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By John W. Schoen Senior producer
msnbc.com
updated 12/29/2008 9:04:04 AM ET 2008-12-29T14:04:04

The end of the year is typically pretty slow in the news business. So this is a good time to revisit some of the — let's just say "more unusual" — questions we didn't get to earlier. Happy New Year to all.

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Is there actually a movement for U.S. citizens to mail (President) Bush shoes before he leaves office?
Wren W., Address withheld

Yes, there is. It looks like a talk show host in Chicago was the first to throw the idea out there. Ray Hanania, a comedian, former Chicago Sun-Timesman and talk show host on WJJG, says he’s mailed his shoes to the departing president and suggested others do the same.

He also set up a “Mail Your Shoes to President Bush” group on Facebook that has (at this writing) 127 members. Since then, Hanania has been joined by six other Facebook groups: How to Mail your shoes to Bush (777 members); Send a Shoe to the White House! (276 members); One Million Pairs of Shoes for President Bush (155 members); Shoe-Chuckers Unite: Shoe On You President Bush! No More Treadin On Us (96 members) and Ship You Old Shoes to the White House (19 members).

For those who don’t have the address handy, the president will be residing for the next few weeks at:

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Hanania thoughtfully suggests shoe mailers label their package indicating it’s part of the “Shoe Protest” campaign.

Gives new meaning to voting with your feet.

How many miles of chain-link fencing do federal, state and local governments maintain within the 50 states?
Mark S. G.

Most of them, we hope.

There's a guy named Lindsey Williams on YouTube, claiming that there is 200 years' worth of oil in Alaska's north shore, and that the IMF and World Bank, along with President Bush and Dick Cheney, are withholding that information from the public. How much of this is true, and if we drilled those fields, what would be the overall impact on the U.S. economy?
Gail D.

Not true.

No one knows how much oil is underground, but geologists have made pretty extensive surveys of Alaskan oil. Even the most optimistic estimates suggest there might be enough to cover a decade’s worth of current U.S. consumption.

But plenty of people are convinced that there are 200 years' worth of oil up there and that the reason we don't know about this is the cover-up. (Which, of course, would also have to include all the people it took to survey those oilfields along with the people who analyze the data.) You'll find plenty of people willing to explain how this is just a piece of a much bigger conspiracy to manipulate oil prices.

In fact, there’s a whole alternate reality available to viewers of YouTube documentaries, which help fill the Answer Desk inbox with a steady stream of endlessly amusing and increasingly absurd conspiracy theories. Apparently, to make one of these, all you have to do is "connect the dots." That must be why there are so many of them.

More and more readers, it seems, are happy to live in this alternate reality these days. Given the current state of the current real reality, we can’t really blame them.

Of course, many of these conspiracy “documentaries” also hint — or claim outright — that "mainstream" journalists like me are part of the cover-up.

So I guess you’ll never really know.

I was listening to one of my favorite recordings, “Penny Lane” by the Beatles, and appreciating the musical interlude by the piccolo trumpet. This is a brilliant passage and I am sure someone other than the Beatles composed it. Who does this type of composition and how are they compensated? Do they receive royalties?
Tom McK., Connelly Springs, N.C.

You’re not the only Beatles fan who has been captivated by these few measures of music. There is, in fact, a fan site devoted exclusively to those notes. Just the notes.

“I am sure that there are lots of Web sites and books which will give you all the details and what everyone had for lunch and everything,” writes the site's creator, Neville Young. “My interest in this is purely about the piccolo trumpet solos.”

So here goes. “Penny Lane” was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London, in 1967 and named for a section of Liverpool near Smithdown Road and its busy shopping area. (The area was apparently named after James Penny, an 18th century slave trader. But we digress.)

According to a passage on page 201 of Beatles producer George Martin’s book, “All You Need Is Ears,” Paul McCartney wanted to embellish an early version of the song to include a high trumpet sound he’d recently heard at a concert of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti. Martin agreed to set it up.

“Now, the normal trumpet is in Bb,” Martin wrote. “But there is also the D trumpet, which is what Bach mostly used, and the F trumpet. In this case, I decided to use a Bb piccolo trumpet, an octave above the normal.”

Martin then hired David Mason, an accomplished trumpet player with the London Symphony Orchestra. But there was no music prepared, so McCartney suggested the notes, Martin wrote them down and Mason played them.

The account is short on the details of Mason’s compensation, which almost certainly did not include any royalties. But Martin said Mason was “intrigued to be playing on one of (the Beatles) records, quite apart from being well paid for his trouble.”

Mason’s trumpet, which was also appeared on two other Beatles tracks ("All You Need Is Love" and "Magical Mystery Tour"), was reportedly sold at auction for $10,846.

Have they ever found out what the deal was with them UFOs in Texas awhile back?
Jerry R., Spring, Texas

Yes. I think I saw something about this on YouTube.

What can I do to find out if I am legally married in the state of Colorado. Number to call? Web site? Not sure if I have to file for divorce or not. …. Please help!
Lara, Westminster, Colo.

We tried 1-800-AM-I-MARRIED, but “that number has changed.” No luck on www.amimarried.com either.

Looks like you’re going to have to spring for a good family lawyer.

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