Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Bard to J.K. Rowling: Thank You

We're incredibly excited to announce that Amazon has purchased J.K. Rowling’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard at an auction held by Sotheby’s in London. The book of five wizarding fairy tales, referenced in the last book of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is one of only seven handmade copies in existence. The purchase price was £1,950,000, and Ms. Rowling is donating the proceeds to The Children's Voice campaign, a charity she co-founded to help improve the lives of institutionalized children across Europe.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard is extensively illustrated and handwritten by the bard herself--all 157 pages of it. It's bound in brown Moroccan leather and embellished with five hand-chased hallmarked sterling silver ornaments and mounted moonstones.

Enjoy these first images of the book. We'll be adding reviews of each of the fairy tales and more photos of this beautiful object as we can get them up in the coming hours (if you want to be sure of a link that will permanently work, use For the curious of mind, Amazon editors are now taking questions about the tales from all comers on our discussion boards (located further down this page).

Handwritten and Beautiful: An Early Look

Welcome to the Jungle

ROXBURY, Conn. (AP) ―

A school custodian's impromptu after-hours karaoke performance prompted a police response when a teacher thought she was being threatened over the loudspeaker.
State police say a teacher at Booth Free School barricaded herself inside a classroom Wednesday when she mistook someone singing a Guns N' Roses song over the public address system for a threat.

She was working after hours and thought no one else was in the building. Then she heard someone say over the loudspeaker that she was going to die.

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Six troopers and three police dogs showed up and found three teenagers, one of them a custodian at the school, who had been playing with the public address system.

Police say one of them sang "Welcome to the Jungle" into the microphone. The song contains the lyrics "You're in the jungle baby; you're gonna die."

The teenagers were cuffed on the ground for about 15 minutes while police investigated. They were released after being questioned and state police Sgt. Brian Ness said they did not realize the teacher was in the school and will not face charges.

"These things happen," Van Ness said. "Luckily it was humorous. You kind of have a gut feeling. As soon as we got there, we spoke to the three kids. They understood."

Harley Museum

Shifting gears at Harley museum
Posted: Dec. 12, 2007

The 200-foot glass wall has been finished, and the first major construction phase of Harley-Davidson's museum has been completed.
91735Harley-Davidson Museum

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The company left two old "sand-hoppers" on the museum site, which were used for loading sand into trucks. They are orange, which is one of Harley-Davidson's primary colors.

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Although an opening date for next year hasn't been announced, this rendering shows what the completed Harley-Davidson museum will look like.
What's in Store

The Harley-Davidson museum, scheduled to open next summer, will feature hundreds of motorcycles, including brightly colored Art Deco models from the 1930s.

There will be interactive exhibits that allow visitors to get the "feel" of a Harley.

Visitors also can expect to see displays that explain the "nuts and bolts" of Harley engines.

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In early 2008, the iconic motorcycle manufacturer will be setting up exhibits, and the museum remains on schedule for opening in the summer, Harley officials said Wednesday.

The three buildings have been fully enclosed, and work has begun on the interiors, said Harley spokeswoman Rebecca Bortner.

"We are at the point where the structure is pretty much complete," she said.

Expected to draw 350,000 visitors a year, the Harley museum at 6th and Canal streets will be one of Milwaukee's biggest tourist attractions, much like Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Atlanta's Coca-Cola Museum.

Harley's vast archives include motorcycles, clothing, photos, posters, promotional materials and magazines. There's one bike from each of Harley's 104 years, and there are Harley bicycles, snowmobiles and golf carts the company made years ago.

A customized Harley named King Kong also will be displayed. It's more than 13 feet long, weighs more than 1,000 pounds and has two Knucklehead engines. The bike's original owner, Felix Predko of Pennsylvania, spent more than 4,000 hours doing the customization.

For now, the museum's construction is center stage as hundreds of workers and contractors do a choreographed dance.

Companies from across the nation have been bidding for the right to install everything from steel beams to restroom partitions. Some contractors are motorcycle enthusiasts eager to etch their mark on the museum.

Harley produced a short video about one enthusiast, a bricklayer, who did the masonry work on one of the museum's walls.

A wall with Harley-Davidson written on it contains 20,887 bricks, including 4,700 bricks used for the lettering. Each brick was numbered, cut and placed in the wall by hand - by a Harley rider who put his heart and soul into it.

"We have seen a lot of enthusiasm like that," Bortner said.

Exposed steel, rivets and concrete are meant to reflect Milwaukee's and Harley's industrial heritage. The company purposely left two old, rusted "sand hoppers" on the 20-acre site that were used for loading sand into trucks. They are orange, which is one of Harley's primary colors.

The museum's raw look has created its own challenges, though, as contractors take precautions not to scratch or mar something that normally would be covered by drywall, carpet or paint.

