Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Quote for the Day: Oscar Levant

"Happiness isn't something you experience; it's something you remember."

- Oscar Levant (1906-1972),
American pianist, composer, author, comedian and actor who was also known for his neuroses and hypochondria.

Oscar Levant (right) and Robert Alda (father of Alan Alda, Hawkeye in M*A*S*H) in Rhapsody in Blue. Alda had the lead role in the film, portraying George Gershwin.

Some street art and graffiti

Monday, January 26, 2015

Quote for the Day: Australian Cricket Team Song

Under the Southern Cross I stand
A sprig of wattle in my hand,
A native of my native land,
Australia you fucking beauty

- Victory song of the Australian Cricket Team, originally a a patriotic song in the late 1890s and then a military drinking song in the 1940s.

Hear the Australian team sing (??) it in 2007 by clicking on:

Monday Miscellany: Some Odds, Ends and Personals

Today is Oz Day . . .


Some Byter contributions last week:

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From Byter Martin S in respect of my comment that the footprints of the astronauts on the moon would remain for millions of years, there being no wind and atmosphere:

It is a common fallacy to believe that the footprints in the moon will remain for millions of years. 
Whilst the atmosphere on the moon, is, in fact minimal, other processes ensure that there is a turnover of soil on the surface of the moon. Often called Gardening. 
These are not limited to:
· Micrometeorites , their impacts and ejecta.
· Thermal changes between night and day
· Electrostatic effects on individual dust grains (as seen by Apollo 8 and so on..) which cause a constant but light dusting across the moon. 
As to the exact turnover on the regolith of the moon, it remains unclear, but millions of years is not possible, but most likely more persistent than scribing your name on beach at low tide. 
Martin S

Thanks Martin.

Cartoon by Adams from the Daily Telegraph on the death of Neil Armstrong in 2012. The cartoon depicts Armstrong’s first footprint still existing 1,000 years into the future, but Earth is missing from the picture, a comment on the problems facing the Earth at present

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From Byter Brett B in respect of my comment in the same post that the Wright Brothers carried out the first heavier than air manned flight that returned safely to earth, in 1903:

There is some (minor) controversy over the Wright Brothers claim:

Bell may have stolen the invention of the telephone, Hillary may not have been the first man to climb Everest, Shakespeare may have been written by Bacon and now Gustave Whitehead may have flown before the Wright brothers.

The above article is lengthy so I will set out only the first paragraph:

Gustave Albin Whitehead, born Gustav Albin Weisskopf, (1 January 1874 – 10 October 1927) was an aviation pioneer who emigrated from Germany to the United States where he designed and built gliders, flying machines and engines between 1897 and 1915. Controversy surrounds published accounts and Whitehead's own claims that he flew a powered machine successfully several times in 1901 and 1902, predating the first flights by the Wright Brothers in 1903.

Thanks Brett.


In honour of Australian Day, some comments about Australian slang, Part 1:

First recorded in the 1980’s, the shortened form for ambulance officer is included here to illustrate a common feature of Australian English: the shortening of words and the addition of “o” at the end. Examples: arvo (afternoon), Salvo(Salvation army officer), gyno (gynaecologist) journo (journalist), and nicknames such as Johnno, Jacko, and Robbo.

The expression that something is apples, meaning all is well, derives from the rhyming slang expression “apple and spice”, meaning “nice”. Often times rhyming slang gets shortened to and loses connection with the original longer rhyme, eg China from China plate, meaning mate. 

The poor old bandicoot comes in for a lot of negative Aussie slang: as miserable as a bandicoot, as poor as a bandicoot, as bald as a bandicoot, as blind as a bandicoot and as hungry as a bandicoot. A lot of this relates to its appearance, particularly its long face:

In 1837 H. Watson in Lecture on South Australia wrote “The land here is generally good; there is a small proportion that is actually good for nothing; to use a colonial phrase, "a bandicoot (an animal between a rat and a rabbit) would starve upon it".

Banksia Men:
May Gibbs modelled the bad guys in her children’s books on the woody cones of the Banksia trees and shrubs:

The nice figures were Gumnut Babies . . .

 . . . and Wattle Babies

The Barcoo River in Western Queensland has given rise to numerous expressions to refer to hardships, privations, and living conditions of the outback. Banjo Patterson starts his poem “A Bush Christening” with the words 

On the outer Barcoo where the churches are few,
And men of religion are scanty,
On a road never cross'd 'cept by folk that are lost,
One Michael Magee had a shanty.

