Live and Let Die

James Bond never really explains why he likes his martinis “shaken, not stirred,” so in 1999 the University of Western Ontario’s biochemistry department decided to find out.

They discovered that a shaken gin martini has stronger antioxidant properties than a stirred one — which would help Bond avoid cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cataracts.

In their writeup for the British Medical Journal, they conclude, “007’s profound state of health may be due, at least in part, to compliant bartenders.”

See also Silly Old Bear.

The Agony of Defeat

Italian marathoner Dorando Pietri was exhausted and dehydrated as he neared the finish line in the 1908 Olympic Games, and when he entered the stadium he took a wrong turn and collapsed. The umpires helped him up, but he stumbled further and collapsed again. 75,000 agonized spectators watched him fall three more times before he found the finish line; of his total time of 2:54:46, he spent fully 10 minutes on the last 350 meters.

Unbelievably, they disqualified him. The American team complained that he’d received help from the umpires, and he was removed from the final standings. But Queen Alexandra gave him a silver cup, at the suggestion of Arthur Conan Doyle, and Irving Berlin wrote a song for him. He died in 1942 at age 56.

Flowers Would Have Done

Noël Coward was never one for simple congratulations. He sent this telegram to actress Gertrude Lawrence on her debut:


He sent another when she married Richard Aldrich:


Here’s Looking At …

In 1982, writer Chuck Ross transcribed the screenplay of Casablanca. He changed the title to Everybody Comes to Rick’s, and he changed the piano player’s name to Dooley Wilson. Then he submitted it to 217 Hollywood agencies.

Only 85 read it. Of those, 38 rejected it outright, 33 recognized it (but only eight specifically as Casablanca), and only three declared it commercially viable.

One suggested turning it into a novel.

See also The Steps Experiment.

A Dark and Stormy Night

If you hear the words “castle thunder,” you probably think of a particular sound effect. That’s not surprising — recorded originally for the 1931 version of Frankenstein, that sound been reused in numerous Disney and Hanna-Barbera cartoons, Scooby-Doo, Gilligan’s Island, and countless movies, including Citizen Kane, Cleopatra, The Hindenburg, Ghostbusters, Airplane!, Murder by Death, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Clue, Back to the Future, Big Trouble in Little China, Trading Places, Short Circuit, Star Wars, The Monster Squad, Death Becomes Her, and Young Frankenstein. You can even hear it in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion.

See Wilhelm Scream for another famous effect.

Curse of the Colonel

American baseball teams famously blame their losing streaks on curses — for instance, the Red Sox’ long drought after selling Babe Ruth.

But the most colorful such curse is not even American. During a victory celebration in 1985, fans of Japan’s Hanshin Tigers threw a statue of Colonel Sanders into a canal in Osaka. That act started an 18-year losing streak.

The Colonel apparently relented in 2003, when the Tigers finally won a tournament. To prevent a relapse, the local KFC bolted down its statue.