Sunday, October 15, 2023




Some miscellaneous and interesting facts . . .


The Sahara:

The Sahara is actually mostly rock, not sand. The desert is made up primarily of rocky hamada landscapes - it is just 30% sand, the remaining 70% being mostly gravel. The rest of the desert comprises sand seas, stone plateaus, salt flats, arid valleys, mountains, rivers, streams, and oases.

By the way:
  • At 9,200,000 square kilometres (3,600,000 sq mi), it is the largest hot desert in the world and the third-largest desert overall, smaller only than the deserts of Antarctica and the northern Arctic.
  • The Sahara has been used as a set for Star Wars several times – as a backdrop for the towns of Tatooine (which is a real place) and Matmata, ever since the desert towns caught the eye of director George Lucas. Matmata is the fictional village where Luke Skywalker grew up, and today you can still see some of the sets, often either abandoned or repurposed in a curious fashion.

The remains today of the Skywalder homestead in the Sahara

Another view of the homestead, with Sidi el Driss Hotel, Matmata

Speaking of Star Wars . . .

Back in the late 1970s, director George Lucas was reportedly nervous that his upcoming sci-fi film Star Wars wouldn’t be a big hit. At the time, Spielberg was in the midst of making his own sci-fi epic, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and was the better known director, having already had a hit with Jaws.

During a break from filming on Star Wars, Lucas visited the Close Encounters set. According to an interview with Spielberg for Turner Classic Movies, Lucas said:

‘Oh my God, your movie is going to be so much more successful than Star Wars! This is gonna be the biggest hit of all time. I can’t believe this set. I can’t believe what you’re getting, and oh my goodness. All right, I’ll tell you what. I’ll trade some points with you. You want to trade some points? I’ll give you 2.5% of Star Wars if you give me 2.5% of Close Encounters.’

Speilberg replied ‘Sure, I’ll gamble with that. Great.'

Lucas was right that Close Encounters would be a hit, but it was Star Wars that was much bigger.

The film made $775 million at the global box office compared with $304 million for Close Encounters. Adjusted for inflation, Spielberg’s trade net him $40m, which Lucas paid.

They remain friends and are both billionaires.


Just Room Enough Island, also known as Hub Island, is an island located in the Thousand Islands chain, in New York, United States. The island is known for being the smallest inhabited island, which appears to be around 3,300 square feet (310 m2), or about one-thirteenth of an acre. Purchased by the Sizeland family in the 1950s, the island has a house, a tree, shrubs, and a small beach.


Vincent Gigante, also known as “The Chin” or “The Oddfather,” was arguably one of the most powerful crime bosses in American crime history. His reign was highlighted by guile and ruthlessness.

By day he appeared to be an unassuming and unkempt elderly man shuffling around the streets of New York’s Little Italy in a bathrobe and slippers.

In reality, he was a powerful mob boss, the head of one of the city’s most notorious crime families. He was a master of deception, using his disheveled appearance and eccentric behavior to obscure his true identity as the head of the Genovese crime family.

1960 mugshot

In signature baathrobe

William Shakespeare had a curse engraved on his tombstone to prevent anyone from moving his bones.

The curse upon Shakespeare’s grave reads:
“Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare, To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones.”

By the way:

Shakespeare’s grave is peculiar for a number of reasons:
  • There is no name. Of the family members buried next to Shakespeare, his is the only ledger stone that doesn’t have a name inscribed upon it.
  • Sometime before 1623, a funerary monument featuring a half-effigy of Shakespeare in the act of writing was erected on the nearby north wall to commemorate him.

Shakespeare’s funerary monument on the wall above his grave
  • The grave is short, at less than a metre in length, which is shorter than his wife Anne Hathaway’s grave. Finally, Shakespeare wasn’t buried in a coffin. Instead, the family members were buried in winding sheets or similar.
  • For four centuries after his death, Shakespeare’s grave sat undisturbed. The church had never allowed an excavation of the grave, despite many appeals from researchers, since they wanted to honour the Bard’s wishes. However, in 2016, on the 400th anniversary of his death, a scan – which didn’t physically interfere with the grave – was conducted. The findings were stark: the grave appeared to have been tampered with, and Shakespeare’s skull was missing.

More about Star Wars:
  • George Lucas was so sure the Star Wars movie would flop that instead of attending the premiere, he went on vacation to Hawaii with his good friend Steven Spielberg, where they came up with the idea for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
  • George Lucas' decision to accept a lower salary on the movie in exchange for full merchandising rights was considered a fool's gamble on his part. Although some movie-toy combinations had done moderate retail returns at the time, they had never been major money-earners because of the long gap between when a movie would go through its theatrical run and when any products based on it would be available. This movie, however, was such a phenomenon that it reached the holiday 1977 sales period in full swing, and changed the way how movies were merchandised forever.
  • Lucas shared the seven-month-long casting sessions for Star Wars with his friend and fellow director Brian De Palma. Lucas was looking for unknown faces that he had never worked with before, and initially brought in Harrison Ford to feed lines to the auditioning actors. Lucas saw dozens of actors—including a young Kurt Russell—for the part of Han Solo, but liked Ford’s delivery while feeding lines to the other actors so much that he cast him in the part.

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