Summer officially starts next week with the solstice, even though school is already out, and the temperatures have been high for months. But we've got a lot of summer ahead of us, so we may as well learn something new from Mental Floss about our favorite summer activities. This episode of Scatterbrained has trivia about ice cream, summer travel, iced tea, and more. John Green has some handy tips to make summer easier. Learn the history of the state fair. And don't forget your sunscreen!
In the 1930s, as life for Jewish people in Germany and later German-occupied countries became more and more unbearable, many tried to emigrate. Germany encouraged this up until 1941. The problem was that no other nation would accept them, and to be allowed to leave, one had to have a place to go. The exception was Shanghai, China, where visas were not required for entry, but the city would issue one if you needed it to travel as a refugee. The city was poor, overcrowded, and ruled by various foreign interests, but it was safe.
Nevertheless, many of the Shanghai locals, in spite of their own hardships, welcomed their new neighbors and shared what little they had, whether that meant housing, medical care, or just simple kindness. Gradually, with that support, Jewish refugees began, little by little, to create lives in their new country, and before long, the proliferation of Jewish-owned businesses was such that the Hongkou area became known as “Little Vienna.” Like their Chinese neighbors, they did their best to survive in difficult circumstances. They established newspapers, synagogues, retail businesses, restaurants, schools, cemeteries, guilds, social clubs, and even beauty pageants. They practiced medicine, started hospitals, got married, had babies, and held bar and bat mitzvahs. They learned to cook in coal-burning ovens and to haggle with street vendors.
One Hongkou resident remembers the time and place with great fondness. The artist Peter Max, who would later become known for his signature “psychedelic” works of art, came to Shanghai with his parents after fleeing Berlin. Like many of the Jewish families who immigrated to the city, Max’s father started a business, in this case, a store that sold Western-style suits. It was, Max recalls, an auspicious choice, as Chinese men were just beginning to favor them over their traditional Mandarin clothing.
“On the ground floor of our building was a Viennese garden-café,” Max recalls, “where my father and mother met their friends in the early evenings for coffee and pastries while listening to a violinist play romantic songs from the land they had left behind. The community of Europeans that gathered and grew below our house kept me connected to our roots.”
However, the war they had fled caught up with them. Japan consolidated its rule over Shanghai in 1941, which put Shanghai's Jewish residents back under the Axis influence. Read about the Jewish population of Shanghai at Atlas Obscura.
(Image credit: United States Holocaust Museum)
Disney has another live-action remake of an animated classic coming out in 2019. This one is Dumbo, from director Tim Burton. We can expect that the story will be quite different from the 1941 film, which had hardly any humans with speaking roles.
From Disney and visionary director Tim Burton, the all-new grand live-action adventure “Dumbo” expands on the beloved classic story where differences are celebrated, family is cherished and dreams take flight. Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists former star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), until Holt learns that beneath its shiny veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets.
Yeah, that sounds very different. Dumbo is scheduled to hit theaters on March 29, 2019. -via Laughing Squid
George H.W. Bush had a birthday yesterday, and at 94, he is the oldest living former president in history. None the other men who've held the office ever reached the age of 94. You are forgiven for thinking that Jimmy Carter was older, since he served earlier. The record brought up other tidbits about presidential ages in the comments at reddit.
Funnily enough, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Donald Trump (elected over a span of 24 years) are all the exact same age. Each is 71, having been born in 1946. Clinton was the third youngest person to ever become president; Trump was the oldest. And Bush, at 54, was incredibly close to the median age for presidents at the start of their term, which is 55 years 3 months.
In other words, over the course of just nine weeks in 1946, three different presidents were born. They would go on to be elected in three different decades (and maybe four). One would be one of the youngest ever elected, one would be the oldest ever elected, and one would be elected at precisely the typical age. -IRAn00b
John F. Kennedy was the youngest person ever elected president at age 43, Teddy Roosevelt was the youngest to become president, at age 42, after McKinley was assassinated.