Landscaping includes 700 recently planted trees and 5,000 bushes and native plants. The work was done in the fall so the trees and bushes would start growing in the spring.
Opens next year

The museum's opening date hasn't been revealed yet, though it will coincide with Harley's 105th anniversary celebration next summer.

Already, hundreds of people have asked about booking special events at the museum. Some of the requests have been for weddings.

"We have done a ton of publicity work in the motorcycle enthusiast community," Bortner said.

More than motorcycles, the museum is supposed to represent local culture. It has been called a showcase for the Menomonee Valley, an industrial area that was once an eyesore but has experienced extensive redevelopment.

Officials from Louisville, Ky., visited the Menomonee Valley to see how it might be a model for an industrial restoration in their city.

On Wednesday, Gov. Jim Doyle announced a $1.25 million brownfield grant to Harley that's supposed to help cover environmental remediation costs at the museum site.

Doyle estimates the museum will generate $78 million a year in area spending and $1.23 million a year in state and local taxes.

Bus Stand Off

The passengers on a New York-to-Boston Peter Pan bus Sunday afternoon heard an announcement that few travelers expect to hear. The bus would idle at a Framingham layover for an extra half-hour - and nobody was allowed to get off.

Brian Moore, 21, an Emerson College junior, sent a letter of complaint to the company and posted a detailed account of the experience on his personal blog.

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The reason, the driver bitterly told his passengers, was that one of them had called the company dispatcher to complain that the driver had been swerving during the first leg of the trip.

"Since you aggravated me, I'm going to aggravate you," the driver told them, according to Brian Moore, 21, an Emerson College junior returning to Boston after a visit with his girlfriend in New York. At another point, the driver proclaimed, "One bad apple spoils the bunch."

"At the time, everyone thought he was kidding because he looked [at passengers with] kind of like this crazed, creepy smile," said Leigh Schuelke, 23, an event planner from Cambridge who was on the Peter Pan bus with her husband.

But kidding he was not. When one passenger, a man, walked to the front of the bus and asked to get off and reclaim his luggage, the driver peered at his ticket for Boston and replied, "I can't get your bags."

He ignored the pleas from a pregnant passenger in the name of her unborn child. He ignored plaintive apologies on behalf of the unknown rider who reported him. He ignored the argument that the complainer might not even be on the bus.

Want to smoke a cigarette outside? Stretch? Buy snacks in the terminal? No, no, and no, the driver said. This was punishment, he repeated.

"He explained it to us over and over," Schuelke said. "He seemed to be enjoying, just like sticking it to us."

The driver told passengers that he had clearance from the dispatcher to hold the bus at the Framingham terminal, according to three passengers -- Moore, Schuelke, and Schuelke's husband, James, 23, a Harvard law student.

A half-hour later, the driver finally threw the bus into gear, racing down the Massachusetts Turnpike above the speed limit, flying through tollbooths, Leigh Schuelke recalled.

No one called Peter Pan from the bus during the delay, but Moore and Leigh Schuelke sent letters of complaint to the company. Moore also posted his letter, with a detailed account of the experience on his personal blog and on a social networking site, LiveJournal. It was picked up by the website Universal Hub. Along the way, it drew comments from kindred spirits.

Peter Pan Bus Lines' director of safety and security, Christopher Crean, said he has suspended the driver and is investigating the incident.

"If any of this came even close to happening, the driver could in some cases be subject to termination," Crean said. "It's definitely become an issue. And the more I dig, the less I like."

Crean did not release the driver's name, but said he was in his early 30s and had three years on the job.

The bus left the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York at 1 p.m. Sunday. It arrived in Framingham at 4:35, which would have put it in Boston about 30 minutes ahead of schedule. On weekdays, the bus must wait an extra 25 minutes to pick up other passengers, but Sunday drivers can go straight through to Boston, Crean said.

Crean said the driver acknowledged that a dispatcher had contacted him during the trip and told him that a passenger was complaining. The driver, he said, denied retaliating against the passengers and explained that he stopped in Framingham simply because he did not know he could continue on immediately to Boston, Crean said.

Crean also received what he described as an atypical handwritten letter from a third passenger, faxed to him with no return address or phone number, praising the driver for acting "respectfully and courteously" despite "agitated" passengers.

Attempts by the Globe and Peter Pan to reach the woman whose signature was on the letter were unsuccessful.

Moore, a film major, said some friends have suggested the incident at Framingham would make a good script.

"It would be like 'Speed,' " he said, "but maybe a little more boring because it wouldn't be moving."

Holy Carp!

I like driving in my carp...