Diseases and ailments associated with dietary deficiency were often associated with the Barcoo region, hence a form of scurvy from lack of fresh fruit and vegetables was known as Barcoo Rot. Another condition which caused vomiting was known as Barcoo Vomit and Barcoo Spew, but ended up just being shortened to Barcoo.

According to Patsy Adam Smith: ‘I see you’ve learnt the Barcoo Salute’, said a Buln Buln Shire Councillor to the Duke of Edinburgh. ‘What’s that?’ said His Royal Highness, waving his hand again to brush the flies off his face. ‘That’s it’, said the man from the bush.

No longer referring to birth outside marriage, the term bastard can now be a term of endearment (“you old bastard”) or of disapproval (“he was a proper bastard”). Look at the context and the manner of delivery to see which applies. 

An example of the use of the word in the original sense from the days when a child born outside marriage was stigmatised and a cause for shame:
A young and busy Melbourne barrister had been taking his summer holidays at a remote Tasmanian holiday resort. Last year he was finally successful in seducing the resort owner’s beautiful 19 year old daughter. He was thus anticipating with excitement coming back to the resort.  When he got of his car he noticed, to his surprise, his lover with a small baby on her lap.  “Kim, why didn’t you write or phone me when you found out you were pregnant? I would have rearranged my court schedule and would have flown here as soon as possible. You know I care for you and we could have got married, and the baby would have my name.” Kim replied: “Well, when I told my parents that I was pregnant and that you were the father, we had a thorough discussion about what I should do. We all came to the conclusion that it would be far better to have a bastard in the family than a lawyer.”

Big note:
To big note oneself is to boast or brag. It derives from tthe 1950’s, pre-decimal currency (1966) when bank notes were larger. A big note man was one who had large amounts of money in large denominations and hence in larger physical size as well. Flashing large sums of money about and showing off came to be known as big noting.

Billy can:
The name comes from the large cans used for transporting bouilli orbully beef on Australia-bound ships or during exploration of the outback. After use tehse cans were modified for boiling water over a fire; however there is a suggestion that the word may be associated with the Aboriginal billa, meaning water as in billabong. 

The billy has come to symbolise the spirit of exploration of the outback. To boil the billy most often means to make tea. "Billy Tea" is the name of a popular brand of tea long sold in Australian grocers and supermarkets. Billies feature in many of Henry Lawson's stories and poems. Banjo Paterson's refers to the billy in the first verse and chorus of Waltzing Matilda: "And he sang as he looked at the old billy boiling", which was later changed by the Billy Tea Company to "And he sang as he watched and waited 'til his billy boiled..."

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Quote for the Day: Stephen F Roberts

“I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” 

Stephen F Roberts

Top Movie Quotes: 75-71

Continuing the countdown of the American Film Institute’s top 100 movie lines (2005), on their own at first to enable you to see if you can identify the film and the actor speaking the line, then followed by an identification and some trivia.

The next 5 in the countdown:

* * * * * * * *
75. "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."

74. "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown." 

73. "Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?"

72. "No wire hangers, ever!"

71. "Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain't heard nothin' yet!"

* * * * * * * *
75. "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."

Spoken by Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)

Vivien Leigh, who suffered from bipolar disorder in real life, later had difficulties in distinguishing her real life from that of Blanche DuBois.

Jessica Tandy was originally slated to play Blanche, after creating the role on Broadway. The role was given to Vivien Leigh (after Olivia de Havilland refused it) because she had more box-office appeal. De Havilland turned down the role because her-then husband Marcus Goodrich advised against her playing it.

Fitted t-shirts could not be bought at the time so Marlon Brando's apparel had to be washed several times and then the back stitched up to appear tightly over the actor's chest.

* * * * * * * *
74. "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown."

Spoken by Lawrence Walsh as Joe Mantell in Chinatown (1974)

After several takes that never looked quite right, Faye Dunaway told Jack Nicholson to actually slap her. He did, and the scene made it into the movie.

Faye Dunaway's distinctive look was inspired by Roman Polanski's memories of his mother, who in the pre-WWII era would fashionably wear penciled-on eyebrows, and have her lipstick shaped in the form of a Cupid's bow.

