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Do crocodiles really shed tears?

2 Mar

I finally got around to doing something today that has been on my checklist forever. And that’s buy the book version of the Hunger Games.

I don’t know why I waited so long as I know for a fact I’m going to love it. But at least now the plot will be fresh in my mind when the movie opens in a few weeks.

Anyway, I never go to a bookstore for just one book – I always emerge with a bag full. And while browsing the specials rack today, my eye fell on a title I immediately knew I had to have – Know It All from DK Books, which offers facts, stats, lists, records and more.

Now, I’m interested in random information at the best of times, and this year-long knowledge quest I’m on has only heightened my curiosity. So I decided that for today, I would open up a random page and find an interesting fact. And luckily I have good aim.

It was only on the news today that police fear a woman in the Northern Territory has been taken by a croc. So how appropriate the spread I turned to had information on whether crocodile tears are real. Here’s what the book said …

“If you shed ‘crocodile tears’ people think you are faking it. That’s because crocodiles ‘cry’ while they are eating their victims. But it’s not because they are feeling remorse; as they swallow down great lumps of meat, their jaw muscles expand and contract. The pressure created by the moving muscles squeezes tears out of the crocodile’s tear glands.’

In short – real tears, no sorrow. No wonder they say you should never smile at a crocodile. And now a few pieces of FYI . . .

* A crocodile can hold its breath underwater for an average 10-15 minutes 
* It can swim up to 30km/h
* It has roughly 68 teeth, which are constantly falling out and being replaced

Now let’s finish with a chorus of Crocodile Rock. The cool version from the Gnomeo & Juliette soundtrack.


Where did Lady Gaga get her stage name from?

1 Mar

In less than 12 hours from now, tickets go on sale for the newest batch of Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta concerts in Australia.

Now, you might think this isn’t a big deal. After all, she sounds like a classical musician (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But if I were to share with you the name she’s better known by – Lady Gaga – you would suddenly see my point. And probably my determination to claim a seat.

In background, I must confess I missed out on most of the early buzz surrounding one of the world’s most strangely dressed women. And if I ever gave her a thought, it was probably along the lines of “Who the f**** wastes a perfectly good steak on an outfit for an awards show?”

But I was finally converted to fandom with the double team strike of Paparazzi and Bad Romance. They are awesome songs. Just awesome. And they finally inspired a proper appreciation for the kind of eccentricity and talent so often squished in what can be a one-size-fits-all society.

Anyway, through plenty of revealing interviews, I knew a lot of interesting stuff about the Poker Face-d one, such as why she’s only tattooed on one side of her body (it’s at the request of her father).

But I’d never really paid attention to the inspiration for her name. Given the word ‘gaga’ I assumed there would be a Queen reference in there somewhere. And there was, via a producer called Rob Fusari. I found an explanation straight from the horse’s mouth in Flybe Magazine via

“My producer, Rob Fusari, was the first to really bring out both my theatrical and pop elements. I was in theatre for many years, but I was also a pop vocalist. When I auditioned for pop, record labels would say you’re too theatre. And when I auditioned for theatre they’d say you’re too pop. When I met Rob, I discovered David Bowie and Queen, and the more theatrical Beatles records. One day, I played Rob a song called Again Again, and he said, “God that’s so Queen! You’re so Radio GaGa. Very theatrical”. And he started to call me GaGa when I’d come into the studio. When we were getting ready to really start performing, I decided that I’d been playing under my real name for so long I wanted a new way to reinvent myself. So I said, what about Lady GaGa, because Gaga is sort of crazy and Lady has such connotations. I went to a private school but now I was living in this trash glitter environment. So, for me, it was the perfect description of who I had become.”

And thus the legend was born. Now to indulge in a Bad Romance.

How do you get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?

25 Feb

Every so often when I’m flicking through a tabloid magazine I come across photos of a ceremony to induct a celebrity into the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The most recent, just this month, was a ‘humbled’ and ‘grateful’ Jennifer Aniston, whose career only seems to be going from strength to strength. But some of the rolecall she joins are just puzzling. I mean, no disrespect, but who are Rod La Rocque and Klaus Landsberg?

Anyway, with about 24 induction ceremonies held annually, I wondered how stars got a guernsey. And the process is this.

Nominations are judged once a year in the categories of Motion Pictures, Television, Radio, Recording and Live Performance/Theatre. Once a star is chosen a fee of $30,000 is payable for the creation and installation of the star, as well as walk maintenance.

They then have five years to schedule their ceremony. Here’s some other facts I discovered…

• Anyone, including a fan, can nominate a celebrity for the walk, as long as their management agrees.
• Dead stars can’t be nominated for the posthumous award until five years after their passing.
• The stars themselves are made of terrazzo and brass.
* The idea for the walk came from EM Stuart, who was volunteer president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce in 1953.

Find out more here.

What inspired Cold Chisel’s hit Flame Trees?

22 Feb

I am lucky enough to be able to say that Icehouse was my very first concert and Jimmy Barnes was my second.

Now to some people, this would sound like the perfect introduction to live shows, and Aussie music at its best. But sadly, I can only report on one of them. And it’s not the Working Class Man. Here’s why …

In heartbroken-teenage circumstances best left undescribed, I had decided to make Jimmy’s concert my first real introduction to alcohol. And by the time we left for the gig, I had drunk the best part of half a bottle of vodka. Straight.

By the time we reached the venue, I had already begged (several times) to be left alone on a traffic island to sleep. So it’s no surprise the staff took one look at me and ferried me off to the sick bay. Where I remained until I made it out for the last two songs, although I could not hope to tell you what they were.

