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Who is responsible for flanno shirts?

26 Mar

I am a pretty keen student of the different empirical divides that make up our social hierarchy.

Now, in theory, this makes me sound like the Sir David Attenborough of the human world. But in reality it simply means I enjoy making fun of bogans.

Let me say upfront I know I am about to be an outright snob. But there’s just something very wrong about a group whose commitment to sophistication centres on wearing their good double plugger thongs to a formal occasion.

And don’t even get me started on the cringeworthiness that is rats tails, tramp stamps, stonewash jeans and Fruity Lexia drunk straight from the cask.

Then there are flannelette shirts.

If Winnie Blues are the bogan’s favourite accessory, the mighty flannelette shirt is their uniform of choice. Not because they’re paying tribute to the revolution that was grunge music or because it’s practical for work, but simply because they like them. Especially teamed with black jeans and a hotted up Commodore.

So who is responsible for popularising this fashion atrocity? I had to know. And would it surprise you to learn he was American?

His name was Hamilton Carhartt, which probably makes him sound like the Ed Hardy of his time. But that’s an unfair call to make since Hamilton did not own a bedazzler, did not seek to clothe the torso and buttocks of every B grade star who called the Jersey Shore home and actually designed them for practical purposes.

In fact his inspiration was about as unglamorous as you can get – creating clothes to meet the needs of the 1800s working class, such as those employed on the railway. If only it had *sigh* stayed that way.

You can read more about Hamilton here.

But in the meantime, courtesy of a fabulous book /website called Things Bogan Like, I present a list of other things bogans like…

* Perspective-based photos at famous landmarks
* Spurious allergies
* Slater & Gordon
* Misspelling their kids’ names
* Prefacing racist statements with ‘I’m not racist but…’
* Tribal tattoos
* Buddhist iconography as home furnishings
* Ill-informed analysis of the Qur’an
* Petrol consumption as recreation
* Political correctness gone mad

 

 

Is yawning really contagious?

25 Mar

Yesterday was election day in Queensland. And as I predicted, the ruling Labour Party was shellacked to the point where it may no longer even qualify as a party.

The avalanche of seats falling to the Liberal party was so all-encompassing it soon became boring. So the guests at a friend’s election party took to trying to get Channel 9 to show off their tweets.

Most of us failed but one friend, Rob, made the cut with this gem: “Please tweet this so Lisa has to pay me $5”. Which I did.  Although it made things a bit expensive when they persisted in showing it time after time after time.

Anyway, I ended up bailing early because I was so exhausted I couldn’t stop yawning and didn’t want  it to spread to everyone else. But as I shared my admittedly weak explanation, I suddenly wondered if this urban myth was actually true. There was only team I trusted to tell me the answer. The MythBusters of course.

And here’s the experiment they conducted on the topic.

MYTH: IS YAWNING CONTAGIOUS?

Explanation: A 2006 study found monkeys yawn in response to seeing other monkeys yawn. Could it be then that yawning is similarly contagious in humans, monkeys’ fellow primates?

MythBusters Kari Byron, Tory Belleci and Scottie Chapman corralled unwitting volunteers to find out whether people unconsciously pick up this jaw-dropping behavior from each other. To that end, the MythBuster team converted a large van into a psychological chamber designed to relax participants and prompt them to unknowingly catch a yawn from Kari.

Many hours and many participants later, the MythBusters’ data showed that when people inside the van weren’t exposed to Kari’s yawning, they still yawned 25 percent of the time. But when Kari caught flies in front of them, they yawned 4 percent more often. Though that’s not an enormous increase, since they tested 50 people in the field, the gap was still wide enough for the MythBusters to confirm that yawning is indeed contagious.

STATUS: CONFIRMED

Yet that wasn’t the end of my discoveries for the day. On a whim I jumped into Adam’s biography only to discover he has quite the Hollywood background beyond the show. Which isn’t surprising when you discover his father was a puppeteer on The Muppets.

Here’s some interesting things he’s done  …

* Appeared in the video for Billy Joel’s Only Human (Second Wind).

* Worked as a model maker on everything from the Matrix trilogy and Galaxy Quest to Attack of the Clones and Home Alone 3.

