Friday, December 31, 2004

More Street Names

Following on from Stuart's post about Liverpool streets named after Shakespeare characters, there's also a Dickens Street crossed by Pickwick, Dombey and Dorrit. Charles Dickens visited the city 19 times, usually to give speeches and readings and twice en route to America.

There used to be a large Welsh community in the city (they don't seem too keen on the idea now), they even had their own Welsh newspaper and there's a cluster of streets with Welsh names - Geraint, Enid, Merlin, Modred, Elwy, Voelas, Rhiwlas, Gwydir and Pengwern.

Needless to say, we now have Paul MacCartney Way, John Lennon Drive, George Harrison Close and Ringo Starr Drive.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

HB RLB

On his death in 1894, writer Robert Louis Stevenson bequeathed his birthday on November 13th to a little girl who had been born on Christmas Day.

Preventing hangovers - some timely advice

Better than a hangover cure is to prevent one in the first place. Easiest way to do this (other than not drinking so much) is to drink lots of water and consume food rich in fruit sugars (fructose), such as honey. Your body metabolises fruit sugars before it metabolises alcohol, so whilst it's busy chowing down on the honey, the alcohol passes through your system unmetabolised. Because it is the by-products of metabolising alcohol that gives you a hangover, not metabolising it at all means no hangover!

Monday, December 27, 2004

It's all in the blend.

An easy way to tell Scotch from Irish whiskey is in the spelling. Scotch Whisky as you can see simply has a 'y' at the end, whereas Irish Whiskey boasts an 'ey'. Oddly enough though a girl from Ireland should be spelt Kelly but if she's from the Isle of Man she'll be Kelley.

Cure for cramp

If you suffer from cramps, try eating a banana. Some cramps can be caused by a lack of potassium, a trace element that bananas are packed with. The relief can be instantaneous - this is why you see athletes and tennis players eating bananas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Have a nice cup of tea and ...

According to this month's SFX, the word 'cookie' comes from the 18th century Dutch word kookje the diminutive of kook or cake. 'biscuit' comes from the old French word, bescuit which means twice cooked.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Rudolpha

Male reindeers shed their antlers in the midwinter. Which means that if the reindeer which pull Santa's sleigh have antlers they must be female. Which makes Rudolph and the rest of them girls.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

"Edinburgh's shame"

Edinburgh's Carlton Hill features one of the world's greatest architectural anomalies. In 1816, a memorial project was initiated to commemorate those who died in the Napoleonic Wars. Of all the choices available to him, architect William Playfair designed an exact replica of the Parthenon in Athens. Unfortunately there wasn't much enthusiasm for what was a massive building project that would take decades to complete, so in the event, even though Glasgow offered to fund the remainder of the construction, only one of the facades of the building was ever completed. It stands in situ to this day, visited by thousands of tourists each year. So even though at the time it was dubbed "Edinburgh's shame", locals are extraordinarily proud of what is now a national monument.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Why T-Rex had serrated teeth

Tyrannosaurus Rex, that huge hulking beast of a dinosaur, had serrated teeth, with the serrations running longitudinally up the tooth. Not much good for chewing, you might think.

One theory for why T-Rex had these saw-like teeth is that fragments of sinew and muscle from the dinosaur's most recent meal would get stuck in the serrations and rot. The bacteria would then provide T-Rex with a poisonous bite much like the Kimodo Dragon has today, so rather than having to administer a killing bite to its prey, T-Rex just had to take a passing nibble and let the toxins do the work.

If this theory is true, it does explain why T-Rex is so badly designed for a carnivore. Some studies have concluded that it was incapable of running at all and therefore must have been a scavenger, but if it had a toxic bite then speed would not be so important in order for it to be a successful hunter.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Frankly, My Dear, Again...

