Saturday, March 25, 2017

Blondes vs. Brunettes: Stereotype or Reality?

For decades it's been a matter of speculation…possibly even for centuries: blondes have more fun but brunettes are smarter.

Is there any truth to that stereotype? The one that claims blondes are dumb as far as intellect is concerned but have that innate ability to manipulate men with their sex appeal? The one that claims brunettes are by far the more intelligent and capable but lose out in the sex symbol department?

Even Hollywood has played into the hands of the stereotype, by making changes in the image they present to the movie going public. In the days of the silent movie, blonde Mary Pickford was the sweet and virginal heroine while brunette Theda Bara was the bad girl sex symbol whose screen persona was the vamp who stole boyfriends and wrecked marriages.

Then in the 1930s the show biz image changed. The blonde became the home wrecking hussy, the gold digging sex symbol while the brunette was either the dutiful wife, the hometown girl next door girlfriend, or the uncommon situation of the intelligent woman who stepped out of the housewife mold and pursued a career in the business world as a single woman.

Most of the big screen sex symbols were blondes, a few natural and most from the beauty salon. There were a few brunette sex symbols and the occasional redhead such as Rita Hayworth. Probably the most famous of all time is the iconic Marilyn Monroe whose name became synonymous with sex symbol. Marilyn co-starred with a brunette sex symbol of the time, Jane Russell, in the ultimate blonde vs. brunette movie—the 1953 release of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

But do gentlemen really prefer blondes? Results from a study conducted by the University of Westminster in the U.K. and the Scandanavian Journal of Psychology show something quite different. Their study shows that men actually prefer brunettes. The study was conducted with a woman going to three different nightclubs as a brunette, a blonde, and a redhead to see how many men approached her. She was approached most as a blonde, second as a brunette and least as a redhead. That would seem to prove the gentlemen preferring blondes theory.

However, follow-up with the men in the same three nightclubs showed that the men found her most appealing overall as a brunette. They said she came across most attractive, intelligent, approachable and dependable as a brunette, more temperamental as a redhead, and needy as a blonde. Previous studies had upheld the stereotype by showing that men prefer blondes.

Interestingly, women of all hair colors prefer men with dark hair…another stereotype of heroic tall, dark, and handsome. And apparently that choice applies to female lions as well. Male lions with dark manes are more likely to be pride leaders.

In a different study in 2011 in the U.K., 2000 men were surveyed and blondes were selected as the preference. Then when the same study was conducted in France, U.S., Spain, Italy, and Brazil, the preferred hair color was dark. Psychologists say that women who are not natural blondes usually go blonde because thy want to stand out. Since only about 10% of the population are natural blondes, this tactic works.

Hmmm…I guess those psychologists forgot about the mature women who go blonde because it softens their facial features, i.e. makes the wrinkles not as noticeable while not being that mature gray color.

However, old stereotypes die hard. With the current state of the economy, society has observed more blonde women dying their hair dark in order to be perceived as more professional in the work place and thus less likely to be laid off.

Interesting Fact:  Natural blondes have significantly more hair than brunettes. Evolutionary science tells us that hair evolved in part to protect our scalp from the sun's rays. With less pigmentation than brunettes, blondes developed more hair to achieve that protective barrier.

Saturday, March 18, 2017


It's not unusual to see all sorts of things washed up on beaches around the world. There are the natural things such as seaweed/kelp and sea shells, including all things native to the oceans such as dead sea animals of various sorts ranging from small creatures to the occasional large whale.

But things washed up on the beaches also includes strange and surprising items that are not normally associated with beaches. Most of this marine debris is trash such as plastic bags, bottles and cans are from land-based sources. Some of it, however, is due to weather events like hurricanes and tsunamis. While other sources include vessels in storm-tossed seas. We have seen several very large and strange things washed up on the shores of western U.S. and Canada that arrived from Japan courtesy of the 2011 tsunami.

Here is a list I came across of unusual beach findings that didn't belong there.

In January 2012, huge shipping containers from a distressed cargo vessel washed up on one of New Zealand's most popular beaches. Up to 300 containers were reportedly tossed overboard when 6 meter (approximately 19.5 feet) waves struck the ship. People were warned against looting, but both locals and tourists flocked to the beaches to take photos of the giant containers.

A recurring washed-up-on-the-beach sensation appeared at Zandvoort, Netherlands in 2007, and Brighton Beach in England in 2008, and at Siesta Key Beach in Florida in 2011. And what was this surprise visitor to these shores? It was a giant (8 feet tall) Lego man that weighed about 100 pounds and featured a bright green torso showing the message "No Real Than You Are." The number 8 appeared on its back along with the words "Ego Leonard." The mystery was finally resolved when it was revealed that "Ego Leonard" was the alter ego of a Dutch artist. The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office in Florida joined in the fun and issued a press release saying it had taken the giant Lego man "into protective custody." In response, numerous "Free Lego Man" Facebook pages and campaigns popped up on the Internet.

In September 2005, hundreds of giant squid washed up in Newport Beach. California. The creatures, believed to be Humboldt squid, normally reside in deep water. It was rare for locals to encounter them on land or sea. Authorities said the squid might have been pursuing bait fish and gotten too close to shore. Other factors, such as warm ocean temperatures or record rainfall, were also suspected.

In May 2012, dozens of fly swatters emblazoned with logos of collegiate and professional sports teams washed up on the beaches of Kodiak, Alaska. The fly swatters were originally believed to be debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami, but were eventually proven to have come from a shipping container that got loose from a ship carrying products from China. The container went overboard in dangerous weather in the Gulf of Alaska. Other sports-related items, such as Nerf balls and water bottles were also found on Kodiak's beaches.

