Little known and silly facts your thing?

Giddy excitement is yours for the taking as January the 4th marks WORLD TRIVIA DAY.

There’s nothing trivial about trivia if you’re an enthusiast of amusing yet useless information. Yet trivia has always been a ‘reader beware’ proposition. Mix one part urban legend with two parts impossible-to-prove-or-disprove ‘old wives tale’ then add in a liberal dose of exaggeration for extra spice and voila! There you have it…a perfect morsel of mind candy that may or may not have it’s base in fact. In the era of fake news you can bet a decent fiver this ‘truth is secondary to entertainment’ phenomena is even more a thing.

The old adage about never letting truth get in the way of a good story applies equally even more so to trivia. Try this fun ‘fact’ for example – nearly 3% of Antarctic glaciers consist of penguin urine. Not 4%. Not 2%. But exactly 3%. Like it’s been measured. Accurately. Probably has been measured for all I know. But measured how?

Some degree-qualified ‘scientist’ melted down a portion of glacial ice, analyzed the water content and found a level of penguin urine present that amounted to 3% of its volume. They then extrapolated from that figure that precisely 3% of all Antarctic glacial ice consists of penguin Budweiser. Well, that’s me guessing how the factoid might have been originally born anyway.

Speaking of which, it was American novelist Norman Mailer (1923 – 2007) who first coined the term ‘factoid’ back in 1973. Today the term refers to a piece of trivia or ‘fun fact’ but back then it had almost the opposite meaning. Mailer invented the word to describe a piece of information that isn’t true…but becomes accepted as true if enough people hear it or read it.

An example of this would be the commonly held belief about Mount Everest being the highest peak in the world. In actual fact the dormant volcano Mauna Kea in Hawaii is the world’s highest mountain – when measured from it’s underwater base. Ok, that’s probably a technicality but you get the point about the disputability and all-round rubbery-ness of a lot of so-called ‘facts’.

Doesn’t matter. If it’s fun you crave then the world of trivia can be a goldmine rich for the plundering. The following ‘facts’ are, I like to think, possibly a bit more believable and, going that one step further, maybe even verifiable than some other preposterously imaginative bits of trivia out there doing the rounds, but as usual… reader beware. And remember… knowledge is power (the power to make others feel stupid) – except when it comes to trivia!

Who knew that when you flip a coin, physics, not probability, determines how it will land. American mathematician Persi Diaconis (1945 – ) found that a coin is slightly more likely to land on the face that was up when you flipped it.

The way a coin lands is not ‘random’; in fact it’s easy, Diaconis contends, who, in addition to being Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at Stanford University is also a former professional magician, that with a little practice anyone can manipulate a coin flip so that it lands the way they want it. What’s more, if you’re spinning a coin, it’s more likely to land tails up, since the heads side weighs slightly more.

Yessiree, ‘Go’ – all of two letters of it – is a grammatically correct English sentence. And for the grammar geeks, it’s only a sentence if it’s used as a command, then ‘you’ is the understood subject. Alternatively if you’d rather a sentence with a separate word as the subject, ‘I am’ is the shortest sentence, with three letters. Clear? Good. Don’t want to have to repeat all that!

Ever told someone you’d be back in a ‘jiffy’? You were definitely lying.

Though the English language has adopted it to mean ‘a short amount of time,’ it actually is a scientific term. In the physics world, a ‘jiffy’ is the time it takes light to travel a centimetre in a vacuum or around 33.4 picoseconds. (A ‘picosecond,’ meanwhile, is a trillionth of a second.) Now you know!

Someone was having a little fun when they came up with this. Technically, a ‘mickey’ is 1/200th of an inch. The speed can be measured in ‘pixels per mickey’, referring to how many pixels the cursor on the screen moves when the physical mouse is moved one mickey. Really.

The precious ball of fluff (if you’re a cat lover) pictured above is called a ‘Munchkin cat’ and, like the corgi and the dachshund, its short legs and long body are the results of a genetic mutation. The technical stuff is if a cat possesses the autosomal dominant gene, which causes the leg bones to grow shorter, it can pass the trait on to its kittens. You heard it here first. Or maybe you didn’t.

