In America: The Golden State seeks a poet with a popular touch

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* Wanted: Poet Laureate. Must be a published bard of stature who will be an ambassador for the literary arts and spread culture across the state.

* Wanted: Poet Laureate. Must be a published bard of stature who will be an ambassador for the literary arts and spread culture across the state.

Your diarist confesses that he was intrigued by the advertisement - and even momentarily tempted to dust off his resumé.

But because the state advertising for a poet laureate is California, which contains more gyms and pilates classes than anywhere else in the world, and where the former bodybuilding champion Arnold Schwarzenegger rules as governor, the successful applicant must have other qualities, too.

The new poet laureate must be "active and energetic" and someone who will "take the ordinary and make it extraordinary," according to the California Arts Council's spokesman Adam Gottlieb. "I see the poet laureate throwing out the first ball at Dodger Stadium," he says. "I see him travelling to places where people are not usually exposed to the literary arts. I see him generating wonderful ideas ... something like wrapping a poem across the Golden Gate Bridge."

Oh yes, and because California is going through a tight fiscal time, he must be prepared to work for nothing.

* IT WAS inevitable, but it has happened even faster than expected: the first major feature film about the war in Iraq is going into production at Universal.

And the actor who will play the real-life General Jim Mattis leading his Marines into Fallujah will be none other than Indiana Jones himself, Harrison Ford.

No True Glory is based on a soon-to-be-published book by Bing West, an ex-Marine now covering the Iraq war as a foreign correspondent.

According to the publicity, the film will use the Fallujah assault "as a way to explore the dangerous intersection of war and politics, depicting the drama from the viewpoints of soldiers, military leaders and politicians."

And if Ford, is a little creaky for the role at 62, when did details like that ever bother Hollywood?

* THIS time of year the main streets of America are a-twinkle with Christmas lights, snowflakes and the occasional snowman. Not Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. The famously posh street has decided to forego commonplace knick-knacks and has taken the art of holiday decoration to a new level. Baccarat, the French crystal maker, has provided a million dollars' worth of handcrafted chandeliers. The shimmering crystal lamps (pictured), valued at $50,000 a piece, are suspended from sleek standards installed at an additional cost of $250,000.

Some residents have expressed doubts that the display might be a little pretentious, even for Beverly Hills, but the city burghers are delighted with it and the upscale shoppers it is attracting.

"Even before the lighting ceremony a group of Saudi Arabians came by and wanted to buy the chandeliers," reports the city's official greeter, Greg Donovan.

* STILL ON Christmas lights. Pandora is thankful he does not live on Blue Heron Circle in Lafayette, Colorado, where Alek Komarnitsky has festooned his house with 22,000 lights, icicles, Santas and snowmen. Neighbours tolerate the hundreds of sightseers who turn up to ooh and aah at the illuminations, but are getting a mite fed up with the continual flashing and flickering.

Mr Komarnitsky, for reasons best known to himself, has created a website allowing internet users around the world to turn the lights on and off at the click of a mouse.

Another website recently alerted users to his interactive page: "This guy's website is funny. Turn the lights on and off and annoy the neighbours."

So far more than 35,000 people have tinkered with the lights, and even Mr Komarnitsky now admits: "It's out of control."

* Gwyneth Paltrow named her daughter Apple and Julia Roberts has plumped for Hazel, but it seems that if you want to give your daughter a good start in life, just name her Madison. Madison has remained at the top of the most popular list of names for girls for the past five years, according to BabyNames.com, despite the fact that it means Matthew's Son. Why? "I think it's because it conjures up visions of both a Madison Avenue powerbroker and an innocent, beautiful cinematic mermaid," gushes BabyNames.com creator Jennifer Moss.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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