Curiosity Desk

Local News
4:26 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Tesla Can Continue To Dodge Dealers After SJC Ruling

A Tesla store.
Credit CC Chapman [Creative Commons]

For now, electric car manufacturer Tesla will continue to be able to sell cars directly to consumers from their showroom in the Natick Mall.

The Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association had sought to prevent the direct sales, citing a state law that regulates the relationship between car manufacturers and auto dealers, but the Supreme Judicial Court unanimously ruled Monday that the association and two dealers - Herb Connolly Chevrolet and Fisker Norwood - didn't have legal standing to bring the case.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
11:32 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Local Man Gets Mobbed In Case Of Mistaken Beatlemania, 50 Years Ago Today

Herb Van Dam in the mid-sixties
Courtesy Herb Van Dam

Fifty years ago today, one of the biggest pop-culture waves to ever sweep America made its way to Boston. One local man got swept up — literally — in this particular wave.

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CURIOSITY DESK
4:53 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

A Look At The Bottom Of The Ballot: Register Of Probate

On Tuesday, voters throughout the Commonwealth did their American duty and cast their votes for the men and women they want to see helm the ship of state for the next few years, including what former Boston City Councilor Richard Ianella calls one of most important elected jobs in the Commonwealth
 
He is, of course, talking about the Register of Probate.
 
So who is the Register of Probate? And why should you care, other than the fact that you are expected to vote for one?

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
12:13 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

What Exactly Is The Cloud?

Credit Wikimedia Commons photos/Brendan Lynch photo illustration

As nude photos of more than 100 celebrities began circulating the internet this week, the spotlight turned to Apple and its popular iCloud service, believed to be where the hacker obtained the photos. Apple is just one of many companies that uses — and offers users access to — the cloud. But what exactly is the cloud?

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
6:00 am
Fri August 29, 2014

The 1918 Influenza Outbreak: When Boston Was Patient Zero

Boston Red Cross volunteers assemble masks at Camp Devens, MA.
Credit National Archives

The deadly outbreak of Ebola in West Africa that has killed more than 1,500 people in four countries since May is a powerful reminder of just how deadly — and unpredictable — a virus can be. Ninety-six years ago this week, the city of Boston was dealing with its own viral outbreak — the start of one of the deadliest natural disasters to ever occur.

A staggering number of people died in 1918. Fifty to 100 million worldwide, by some estimates. The terrifying disease in question? Not Ebola. The flu.

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Local News
5:00 am
Wed August 27, 2014

Massachusetts Ballot Questions: Not Quite A Craps Shoot

It's tough to predict just how citizens will trend when it comes to deciding the casino question in Massachusetts - and three others on the ballot this November: a revised bottle bill, a measure governing the gas tax, and one governing employee sick time. The Curiosity Desk's Edgar B. Herwick III takes a look at how this direct Democracy thing works.

After years of fierce debate, the battle over whether to build casinos in Massachusetts is finally being taken to the people.

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
10:31 am
Fri August 22, 2014

How The Sacco And Vanzetti Trial Sparked Worldwide Protest

Bartolomeo Vanzetti (left), handcuffed to Nicola Sacco in Dedham Superior Court, 1923.
Boston Public Library

Today, we go back to 1927, and the final moments for two Boston suspected criminals-turned-cause célèbre whose lives were immortalized by Woody Guthrie and whose story shaped the public policy of one of the Bay State's most renowned politicians.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
11:11 am
Fri August 15, 2014

The Boston Police Strike That Impacted Labor For Generations

A large crowd gathered in Scollay Square during the 1919 Boston Police Strike.
Boston Public Library

This week in 1919, Boston police voted to unionize. That vote led to a police strike that sparked riots, changed the lives of hundreds, and helped send Calvin Coolidge to the Oval Office.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
11:19 am
Thu August 14, 2014

Why The Boston Public Library Is Discarding Books

The reading room at the Boston Public Library.
Credit Wikimedia Commons/Brian Johnson

In the past few months, library-friends-group book sales, nonprofit internet libraries — even Amazon.com — have been flush with books that were, until recently, sitting on local Boston Public Library shelves. But why?

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
10:38 am
Fri August 8, 2014

The Picnic That Turned Moby-Dick Into A Masterpiece

Illustration from an early edition of Moby-Dick.
Credit A. Burnham Shute

Chances are you’ve read it, or were supposed to read it, at some point — maybe your high-school English class or a survey of American literature in college.

And while the book, "Moby-Dick; or, The Whale" is named after the whale, Moby-Dick, the centerpiece of the great American novel is the deranged, obsessed man at the helm of the Pequod, Captain Ahab.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
3:43 pm
Fri August 1, 2014

Downtown Boston Freemason Lodge Holds Secrets — Even From The Masons

The Chamber of Reflection in the Grand Lodge, used by the York Rite.
Edgar B. Herwick III WGBH News

It all started at the Bunch of Grapes tavern — on what is now State Street in Boston, when a fellow named Henry Price gathered 17 men and established the first Grand Masonic Lodge in the New World.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
12:18 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

This Week In History: The Boston Post Takes Down Charles Ponzi

Charles Ponzi, his wife and his mother on his porch in Lexington.
Courtesy Hammond Residential Real Estate

  Real Estate agents Jodi and Jean Winchester are walking me through a stately yellow stucco colonial revival mansion on a tranquil street in Lexington. There’s a perfectly manicured acre of land surrounding the estate. Heck, there’s even a carriage house.

And it belonged to Charles Ponzi, of the infamous Ponzi scheme.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
1:08 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Big Brother Is Coming To Boston School Buses

Boston will begin using cameras on school buses this year.
Credit Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Photo: Wikimedia Commons

This fall, there will be some new riders on Boston's school buses. 

Each of the Boston Public School systems’s 750 school buses will be fit with two audio capable cameras. One will record the road, the other will record the students. 

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
5:00 am
Fri July 18, 2014

How Did The Largest Collection Of Hemingway's Writings End Up In Boston?

A bust of Ernest Hemingway.
WGBH News

    

Ernest Hemingway was born near Chicago and died in Idaho. He immortalized 1920s Paris and introduced the world to the running of the bulls in Pamplona. He hunted big game in Africa, caught marlin off the Florida Keys, and spent decades living, writing -- and drinking -- in Cuba. 

So, why is the world's largest collection of his personal writings is located at the JFK library in Boston?

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
8:31 am
Fri July 11, 2014

How 'Sex In A Box' Took America By Storm

    

By the time Neil W. Rabens actually received the patent for Twister in July of 1969, his invention had already been sold twice, and it was well on it's way to becoming an American pop-culture icon.

Rabens was a young commercial artist in the mid 1960s, when he was hired along with Chuck Foley to develop toys and games for a midwest design firm. One day Rabens came up with an innovative idea: What if we made a game where people were the pieces?

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
9:59 am
Wed July 9, 2014

Quarries: 'A Tragedy Waiting To Happen'

Standing at a favorite jumping spot for swimmers, 10 stories high, Massachusetts State Police Trooper Hernan Melendez, looks down into the waters of the Quincy Quarry after a death in 1997.
Credit (AP Photo/Peter Lennihan)

Fourth of July weekend ended in tragedy in Milford when Nentor Dahn, 18, of Providence, RI died after jumping into the Fletcher Quarry. Fletcher is just one of many quarries in the area, and that got me wondering just how dangerous they are — and whether what happened in Milford is an all too common occurrence.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
6:00 am
Wed July 2, 2014

Why Are Massachusetts Gas Prices So High?

A sign shows gas prices at a gas station in Brighton.
Credit Brendan Lynch / WGBH News

If you’re gearing up to travel this Fourth of July weekend, you’ve probably noticed that gas is pricey. Boston area gas prices are currently averaging $3.78 a gallon, more than 20 cents higher than this time last year.

In fact, gas prices across the country are at their highest for a Fourth of July weekend since 2008.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
1:18 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

Burning Rubber In Mass.: The Obsession That Changed The World

Charles Goodyear

Charles Goodyear's obsession began one auspicious day in New York.

He’d always been a tinkerer and a new “miracle” substance, rubber, had caught his fancy. He’d developed an improved valve for a rubber life preserver he’s seen in a New York shop. When he proudly showed the shop owner his invention, the man let Goodyear in on a secret. This new miracle substance was about to go bust.

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BOSTON PUBLIC RADIO
11:24 am
Fri June 27, 2014

The Case Of The Disappearing Hard 'G': Jim Braude Does Not Pronounce Margery Eagan's Name Wrong

The mispronunciation of the name Margery Eagan often ends in fisticuffs (pictured here) between the two Boston Public Radio hosts.
Credit Will Roseliep / Flickr Creative Commons

The curse of King Tutankhamun's tomb, the disappearing Hope Diamond, Donald Trump's gravity-defying combover -- all of these are mysteries that have confounded and captivated audiences for centuries. Add this one to the list: Boston Public Radio host Jim Braude's inability to properly pronounce his co-host Margery Eagan's name. 

Allow us to explain.

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Local News
5:39 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

How To Sell A Catholic Church

Alpha and Omega
Credit Wikimedia Commons

  
Three area Catholic churches lost their respective appeals to the Vatican's highest court to remain open this week - appearing to end a 10 year fight by parishioners.  

 Our Lady of Mount Carmel in East Boston, Saint James the Great Church in Wellesley, and Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini in Scituate were just three of more than 40 churches ordered by Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley to be deconsecrated and sold, as part of a diocese-wide reconfiguration in 2004.  

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
12:52 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

How A Boston Man Quietly Broke The Navy's Color Line

Bernard Robinson was a Harvard trained doctor, and the first black man to be commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy. in 1942.

In April of 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first black man to play in the major leagues in the modern era. Five years earlier, though, another Robinson quietly broke a different color barrier and his story is much less well known.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
10:51 am
Thu June 19, 2014

Why More Mass. Companies Are Moving Their Headquarters To Ireland

Credit Wikimedia Commons photos/Brendan Lynch photo illustration

No state in America has a higher percentage of jobs in life science fields than Massachusetts, according to a report released Wednesday by Northeastern University. But there's a dark undercurrent looming for the Bay State in those bullish numbers. 

The life sciences industry is on the leading of edge of "tax inversion mergers", wherein large life sciences companies aren't just consolidating, they are also moving their headquarters overseas. 

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
10:04 am
Thu June 12, 2014

How Urban Flight Led To Boston's Residency Requirement

The Boston skyline, including Custom House Tower and State Street Bank Building.
Credit City of Boston Archives

  

Last week, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh asked the City Council to allow him to waive the residency requirements 75 to 100 of his top officials.

City officials, like most city employees, are required by law to live in the city. But the pushback was swift from councilors like Tito Jackson and Michelle Wu and citizens groups like Save Our City, and this week, Walsh quickly backed away from the fight, and pulled his request from consideration.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
11:30 am
Fri June 6, 2014

'Casey At The Bat'

San Francisco Examiner – June 3, 1888

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;

The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,

And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,

A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest

Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;

They thought, “If only Casey could but get a whack at that -

We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.”

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
11:28 am
Fri June 6, 2014

The Lingering Mysteries Of 'Casey At The Bat'

A statue of Casey stands in the yard of Bob Blair in Holliston.
Edgar B. Herwick III WGBH News

If someone asked you to think of a poem about baseball, chances are that the first one—maybe the only one—to spring to mind would be "Casey At The Bat." The send-up about a hulking slugger for the "Mudville Nine" who fails to rally his team in the bottom of the ninth inning first appeared in a California newspaper this week back in 1888. But the story behind the poem is undeniably a Massachusetts one. And more than a century later, one local town is still fighting for recognition as "the real Mudville."

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
12:07 am
Fri May 30, 2014

How Lynn Became The Shoe Capitol Of The World

Patents for the Jan Matzeliger lasting machine

Chances are that the shoes you are wearing on your feet right now were made somewhere outside the United States. But that wasn't always the case. Today we travel to the late 19th century, for the story of the African-American immigrant who transformed Lynn, Massachusetts into the shoe capital of the world.

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
5:30 am
Fri May 23, 2014

The Declaration Of Independence You Didn't Learn About In School

Samoset speaks English to the British colonist
Credit Wikimedia

By the 1830s, almost all of the large hardwood trees in Massachusetts had been cut down.

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THIS DAY IN HISTORY
12:03 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

The Day Boston Banned Rock 'N' Roll

An image of Alan Freed from 1957
Credit Wikimedia

Each Friday, Edgar B. Herwick III takes us back in time for a look at the week in Massachusetts history. This week, we go back to 1958 for the largely forgotten tale about the day the music died in Boston.

"It was like Happy Days when I was in high school."

That’s Stoughton native Albert Raggiani.

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
9:11 am
Fri May 2, 2014

'Jaws' Brought Hollywood To Martha's Vineyard, 40 Years Ago

  

The invasion happens each year. They descend on the waters off Martha's Vineyard. They come from places like Boston and New York: tourists! But the onslaught came early in 1974, and it wasn’t the usual seasonal crowd. This time they came by the hundreds… from Hollywood.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
4:13 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

Highlights From The Curiosity Desk

The Curiosity Desk's Edgar B. Herwick III digs up stories about Boston's neighborhoods, people, and history that he's … curious … about.

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