 Although they probably won’t grow back completely or to their original size. Not sure if that’s a comforting thought or not.

And finally, couldn’t resist finishing off with a dollop of homespun trivia.

The name of this blog – SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK – contains exactly 18 letters. Through a god-freakin’ coincidence that also happens to be the exact same number of letters in four of my all-time favorite movies – FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963) – FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965) – THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974) – and ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ (1979).

And if that ain’t the literal definition of information of little importance or value then I really don’t know what is.

That’s A Wrap – 2020

How best to sum up a year like this?

‘Extreme’ ‘hellacious’ and ‘dumpster fire’ are words that spring to mind, certainly. The very Aussie abbreviation ‘iso’ was named by the Australian National University as it’s word of the year, so that may also be of help. There was ‘the new normal’ and you can throw in the classic-sounding ‘unprecedented’ as well, unless of course you happened to be alive a hundred years ago for the Spanish Flu (1918 -1920 / 100 million deaths), which not many of us were.

Actually, that last statement may not be completely true. After checking, I discover there are more than half a million people alive in the world today who were around at the time of the Spanish Flu – something that makes Covid 19 resemble a mere papercut on the scale of global death and destruction.

2020 was the year when a smile or hug became an act of revolution. It was the year people worked out the best way to avoid touching their face was having a glass of wine in each hand. It was the year when households went from “It’s great to get this time together” to “Why are you chewing so loudly?”

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In 2020 nail and hair salons, waxing parlors and spray tanning centers all shut their doors and things got ugly. 2020 was the year when having plans for tonight meant hitting the living room around 8 or 9. It was the year we understood there’s nothing like relaxing on the couch after having spent a long day of being tense on the couch. And in 2020 we finally realized the movie HOME ALONE was thirty years ahead of it’s time.

Maybe the best description I’ve come across of 2020 – apart from it being a year that made you want to put not just your mouth but your whole body in the chocolate drawer just to feel good – was it was like trying to build a plane while you were still learning to fly it. That’s definitely what it felt like to many.

Around here at SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK things carried on pretty much as normal. The new normal, that is. There were virus-flavored posts up until the time when I called quits on all of that and enacted a ban – back in April – of any and all further mentions of the ‘C’ word until there was some good news in the form of a vaccine.

Now that we’ve got one (Pfizer), with more on the way, that ban can be lifted. SWS and all the world’s other major news outlets (tee hee) are certainly hoping very soon Covid 19 will subside into a ‘sooooo last year’ news story that won’t warrant the attention it deserved across the last twelve months.

Here then is your year in review… SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK style –

Park Run and Me (February)

Monopoly Fun (February)

Introverts Unite! (April)

Hollywood ‘Virus’ Movies (April)

My Pledge – No more mentions of the ‘C’ word until a Vaccine is found (April)

Four Part Series – The Discovery of Lithium (May-June)

My Favourite Actors (July)

Movies with Identical Titles (July)

STACEY BRYAN GUEST POST – ‘Aussie Character Seen From Afar’ (August)

Manson Exposed! (August)


Favourite Films from the 1940’s (September)

Sinking of the ‘Kursk’ Submarine (October)

Release of ‘The Shining’ Board Game (October)

Favourite Films from the 1950’s (October)

The 1969 Death Of Reet Jurvetson (November)

More Movies With Identical Titles (November)


150TH BLOG POST (March)

with congratulatory email from Australian Prime Minister



Outbreak (1995)

Contagion (2011)

Note: Haven’t seen it but the 2020 released new ‘Crocodile Dundee’ sequel THE VERY EXCELLENT MR DUNDEE was voted worst Australian movie of the year – SEE HERE.




* “I do this for the money, prestige and power” said no writer ever.

New Year's Day 2019 Parkrun report - Wirksworth Running Club

What’s PARKRUN got to do with a writing blog? Not much, besides the fact that when it comes to looking back on a year when there were weeks and months when even leaving your own suburb was forbidden, completing 40, what I’ll call Saturday morning 5km ‘Parkruns’ (along routes that were used for Parkruns when Parkrun was up and ‘running’), seems like some type of achievement. Last year I only managed 26 of the gut-busters.