Jimmy Carter is only 4 months behind him. Born: October 1, 1924 (age 93 years) -samtheotter
Somewhat unrelated, but California Governor Jerry Brown is both the youngest California governor since the 1860s (elected at age 36) and the oldest ever (72 years old when he began serving his current term). -jlux999
Until the 2000s, the president who lived the longest was John Adams. The second president. -solidsnake885
John Adams was 90 when he died in 1826.
(Image credit: Pete Souza)
Thousands of people have been holding their breath for a couple of days now, because a raccoon has been climbing the outside of a high-rise building in St. Paul. It was first spotted on Monday, perched in a niche on the 7th floor of the Town Square building.
This poor raccoon apparently got itself stranded on a ledge of the Town Square office building in downtown St. Paul, likely on an errant mission to raid pigeon nests on the skyway over 7th Street. It's been there for two days now, without food or water. @mprnews pic.twitter.com/fVI5pmdCWq— Tim Nelson (@timnelson_mpr) June 12, 2018
When local office workers tried a rescue operation, the creature jumped to the nearby 25-story UBS Tower, where it climbed to the upper floors. Attorney Sheila Donnelly-Coyne watched the raccoon in the window of her 23rd-floor office, where the windows do not open.
The office also had seen some firefighters filtering through. Donnelly-Coyne said authorities set up live traps on the roof, together with some cat food to entice the little one to climb just a few floors more. She says the firefighters told her office that other measures — such as reaching for the animal with window washing equipment — would very likely scare and "endanger the animal." So for now, the high drama has become a waiting game.
The TV stations KARE11 and WCCO set up livestreams so everyone could watch the critter's progress. Crowds gathered in the streets below. Someone launched a Twitter account under the name The MPR Raccoon.
I made a big mistake. #mprraccoon— The MPR Raccoon (@TheStPaulRacco1) June 12, 2018
Folks nationwide began to follow the story, as the raccoon climbed to various floors. James Gunn, director of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies who has a soft spot for raccoons, offered a reward.
I'll donate a thousand bucks to the non political charity of choice to anyone who saves this raccoon. I can't handle this. Poor dude. https://t.co/2F5reAKkKa— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) June 12, 2018
Last night, people began to breath a little easier when the raccoon started climbing down the building.
But that didn't last long. He/she descended to the 16th floor, then reversed and went back up! And then, about 2:30 this morning, the raccoon made it to the roof!
There's no word yet on whether the raccoon went for the cat food or made it to the traps. You can follow the story on Twitter.
Update: Good news! -Thanks, Edward!
And so we can wrap up the saga of the MPR Raccoon with a music video.
With Incredibles 2 coming out this weekend, Screen Junkies takes a long-overdue look at The Incredibles for an Honest Trailer. That movie came out in 2004, which was so long ago that the theater I saw it in has been torn down and replaced with a clothing store. Maybe the reason they haven't done an Honest Trailer before is that they can't find much to snark about. They got around that by using this time to compare The Incredibles to all the other pop culture heroes they are better than. I almost thought that they were going to completely overlook Edna Mode, but she makes an appearance before the video is done. -via Tastefully Offensive
She locked herself out of the house. However, there's a sliding glass door that's only held shut by a sawed-off broom handle, and the dog is inside with it. All Sam has to do is retrieve the stick. His years of training in stick-fetching suddenly pay off! That's a good dog. -via reddit
Alexander Graham Bell introduced the telephone in 1876, and before you know it, cities were being wired for communication. That infrastructure was pretty much limited to cities, though, and later to small towns that weren't too far apart. Out in the western US, farmers and homesteaders were ignored by Ma Bell because of the expense of running phone lines to isolated farms and towns spread out over many miles. However, two years before Bell's invention, barbed wire was patented, and it had already transformed the West by making miles of fencing affordable.
