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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.

Who invented knock-knock jokes?

13 Apr

As I’ve explained before, my brain works in very strange ways, so I draw inspiration for my daily knowledge hunt from all sorts of stimulants. Purely legal ones, though, I must point out – from TV shows and books to song lyrics and even gossip websites.

But even I can’t explain today’s train of thought. It seemed like one minute I was trying to find out who invented gnome gnapping and the next I was mired in the world of comedy. Or should I say ‘comedy’ (air quotes intended), since my attention was focused on knock knock jokes.

As anyone who’s been in a school playground would know, knock knock jokes offer one of our earliest introductions to the world of joke telling. Just take this gem I remember from my own youth…

Knock knock
Who’s there?
Ken
Ken who?
Ken I come in, it’s hot out here

Bet you’re clutching your sides now aren’t you?

Anyway, I decided to find out if the internets knew who invented the genre. And while there’s several theories, the strongest says it was William Shakespeare.

Apparently it all draws from that Scottish play. As Shakespeare examiner Khara House explains

“In Macbeth’s second act, Shakespeare uses a hung-over porter to satirically examine Elizabethan culture through a series of knock-knock jokes the porter states in a monologue. While the porter uses the common “Knock knock! Who’s there?” pattern, twice he uses the phrase as “Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there?”

So there you have it. The man who created such classic characters as Hamlet and Romeo and Juliette also planted the seeds that eventually grew into the inspiration for any C-grade stand-up comic coming to a stage near you.

Who would have thought?

Now let’s have one more to finish.

Knock knock
Who’s there?
Lettuce
Lettuce who?
Lettuce in

Where is Springfield on The Simpsons?

10 Apr

I have written about The Simpsons on this blog before. And there’s a good reason I’m doing it again today and will probably do it again before the year is out.

It’s simply that I love the show. Especially villains such as Sideshow Bob and Mr Burns, who has quite the flair for releasing the hounds.

Anyway, one of the biggest mysteries around the long-running series has always been the location of Springfield. Smart alecs will no doubt say ‘near Shelbyville’ but no one has ever known what real-life state it calls home.

However I had heard tell that creator Matt Groening had finally been pinned down, so I headed online to see if he had come clean. And indeed he had.

The tell-all was in this Q&A interview with Smithsonian magazine…

OK, why do the Simpsons live in a town called Springfield? Isn’t that a little generic? 

Springfield was named after Springfield, Oregon. The only reason is that when I was a kid, the TV show Father Knows Best took place in the town of Springfield, and I was thrilled because I imagined it was the town next to Portland, my hometown. When I grew up, I realised it was just a fictitious name. I also figured out Springfield was one of the most common names for a city in the US. In anticipation of the success of the show, I thought, “This will be cool; everyone will think it’s their Springfield.” And they do.

Or at least they did.

The interview also goes on to reveal such gems as how he came up with the name Bart, how his family feels about the Simpson family being named for them and what he really thinks of LA.

Deefinitely worth a read.

Who invented Post-Its?

8 Apr

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion was on TV the other day. And while I didn’t see the whole movie, I did tune in just in time to catch my favourite bit.

It’s where Romy tries to take credit for inventing Post-Its, only to have her lie brutally undone by an acerbic Heather Mooney (Janeane Garofalo), who reveals they were really created by a guy called Art Fry from 3M.

It’s a cringe inducing catch-out, and the recriminations from the popular girls Romy is trying to impress are brutal. But it did inspire me to find out his story. The answers lay in MIT’s Inventor of the Week archives.

Turns out it all began with a colleague called Spencer Silver, a senior chemist in the company’s research labs, who had created a high-quality, low-tack adhesive that was strong enough to hold papers together but weak enough to let them pull apart without tearing. He freely shared his invention with colleagues but none could come up with a marketable way to sell the product. Until it came to Art’s attention. MIT takes up the story…

“Fry sang in his church choir and was frustrated by the fact that, when he stood and opened his hymnal to sing, the paper bookmarks he used to mark the songs on the program would slip out of sight or even on to the floor. In a moment of insight that has become legendary in the realm of contemporary invention, Fry, musing during a rather boring sermon, realised Silver’s reusable adhesive would provide his bookmarks with precisely the temporary anchoring he required.”