British author John le Carré (December)

Doug Anthony – Australia’s longest serving Deputy Prime Minister (December)

Thankyou for riding the tsunami-wave-meets-an-about-to-come-off-the-rails-rollercoaster-meets-a-rampaging-elephant-stampede-meets-an-agitated-wasps-nest year that was 2020 with SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK.

SWS shall return in the new year with more adventures, high-jinks and smooth-reading boingaloings (pretty sure I just made that word up). Here’s to 2021… a year stacked floor to ceiling with high expectations.

Ps. You never know who you’ll see around town sporting the latest Scenic Writer’s Shack apparel. Here’s hoping 2021 is a little prettier than 2020.

Best Book Covers of 2020

Following last year’s list, it looks like cataloguing the best book cover eye-candy the year has to offer might end up being an annual thing around here.

Covers are all about making memorable first impressions. These ones succeeded in passing onto the next stage of the reader ‘interview’.

(A) All creatures great and in this case microscopic makes for one eye-catching, though in no way original cover. Incredibly, author Melissa Barbeau’s 2018 novel THE LUMINOUS SEA used an identical cover.

(B) Yep, recognize those battle-scarred fingers of a writer anywhere.

(A) Is that an embrace? A dance? A hallucination? What it is is a ghost with a sheet, shoes and socks but no legs.

(B) Cover of a cover anyone?

(A) The herd can definitely do that to a person.

(B) A skull made out of illustrated roses. You knew that was going to make it onto this list.

(A) A murder mystery set in a lawless Mexican village rife with superstition was never going to make it as an Oprah Book Club pick (is that still a thing?) but this cover is a symbolic masterstroke.

(B) Deliciously weird – including the two tiny eyelashes painted on each eye.

(A) You read ‘knife’ and you expect ‘knife’ and on first glance you even see ‘knife’, but . . . that’s a nail file.

(A) The feminist novel that galvanized South Korea. The red of the collar picks up nicely on the color of the book’s title.

(A) I can’t stop looking at those hands.

(B) This cover is a conspicuous callback to those “puzzles” where you had to use your finger to trace your way from one side of the page to the other.

(A) The words tell you everything you need to know.

(B) Something about this image makes me want to press down on that nozzle and rub it – or drink it – all in.

(A) I’ve been to Uneo train station in Tokyo. I don’t recall it looking much like this book cover. But a novel told from the point of view of a homeless man’s ghost you’d expect to be a little different, wouldn’t you?

(B) Match the title with the image and you’ve got not just any ‘ol irony but buoyant irony. I can almost hear the plink of the fallen pink toothbrush.

(A) That light at the end of the tunnel could actually turn out to be an oncoming train. Did anyone remember to warn the lamb?

(B) This cover works on multiple levels. Someone had to say it.

(A) How MANY sisters is but one question. I know two of them are called July and September.

(B) Not exactly sure what’s going on here but something looks… well, slightly melted?

(A) Dangerous. Mysterious. Medical. And all-round very sharp.

(B) Is our pony-tailed cover person water dancing or water dead? Maybe water posed?

(A) If you already know what a ‘shtetl’ is you’re doing better than me. This debut novel is about a shtetl (Jewish village) hidden deep in a Polish forest. With that understood, this elusive cover isn’t so lost on it’s reader.

(B) The axeman cometh… and cometh…and cometh again!

(A) XX‘ is the debut novel of someone who previously had worked as a graphic designer. With a pedigree like that this was always going to be an eye-catching cover. And it is.

(B) In swank-lined designer fashion circles headwear of this caliber is known as a ‘fascinator’. And true to name, this is one fascinating cover. Someone just needs to tell our cover girl she’s wearing it a little … low?

(A) Who hasn’t done that – or at least thought about doing that – to a photo? Family first? Yeah right.

(B) Paper books get the boot in the digital age – get it? Looks like a size 8 digitally enhanced Converse boot to me btw.

Seeing Triple (and more)

A veritable truckload of movies with identical names was unearthed recently HERE on SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK. There was unfinished business concerning this topic however, as more research uncovered yet more surprises.

