It was the ’40s. Jimmy Stewart, Katharine Hepburn, Irene Dunne, Humphrey Bogart, Jean Arthur, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Ingrid Bergman, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Alfred Hitchcock, and Cary Grant. There was laughing, singing and dancing. I say to you, I had a blast! It was one swell party.

*Me talking to myself: Wake up kid, it was only a dream.*

Sigh …. they don’t make gals like this any more. Or do they?


Actor Hedy Lamarr was one of many unlikely celebrity inventors.

LET’S take a moment to reflect on the mercurial brilliance of Hedy Lamarr. Not only did the Vienna-born actor flee a loveless marriage to a Nazi arms dealer to secure a seven-year, $3000-a-week contract with MGM, and become (probably) the first Hollywood star to simulate a female orgasm on screen - she also took time out to invent a device that would eventually revolutionise mobile communications.

Described in detail by US journalist and historian Richard Rhodes in his new book, Hedy’s Folly, Lamarr and her business partner, composer George Antheil, were awarded a patent in 1942 for a “secret communication system”. It was meant for radio-guided torpedoes, and they gave it to the US Navy. It languished in their files for decades before eventually becoming a constituent part of GPS, wi-fi and Bluetooth technology.

Lamarr’s inventing talents did not stop there: she also came up with “bouillon” cubes to turn water into a cola-like drink, and a “skin-tautening technique based on the principles of the accordion”.

Lamarr is not the only unlikely celebrity to have moonlighted as an inventor. In 1841, Abraham Lincoln preceded his US presidency with the invention of a flotation system for lifting riverboats stuck on sandbars; 30 years later, the writer Mark Twain patented (under his real name, Samuel L. Clemens) an adjustable strap for “vests, pantaloons and other garments requiring straps”. And in 1914, the early Hollywood star Florence Lawrence invented an “auto-signalling arm” for cars - a precursor of today’s indicators.

Closer to our own times, Barbara Cartland made her name not only as a romantic novelist but as a developer of aviation technology: in 1984, she was given the Bishop Wright Air Industry Award for pioneering a long-distance towing method for gliders. And Marlon Brando invented a device for tensioning drumheads, which he patented in 2002.

Watch on

In honor of Chancellor Merkel’s visit to the White House, here is the full “Germans” episode of Fawlty Towers. Also, Google Video has all FT episodes up. 

“I learn English from a book.”

(Day = wasted)


My mother reminded me of this Eurovision gloriousness.


Who says you never learned anything important from watching TV? #animaniacs #nostalgia

Another one of the greats is no longer "in the house"

In this case, it’s one of my own personal greats.
I have made a passing reference to my Uncle Bob who was the last of my parents generation. He passed away on Valentines evening.
This is the guy who, a couple of years ago at age 91, was showing me around his yard and out behind his garage, where I saw 30 feet of gutter lying on the ground. When I asked if he had the Rasta kid from across the street doing repairs, his reply was, “No. I’m doing them myselfdon'ttellBethie” (Bethie being my 66 year old cousin and his daughter). 91, and he still had two ladders set up, and was working 12 feet off the ground. That’s why he is still the man I want to be when I grow up.


When I was a kid my sister had the Operation board game and I have memories of the pair of us trying, and often failing, to retrieve little bits of plastic from small metal lined holes.

However, when I picked up a current copy of this game for my daughter I was really disappointed to find that it is no longer the game I remember.  Not only have they completely redesigned the board and changed all but two of the pieces that I remember but they’re also stripped out about half of the actual game.

Pieces such as the spare ribs, wishbone and broken heart are gone and are replaced by frog in the throat, a toilet and a smiley face.

Given that the game is supposed to be mimicking an operation some pieces are totally nonsensical like the fart, snot and mobile phone (from the hand - what’s the problem supposed to be? super-glued to the hard?).



The thing I’m finding weirdest is that the instructions these days just say to take turns to remove a piece and whoever has the most pieces wins.

Back in the day you had to choose a card which told you the piece you had to try to remove (so you couldn’t just strip out all the easy ones early on) and if you successfully removed it you got paid the amount stated on the card for your work.  Also the elastic band had to be inserted, not removed which was way harder.

I get that you might want a quicker, easier version of the game to play, as a variant option in the rules, but half the challenge of the game I remember was having to try for the hard parts as well as the easy ones and I don’t see that that challenge is still represented. 

I get that this is a kids game but why has it been dumbed down?