REO Speedwagon is named after a flatbed truck

Ransom Eli Olds built a three-wheeled carriage in 1887 and a petrol (gasoline) car in 1896. In 1899, he founded the Olds Motor Works, producing the first Oldsmobile in 1901. Although he didn’t invent the motorcar, he still is known as the “Father of the Automobile.” His heavy-duty flatbed truck was considered a milestone in transportation history. It was from this truck that the American rock band REO Speedwagon chose their name. REO is for the name of Ransom Eli Olds.

REO Speedwagon formed in 1967, debuted their self-titled album in 1971. They reached the charts in 1971 with Ridin’ the Storm Out. Their 1977 live album You Get What You Play For went platinum. Hi-Infidelity, released 1980, sold 7 million copies, reaching No 1 on the Billboard charts. Keep the Fire Burning, the single off their 1982 album Good Trouble, reached the Top 10. Their 2007 album release is also the title for their online video game Find Your Own Way Home, released in 2009. Their latest CD is called Not So Silent Night. And they are still touring.

Wigs that are 3 feet high

In 1500 BC in Egypt women shaved their head as the ultimate display in beauty. Remaining hair was removed with special gold tweezers and then their scalps were buffed to a high sheen with soft cloths. Over the next 100 years the rich Egyptian women placed cones of scented grease on their heads, allowing the grease to melt and drip down over their bodies, bathing bodies and clothes in fragrance.

The exact opposite would be in practice by the 18th century in England when women’s wigs were sometimes 3 ft (1 metre) high. The wigs were dusted with flour and decorated with stuffed birds, fruit, replicas of gardens, or even model ships. Women would wear the wigs continuously for several months. They were matted with lard to keep them from coming apart, which made mice and insects a constant problem, leading to the spreading of skin lice in the upper classes. When a hair-powder tax was introduced in 1795, the wig craze disappeared abruptly. Read more…

The sexiest languages

French may be known as the sexiest language but it actually is just one of five Romance languages. Italian, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish also are called Romance languages. They derived from Latin dialects spoken in the Roman Empire.

Modern Italian emerged in the 13th century. Spanish first appeared during the 10th century and was standardized in the 16th century after the Moors had been driven out of Spain.

The first French document, the Strasbourg Oaths, is dated to 842. French became the official language of France in 1539.

Difference between a flag and a banner

What is the difference between a flag and a banner? A flag has metal rings on the fly end, the side that goes against the flagpole. It flies horizontally off a vertical flagpole. A banner has a sleeve instead of rings and usually hangs off a small wooded pole attached to a house or office building.

Flag factoids:

The ball on top of a flagpole is called the truck.

When a flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground.

A flag or banner should never be used as drapery over a table or for any decoration.

What happens when a flag is worn? It is destroyed by burning in a dignified flag burning ceremony, often on national Flag Day, which in the USA is on June 14th.

National Flags

The Original Stars and Stripes

Valentine’s Day – festival of love


Valentine’s Day originates from the ancient Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia, which was celebrated on 15 February in honor of the gods Lupercus and Faunus, as well as the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. During the festival, young men would draw the names of women from a box, and each couple would be paired until next year’s celebration. Often they would fall in love and marry.

At around 270AD Rome was facing battles and civil uprising. The men were not keen to join the army. Emperor Claudius II believed that the men did not want to leave their loved ones and summarily canceled all marriages and engagements. Two priests, Valentine and Marius, disobeyed the decree and secretly performed marriage ceremonies. Read more…

Lost nuclear bombs

The very first bomb that the Allies dropped on Berlin in World War II killed the only elephant in the Berlin Zoo, it is said. The NATO attack on Serbia in 1999 (the Kosovo war) killed more animals than people. “Smart” weapons, such the Tomahawk missile is supposed to hit a postage stamp at 300km or more (200 miles or more). But only two out of thirteen actually hit the target. One skimmed over the house of a small farmer a few miles off target, straight up a track, through bushes, and exploded in the farmer’s field, killing seven sheep, one cow and a goat. The farmer kept the missile nosecone as a souvenir.  Read more…

More movies made in Bollywood than Hollywood

Each year, more movies are produced in India, where the moving image industry is referred to as Bollywood, than in Hollywood. About 1000 movies are released annually in India, about twice the output of Hollywood. The “B” in Bollywood refers to Bombai (renamed Mumbai).