Not only were there films with identical titles to each other but in some cases three or more movies with the same title and yet all with completely different actors, directors and unrelated story-lines. This just had to be laid forth – again.

We begin with a selection of triple-scoopers…

Salt & Straw food dessert icecream seattle GIF

Next, time to make way for the glorious four-scoopers

But wait! There’s more!

Alas, the name-alikes listed so far are but mere pretenders to the crown of ‘Most Duplicated Movie Title’ when placed next to the grand prize-winner, SAHARA. This is a film with, to date, no less than six members of the family tree all bearing the same name yet otherwise completely unconnected.

And before we leave the subject of same name movies altogether, here’s a few more identical-twin titles courtesy of readers who alerted me last time… after this oopsie, raspberry ripple double scoop ice-cream break…

P.s Want to know more about movie title duplication? Gosh! You are serious! Allright then… if you insist. Go HERE

Manson link to Cold Case?

Reet Jurvetson was a 19-year-old Canadian woman who was murdered in California in November 1969. Her body remained unidentified for 46 years, until an online mortuary photograph was recognized by her family and friends in 2015. 

Prior to her identification Reet’s body had been known simply as “Jane Doe 59”. That’s pictures of her above and below.

On November 16, 1969, a fully-clothed body of a young white female was found by a 15-year old boy who was out bird-watching. The body was discovered in dense brush along Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles, approximately 15-feet down an almost 700-foot ravine. A tree branch had prevented her body from falling the remainder of the way down.

An autopsy determined the female victim had been murdered approximately 24–48 hours prior to the discovery. The victim had defensive wounds on her hands and had been stabbed over 150 times in the neck, chest, and torso, with a penknife, some of the stabbing severing the carotid artery.

A common pocket penknife from the 1960’s.

Based upon the location of the body less than 10 km away from the Manson-ordered Tate-LaBianca murders that had occurred only 3-months prior and the signature ‘over-kill’ methodology, police immediately suspected the crime may have had links to the Manson family.

A woman by the name of Ruby Pearl was a caretaker at the Manson family’s hangout Spahn Ranch during 1969. She told police she had seen a young woman matching Reet Jurvetson’s description several days before at Spahn Ranch with a group of Charles Manson’s followers.

After the body was discovered, Charles Manson was interviewed by police but denied any involvement. He was re-interviewed in 2016, just a year prior to his death, but investigators were unable to uncover any new information from him.

Prosecuting attorney Vincent Bugliosi’s 1974 book HELTER SKELTER suggests Jurvetson – or as she was known then ‘Jane Doe 59’ – might have been present at the death of suspected Manson Family victim John “Zero” Haught who died from a gunshot wound in November, the month Reet Jurvetson was murdered.

Though Haught’s death was determined a suicide, Manson family members were reportedly present, casting considerable doubt on the suicide verdict.

The story of how Jane Doe 59 was eventually identified as 19-year-old Canadian Reet Jurvetson is indeed a fascinating one.

The unidentified body was found only a few weeks after Reet had left Canada and arrived in Canada. For 46 years, Jane Doe 59 had no name and no family had claimed her.

Composite sketches were drawn and distributed at the time but technology did not exist in the 1970’s that would allow nationwide communication and cross-referencing of unidentified bodies. DNA had yet to be discovered as a reliable source of identification. The drawings were rudimentary and hardly identifiable.

It wasn’t until June 2015, friends of Reet’s sister Anne Jurvetson contacted her to tell her they had been searching the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, a U.S. government database, and found similarities between Reet and a morgue photograph posted on the website.

Anne Jurvetson contacted officials and submitted a DNA sample that was then cross-referenced with a blood sample that had been preserved from a bloody bra. There was a match and Jane Doe 59 finally had a name. It was Reet Jurvetson.

Reet Jurvetson’s murder is examined in-depth in a compelling 2017 two-part documentary entitled MANSON SPEAKS: INSIDE THE MIND OF A MADMAN.

The Los Angeles Police Department have discounted the possibility of Charles Manson or his followers involvement in Reet Jurvetson’s murder. At the same time they cannot rule out a possible connection.

Cold case detectives have named three individuals of interest in the search for Reet’s killer. The first is a Canadian national who had likewise traveled from Montreal to California and who was acquainted with Reet. The second is the first suspect’s room mate. The third is an individual who had lived across the hall from the apartment where Reet Jurvetson had resided at the time of her murder.

The case is ongoing.

Shining Examples

Trick or treat? Here’s a little of both…

The iconic 1980 movie THE SHINING, as well as the appeal of board games are two subjects that have both been previously explored here on the pages of SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK. This time ’round we get to take a look at both at the same time.

Anything of remote significance that happened back in the year 1980 is now commemorating it’s 40th anniversary. That includes the Stanley Kubrick directed master piece of horror THE SHINING starring Jack Nicholson. Naturally there has been a re-issue of the film to coincide with this anniversary, complete with all the requisite extras –

Last year saw the release of what was touted as a sequel to the original film. DR SLEEP, based on Stephen King’s 2013 novel, starred Ewan McGregor and was met with mixed reviews.

Now there’s a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle –

and THE SHINING boardgame. For those who can tolerate overly long ‘unboxing’ videos, the one below unpacks literally everything about this game in minute detail –

In THE SHINING: ESCAPE FROM THE OVERLOOK HOTEL, players assume the roles of Wendy and Danny Torrance as they search for a way out of the hotel.

To escape, players have to contend with puzzles and obstacles along the way, including Jack Torrance, the ax-wielding antagonist immortalized by Jack Nicholson in the 1980 film. By using the psychic ability to “shine” players can unlock clues and solve puzzles that bring them closer to the exit.

The new game is part of the Coded Chronicles game line, and because the objective is to beat the game instead of each other, there’s no limit on how many (or how few) people can play. A full game is estimated to take two hours or more to complete, and this version is recommended for players 17 and older.

On this particular anniversary the story of a struggling writer and his family self-isolating for a winter of productivity only to slowly descend into a murderous nightmare feels especially haunting. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, people everywhere have been forced to cope with the mental and physical consequences of solitude. 

With the monotonous sameness of our 2020 daily rituals insidiously driving us all collectively up the four walls, we can spare a thought for the type of next-level cabin fever laid bare in this all-powerful, almighty cinema classic.

Ps. What’s that? You want a bonus read? Ok, if you insist

Pss. And because it’s Halloween, there’s this…

Top Ten Favorite Films of the 1950’s

When the swarm of literally tens of thousands of films nesting inside a dedicated movie buff’s head or in a beard-like formation atop of the lower portion of their face reaches critical mass and the buzz becomes too busy to ignore, there’s but one thing to do – not counting inspired uses of a vacuum blower – and that’s compile a Top 100 list.

This particular hive will be organised according to time period – nominating ten beloved films from each of the decades from the 1940’s through to the 2010’s. That will total eighty films, so twenty selections will be included for the 1970’s and 80’s – ‘my‘ decades.

The 1950’s was a decade marked by the post World War 2 boom. The struggle between communism and capitalist systems around the world was in full swing. Politically this time included the assignations of the King of Jordan (1951) and the Presidents of Panama (1955), Nicaragua (1956) and Sri Lanka (1959). The invention of the solar cell and the opening of the world’s first nuclear power plant (in Moscow) took place in this decade.

Academy Award winners for Best Picture during this decade were –

And here are my ten favorite films from this period –

Every frame of these ten films a feast!

Ps. Concise as this list is, naturally there were regrets for the favorite films room couldn’t be found for. Janet Leigh and Tony Curtise’s HOUDINI (1953) was one such film.

The sci-fi/’horror’ classic THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951) was another. An omission of downright atomic proportions was inexplicably somehow not managing to find room for Mickey Rooney’s retro-hilarious THE ATOMIC KID (1954). Still wondering how that oversight happened…

Pss. Wanna see another person’s ‘Best Films of the 50’s’ list? Click HERE

Kursk: The Last Mission

Twenty years ago, the world held it’s breath and watched an unfolding drama take place in the Barents Sea amidst the Arctic Ocean off Norway.

Russia’s most powerful, nuclear-powered attack submarine at the time, the KURSK, had suffered two cataclysmic on-board explosions – one so powerful it was detected by seismologists around the globe – and sunk to the bottom of the seabed to the relatively shallow depth of 107 metres below the ocean’s surface.

What is known is that 23 sailors amongst the crew of 118 survived the initial explosions. They lived on for as long as six days after the sub had become a crippled tomb with dwindling on-board oxygen supplies submerged in total darkness and plummeting inner-hull temperatures.

We know this with certainty due to dated, hand-written notes recovered – turns out pen-ink inscribed paper is still readable many months and years after being submerged in seawater – from the bodies of sailors who clung to life as long as they could, huddled together in the still intact, but slowly leaking and filling ninth compartment of the stricken Oscar 2 class submarine.

I’ve watched the 2018, Colin Firth-starring movie KURSK – re-titled THE COMMAND for it’s U.S release – read the book by journalist Robert Moore the film was based on – and vividly recall following every news and television report of the unfolding tragedy and failed rescue attempts I could gather back in August of 2000.

The book in particular offers up a deluge of revealing details of what went shockingly wrong in both the initial accident and the subsequent botched rescue attempts.

The Kursk was finally raised from the ocean floor in 2001. In a stunning technical achievement, Dutch contracting consortium MammoetSmit International succeeded in pulling the 155 metre sub ashore. It was the heaviest object ever lifted from such a depth.

These pictures show what the Kursk looked like BOTH before and after the disaster.

After a year-long investigation, it was confirmed that torpedo malfunction was to blame. This gave lie to several semi-official rumors at the time about a US sub downing the Kursk, or that it collided with another vessel or an abandoned World War II mine.

The Kursk had taken a decade to design, three years to build and just 135 seconds to destroy. The calamitous ticking time bomb in it’s midst was the HTP 65-67 torpedo (two of them were on-board on the day) that had been loaded into tube number four on the starboard side of the submarine’s bow compartment.

HTP stands for ‘high-test peroxide’ – a concentrated form of hydrogen peroxide (water with an extra oxygen atom). The propulsion system responsible for driving the torpedo through the water at a speed of 30 knots relied on a chemical reaction taking place within the torpedo between HTP and kerosene.

The particular HTP torpedo in tube number four had last been serviced six years previously in 1994. Over the intervening time, deep within it’s casing, corrosion had invisibly begun to weaken gaskets close to the tank that contained the HTP. It was a chemical cocktail waiting to begin a chain reaction once it came into contact with the copper-lined torpedo tube.

Britain had banned the use of HTP torpedos back in 1955 after an explosion on-board the HMS Sidon killed 12 sailors. An exhaustive investigation by the Royal Navy concluded that hydrogen peroxide was too volatile to be stored within the confines of a submarine’s torpedo room.

Never again did a British submarine go to sea with weapons that used HTP. The same could not be said for Russia’s Northern Fleet forty-five years later.

Another feature of the tragedy laid bare in the book is the fateful timeline forever associated with the rescue attempts.

The Kursk sank to the bottom of the ocean bed on August 12, 2000. It was not until five days later on August 17 that a Russian submersible attempted rescue. Despite numerous tries it was unable to create a vacuum seal with the crippled sub’s hatch.

More delays followed during which Russian military leaders and newly elected President Vladimir Putin – who had been in office only three months when the disaster unfolded – debated whether or not to accept International help.

On August 20 British and Norwegian crews arrived at the disaster site in the Barents sea. Finally on August 21 – nine days after the submarine sank – they were granted permission to attempt a hatch opening. When they did they discovered the 9th compartment of the sub – where all the survivors of the initial blasts had gathered – was completely flooded.

Kursk: The Russian Submarine Catastrophe's Game Adaptation Gets A Ton Of  New Info -

It was widely considered had Russia responded more promptly and accepted foreign assistance more readily there would have been a much higher chance of the sailors who survived the initial explosion having been rescued alive.

The original tower of The Kursk submarine today serves as a memorial in the Russian port city of Murmansk.