Then came a rural revolution. American farmers already had a long tradition of cooperative association. There were thousands of farmers' cooperative insurance groups, grain elevators, and irrigation systems. By the turn of the century, farmers had come to see many uses for the telephone: dealing with emergencies, getting weather reports, pricing crops, recruiting labor, and even overcoming rural isolation. Not surprisingly, they started rural telephone cooperatives by the thousands. Their telephone "mutuals" were crude affairs. Each linked together a few, or a few dozen, farm households. Some used a switchboard, located in a store or more often in someone's kitchen, while others operated as a community party line.
It was in building the network connecting homestead to homestead that the farmers' ingenuity came to the fore. Instead of erecting new poles and wires, many either ran phone wires along the top of wooden fence posts or used the barbed wire itself to carry signals. The latter hardly worked as well as insulated copper wire, but with the lines already in place, installation and operating costs could be kept to a minimum. By one estimate, service ran a mere $3 to $18 a year, far less than the regional phone companies charged, and labor for maintaining the network was supplied by volunteers.
(Image source: Library of Congress)
Artists Arna Miller and Ravi Zupa created a series of tiny 3-color block prints on matchboxes depicting cats acting out common behaviors seen in bars late in the evening. They are on display at an exhibit called Strike Your Fancy: New Artworks by Arna Miller at Abstract in Denver this month, and the matchboxes are for sale at $20 each or a set of all ten for $175. -via Boing Boing
When Don McLean released a seven-minute song called "American Pie" in 1971, music fans clamored to decipher all the cultural references and deeper meaning in the lyrics. I once received a tract that claimed it was a prophesy about the end of the world. That was nonsense; the song is a history of how American culture changed from the '50s to the '70s as told through music. However, nearly 50 years later, we have a couple of generations of music lovers without the first-hand knowledge of those events. Polyphonic gives us an explainer to make them clear. You can hear the original song in its entirety here. -via Digg
An investigation of a murder in 1934 in Indianapolis was fairly open-and-shut, since the police had plenty of information to go on. The hit man was offered an entire ten dollars, the majority of which he spent on a gun. That, however, was one of the more mundane details of this bizarre case.
At the center of our story is Gaylord V. Saunders, the pastor of a Methodist Episcopal church in Wabash, Indiana. As he entered his mid-thirties, Saunders, like so many people, had something of a mid-life crisis. His life felt empty. He needed a sense of meaning to his existence. He longed for excitement, emotional fulfillment, new challenges, a fresh road to travel. So, naturally, he moved to Indianapolis and enrolled in an embalming school. Unaccountably, his wife Neoma failed to heed the siren song of organ preservation and creating a remarkably lifelike appearance, so she and their children stayed behind in Wabash.
Saunders was found dead in his car, shot in the back of the head. Police talked to people who knew the clergyman, and quickly centered their attention on Theodore Mathers, one of Saunders' classmates. And then on Saunders' wife. And a few other people. In fact, folks seemed to be falling all over each other to confess everything they knew about the murder. While the investigation was strange in its simplicity, it was the murder trials that followed that went totally off the rails. Read the entire story of Gaylord Saunders' murder at Strange Company.
At reddit, this video was titled "Petting a VR cat," which set the viewer up to be horrified. That's not what this is at all. No, this is a demo for a virtual reality anatomy education program. With a move of a finger, you can disassemble this cute cat (which does not exist, really) into component parts such as its skeleton, circulatory system, and/or muscles. See an exploded view or even slice it. The virtual cat doesn't mind at all, I swear. You can download the Cat Explorer program from Leap Motion if you have Windows and a VR device.
Off and on from 1987 to 2010, on different networks, people tuned in to watch the weirdness that was Unsolved Mysteries. The show presented mysteries that ran the gamut of murders to Bigfoot sightings. At the end of the show, viewers would be encouraged to call a hotline to share any information they may have about the mystery. You can imagine that hundreds of callers with no connection whatsoever to the case would flood the lines with their opinions. According to an Unsolved Mysteries phone operator named Delilah, that was true, but she listened to each one because you never knew when a nugget of truth would come through.
