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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.

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?

Did Queen Elizabeth I have smallpox?

8 Jun

Anyone who’s studied history knows that when Hollywood comes calling it often takes ‘liberties’ in transferring personalities and stories from the archives to the big screen (see Braveheart et al).

Sometimes it’s for reasons of dramatic tension, other times through poor research and other times just because they wanted a different ending and felt emboldened to pursue it by simply adding a disclaimer ‘inspired by true events’.

So when I came across TV mini series The Virgin Queen and it showed Elizabeth I being struck down with smallpox, my first thought was to wonder if her life had been given an extra dash of drama.

I mean I’ve studied English history, I know all about the Tudors, about Henry VIII’s wives and about the monarch’s battles with Mary, Queen of Scots. But I had never heard she nearly died of this often-fatal disease.

However it turns out the storyline was real. She did suffer from smallpox, in 1562. In fact it’s said the resulting scars are what first prompted her to begin wearing her famous white make-up.

So there you have it. Another amazing chapter in the life of an extraordinary woman. Here’s five other tidbits I discovered . . .

* Elizabeth I attended the first performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
* Wars during her reign are estimated to have cost more than 5 million pounds (in the prices of the time).
* She thought to have died of blood poisoning.
* After Henry VIII’s death, she was taken in by his widow, Catherine Parr. However she was later sent away with rumours suggesting she had caught the eye of Catherine’s new husband, Thomas Seymour.
* Her motto was “Semper Eadem”, meaning “Always the Same”.

PS: While I was doing research on the website of the English monarchy I came across a section that noted Australia was a realm of the Commonwealth. Intrigued, I had to find out what constitutes a realm. And here is the answer…

“A Commonwealth Realm is a country which has The Queen as its Monarch. There are 15 Commonwealth Realms in addition to the UK: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Papua New Guinea, St Christopher and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Tuvalu, Barbados, Grenada, Solomon Islands, St Lucia and The Bahamas.”

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.

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 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!

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.

How did The Rock get his nickname?

30 Mar

As I have already complained written about several times this week, I embarked on a massive spring cleaning project at the start of my current holidays.

Part of this involved loading all my CDs on to iTunes. And while I talked the other day about finding enough Kylie Minogue to make me happy, there was one other disc that really caught my eye – and not in a good way. It was called You Can’t See Me and was released by John Cena, a name that will be instantly familiar to rednecks and young boys as he’s a superstar of the wrestling word.

Anyway, while he seems to have a decent voice I can’t say I found much inspiration in tracks such as Don’t F*** With Us, which I imagine is a sensitive exploration of the human psyche. But it did remind me I’d been seeing adverts for a WWE match-up between Cena and The Rock. And naturally, I then wanted to know how The Rock got his nickname.

Truth be told if my real name was Dwayne Johnson and I wanted to build my action man persona, I would probably change it too. But it seems the reason is actually personal. When he first began pro wrestling, the athlete used the name Rocky Maivia to honour his father, Rocky Johnson, and grandfather, Peter Maivia. This was later shortened to The Rock as befits his charisma and ringside popularity, although he now prefers to go by his real name, especially given how hot he is in Hollywood.

And you know what? That’s more than fine by me. I mean would you want to argue with him?

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…