The Van der Lip Dam disaster is a reference to the collapse of the St Francis Dam in 1928, 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles, which had been designed by self-educated engineer William Mulholland. The consequent flooding killed at least 450 people, a loss of life that remains second only to that from the San Francisco earthquake and fire in California's history.

* * * * * * * *
73. "Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?"

Spoken by Edward G Robinson as Cesare Enrico "Rico" Bandello in Little Caesar (1930)

There were two versions of Rico's final words filmed, "Mother of God, is this the end of Rico?" and "Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?" Although "Mother of God" was taken directly from W.R. Burnett's novel, it was decided the line was potentially blasphemous coming from a murderous gangster and "Mother of mercy" was used instead.

One interpretation of the film's title character is that he may be a repressed or closeted gay man, with the evidence thereof cited as including Otero's fawning admiration of Rico, Rico's great affinity for Joe, and Rico's complete lack of interest in romantic relationships with women, as well as his utter contempt for Joe's interest in women. When the film was released, Burnett apparently drew this same conclusion about the screen version of the character. Having written Rico as explicitly heterosexual in his novel, Burnett wrote a letter of complaint to the film's producers about the conversion of the character to gay in the screen adaptation

The character of Cesare Enrico Bandello is not, as widely believed, based on Al Capone. Instead, he is based on Salvatore "Sam" Cardinella, a violent Chicago gangster who operated in the early years of Prohibition.

* * * * * * * *
72. "No wire hangers, ever!"

Spoken by Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest (1981)

The film is based on a book by Christina Crawford about her alcoholic, abusive step mother, Joan Crawford.

The wire hangers refers to an infamous scene in Christina Crawford’s book and in the film in which Joan Crawford launches into a vicious tirade after discovering Christina's dresses hung on wire clothes hangers. 'No wire hangers!' entered the vernacular as shorthand for neurotic maternal instability. 

Faye Dunaway truly felt she would win an Oscar for her performance as Joan Crawford. When the film was released to poor reviews and Paramount's promotion of the film as a camp classic, Dunaway was furious. To this day she refuses to talk about the film. In fact, when she is interviewed she submits a list of topics that are off-limits to the interviewer, one of which is Mommie Dearest (1981). She has been known to stop interviews if asked about the film. It has been stated by Christina Crawford that Dunaway claimed to have been haunted by the ghost of Joan Crawford and this has provided an explanation as to why Dunaway does not like to talk about the film.

Writer of the film's source book, Christina Crawford, once said of this movie after she had seen it: "My mother didn't deserve that. Miss Dunaway's performance was ludicrous. I didn't see any care for factual information. Now I've seen it I'm sorry I did. Faye says she is being haunted by mother's ghost. After her performance, I can understand why."

Little love was lost between costume designer Irene Sharaff and Faye Dunaway. "Yes, you may enter Miss Dunaway's dressing room," Sharaff once said, "but first you must throw a raw steak in - to divert her attention."

* * * * * * * *
71. "Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain't heard nothin' yet!"

Spoken by Al Jolson as Jakie Rabinowitz/Jack Robin in The Jazz Singer (1927)

The first feature-length motion picture with synchronized dialogue sequences, its release heralded the commercial ascendance of the "talkies" and the decline of the silent film era. 

Al Jolson's famous line (as Jack Robin) "You ain't heard nothin' yet." was an ad-lib. The intention was that the film should only have synchronized music, not speech, but Jolson dropped in the line, which he used in his stage act. The director wisely left it in.

See and hear the line and the song which follows, “Toot, Toot Tootsie” at:

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Quote for the Day: Barry Humphries

“Australia is an outdoor country. People only go inside to use the toilet. And that's only a recent development.”

- Barry Humphries (1934 - )
Australian comedian, satirist, artist, and author, best known for his portrayal of Dame Edna.

More about the Moon Landing

I mentioned recently that I had been watching a documentary about the 1969 moon landing and the space race between the US and USSR. Since then I have watched a further documentary on the lunar landing, fascinating! The 50th anniversary of the lunar landing, 20 July 2019, is not far off. Here, in anticipation of that anniversary, are some interesting facts and trivia about the first manned lunar landing.