Bollywood movies often are quite long; 3 hours or more of dancing and singing around love as the main plot – although kissing is almost never shown on screen. Everyday, some 14 million Indian people queu for a movie, with more than 4 billion movie tickets sold annually, compared to 3 billion for Hollywood movies worldwide.

Indian comic actress Manorama has played the most leading roles of any performer in movie history. She began her career in 1958 and in 1985 had appeared in her 1,000th movie.

Before Bollywood

The first movie screened publicly was “La Sortie des Ouvriers de l’Usine Lumire” which was presented by Auguste and Louis Lumiere in Paris in 1895. The first movie to use sound was “The Jazz Singer,” released in 1927: the first words, spoken by Al Jolson, were: “Wait a minute, you ain’t heard nothing yet.”

The big movies

According to the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), in 1996 the average Hollywood film cost $35.3 million to make and another $17.7 million to market. Disney’s “The Lion King” cost $45 million to make and employed a total of 800 animators. Bollywood flicks are produced at average $2m.

The most expensive film ever made as at year 2000, was James Cameron’s “Titanic.” It cost $200 million, but also was the most successful, in the sense that it won 11 Academy Awards, equaling “Ben Hur” of 1959.

The top five moneymaking films of all time, as by 2010, are: Avatar (2009) [$1.850 billion], Titanic (1997) [$1.835 billion], The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) [$1.129 billion], Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) [$1.060 billion], and The Dark Knight (2008) [$1 billion]. They are followed by Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) [$972m]. When adjusted for inflation, Gone With The Wind remains one of the highest grossing [$1.4 billion and growing], followed by Star Wars and Sound of Music, according to boxofficemojo.

Note that they all are family-type movies. In fact, movies with strong sexual or violence content usually bomb at the box office. According to the American Family Association, the average cost to produce a movie in 1996 was $40 million. Sex films grossed on average only $700 000. Movies with strong Christian or family content on average grossed over $37 million. The figures have since changed, but not the facts.

Director James Cameron is responsible for directing the two most expensive movies: Avatar (£234 million production plus $150 million promotional budget) and Titanic ($200 million production plus $20 million promotional budget).

“Frankly my dear…”

Gone With The Wind has been the best-attended film since its release in 1939. Without a doubt the most famous line in the movie is when Rhett Butler tells Scarlet O’Hara, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” According to Cuss Control, a book by James O’Connor, director David Selznick was fined heavy for that curse word: $5,000. A lot of money in those days. The movie is based on the book by Margaret Mitchell. It was the only book she wrote.

The biggest movie promotion deal is the $2 billion agreement between George Lucas – the director of the “Star Wars” trilogy – and Pepsi for exclusive worldwide use of the film’s characters.

50% of Hollywood movies never achieve a cinema release. Those that do, make 5 times more from DVD sales than cinema takings.

The longest movie ever

The longest movie in the world according to Guinness World Records is The Cure for Insomnia, directed by John Henry Timmis IV. Released in 1987, the running time is 5220 minutes (87 hours) and has no plot. Instead, it consists of poet L. D. Groban reciting his 4,080-page poem “A Cure for Insomnia” over the course of three and a half days. The movie is inter-spliced with clips from porno and heavy metal music videos.

The first Oscars

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was established in May 1927 as a non-profit corporation to promote the art of movie making. In the first year, the Academy had 36 members, with Douglas Fairbanks Sr as president. The first Academy Awards, now better known as the Oscars, were presented at a private dinner in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, with less than 250 persons attending. Today, the Academy has over 6 000 honorary members – the Oscar Awards are viewed by more than a billion people on television.

The first television broadcast of the Oscars took place in 1953 – on black and white TV, telecasted throughout the US and Canada. Telecasting in color begun in 1966, and since 1969, the Oscars have been telecast throughout the world. By the mid-1990s it was telecast in over 100 countries.

Emil Jannings - photo (c)
Emil Jannings

Janet Gaynor - photo (c)
Janet Gaynor

Photos with kind permission of – the premier web destination for Silent Movie facts.

The first Oscars

At the first Academy Awards, held in May 1929, Best Director awards went to Lewis Milestone for Two Arabian Knights and Frank Borzage for 7th Heaven. The first award for Actor in a Leading Role went to Emil Jannings (real name Theodor Friedrich Emil Janenz) for his roles in The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh. The first Best Actress award was won Janet Gaynor for her roles in 7th Heaven, Street Angel and Sunrise. The first Best Picture award went to WINGS. All those films were screened in 1927. Those were the days of the silent movies, thus WINGS was the only silent to have won a Best Picture Oscar. It also featured Gary Cooper in a minor role. Swiss-born Jannings grew up in Germany and had a heavy German accent which, with the advent of sound in movies, basically put an end to his Hollywood movie career.

