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Mad men, vagrants and secret symbols

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I'm the type of person who doesn't like to come into a new TV series in the middle. Not that I watch much TV, but when I do, I'm pretty loyal from the pilot onward and don't like wondering what I missed. Of course, with iTunes, it's now possible to download episodes of certain shows that have deals with Apple for less than the price of a gallon of gas. So it's been with AMC's new series Mad Men.

With Baby Jack taking up so much of our lives, my wife and I missed the first half-dozen episodes. In fact, I didn't know anything about the show until I heard some colleagues discussing it at the office over lunch one day.

If you haven't checked it out yet, do! It's set in an advertising agency in NYC during the early1960s and features one of the best-looking, most authentic sets in recent memory. Danish teak in every room, ashtrays and cigarettes in every scene, and wonderful attention to detail in the costumes, musical selections, and, sadly, the characters' treatment of women and minorities. Even the pacing of the show matches that of a show made in 1960 vis-à-vis today. (Which might be a turn off to those raised on Aaron Sorkin, but not me.)

Created by a former Sopranos producer/writer named Matthew Weiner, the show uses flashbacks much the way David Chase did for Tony Soprano to help fill in the backstory regarding the childhood of its protagonist—in this case, Don Draper, the creative director for Sterling Cooper advertising agency.

Other than plugging the show with the hopes of boosting its ratings and, therefore, doing my part to help secure a re-order for next season, I wanted to write about something I learned on a recent episode (gotta love shows that work all kinds of cool, accurate trivia into their storylines). I had no idea, but apparently there's a code of symbols that vagrants once relied on (and perhaps still do) when stopping for the night. With a piece of chalk, or a knife, they'd etch a symbol like the ones you see below into a fence post or a backdoor to alert future tramps who might be passing through. The images below come from this site, which has many more for the mildly curious. For the very curious, I really do urge you to catch the reruns on AMC or head over to iTunes and download the episodes. I'd be surprised if you didn't like "˜em.

Anyone agree? Disagree?

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Neil deGrasse Tyson Just Answered the Game of Thrones Question That Everyone's Asking
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HBO

Serial debunker of movies and TV Neil deGrasse Tyson took on Game of Thrones on Sunday evening, analyzing everything from the chains the army of the dead used to pull up dead dragon Viserion (wrong angle) to the dragons themselves (good wing span, though experts we spoke with say they're still too heavy to fly). And then he dropped an intriguing tweet that just might explain Ice Viserion's blue fire, which easily cut through the Wall:

Inverse's Yasmin Tayag took a deep dive into the physics of dragon fire after the season finale and concluded that, according to science, blue flames are the hottest of them all. Typical Game of Thrones dragon fire—the red, yellow, and orange kind—is the result of incomplete combustion. The color is caused by the fuel in the dragon's gut (likely carbon) releasing chemicals as gas in a process known as pyrolysis. Blue flames, though, mean complete combustion, which, according to Tayag, "can only occur when there’s plenty of oxygen available to allow a flame to get super hot, and the fuel being burned doesn’t release too many additional chemicals during pyrolysis that might lead to a different colored flame."

In August, Game of Thrones sound designer Paula Fairfield—perhaps in an attempt to answer viewers’ nagging question about whether Viserion was blowing fire or ice—told Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson that, “He’s just going at it and slicing with this. It's kind of like liquid nitrogen. It’s so, so cold. So imagine if that’s what it was, but it’s so cold it’s hot. That kind of thing.”

This could have big consequences if Ice Viserion and Drogon face off. "If the HBO series decides to follow these particular laws of thermal physics (and why should it when Thrones so flagrantly disregarded chain physics?!?), then Viserion will surely be at an advantage if and when he ever goes talon-to-talon with his brother Drogon," wrote Robinson in response to deGrasse Tyson’s tweet.

Game of Thrones's final season won't debut until late 2018 or 2019, so we have a long time to wait before we see which dragon's fire comes out on top. 

[h/t: Vanity Fair]

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The Time Douglas Adams Met Jim Henson
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On September 13, 1983, Jim Henson and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams had dinner for the first time. Henson, who was born on this day in 1936, noted the event in his "Red Book" journal, in characteristic short-form style: "Dinner with Douglas Adams – 1st met." Over the next few years the men discussed how they might work together—they shared interests in technology, entertainment, and education, and ended up collaborating on several projects (including a Labyrinth video game). They also came up with the idea for a "Muppet Institute of Technology" project, a computer literacy TV special that was never produced. Henson historians described the project as follows:

Adams had been working with the Henson team that year on the Muppet Institute of Technology project. Collaborating with Digital Productions (the computer animation people), Chris Cerf, Jon Stone, Joe Bailey, Mark Salzman and Douglas Adams, Jim’s goal was to raise awareness about the potential for personal computer use and dispel fears about their complexity. In a one-hour television special, the familiar Muppets would (according to the pitch material), “spark the public’s interest in computing,” in an entertaining fashion, highlighting all sorts of hardware and software being used in special effects, digital animation, and robotics. Viewers would get a tour of the fictional institute – a series of computer-generated rooms manipulated by the dean, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and stumble on various characters taking advantage of computers’ capabilities. Fozzie, for example, would be hard at work in the “Department of Artificial Stupidity,” proving that computers are only as funny as the bears that program them. Hinting at what would come in The Jim Henson Hour, viewers, “…might even see Jim Henson himself using an input device called a ‘Waldo’ to manipulate a digitally-controlled puppet.”

While the show was never produced, the development process gave Jim and Douglas Adams a chance to get to know each other and explore a shared passion. It seems fitting that when production started on the 2005 film of Adams’s classic Hitchhiker’s Guide, Jim Henson’s Creature Shop would create animatronic creatures like the slovenly Vogons, the Babel Fish, and Marvin the robot, perhaps a relative of the robot designed by Michael Frith for the MIT project.

You can read a bit on the project more from Muppet Wiki, largely based on the same article.

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