And thus the seed was sewn, resulting five years later in the official release of Post-its.

And for the record, the reason they were first created in yellow is because the original testing/playing around was done on some scrap paper, which just happened to be yellow, and the colour struck a chord.

And now, let’s watch the magic moment …

Who plays Ted’s kids on How I Met Your Mother?

7 Apr

I mainly started watching How I Met Your Mother because it stars Willow from Buffy, aka Alyson Hannigan. But it only took about two episodes for me to fall in love with the show itself. I can’t articulate why, as Ted has to be one of the most annoying people on the planet, but love it I do.

Anyway, as regular viewers will know, the show is told in flashback form by Future Ted, whose voice is provided by Bob Saget, aka the dad in Full House.

However I had never really been interested in knowing who plays Future Ted’s kids, until I suddenly realised the girl looked familiar.

So I IMBDed her and discovered there’s a good reason why, as she’s done a bunch of TV, from The Young and The Restless, which I certainly never watched when I should have been studying at uni, to Desperate Housewives.

But where I really knew her from was two movies – action flick Kiss-Ass, where she played superhero girlfriend Katie Deauxma, and Hot Tub Time Machine, where she played Jenny.

As for the son, I’m sorry to say I didn’t recognise him from anywhere. But his name is David Henrie and he’s done a bunch of stuff too, including TV shows Judging Amy, NCIS, Cold Case and Wizards of Waverly Place.

Now we just need to know their names on the show. And that of their mother. Just please don’t let it be Victoria!

How do you make Easter eggs?

6 Apr

I have the feeling I was the Easter Bunny in a previous life.

I mean just look at how much we have in common. It likes chocolate. I like chocolate. It works one day of the year. I would like to do so. It puts eggs in my nephews’ easter baskets. I steal liberate them when they aren’t looking.

The similarities are uncanny.

Then there’s my ongoing work to have the bogness that is candy Easter eggs outlawed. And my commitment to inhaling my own body weight in chocolate. Clearly, my passion for the cause knows no bounds.

But this year I thought I might expand my repertoire even further and have a go at actually making the eggs I eat. And while I don’t rule out superseding this well-intentioned plan with some urgent napping/catching up on Castle episodes, I did get as far as finding a few recipes on the Nestle website. Here they are…

CARAMEL NUT EASTER EGGS

Ingredients
Makes 20
• 395g can Nestle sweetened condensed milk
• 60g butter, chopped
• 2 tsp golden syrup
• 1/2 cup (70g) chopped toasted peanuts
• 1 1/4 cups (185g) Nestle dark melts, melted
• 20g copha (white vegetable shortening), melted
• 1/2 cup (75g) Nestle milk melts, melted

Method
Combine condensed milk, butter and golden syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat; bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat, simmer, stirring constantly for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Stir in peanuts and cool. Roll heaped teaspoonfuls of mixture into egg shapes, refrigerate until firm. Coat eggs with combined dark melts and copha; place on wire rack until set. Place melted milk melts in a small sturdy plastic bag and cut a very fine hole in the corner to drizzle and decorate eggs as desired.

BUNNY TRUFFLES

Ingredients
Makes 35
• 3/4 cup (190ml) Nestle sweetened condensed milk
• 60g butter
• 1 egg, lightly beaten
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 250g packet sweet biscuits, crushed
• 1 cup (80g) desiccated coconut
• 100g Plaistowe premium dark chocolate, melted
• Silver cachous
• Nestle white choc bits
• Coloured sprinkles
• Desiccated coconut, extra, for decorating

Method
Place condensed milk and butter in pan, stir over low heat until butter has melted; remove from heat, stir in egg and vanilla. Transfer to a medium bowl with biscuit crumbs, coconut and dark chocolate. Mix well; refrigerate 30 minutes. Shape different amounts of mixture into tear drop shapes to form a family of bunnies, place on foil lined tray. Refrigerate until just firm. Using scissors, snip at an angle, the pointed end of bunnies to form ears. Decorate bunnies with silver cachous for eyes, choc bits for tail and coloured sprinkles for whiskers. If desired, sprinkle bunnies with coconut. Refrigerate bunnies until ready to serve.