She would get the callers insisting they knew who was really behind the Oklahoma City bombing, or asking for a segment on the conspiracy behind water fluoridation. UFO callers were the strangest (in a very competitive field), but still, it was her job to listen. When one call came in about Kecksburg (a famous UFO crash in Pennsylvania) ...
"At first, it sounded convincing. He was from around there as a kid, and had been told by a passing soldier that it was a secret satellite that fell. It seemed legit, and I began taking the info down. But he slowly began adding a detail here and there. About the certain project it might have been. About what it was there for. About mysterious happenings. When my supervisor came around, I was writing about how it was a program to destroy aliens. He said, 'Why are you writing this down?' [The caller] had so slowly built up to it I didn't notice."
But then in 2002, they did an episode about the Phoenix UFOs. Among all of the many calls declaring it the beginning of an alien invasion, Delilah got one from a guy claiming, in a rather convincing way, that it was a secret military project.
"I thought, 'Here we go,' but he introduced himself as someone from the military and explained that they were flares dropped during an exercise ... and told us to look into what the Maryland Air National Guard was up to that night."
It turned out that he was telling the truth. The mysterious lights were flares attached to balloons.
"It turns out it was an amazing tip, because it completely debunked the UFO, but we couldn't use it." Because the military had made no announcement to that effect, that caller got lumped in with the cranks.
Useful calls were overwhelmed by pranks, creeps, the unhinged, and people who just wanted to talk to someone, but quite a few real crimes were solved with help from callers. Read about the life of an Unsolved Mysteries operator at Cracked.
Before the 19th Amendment extended voting rights to women nationwide, several states already included women at the polls. Jeannette Rankin, born on this date in 1880, campaigned to get women to vote for her in the 1916 congressional race in Montana, although that wasn't the only reason she won. Rankin became the first woman in the United States Congress because she worked hard for the opportunity to improve the lives of the downtrodden. But the newspapers of the time treated her as they did any woman who rose above her station.
Rankin came in second in Montana’s at-large Congressional race, meaning she secured one of the two available seats. But in those days ballots were counted by hand, which took a long time. Montana newspapers—likely not taking her candidacy entirely seriously—initially reported that Rankin had lost. It wasn’t until three days later that the papers had to change their tune: Miss Rankin was headed to Congress.
Suddenly journalists across the country were clamoring to interview and photograph the nation’s first congresswoman. Photographers camped outside her house until Rankin had to issue a statement saying she was no longer allowing photos and would “not leave the house while there is a cameraman on the premises.” Before the election, Rankin’s team had sent The New York Times biographical material about their candidate, only to have the Times return it and run a mocking editorial urging Montanans to vote for Rankin because “if she is elected to Congress she will improve that body aesthetically, for she is said to be ‘tall, with a wealth of red hair.’” A month later, the paper was profiling her more seriously, reporting on her suffrage work and noting that she had “light brown hair—not red.” Of course, due to her gender, a profile on Rankin could not be limited to political topics. The Times also reported on her “Famous Lemon Pie,” and informed readers that “She dances well and makes her own hats, and sews.” Other newspapers took a similar tone.
Rankin's treatment by the press did not improve after she went to work in Washington, but that seems trivial compared with the insane views her congressional colleagues had on the role of women 100 years ago. Read how Rankin fought for peace, suffrage, and equality at Mental Floss.
Psychologists and anthropologists have long observed how children in Mexico and Guatemala help around the house. Not only do they begin doing household chores earlier than children in the US, they continue to do so as they grow up, and they don't have to be told to do so, or even asked to. They happily contribute their work on their own as a matter of course.
They help do the laundry, help cook meals, help wash dishes. And they often do chores without being told. No gold stars or tie-ins to allowances needed.
In one study, psychologist Barbara Rogoff and her colleagues interviewed moms in Guadalajara, Mexico, who had indigenous ancestry. The researchers asked the moms what their children, who were all between the ages of 6 and 8, do to help around the house and how often they do these tasks voluntarily.
The study — published in 2014 — contains some of the most remarkable quotes I have ever seen in a research article.