* * * * * * * *
The Wright brothers, Wilbur and Orville, made the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, on December 17, 1903 at Kittyhawk, North Carolina. Although not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft, the Wright brothers were the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing powered flight possible.

First flight of the Wright Flyer 1, December 17, 1903, Orville piloting, Wilbur running at wingtip.

Only 66 years later, Apollo travelled to the moon, men walked on the moon and returned safely to earth.

* * * * * * * *
The Wright brothers airplane, the Wright Flyer 1, today is on exhibition in the National Air and Space Museum. A piece of fabric and wood from the Wright Flyer was taken to the surface of the Moon by the crew of Apollo 11, the first lunar landing mission, in July 1969. The fabric was part of the upper left wing and the wood was part of the left propeller. The Flyer was damaged after the fourth flight on 17 December 1903 when a gust of wind caused it to flip several times. Armstrong had the items with him inside his spacesuit when he made his moon walk.

Armstrong also took with him a diamond-studded astronaut pin given by the widows of the astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 launch pad fire.

* * * * * * * *
Because there is no wind on the moon, and provided that the downdraft from the blastoff on return to the Command Module did not disturb them, the footprints on the moon should remain intact for millions of years.

Armstrong's first footprint on the moon.

Buzz Aldrin reportedly saw the American flag, much further away, blow over during launch from the moon. 

* * * * * * * *
After the crew of Apollo 10 named their spacecraft Charlie Brown and Snoopy, assistant manager for public affairs Julian Scheer wrote to Manned Spacecraft Center director George M. Low to suggest the Apollo 11 crew be less flippant in naming their craft. During early mission planning, the names Snowcone and Haystack were used and put in the news release, but the crew later decided to change them.

The Command Module was named Columbia after the Columbiad the giant cannon shell "spacecraft" fired by a giant cannon (also from Florida) in Jules Verne's 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon. 

The Lunar Module was named Eagle for the national bird of the United States, the bald eagle, which is featured prominently on the mission insignia.

* * * * * * * *
The Apollo 11 mission insignia was designed by Collins, who wanted a symbol for "peaceful lunar landing by the United States". He chose an eagle as the symbol, put an olive branch in its beak, and drew a lunar background with the Earth in the distance. NASA officials said the talons of the eagle looked too "warlike" and after some discussion, the olive branch was moved to the claws. The crew decided the Roman numeral XI would not be understood in some nations and went with "Apollo 11"; they decided not to put their names on the patch, so it would "be representative of everyone who had worked toward a lunar landing". All colours are natural, with blue and gold borders around the patch.

* * * * * * * *
The Lunar Module was to land in a flat area called the Sea of Tranquility, however the computerised automatic landing system was guiding the module to a crater filled with boulders. Armstrong immediately took manual control and guided the module, searching for a suitable landing site with Aldrin reading out altitude and velocity. Landing was effected with 25 seconds of fuel left. Armstrong added an ad lib reference to Tranquility by radioing “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” Houston’s Charles Duke responded with Roger, Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We're breathing again. Thanks a lot."

A photograph on the moon of Charles Duke's family.

* * * * * * * *
Two and a half hours after landing, before preparations began for the walk on the moon, Aldrin, an elder at the Webster Presbyterian Church, radioed to Earth "This is the LM pilot. I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way." He then took communion privately, no mention being made thereof because at this time NASA was still fighting a lawsuit brought by atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair who had objected to the Apollo 8 crew reading from the Book of Genesis. She demanded that NASA’s astronauts refrain from broadcasting religious activities while in space. Aldrin therefore chose not directly mention taking communion on the Moon. The Webster Presbyterian Church still has the chalice he used. NASA had not been aware that he had taken the mini Communion kit with him.

* * * * * * * *
The phrase "The Eagle has landed" was the first message transmitted by a human from another world, to Earth. This specifically excludes the landing discussion between Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong which was not directed at Earth, and "Houston, Tranquility Base here" as this was preamble.

It was the name of a 1976 WW2 movie with Richard Burton and Michael Caine, plus has become a general phrase to indicate completion of a task or mission.

* * * * * * * *
While still on the ladder, Armstrong uncovered a plaque mounted on the Lunar Module Descent Stage bearing two drawings of Earth (of the Western and Eastern Hemispheres), an inscription, and signatures of the astronauts and President Nixon. The inscription reads “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

* * * * * * * *
After Armstrong stepped off Eagle's footpad, he uttered his famous line, "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” Aldrin joined him, describing the view as "magnificent desolation."

