I don’t know how long ago it was, I’m guessing early 1980s, when I bought a book that seemed to be the first of its kind. It was called The Book Of Lists, and that is exactly what it was, a book of lists.

There was all sorts in it: the top 10 grossing movies, the 10 tallest buildings, the 10 longest books, whatever. Not like a world records book, just a book of random lists.

As you might expect, it spawned and spawns, many copies. The data gets out-of-date.

My favourite was a paperback called Reel Facts:

It included all the lists you might reasonably expect, award winners, highest grossing etc. I pored over it.

Remember, this was a time before the world wide web. Now, if you want to know the ten most Oscar winning movies, then a simple search will find it:


There was a time when ITV, specifically Thames and, to a lesser extent Granada, produced award winning televison documentaries.

One of my favourites, and I know I am not alone, was Hollywood, Kevin Brownlow and David Gill’s homage to the early years of cinema, the ‘silent’ era.

As they point out in episode one, films were never silent. There was music, sound effects and audience reaction.

The series set out to show clips from some of the great films, nicely restored, shown at the right speed with orchestral music by Carl Davis, as it might have been at many of the larger cinemas when the films were released. They were put into context. Fortunately, many early film stars were still around then (late 1970s) to give interviews.

The series generated a huge amount of interest, and Thames (and later Channel 4) started a series of annual showings in London and elsewhere with Carl Davis conducting. These were always well attended.

Science fiction

I love a good science fiction film, but there are things that always puzzle me. Here are a couple.

Why do doors on spacecraft nearly always open automatically? Are crewmen so lazy they cannot open a door?

Yes, I know it’s a lift really, but pictures of people walking through doors are not that interesting

The spacecraft we have had so far in realy have had a problem – weight. Every gram of excess weight needs more fuel. Most of the Saturn V rocket was designed to lift, well, itself. The payload was minute. Surely, excess weight for door opening motors would be avoided at all costs.

And have you noticed, when people want locked doors to open they shoot them with ray guns? And when they want them to lock, they shoot them with ray guns.

And what about transporters? They are amazing things. They are machines that take every molecule of an animate or inanimate object and transfer them instantly to another place where they are reassembled perfectly (except when the plot demands they are not working properly) without mixing them up.

The destination doesn’t even have to be another transporter machine. People just appear anyway (or disappear) from thin air. In fact, you can transport from one place without a transporter to another without a transporter. That’s a miracle.

And they must be so deadly accurate, to within the tiniest fraction of an atom. If a person is being transported onto a surface and is just a little bit too low, their molecules will meld with the molecules of the floor and they will be stuck. Too high above the surface and they will fall the last distance and possibly be hurt.