CLOSE

The First Time News Was Fit To Print, VIII

Today we continue our journey through the archives of The New York Times. If you're new to the series, we've been digging up first mentions worth mentioning. Let's get right to it.

Bob Dylan

September 29, 1961

20-Year-Old Singer Is Bright New Face At Gerde's Club
Resembling a cross between a choir boy and a beatnik, Mr. Dylan has a cherubic look and a mop of tousled hair he partly covers with a Huck Finn black corduroy cap. His clothes may need a bit of tailoring, but when he works his guitar, harmonica or piano and composes new songs faster than he can remember them, there is no doubt that he is bursting at the seams with talent.
* * * * *
But if not for every taste, his music-making has the mark of originality and inspiration, all the more noteworthy for his youth. Mr. Dylan is vague about his antecedents and birthplace, but it matters less where he has been than where he is going, and that would seem to be straight up.

New York Jets

April 16, 1963

Titans Get A New Coach (Ewbank) And A New Name (Jets)
NYJets.jpgWilbur (Weeb) Ewbank, as expected, was appointed yesterday as coach and general manager of New York's American Football League team for three years. But the name he will be expected to cover with gridiron glory was, unexpectedly, announced as the Jets. It used to be the Titans. The Jets, which rhymes with Mets, was selected from more than 300 possible names submitted by friends, enemies and advertising agencies.
* * * * *
The Jets symbolizes the site of Shea Stadium (where the Jets think they'll play this fall) between two major airports, the spirit of modern times and the speed and eagerness of all concerned. Gothams, Borros and Dodgers were other leading contenders. Dodgers was discarded because the baseball people were not in favor. Borros (a pun on boroughs) was discarded because there was fear the team would be called the jackasses, and Gothams was dismissed because someone said that it would be shortened to Goths "“ "and you know they weren't such nice people."

Read on for The McLauhlin Group, David Sedaris, war on terror and Barbie.

The McLaughlin Group

October 20, 1982

Now Playing At The Zoo
mclaughlin-john-crop.jpg A weekend visitor to the National Zoo was surprised to discover a group of apes peering through the bars of their cage at a television set, looking like many other Washington viewers, reasonably attentive to the political talk show being broadcast but not stirred to excitement. The apes were following The McLaughlin Group on the local NBC channel in which four journalists discuss current events under the guidance of John J. McLaughlin. He is a former Jesuit priest who served as a special assistant in the Nixon White House.
* * * * *
Research determined that the apes have been watching television for years and are the only zoo inmates so privileged. The 12-inch portable is shifted periodically between the gorillas and the orangutans; they have no voice in the programming, which is determined by the keeper. No one has tried to determine whether the specialized audience favors Days of Our Lives, say, over reruns of Wild Kingdom.

David Sedaris

July 4, 1993

He Does Radio And Windows
sedaris.jpg As his celebrity sprouted this spring, David Sedaris was visited in New York by a fan from Dallas, who asked him excitedly, "What's it like to wake up in the morning and be David Sedaris?" On a recent hot summer morning, being David Sedaris meant sticking your hand into the toilet in the Gramercy Park apartment of a personal trainer and doing a vigorous scrub. It meant washing the man's dishes and cleaning his cat's litter box, changing the sheets and vacuuming the worn carpet. Then it meant going to another apartment and doing roughly the same thing. Most mornings, Mr. Sedaris said, with his high-tech retractable feather duster sticking from his back pocket, "I'm a maid."
* * * * *
But earlier that morning, not long before he started cleaning for $10 an hour, Mr. Sedaris's high-pitched, acidic voice was heard by the estimated one million people who listen to "Morning Edition" on National Public Radio as he read excerpts from the diaries he has kept for 15 years. Each month, as the show broadcasts his thoughts on being an unrepentant smoker, on falling in love too easily, on soap operas and on men who love women who grow too much (and are subjects in Giantess magazine), Mr. Sedaris becomes more of a minor phenomenon.
* * * * *
Larry Charles called Mr. Sedaris to discuss the possibility of his writing for Seinfeld, but the producer said last week that he now thinks Mr. Sedaris might be too idiosyncratic even for Seinfeld. "He seems like a guy who's really committed to his art," Mr. Charles said. "He would clean apartments so he can read these things on the radio."

War On Terror

December 4, 1934

Soviet Arrests 71 In War On 'Terror'
USSR.jpg Spurred by the assassination of Sergei M. Kiroff, the Soviet Government has struck its heaviest blow in years at those whom it regards as plotters of terroristic acts against Soviet officials. With dramatic suddenness it was announced early this morning that seventy-one persons had been arrested and haled to trial before the military collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR. Thirty-two of these were seized in the Moscow region and thirty-nene in the Leningrad region. They are stigmatized as "White Guards" and accused of plotting terroristic activities.
* * * * *
By the terms of a decree adopted by the central government immediately after the Kremlin received the news of M. Kiroff's death, terrorists and plotters are to be tried swiftly and to be executed immediately without opportunity for appeal.

Barbie

February 7, 1959

Booming Business Built By Husband And Wife Team
barbie.jpegFifteen years ago Elliott and Ruth Handler were a suburban couple doing spare-time tinkering with handicrafts in their garage. Today they head a $14 million-a-year business that has been mushrooming at a rate of 50% a year and is third in its field. The field: toys.
* * * * *
The operations of their company, Mattel, Inc., are so rigorously organized that the Handlers sometimes wonder why they are still making toys. "With our system," Ruth said whimsically, "we might just as well be turning out real airplanes or missiles."
* * * * *
To balance the heavy male emphasis in toy guns, the Handlers this year are bringing out a doll "“ eleven inches high and named "Barbie," after their 17-year-old daughter....The doll has a teen-age figure, contrasting with the infantile rotundity traditionally given dolls to simplify clothes-making. To produce at a feasible cost "Barbie's" twenty-two costume wardrobe, the Handlers have opened a production branch in Japan's even though it means paying a 35% import tariff. They also are making a line of doll furniture in Japan. Their experience "“ bolstered by a brigade of slide-rule artists "“ gives them confidence that this time they'll make a profit on it.

Got a suggestion for Volume IX? Leave it in the comments.
The First Time News Was Fit To Print, I
The First Time News Was Fit To Print, II
The First Time News Was Fit To Print, III
The First Time News Was Fit To Print, IV
The First Time News Was Fit To Print, V
The First Time News Was Fit To Print, VI
The First Time News Was Fit To Print, VII

T.jpgWant complete access to The New York Times archives, which go all the way back to 1851? Become an NYT subscriber.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
quiz
Begins and Ends: European Cities
iStock
iStock
nextArticle.image_alt|e
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
arrow
Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios