Sunday, February 27, 2005

Out of out takes

The reason that the film company MGM very rarely features deleted scenes on the dvds of their older films, particularly those by Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese is because in the early 1990s they junked reels and reels of unused film to make a saving on storage costs, which included out takes from the classics by those directors. In the end they saved themselves twenty thousand dollars.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Nary a Hair: Why Cyclists Shave Their Legs

Male cyclists--road racers in particular--have shaved the hair from their legs for decades. The following are the reasons why:
  1. Road Rash: less painful when sliding on pavement during a crash (similar to carpet burn)
  2. Aerodynamics: less wind resistance
  3. Sanitation: hairs hold dirt and debris that can get into wounds; hairs also make changing bandages more difficult
  4. Massage: easier for a masseuse to work muscles
  5. Aesthetics: more muscle definition, smoother and faster look

Friday, February 25, 2005

What's the time, Mr Wolf?

Despite being seen as the same, GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) and UTC (Co-ordinated Universal Time) can actually differ by up to 0.9 seconds because of different ways of calculating GMT.

Neither the English term 'Co-ordinated Universal Time' nor the French term 'Temps Universel Coordinné' result in the acronym UTC. This is because UTC is based on the "workaday mean solar time scale, UT-1, which is based on the somewhat irregular rotation of the Earth", so really it's 'Universal Time - Co-ordinated'.

Card slot

The section above the numeric keypad on a computer keyboard which includes the Caps Lock & Num Lock lights doesn't have keys blocking the way because when the peripheral was originally designed one of the main applications was in banking and this would be the perfect place to slot a credit card, punch card or business card when keying in details.


Dame Ellen Macarthur was today given the Freedom of the Isle of Wight. Which means she has the right to drive sheep down the High Street in Cowes.

Course, the trouble with driving sheep is that they've got no brakes and are a bugger to steer.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Pale face

I've often wondered why the families in portrait photographs from the mid-1800s always seem slightly unreal. Apparently because of the limited amount of light in photographic studios, the subjects would have their faces covered in white make up to reflect better in the camera. So that the subjects could keep perfectly still, a brace was used to hold the waist of the woman in the chair or any children standing by in place. The other reason that family isn't smiling is because to do so would seem foolish because they'd be making fun of something which was massively expensive at the time. Also -- and this explains everything -- the subjects often had their eye lids closed during the taking of the photo and their eyes would be painted in later when the image was printed which is why the iris never looks quite right.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What's loudest?

Babies produce more noise than pneumatic drills. Babies hit 123 decibels when screaming, whereas a pneumatic drill only produces 119 decibels. Ok, so there's only 4 decibels in it, but still, louder is louder.

(And yes, I am watching Brainiac at the moment.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Causes of Color

Why are Butterflies Colored?

"Iridescent surfaces, such as butterfly wings, help animals to elude potential predators. When these insects fly, the upper surface of their wings continually changes from bright blue to dull brown because the angle of the light striking the wing changes. As the butterflies move their wings up and down during flight, they seem to disappear and they reappear a short distance away, looking like ethereal flashes of bright blue light. The dark undersides of their wings strengthen this effect. Combined with an undulating pattern of flight, this ability to quickly change color makes them difficult items for predators to pursue."

Causes Of Color

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Tiptoe Through The Tulips

Most people think that tulips originated in the Netherlands, what with the endless hullaballoo over Dutch bulbs and the themed festivals and all that. Tulips are actually a Persian specialty. The Arabian Nights is loaded with references to tulips.

'Gave me an a A please Bob.'

Bob Holness, ex-presenter of teenager quiz show Blockbusters, as well as being the first James Bond (on radio) is also a keen musician. He even played the alto sax solo on Gerry Rafferty's record 'Baker Street'. [thanks Franchesca!]

Friday, February 18, 2005

Polar Bears

As heard on the radio this morning -
All polar bears are left handed.

Can anyone confirm or deny?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Penny Drop

Virginia Madsen from Sideways is the sister of Michael Madsen from all of Tarantino's films.

Why adverts sound so loud

I have just been told by a fellow traveller here at 37,000 ft above the icy wastes of northern Canada that although adverts subjectively sound louder, objectively they aren't louder than the TV programmes they interrupt. The reason that they sound louder is that the audio signal has been compressed so that the quiet bits are louder and the louder bits are quieter so there's more sound packed into the same loudness.

What a dastardly trick.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Forget playing Doctors and Nurses. Now you can be a patient too.

The University of Minnesota pay actors to pretend to be patients over an extended period so that Medical Students can get practical experience without going anywhere near an actual patient. "The pay depends on what you do," (one of the participants describes) "Rheumatology pays the least, about $10 an hour, because all you do is let them show how the joints work on a real person. When I did a scenario for someone with chronic myelogenous leukemia, it was $35 for two hours.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Take a shufti at this

A 'shufti' is a look or a glimpse, and it comes from the Arabic 'saffa' - to try to see.

Dr Who?

The real name of Dr Who actor Sylvester McCoy is, in fact Percy Smith.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

All the lonely people, where do they all come from?

A popular landmark in Liverpool City Centre is a statue illustrating a Beatles song, Eleanor Rigby. What isn't necessarily known is that it was actually designed by well known musical performer, Tommy Steele. In 1981 when he was appearing a show he got in touch with Liverpool Council with the idea of creating a tribute in sculpture to the fab four. His fee was just three pence, a reference to the show he's perhaps best known for, Half a Sixpence.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Penny Drop

Wierdly, Ethan Hawke's character in Before Sunset is called Jesse Wallace. Jessie Wallace, the actress, played Kat Slater in Eastenders.


Apparently if you ever asked the author Henry James for directions, he would often go into the minutest detail of the route you were to take and would somehow get himself lost in his own description as it meandered this way and that way without reaching a satisfactory conclusion to what he was trying to say to the extent that the person listening would often forget were he was when he started speaking ...

Bomb Alley

On the London Underground, the bit of the District Line running East of Barking has the nickname "Bomb Alley". The tracks here are above ground, and so there are a number of pedestrian bridges crossing them. Because of the area the tracks run through, and the ease of access - children would throw bricks, planks of wood and other weaponry at the trains as they passed under the bridges.

The problem got so bad that they bridges now have wire coverings, and there is a special helicopter that flies over, watching to see if there are any vandals about.

For some reason the helicopter flies low over my flats...


So I went to see 'Sideways' the other night and I learnt a new word. I laughed when people at the wine tastings kept saying 'varietal'. I assumed it was one of those silly made up things that come out of America from time to time, especially when the President is speaking. But no, there are wine grape varietal tables and varietal dictionaries all over the place.
I was actually drinking red wine at the time (its a great place our local cinema) but I think it was Merlot, say no more.

ain't misbehavin'.

every february, just before the start of lent, all across germany "karneval" is celebrated, street carnival of the german kind.
it originated from pagan rites of scaring winter away with sounds and costumes and street parades. these days, it's mostly a reason to get a day off work and get drunk.

in southern germany and switzerland, the event is called "fasnacht", and it's more traditional and firmly rooted in local culture.
people who belong to fasnachts clubs dress up in traditional clothing made out of hundreds of little patches of fabric and very ugly wooden masks. on "rosenmontag" the monday before ash wednesday, they parade through their city, rattling rattles and ringing bells and harrassing on-lookers, often "kidnapping" good looking females in giant nets. it can be fun. or annoying. or absolutely awful, that.

now here's the cool -and very german- part.
as these traditional costumes make it impossible to identify who's underneath them, a little license plate needs to be attached to the costume, stating an abbreviation of the club name and a number.
clubs are obliged to keep track of who's wearing what costume with what license plate when.

so in case of serious misbehavin' of people in strange costumes and ugly wooden masks: just jot down that license plate. and report to the police.

[me, i'm glad that fasnet will be over tomorrow.]

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Where's Whit?

After watching through his films again, I wondered what had happened to film director Whit Stillman. During the nineties he created three excellent comedies of manners - Metropolitan, Barcelona and The Last Days Of Disco, but once that last was released in 1998 it almost seems as though he dropped off the planet, to be forever known as a cult director.

It transpires that he moved to Paris with his family hoping to find inspiration on the boulevards, and over the past few years has been trying to get other projects off the ground, but each time poor luck has come into play. For example, he was developing an epic about Colonial America at much the same time the Roland Emmerich film The Patriot was in production. This information comes from a reproduced magazine article here, which also updates us on the extra-ordinary piece he now hopes to be his next step:
"Stillman has been busy adapting Winchester Races, a project with British producer Stephen Evans that would combine two unfinished Jane Austen novels, The Watsons and Sanditon, into a single script. The script would merge two characters: Emma Watson, a young woman who returns to her family after a long absence during which she's been raised by her aunt, and Charlotte Hayward, an attractive country girl who is taken up by a family of comically optimistic real-estate speculators."
There is a reproduction of The Watsons here, and here is Sandition. I really hope that Whit makes it this time. Another excellent article about the films can be found here.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Starship Captain Sundance Kid

In the week that Enterprise is officially cancelled, it's interesting to look back at the situation the show was in during the 1970s, when the The Original Series was running in syndication. Paramount knew there would be some mileage in a film version, but their initial opinion was that it couldn't fly with a bunch of tv actors at the helm, so they'd have to recast the whole crew with box office gold. Apparently they became very close to casting Robert Redford as James T Kirk and Paul Newman as Spock. Who wouldn't have paid to see that movie? (apart from everyone who loved the tv series)

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Virgin Queen

There is growing evidence that Queen Elizabeth I was very far from fulfilling the promise of her nickname. On numerous occasions, her parliament tried to pursuad her to marry to the point that it eventually advised: "You Majesty declares yourself resolved to die a virgin" to which she replied "I am resolved never to marry" which is slightly different thing. When pressed on the subject again later she said: "I am no angel." According to this book, a rough list of suitors might include a Lord Seymour, The Duke of Norfolk and The Earl of Wessex (who would later romance Mary, Queen of Scots, just to be choosy).

Thursday, February 03, 2005


The use of the word "smashing" to describe something in a positive light - as used extensively in Wallace and Gromit films - comes from the Irish phrase "Is maith sin", meaning "That's good". It's thought to have crossed over in to the English language with Irish emigration to London in the early 19th century.

(And of course everyone knows that in the Aboriginal language the word "kangaroo" means "I don't know", right?)

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Not now Buster!

Silent comedy stallwart Buster Keaton didn't smile once in any of his films, letting physical comedy create the mirth. The one time he did smile, in a kind of knowing wink at the end of one of his film, the audience hated the moment so much he had to edit the scene out of the film before any would go and see it.