Olivia De Havilland and Vivien Leigh played a trick on Clark Gable during the filming of Gone With The Wind from which he is said to never have fully recovered. After Melanie has given birth, Rhett arrives to save the day, lifting her out of bed and carrying her down to the wagon he's stolen. Before the scene was filmed, the women tied a heavy brick to De Havilland's torso. Not wanting to insult his co-star, he said nothing of her weight and went through with the scene. He suffered from back pain for the rest of his life.

The Scottish Play Street

The town planning department in Liverpool must have been literature buffs at some time in their history. In the L20 area, we find a slew of street named after characters from Shakespeare's plays. As well Macbeth Street, there is Viola Street, Bianca Street, Orlando Street, Beatrice Street, Benedict Street, Olivia Street and Rosalind Way. Arguably Exeter Road could also be included because of the connection with the history plays.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Frankly, my dear - it hurts like a sonuvabitch

When Clark Gable developed an infection in his gums, MGM's Louis B Mayer paid to have all his teeth extracted and he wore a false set of teeth for the rest of his career. Apparently 1930s dental appliances caused terribly bad breath. Poor Rhett and Scarlett - as if they didn't have enough to overcome with the burning of Atlanta! Halitosis will kill any relationship.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Beep-Beep: Everything You Need To Know About Road Runners

Looney Tunes didn't quite give you the whole story. Road Runners are about the size of small rabbits and can be found in the southwestern portion of the United States. In places like New Mexico, their corpses are stuffed and can be bought as fuzzy vacation keepsakes by the armload in souvenir shops. They run so fast that they defy gravity.

Friday, December 10, 2004

"Yossarian, did the bombs hit the target?"

Catch 22 novelist Joseph Heller, apart from doing an uncredited re-write on James Bond spoof Casino Royale in 1967 (but who didn't), wrote an episode of the sitcom McHale's Navy. Weird. [Thanks Keith!]

Run away! Run away!

When Weta Digital, the special effects house who worked on Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings were putting together the fight sequences for the Helms Deep sequence of The Two Towers using a system called Massive to simulate the fight sequences, they inadvertantly created far too few human characters to orcs. They were amazed to find as they watched the sequence being generated that when the little fake humans reached the little fake orcs and the monsters turned to attack, the solidiers were taken by surprised and ran away in great numbers with only a few standing their ground. Luckily they appear to be a bit braver in the finished film.

Free Nelson Mandela

When the concert Nelson Mandela -- An International Tribute for a Free South Africa appeared on BBC Radio One, a memo was passed around to the team broadcasting the event that on-air it should be refered to under a series of names such as 'a tribute to Nelson Mandela', 'the Nelson Mandela concert' and 'a musical celebration for Nelson Mandela' so that there wouldn't be any confusion between some political message and what was a rock festival. They were also banned from mention how long Mandela had been in prison for, that he was free and what that meant for the new South Africa.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Another solitary subject shop

There is a travel agent on East End Road in East Finchley London which only sells holidays in Barbados. [via]

Close Encounters of the Franglais Kind

In Steven Spielberg's film Close Encounters of the Third Kind renowned French New Wave film director Francois Truffaut plays a scientist who believes in UFO phenomina and Bob Balaban is his interpretor. It all seems very convincing, but in fact Truffaut himself had a very limited grasp of English and had his own real life interpretor with him through the rehearsal process. Before his audition Balaban knew hardly any French but got the job because Spielberg thought he sounded convincing enough. After that he took some refresher lessons which is why he sounds so convincing in the film.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Uno, Dos, Tres, Catorce!

The misnumbered Spanish countdown at the beginning of U2's Vertigo has a debatable origin. One, that Bono has a pretty poor grasp on the language, and, well, after a few drinkies didn't quite realize that "catorce" is "14," not four. The other explanation is that it commemorates the studio albums that Steve Lillywhite has produced for the band -- the first three, and now How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, their fourteenth. Bono has said that the song is intended to be a response to a song from their first album, Boy. Stories for Boys contains lyrics referring to a place where the singer goes... and sometimes he can't let go, hello, hello.

