Archive | Pop culture RSS feed for this section

Are strawberry lovers really duds in the sack?

29 Mar

Yet again dodgy internet providers put paid to my quest for knowledge tonight, forcing me to turn elsewhere to learn something new.

Fortunately I was well prepared for such an eventuality given I own more than 1000 books. And while a good 70% of those fall under the tiresome definition of chick lit I just knew there would be a gem to help me out. And there was.

It was a very old title called Fortune Telling With Food by Noriko Kuriyama, which promised, among other things, to unlock the secrets of your psyche depending on your breakfast/snack/lunch/dinner of choice.

Here’s a few of her findings:

* No one is more passionate than lovers of raw cabbage (or more flatulent, but that’s another story)
* Eggplant lovers love themselves too much
* Green onion lovers are jealous mates
* Potato lovers get along especially well with their spouses
* Turnip lovers do well in the stock market
* Fig lovers often become wealthy
* Grapefruit lovers marry for looks only
* Herring fans make mountains out of molehills

And finally, comes my, ahem, favourite – strawberry lovers don’t have good sex techniques but they can keep going a long time.

Anyone recognise themself?

Why is it considered unlucky to walk under a ladder?

28 Mar

Joan Rivers is sharp of tongue and mind. So it goes without saying I adore her.

Over the years – and along many red carpets – she has skewered fashion victims mercilessly and publicly, showing, dare I say it, a touch of the pot kettle blacks given her own obvious love of plastic surgery.

Her saving grace, in my eyes, is that she can always be counted on for a great one liner, many of them unrepeatable without the use of excessive asterisks. But here’s one of my g-rated favourites…

“I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again.”

Now, I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment already. But today it held even more relevance as I managed to fall off a ladder in the pursuit of domestic goddesstry and then step on a length of staples. Yes there was cursing!

To explain, I was already in a bad mood as I was into day two of Project Spring Clean and I hate cleaning almost as much as I hate vegetables.

But since I am in a de-cluttering mind-set I decided to aim high and check out what might be hiding alongside my pet dust bunnies in the highest and furthest reaches of my bedroom cupboard. So I carefully erected the ladder and started climbing, only to have it collapse out from underneath me, gouging out a chunk of the cupboard as it did so. Did I mention there was swearing?

Anyway, after I used chocolate meditative breathing techniques to calm down, the thought did occur to me that ladders aren’t only bad luck when you walk underneath them. And suddenly today’s inspiration struck – to find out where this superstition began. I found some theories at America’s Today show. Here’s what they had to say …

Walking under a ladder

Why would walking under a ladder be considered such a bad thing? Author and psychology professor Stuart Vyse said the ladder superstition is one that may have perfectly understandable and logical origins.

“Obviously, people may have had bad experiences; maybe something had dropped on their heads,” Vyse said. “So that’s not totally irrational.”

In his book The Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Richard Webster notes additional reasons for the belief:

“Walking under a ladder is believed to cause bad luck. No one really knows why, but at least three theories have been proposed. The most likely theory is that a ladder forms a triangle when placed against a wall. The triangle symbolises the Holy Trinity. Consequently, when you walk through it, you effectively insult the Trinity and attract the devil. The second theory concerns the use of the ladder in hangings. The ladder would be propped against a beam to allow the person about to be hanged to climb high enough to reach the rope. A third theory dates back to ancient Egyptian times, when people believed you might see a god walking up or down the ladder while you walked under it.”

So there you have it. Three theories from which to take your pick. Personally I think I was the victim of the God of Sloth, who wanted to remind me there were far better things to do with my time than clean.

Here’s the link to the superstition and the origin of others including why it’s bad luck to open an umbrella indoors and why the number 13 gives people the willies.

Did Kylie Minogue’s famous gold hot pants really cost 50 pence?

27 Mar

You know you’re in trouble when you have to hire a mini skip to do a spring clean. And sadly that’s the situation I found myself in today.

Now, in case you think I’m a crazy woman hoarding cats, used tissues and/or tins of Spam, I should point out my trash was 90 per cent magazines as I am obsessed with them and love to read and re-read them.

But every so often I have a brain snap and decide to de-clutter. So out go tabloid tales of Princess Kate, the Kardashians and Ryan Reynolds and in comes a feeling of smug domestic goddess satisfaction.

Anyway, I don’t know if it was something in the water, but while cleaning up I decided to attack my collection of CDs as well. I mean they take up a LOT of space and since I have a neighbour I know would adore them, I decided to upload the tracks to iTunes and bid them farewell.

And it’s here the night turned judgemental.

You see, I am exceedingly well-known across several states (and even continents) for allegedly having uncool music taste. As if it’s somehow shameful to still know the words to Gotta Pull Myself Together by The Nolans.

But as I uploaded and burned, even I had to confess that the lyrics “boom, boom, boom, let’s go back to my room” are unlikely to be uttered in a Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech any time soon.

Then I hit on gold – a stack of Kylie Minogue discs dating back to the early days of her career. When the power ballad Especially For You was just about the most romantic thing this teenage duck had ever heard.

 

Since those early days I’ve loved everything from Shocked (remember the scandal around whether she’d replaced the title word with another starting with f?) and What Do I Have To Do? to Love At First Sight, although I was apparently the only person in the world not to like Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.

Then there’s Spinning Around, which apparently rebooted her career in 2000, although some of us had stayed loyal. But of course for most people the music isn’t the most memorable part of that song – it’s those hot pants.

