SNL's Disastrous 6th Season Was Almost Its Last

In 1975, NBC launched an audacious late night comedy sketch show called Saturday Night Live, run by Lorne Michaels and starring the Not Ready for Prime Time Players. The show was a hit, indeed, and will be entering its 50th season this fall. But after the show's first five years, the entire cast left, and so did Lorne Michaels. The 1980-81 season, helmed by Jean Doumanian and featuring an entirely new cast, became known as the worst SNL season ever, with only one bright spot, a newcomer named Eddie Murphy. It took five years for the show to climb out of the trash heap, a time during which it may as well have been called The Eddie Murphy Show. Things turned around when Lorne Michaels returned, which only makes us think about what will happen when Michaels, now 79, decides to retire. Nerdstalgic explains exactly what occurred to create that awful 1980-81 season of Saturday Night Live. -via Digg

How the Tradition of Summer Camp Came About

Parents who have to deal with bored children, or worse, summertime childcare arrangements, jump at the idea of summer camp if they can afford it. Surely it would be good experience for the children, too. However, the first summer camp wasn't for the benefit of the children nor for the parents- it was for the good of the United States. It happened when Frederick Gunn, who ran a boarding school in Connecticut, marched a few dozen of his students 42 miles to camp on the beach of Long Island Sound and trained them for military service. That was in 1861, and it was possible that those children would grow up to fight for the Union.

The idea caught on, and later camps were set up to give poor urban children a taste of the great outdoors away from their factory jobs, and give a taste of self-sufficiency to pampered children from rich families. Along with wilderness skills, military drills and weapons training were a part of the camp experience until after World War II. Read up on the history of summer camp at Atlas Obscura.

The history of the summer camp for children is part of a continuing series of articles Atlas Obscura is doing about summer camp. You can see them all here.

Plane Canopy Opens Mid-Flight

Dutch pilot Narine Melkumjan shared on X this video from a terrifying experience two years ago. She flew an Extra 330LX, which is a 2-seat acrobatic single engine plane. Shortly after takeoff, the cockpit canopy flew open. She was able to safely land even though she could barely see and breathe. It did, though, take over a day for her vision to fully recover.

Melkumjan blames herself. She says that she didn't visually confirm that the canopy was locked, did not wear eye protection, and flew despite recovering from a bout of COVID. She urges other pilots to "learn from my mistakes".

-via Massimo

Deciphering English When Spoken with German Grammar and Syntax

At one time, I thought learning a different language would be easy, because all you had to do was learn other words for the words you know. Then I grew up and realized how complicated communication really is. Languages develop in their own way in different places, and the rules for word order vary mightily. YouTuber Overlearner demonstrates this by having a German conversation (with himself) that uses English words but German grammar and syntax. The effect is somewhat of a word salad that we can understand with some effort, but still sounds a bit nonsensical. And beware the gendered nouns; those will baffle you.

We know that the English language is descended from German, but that was a long time ago. Old English had syntax rules that were quite like German, but English changed over time and established the word order that native English speakers now use every day. That doesn't mean either system is right or wrong  -it's just different. Seeing the different ways syntax is used gives me more respect for whoever developed machine translation. As weird as it can be sometimes, it's a miracle that it works at all. In the YouTube description, Overlearner explains how he had to make some choices in untranslatable words, and went with whatever would be most confusing. According to polyglots in the comments, German and English syntax are relatively close to each other and easy to learn compared with other languages. -via Laughing Squid

The Story Behind the Movie The Bikeriders

You may have seen the new movie The Bikeriders this weekend, starring Austin Butler and Jodie Comer. The movie is about a fictional outlaw motorcycle gang called The Vandals. While the setting is fictional, it is based on the 1968 book of the same name by Danny Lyon, which is non-fiction.

After writing about the Civil Rights movement, Lyon spent 1963 to 1967 documenting the Chicago motorcycle club the Outlaws in interviews and photographs. He ended up joining the group in 1966 for a couple of years, despite advice from Hunter S, Thompson to "get the hell out of that club." Filmmaker Jeff Nichols read the book in 2003, and has been trying to get the movie made ever since. The plot of the movie was contrived, but 70% of the dialogue is based on Lyon's interviews. Benny, the character played by Austin Butler, was never interviewed and only appears in photographs with his face obscured. Nichols insisted on changing the name of the motorcycle gang to avoid comparing the 1968 Outlaws to today's club, which still exists with 1,700 members in more than 100 chapters. Read about Lyon, his book, and the movie that came from it at Smithsonian.

