Fun With Wikipedia

Regular readers, and people who know how my mind works, probably don’t need this brief expository introduction, but here goes…

I got up this morning, checked my e-mail, and hit my usual two Web sites.

Slashdot has a story about a car-eating robotic dinosaur that linked to a very amusing photograph of said robot in action at a recent airshow in California. I saw the aircraft in the background and thought I recognised it as a military version of the Douglas DC-10. Which I then confirmed by performing a Google search, and found myself at the Wikipedia page for that aircraft.

After reading several related articles, including one on the Airbus A300, one on ETOPS (also jokingly known as “Engines Turn or Passengers Swim”), and several on related aircraft, ending with the BAe 146, and realising how remarkable a similarity the BAe 146 bears to a four-engined, turbine-powered Dash-8, I decided to do a search for the Dash-8.

No dice. I figured I probably hadn’t gotten the designator right, because I remembered the Dash-8 was officially called something else, but I also stumbled across the Wikipedia English home page in the process.

The current featured article as of this writing is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which enlightened me to several interesting bits of trivia. For instance, though many people believe that L. Frank Baum wrote the book as political allegory, Baum himself has vigorously denied this, much as J. R. R. Tolkien always denied that his Lord of the Rings epic is an allegory for anything.

Other interesting trivia concerning the book and the movie:

  • Baum wrote 14 total Oz books, and Ruth Plumly Thompson wrote an additional 19 after Baum died. Other authors have also written books in the series.
  • Ray Bolger was originally slated to play the Tin Man but traded parts with Buddy Ebsen (best known as Jed Clampett from The Beverly Hillbillies), who then had a severe reaction to the aluminium dust used in the Tin Man’s makeup. Whilst Ebsen was in the hospital recuperating from his near-death experience, MGM reformulated the makeup, fired Ebsen, and cast Jack Haley in his place.
  • The now-classic movie was shown on television for the first time on 03 November, 1956, with a viewing audience estimated at 45 million. This might not sound amazing at first, but remember this: in 1956, approximately 3/4 of American homes had television. The 1960 Census puts US population at approximately 180 million, and the 1950 Census claims approximately 150 million. Let’s estimate the 1956 population at 165 million. That means about 125 million people had television. Now for the amazing part: over one-third of everyone in the United States with a television was watching this movie.

Getting back to the original subject, a Google search reminded me of the proper designation for the Dash-8: De Havilland DHC-8. So now I’m happy. And you’re entertained.

posted by Chris on 01 May 2004 at 1246 in entertainment


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Comment by Raena Armitage

Ah, BAe146 - been on one maybe three times, and each time it smelled funny.

posted at 1246 on 01 May 2004

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