* Played himself on The Simpsons.

* Worked on commercials for everyone from Burger King to Coca-Cola.

Pretty cool stuff, hey? And Jamie’s background is just as varied and interesting. But let’s save him for another time…

Who created Adrian Mole?

24 Mar

Anyone under the age of about 30 should consider tuning out of this blog post right now, because I’m going to discuss someone you’ve probably never heard of.

His name is Adrian Mole, he is the very definition of a whingeing Pom and his diaries kept me entertained right throughout my school years and beyond.

Created by Sue Townsend, the character first appeared in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole age 13 ¾ back in 1982. And since’s it been reprinted in 30th anniversary form, I thought it timely to check back in.

The basic synopsis of the plot, as recounted at Townsend’s official website, paints Mole as a “hapless teenager providing an unabashed, pimples-and-all-glimpse into adolescent life”. In his case this includes parental marriage woes, the endless zits that plague his face, his fear of school bully Barry Kent, his love for Pandora and his status as a ‘misunderstood intellectual’.

Nor are they just teenage afflictions as he grows up to enjoy a very unimpressive love life and career centred on the world of newts. But what do you expect from such an inauspicious childhood? Here’s an extract from that first teenage diary …

Thursday, January 1
BANK HOLIDAY IN ENGLAND, IRELAND, SCOTLAND AND WALES
These are my New Year’s resolutions:
I will help the blind across the road.
I will hang my trousers up.
I will put the sleeves back on my records.
I will not start smoking.
I will stop squeezing my spots.
I will be kind to the dog.
I will help the poor and ignorant.
After hearing the disgusting noises from downstairs last  night, I have also vowed never to drink alcohol.
My father got the dog drunk on cherry brandy at the party last night. If the RSPCA hear about it he could get done. Eight days have gone by since Christmas Day but my mother still hasn’t worn the green lurex apron I bought her for Christmas! She will get bathcubes next year.
Just my luck, I’ve got a spot on my chin for the first day of the New Year!

Friday, January 2nd
BANK HOLIDAY IN SCOTLAND. FULL MOON
I felt rotten today. It’s my mother’s fault for singing My Way at two o’clock in the morning at the top of the stairs. Just my luck to have a mother like her. There is a chance my parents could be alcoholics. Next year I could be in a children’s home. The dog got its own back on my father. It jumped up and knocked down his model ship, then ran into the garden with the rigging tangled in its feet. My father kept saying, ‘Three months’ work down the drain’, over and over again. The spot on my chin is getting bigger. It’s my mother’s fault for not knowing about vitamins.

Saturday, January 3rd
I shall go mad through lack of sleep! My father has banned the dog from the house so it barked outside my window all night. Just my luck! My father shouted a swear-word at it. If he’s not careful he will get done by the police for obscene language. I think the spot is a boil. Just my luck to have it where everybody can see it. I pointed out to my mother I hadn’t had any vitamin C today. She said, ‘Go and buy an orange, then’. This is typical. She still hasn’t worn the lurex apron. I will be glad to get back to school.

Sunday, January 4th
SECOND AFTER CHRISTMAS
My father has got the flu. I’m not surprised with the diet we get. My mother went out in the rain to get him a vitamin C drink, but as I told her, ‘It’s too late now’. It’s a miracle we don’t get scurvy. My mother says she can’t see anything on my chin, but this is guilt because of the diet. The dog has run off because my mother didn’t close the gate. I have broken the arm on the stereo. Nobody knows yet, and with a bit of luck my father will be ill for a long time. He is the only one who uses it apart from me. No sign of the apron.

Monday, January 5th
The dog hasn’t come back yet. It is peaceful without it. My mother rang the police and gave a description of the dog. She made it sound worse than it actually is: straggly hair over its eyes and all that. I really think the police have got better things to do than look for dogs, such as catching murderers. I told my mother this but she still rang them. Serve her right if she was murdered because of the dog. My father is still lazing about in bed. He is supposed to be ill, but I noticed he is still smoking! Nigel came round today. He has got a tan from his Christmas holiday. I think Nigel will be ill soon from the shock of the cold in England. I think Nigel’s parents were wrong to take him abroad. He hasn’t got a single spot yet.

