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Who has the world’s largest collection of Daleks?

24 Nov

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I have never been a fan of Dr Who, which is weird, since I love all things sci-fi, from Star Wars and Star Trek to the utterly phenomenal Galaxy Quest. I know that time travel is best done in the Tardis and the Daleks are best avoided at all costs.

But still, apart from the episode with Kylie Minogue a few years back, I am pretty much out of the loop. However even I knew today was a big day – the screening of a 50th anniversary episode, The Day of the Doctor, which was enough to send many of my friends/devoted fans – aka Whovians – racing from their FB accounts lest spoilers sneak through.

Their behaviour got me thinking, about how devoted and obsessed fandom can be. So I decided to take what I knew and build on it, by discovering who in the world has the largest collection of Daleks. And I found him – of course – in the UK.

The person’s name is Rob Hull, and in 2011 he smashed the Guinness World Record for the biggest collection of Daleks, with 571.

But back then he was only getting started. And when Yahoo! News UK caught up with him in September, his collection had grown to 1202.

Why? Well he’s probably best placed to answer that question….

I started my collection 24 years ago and have been a massive Dalek fan since I was seven – I’ve never actually been a big follower of the show. I really wanted a Dalek when I was a young boy but my mum said no – I always said that when I was an adult that I would have my own Dalek and now I have the biggest collection.

Turns out though, his wife is not the biggest fan of his work. In his own words: “My wife would prefer if all of them were in the garage rather than inside.”

And honestly? I don’t know who’s side I’m on. Although it might have to be the outside, since my life-sized Boba Fett already has a monody on the inside.

Why did they recast Buttercup in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire?

22 Nov

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In the true form of a movie junkie, I headed to the cinema at midnight on release day to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

I’ve been waiting for it to open since the day I finished reading the book, and nothing like commonsense or the need to get a good night’s sleep was going to get in my way.

Anyway, I’m not going to talk about it too much, because I know the pain spoilers can cause.

But one plot point that did catch my eye, and I think is OK to mention, is Buttercup.

As fans know, the Everdeen’s cat is very obviously described as yellow in Suzanne Collins’ involving trilogy, but in the first film he had become black and white for some reason. This time around though, authenticity prevails.

So I decided to find out what prompted new director Francis Lawrence – who took over from Gary Ross and is pictured above with stars Liam Hemsworth and Jennifer Lawrence – to make the change.

He revealed all in an interview with Meredith Woerner on io9.com

The first big change I noticed from The Hunger Games to Catching Fire was you recast the cat. Why did you recast the cat?

You know what that was actually, and I was happy to do it, that was a request from Nina the producer and Suzanne the author. That they thought the cat from the first movie was not the way he was described in the book. And that had annoyed a bunch of fans, and things like that. But it also just kind of bothered them that Buttercup was not a black and white cat. So I was happy to get one that felt like the Buttercup of the book. It’s funny because now people are split. Some people think we should have continued on with what happened in the first movie. And some people are really happy. You never win.

Personally I think the right move. I can totally understand why changes have to be made to make a book filmable, but a cat colour doesn’t seem to much of an ask to get right.

Who created supercalifragilisticexialidocious?

15 Nov

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As a child, I can well remember entering some sort of competition run by a milk company. I’m not sure what the link was, or even what the prizes were, but I do know it involved making as many words as you could from the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Now, it would be fair to say I poured my little heart and soul into the task. I literally went through the dictionary word by word, finding ones that matched. And yes, it took as long as you might imagine. So long I actually missed the deadline for entries. And was somehow still surprised I didn’t win.

Anyway, this chunk of history came to mind when I noticed the movie Mary Poppins listed in the TV guide.

I’ve never seen it – and am less likely to do so the more anyone tells me I ‘have’ to – but I do know it unveiled the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. So I decided to find out its origins.

The answer lay in an laist interview with Richard M Sherman, who wrote the score to the musical with his brother, Robert. Here’s the relevant bit…

How did you make up the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious ?

That’s a word we sort of concocted from our childhood when we used to make up double talk words. In the screenplay version of Mary Poppins we wanted her to give the children a gift they could bring back with them from inside the chalk drawing when they came out into the real world. If it was a tangible thing like a seashell or pine cone it would disappear. So we said “Remember when we used to make up the big double talk words? We could make a big obnoxious word up for the kids.” And that’s where it started. Obnoxious is an ugly word so we said atrocious, that’s very British. We started with atrocious and then you can sound smart and be precocious, we had precocious and atrocious and we wanted something super colossal and that’s corny, so we took super and did double talk to get califragilistic which means nothing. It just came out that way. That’s in a nutshell what we did over two weeks. All together you get supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Great explanation. Now, who feels like a spoonful of sugar?

Could a Sharknado really happen?

14 Nov

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I don’t drop the word ‘glorious’ into conversation all that often.

In fact, I’m pretty sparing with its usage, saving it purely for such moments of awesomeness as the shirtless scene in Thor and Thor 2.

But every so often a piece of entertainment comes along that is so exquisite, so unique and so innovative that no other word will suffice. And so it is with Sharknado.