Anyway, I should point out that I wasn’t paid for this blog as Nestle doesn’t even know I’ve written it. I just knew they had good recipes that would be easy to follow. You can get other Easter goodie ideas at their website.

What is the record for the greatest gathering of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans?

5 Apr

Sometimes my blog entries don’t begin with a question. They begin with a headline that inspires me to learn more. And so it was today.

The headline in question read like this . . .

COWABUNGA! LARGEST TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES GATHERING WORLD RECORD SMASHED IN MINNESOTA

Naturally, as a child of the TMNT-obsessed eighties, I had to know more. And it turned out to be a successful Guinness World Record attempt. Which made me feel slightly less self-conscious about my own pop-culture obsessions, which have ranged, and still range, from Buffy and Harry Potter to The Hunger Games and trashy monster movies.

Anyway, the date of the attempt was March 20 this year and the instigator was American TV station Nickelodeon, which is apparently relaunching the franchise with a new animated series. So to celebrate, the powers that be set out to beat the previous best record effort that gathered together 786 people dressed as one of the four heroes in a half shell.

They pulled it off at the famous Mall of America, where 836 people  – ranging from Girl Scouts to seniors – gathered dressed as, and to party with, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael. And while some were issued with a TMNT T-shirt and mask, still others were able to bring a home-made costume.

Of course they were.

Read more about the effort here.

What inspired Lisa Lutz to write the Spellman books?

3 Apr

Today filled me with a massive amount of happiness. And not because the approach of Easter means times for my annual chocapocalypse. Instead it was because I found out about a new book by one of my favourite authors. And I didn’t even know she’d written it.

Her name is Lisa Lutz and I first stumbled across her several years ago in the same way I discovered Janet Evanovich – because her book cover wouldn’t stop screaming at me from the shelves.

It was called Revenge of the Spellmans and I loved it immediately, not least because she incorporated a really quirky technique in her story, which was to use footnotes to tell what a character was really thinking when it was at odds with what they were saying. It sounds tricky to do but she pulled it off, and today that book still makes me laugh out loud.

Even better it had two predecessors – The Spellman Files and Curse of the Spellmans – so I didn’t have to wait too long (hello JK Rowling) before diving into more of the series.

Anyway, as luck would have it, yesterday brought a phone call from my mother who asked me to buy myself a book she could give me for Easter. So I headed to my favourite online bookstore and there it was – book five, Trail of the Spellmans. Just the sight of it made me a very happy girl. So much so I suspect it will be gone long before the chocolate eggs I will hopefully receive on Sunday.

Of course under my Mum’s rules I’m not actually allowed to read it until she gives it to me. So to while away the time I decided to find out what kickstarted the story. Naturally the tale was to be found on her website, where this interview – old but still relevant – filled in the blanks. Here’s the pertinent bit..

Question  You burst on to the writing scene in your early 20s, penning a screenplay. From what I gather, that didn’t go so well. Fill me in . . .

Answer  I wouldn’t say “burst” — more like stumbled. Eyes were on me for a brief, awkward moment and then they returned to whatever they were previously doing. There was certainly no fanfare involved in my long and unsuccessful screenwriting “career.” I wrote many screenplays over that 10-year period, but only Plan B got any real interest. During that time I mostly made my living doing odd jobs or office work. Plan B was optioned in 1997 and it was finally bought and made in 2000. The resulting film, based on what I’ve read on the IMDB database, is unwatchable. My so-called screenwriting career was over at that point, but I didn’t realise it at the time and continued to write screenplays, because that’s just what I did. As each one was finished, the rejections came quickly and without any signs of hope. The last screenplay I wrote was The Spellman Files. I couldn’t get anyone to read it — and that’s when I decided to write it as a novel. It was a total act of desperation, but as I worked on it, I realized that the story really needed more space to be told properly.

Now, for those who haven’t read any of the books, they focus on Izzy Spellman, whose family runs a private investigation firm. Between her parents, siblings and a straight-laced cop called Henry Stone, things never get boring (or entirely legal). Here she describes how she came to create their world.