While the consequences at the time weren’t great, in the years since I’ve come to look back on the incident as a sort of homage to Barnesy, who was then a big fan of drinking himself. And I was reminded of it as I drove home from work tonight and the classic Cold Chisel tune Flame Trees came on the radio.

Though I can’t say it’s my favourite of the band’s songs – that honour goes to Khe Sanh and When The War Is Over – I have always loved its lyrics. So I decided to find out what inspired them.

And the answer, found in liner notes penned by music journalist Toby Cresswell, came from the band’s own website, which reveals the track was …

“Written about Grafton, where Don spent most of his formative years. The song was inspired by a girl whom Don had known in his youth and who “doesn’t live there anymore”. Grafton is actually known as the Jacaranda City but it had acquired flame trees as a result of a television program called The Flame Trees of Thaw, which starred Hayley Mills, an old flame of the lyricist’s dreams, and the flora stuck. It’s a song of lost love, of mortality and what’s left behind. Steve Prestwich’s melody and Don Walker’s words.” Their last hit before disbanding (although fortunately for us they eventually changed their mind).

I thought this was a great insight into the band. So I decided to look into the inspiration behind some of its other songs, And here’s what I found….

Rising Sun 
Jimmy’s vow of love for Jane, who was later to become his wife.

You Got Nothing I Want 
The response to a visit to America where their record label couldn’t have been less interested in the band or its East album.

But the most surprising of them all was Choir Girl. I had always assumed it was about a prissy schoolgirl discovering the joys of sex, but it’s actually about a girl facing an abortion. Powerful stuff and one of Don Walker’s few songs written from a female perspective.

But back to those Flame Trees

Who is the rude band in Old School and Starsky & Hutch?

12 Feb

Hollywood has produced some wonderful wedding singers.

Just look at Steve Buscemi’s heartfelt warbling of True in the Adam Sandler movie that celebrates the profession.

But for my money, the best among them is Dan Finnerty. And don’t worry if you haven’t heard of him before, because I just discovered him too. And felt obliged to (ahem) sing his praises.

To backtrack, today’s knowledge quest was born from a simple desire – to find out more about the band that cameos in Old School and Starsky & Hutch.

Anyone who has seen the films will understand my interest since they both feature milestone celebrations headlined by an incredibly coarse (but hilarious) band that peppers power ballads with enough bad language to make a grandmother or religious devotee blush.

Think Bonnie Tyler’s Total F****** Eclipse of the Heart and you’re on track.

Anyway, I knew the group couldn’t be just a movie ensemble as they are too practised and polished. And I was right. They are actually a comedy band called The Dan Band, led by the aforementioned Dan Finnerty, an actor and comedian.

Based in LA, their specialty is covers of female pop songs such as Toni Basil’s Mickey, with added obscenities and swearing. And their unique blend has proved very popular in Hollywood, featuring in other films such as The Hangover.

They even released a Christmas LP of originals called Ho: A Dan Band Xmas, which had tracks such as I Wanna Rock U Hard This Christmas, for which the video featured the Brady Bunch’s Florence Henderson hitting on Santa in a retirement home. Check it out below.


And to finish, a random fact: Dan is married to actress Kathy Najimy.

What is a dirty martini?

9 Feb

My head was not in a good space as I turned the radio on.

I was grumpy beyond measure and all I wanted to do was get home and relax. Instead, I found myself detouring via a service station to replace the $40 worth of diesel I had put in only the day before. Yes. All gone in a matter of 24 hours.

Hoping to find an ’80s track to warble (badly) along too, I reached for the AM band just in time to hear Pink singing about a dirty martini making her girlfriend flirty. Suddenly I realised that while I’ve heard about this drink 1000 times before, I don’t actually know what it is.

I hit the internet to find out when I eventually made it home and it took me all of one second, courtesy of a cool looking website called Dirty Martini

In their words, the definition is basically … “gin or vodka with a small amount of dry vermouth and olive juice (also known as olive brine) mixed and garnished with olives. The resulting dirty martini is a little cloudy, due to the olive juice, hence the name dirty martini.”

A great answer, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to know how to make one. And since the site is obviously a lover of shaken, stirred and more, I figured they wouldn’t mind me showcasing one of their many recipes. Here goes…

Cheesy Dirty Martini

3 ounces vodka
½ ounce dry vermouth
1 tbsp olive brine
3 blue cheese stuffed olives

In a shaker combine all ingredients except two of the olives. Take the third olive and squeeze the blue cheese into the shaker. Shake well for 30 seconds and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with remaining two blue cheese stuffed olives and enjoy.

As James Bond would say. I’ll drink to that!

PS: I am aware this is my second alcohol related post in only a few days. And?

Where did the song title Electric Blue come from?

5 Feb

I grew up early enough to be a fan of Hall & Oates, but not early enough to see them in concert. So when I found out they were touring Australia, I had to go.

The chance to see Out of Touch performed live was just too much to resist. Plus, they were being supported by Icehouse, one of my all-time favourite homegrown bands. And the combination prompted me to look further into something that had always intrigued me.

I knew John Oates had teamed up with Iva Davies to co-write Electric Blue, which was one of Icehouse’s most popular songs. But what I didn’t know was how they came up with the title. And it turns out the setting was a little risque!

You can read full versions of the story here and here, but to paraphrase what happened, Oates was relaxing on a topless beach while Iva was out windsurfing when an unexpected muse crossed his path. “This gorgeous topless chick is walking towards me on the beach and I’m thinking, “Well, I can’t look at her tits, so I better look at her eyes. So she had these blue eyes, and I swear to God, it popped into my head, and that’s how I came up with the idea.”

Now watch the video . . .

  And to finish, a little Out of Touch too.