Now first, I should offer a disclaimer, which is that I am naturally pre-disposed to like this film.

I am obsessed with/terrified of sharks, am noted for my love of B-grade animal monster movies and am slightly famous for loving things other people consider crap. Plus, it has the ultimate in B-grade acting pedigree by way of Iain Ziering and Tara Reid. What’s not to love?

Anyway, while the nuances of the plot are non-existent would take far too long to explain, the official synopsis goes something like this: “When a freak hurricane swamps Los Angeles, nature’s deadliest killer rules sea, land, and air as thousands of sharks terrorise the waterlogged populace.”

And when they say terrorise they mean terrorise, with sharks appearing everywhere from helicopters, highways and manholes to living rooms as they bite people clean in half. At least until Iain – playing Fin Shepard – starts fighting back with a chainsaw.

In short, it is gory, blood-spattered, mind-blowing, ridiculous and glorious. With a subtle plot that points out a punchline from about 1km away and then smacks it right in the face. Like when the man says “My mum always told me Hollywood would kill me” literally a split second before he is crushed by the Hollywood sign. See what they did there?

Like I said, solid gold.

Anyway, I had to know who was responsible for writing this work of art. And as it turns out, his name is the equally glorious Thunder Levin, who did a great interview with iO9.

You can read the full Q&A transcript here – including the inspiration for the movie and whether alcohol was involved – but first, the burning questions that came to my mind as the DVD ran its course…

Is there any scientific basis, however tenuous, for Sharknado?

Yes. There are numerous confirmed reports of fish falling from the sky, sometimes even on a clear sunny day. We just took it to the “logical” extreme.

How are the sharks cognisant enough to keep biting people while they’re flying through the air?

If you were a shark and you found yourself flying through the air, wouldn’t you keep biting? I think you’d be pretty pissed about being plucked out of your nice familiar ocean where you’re king of the predators, and you’d probably take it out on whoever got in your way. Honestly, I don’t understand why people are so perplexed by this concept. The logic is undeniable.

Well sure, if you say so. Now check out the best scene from the movie…

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.

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.

Was Mark Wahlberg ever a member of New Kids on the Block?

24 May

Back in my uni days/early twenties, I was known to play the occasional drinking game. You know, the kind where you pick a topic – say a movie or TV show – work out its regular patterns of behaviour and then assign a certain number of shots everyone must do when they come up.

Take the move American Pie for example.

Here, ‘punishments’ were awarded for such acts as … Stiffler swears (1 shot), someone references Stiffler’s mum (1 shot), Jim’s dad tells an unwelcome and too-much-information anecdote (2 shots) or Jim embarrasses himself in a manner that involves his genitals (2 shots for an apple pie, 1 shot for a girl).

Anyway, those days are well and truly gone, but last night I decided the time had come to revisit them. And the inspiration was the New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys concert.

Now, somewhere along the line I have become one of ‘those’ people who help aging musicians continue on well past their prime by going to their concerts. In the last 12 months alone I have done (figuratively I should point out) Motley Crue, Heart, Def Leppard, the Choirboys, Duran Duran etc etc. But none had the sheer enjoyment/satirical possibilities of NKOTBSB.

To clarify, I was absolutely a fan of both bands in their time, although never to the level of obsession they enjoyed among so many girls. And I also have more than a few of their songs on my playlist. However I was more drawn to snap up a ticket by the tantalising promise of payouts.

And I was not disappointed. Which is where the drinking game came in.

Staring bemusedly at the stage while someone called Johnny Ruffo donned a Michael Jackson tribute jacket and grabbed his crotch repeatedly, I began thinking about all the ways boy bands used to entertain their fans – the synchronised dancing, the all-white suits, the falsettos. And suddenly I had all the elements for a great drinking game. Here’s just some of what I came up with…

Matching suits – 1 shot

Synchronised dancing – 1 shot

Synchronised twirls – 1 shot

Hat doffing – 2 shots

Serenading of audience members who’ve been dragged on stage – 3 shots

Matching white suits – 3 shots

Donnie Wahlberg shows off his abs – 4 shots

Backstreet Boys manage to keep a straight face while advising that ‘I want it that way’ – priceless

Tears of emotion – 1 shot

Needless to say I was spot on with my predictions, and would have ended up VERY drunk had my cup contained vodka rather than water. But even sober I thoroughly enjoyed the blast from the past, especially as regular updates kept me reassured Queensland was on top in the State of Origin.

Afterwards, as we wandered back to the car humming Step by Step, talk moved on from the show to brotherly love. Specifically, the question of whether Donnie’s little brother, Mark, was ever in the band. I’d heard someone in the row behind us make the suggestion and thought there was no chance. I mean, I just can’t picture Max Payne singing some of those syrupy lyrics.

But I was wrong. Turns out he WAS in the band. But only for a few months very early on before he apparently grew tired of the group’s squeaky clean reputation and said his goodbyes.

Paving the way, of course, for Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.

Now let’s watch the video for my equal favourite NKOTB song…

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…