I first envisioned the Spellmans over seven years ago. And if memory serves me, which it rarely does, the entire cast of characters sort of came to me over a short period of time. The germ of the idea was always to write about a family of private investigators and how the nature of the business affected their family life. I knew that if the parents were spying on their children, they’d need a motivation. That’s when Isabel’s character took form. I figured a history of rebellion would keep the parental unit constantly on watch.

To whet your appetite even more I figured Lisa wouldn’t mind if I shared the following excerpt from the first book, which is also available here

THE SPELLMAN FILES: CHAPTER EXCERPT

The Interview —
Chapter 1

72 hours later

A single light bulb hangs from the ceiling, its dull glow illuminating the spare decor of this windowless room. I could itemize its contents with my eyes closed: One wooden table, splintered and paint-chipped, surrounded by four rickety chairs, a rotary phone, an old television and a VCR. I know this room well. Hours of my childhood I lost in here, answering for crimes I probably did commit. But I sit here now answering to a man I have never seen before, for a crime that is still unknown, a crime that I am too afraid to even consider. Inspector Henry Stone sits across from me. He places a tape recorder on the center of the table and switches it on. I can’t get a good read on him: early 40s, short-cropped, salt-and-pepper hair, crisp white shirt and a perfectly tasteful tie. He might be handsome, but his cold professionalism feels like a mask. His suit seems too pricey for a civil servant and makes me suspicious. But everyone makes me suspicious.

“Please state your name and address for the record,” says the Inspector.

“Isabel Spellman. 1799 Clay Street, San Francisco, California.”

“Please state your age and date of birth.”

“I’m twenty-eight. Born April 1, 1978.”

“Your parents are Albert and Olivia Spellman, is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“You have two siblings: David Spellman, 30, and Rae Spellman, 14. Is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“Please state your occupation and current employer for the record.”

“I am a licensed private investigator with Spellman Investigations, my parents’ P.I. firm.”

“When did you first begin working for Spellman Investigations?” Stone asks.

“About sixteen years ago.”

Stone consults his notes and looks up at the ceiling, perplexed. “You would have been twelve?”

“That is correct,” I respond.

“Ms. Spellman,” Stone says, “Let’s start at the beginning.”

I cannot pinpoint the precise moment when it all began, but I can say for sure that the beginning didn’t happen three days ago, one week, one month or even one year ago. To truly understand what happened to my family, I have to start at the very beginning and that happened a long time ago.”

See what I mean about her funky writing style? Want another taste of her words? Well you can read excerpts from all the other books at her website, including this selection from her latest. But to finish, I had to share these questions I pulled out from an onsite Q&A, which also revealed another two more Spellman books are on the drawing board.

Q. Is Lisa Lutz your real name?
A. Yes.

Q. How old are you?
A. You should know better than to ask questions like that.

Q. Where do you get your ideas?
A. I have an imaginary friend named Ralph. I steal his ideas and pass them off as my own.

Q. Do you have any fears?
A. Many. Trucks, mostly. But I’m not fond of moving vehicles in general.

Q. What is a typical day like?
A. Breakfast in bed while reading the New York Times. I do the crossword puzzle, even on Sunday, without any help. Then I write for an hour. In the afternoon, I usually go yachting or I fly my jet. Wait, no. You meant a typical day for me. That’s a typical day for Stuart Woods.
Hmmm, a typical day for me always involves the consumption of coffee (unless I’m being held hostage) and maybe some writing or thinking about writing, and almost without fail some teeth brushing.

Like I said, happy days…

What inspired Don McLean’s song American Pie?

2 Apr


A road trip beckoned today as part of an all-too brief holiday through Australia’s southern states.

Fortunately, it wasn’t the kind of horrific trip most of us endured with our parents in childhood when all we wanted to know was ‘Are we there yet?’ Instead, this one was fun. The kind with roadies, stereotyping of small country towns and CD compilations featuring the best movie songs of all time (BTW does anyway know the film that featured Belinda Carlisle’s Mad About You?).

Anyway, one of the tracks that boomed through the speakers was Don McLean’s American Pie – all 300+ minutes of it (or so it seemed). And it took me back to my twenties, when it was considered a badge of honour to remember every word.

It’s a skill I still boast today. And as I sang of jesters and thorny crowns, I got to wondering about the inspiration behind the lyrics.

