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Peter Rhodes on an electrical puzzle, a graphic crucifixion and the row over 'I am Spartacus!'

By Peter Rhodes | Peter Rhodes | Published:

Read today's column from Peter Rhodes.

Kirk Douglas as Spartacus

The best known scene in Spartacus is when the Romans demand to know who is the slaves' leader. Kirk Douglas stands up to confess but another slave suddenly yells “I am Spartacus!” The cry is taken up by others until every member of the slave army is claiming to be the leader. Spartacus weeps. How strange to learn among the many tributes to Kirk Douglas who died last week, that this scene almost never happened. The film's director Stanley Kubrick hated it and called it “a stupid idea.” Douglas overruled him and the rest is, well, not exactly history.

The Spartacus scene was revived in the crucifixion in Monty Python's Life of Brian. A pardon for Brian arrives and all the crucified felons claim “I am Brian of Nazareth.” Life of Brian is a great film but I've always felt the crucifixion scene was offensive.

As, for that matter, was the crucifixion in Good Omens (BBC2). This is a new comedy series, and a fine one. So did that scene have to be quite so graphic?

This item is about consequences. See if you can figure out the connections. A few days ago I was inspecting our wiring in the loft. Twenty minutes later the neighbour called to say her lights were flickering, and were mine okay? I began to feel guilty. I switched on my lights to check. Sure enough, they were flickering. More guilt. At that moment another neighbour arrived to say his supply was flickering. My guilt multiplied. I phoned the electricity company.

Half an hour passed and there was a sudden roaring as a damn great yellow helicopter marked “Electricity” appeared above the field next door. Hell's teeth, what have I done?

More minutes passed. Three stern-looking blokes arrived with a ladder and began checking the pole-mounted transformer in the field. I began mentally to prepare myself for prison. Yet two hours later everything was sorted and the supply was back to normal. So what was the connection between these incidents?

Surprisingly, almost nothing. The electrical fault turned out to be in a junction box half a mile away. It was just coincidence that it happened just after my electrical check, which had nothing to do with any of the flickering lights. And while the blokes with the ladder had responded to my call, the helicopter had nothing to do with them or the incident but, again was carrying out a scheduled routine survey of the lines.

There is a moral here. The human brain is hard-wired to seek out connections and consequences, to assume that A plus B must equal C. But sometimes nothing adds up to C because C is that great unknown, Coincidence.

Peter Rhodes

By Peter Rhodes

Award-winning columnist and blogger. Keeping an eye on the tribulations and trivia of a fast-changing world

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