ALL LIT UP: Andy Hazell’s Vauxhall Corsa ‘fish’.
ALL LIT UP: Andy Hazell’s Vauxhall Corsa ‘fish’.
ALL LIT UP: Andy Hazell’s Vauxhall Corsa ‘fish’.
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Click on thumbnail to view image
Click on thumbnail to view image

RESIDENTS could be forgiven for thinking 'Oh my Cod', after a local artist transformed his car into a fish.
Andy Hazell, who is also a builder, has spent ‘thousands of pounds’ transforming his Vauxhall Corsa van into an 18ft model of a fish.

He said: “I get plenty of fishy looks from people, but I generally have a whale of a time with it.

“Some people think I am a bit mad, but I love building strange things.

“These days it seems that car makers love a slippery and aerodynamic design, so I thought to myself, a fish is the next step.

“The car has a hydraulic system fitted to it so it can swish its tail and open and close its mouth.”

Andy, 48, from Knighton, said that they he came up with the idea so he could enter the opening parade of Blackpool illuminations.

“Blackpool is big and colourful, so I needed to think of something that would let me stand out in the middle of a crowd. I hope the fish did just that.

“Sadly it’s not allowed on the road so I have to take it to shows and carnivals on a trailer.”

The car has 320 fluorescent lights and a 12-volt motor that operates the mo
ving parts and took three weeks to build.

“I am not going to say how much the car cost to transform, but it is fair to say that it cost thousands of pounds,” Andy added.

The fish car is not the first unusual project that Andy has worked on, with his designs being showcased in towns and cities across the country.

In the past he has designed and made a life-size tractor that was made out of tin and a tree made out of fish, which is currently located at the Children’s Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

“I have also built an orrery, which is a mechanical model of the solar system. It was used on a BBC show about the composer Gustav Holst and also in an episode of Dr Who.”

Andy’s next project is a moped-powered donkey.

“I have just managed to buy an engine off eBay so I am quite happy. Work on the donkey will begin soon and hopefully it will be finished sometime next year.”

Shoppen Boys

If your husband, son or father won't tag along when you want to purchase clothes for him this holiday season, try a Shoppenboy.

French menswear store Celio has launched a way to help shoppers by appointing male models, some with extra large appeal, to help them find exactly the right gift. Now shoppers can choose a man, who dons red boxers, whose body type is most like the man they're buying for. The concept is that the various-sized models help people find the right fit for their purchases.

"It was great because I'm always lost. I never remember the size," said Celio Customer Julie.

The store came up with the Les Shoppenboys concept a year ago, and Celio decided it would seek male volunteers. What began as a joke slowly has taken own its own life, after an online casting received 2,000 submissions.

The men have attracted more than consumers seeking gifts for their husbands and boyfriends. They also have received surprised looks on French sidewalks outside the retailer.

Some men looked uncomfortable, but the women seemed unable to get enough of the average Joe models.

"I think it makes people feel good. It makes other men less self-conscious because we only ever see good-looking men," said Shoppenboy Laurent.

The group now has produced a dance routine, a calendar and has even spun off a few celebrities, like 19-year-old Shoppenboy Hugo, who can be seen posing as Spiderman online in the signature red undies.

Although the men do not want to be taken seriously, some think the gentleman are having an important impact on the male psyche. It's not all about looks. Size matters, too.

PC Christmas Card

BEHOLD a nativity scene to gladden the hearts of politically correct Christmas killjoys everywhere.

It is TOTALLY PC — but yule be forgiven for thinking it is more silent FRIGHT than Silent Night.

Sun reader Jon Gledstone re-worked the traditional stable scene to back our crusade to save Christmas from PC busybodies and health and safety fanatics.

And he sent us a copy after we published a tongue-in-cheek feature on the PC perils of nativity.

Jon is using the picture to decorate his own Christmas cards — and it is packed with barmy PC touches. A muzzle-wearing sheep promotes veganism, while another advertises British meat so non-vegetarians aren’t offended.

An angel wears a high visibility jacket — while a banner proclaims: “Atheism is OK too.” Mary and Joseph sport hard hats beside a “hand washing facility”.

A wheelchair ramp with luminous safety markings leads to the stable, where the three wise men arrive after passing through an airport-style metal detector.

Overhead a Fathers For Justice demonstrator is clad as Batman — while Wonder Woman represents MOTHERS For Justice.

Jon’s hilarious card comes with the greeting: “Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practised within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.”

Jon, 26, from Hertford, declared: “I wanted to point out what something as traditional as a nativity scene would look like once the PC brigade got at it.

“The Sun has highlighted so many ridiculous examples of political correctness gone mad.”

We have highlighted a ban on DECORATIONS in case they offend other faiths, a council veto on high street CELEBRATIONS, and kids being made to sing PC versions of festive SONGS at a school party.

Jon groaned: “I’ve heard numerous stories of firms vetting Christmas cards so they won’t offend any possible person or group. At least mine won’t offend anyone.”

You can buy Jon’s £2.50 card online at