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How did the Spice Girls get their nicknames?

12 Jun

As a singer Victoria Beckham makes a great fashion designer. And I’m not just saying that to be snarky.

Just look at her fashion label, which is beautiful, stylish and goes from strength to strength. The praise is well earned and her designs are a favourite among celebrities. As for her singing, well that’s another story.

While Victoria was a founding member of ‘90s girl power group the Spice Girls, you only have to watch one of their videos to see how little of the singing she did. But that’s OK. That’s what Emma Bunton and Melanie Chisholm were there for. Posh’s role was to add a bit of class to proceedings, something I’m sure played heavily into her choice of purple thrones for her wedding to footballer David Beckham, who is famous worldwide for his enormous, err, footballing skills.

Anyway, while watching the video for 2 Become 1 in a nostalgic moment tonight, I started wondering how all five girls – rounded out by Geri Halliwell and Melanie Brown – got their Spicy nicknames of Posh, Baby, Scary, Sporty and Ginger. I figured it was the brainchild of their manager, but turns out it was a bit of inspiration from Top of the Pops editor Peter Loraine, who broached the subject over lunch. As he remembers

I simply said it would be a good idea if they had some nicknames. The girls liked the idea, so I had an editorial meeting back at the office and about four of us started thinking of names. Posh was the first one to be thought up because Victoria looks pretty sophisticated. The rest were pretty easy really because the girls’ characters were already really strong. The names jumped out at us. We laughed the most when we came up with Scary. Jennifer Cawthron, who was also from Leeds, came up with that one because Mel B was so loud and had tried to take over our whole photo shoot. We ran the names for a couple of issues and the first time the girls saw them they thought it was funny. Then the newspapers started picking up on the names and they cropped up everywhere until they were fully accepted by everyone.”

Now let’s watch the video..


BTW, did you know that for their group auditions, Mel C sang I’m So Excited by the Pointer Sisters, Mel B sang The Greatest Love Of All by Whitney Houston and Victoria sang Mein Herr from Cabaret?

 

Who was sport’s first streaker?

11 Jun

Pic by Ian Bradshaw

I love going to cricket games, especially at the Gabba in Brisbane, which is home to some of the world’s most impressive beer cup snakes.

Sadly, it’s also home to some of the world’s most humourless security guards, who take great delight in puncturing any errant beach ball that makes its way on to the ground. Honestly, would it kill them just to throw them back into the crowd? With such mean spirit I’d hate to see what they would do to a streaker! And believe it or not it’s a question I’ve actually been pondering today.

It all started over lunch with a fellow cricket tragic, where we re-lived some of our favourite Gabba games, mine being a New Zealand v South Africa one-day international where Chris Cairns went the tonk to claim victory in the last over.

We’ve both seen the greats in action, and some great action, but neither of us could lay claim to spotting a streaker. Which led me to wonder who the first big-name sporting streaker was. And in a piece of history that actually makes me pretty proud of the green and gold, that honour goes to a fellow Aussie.

His name was Michael O’Brien who, on April 20, 1974, decided to make his mark on sporting history by running on to the ground starkers during a union match between England and France at Twickenham.

Being only 25, I’m guessing alcohol and his mates played a big role in giving him the courage to make his leg bye. But one person wasn’t impressed – a policeman called Bruce Perry, who used his helmet to cover O’Brien’s genitals. It was such a seminal moment that helmet even went on display in Twickenham. And Perry shared his story with the Guardian back in 2006. Here’ an excerpt…

“The streaker had been drinking Fosters – it had only just come out here, and clearly he and some of his friends had an enjoyable time before the game drinking it. So he did it for a bet – he had to run across the pitch at half-time and touch the other side to win £10. I caught him just before he got there but when he explained the bet I let him touch the stand before I cautioned him. I was so embarrassed. I told him he didn’t have to say anything and all that but he just shouted at me: “Give us a kiss!” It was a cold day and he didn’t have anything to be proud of, but I didn’t think twice about using my helmet. We took him down to the nick but he was back for the second half.”

Decades later Perry had the chance to fly to Australia for a reunion with O’Brien courtesy of the Ch 7 program Where Are They Now, which finally convinced O’Brien to tell his story. Streakerama holds a transcript of the interview by Mel Doyle and David Koch. Here’s an excerpt..