Monday, December 06, 2004

An early shock

The following is so astonishing I'm going to quote it verbatum:

"On an April day in 1746 at the grand convent of the Carthusians in Paris, about 200 monks arranged themselves in a long, snaking line. Each monk held one end of a 25-foot iron wire in each hand, connecting him to his neighbour on either side. Together, the monks and their connecting wires formed a line over a mile long.

Once the line was complete, the Abbe Jean-Antoine Nollet, a noted French scientist, took a primitive electrical battery and, without warning, connected it to the line of monks - giving all of them a powerful electric shock. Nollet did not go around zapping monks with static electricity for fun; his experiment had a serious scientific objective. Like many scientists of the time, he was measuring the properties of electricity to find out how far it could be transmitted along wires, and how fast it travelled. The simultaneous exclamations and contortions of a mile-long line of monks revealed that electricity could be transmitted over a great distance; and as far as Nollet could tell, it covered that distance instantly.

This was a big deal.

It suggested that, in theory, it ought to be possible to harness electricity to build a signalling device capable of sending messages over great distances incomparably faster than a human messenger could carry them."

This is from The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage, a remarkable and often brilliant examination of the telegraph service suggesting all of its similarities with the modern world wide web. It's also a perfect demonstration that the medium we're all using to communicate may yet be superceded.

Friday, December 03, 2004

More fun with names

From this week's B3TA: "It's been pointing about that Otis Lifts have their HQ in Berkshire, so that when you ring them up they answer thusly: 'Hello, Otis Reading.' "

Life's Popularity Contest

People with common names -- John, Ann, Joseph, Jennifer, and the like -- are more successful in business than people with uncommon names. Their names help to instill a sense of instant trust during business transactions and other success-defining ventures.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

If you hated puberty ...

Pigeons skip the juvenile stage in their life (unlike seagulls, for example). According to someone in The Guardian's Notes and Queries column today: "A pigeon develops an adult plumage straight away. When fully fledged, the fly straight from the nest, perhaps a little shakily at first, but they are able to fly as well as an adult pigeon within seconds of making their first attempt." You can tell which have only recently been born by small tufts of white feathers around their neck feathers. Once they've gone, the birds are interchangable by site, which is why you don't see any obviously child-like pigeons around.

"You're The Dummy" -- "No, You're the Dummy!"

Gone With The Wind has many classic scenes, of course, but one in particular has some intriguing backstory. Melanie is in labor, Prissy don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' no babies, and Scarlett is frantically searching for Dr. Meade, who is helpless among a crowd of injured and dying soldiers. The camera pans back, and the screen fills with soldiers, with Scarlett, stricken with reality and guilt and anger, in the middle. There actually weren't enough extras to play all the soldiers, so over half of them are mannequins. Some of the humans in the shot had strings and sticks to help wiggle their immobile compatriots, so as to help them better portray those wartime agonies.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Hard Cheese

The modern billiard ball is made from cheese. Cottage cheese, mixed with formaldehyde becomes so hard gaming balls can be crafted from it.

Lost in ...

One of the film mysteries of the year is what Bill Murray whispered to Scarlett Johansson at the end of 'Lost In Translation'. The latest rumour ('confirmed' by people who can apparently lip read) seems to be 'You've got great tits.'

Sunday, November 28, 2004

It's bigger than 'Titanic'

The fifth biggest film in audience terms in British Cinema history is ...

'Spring In Park Lane'

Released in 1948, this post-war rom com starring Anna Neagle and Michael Wilding, and directed by Herbert Wilcox, told the tale of a wealthy merchant's daughter falling in love with a servant who is in fact a down-on-his-luck nobleman. Despite having been seen by an estimated 20.5 million people at the time, the film has bizarrely been out of print on vhs for years and isn't yet available on dvd. Titanic is eighth by the way, and the rest of the list can be seen here.

Friday, November 26, 2004

oh henry!