Tuesday, January 6th
EPIPHANY. NEW MOON
The dog is in trouble!
It knocked a meter-reader off his bike and messed all the cards up. So now we will all end up in court I expect. A policeman said we must keep the dog under control and asked how long it had been lame. My mother said it wasn’t lame, and examined it. There was a tiny model pirate trapped in its left front paw.
The dog was pleased when my mother took the pirate out and it jumped up the policeman’s tunic with its muddy paws. My mother fetched a cloth from the kitchen but it had strawberry jam on it where I had wiped the knife, so the tunic was worse than ever. The policeman went then. I’m sure he swore. I could report him for that.
I will look up ‘Epiphany’ in my new dictionary.

Anyway, I’m sure you get the point. And on it goes. You can read more here – as well as extracts from the other Adrian Mole books and collections of his poetry, essays and more – but in the meantime I also enjoyed an interview with the author. You can read the full Q&A here but the below is a great taste…

Do you have a favourite diary entry from the last 30 years?
Saturday April 3 1982 – The last line in the last entry of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13 3/4. Written after he had tried glue sniffing and accidentally stuck a model aeroplane to his nose: ‘I rang Pandora, she is coming round after her viola lesson. Love is the only thing that keeps me sane…’
I also like the sequence of entries in the same book made when Mole was trying to paint his bedroom black to cover the Noddy wallpaper; only to be repeatedly thwarted by the bell on Noddy’s hat.

What has been Adrian’s biggest mistake?
To ignore the many persons who have told him his serial killer comedy, The White Van, and his memoir Lo, the Flat Hills of my Homeland, are unpublishable. Mole does not suffer from a lack of self-belief in this regard.
At the Dept of the Environment when he misplaced a decimal point, and erroneously stated that the projection of live newt births for Newport Pagnall was 120,000.

And his greatest triumph?
He still believes his awful novels will be published one day.
That he is still a decent, kind person.

If Adrian Mole was a teenager today, what would he be doing and writing about?
He would be exactly the same, but he wouldn’t be using Twitter to memorialise his life. He would keep a secret diary. Mole’s privacy is still intact. He would not use social networking.
There are still Mole types everywhere, watching the absurdities of the world from the sidelines.

Now watch a clip from the TV show…

Why are there ravens at the Tower of London?

22 Mar

Today’s knowledge quest started off with a focus on Blackadder. Specifically I had it in my mind to find out who wrote Baldrick’s infamous line “I have a cunning plan My Lord”, which so often preceded disaster by mere seconds.

Yet in a strange twist of fate, I ended up veering well and truly off course. And it’s all Wikipedia’s fault.

You see I was reading up on Baldrick when I came upon a suggestion one of the Tower of London ravens was named for the character. And while the inspiration doesn’t seem to have ever been formally acknowledged, it’s held to be true.

So clearly, ravens are a serious business at this most English of historical/tourist attractions. And I wanted to know why.

The answer lies back in the hands of time, with a legend that says the kingdom will fall if the birds ever leave. So Charles II, who ruled in the 1600s, decreed there must always be at least six in residence.

Responsibility for maintaining the status quo falls to someone called the Raven Master, whose responsibilities range from trimming their feathers to feeding them 6oz of raw meat and blood soaked bird formula biscuits every day.plus an egg once a week and an occasional rabbit (apparently the fur is good for them).

You can read more about them here, but the current seven inhabitants – six and a spare – are as follows…

* Porsha (female)
* Hugine (female)
* Pearl (female)
* Erin (female)
* Merlin (female)
* Rocky (male)
* Munin (female)

 Here’s a few other raven facts..

  • The tower’s oldest ever raven resident was Jim Crow, who died at 44.
  • Escapes are rare but do happen. One bird, appropriately called Grog, was last seen outside a pub in 1981.
  • There are also occasional sackings such as George, who was let go in 1986 because he kept chewing on TV antennas. As you do.

And now for a moment of Baldrick.

“I’ve got a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel.”

How do you make an apple tart?

20 Mar

I have a friend whose sole ambition in life is to be Martha Stewart.