Armstrong claimed to have said "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" when he first set foot on the lunar surface. The "a" is not clear in NASA recordings, but the audio and video links back to Earth were somewhat intermittent, partly because of storms near Parkes Observatory.. More recent digital analysis of the tape by NASA revealed the "a" may have been spoken but obscured by static.

The story that he also later said “Good luck Mr Gorsky” is untrue. (However, when the space shuttle Columbia crew completed a repair mission on the Hubble Space Telescope in March 2002, chief repairman John Grunsfeld called out, in homage to the Mr Gorsky legend, "Good luck, Mr. Hubble" as the telescope drifted off.)

For a different version of first words on landing, or what could have been, click on:

* * * * * * * *
NASA had debated the planting of an American flag in that the moon does not belong to anyone. The decision was made to fly a specially designed U.S. flag with wires to hold it unfurled, there being no wind on the moon. The flag was knocked over in the downdraft on leaving.

* * * * * * * *
President Richard Nixon spoke to the astronauts in what Nixon called "the most historic phone call ever made from the White House.” He originally had a long speech prepared to read during the phone call, but Frank Borman, the White House NASA liaison during Apollo 11, convinced Nixon to keep his words brief, to respect the lunar landing as Kennedy's legacy.

In 1961 Kennedy had declared "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

* * * * * * * *
The television audience for the event was an estimated 500-600 million, which held the record for 12 years.

The most watched events in TV history:
Olympics opening Ceremony: 2 billion, 2008 
Rescue of Chilean Miners:1 billion, 2010 
FIFA World Cup Final: 715 million, 2006 
First Human Walk on surface of the Moon: 530 million, 1969 
Aloha from Hawaii. 400 – 500 million. 1973 
Cricket World Cup Semi Final: 400 million, 2011 
Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton: 350-400 million, 2011 
John F.Kennedy Funeral: 180 million, 1963 
Spring Festival Gala: 135 million, 2007 

* * * * * * * *
Despite millions of dollars of technology invested in the programme, a good old Biro ball-point pen came to the crew’s rescue. Upon return to the lunar module to return Aldrin broke the ignition switch. Without this they couldn’t activate the ascent engines and could have been stuck on the moon. But, industrious Buzz had the ingenious idea to jam a pen into the switch and miraculously it worked.

* * * * * * * *
In addition to technical and seismic equipment, plus items jettisoned, the astronauts left behind them on the moon:

· an Apollo 1 mission patch;

· a memorial bag containing a gold replica of an olive branch as a traditional symbol of peace;

· a silicon message disk carrying goodwill statements by Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon as well as messages from leaders of 73 countries around the world. The disc also carries a listing of the leadership of the US Congress, a listing of members of the four committees of the House and Senate responsible for the NASA legislation, and the names of NASA's past and present top management.

· Soviet medals commemorating Cosmonauts Vladimir Komarov and Yuri Gagarin.

* * * * * * * *
After the astronauts returned to Earth, they were quarantined for 21 days. This practice continued for two more Apollo missions, Apollo 12 and Apollo 14, before the Moon was proven to be barren of life and the quarantine process dropped.

* * * * * * * *
In total, 12 men have walked on the moon.

When Alan Sheppard was on the moon, he hit a golf ball and drove it 2,400 feet, nearly one half a mile.

* * * * * * * *
Apollo 11 astronauts (left to right) Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin

"It was carried out in a technically brilliant way with risks taken ... that would be inconceivable in the risk-averse world of today.
The Apollo programme is arguably the greatest technical achievement of mankind to date. And it was carried out successfully, against the backdrop of a difficult political situation in the USA, caused in large part by the worsening of the human and financial cost of the Vietnam war.
Even Apollo 13 proved to be a brilliant recovery from near disaster. 
Humans in space, even if at best moderately useful for space research, still have the power to excite the public and the media. But nothing since Apollo has come close the excitement that was generated by those astronauts - Armstrong, Aldrin and the 10 others who followed them, hopping around on the Moon or driving their buggy over that rocky terrain. 
I still get a buzz when I look at the Moon and think that humans visited it and came back safely." 
- spacecraft expert Professor Andre Balogh, from Imperial College London, 17 July 2009