In Australia candy bar wrappers have been used as an alternate form of contraception.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Once In A Blue Moon

An explanation of the phrase 'Once In A Blue Moon' has been posted at Reader's Digest: "A blue moon is defined as a second full moon within a calendar month. Since a lunar cycle lasts 29.5 days and a calendar month 30.5 days, it occurs only once every two and a half years or so. Astronomers have borrowed the phrase "blue moon" to describe this phenomenon from the traditional expression meaning rarely or never. A second full moon in a month is not actually blue in colour, yet there have been a number of occasions when the moon did appear to be blue. Dust from the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa turned the moon blue in 1883, as did smoke from western Canadian forest fires in 1951." More facts here.

Print me

There is a shop which only sells print cartridges. It's in Liverpool, England on Smithdown Road in Wavertree. Hanging all over every wall there are hundreds of different types of print cartridge seemingly for every model of printer ever produced. It's been open for nearly six months even though there never seems to be anyone inside buying.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Other Handy Uses For Urine

In addition to being able to drink fresh urine, it is also excellent for cleaning wounds on the battlefield or in the wild, or wherever you may be when your usual wound-cleaners of choice are far away. Urine is also an excellent salve for jellyfish stings. It contains enzymes that help break up the natural chemicals causing the sting. A use for that full bladder on the beach at last.

Thanks, Stu, for jogging these tidbits out of my brain.

Thirsty?

This isn't for people of a weak stomach, but apparently urine is sterile and is a perfectly good subsitute for water if you're stranded in the desert. Provided you have a glass with you. I suppose it depends what you've been drinking beforehand.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Stutter

James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader and star of 'Field of Dreams' had such a pronounced stutterer as a child that he used to write down everything he wanted to say so that he could interact with people.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

More Live Aid

The following appears on the letters page of this month's Word Magazine : "One story I've never seen printed anywhere - may be true, may be fiction - was told to me by a woman who was part of the Harvey Goldsmith staff. Harvey was known for being a bit of a to-the-last-detail man, being especially filled with panic that anything that could go wrong, would go wrong at any event, so his nerves on Live Aid were especially bad. At one point before curtain-up, a man arrives in the backstage area with a big lorry, unloads eight donkeys from the lorry, and a load of hay, then for the rest of the day sits there calmly tending his donkeys. Nobody knows why he is there, including the man himself. Speculation about their purpose was rife: were they part of Queen's show? Were they there to give Geldof's kids donkey rides? Or was it just to make Status Quo look attractive? Late in the afternoon, someone finally manages to ask Harvey why the donkeys are there. He'd rented them in in case the motors for the revolving stage failed, so they could be lashed up to it and they could pull the stage round for the acts. That's what you call planning."

Saturday, November 20, 2004

The world's oldest man dies.

The world's oldest man died today. According to CNN, Fred Hale Sr "was 12 days shy of his 114th birthday. Born December 1, 1890, Hale last month watched his lifelong favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox, win the World Series again after 86 years." He was also the Guiness World Record holder for being the oldest driver, still behind the wheel at the age of 108. [via]

Dickhead

The male whelk's penis is one fifth of its total bodyweight and is attached to what could be described as its head. This makes the male whelk proportionally much better hung than, say, a donkey or horse. Although it also makes it a real dickhead.

Do You Know Your Own Strength?

Human beings are capable of supporting exactly twice their body weight on their backs.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Angry Hippo

Hippopotamuses seem like quiet retiring creatures who like nothing more than relaxing in mud and then having endless baths. In fact, they're one of the greatest man killers on the animal kingdom, second only to lions in their ferocity. Their canine teeth average about at about 50 cms long, and they can use their head as a battering ram which (when they're not fighting other males over women and territory) they use to sink boats or attack humans which are getting too close to them or their young. So whatever you do don't ever look at a hippo in the wrong way.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Renaissance man

The painter and engineer Leonardo Da Vinci was also an expert lute player. He even went as far as creating an instrument made from Silver in the shape of a horse's head. Which really does make him the Renaissance man that all would end up following.