The Historical Truth of the Shōgun Era

The Shōgun, administrative leaders who ran Japan under the emperor, have always been great fodder for dramas, but what do you know about their real history? This account goes over the early years of British contact with Japan, to coincide with the fictional account in the 1975 novel Shōgun by James Clavell. English navigator William Adams found himself in Japan in the year 1598. This began a period of communication and trade between Japan and the British and other Western powers. It only lasted a few short years until Japan decided not to have anything to do with Western foreigners anymore. If you've been following the new TV series Shōgun on Hulu, this video from Weird History might help you understand more about what Japan was really like during that time.

The US Postal Service Honors Alex Trebek with Stamps

The TV game show Jeopardy! Is celebrating it's 60th anniversary, the the USPS is celebrating with a set of first-class stamps honoring the legacy of longtime host Alex Trebek, who died in 2020. The image on the stamp is the familiar blue tile that offers a clue from the game: "This Naturalized U.S. Citizen Is Now Honored With a Forever Stamp." The correct answer, of course, is Trebek. The categories listed above are Entertainment, Game Show Hosts, Famous Alexes, and Forever Stamps. A sheet of 20 stamps altogether looks a lot like the Jeopardy! video game board we follow on TV.  

The first date of issue ceremony will take place on July 22 at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver, City, California, where Jeopardy! is recorded. However, you can pre-order the stamps now through the USPS website. A sheet of twenty Forever Stamps will cost $14.60.

In case you weren't aware, first class postage is now 73 cents. The USPS introduced Forever Stamps in 2007 to allow people to use up the stamps they had already purchased when the price of postage goes up, which happened often. The genius behind the scheme was that people stopped paying attention to the price of postage.

-via Kottke

"Grolar Bears" All Belong to the Same Family

When a grizzly bear breeds with a polar bear, the result is a hybrid called a grolar bear. They've been spotted and studied in Canada's western Arctic. All nine identified grolar bears are descended from one polar bear mother. As far as we know, the first hybrid was born in 2000 to a polar bear mother born in 1989. She mated with two different grizzly bears and produced four hybrid offspring. Her only hybrid female offspring also mated with two grizzlies and produced five more grolar bears which are 75% grizzly and 25% polar bear.

When the first grolar bear was discovered, scientists thought that more would follow, as climate change brought the territories of the two types of bear closer together. However, no other grolar bears have been seen outside of the nine hybrids in this family. The concern is that the lineage of grolar bear has become more brown and less white with the second generation. The grolar bear mother in the first generation of hybrids was raised by a white polar bear mother, and also raised her second-generation hybrids, who are even browner, to act like polar bears as well. It cannot be easy to sneak up on a seal on an ice cap when your fur is brown. Read more about the lineage of the grolar bear family at CBC, including a family tree chart that makes it more clear. -via Damn Interesting

(Image credit: Samuell)

Mr. Moon in Mourning for Molly

William Judson Moon was away from home when his wife Molly committed suicide in 1904. By the time he returned to Caddo, Texas, she had already been buried. Moon was so distraught that he enlisted some local women to help him dig Molly back up and dress her in a new dress he had bought her, and then she was reburied. But Moon would, in a short time, insist that she be disinterred again, bathed, and redressed. This happened so many times that Moon eventually could get no one to help, so he built a mausoleum to keep Molly's corpse in, where he had access to it anytime he wanted. Chris Woodyard of The Victorian Book of the Dead brings us Mr. Moon's story from an account in the newspaper Enquirer.

The introduction to the story mentions the macabre case of Carl Tanzler, who you might recall from this post.

In double-checking the story, I found the story of the rest of Mr. Moon's life, which is almost as odd. -via Strange Company

(Image credit: Gena Forsyth via Find-a-Grave)

What Would the Earth Be Like If We Drained the Oceans?

