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The First Time News Was Fit To Print, XI

Every Monday, we journey into the archives of The New York Times, searching for first mentions worth mentioning. This week's edition includes RFK, the Olsen Twins and Digg.

Robert F. Kennedy

January 8, 1950

Miss Ethel Skakel Becomes Engaged
RFKWedding3.jpgMr. and Mrs. George Skakel have announced the engagement of their daughter, Ethel, to Robert Francis Kennedy, son of Joseph P. Kennedy, former U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James, and Mrs. Kennedy of Hyannis, Mass.; New York and West Palm Beach, