Infidelity and Armadillos 

Margaret Cho wishes dogs could be prostitutes, John McWhorter sings Cole Porter, and J.K. Rowling waxes litigious.

What better day to be sued by J.K. Rowling for copyright infringement than Halloween? That's what happened to RDR Books, which after twenty-plus years in Oakland moved recently to Michigan. Thanks to case number 1:2007cv09667, whose plaintiffs are Rowling and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., RDR has halted plans to release its encyclopedic Harry Potter Lexicon, based on Steven Vander Ark's popular fansite HP-Lexicon.org. Yet Rowling herself "has been a huge fan" of HP-Lexicon.org for years, RDR honcho Roger Rapoport tells Press Here. "She gave it her Fan Site Award." As for Warner Bros., "when they were shooting the Harry Potter movies, the directors were on that site every day. An ironic fact," he adds, is that the DVDs for those films include timelines lifted verbatim from HP-Lexicon.org, without crediting the site. Rowling claims that she wants to write her own HP encyclopedia, Rapoport says, "adding new stuff that's not in the novels, such as that Dumbledore is gay," and she fears that Vander Ark's book, which was due to be released this month, "will hurt the market for hers."

The idea that fans who bought an HP encyclopedia from a Midwestern indie press would not also buy Rowling's reference book, or would buy only the former rather than the latter, is laughable. "Everyone feels the case is weak, very weak," says Rapoport, awaiting a January court date in New York. The suit was filed without the plaintiffs having read Vander Ark's book: "They sued a book they hadn't read," marvels Rapoport, who wonders why, among many HP spinoffs such as What Will Happen in Harry Potter 7, which was a huge hit for Berkeley's Ulysses Press this summer, "we were given the honor of a lawsuit."

Bias aforethought

"'Too much book l'arnin' spile the nigguh. Make'm fit fer nothin. F'rgit his place.' This was the attitude of whites," reminisces Berkeley poet and National Endowment for the Humanities fellow Adam David Miller in his memoir Ticket to Exile (Heyday, $14.95), about life in Depression-era South Carolina. Elsewhere in the book, a college man offers the preteen Miller a nickel for sexual services. After Miller refused to "succumb to the siren call" of "a white man with a peg leg and a crutch," the angry amputee "started swearing, calling me all the little black bastards he could think of." Miller will be at Cody's on November 29.

What fur

Because Margaret Cho misses her own canines so much when she travels, she thinks "there should be dog prostitutes" whose services — fluffiness, cuteness, warmth — could be bought by the hour or by the night. Business travelers would be their best customers, although "of course ... when you have to go to your early-morning flight ... you would have to pay them to leave. ... I would spend a fortune on dog prostitutes." Kinky Friedman's hound Hank "looks like one of the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz" and shares his food with the author's pet armadillo. Marga Gomez' Jack Russell terrier once French-kissed the singer Toni Tennille. It's all in a new anthology (Crown, $25) compiled by Berkeleyites Cameron Woo and Claudia Kawczynska, editors of that caninophiliac magazine, The Bark. The book is called Howl. Um, haven't we heard that title somewhere before?

Singing linguist

You know John McWhorter best as the ex-UC Berkeley linguistics prof and author of the New York Times bestsellers Losing the Race, The Power of Babel, Doing Our Own Thing, and Authentically Black. He also is a singer who is performing at New York's off-Broadway Duplex Cabaret Theatre. "This Is My Night to Howl," a collaboration with pianist Sheldon Forrest, features little-known tunes by Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, and obscure early-20th-century songwriters. McWhorter and Forrest's past collaborations include "What's That You're Whistling?" and "Come Fly With Me."

Gotta catch 'em all

Gathering evidence for high-profile cases as an Alameda County criminal investigator, Danine Manette has learned how infidelity can inflame the human soul with suspicion, desperation, and murderous rage. Drawing on criminal cases and personal memories, Ultimate Betrayal (SquareOne, $12.95) is Manette's how-to-tell-if-they're-cheating handbook. Keep an eye peeled for "changes in behavior, schedule, or attitude," she tells Press Here. "Do they change their computer screen every time you enter the room? Do they express a need all of a sudden to get into shape or experiment with new things sexually? Do they say they're working late, yet come home smelling like barbecue?" She recommends collecting "several pieces of evidence before rushing into a confrontation. Show them just a single Motel 6 receipt and they'll pull the Jedi mind trick, making you the villain, saying, 'I can't believe you don't trust me!'" She knows her subject inside and out, she says: "I've been the other woman and I've been the cheatee."

Baby mayhem

In Diana O'Hehir's new mystery novel Dark Aura (Berkley, $23.95), babies born with indigo auras are the fixation of a New Age enclave whose members have names such as Sunshine and Happy Dawn. Someone tumbles off a precipice. A throat gets slit. And a county sheriff with a "small, upright bosom" who favors silk pantsuits and stiletto slingbacks calls people "honey lamb" and "sugarbelle." Berkeley-born O'Hehir taught at Mills for thirty-plus years.

Tina tried it

Nux vomica, usually abbreviated for obvious reasons to "nux v.," is an extract from the strychnine tree — yes, that strychnine tree — which, much-diluted, is a common homeopathic remedy for lead poisoning and constipation. Theorizing that he could ease disease symptoms by administering minuscule portions of substances known to induce similar symptoms in healthy persons, a German doctor developed homeopathy in the late 18th century. It grew trendy in the 19th, and its adherents have included eleven presidents, seven popes, Charles Darwin, J.D. Rockefeller, David Beckham, Tina Turner, Tony Blair, and Gabriel García Márquez, according to America's leading homeopathy advocate, Dana Ullman, in The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy ($19.95), new from Berkeley's North Atlantic Books.

Holy cacao

What has Honduras ever done for you? Ancient brewers first used cacao there in pursuit of a better buzz over 3,000 years ago, according to a UC Berkeley anthropology professor and her research team. Based on cacao traces discovered on pottery shards at archeological sites, Rosemary Joyce — author of Gender and Power in Prehispanic Mesoamerica (University of Texas, $21.95) — posits that, circa 1100 BCE, fermented seed-pod pulp was used to create a high-octane brewski. This dates the "discovery" of chocolate some 500 years earlier than previously thought. According to a Cornell University press release, at least one manufacturer is currently attempting to reproduce that product, which tasted absolutely nothing like Dove Bars.

Bubble economy

"Becka closed her eyes and imagined what to do. She blew and blew and blew and blew." Get your mind out of the gutter — that was an excerpt from Becka and the Big Bubble: Becka Goes to San Diego (Waterside, $11.99), one in a series of kids' books by brother and sister Adam Schomer and Gretchen Schomer Wendel about a tot who roams the globe inside bubbles. Oakland's Golden State Warrios have selected the series for their youth outreach program, and what a big series it is, with Becka touring the North Pole, San Francisco, and India. In future books, according to the authors, she'll visit Mexico, New York City, Australia, England, Egypt, China, and — but of course, Michigan.

Going strong

After earning his certificate as a cardio-kickboxing instructor at age 63, Logan Franklin launched GrayIronFitness.com, a bodybuilding site for seniors. The silver-haired ex-Marine and author of Living the Fitness Lifestyle (Gray Iron Fitness, $19.95) reminisces about being a skinny kid with a barbell set in then-rural Danville. As soon as he got his driver's license, he headed every month to DeLauer's newsstand in Oakland for the latest issues of Strength & Health and Iron Man. "The muscle magazines promised that weight training would make me big and strong," Franklin writes, "and I believed them." He joined an Oakland gym, and the rest is history. As is DeLauer's, which celebrates its centennial this year. 

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