Mel: Thank you for joining us. So… what were you thinking?
Michael: Obviously not much.
David: So there you are, out in the middle of the field, it’s a test match, rugby, not a stitch on…
Michael: Yes
David: How did you feel going through it all?
Michael: I was blank to it, to be quiet honest. From the minute I sent my clothes to the other side of the ground and I was sitting there stark naked on the opposite side of the ground, everything just went blank. All I was waiting for was the half time whistle so the players would leave the field. And I decided I wanted to run across the half way line. Fortunately where my seat was was near the quarter line. So I had to get over the fence, go along the side of the paddock to the half way line and take off which gave the cops all the time in the world to get ready and wait for me.
Mel: You were a young accountant – a fairly conservative kind of profession if I can say…
David: Come on! No!
Mel:… and your mates put you up to it for a bet.
Michael: It was an Englishman who put me up to it. My Australian mates said to him straight off “Don’t bet with O’Brien because he’ll do it.” He insisted so I said “Well, it’s going to happen.”
Mel: And did you win the cash?
Michael: I won the cash and I was fined the equivalent amount of cash from the Magistrate the following Monday, so all squared.

Like the classic song always said: C’mon Aussie..

Does adamantium really exist?

10 Jun

Some days when I write this blog I want to discover something useful that will enrich my knowledge base. Other times, I just want to find an excuse to run a photo of a naked Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Today was one such day, and fortunately I had a justified reason at the ready, as I’d always been curious about a key plank of the X-Men mythology. And that is whether adamantium really exists.

As anyone who’s seen Wolverine or another X-Men film knows, this is the metal Colonel William Stryker has grafted on to Wolverine’s bones in a bid to make him an indestructible killing machine who can be used/manipulated for evil ends. Doesn’t sound like something our goodie would sign up for, and it’s not. He’s tricked into the surgery when told it’s the only way he can become strong enough to avenge his supposedly murdered girlfriend. Of course when he discovers she was alive all along, and he’s been played, all hell breaks loose. Only now he isn’t just a powerful soldier-turned-logger with unchartered healing powers – he’s an indestructible metal man hell-bent on revenge. You can imagine how that ends for everyone involved.

Anyway, the metal sounded pretty impressive so I wanted to know if it was drawn from the world of real science. And the answer is no. It’s simply another fantastic creation from the superhuman-minded brain of Stan Lee and his team.

You can read more about it at the Marvel Universe. But for now, let’s see some of Wolverine in action here and also below. You’re welcome.

Did Queen Elizabeth I have smallpox?

8 Jun

Anyone who’s studied history knows that when Hollywood comes calling it often takes ‘liberties’ in transferring personalities and stories from the archives to the big screen (see Braveheart et al).

Sometimes it’s for reasons of dramatic tension, other times through poor research and other times just because they wanted a different ending and felt emboldened to pursue it by simply adding a disclaimer ‘inspired by true events’.

So when I came across TV mini series The Virgin Queen and it showed Elizabeth I being struck down with smallpox, my first thought was to wonder if her life had been given an extra dash of drama.

I mean I’ve studied English history, I know all about the Tudors, about Henry VIII’s wives and about the monarch’s battles with Mary, Queen of Scots. But I had never heard she nearly died of this often-fatal disease.

However it turns out the storyline was real. She did suffer from smallpox, in 1562. In fact it’s said the resulting scars are what first prompted her to begin wearing her famous white make-up.

So there you have it. Another amazing chapter in the life of an extraordinary woman. Here’s five other tidbits I discovered . . .

* Elizabeth I attended the first performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
* Wars during her reign are estimated to have cost more than 5 million pounds (in the prices of the time).
* She thought to have died of blood poisoning.
* After Henry VIII’s death, she was taken in by his widow, Catherine Parr. However she was later sent away with rumours suggesting she had caught the eye of Catherine’s new husband, Thomas Seymour.
* Her motto was “Semper Eadem”, meaning “Always the Same”.

PS: While I was doing research on the website of the English monarchy I came across a section that noted Australia was a realm of the Commonwealth. Intrigued, I had to find out what constitutes a realm. And here is the answer…

“A Commonwealth Realm is a country which has The Queen as its Monarch. There are 15 Commonwealth Realms in addition to the UK: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Papua New Guinea, St Christopher and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Tuvalu, Barbados, Grenada, Solomon Islands, St Lucia and The Bahamas.”

How do you adapt ice cream for winter?

7 Jun

I love ice cream. It’s one of my favourite food groups along with chocolate, garlic bread and various other unhealthy treats.

On a summer day it’s the perfect way to cool down. But in winter, it’s less of a practical treat, being pretty hard to force down through chattering teeth.

So with Queensland temperatures currently hovering around the -30 mark (or so it feels) drastic action was needed. So I took it, asking Google to find me ‘ice cream recipes for winter’. And it did, with the below treat from epicurious emerging a favourite. Now to find a less lazy cook to whip it up for me . . .