For example, one mother said her 8-year-old daughter comes home from school and declares: "Mom, I'm going to help you do everything." Then she "picks up the entire house, voluntarily," the study reported.
"Another time, the mom comes home from work, and she's really tired," says Rogoff of the University of California, Santa Cruz. "She just plops herself down on the couch. And the daughter, says, 'Mom you're really tired, but we need to clean up the house. How about I turn on the radio and I take care of the kitchen and you take care of the living room and we'll have it all cleaned up?' "
Volunteering to help is such an important trait in kids that Mexican families even have a term for it: acomedido.
Recent research reveals the cultural differences in childrearing practices that lead to acomedido. Read how Mexican families teach children the value of household chores at NPR. -via Digg
(Image credit: Adriana Zehbrauskas for NPR)
In the newest episode of Simon's Cat Logic, cartoonist Simon Tofield and veterinarian Nicky Treverrow talk about the possibility of a missing cat, and what to do when it happens. The worst part is not knowing whether your cat is injured, lost, taken by someone, turned in to the pound, stuck up a tree, or just plain ignoring you. The very best thing is to equip your cat with an identifying microchip, but you have to do that before he disappears.
Tofield also tells the story of how his black cat Teddy, who his cartoon cat is modeled after, got stuck up a tree a couple of years ago. You can read the full version of that story at his blog.
You can't produce, or even predict, lightning, but Hollywood keeps trying. A huge summertime hit, now known as a blockbuster, can make or break a film career. When studios have an idea they feel cannot go wrong, they are likely to sink tons of money into it, which only raises the stakes of success. In 2007, it seemed like a sequel to a huge hit would be a no-brainer ...but the producers were wrong.
Evan Almighty had a reported budget, before marketing, of $175 million, in 2007. That might not sound unusual now if you’re talking about a huge action movie with a handful of major stars to its name, but this was a sequel to a comedy about a man who was temporarily granted God’s powers. Bruce Almighty, the original film, made more than $480 million worldwide when it was released in 2003, but it starred Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston—two of the biggest stars in the world at the time—and cost just $81 million to produce. Bruce plays God, but the film isn’t exactly packed full of extravagant setpieces. For Evan Almighty, the studio decided to go bigger, much bigger, to the point that the film had the distinction of being the most expensive comedy ever produced at the time.
Steve Carell, who played Evan, was already an acclaimed comedy star, but he didn’t have Carrey’s proven box office draw. All of that, plus the massive costs of visual effects and live animals on the set, led to the film earning just under its reported budget at the box office. When you factor in promotional costs and the cut theatrical distributors take from a film’s earnings, that means the studio had to take a loss.
Other movies that were expected to be blockbusters (but weren't) include a few you may have never heard of, as well as some famous disasters such as Battlefield Earth and Ishtar. And then there are the movies in between, those you've heard about but didn't bother going to the theater for, in a list at Mental Floss.
A year ago, we told you about Grandpa Mason, an elderly feral tomcat that came into the care of TinyKittens in British Columbia. The cat was diagnosed with terminal kidney disease, but more than a year-and-a-half later, he is hanging on. Grandpa Mason doesn't like anyone, but he loves kittens, and nothing makes him happier than cuddling with baby cats. The rescue group put him to work fostering kittens, and that seems to have extended his life. We also told you about the three feral cats who gave birth to kittens under a livestream this spring. The nine kittens are now seven weeks old and Grandpa Mason plays with them while their mothers undergo medical treatment and spaying. He is in cat heaven.
In other kitten news, one of the kittens, Aura, was born with a cleft palate and had to be tube-fed around the clock. Tuesday, she ate her first solid food. She took that lesson too seriously, and later that day she bit through her milk feeding tube and swallowed 4.5 inches of it! A veterinarian retrieved the tube endoscopically, and she has recovered. You can read that story as it happened at Facebook.
You can still follow the kittens on their livestream.