The most popular night in the world

The Academy Award ceremony basically was a non-public affair in 1927 and 1928. But it had created such public interest that the Oscar Presentation Night was introduced in 1929. Until 1954 the Oscars were presented mostly on a Thursday. From 1955 to 1958, they were presented on a Wednesday. From 1959 until 1998 the Oscars were, with a few exceptions, presented on a Monday night. Only since 1999 did the Awards ceremony take place on a Sunday (in March). In total up to 2005, the famous statuettes have been handed out on 32 Monday nights, 21 Thursday nights, 8 Wednesdays, 6 Tuesdays, 2 Fridays, once on a Saturday (1948), and four times on a Sunday.

In 1930, the Academy Awards were held twice: on 3 April and on 5 November. No ceremony was held in 1933. Since 1940 people have been kept on the edge of their seats with the familiar phrase “The envelope please.”

The Envelope Please

The record for most acting nominations without a single win is shared by Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton with seven. The most nominated actors for Best Actor and Best Supporting Roles are Jack Nicholson (11), Laurence Olivier (10), and Spencer Tracy (9). No male performer has yet won three Best Actor awards.

Only one actress has won the Best Actress award four times: Katharine Hepburn is the only actress to have won the Best Actress award four times, for Morning Glory (1932/3), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (1967), The Lion in Winter (1968), and On Golden Pond (1981). In 1968 Katherine Hepburn was tied with and Barbra Streisand for the Best Actress award.

Anthony Quinn’s performance as painter Paul Gaugin in Lust for Life (1956) is the shortest ever to win a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. He was on screen for only 8 minutes. Judi Dench made the an equally short performance, winning Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Elizabeth I in “Shakespeare in Love” (1999). More Oscar fast facts

In 1997 James Cameron’s Titanic received 11 Oscars, sharing the record of the most Oscars awards for a single film with William Wyler’s Ben Hur (1959). The closest runner-up is West Side Story with 10 Oscars in 1961.

Family matters

The Hustons are the only family to produce three generations of Oscar winners: Walter Huston was named Best Supporting Actor in 1948 for his role in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre; John Huston was awarded Best Director/Adapted Screenplay for the same movie, and Anjelica Huston received an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in Prizzi’s Honor, 1985.

Only two married couples won Oscars for acting roles: Laurence Olivier (Hamlet, 1948) and Vivian Leigh (A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951); and Joanne Woodward (The Three Faces of Eve, 1957) and Paul Newman (The Color of Money, 1986). The only sisters to have won Oscars are Joan Fontaine (Suspicion, 1941) and Olivia de Havilland (To Each His Own, 1946, and The Heiress, 1949).

No thank you!

In 1970 George C. Scott refused the Oscar for his award-winning performance in Patton. In 1972 Marlon Brando refused the Oscars for his award-winning role in The Godfather. They weren’t the first, though. In 1935 a writer named Dudley Nichols refused to accept the Oscar for his movie The Informer because the Writers Guild was on strike against the movie studios at the time.

Double the honor

Eight actors have won an Oscar twice:

Fredric March for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931/2) and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946);

Spencer Tracy for Captain Courageous (1937) and Boys Town (1938);

Gary Cooper for Sergeant York (1941) and High Noon (1952);

Marlon Brando for On The Waterfront (1954) and The Godfather (1972);

Jack Nicholson for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and As Good As It Gets (1997);

Dustin Hoffman for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Rain Man (1988);

Tom Hanks for Philadelphia (1993) and Forrest Gump (1994);

Daniel Day-Lewis for My Left Foot (1990) and There Will Be Blood (2008).

Many actresses have won the Best Actress Oscar twice:

Luise Rainer for The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and The Good Earth (1937);

Bette Davis for Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938);

Vivien Leigh for Gone With The Wind (1939) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951);

Olivia de Havilland for To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949);

Elizabeth Taylor for Butterfield 8 (1960) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966);

Glenda Jackson for Women in Love (1970) and A Touch of Class (1973);

Jane Fonda for Klute (1971) and Coming Home (1978);

Sally Field for Norma Rae (1979) and Places in the Heart (1984);

Meryl Streep for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Sophie’s Choice (1982);

Jodie Foster for The Accused (1988) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).