I wanted to know if it’s true they really only cost 50 pence. And the short answer is, yes. But they weren’t even intended for a film clip. As the star herself told Who: “I wore them for a ‘Nerds, Tarts and Tourists’ fancy dress party – I’ll leave it to you to imagine which one I went as!”

Kylie also revealed she wasn’t necessarily as carefree in them as she appeared.

“I actually wasn’t confident (in them), that’s the crazy thing. I remember feeling quite self-conscious and kept wrapping a robe around me on set and would discard (it) right before the take.”

If only she had known what a phenomenon they would become.

Now watch the film clip.

&nbsp

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

 

 

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…

Who invented Maltesers?

23 Mar

I am a creature of simple habits when it comes to the movies.

I must sit on the aisle, I must be seated in time to see ALL the trailers and I must be accompanied by a choc top and Maltesers. At a pinch I can do without both of them, but at least one sweet treat is compulsory. A friend to come with me is not.

And so it was that at midnight on Wednesday as the opening strains of The Hunger Games brought an audience of mostly teenage girls to shush, I started in on my packet of delicious malt balls, secure in the knowledge their excited screams would soon drown out any sound of my packet rustling. They did, and I munched away happily. In an even bigger bonus, I had some left over for breakfast the next day (a sad yet ultimately true state of affairs).

So tonight, when I longed to finish the working week with a simple quest for knowledge, my eyes fell on the by now empty packet and I knew what I wanted to know – who invented Maltesers? And the name probably won’t be a massive surprise to fellow connoisseurs of the chocolate arts.

His name was  Forrest E Mars (maybe the surname rings a bell?) and he came up with the confectionary in 1936. These days it’s still produced by his famous family-named brand and here’s a fun fact I discovered – the balls are actually so light they can float on water. I wonder if they’ve considered making life jackets? At least then people might actually listen to the safety briefings!

Anyway, I don’t want to rave on, in case people start thinking I was paid for this blog (I wasn’t). But I do like to know about who makes my favourites movies, my favourites books and my favourite music, so somehow doing the same for my favourite chocolate doesn’t seem so bad.

Now, who wants to know how to make that delicious looking confection above?

MALTESERS LAYER CAKE

INGREDIENTS
If you want to use normal sandwich tins, double the ingredients and split between the two tins.

65g self raising flour
65g room temperature butter
65g golden caster sugar
35g Horlicks
1/3 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1.5 tbsp milk
1.5 tbsp boiling water
Ganache
150g dark chocolate
150ml cream
Decoration
2 packets Maltesers

METHOD

Cakes
This is the mixture for a 5″ tin – you make two batches and then split each one into two. Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter and line the bottom of a 5″ tin. Cream the softened butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and beat in. Sieve the flour, baking powder and Horlicks into the bowl and then fold in until nearly combined. Add the milk and fold again, then finally add the boiling water. Quickly spoon into the tin and put in the oven. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until deep gold and a skewer comes out clean.
Ganache
Break the chocolate up into small pieces and put into a bowl. Heat the cream then pour over the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes and then beat in.
Decoration
Split the cakes carefully into two. Sandwich them with some of the ganache, then cover the whole cake with a ‘crumb coat’ – this is a thin layer of the ganache icing and will give your cake a better looking finish. Put it the fridge to set slightly. While it is cooling, chop the Maltesers. Remove the cake from the fridge and use the remaining ganache to cover the cake. Starting from the top, arrange the Maltesers in the desired pattern, then go down the sides, being careful when placing the pale-side-out halves. Put in the fridge for 10 minutes or so, then serve. Best eaten on the day.

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.”

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…

What is the most valuable suit in 500?

16 Mar

Apart from computer problems here’s what I learnt today – in a game of 500 the order of suits lowest to highest is spades, clubs, diamonds and then hearts.

Who are the mascots for the London Olympics?

15 Mar

Stephanie Rice qualified for the London Olympics today. And I think that’s terrific because as many people know, she’s had a rough few months. So it’s great to see the focus back where it belongs – on her swimming.

Anyway, with that story in the headlines, it got me thinking about the Olympics, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember when they were on. So I jumped on to the official Games site and got the answer – July 27-August 14 for the Olympics and August 29-September 9 for the Paralympics.

Then my eyes fell on another section of the site and suddenly I knew what I wanted to learnt today – who are this year’s mascots?

Their names, as it turns out, are Wenlock (Olympics) and Mandeville (Paralympics). And according to their back story, both were created from the last two drops of steel left over from construction of the Olympic stadium.

 See the journey here.

Reading further, I discovered their names reflect the UK”s rich Games history. The London organising committee explains it like this . . .

“Wenlock’s name is inspired by the Shropshire village of Much Wenlock where the ‘Wenlock Games’ were one of the inspirations that led the founder of the modern Olympic movement, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, to create the Olympic Games. Mandeville’s name is inspired by Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire. In the 1940s, Dr Ludwig Guttmann came to Stoke Mandeville Hospital to set up a new spinal unit to help former soldiers suffering from spinal cord injuries. Looking for ways to inspire those in his care, he encouraged them to take up sport, leading to the formation of the Stoke Mandeville Games, widely recognised as a forerunner of the modern Paralympic movement.”   

The mascots also have some clever features to keep an eye out for when the Games roll around. For example they have yellow lights on their heads, which were inspired by London’s famous black taxis. Wenlock also wears friendship bands in the colours of the Olympic rings while Mandeville wears a timing device to track its personal best.  The mascots’ single eye is a camera.

Read more about them here.

In the meantime, let’s end on a fast fact: The first official mascot of the Olympic Games was Waldi in 1972.