Knud Pedersen – 2

By Christopher Zoukis

At the age of 39, in 1898, Hamsun married Bergljot Goepfert.  The couple divorced in 1906 because of Hamsun’s bizarre perspective on life.  Bergljot found him difficult to be around, depressed much of the time, moody and demanding. 

Three years later, Hamsun married a very pretty, very sexy actress neamed Marie Andersen.  Planning on becoming farmers, thus realizing Hamsun’s dream of returning to the soil and a natural way of life, they bought a farm.  The reality of nature and farming quickly proved unpalatable to Hamsun.  The pure life was not nearly as much fun, nor as spiritually stimulating as he imagined.

They sold the farm.

Then they moved south, to Larvik, and shortly thereafter bought the manor house near Grimstad. 

Hamsun’s ultra-conservative political outlook, along with his personal history of growing up poor and hungry, led him to champion Hitler’s National Socialist movement in Germany.  He met personally with Hitler and with Joseph Goebbels.  Goebbels so impressed him, that Hamsun sent his Nobel Prize medal to Goebbels as a gift. 

Hamsun, in his zeal, made the mistake of writing and publishing Hitler’s obituary.  Published in the Aftenposten, Norway’s leading newspaper, he praised Hitler as a “warrior for mankind.”  Disgusted with such drivel, his irate countrymen burned Hamsun’s books or sent them back to him through the mail.

In the aftermath of the war, Hamsun was charged with collaboration and treason.  Supposedly, Hamsun was a member of Vidkun Quisling’s Nasjonal Samling.  Quisling, of course, was the Norwegian politician who betrayed his country to the Nazis.  As a reward, the Nazis made Quisling their puppet ruler in Norway.  On his part, Hamsun denied ever belonging to any political party in his memoir.

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Knud Pedersen

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy

It is summer and the sun is shining.  Off to the east rugged mountain peaks serrate against a soft blue sky.  A breeze strong enough to be annoying shoves steadily at plants, animals and human beings.  On the plus side, though, the air is fresh and tastes of salt and smells of pine.

The tombstone is made of white granite with gray and black flecks in it.  Oblong in shape, it stands four feet tall.  On the top sits a gray cast iron bust, wearing an armless coat and tie.  A handlebar moustache banners under a flaring nose, and the iron head has no hair.  I wonder if he went bald, or shaved his head?  A photograph of him at age thirty shows a full head of hair, wire rim glasses and a solid, handsome face.

His ashes are in a small wooden box, and the box sits encased within the cast iron bust.  The box is decorated with mythological beasts, one being a unicorn.

Nearby sits his manor house, which, when he first bought it, was near to falling down from neglect.  He had it restored and redecorated.   

From good breeding stock, he remained healthy until his death at age ninety-two.  They say, though, that he had “permanently impaired mental capabilities” in his last years.  But it was pure speculation.  No, it was more than that – it was judgment palmed off as fact.  It was what they wished were true.  And they hoped that by saying it, it would come true.  For they were embarrassed by him, even scandalized by him.

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Farinelli – 3

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy

Moving to the next stall, the warm, crowded scent of fresh baked bread embraces you.  And in the back of the stall, on a marble slab, a roly-poly fat-faced man massages a thin sheet of pasta.  His fingers mesmerize you as he deftly cuts and molds perfect little shells, dropping them on a baking foil.  This is true alchemy, but instead of turning lead into gold, he transforms water, eggs and flour into delicious pearls.

No wonder Bologna is called la grassa, ‘the fat one,’ a term which refers to its cuisine.  I can imagine Farinelli striding long-leggedly through a light rain along Via Clavatura, humming a tune as he carries a bag of pasta and a loaf of bread.

Although he never achieved any worthwhile girth, from his journals we know that Farinelli enjoyed bread with a thin, crisp crust surrounding a soft, flaky interior.  And even in Farinelli’s day, good bread was hard to find. 

In today’s world, people just want their bread to be white.  Not Farinelli.  Il castrato sought out bakers who used only natural yeast, which makes the best bread.  And the dough must have been kneaded at least three times.  Farinelli knew that Egyptian bakers of yore, in their quest for perfection, kneaded the dough with their feet. 

Another highly desirable adjunct to good bread was the wood-burning oven.  The coals imbued the rising dough with a certain taste and a distinctive smell.  And the crust firmed up slower, allowing it to be crackley and thin.  In that manner, when bitten into, it was like a delicate pastry.  If you look hard, you can still find such bread in one or two of the bakeries in Bologna.  In these shops they eschew gas or electric ovens, which are popular because wood is difficult to come by.  Not only that, it’s expensive because woodcutting is not a popular career track. 

