The Creation of PG-13

The current film rating system that the Motion Pictures Association of America implements did not start out with five different tiers. It was in the 1930s when Hollywood began to self-regulate and impose content regulation guidelines on films due to criticism from the public and the push for censorship on certain subjects.

Back then, the industry turned to Will H. Hays to draft for them a set of guidelines that will ensure moral standards on the films being put out in theaters. This document was called the "Hays Code".

For the first couple of decades, it governed the way films were made based on the morality being depicted so that parents may rest assured that the films they will see won't adversely affect their children. But as times changed, people in the industry felt the need for the Hays Code to change as well.

In comes Jack Valenti, in the 1970s, who proposed a classification system that comprised of four tiers: G, M, R, and X. Later on, M would be replaced by PG, and so the rating system was as follows: G for general audiences; PG for films wherein parental guidance is advised; R stands for restricted, and requires that anyone under 17 be accompanied by an adult; and X, which is strictly prohibited for anyone under 17.

When the 80s came in, a few things happened that urged the MPAA to add an intermediate PG-13 rating. Ronald Reagan's presidency brought with it a stronger sense of morality in the public sphere which affected the film industry as well. But more than this, three films in particular drove the industry to action toward a more nuanced rating system: Poltergeist, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Gremlins.

And so, today, the MPA's film rating system is comprised of five tiers: G for general audiences; PG which urges parental guidance; PG-13 which strongly recommends parents to exercise caution with their children; R for films which require adult supervision for those under 17; and NC-17, which is for clearly adult films.

That's the short history of the creation of PG-13.

(Image credit: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

The Common Theme in 400 Years of Women’s Diaries

Many people keep journals of their lives for a variety of reasons, but through history, women could write in a diary to express ideas that wouldn't be accepted if she said them out loud. Sarah Gristwood's new book, released today, is called Secret Voices: A Year of Women’s Diaries. It is a collection of entries from women's diaries over the past 400 years. These personal musings include day-to-day events, but often delve into the feelings they experienced. There is joy, ambition, grief, misery, love, and transformation, but the most common theme over the entire project is frustration.

Beatrix Potter was an expert on fungus, but wasn't taken seriously in her day. Ada Blackjack was treated so badly on her Arctic expedition that she was relieved when the last man died. Florence Nightingale's family objected to her desire to become a nurse. Sophia Tolstoy wrote about the abuse she suffered from her husband Leo. The common theme is the inability to do anything about these problems. Gristwood read hundreds of women's diaries for her project, and she shares some of the more notable emotions she encountered in them at Smithsonian.

You Will Soon Be Able to Play Doom on Your Lawnmower

The 1993 video game Doom is an icon of the gaming world. Since its debut, fans have attempted to run the game on very non-standard consoles, including pregnancy tests and refrigerators, powering Doom with potatoes, controlling the character with a rotary phone, and displaying the game on E. coli bacteria.

Soon, you will be able to play Doom on a lawnmower. Husqvarna, the Swedish manufacturer of outdoor cultivation equipment, announced that the next software update to its robotic lawnmower will permit it users to play Doom.

Call me paranoid, but I'm skeptical that it's a good idea to teach self-controlled robots with powerful blades to roam through an area and kill everything that they see.

-via Dave Barry

What To Do with a Billion Dollars

David "Sandy" Gottesman had a friend back in the 1960s named Warren Buffet. Over the years, he invested money in Buffet's company and left the portfolio to grow. Meanwhile, Gottesman's wife Ruth taught in the pediatrics department at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. David died in 2022 after 72 years of marriage. He left his Berkshire Hathaway stock, now worth a billion dollars, to Ruth, telling her to "Do whatever you think is right with it." Yesterday the 96-year-old widow announced it would go to the medical school, with a stipulation on how it is to be used.