Goodness knows why, as she would look terrible in prison garb (and seems to have conveniently glossed over the whole insider training thing), but the idea of a world that’s beautiful from the moment you wake until the moment you go to bed has her enthralled.

Now, that sounds kind of Stepfordy to me – I love clutter and lots of it. But I can appreciate the desire for an elegant life. However if we’re going to do things stylishly, I’m more about Donna Hay, especially since she’s Australian.

As I’ve noted before, I buy a lot of magazines, and Donna is often among them, not so much because I want her recipes (although they are delicious) but more because I adore her colour palette and gorgeous food styling. So naturally, when I was trying to find something to take to a Queensland election party on Saturday night (I tip an absolute shellacking for Anna Bligh and Labour) there was nowhere else to turn but her website.

And she came to the party, with the below recipe – from her entertaining section – proving just the trick. It’s so easy and looks so professional I already know I will have to spend half the night trying to convince people I actually made it myself. Oh well, so worth it. Here goes…

DONNA HAY’S EASY APPLE TART

Ingredients
2 red apples, thinly sliced
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
80g butter, melted
1 sheet ready-prepared puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten
Double (thick) cream to serve

Method
Preheat oven to 200C. Place the apple, sugar, cinnamon and butter in a small bowl and mix to combine. Cut the pastry into four equal squares and score the edges to create a 1cm border. Layer with the apple mixture and brush with the egg. Place on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and cook for 10–15 minutes or until golden and puffed. Serve with double cream or ice-cream.

Apparently, the recipe is supposed to serve four people but clearly, Donna has never met my family!

Bon appetit!

How many stations does Australia have in Antarctica?

19 Mar

I have a bit of a thing for Antarctica. I’ve always wanted to go and always will want to go, even with the lack of reception my mobile phone would be sure to have.

I’m not sure what first sparked this interest. Perhaps it’s the fact that heat makes me so very unreasonable grumpy while cold weather gives me an excuse (like I need one) to drink copious amount of hot chocolate. Then there’s the fact you can see penguins and don’t have to worry about being eaten by a polar bear. It’s also the setting for one of my favourite books – Ice Station by Matthew Reilly.

Anyway, my hunger to go was made all the worse earlier this year when my parents embarked on my – and to be fair their – trip of a lifetime down south, spending weeks on end exploring the southernmost reaches of our planet.

I asked them to bring back a penguin but instead got Gucci’s new Envy perfume, which I imagine tastes far less palatable roasted over an open flame. But on a serious note they did manage to fulfil one of my bucket list items – to visit one of the permanent stations. And the stories they bought back only made me want to learn more. Here’s what I discovered.

The Australian Antarctic Division maintains four permanent research stations, which are occupied year-round by scientists and support staff. They are:

* Mawson (Antarctic continent)
* Casey (Antarctic continent)
* Davis (Antarctic continent)
* Macquarie Island (subantarctic)

You can read more about them here, with information ranging from webcams and science overviews to cultural heritage and information on station facilities. But I found the write-ups so fascinating I had to share one. Here goes…

CASEY

“About 150-160 expeditioners, including Wilkins Aerodrome ground crew, visit Casey  during the summer. About 16-20 remain on station over winter.

Living at Casey is very comfortable and has often been compared to ski lodges, with the odd exceptions. The local ‘supermarket’ is substituted by a walk in cupboard called “Woolies”, where all expeditioners can browse the shelves for soap, linen etc. in a cashless society.

When blizzard days inhibit fieldwork, the main living area (the Red Shed) has indoor climbing, a home theatre, gym, photographic dark room, library and many communal sitting areas for expeditioners to pass the time.

Casey living is very communal and all expeditioners contribute to the day-to-day running of the station. Rosters are set up for Saturday duties that may include vacuuming the living area, shovelling snow, cleaning the cold porches etc. Expeditioners are rostered on to help the chef out in the kitchen (“Slushy duty”) to help feed the station.

Expeditioners have private bedrooms and share a bathroom between three people. Before the summer melt, water is scarce and therefore all expeditioners are limited to two-minute showers every second day.