Ps. Can you believe there is now a Kursk video game? Available on PC, Mac, Sony Playstation 4 and Xbox One, the game has been released by a Polish company.

According to the developer, after the first few minutes depicting the explosion, the game should then go on to last at least 10 hours.

Players apparently not only have the opportunity to feel like a member of a submarine crew, but are also able to influence the story through their choices, including moral ones. Decisions made have a significant impact on the ending of the game, of which there are several versions.

Top Ten Favorite Films from the 1940’s

When the swarm of literally tens of thousands of films nesting inside a dedicated movie buff’s head reaches critical mass and the buzz becomes too busy to ignore, there’s but one thing to do – compile a top 100 list.

This hive will be organised according to time periods – nominating ten loved films from each of the decades from the 1940’s through to the 2010’s. That will total eighty films, so twenty selections will be included for the 1970’s and 80’s‘my‘ decades.

The 1940’s was a decade dominated by World War Two and it’s aftermath. Politically it included the assignations of the Soviet politician Leon Trotsky in 1940 and Indian activist Mahatma Ghandi. Inventions to come from this period included velcro, the frisbee and the microwave oven.

Academy Award winners for Best Picture during this decade were –

Here are my ten favorite films from this period –

If you’re of the mind, then every frame of these movies may be regarded as a feast!

Ps. Wanna see someone else’s ‘Best Films of the 1940’s’ list? Go HERE

King of the Atheists

I am by no means the first nor will I be the last person to describe British popular science writer and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (1941 – ) as having what might be termed a ‘fierce intellect’.

Indeed, unarguably Richard Dawkins has one of the fiercest.

Back in 1992, when asked the question “What has been the most important invention of the last 2000 years?” he offered the spectroscope – the instrument by which scientists determine the chemical nature of stars and by which mankind has come to know – via the red shift of light from receding galaxies – that the universe is expanding and that it began in a ‘big bang’.

As an emeritus fellow of New College Oxford and a former University of Oxford’s Professor for Public Understanding of Science from 1995 until 2008, Dawkins is an intellectual colossal among mental giants.

I’ve read just two of his many books – THE GOD DELUSION (2006) and THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH (2009). Both contained some of the most sustained, masterful chains of reasoning I have ever set eyes and mind upon.

THE GOD DELUSION (2006) has sold well over 3 million copies and been translated into 35 languages. His 2009 book systematically laid out the evidence for evolution with a title that came after someone sent him a t-shirt in the mail that read EVOLUTION: THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH – THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN.

The name ‘Richard Dawkins’ entered the collective mind of society’s pop culture some time ago. He was after-all, the person responsible for coining the term ‘meme’ way back in 1976 in his book THE SELFISH GENE.

He has also appeared in a 2008 episode of DOCTOR WHO entitled ‘The Stolen Earth’ as himself. His image and voice appeared also in a dream sequence of a 2013 episode of THE SIMPSONS called ‘Black-eyed, Please’.

In 2012 he had a genus of freshwater fish named after him by a team of Sri Lankan ichthyologists (marine biologists). They conferred the scientific name Dawkinsia.

In case you can’t read it, the smaller man in the Superman cartoon is Saying – “D-d-d-did someone say DEBATE?”
Be sure to listen for the line (voiced by Dawkins himself) – “I’m making Catholic Saint stew!”

Dawkins nominates British geneticist John Maynard Smith (1920 – 2004) as his personal hero and rates English -American intellectual Christopher Hitchens (1949 – 2011) as the finest orator on any subject he’s ever heard.

Richard Dawkins is often credited with the quote “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil – that takes religion”. As much as he might endorse that notion, it was actually American theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg that said those words.

Richard Dawkins has so far produced two autobiographical memoirs. AN APPETITE FOR WONDER was published in 2013. BRIEF CANDLE IN THE DARK was released two years later. I am currently 3/4 of the way through the 2015 volume.

The life of a travelling scientist – having conducted field work and spoken to audiences in a great many parts of the world – along with his single-minded devotion to science and it’s place in our intellectual culture makes for engrossing reading…if you have the mind and leaning for such material.