That amount of money ensures that the couple of hundred students admitted to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine every year will pay no tuition for as long as the institution remains in existence. Students who are graduating this spring will receive a refund on the 2024 spring semester. -via Fark

A Simple Life is Anything But Simple

byu/int9r infunny

This guy works way too hard to make his life simple. Pure nonsense, well done. His white pants stay clean while everything around him is dirty. He can't be bothered to brush his own teeth, but builds a stove with a hammer and chisel. And what's the deal with the toilet? But the parts you'll really remember are the video effects involving the chicken and the fish. Yeah, it's actually a rooster, but let's not quibble over details. The details are what makes this funny.

This is Hong Kong YouTuber GuiGe doing a parody of all those "rural life in China" videos. The sequence above is an excerpt from a much longer video called Mama Rong's Rural Life, featuring his mother. The weirdness of contrasting primitive and technical elements, the special effects, and the complete absurdity of it all will keep you watching. The song is "Aloha Heja He" by German singer Achim Reichel. -via reddit

When Men and Orcas Hunted Together

The Thaua people of new South Wales, Australia, have always had a mystical relationship with killer whales, or orcas. They believe that after death, they are reincarnated as an orca. So is it any wonder that they learned to work together with the orcas to hunt whales? However, we don't know if the hunt came first or the beliefs. For centuries, Thaua people would sing to the orcas, and the orcas would herd baleen whales into Twofold Bay. Once trapped, Thaua hunters would kill the whales and harvest the meat, while giving the tender tongue to the orcas. This procedure was codified and passed on to each generation.

When European colonizers discovered how the Thaua hunted with orcas in 1844, they joined in and harvested whales successfully using the same method. But that only lasted so long. By the 1930s, orcas were rarely seen off the coast of TwoFold Bay, and the familiar families of the killer whales were dwindling to just a few members. The Thaua blame this on a few incidents when European whalers broke the code of the orcas. Read what happened to cooperative hunting with orcas at Amusing Planet.

The Boston Typewriter Orchestra Tries Electric Typewriters

The Boston Typewriter Orchestra (previously at Neatorama) has always made music with typewriters the old fashioned way: with manual typewriters, the ones that took real finger power to use and made loud noises. But now they've made a tiny step into the 20th century. They composed a new song for their submission to the Tiny Desk Concert series at NPR that uses electric typewriters! The song is titled "Selectric Funeral."

Still, these typewriters are far from new. I got a Selectric to take to college back in the 1970s, and it looked new compared to these machines. The "new" typewriters give the orchestra some flexibility in the sounds they make, with effects straight out of the 1960s. I love how one machine was equipped with a large bell to give it a "normal" carriage return sound. And having to repair something in the middle of a song is just the way you'd expect an electric typewriter to perform. -via Laughing Squid  

The Constantly Moving Birthplace of Homo Sapiens

Through most of the 20th century, paleoanthropologists considered the birthplace of Homo sapiens to be in East Africa. Or maybe South Africa. That's where the oldest fossils were found, of both humans and their ancestors. But 21st century discoveries in Morocco, specifically from a site called Jebel Irhoud, suggest that modern man developed in Northwest Africa. Skulls excavated there date back around 300,000 years, much older than human skulls found elsewhere. But are they Homo sapiens? The facial features are modern, but the brain case is shaped a little differently. However, the same brain case shape is found in skulls from East Africa which were always considered Homo sapiens.

Who was there first? Humans could have traveled across Africa over time. There could have been many human species that interbred in different areas. But we have to acknowledge that the fossil record is scant, considering the geography involved, and just because we haven't found more fossils doesn't mean they aren't there. So at this time, we really don't know where humans evolved. Read about these recent discoveries and the questions they raise at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: © Philipp Gunz, MPI EVA Leipzig (License: CC-BY-SA 2.0))

What Will Happen to the Solar System When the Sun Dies?

Utter destruction, in a nutshell. This is not to sound pessimistic or nihilistic, but when our sun eventually goes the way of all things in the universe and dies, it will swallow up both Mercury and Venus, and then lastly, Earth, as it becomes a red giant.

However, there's not much to worry of that happening in our lifetime, as the projection for the sun's expansion rate until this happens is in the next 7 billion years, so when we're all long gone.