Randall Munroe's What If? project (previously at Neatorama) received a question about draining the oceans. The original question specified a hole 20 meters in diameter for the drain. That seems big, but the draining would be too slow to even notice, especially considering the melting glaciers. Where would the water go? This is a theoretical question, so it may as well go to Mars. But if we made the hole big enough to really drain seawater, the map of the world would start to look rather weird. Since this theoretical drain is located in the Mariana Trench, it couldn't take all the earth's seawater, because there are geological formations that will trap some ocean water in large lakes. Of course, there would be mass extinctions of ocean species. But for humans, Munroe figures the Dutch will take care of controlling the diminishing water. Munroe collaborated with Henry Reich of Minute Physics to paint this picture for us. -via Laughing Squid

Fan Theories About Shakespeare's Plays

The headline at Mental Floss refers to "interpretations" of Shakespeare's works, so I expected them to tell us how The Lion King is based on Hamlet and 10 Things I Hate About You was an interpretation of The Taming of the Shrew, which we all know by now. But this list goes into some deep thinking that people have been doing about the relationships and motivations of Shakespeare's characters that aren't spelled out in the stories, but extrapolated from small clues in the scripts. Yes, some people have more time on their hands than you or I do, but these theories do make sense.  

For example, why does Iago so badly want to ruin Othello's marriage? Was it because he himself desired Othello? That makes more sense than just retribution for a professional slight. Was Ophelia pregnant? And MacBeth's soliloquy -the only long passage from Shakespeare I can still recite- were those words from one character or two? Then there's the Unified Antonio Theory. Read up on ten intriguing theories about Shakespeare's characters and plays at Mental Floss.

Kintsugi Oreos

Kintsugi is the traditional Japanese craft of mending broken pottery with gold. It inspired the Brazilian advertising firm Leo Burnett Tailor Made to promote the sale of Oreo cookies by proposing that your broken Oreos chould result in a broken heart. But you can rejoin the shattered cookies with a tube of Oreo filling, which has a consistency something like molten gold.

In its promotional video, the agency expresses that it hopes to convey that customers saddened by their broken Oreos can create a new narrative for their traumatized cookies that their wounding can be a source for beauty within healing.

-via Unseen Japan

Dad Builds His Daughters Power Wheels Camping Trailer

Mason Smith (@TheDadSocial) is an influencer who loves his daughters dearly and is building some extravagant core memories with them. Recently, he built them a tiny travel trailer that they can tow with their Power Wheels electric car.

It's an extraordinary build, as it has bedding, windows, ventilation, interior lights, reflectors, and a spare wheel. The family took it to a campground where the girls set up their trailer on jacks and then organized their pretend outdoor kitchen for a perfect glamping experience.

Smith notes that although the girls wanted to go camping alone, they actually slept in the family trailer and just used their own camper for naps and play.

-via Born in Space

The Joy of Watching Plants Explode

Yep, some plants are kinda shady. That's the kind of humor you can expect in this video. Ze Frank's True Facts series (previously) is almost always about animals, but now he's veered into the world of plants. See, plants reproduce by making seeds, but keeping your offspring close by when you are rooted in the ground can become way too crowded. Plants have developed a lot of different methods of spreading their seeds far and wide. Being carried off or eaten by animals is a valid method, but throwing them out by explosive force is a lot more fun to watch. It's such a useful way to spread the next generation to new soil that many species have developed this power independently, and in many fascinating forms, from spring-loaded seeds to seeds that are designed to move around on their own and even dig their own holes! Meanwhile, Ze Frank has fun providing the sound effects for the explosions, and giggling at plant names like sphagnum, hairy wild petunia, and squirting cucumber. Some things never change. This video has a one-minute skippable ad at 3:15.

Ancient Egyptian Inspiration for a Modern Cartoon Character

Posts from the artefactporn
community on Reddit

Last year, researchers in Egypt discovered the cemetery for senior officials and priests of the New Kingdom (1550–1069 BC) in Minya. They uncovered the coffins of two distinguished women, one of them identified as Tadi Ist, daughter of the High Priest of Djehouti in Ashmunein. Pictured above is the inside of her coffin lid. This art seems familiar, doesn't it? A woman wearing a pale green strapless dress and a tall blue headdress. Who could it be?

Redditors, of course, saw Marge Simpson right away. The red shoes and necklace are modern touches. The long-running series The Simpsons has become legendary for predicting the future, mainly because creator Matt Groening is very good at detecting trajectories. But this one goes backward in time. Who knew that when Groening designed the character, he took inspiration from the inside of a coffin lid buried thousands of miles away thousands of years ago? It only makes sense if you believe Groening is a time traveler, which some people have posited over the years. -via Cracked

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