Winter-spiced molten chocolate cakes with rum-ginger ice cream

Ingredients
Ice cream 
1 pint vanilla ice cream, softened
2 tbsp chopped crystallised ginger
1 tbsp dark rum
Cakes
14 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1.25 cups unsalted butter
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
6 large eggs
6 large egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
Additional powdered sugar
Crystallised ginger strips

Method
Ice cream
Place softened ice cream in medium bowl. Using plastic spatula, fold ginger and rum into ice cream. Transfer to airtight container. Freeze ice cream mixture until firm, about 4 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep frozen.)
Cakes
Generously butter eight 3/4-cup soufflé dishes. Stir chocolate, butter, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and white pepper in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Cool slightly. Whisk eggs, egg yolks and vanilla in large bowl to blend. Whisk in 3 cups powdered sugar, then chocolate mixture, then flour. Transfer batter to prepared dishes, filling to top and dividing equally. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Preheat oven to 425F. Bake cakes until batter has risen above dish, top edges are dark brown, and centres are still soft and runny, about 15 minutes, or about 18 minutes for refrigerated batter. Run small knife around cakes to loosen. Allow cakes to rest in dishes 5 minutes. Using hot pad and holding dish very firmly, place plate gently atop 1 cake and invert on to plate. Repeat with remaining cakes. Dust with powdered sugar. Top with crystallised ginger. Serve with rum-ginger ice cream.

Delicious. Now somebody get me a spoon!

Who won Australia’s first Paralympic gold medal?

6 Jun

The Australian athletic team for the London 2012 Paralympics was announced today. And I was thrilled to see it make the news as it’s a sad reality these athletes are often (OK usually) overshadowed by their Olympic counterparts.

For some reason the event just doesn’t attract the same level of support and audience attention as its companion event, even though the dedication and athleticism of its competitors is more than equal.

So with my interest peaked, I decided to find out who won our first Paralympic gold medal. It turns out to have been New South Welshman Ross Sutton, who competed in archery. And in an extra honour, he didn’t just win our first gold, he also won the first gold on offer at the first games, held in Rome in 1960.

Since then we’ve won medals at every games – Winter and Summer – with our best gold-medal performance being Sydney 2000, when our swag totalled 63. History certainly bodes well for this year’s tally.

Read more about our results and Paralympic history here and start to meet the athletes headed to London here.

By the way the team’s uniforms are modelled (from left) by Jack Swift, Kelly Cartwright, Matt Cowdrey, Annabelle Williams, Kurt Fearnley, Jessica Gallagher, Grant Mizens, Kylie Gauci and Melissa Tapper.

Is ‘e’ really the most common letter of the alphabet?

5 Jun

Pic by Leo Reynolds

As a very shy child, I was far better at collecting books than friends. So while I have few schoolmates in my list of Facebook connections, some of the novels I read back then have stayed with me. Among them is Which Witch by Eva Ibbotson, which remains a cherished favourite to this day.

Sadly, myriad moves have seen most of my other childhood books disappear. And I curse the day I decided to sell all of my original Enid Blytons to buy cassingles (yes I am that old). But occasionally they come to visit, through sections of plot or characters that pop into my head, driving me crazy until I can remember where they are from and what they are called.

So it is with one particular book at the moment. I have no idea who wrote it, or even what it was called, but in involved a treasure hunt in the jungle and a code that was built around replacing the alphabet with various numbers. Even to this day I can clearly remember the lead character explaining the key to unlocking it was the letter ‘e’, as it was the most common letter in the alphabet and would therefore be substituted for the most common number. And right he was, since the treasure was soon in their hands.

In true style, that random fact proved more than a passing sentence for a child who lapped up knowledge like it was chocolate milk. It has stayed with me ever since and has been put to good use in unravelling many a clueless crossword. I even shared it with one of my nephews this week as he prepared for a course in code breaking.

But as I did so, it suddenly occurred to me that I had never questioned it. As a long-time journalist I was certain it was true, but today seemed as good a day as any to double check.

So I turned to the Oxford Dictionary, which confirmed it was not only the most common letter in English text but also the most common letter in English vocabulary.

That goodness I hadn’t given him a bum steer!

And I did discover something else interesting. Despite, or maybe because of, its popularity, several authors have actually gone to the trouble of writing entire novels that deliberately avoid any use of the letter ‘e’. Sounds almost impossible, doesn’t it? But they did it. Which of course begs the question of why.

Read about some of them at The Writing Post.

Did 50 Shades of Grey start out as Twilight fan fiction?

12 May

I’m a terrible one for impulse purchases. I go to the store for a bottle of milk and somehow arrive home with a magazine, strawberries and a packet of Menz Choccy Snakes (not a sponsored plug, I just love them!).

So it was no surprise today when a trip to the local shopping centre for shoes (red, suede, divine) extended into a book-buying frenzy.