A couple of anecdotes he shares are definitely worth recounting here, including the time he debated Cardinal George Pell – sentenced to six years jail in 2018 on historical sexual abuse charges but whose conviction was overturned by the High Court of Australia in 2020; he is currently still facing a number of civil law suits filed against him on related matters – on the ABC television program Q & A back in 2012.

As Dawkins tells it, he had been warned in advance that Pell was a ‘bully and a bruiser’ but that he had an almost endearing gift for putting his foot in his mouth. This apparently came to the fore during the sharing of an anecdote from the then Archbishop of Sydney about a time when he had been ‘preparing some English boys…’ and allowed an embarrassing pause to ensue before he completed the sentence ‘… for first communion’, a pause long enough to allow a minority of the audience to laugh suggestively.

This is a two minute excerpt from that debate. It showcases George Pell’s gratuitous error of understanding (though not uncommon) that humans were descended from Neanderthals.

Another highlight was the time he was invited to speak at Randolph Macon College in the state of Virginia in the U.S. The audience had been stacked by a busload of fundamentalist Christian students who had driven down from the nearby private evangelical Liberty ‘University’ (founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell). They all occupied the front row.

According to the passage written in BRIEF CANDLE IN THE DARK, these students all monopolized the question and answer session that followed his presentation, lining up as a ‘congregation’ behind the microphones placed in each aisle.

Everything remained polite until one of the students mentioned that at Liberty University they had on display a dinosaur fossil labelled as being just 3000 years old and that this appeared to dramatically contradict Dawkin’s favored timelines of Earth history.

Dawkins responded by clarifying that fossils are dated by several different radioactive clocks – running at very different speeds – and all independently agree that dinosaurs are no less than 65 million years old.

He went on to add – “If it’s really true the museum at Liberty University has a dinosaur fossil labelled as being 3000 years old, then that is an educational disgrace. It is debauching the whole idea of a university and I would strongly encourage any member of Liberty University who may be here to leave and go to a proper university.

From the Randolph Macon College students this comment got the biggest cheer of the evening.

Intellectual HEAVYWEIGHTS THE SIMPSONS’ weigh in with their own depiction of evolutionary theory.

Amusement is gained in equal measure from Richard Dawkin’s rebuttals of what he refers to as ‘theological gymnastics’ – attempts by Bible-clutching spokespeople and ‘leaders’ to conjure symbolic and preposterously speculative interpretations to non-sensical ‘holy’ ideas from the past.

You know the type. “Of course we don’t literally believe the story of Jonah and the whale. But it is symbolic of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Of course Adam and Eve were not real people. They are terms for life and Earth.”

Hold that thought for a moment, while checking this out-

English scientists James Watson and Francis Crick determined the double-helix structure of DNA – the molecule containing human genes in 1953.

Though DNA – short for deoxyribonucleic acid – was discovered in 1869, its crucial role in determining genetic inheritance wasn’t demonstrated until 1943.

In the early 1950’s, Watson and Crick were only two of many scientists working on figuring out the structure of DNA.
WARNING : This video contains SUCH terms as ‘molecule’ – ‘nucleus’ – and, most strangely, ‘histones’.

Now return to considering Dawkin’s comparison –

Dawkin’s postulates what it would be like if science worked in a similarly flakey way. “Suppose that future scientists were to find that Watson and Crick were completely wrong and the genetic molecule is not a double helix after all. Ah well, of course nowadays we no longer literally believe in the double helix.

So what is the significance of the double helix for us today? The way the two helices twine intimately around one another, though not literally true, nevertheless symbolizes mutual love. The precise, one-to-one pairing of purine and pyrimidine is not literally true but it stands for…”.

Ridiculous? A joke? Something not to be taken seriously? Among the points being made, I believe.

Ps. Richard Dawkins is now 79 years of age. He separated from his second wife, former DR WHO actress Lalla Ward in 2016 after 24 years of marriage. His most recent book, OUTGROWING GOD: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE, was published late last year.

Pss. Still curious? HERE you’ll find a link to his website.

Psss. Final word goes not to Richard Dawkins but my favourite television comedian from the 1970’s, Dave Allen. Pretty sure Professor Dawkins would get a laugh out of this…