by comic books and paperbacks, crumbling hardbacks and yellowing newspapers — Ron Evry is conjuring up a vanished world.

It's a world of patent medicine-hustling mountebanks and pushy insurance salesmen, of clueless wives and blustering bosses, of penny farthing bicycles and steam trains and celluloid collars and mistaken identities and close scrapes and comically ill-planned get-rich-quick schemes.

It's a world that you would have recognized instantly if you had been reading a newspaper a century or more ago.

Back then, just about every U.S. newspaper published short, humorous stories, brief bits of fiction set amongst the shipping news and the ads for liver pills. Mark Twain and O Henry did that sort of thing better than anybody, but plenty of other writers did it, too: Stanley Huntley, Fanny Fern, Ellis Parker Butler, Stephen Leacock. . . .

Five years ago, Ron decided to rescue these and other writers from obscurity.

He launched a daily podcast in which he reads aloud stories written by the newspaper humorists of yore. Sometime in the next few days, he will record his 1,500th episode of "Mr. Ron's Basement." He says no other podcast can boast so many episodes.

Ron, 59, works as a computer technician for Arlington County public schools. He's head of the D.C. chapter of the National Cartoonists Society — "mainly because nobody else wanted it," he said good-naturedly.

With his ponytail and gray walrus mustache, Ron looks a bit like a cartoon character himself. When he gets home from work, he pads down to his basement, past mounds of comic books and bookcases full of such titles as "Walt Kelly's Pogo Revisited," "Mad's Don Martin Carries On!" and "Rube Goldberg: His Life and Work."

Ron admits that there isn't a huge pent-up demand for the authors whose public-domain works he reads. "That's kind of my mission in all this: to repopularize some of these people, to make people realize that American humor has a history — it didn't all spring out of the blue — and that newspapers were a very important part of this."

His favorite writer is Huntley, who ended his career at the feisty Brooklyn Eagle. Huntley was one of the first reporters hired by the fledgling Washington Post in 1877, the star reporter on founder Stilson Hutchins's staff. "Most of his stories were unsigned," Ron said. "Sometimes you see the initials 'SH.' Of course you don't know if it's him or Hutchins. If it's funny, it's probably him."

Then there was Charles Lewis, a Detroit newsman who wrote under the name M. Quad. "In 1868, he got blown up in a steamboat explosion," Ron said. Lewis wasn't killed, however, and his humorous story "How I Got Blown Up" appeared in newspapers from coast to coast and launched him on his way.

Charles Heber Clark, who used the pen names Max Adeler and John Quill, was a Civil War veteran remembered for feuding with Mark Twain. Each accused the other of plagiarism. George W. Peck owned a newspaper in Milwaukee, became mayor of that city and was twice elected governor of Wisconsin.

"Some of their lives are more interesting than the stories they've written," Ron said. "But some are hysterical."

That might be pushing it. The stories are gentler than what passes for humor today, but what's surprising is how current some of them are. Human folly doesn't change much from decade to decade. Nor does the jaded outlook of the ink-stained wretch or his affection for the ridiculous.

About 100 people download Ron's podcasts each day, listening to the five- to 10-minute selections. For a while, he was getting something like 10,000 hits a day. They were overwhelmingly from China, and he figures they must have been students learning English. (He changed his Web host, and those hits dried up for some reason.)

Last week, I watched Ron as he took a sip of water, leaned into a microphone and started to read. What hijinks would "Perkins of Portland," ad man extraordinaire, get into today?

November 9, 2009 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Ninja Magnet

Shuriken01

Black,

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Green or

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Pink.

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Set of 2: $18.

November 9, 2009 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Interactive Piano Stairs

You can try them yourself if you happen to use the Odenplan subway station in Stockholm, where in an effort to encourage people to take the stairs instead of the escalator, the steps were turned into piano keys.

"After the piano stairs were installed, 66% more people than usual chose the stairs over the escalator."

[via toxel and The Fun Theory]

November 9, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Touchscreen Cellphone Watch

Screen serttwyrhot 2009-11-08 at 5.18.56 PM

From the website:

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Touchscreen Cellphone Watch

This watch has a built-in touchscreen cell phone.

The phone's 1-1/4" touchscreen detects the slightest touch of the included stylus for easy dialing.

It comes with a Bluetooth headset so you can easily carry on conversations "wrist-free."

It operates on the same tri-band network as other cell phones — GSM900, 1,800 and 1,900 MHz — enabling you to place and receive calls in most of the world's countries.

It has a built-in 1.3 MP camera that stores its videos and pictures on the included 1GB microSD card.

You can also download MP3s onto the card and play them using the phone's integrated MP3 player.

Four 1/4" speakers each located at a corner of the face provide clear sound for music and the speakerphone; headphones included for listening to music.

Its rechargeable battery requires a 1-1/2-hour charge using the included AC adapter; provides up to three hours of talk time.

Requires existing cell phone service and SIM card; will not operate with Sprint or MetroPCS.

Face: 2-1/4"L x 1-3/4"W x 3/4"H.

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$199.95.

November 9, 2009 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Pipes — 'Rewire the web'

Screen shyiot 2009-c ZZ11-04 at 9.44.00 PM

From the website:

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Pipes is a powerful composition tool to aggregate, manipulate, and mashup content from around the web.

Like Unix pipes, simple commands can be combined together to create output that meets your needs:

  • combine many feeds into one, then sort, filter and translate it.
  • geocode your favorite feeds and browse the items on an interactive map.
  • grab the output of any Pipes as RSS, JSON, KML, and other formats.
  • power widgets/badges on your web site.

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They lost me at "Pipes."

You go ahead.

November 9, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Новый рюкзак дракон (New Dragon Backpack)

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Designed

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by

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Bob Basset,

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an artist

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from Kharkov, Ukraine.

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Apply

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within.

November 9, 2009 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Kumail Nanjiani will sort you out

He grew up in Karachi, Pakistan,

then moved to New Jersey with his family.

November 9, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bread Shoes — "Put some romance in your 'loaf' life"

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"Eatable...

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dries itself...

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made from bread...

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first in fashion...

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needs no pressing...

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feels good in dry climate...

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won't sag."

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€12–22, depending on style.

[via Nerdcore, I Heart Pluto and Likecool]

November 9, 2009 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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