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Farinelli – 2

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy of

“Castration for music” was practiced primarily by the Italians.  Under the Roman Catholic Church’s Canon Law castration was prohibited; it was considered to be mutilation and its practice resulted in ex-communication.  Unofficially, however, the Church supported “castration for music.”  For one simple reason:  it made their choirs better, especially since women were banned from choirs.

The choirs were important, for they sang the music that praised and glorified God. 

So the practice continued, with as many as 4000 to 5000 boys per year undergoing the bloody ministrations of the knife.  Most of these were from destitute families, and were sold by their parents to a singing master.  In most cases, they were not asked if they desired to be castrated.  There was no choice.  They just were.

At the end of the eighteenth century, castrati lost their appeal to the masses.  Musical tastes were changing, and mutilation by castration came to be considered obscene as well as cruel.  In 1870 the Italian government outlawed deliberate mutilation of another human being.  And Pope Leo the XIII banned the use of castrati in church choirs.   

Farinelli, aka Carlo Boschi, the exception to the rule in many ways, was not poor.  He was born into a musical Italian family; his father was the governor of Maratea and Cisternino.  His father decided the boy’s voice was too pure and precious to suffer the stain of hormones, so a plan was concocted.  Supposedly Carlo fell while riding his horse.  His testicles were crushed in the fall, and castration had to be performed for medical reasons.

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Farinelli – 1

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy

He died a lonely old man.  He was seventy-seven years old.

His first grave was in the cemetery of the Capuchin monastery of Santa Croce in Bologna, Italy.  He was interred wearing the mantle of the Order of Calatrava.

Santa Croce Cemetery itself is unruly:  too much of everything, and messy.  Monuments stand here, there and everywhere, as do floor slabs.  And fifty percent of them are memorials for dead people who aren’t buried there.  The vast church, flat and gray, like something from a Hollywood set, surveys the hodgepodge before it.  Begun in 1294, consecration of the church took place in 1433.  The biographer, Giorgio Vasari, added to the clutter when, in 1565, he was hired to revamp the interior of the church.  He whitewashed the frescoed walls, then erected ugly altars.

Wrecked further by cannon balls, the pounding hooves of sweaty horses, and the tramping of thousands of soldiers during the Napoleonic wars, Santa Croce cemetery descended into total chaos.  So his body was moved to its second grave.  His niece, Maria Carlotta Pisani, transferred him to the cemetery of La Certosa in Bologna.  Forty years later, she was interred beside him.

La Certosa

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Correctional Officer

By Christopher Zoukis  Image courtesy

Corrections officers work in jails, prisons, courthouses and detention centers.  They deal with and handle people who have just been arrested, defendants, and inmates.  Shift work is normal for corrections officers, as correctional facilities operate twenty-four hours per day.  Their duties vary throughout the shift.

Corrections officers perform the following functions:  booking prisoners, searching prisoners, guarding and watching prisoners, preventing fights and potential riots, transporting prisoners to and from court, inventorying personal possessions of inmates, guarding new arrestees, and guarding convicted felons.

Corrections officers may be part of a local sheriff’s department, working at the county jail or they may work at a state or federal prison.  And since the privatization of prisons seems to be a trend, corrections officers may even find themselves employed by a government agency or a private company.  Officers who work at jails experience a dizzying array of people:  those awaiting trial, those serving sentences for misdemeanors, and those convicted of felonies and awaiting transport to state or federal prisons.  Corrections officers who work at prisons usually work exclusively with felons.

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The Golf Ball Primer

By Christopher Zoukis Image courtesy Golf balls must be at least 42.67 millimeters in diameter.  In God’s feet and inches, that’s 1.68 inches.  The reason this number is important is because a smaller ball will drive further due to less air resistance.  So as one might expect, golf ball manufacturers tend to produce golf […]

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Seven Exercises for Total Fitness

By Christopher Zoukis and Todd Broxmeyer /

There are many aspects of exercise that are exciting and productive, but one of the many components has to be the accessibility of the actual movements. No matter where a person is, whether it be the comfort of the home you grew up in, a hotel halfway around the world, or the Spartan confines of a 6′ by 9′ prison cell, accessibility is a must. These movements, or exercises, can be done alone or in any size group. So, if exercising is so easily within reach of the vast majority of the people on the planet, why aren’t more of us doing it?Image courtesy

There are many answers to this question, but we think the primary barrier is that people tend to think that exercise and fitness need to be harder than they really do. Please understand, we are not saying that effort and dedication aren’t needed when attempting to get in shape. What we want everyone to understand is that the movements themselves should not be intimidating. Fear of engaging in the actual muscle movements should never stop someone from engaging in them in the first place.