In August 2010, hundreds of tea packets washed ashore in Rajbandar in the Raigad district, Maharashtra, India. Nine containers from the cargo ship MSC Chitra spilled into the sea after the cargo ship suffered a collision with another ship.

In 2007, residents of the Dutch North Sea island of Terschelling, 70 miles north of Amsterdam, discovered thousands of bananas washed ashore after at least six containers of the fruit fell off a cargo ship in a storm and at least one of the containers broke open. Bunches of the still green bananas from Cuba also washed up on neighboring Amerland Island. It's not known exactly what happened to the beached bananas, but at the time residents suggested sending most of the fruit to local zoos.

In February 2006, also on the Netherlands' Terschelling Island, thousand of sneakers washed up on the beach when containers from the P&O Nedlloyd ship Mondriaan fell overboard in a storm. Residents of the island rushed to get the sneakers, searching for shoes in their size. Other items that washed up on the beach from those containers included children's toys and briefcases.

Perhaps one of the most famous container spills in history occurred in January 1992 when 28,000 rubber duck toys fell into the sea.  The incident inspired a book titled Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them by Donovan Hohn. The great rubber ducky spill occurred when a shipping crate on a cargo ship headed to the U.S. from China fell overboard onto the Pacific Ocean during a stormy night. Some of the rubber ducks (nicknamed Friendly Floatees) have since washed up on the shores of Alaska, Hawaii, South America, Australia and the Pacific Northwest. Some have traveled 17,000 miles, floating over the site where the Titanic sank or spending years frozen in an Arctic ice pack. Some 2,000 of the rubber ducks are still circulating in the ocean and helping researchers chart ocean currents.

On January 26, 2011, a grand piano was found on a sandbar in Miami's Biscayne Bay (pictured above), mysteriously charred from being burned. Speculation about its origins included the idea that it was part of a music video production. It was later discovered that the piano was a junk art installation, the brainchild of a 16-year-old hoping to use the piece for a college application.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Who Almost Played The Role?

As we all know, casting for the lead role in a movie can be a lengthy process with many qualified candidates to sift through before making that final decision.  And also obvious, the choice of actor in a role can sometimes end up making the difference between a box office success and a mediocre film.

Through the decades there have been many starring roles that were almost cast with a different lead, possibly changing the audience response to the character and the movie.  In retrospect, trying to visualize someone else in the role sometimes leaves us scratching our heads and wondering what in the world they were thinking of with their first choice.

Here's a sample list of films and the stars that almost didn't get the role, some of the second choices earning an Oscar for their performances.

Pirates Of The Caribbean:  the role of Capt. Jack Sparrow in that first movie was originally intended for Jim Carrey, but when a scheduling conflict forced him to bow out the role went to Johnny Depp who put his own indelible stamp on the character in a series of Pirates Of The Caribbean films.

Drive:  Hugh Jackman was originally signed for the role that ended up being Ryan Gosling's.

Lord Of The Rings:  When Sean Connery turned down the role of Gandalf, it went to Sir Ian McKellen.

American Psycho:  It was originally Leonardo DiCaprio who was eventually replaced by Christian Bale.

Men In Black:  Chris O'Donnell was originally cast but due to the director's insistence Will Smith replaced him.

Basic Instinct:  Kelly McGillis was considered before the role went to Sharon Stone.

Dirty Dancing:  Val Kilmer was considered but the role eventually went to Patrick Swayze.

The Shining:  The iconic Jack Nicholson role ("Here's Johnny!") almost went to Robin Williams.

Pretty Woman:  Molly Ringwald turned down the role that was a career maker for Julia Roberts.

Silence Of The Lambs:  Michelle Pfeiffer almost had the role that won Jodie Foster one of her Oscars.

Indiana Jones:  George Lucas was pushing for Tom Selleck but Steven Spielberg held out for Harrison Ford.

The Matrix:  Ewan McGregor was cast first, but turned down the role in favor of Star Wars Episode 1.

Gladiator:  Mel Gibson turned down the role that won an Oscar for Russell Crowe.

Titanic:  Matthew McConaughey was first choice, but the role ultimately went to Leonardo DiCaprio.

Forrest Gump:  John Travolta turned down the role that earned Tom Hanks one of his Oscars.

Chicago:  John Travolta also turned down the role of Billy Flynn with the role going to Richard Gere.

Iron Man:  Tom Cruise turned down the role due to script issues. It was then offered to Robert Downey, Jr., along with Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3.

And now let's go back several decades to some movies from the 1940ish time frame.

The Wizard Of Oz:  MGM wanted to borrow Shirley Temple from 20th Century Fox to play the role of Dorothy.  When that negotiation didn't work out, the role went to Judy Garland.

Robin Hood:  Jack L. Warner wanted James Cagney cast in the title role that went to Errol Flynn who seemed born to play the part.

Gone With The Wind:  Every leading actress in Hollywood was tested for the coveted role of Scarlet O'Hara and all were rejected.  The movie had actually started filming before a British actress named Vivien Leigh (married to Laurence Olivier at the time) was finally cast as Scarlet.

The Maltese Falcon:  George Raft turned down the role of Sam Spade because he felt it was 'not an important film' so to the delight of director John Huston, the role went to Humphrey Bogart.

Casablanca:  Ronald Reagan was first considered for the Humphrey Bogart role in one of the all time classic films. Another win situation and great film for Bogart.