Once the inner planets have been engulfed, Mars and the larger planets will be stripped of their atmospheres, and the outer planets will be ejected. Along with Uranus and Neptune, the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud will also be ejected.

The sun will then shrink down and become a white dwarf with some of the remnants from Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn remaining in its system although depending on how much mass the sun has lost, whether there will be remnants of these planets is still quite uncertain.

(Image credit: WP/Wikimedia Commons)

This Is a Prison Laptop

Many ordinary objects could be turned into weapons or otherwise misused by people with ingenuity and nothing to lose. That's why, as we've noted in the past, there's an entire industry that produces ordinary household and office products for prison environments.

This includes computers. Zephray Wenting purchased a prison laptop named the Justice Tech Solutions Securebook 5 on eBay. The laptop is encased in a transparent plastic shell. It has no hard drive or USB port. When turned on, the laptop asks for a password. Wenting opened the case and partially disassembled the machine, but has had no luck so far hacking the password.

You can read a complete exploration on Twitter or a detailed and informed summary on Hack-A-Day.

John Cage's 639-Year-Long Piece

The American avant-garde composer John Cage is probably most notable for his 1952 composition titled 4'33", shown in the video above. It is a piece that was deliberately devoid of sound, trying to challenge what we traditionally believe about musicianship and musical experience.

Now just before he died in 1992, Cage left some instructions regarding one of his other pieces titled Organ2/ASLSP (As Slow as Possible), which was basically to play the piece as slowly as possible. What that meant exactly, may be quite hard to determine. How slow should it be, or for how long should a single note be played?

Several music scholars, art professors, and theologians who comprised the John Cage Organ Foundation in Halberstadt, Germany tried to figure out how to execute such eclectic instructions, so after much deliberation, they settled on the piece being played for 639 years, by using sandbags to weigh down the keys.

The rationale behind this decision was based on the time between the construction of the world's first 12-tone Gothic organ in Halberstadt, in 1361, and the year 2000. The performance had started on September 5, 2001, which would have been Cage's 89th birthday.

Of course, trying to plan out a performance spanning multiple centuries is quite difficult, and Rainer Neugebauer, a member of the foundation, attested to that fact, citing the thousands of mistakes that have happened just in the first years of the performance.

They had realized that the first part of the piece was supposed to be played for 28 months, instead of the original 17 months. Or when a crew had knocked over one of the pipes of the organ while they were filming, which changed the note being played. There was also the time when they had to delay the chord-change ceremony for a couple of weeks because a politician who was supposed to attend could not.

The piece is scheduled to end in the year 2640, and the first of the piece's eight movements is scheduled to finish on September 4, 2072.

(Video credit: Joel Hochberg/Youtube)

Ancient Game Boards in Kenyan Rock Pits

Last year, archaeologists discovered a 500-year-old board game of Mill carved on the walls of an old Polish castle. Just recently, Yale archaeologist Veronica Waweru noticed some odd holes on rocks when she visited the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya. After closer inspection, she believes that the pits may have been used as game boards for mancala, going as far back as 5,000 years ago.

Mancala is a turn-based strategy board game which pits two people against each other, with the goal of trying to gather or collect as many stones, seeds, or beans as possible and store them in their home base. The setup requires two rows of shallow holes or pits, and each player has a larger hole at either end of the board where they stored their rocks.

Waweru saw a whole valley filled with these rows of pits, forming what seemed like an ancient rock arcade. Regarding who had formed these game boards, Waweru conjectures that they were herding societies who must have settled in the area around 5,000 years ago, but she also believes that people of that region must have been playing mancala since 10,000 years ago.

As Waweru and her team continue to investigate the site and conduct research there, they might be able to uncover, through DNA testing, the identities of the people groups who settled in that area, and perhaps even the ages of the basin's inhabitants. The presence of these pits may indicate that life in ancient times were more than just constant survival mode. They may have also had time for leisure and play. - via Atlas Obscura

(Image credit: Veronica Waweru/Yale News)

The Most Common Tipping Mistake People Make

I have only recently realized why I used to hear comedians say "tip your waitresses" as a closing joke, and why tipping culture is quite prevalent in the United States. Being someone from a place that doesn't have that custom, I only thought that the dual meaning behind the act of tipping was the punchline of the joke, and it is. But I didn't know how necessary tips actually are for servers in the United States.