Top of the list was 50 Shades of Grey.

I had held off on buying the novel simply because I had been ferociously busy (and was admittedly re-reading The Hunger Games trilogy for the billionth time). But when I saw it on special for less than $10 the decision was made; I love a book bargain and was also curious to investigate the hype, which has labeled the multimillion seller as ‘mommy porn’ for its explicit and risqué depiction of an S&M relationship between a billionaire businessman and a young female student.

As always, I read a chapter or two at the back first, and while the intimate scenes were quite graphic, I didn’t find them as boundary pushing as expected. Probably because I have the open mind/seen-it-all-before mentality of the typical journalist. But what I did find intriguing was the suggestion the novel had started out as a piece of Twilight fan fiction.

For those who don’t know, fan fiction is, like the name suggests, where fans take established characters from books, movies, TV shows etc and write their own stories around them.

This can serve several purposes, from simply the desire to be creative to a chance to bring together two characters a writer thought should have ended up together. Needless to say there’s been plenty of words devoted to Frodo and Sam from Lord of the Rings and Harry and Hermione from the Harry Potter series. There’s even one or two about Harry and Dobby, but frankly I’ve never been interested enough to go there.

Anyway, when I looked into it, I discovered author EL James – whose erotica series continues with Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed – did indeed first draw inspiration from Stephenie Meyer’s tale of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. As her agent, Valerie Hoskins, told Deadline Hollywood

This did start as Twilight fan fiction, inspired by Stephenie Meyer’s wonderful series of books. Originally it was written as fan fiction, then Erika decided to take it down after there were some comments about the racy nature of the material. She took it down and thought, ‘I’ve always wanted to write. I’ve got a couple of unpublished novels here. I will rewrite this thing, and create these iconic characters, Christian and Anna’. If you read the books, they are nothing like Twilight now.’

Thankfully she also lost the pen name Snowqueens Icedragon.

Read an excerpt from the book here.

PS: Yes, Hollywood has snapped up the movie rights. Will be very interesting to see who they cast…

Where did the term WAG come from?

10 May

As I’ve mentioned once or twice before, I’m in the middle of launching my own magazine called (insert brazen plug here) Regional Foodie Sunshine Coast.

As part of that I’ve been spending a lot of time in front of the computer, anything up to 21 hours in a row. And since I play TV for background music the way some people play actual music, I’ve been exposed to a LOT of crap TV.

Now, among the ‘gems’ (air quotes intended) I’ve stumbled across is WAG Nation, which seems to involve professional sporting girlfriends doing, well, I’m not quite sure what, other than having staged telephone calls and chats while wearing admittedly gorgeous frocks.

There’s one or two who seem to have real spunk and are down to earth with careers/achievements of their own, but a few seem to exist only as an addition to their partner and the perks such a status enjoys in a country where sportsmen are treated as living gods.

And it left me with one question to ponder. Well two actually.

The first, of course, being why the hell didn’t I turn it off?

The second being exactly where the term WAG – short for wives and girlfriends – originated from.

And it seems we have the British media to thank as the tabloid press originally coined the name to describe the wives and girlfriends of the English soccer team.

Or, as the Urban Dictionary puts it…

“A selection of overpublicised, vacuous anorexics found lurking at football matches, easily distinguished by their orange skin tone and high body plastic index, ostensibly present for the purpose of pleasuring the England football team, but in reality with the intention of being photographed obtaining fashion advice from chief WAG Mrs Beckham in the hope that this will lead to a future appearance on “celebrity love island”.

Wow, such lives of satisfaction. And to think some women concern themselves with doing apparently pointless stuff such as earning their own salary or having their own achievements to celebrate.

Perhaps we all just need to get ourselves to a football ground.

What is a Supermoon?

5 May

Apparently it’s going to be open season for werewolves tonight. Not because I’ve cracked open the Twilight DVD again, but because there’s something called a Supermoon on the way.

Now, I assumed this was one of those titles that had been drummed up just to add sizzle to the spectacle, but it seems to be a pretty common term in the scientific community as well.

But what exactly is it? I turned to NASA from the answer. Here’s what Dr James Garvin had to say….

Question: What is the definition of a supermoon and why is it called that?

Answer: ‘Supermoon’ is a situation when the moon is slightly closer to Earth in its orbit than on average, and this effect is most noticeable when it occurs at the same time as a full moon. So, the moon may seem bigger although the difference in its distance from Earth is only a few percent at such times.

In other words size does matter.

For the record when the moon is closest to Earth – at its perigee – it seems 14 per cent larger and 30 per cent brighter than when it’s furthest away, at its apogee.

Read more at the Christian Science Monitor which also reveals, among other things, that full moons come in different sizes because of its elliptical orbit.