Also see the list of Oscar winners

Book: Inside OscarUSA | UK
“The fullest and funniest chronicle ever accorded the Golden Guy” – Harry Haun, NY Daily News

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Artificial Intelligence

In 1637 Rene Descartes, the French mathematician and philosopher, predicted that it would never be possible to make a machine that thinks as humans do. That was a rather astonishing observation considering that the concept of the analytical machine was devised by Charles Babbage only two hundred years later. Babbage never completed his analytical engine but his theories laid the early foundation for artificial intelligence.

The father of Artificial Intelligence is British mathematician Alan Mathison Turing. In 1950 he declared that in the future there would be a machine that would duplicate human intelligence. He devised a specialised test, known as the “Turing test”, to be used to prove artificial intelligence. In the test, a human and a computer hidden from view would be asked random identical questions. If the computer was successful, the questioner would be unable to distinguish the machine from the human.

In 1947 Turing argued that the brain could itself be regarded as a computer. Working on his Automatic Computer Engine, he declared that he was more interested in producing models of the action of the brain than in the practical applications of computers.

AI laboratories

The first conference on artificial intelligence was held at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire in 1956. It led to the establishment of the AI laboratories at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) by Marvin Minsky and John McCarthy (who invented the AI computer language called Lisp) and Stanford University by Edward Feigenbaum and Joshua Lederberg. Herbert Simon and Allen Newell of the Rand Corporation ran tests that showed the one and zeros in computer language could be used not only to represent numbers but also symbols. Between 1958 and 1960 psychologist Frank Rosenblatt of Cornell University modelled the Perceptron computer after the human brain. He “trained” it to recognize the alphabet. The chase was on to develop “neuron networks” of computer processors.

The human brain consists of more than 100 billion nerve cells (neurons) through which the brain’s commands are sent in the form of electric pulses. It can process many operations at the same time (such as thinking, talking and walking at the same time). This is called parallel processing. Computers follow sets of logic steps, procedures called algorithms. Fast computers perform roughly 10 billion calculations per second. Supercomputers use multiple processors to follow several algorithms simultaneously.

Back to the power of reasoning

When IBMs Deep Blue defeated world chess champion Gary Kasparov in 1997 it was a boost for AI developers. Today, a host of “smart devices” can recognize postal codes, patterns, symbols, handwriting, voices, etc. But no computer has yet mastered “plain, common sense.” Computers, it seems, can talk to each other but not to humans.

If the computer is to think like humans then its brains should be developed to be like that of a human. So, instead of using digital processors, scientists have developed silicon chips that work in analogue mode, the way a human brain cell works. A computer at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois used this mode of operation to process highly abstract problems, crudely approximating human reasoning.

The androids

The idea of personal assistant robots are not too far off, perhaps. But how will these human-like robots, called androids, behave and how will they be governed? Won’t they “take over the world?” If the robot laws of Isaac Asimov is followed, we’ll be safe.
1. Asimov’s first law is that robots may not harm humans either through action or inaction.
2. They must obey humans except when the commands conflict with the first law.
3. Androids must protect themselves except, again, when this comes into conflict with the first law.

Which one is the computer? Computers talk to each other easily but not to us. Is there something we should know about artificial intelligence?

Open a birthday card, listen to Happy Birthday – and throw the card in the bin. You’ve just thrown away more computer power that existed in the whole world before 1950. Computer power is being developed at a staggering speed.

Charles Babbage
Charles Babbage (1792-1871) is the father of the computer. He did not complete his analytical computer because he couldn’t raise finance for it.

Alan Turing (1912 – 1954) was born and studied in London but earned his doctorate from Princeton University in the US in 1938. During WW II he deciphered the German Enigma codes. It played an important role in the victory of the Allies. He committed suicide by ingesting cyanide.

It takes the human brain approximately one-half second to process and act on an input. Even average computers need less than half that time. But computers cannot process the extremely complex processes of thought creation and emotions… yet.

Well-known science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov also wrote mysteries, studies of the Bible, interpretations of Shakespeare and informative articles on chemistry, astronomy, biology and mathematics. He also laid down rules for the future androids.

The word “robot” comes from the Czech robota, which means labor. Playwright Karel Capek introduced the word robot in his 1920 play R.U.R. – Rossum’s Universal Robots.

In 270BC ancient Greek engineer Ctesibus made organs and water clocks with movable figures, effectively producing the world’s first robot.

Computer History

Jame Bond 007

He is handsome, tall, drives a fast car, has an unlimited expense account, and always gets the girl. That’s just the actor. The character he portrays also has a license to kill.