Charlotte Andersen at Reader's Digest explains the rationale quite simply: servers in restaurants generally receive a "minimum food wage" of $2.13 per hour, much lower than the actual minimum wage of $12, depending on the state one lives in. This rule is stated in the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the law presumes that servers will be able to make up for the difference between this food wage and minimum wage through customers' tips.

So, what is the general rule of thumb when it comes to tipping etiquette? Perhaps, one may have been accustomed to the 10-15-20 principle in which 10% is the base tip, 15% is for decent service, and 20% is for excellent service, but times have changed. Nowadays, people are expected to tip at least 20%. But this isn't the no. 1 mistake people make when tipping. Andersen asserts that it's tipping strictly based on the total amount of the bill.

We are presented with four different scenarios in which the customer either makes use of discounts, coupons, or other benefits that cause them to pay lower on their tab, or are given free food or drinks as a service from the kitchen.

In these cases, Jan Goss, an etiquette expert, suggests that the best way to keep in step with proper tipping etiquette, one should always consider the actual total amount of the bill had such discounts or rebates not been used, as well as adding the amount of the free food or drinks to the total amount on the bill, and then tipping from that.

Another thing to note is that some people would tip based on the pre-tax amount on their bill. Goss states that it's best practice to always calculate tips based on the total amount after-tax.

Despite these practices being the custom, there is an argument about the tipping culture becoming a bit too overwhelming these days. However, Goss contends that servers should not have to bear the brunt of the dissatisfaction people might have on excesses of tipping culture.

Many servers work hard to earn an honest living, and if customers can help alleviate that burden and show gratitude at the same time, then that would be quite swell. Otherwise, it might mean that the law needs to be revised to either abolish this "minimum food wage" or at the very least, raise it so that neither the customer nor the servers have to bear this heavy burden.

(Image credit: Kenny Eliason/Unsplash)

The Catfish That Shook the World

In ancient Japanese lore, earthquakes are caused by the movements of a giant catfish. This idea got an artistic renaissance following the 1855 Edo earthquake close to what is now Tokyo. That earthquake leveled 14,000 buildings and between 7,000 and 10,000 people died. Immediately afterward, artists began producing woodblock prints called Namazu-e that illustrated the earthquake, the populace's reaction to it, and the catfish at the heart of it.  

Many people bought these prints and displayed them in their homes as a charm against another quake. And quite a few of them are rather lighthearted. This was because the greatest damage came to those who had the most to lose, and the earthquake was seen by some as a "great leveling" of social classes. Therefore, the authorities banned the production of Namazu-e within weeks of the earthquake. Some were still produced afterward, but almost all the surviving examples are from late 1855. See a gallery of 45 of these unique artworks at the Public Domain Review. -via Nag on the Lake

A Valid Response to an Extortion Offer

Jermain Loguen escaped from his Tennessee slavemaster in 1834 by stealing a horse. He made his way to New York, became a minister and a noted abolitionist, started a family, and built schools. As he became widely known, the wife of his enslaver wrote a letter to Loguen in 1860. It started off as a friendly update on her family and Loguen's family members who were still enslaved, then demanded Loguen send $1000 for the horse he stole (which had been returned), or else she would sell him in absentia. Loguen replied with a letter for the ages. Here's just a small part.

You say you have offers to buy me, and that you shall sell me if I do not send you $1000, and in the same breath and almost in the same sentence, you say, “you know we raised you as we did our own children.” Woman, did you raise your own children for the market? Did you raise them for the whipping-post? Did you raise them to be driven off in a coffle in chains? Where are my poor bleeding brothers and sisters? Can you tell?

There's a lot more to the letter, which drips with "unutterable scorn and contempt." Read the entire response at Letters of Note. -via Nag on the Lake

(Image credit: William Simpson)

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