Every exercise in this article can be modified to make it harder or easier. Just because you cannot do a pull-up does not mean you shouldn’t work out your back; find the movement you can do that uses the same muscles, thus fulfilling the same exercise goal as a pull-up. We are going to present seven movements that can be done anywhere in a safe, controlled, and reasonable manner, whether it’s the home, a hotel, or even a prison cell. The point is to simply try each on for size and see where they take you.

Exercise #1: Squats (Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes)

If you have no time for anything else, DO SQUATS! A more specific breakdown will be provided later, but for now, use a chair. Simply act like you are going to sit down, and when your bottom touches the chair, stand up. During your descent, focus on keeping your hamstrings (back of your legs) tight. As you stand up, squeeze your quadriceps (front of your legs) and your glutes (your bottom). When squatting, ensure that your back is flat and your descent is slow and smooth. Full range and continuity of motion are essential to get the full benefit of each repetition.

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Prison Frisbee: Not Your Grandpa’s Ultimate Frisbee

By Christopher Zoukis /

The grass is spotty, the dirt patches shine through. The field isn’t what you’d expect for an Ultimate Frisbee league, as it is centered in the outfield of a prison softball field. Yet, a little over a dozen men, convicts, stand at the ready. Some wearing gloves, some shirtless with all manner of tattoos, and the field is marked with orange pylons commandeered from the prison flag football league. This is Frisbee, prison Frisbee.frisbee

When people think of federal prison they think of hardened convicts. They think of razor wire and gun towers. They think of stabbings, stompings, and race conflicts. They think of prison guards, their mace and their batons. Such of these thoughts are applicable. Just yesterday someone was stomped in the prison chow hall for sitting at the wrong table. Prison is prison, and what happens in prison simply happens. But perhaps when people think about prison they should think too of sports leagues, camaraderie, and healthy competition, albeit competition with teeth. After all, this is prison sports we’re talking about, not an intramural league at a liberal arts college. Most of us are serving sentences in excess of five or even 10 years; some may never go home.

As the Frisbee players of FCI Petersburg – a medium security federal prison in Petersburg, Virginia – group up, they start to throw around a few Frisbees. Long games of catch ensue in the pre-game dawn light. Games here are often pick-up and last from 6 PM to 8 PM. These times coincide with the “activities moves,” when the reinforced internal prison gates – gates topped with razor wire and security cameras, of course – are opened and prisoners are allowed to move to different locations within the prison. While there are weeks when only one or two games are played, there have literally been complete months when everyone comes out and plays for every single night. Again, this isn’t regular Frisbee, it is prison Frisbee, and the stakes aren’t about wins on a scoreboard – of which we have none – but more about identity and a sense of being. Hey, we’re in prison and we need something to grasp in an effort to find meaning in life, even if for only a few hours a week, and even if only a small part of our identity.

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Middle Street Publishing – Press Release

Middle Street Publishing Releases Prisons Facility Directory by Prison Education Advocate Christopher Zoukis and Dr. Randall Radic

Announcing the release of the ‘Directory of Federal Prisons:’s Federal Bureau of Prisons Facility Directory.’         

‘Directory of Federal Prisons:’s Federal Bureau of Prisons Facility Directory’

This electronic guidebook enables [anyone] to quickly locate the contact information and inmate correspondence address of every prison within the Federal Bureau of Prisons and every private prison which houses federal inmates.


Middle Street Publishing recently released the ‘Directory of Federal Prisons:’s Federal Bureau of Prisons Facility Directory’ (ISBN-13: 978-0-9913-3020-1) by Christopher Zoukis and Dr. Randall Radic.

The ‘Directory of Federal Prisons’ is a comprehensive, yet succinct, guide to the contact information and basic character profile information of every prison within the Federal Bureau of Prisons, plus all private prisons under contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to house federal inmates. It is an essential guide for everyone who knows anyone incarcerated within the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and sets the standard for basic character profiles and contact information for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

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