Casey living is also very social after work and on days off. Every Saturday night expeditioners dress up for dinner and occasionally a theme night will be organised – with very adventurous costumes! The Casey bar “Splinters” is often occupied after work and on weekends with expeditioners playing pool and darts and drinking the home brewed beer.

Casey also boasts a special hydroponics building, which we use to grow lettuce, green vegetables, tomatoes and fresh herbs. These are welcome additions to our winter diet.”

Wow, sounds amazing, doesn’t it? And I would love nothing more than to spend six months living and working there. But sadly sarcasm, a comprehensive knowledge of power ballads and a liking for D-grade monster movies don’t seem to appear anywhere on the list of preferred candidate attributes. As Homer J Simpson would say: “D’oh”.

Did St Patrick really banish snakes from Ireland?

17 Mar

You know it’s St Patrick’s Day when you turn on the TV just in time to hear some dim-witted host utter the immortal line “to be sure, to be sure”.

I mean honestly, I’ve never met an Irish person who actually says that. Nor have I met any who subsist on just potatoes and leprechaun gold.

But year after year the same stereotypes get trotted out. Much in the same way, I guess, as a Canadian airport worker once yelled “Crikey” at me after discovering I hailed from the land of Steve Irwin.

Anyway, knowing how much fantasy surrounds the annual festival on March 17, I came to wonder if many of the stories about St Patrick – Ireland’s patron saint – might also be a little (or entirely) embellished. And turns out they are. The History Channel offered more information.

For starters, St Pat wasn’t even from Ireland; he was born in Britain but kidnapped by Irish raiders as a teenager and taken to the Emerald Isle. After gaining his freedom he returned to England for religious instruction before returning to Ireland as a missionary. Here’s two more myths they bust…

St Patrick banished snakes from the Emerald Isle
Legend has it Patrick stood on an Irish hillside and delivered a sermon that drove the island’s serpents into the sea. While it’s true the Emerald Isle is mercifully snake-free, chances are that’s been the case throughout human history. Water has surrounded Ireland since the end of the last glacial period, preventing snakes from slithering over; before that, it was blanketed in ice and too chilly for the cold-blooded creatures. Scholars believe the snake story is an allegory for St. Patrick’s eradication of pagan ideology.

Green has historically been associated with St Patrick’s Day
The Irish countryside may be many shades of green, but knights in the Order of St Patrick wore a colour known as St Patrick’s blue. Why did green become so emblematic of St Patrick that people began drinking green beer, wearing green and, of course, dyeing the Chicago River green to mark the holiday he inspired? The association probably dates back to the 18th century, when supporters of Irish independence used the color to represent their cause.

Of course even with this knowledge that most of the mythology around St Patrick is just that, it’s not going to stop me going in search of a four-leaf clover to bring me good luck in the Lotto. Just think of all the potatoes I could buy with my winnings. To be sure, to be sure…

How did Bear Grylls break his back?

14 Mar

Bear Grylls is no more. Actually wait, that sounds a bit too dramatic. What I mean is, Man vs Wild is no more. At least not for the foreseeable future.

I was very sad to learn today the Discovery Channel had fired the action man over a contract dispute. I mean I know the show drew a lot of criticism for its staged elements, but I always found him an amazing role model. He certainly encouraged plenty of kids I know to spend a bit more time outdoors and a bit less time glued to a TV or video game screen.

Anyway, the news got me thinking about what an interesting life Bear has led, with feats including scaling Mt Everest. And it’s all the more remarkable when you consider he fought back from a broken back in 1996 when he was just 22.

Now, I knew he suffered this injury in a skydiving accident. And I was even in the audience at a live show where he shared the story. But somehow I missed it. Probably because I was out getting a drink. For the record not my own urine.

Fortunately, it wasn’t too hard to track down this excerpt from his book Mud, Sweat and Tears

“I was in the SAS Reserves, and though I was years away from my TV career, life was perfect. I was fit and doing a job I adored. What young man wouldn’t love being trained in blowing stuff up, climbing cliffs and high-speed driving?

“That summer, I was helping out on a game farm in South Africa and decided to head to Zimbabwe for some down time before going home to the UK. Fun, for me, meant skydiving with good friends. Little did I know how much I was going to rely on the qualities that first got me a place in the SAS.