James Bond debuted in Ian Fleming’s novel Casino Royale in 1953. The novel was adapted for television in 1954, featuring Barry Nelson as 007. The first Bond movie, Dr No, was released in 1962, starring Sean Connery. David Niven took the lead in a spoof version of Casino Royale in 1967; it is not recognized as part of the Bond franchise. Since Dr No, the equivalent of half the world’s population have seen at least one Bond movie.

Daniel Craig

Daniel Craig

Pierce Brosnan

Pierce Brosnan

Timothy Dalton

Timothy Dalton

Roger Moore

Roger Moore

George Lazenby

George Lazenby

Sean Connery

Sean Connery

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming

Sean Connery starred in seven Bond movies (including the “unofficial” Never Say Never Again in 1983), George Lazenby in one, Roger Moore in seven, and Timothy Dalton in two. Pierce Brosnan was issued his fourth licence to thrill in the 21th Bond movie, Die Another Day. Daniel Craig had his martini shaken, not stirred, in the 22nd Bond movie, a remake of Casino Royale. He kissed the girls in the 23rd (officially 22nd) Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, released in 2008. All the 007 actors are over 1,8 metres (6 feet) tall.

In the first 22 movies, Bond has 23 vodka martinis, 6 of which he orders himself but two of those he never receives. The rest are prepared and brought to him. Most surprisingly, in his 7 appearances as Bond, Sean Connery utters the phrase “shaken, not stirred” only once, in Goldfinger. In Fleming’s novels, Bond drinks gin martinis instead of vodka martinis.


The 007 sign

The Bond character was said to have been based on Dr John Dee, the very first British secret agent. Dee, who lived from 1527 to 1608, was an advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. He was a brilliant mathematician, magician, philosopher, alchemist and astrologer. During his time, England was at war with Spain, and fearing spies, Dee designed the 007 code for his correspondence with the Queen. The 2 zeros indicated “for your eyes only,” and the 7 was a cabalistic, or, cryptic number. Dr Dee was not the only secret agent of the time. Seeing Spain amassing a new vast empire in the “New World” (the Americas), Queen Elizabeth secretly sent the pirate-turned-explorer Englishman Francis Drake (1540-1596) west with the added intent to harass the Spanish. It is known that Dr Dee and Drake actually met to discuss strategies.

However, Fleming explained the creation of Bond: “I extracted the Bond plots from my wartime memories, dolled them up, attached a hero, a villain, and a heroine, and there was the book.”

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming (28 May 1908 – 12 Aug 1964) was attached to the British Naval Intelligence Division during World War II. After the war, Fleming purchased a patch of land in Jamaica and built a bungalow on it, calling it Goldeneye. It was here, in his forties, on 14 July 1952 that after three attempts the first words of the first Bond novel were created: “The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning.”

The Bond name was simply borrowed from the author of Birds of the West Indies. The character M was modeled on Admiral John Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence Division (NID), to whom in 1939 Fleming was made personal assistant.

In the novels, James Bond and Q actually never meet. Fleming wrote about Major Boothroyd and the Q branch but never mentioned a character called Q.

Author John Gardner took over the writing of Ian Fleming in 1981 with his first novel License Renewed. Sixteen years later he relinquished the 007 pen to Raymond Benson who debuted with Zero Minus Ten and ending with his last offering called The Man With The Red Tattoo in 2002. Three years on, Charlie Higson was awarded the challenge to depict the teenager Bond in a 1930s setting in a series of 5 Young Bond books, starting with Silverfin.

Places where James Bond made love

In the first 22 movies, Bond is told 35 times that he will die. He doesn’t, of course. What he does, however, is make love 81 times: in a hotel room (20 times), London flat (2), at her place (15), someone else’s place (2), on a train (3), in a barn (2), in a forest (2), in a gypsy tent (2), hospital (3), in a plane (2), in a submarine (1), in a car (1), on a motorized iceberg (1), in, around, under, or by water (25 times). Of the first 62 Bond girls, 31 were brunettes, 25 blonds, and 4 redheads. Women moaned “Oh, James!” 16 times.

From Thunderball:
Pat: “What exactly do you do?”
Bond: “Oh, I travel… a sort of licensed troubleshooter.”

James Bond 007

The 007 girls

The Minister of Martinis

Ian Fleming

Bond expert Steve Hadlow contributed to this story. Get the latest 007 news on his Bond site