We are so used to computer-generated imagery (CGI) in movies that it's hard to fathom that Star Wars (1977) had none at all ...at least until the "special edition" was produced later. Still, that movie set us on the road to modern moviemaking, as George Lucas founded Industrial Light & Magic to create special effects for his later movies. That company debuted CGI in the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and the same year TRON featured an entire sequence made with CGI, animated one frame at a time.
Yet Jurassic Park stands out historically because it was the first time computer-generated graphics, and even characters, shared the screen with human actors, drawing the audience into the illusion that the dinosaurs’ world was real. Even back then, upon seeing the initial digital test shots, George Lucas was stunned: He’s often quoted as saying “it was like one of those moments in history, like the invention of the light bulb or the first telephone call … A major gap had been crossed and things were never going to be the same.”
Since then, computer graphics researchers have been working to constantly improve the realism of visual effects and have achieved great success, scholarly, commercial and artistic. Today, nearly every film contains computer-generated imagery: Explosions, tsunamis and even the wholesale destruction of cities are simulated, virtual characters replace human actors and detailed 3D models and green-screen backgrounds have replaced traditional sets.
Read about the great strides in CGI technology and filmmaking that came after the breakthrough of Jurassic Park at Smithsonian.
You read about world record stunts that are "retired," or proposed ideas that the Guinness Book of World Records rejects because they are dangerous, but somehow self-immolation is okay. Last month, 32 professional stunt people gathered in Cape Town, South Africa, and were all set on fire simultaneously. That broke the record for the most people performing full-body burns. The rules for this record said they had to remain on fire for 30 seconds. Organizers promoted the event as "some fun."
The fire-proof costumes and gel used were thoroughly tested before the official attempt and every person was shadowed by someone who monitored their safety and health both during and after the challenge.
The Guinness World Records attempt made for an impressive spectacle though, as the 32 flaming participants walked together in a line, lighting up the sky.
Once they were finished, they fell to the floor to be extinguished by their helper.
Prior to this, the record for the Most people performing full body burns stood at 21 and was achieved during an event at the Hotcards Burn in Cleveland, Ohio, USA on 19 October 2013.
The event was organized by Paradigm Shift Special Effects, which employs the stunt men and women. Sometimes you have to do weird things for work. -via Digg
PICKLE BULGES pic.twitter.com/FSmVKDTmeX— Wheel Of Fortune Answers (@wofanswers) June 8, 2018
The TV game show Wheel of Fortune is like a fast-moving crossword puzzle where the audience is always a step ahead of the players onscreen. You can guess the answer before the wheel is spun, and you never have to skip a turn like the competitors do. But how often do you come up with a wrong answer that's funnier than the right answer?
OH SHIT A GHOST pic.twitter.com/lgmmftUiLF— Wheel Of Fortune Answers (@wofanswers) June 5, 2018
The week-old Twitter account Wheel Of Fortune Answers is full of stuff like this. Some guesses are more plausible than others, and they don't always follow the rules, but the point is not to be right, but to be funny.
Before you scroll through the whole collection, be aware that the "answers" are often profane. -via Buzzfeed
One of the challenges of filming a skater is keeping up as he zips around. One solution is to mount a camera on a loyal and energetic dog! In this video, a dog named Fatman follows Rob Mathieson, Tom Snape, and Nick Jensen around a London skatepark. The result is a dog video and a skateboard video combined, which is a lot of fun. What's really impressive is the stabilization of the footage. See more of Fatman The Dog at his YouTube channel. -via Laughing Squid
The first pilot's licenses in the US were issued in 1927. Within two years, there were over 9,000 men with licenses, and only 117 women. Those women were adventurous, independent, and skilled, but they were treated as a novelty. A woman could find blissful freedom in the skies, and still return to headlines about what her makeup looked like when she took off. Many of the women who were pilots knew each other somewhat through competitions and air shows, so in 1929, six pilots, including Amelia Earhart, proposed a club where they could share their experiences and support each other.
