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Six degrees

Mark Peters

 

Santa Claus … It’s almost time for the world’s favourite bearded fat man to gee up his reindeers again. Tomorrow evening, Santa will embark on another hectic round of chimney break-ins in order to feast on the sherry and mince pies traditionally left out for him by children. Or at least those in some countries: all Sinterklaas gets in Sweden and Norway are dollops of rice porridge. Father Christmas was portrayed as the Ghost of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens …

 

Generally regarded as one of literature’s greats, the English author did not enthrall everyone with his brilliance. The distinguished poet and playwright Oscar Wilde was one critic, complaining of his “loose writing” and that Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop is “ludicrously sentimental”. Nonetheless, Dickens’ works have been continuously adapted for film and television, with at least 200 productions based on his novels, and this year witnessed the seventh movie version of Great Expectations, starring Ralph Fiennes …

 

The Rada-educated thespian insists long-term relationships are not for him. He has consistently pursued flings with artistic women and once described monogamy as “sexual imperialism”. With stardom thrust upon him after his role as a Nazi psycho in Schindler’s List, he promptly decided to marry his then partner. Years later it was revealed that during the marriage he had had an affair with an alluring Brazilian actress almost two decades his senior. His philandering ways may have helped him land the job of voicing Lord Quartermaine, the animated villain in Wallace and Gromit …

 

Of the two plasticine protagonists from the award-winning animation movies, Wallace’s pet beagle, Gromit, is portrayed as the more intelligent. With a love of Bach, knitting and chess, the mutt with no mouth communicates with his master via body language and facial expressions. Some critics compare Gromit’s expressive performances to those of iconic silent movie star Buster Keaton. In recognition of the dog’s intellect, a Mars explorer robot was named Gromit by Nasa boffins

 

It seems it’s not all white shirts and physics-teacher fashion at Nasa’s mission control. The geeks at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California are now a little more groovy. Bobak Ferdowski, the flight director of the Mars rover Curiosity, once sported a hairstyle that resembled a rocket plume of red and orange, and says that, even in 1967, JPL engineers wore Spock ears for the launch of a spacecraft to Venus. Another Curiosity team member, sporting a Pompadour haircut and sideburns, is known simply as the “Elvis Guy” due to his resemblance to The King …

 

Despite being found dead in his bathroom in 1977, many of his adoring fans still believe Elvis Presley faked his demise. It was claimed Presley was in danger from the Mafia as he was set to testify against them in federal court. Despite the thousands of post-1977 “sightings” none has ever been even vaguely substantiated. In 1957, Elvis released a festive album – the best-selling Christmas record of all time. It featured an innuendo-riddled song about the return of a certain plump festive postman: Santa Claus.

 

 

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