“One evening, as the brilliance of the African sun was being replaced by the glow of dusk, my friends and I huddled together in a small plane as we climbed to nearly 16,000 feet. The plane levelled out. Someone reached for the door. One by one, the guys dropped from the door and fell away. Soon I was alone. I looked down, took that familiar deep breath, then slid off the step.

“Three thousand feet. Time to pull. I reached to my right hip and gripped the ripcord. I pulled it strongly. Initially, it responded as normal.

“The canopy opened with a crack that interrupted the noise of the 130mph free fall. My descent rate slowed to 25mph. Then I looked up and saw something was wrong. Instead of a smooth rectangular shape, I had a very deformed looking tangle of chute, which meant it would be a nightmare to control.

“I pulled hard on both steering toggles to see if that would help. I started to panic. The desert floor was coming closer. My descent was far too fast. I was too low to use my reserve chute. I was getting close to the ground, coming in at speed – and then I smashed into the desert floor.

“I bounced like a rag doll and landed directly on my back, right on top of the tightly packed reserve chute. It felt as if something had driven clean through the centre of my spine. I could only roll over, crying in agony. In the pit of my stomach I feared that my life would never be the same again.”

Of course, as we know, Bear’s life never was the same again as it took off in ways he couldn’t have imagined. He climbed Everest, became a global TV star and in the meantime managed to eat any animal not quick enough to get away.

So what I want to know is this. Who will now fill the void of TV presenters willing to give themselves an enema while floating on a raft at sea? RIP Man vs Wild.

BTW you can read the full extract with the story of his accident and recovery here. And here’s another interview I liked in which he revealed the answer to a question I’m dying to know. Here it is.

Question: What is the worst food you’ve eaten in a survival situation?
Answer: Raw frozen yak eyeballs; camel intestine juice; raw goat testicles; live snake; maggots as big as a hand, pulsating with yellow pus; and giant live spiders.

 Ick.

Who founded The Razzies?

13 Mar

I write about movies a lot. Mainly because I’ve seen so many of them. And in typical form, I did write a piece on the Oscars when the awards show rolled around because hey, it’s like the mothership of star and frock spotting.

But good movies weren’t on my mind today, it was bad ones. More specifically those starring Eddie Murphy. And it’s all because news.com.au mentioned them.

I’m sure you can understand how impossible it was to resist a headline that screamed “Eddie Murphy stars in The Worst Movie Ever Made.” I mean, that’s a big call to make if you’ve ever sat through Vanilla Sky or two hours of my life I’m NEVER getting back The Whole Ten Yards. But apparently the critics have voted, as his latest movie, A Thousand Words, has scored an almost unheard of zero percent rating on movie website Rotten Tomatoes.

The story then went on to list the actor’s many disasters, including The Adventures of Pluto Nash, which holds court as one of the most expensive flops in Hollywood history. It wasn’t kind and it did overlook a few gems such as Bowfinger. But Eddie does have the Razzies to deserve such a dumping, including last year’s Worst Actor of the Decade and a trifecta of Worst Actor, Worst Supporting Actor and Worst Supporting Actress for Norbit.

But what are The Razzies I may hear you ask?

Well, for those who don’t know, the awards, handed out by the Golden Raspberry Foundation, are basically the anti Oscars, recognising the worst in the previous year’s movie making. It rarely draws the same star power – although Sandra Bullock (All About Steve) and Halle Berry (Catwoman) did pick up their Worst Actress awards in person – and it’s little wonder, given how much s**** it gives Hollywood A listers.

Adam Sandler, for example, has secured a record 11 nominations in this year’s awards, which appropriately enough will be announced on April 1. And this stat inspired me to find out how the awards got started. For once, Wikipedia seemed right on the money. Here’s their take on it…

“American copywriter and publicist John JB Wilson traditionally held potluck dinner parties at his house in Los Angeles on the night of the Academy Awards. In 1981, after the 53rd Academy Awards had completed for the evening, Wilson invited friends to give random award presentations in his living room. Wilson decided to formalise the event after watching a double feature of Can’t Stop the Music and Xanadu. He gave them ballots to vote on worst in film. Wilson stood at a podium made of cardboard in a tacky tuxedo, with a foam ball attached to a broomstick as a fake microphone, and announced Can’t Stop the Music as the first Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture. The impromptu ceremony was a success and the following week a press release about his event released by Wilson was picked up by a few local newspapers, including a mention in the Los Angeles Daily News with the headline: “Take These Envelopes, Please”.