Later that year, [pilot Opal] Kunz explained in a letter to a fellow female aviator why such a group was so critical. It wasn’t, she wrote, that there was any conflict with male pilots. “This is exactly the opposite to the facts. We want no militant girl pilots. We are not fighting for anything.” Instead, the Ninety-Nines wanted women in aviation to be treated as equals, “rather than spoiled as something rare and very precious.” Instead of overblown headlines about minor female achievements, they wanted women to be treated as peers and given identical opportunities to the men who did, as she wrote, such “marvelous things in the air … We believe that our girls can and will learn to fly as well as the average man, better than many, but it does not seem likely that we will ever equal the remarkable skill of countless men fliers both in our own country and abroad.” That same year, Earhart is said to have proclaimed: “If enough of us keep trying, we’ll get someplace.”
The club eventually became known as the Ninety-Nines, with Earhart elected as their first president. They worked to send young women to aviation school, and supplied pilots in World War II. And the club is still going today. Read about the Ninety-Nines at Atlas Obscura.
Almost fifty years after the fact, Hollywood has finally produced a biopic on Neil Armstrong. First Man covers the years from 1961 to 1969, when Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the lunar surface.
Why was Armstrong the first astronaut to step onto the moon? The official story given to the public is because he was closest to the door of the lunar lander. But there's more to it. Deke Slayton, head of the astronaut office during the Apollo era, assigned crews to the various missions. By tradition, the backup crew for one mission would be the main crew for the third mission after that, although changes were sometimes made. Armstrong was on the backup crew for Apollo 8. When the crew was up for Apollo 11, Armstrong was named commander because of his seniority in the astronaut program. Knowing the historic nature of the mission, Slayton arranged for Armstrong to be the first out because his lack of ego would make him better able to withstand the aftermath of the mission.
Still, Armstrong appeared to be tailor-made for the honor. He was a Korean War veteran, a Navy aviator, but a civilian at the time of the moon shot. Armstrong had a degree in aeronautical engineering and worked as a test pilot for NACA, the precursor to NASA. His civilian status was what kept him out of the first astronaut selection for Project Mercury, but Project Gemini welcomed him in 1962, despite his application being late. The fact that he was the first civilian astronaut to travel in space had no bearing on his Apollo 11 role, but the idea was appealing to enough people to stick around for 50 years.
First Man is set to open October 12. -via Tastefully Offensive
An American soldier found a tiny but full-grown Yorkshire terrier in a foxhole in New Guinea during World War II. Combat photographer Corporal William A. Wynne took a picture of the dog sitting in a helmet to show how small she was. That photo made the dog famous, as it was printed in a military magazine and then in newspapers across the US.
The dog was named Smoky, and over the last two years of the war she accompanied Wynne on 12 combat missions and dozens of air raids, and entertained troops and the hospitalized wounded with tricks she learned during downtime. Those tricks served her well after the war too, used to entertain the world on tours and TV shows. Millions of people knew and loved Smoky the War Dog.
Smoky was so loved that the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran an obituary when she died in 1957, which led to solving the mystery of how a Yorkshire terrier came be in a foxhole in New Guinea. Read that story in a newspaper clipping at FishWrap. -via Strange Company
Fred Rogers had an uncanny ability to connect with young children through his show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Or maybe it wasn't so uncanny. Rogers put in a lot of work to make sure everything he said was something a child could understand. That wasn't easy, since children lack the years of language practice and references that adults have. Rogers went over every line in a script, consulted with childhood experts, and even reshot dialogue that he later found troubling from a child's point of view.
As Arthur Greenwald, a former producer of the show, put it to me, “There were no accidents on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” He took great pains not to mislead or confuse children, and his team of writers joked that his on-air manner of speaking amounted to a distinct language they called “Freddish.”
Fundamentally, Freddish anticipated the ways its listeners might misinterpret what was being said. For instance, Greenwald mentioned a scene in a hospital in which a nurse inflating a blood-pressure cuff originally said “I’m going to blow this up.” Greenwald recalls: “Fred made us redub the line, saying, ‘I’m going to puff this up with some air,’ because ‘blow it up’ might sound like there’s an explosion, and he didn’t want the kids to cover their ears and miss what would happen next.”