Nature's Cure For Upset Stomachs

The enzymes in blood will almost instantly placate even the most severe intestinal distress. It only works with your own blood. You could not, for example, bite a friend and expect it to help your tum-tum. Drink up!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Crocodiles can't chew

Crocodiles and alligators can't chew. Not only do they not have the ability to move their jaws laterally, they also have no teeth suitable for chewing. This is why they will grab a hold of you, drown you, then leave you to rot until they can rip bits off and gulp them down.

Unless they are big enough to swallow you whole, of course.

Temperature Drop

By the year 2020, Britain will start to experience winters similar to those found in present day Siberia. Because of this a catastrophic war could break out as people scrabble about for an increasingly limited supply of fresh water, food and energy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Live Aid

At the Live Aid concert at Wembley in 1984, concert goers had a very portable solution to water movements. Empty water and soda bottles were filled up over the course of the day and in some sections passed along the line to waiting bins to be taken to be disposed of.

Monday, November 15, 2004

221b Baker Street

In the Sherlock Holmes stories, created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the detective lives at 221b Baker Street. There is a branch of the Abbey National there now, and the bank now employs someone whose only job is to replay to all the fan mail which is sent there from around the world.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Welcome to Heardsaid.

Did you know that if you type weblog into Google now, there are in excess of 40,700,000 pages which feature the word. That's not just actual weblogs, but people talking about weblogs. The top ranking weblog is the Google Weblog, which is actually the independent news site set up by Aaron Swartz to talk about Google, not weblogs. Google's own in-house weblog is currently ranked fourth, just below the community weblog Metafilter at third.

That's actually all true. Now read the following:

I was talking to someone the other day and the subject of dove releases at funerals came up. I wondered about all the doves which would be flying around clogging up the atmosphere and the fact that there would need to be loads of breeders and a supply chain and where would they all come from. What I found out was that it isn't actually doves which are released, but white homing pigeons. When they're released they simply return home ready for the next release. So what is supposed to be a symbolic, spiritual gesture is quite a mechanical process really.

That may be true. What they both have in common is that most people won't have heard them before, and some of those people with have paused for thought. The Oh! Factor.

Another example: I was at the cinema the other day and a boom mike appeared in shot. It was obviously unintentional the film makers were clever enough not to make that kind of mistake. I asked someone about it afterwards and apparently when some films are sent to the cinema the actually frame of the film is square. So when it's projected, the top and the bottom of the picture are cut off to give the image that the film maker intended. What sometimes happens though is that the cinema might get a print in a hurry whatever and will present it with the wrong framing, so that something from the top or bottom of the picture which isn't intended to be seen by the public is in view, like a microphone.

We see and hear all kinds of things in passing from family, friends, work colleagues, even total strangers; watching tv or movies, listening to the radio, reading books, magazines and newspaper; every now and then we'll hear something amazing which we want to pass on.

Which is what this weblog is about. Collecting together these things we hear and presenting them so that the reader too can go 'Oh!' And sometimes 'I never knew that!' And even 'I wish I'd known that before.'

They could literally be about anything or anyone but the really compelling and dangerous aspect is that corroboration isn't necessary. We'll present this stuff just as we heard it and it's up to the reader to decide whether it's true or not. The only basic rule is that we can't just make things up ourselves and that generally there isn't a structure. That's what encyclopedias are for -- its chatty and conversational -- like a personal weblog about answering questions which haven't been asked yet.

It's also about penny drops. Those moments when you realise something you probably should have known already. Which is the confessional bit. So for example up until a year or so ago one of us didn't realise that in the UK soccer leagues, teams played each other twice each year -- home and away. Those times then when you put two and to together yourself, all the did you know know-it-all material tempered with some stupidity.

Some of this will make sense. As far as we know it'll all be true. Enjoy.

Do you know something we don't and have something to contribute? Or even want to become a regular writer? Email and let us know so that we can tell the world.