For half the song I decided they were about the JFK assassination. But my supposing wasn’t enough – I wanted to know the real story.  Yet no clear answers were forthcoming – and that’s exactly how the artist likes them.

In an interview here, McLean had this to say:

“The idea that I had, was that it was about American politics in music running in sort of a parallel trough, if you will. That was a concept in my head. Then I decided to make up a dream using rock and roll and other kinds of imagery to move forward from the death of Buddy Holly right up to the end, and that’s how it came out.”

Further clarification comes from his website

“American Pie is partly biographical and partly the story of America during the idealised 1950s and the bleaker 1960s. It was initially inspired by Don’s memories of being a paperboy in 1959 and learning of the death of Buddy Holly. American Pie presents an abstract story of McLean’s life from the mid-1950s until the end of the 1960s, and at the same time it represents the evolution of popular music and politics over these years, from the lightness of the 1950s to the darkness of the late 1960s, but metaphorically the song continues to evolve to the present time. It is not a nostalgia song. American Pie changes as America itself is changing.”

Musical aficionados who have studied the song pin meanings to certain lyrics. For example, the jester who sang for the king and queen is rumoured to be Bob Dylan. But this has never been confirmed.

In short, what McLean hopes is that fans find their own meaning and inspiration in the song. And he must be on to something since it remains a classic more than 30 years since its release in 1971.

Here’s a few other American Pie facts…

* It was named as one of the five greatest songs of the 20th century in a poll by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Recording Industry Association of America. The other four songs were This Land is Your Land, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Respect and White Christmas.
* It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003.
* It has been played more than three million times on American radio alone.

And now let’s watch him sing it live.

How do you make toffee apples?

31 Mar

Tonight I have the good fortune to be staying in Adelaide, a place I once used to live, work and dream of getting out of.

Now, I’m being a little bit harsh with that last comment, especially as I made some great friends while working there for three years. And it was one of them who reminded me of my almost literal fall from grace when I sprained my ankle perving on boys (at least that’s how she puts in). Clearly I should explain.

At the time, I was working as Features Editor for the Sunday Mail, where my rounds included entertainment. So every year when the Adelaide Fringe Festival rolled into town, I was snowed under with more stories, reviews and tickets than I could shake a leg at.

One year, as part of the gig, I headed down to the city’s parklands to interview two guys who were members of a famous strongman show that involved lifting each other in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways to the huge delight of the audience. And it’s here things went pear-shaped.

My friends will tell you I’ve always been partial to a bit of hot shoulder action, so when these two HUGELY muscled gents appeared wearing only singlet tops, I stopped looking at the ground and consequently tread in a hole, spraining my ankle badly. I needed physiotherapy, which sucked, but in the tradition of silver linings everywhere, the gents in question did carry me back to my car.

Anyway, all the pain made me doubly determined to see their show. And it was as good as the hype suggested. But the memory that really stands out is the toffee apple I had at intermission.

It had been years, nay decades, since I’d last indulged. And my memory had not let me down on how delicious they were. So tonight, after relaying my sad tale of woe, I decided it was time to revisit the past and find out how to make them. Reader moriais on taste kitchen came to the rescue. So here goes…

TOFFEE APPLES

Ingredients
15 small apples, red or green
4 cups white sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
1 cup water
1 tsp red food colouring

Method
Lightly grease a baking tray. Wash and dry the apples and insert chop sticks, thick wooden skewers or paddle pop sticks into each apple. Combine sugar, vinegar and water in a small heavy based pot. Bring to the boil and stir in the food colouring. Heat to 150C or simmer for about 20 minutes or until a small amount of syrup dropped into cold water reaches crack stage – it should set hard and be hard to crack with your fingers. 
Remove pot from the heat and stand in a baking dish of water until the mixture stops bubbling. When the mixture has stopped boiling, hold an apple by its stick, dip into the syrup, tilt the pan (and the apple) until the whole apple is covered. Rotate the apple and let it drain a little then place on a baking tray to harden.Repeat with the remaining apples.

Oh. My. God. How delicious does this sound? Soooo worth the effort. Now if anyone needs me, I will be in the bathroom trying to unglue my jaw!