Eventually, a couple of the show's writers jotted down the rules of "Freddish," representing the process of refining a simple line of dialogue to make it perfect for Mister Rogers' audience. You can read that process at The Atlantic.
(Image credit: Flickr user Rogelio A. Galaviz C.)
What is summer like in your state? Is it unbearably hot and humid, or just hot? Are there wall-to-wall tourists, or do they avoid your state because it's boring? There's more to a pleasant summer than temperature, and Thrillist takes many factors into account when ranking where you might want to spend your summer vacation time. For example:
It's kinda like Oklahoma, but with fewer onions on the burgers and a roughly equal number of tornado warnings.
10. South Carolina
Little-known fact: During the summer months, the South Carolina town of Mount Pleasant renames itself “Mount How Is It Possible That My Body Is Both Slippery and Sticky Right Now Don’t Touch Me I’m Gross It’s Even Too Hot to Enjoy a Plate of Mustard-Forward Barbecue Pass The Cheerwine As It Is My Only Refuge From This Unyielding Hazy Inferno.”
For real. They have to change the signs and everything.
Also, Myrtle Beach has one of America’s most impressive collections of dads in golf shorts.
And to think that there are nine states with more miserable summers than that! See how yours ranks in the list at Thrillist.
(Image credit: Daniel Fishel/Thrillist)
This guy has a pet raccoon. Tito was a cute baby raccoon, but once they start to become adults, they remind you that they are wild animals. That goes for hand-raised raccoons. Watch Tito being himself as his human lays some truth down. -via Metafilter
A group of experts, or people who think they are experts, plan the perfect crime. It will make them rich! Sometimes it's a thriller with high stakes, sometimes it's a comedy of errors. Often the plans go way off track. Sometimes they get away with it, sometimes they don't, and the fact that you don't know makes it all the more exciting. These are heist movies, and they come in all flavors. Everyone has their favorite, so Vulture built a ranked list for people to discuss and disagree with.
While selecting the 25 best heist films, we leaned heavily on the importance of the heist(s) to the movie’s plot. So, for example, the crime spree itself is perhaps more entertaining in Fantastic Mr. Fox than in the Wes Anderson film we chose, but the former isn’t really thought of as a “heist movie.” Our choices span several decades and aren’t all in English — most are thrillers, although a few are comedies. In some, our anti-heroes prevail — other times, everything goes terribly wrong. But what connects them all is that primal rush of landing the big score. Don’t try any of this at home.
Whether or not you agree with their selections, you'll probably find one or two that you haven't seen that might be working checking out in the list of the 25 best heist movies of all time. -via Metafilter
(Image credit: Maya Robinson/Vulture)
Havre, Montana, is more than meets the eye. The railroad city had its hidden vices: saloons, brothels, and opium dens, mostly in the steam tunnels and basements beneath its buildings. When an arson fire destroyed the homes and businesses of Havre's Chinese railroad workers in 1904, legitimate businessmen moved their stores and offices underground instead of waiting for the town to be rebuilt.
You’ll know when you’re walking over the Underground when you come across small grids of purple glass that illuminate the darkness below. They cover about ten blocks of the city.
Think of them as pioneer skylights into the non-operational, but still-standing Sporting Eagle Saloon, or one of the many bordellos and opium dens that were popular there in the 1920s-30s. The Great Depression was also a two-sided coin for Havre, whose innocent small businesses were suffering, while the Underground’s clandestine bootleggers were doing quite well…
The thriving underground city included a post office, mortuary, bakery, blacksmith shop, dentist office, pharmacy, barbershop, general store, and a chapel along with the saloons. As the years went by, the underground city fell into disuse, but now the local community has restored and open it up to tourists as Havre Beneath the Streets. Read about the underground city at Messy Nessy Chic.
(Image credit: Flickr user Pattys-photos)
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