From those humble beginnings, the Razzies have grown to become big news worldwide, and are even televised these days. And the one bright spot for nominees is they don’ t have to perfect their gracious loser smiles.

Funny fact: In the Worst Actress category, two of this year’s five nominees are men – Martin Lawrence as Momma in Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son; and Adam Sandler as Jill in Jack & Jill. The others include Sarah Palin as Herself in Sarah Palin: The Undefeated.

You can read the full list of nominations here and check out The Razzies YouTube channel here.

How did author James Patterson create his character Alex Cross?

12 Mar

I adore Morgan Freeman. He is an astonishing and talented actor and I never get tired of watching him in everything from The Shawshank Redemption to a new favourite, the action thriller Red. That said, I wanted to throttle him in the movies Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls.

Now, I know casting for these films was not in his hands, but anyone who has read even part of the James Patterson-penned series would know he is all wrong for the part of Alex Cross. In the books the detective/psychologist/police consultant is middle aged, fit and in his prime. And that’s how he should have been played, not as someone whose most active days are behind them.

Thankfully this casting wrong will soon be righted with this year’s release of Alex Cross, featuring Tyler Perry in the lead role. But as I read a bit more about the movie tonight, my thoughts turned to the author and his inspiration.

You see, even though he’s written what seems like a gazillion books and series, I still think the Cross novels are Patterson’s best works. And that could be because of how I discovered them.

I was travelling overseas with a friend who spent all day, every day trying to make me mad or offended, and the best way to fend him off was to turn my Walkman (yes I am that old) on loud and bury myself in a book.

Of course this was easier said than done, so when I stumbled across Kiss The Girls in a bookstore in Oxford and found it more than capable of shutting out unwanted attention, I was hooked.

Today, of course, Patterson novels of all varieties help make my bookshelves groan. So I decided I would like to learn a little bit more about what inspired the creation of my favourite character. And I found the answers in an interview Patricia Cornwell (yes the Patricia Cornwell) did with him on Amazon. The results were a little surprising, so here’s what they had to say.

Cornwell: What inspired you to create Alex Cross?
Patterson: Hardly anyone knows it but when I started the first Alex Cross novel, Alex was a woman named Alexis. After 100 pages or so, I changed the character to Alex. When I was a kid growing up, my grandparents had a small restaurant and the cook was an African-American woman who eventually moved into our house. All through my growing up period I spent a lot of time with this woman’s family. They were funny, wise, the food was great, so was the music, and the family is at least part of the inspiration for the Crosses. 

Cornwell: What do you and Alex Cross have in common? How are you different?
Patterson: We’re both family-oriented guys. I think it’s a real treat to be able to get along with your wife every day, which I do; my wife and I really have trouble being apart for very long. And I think readers will agree Alex is generally doing better in the romance department. One difference between us would be that I’m much more content to sit around and write. I think Alex would get a little bored on a “ride-along” with me.

Cornwell also went on to ask about his inspiration and motivation for writing. And he answered with this . . . 

“I truly love writing. I sometimes think about my grandfather when I reflect on this. When I was a boy, I lived in a town on the Hudson River. During the summers, my grandfather would take me once a week on his frozen food and ice cream delivery route. We’d be up at four in the morning packing up the truck, and by five we’d be on our way. Driving a delivery truck isn’t the most glamorous job in the world, but every morning, my grandfather would drive over the Storm King Mountain toward West Point, and he’d be singing at the top of his voice. And he told me this: “Jim,” he said, “when you grow up, I don’t care if you’re a truck driver or a famous surgeon—just remember that when you go over the mountain to work in the morning, you’ve got to be singing.” Writing stories keeps me singing. Writing to me isn’t work, and I like that a ton.”

Now read some excerpts from his books here.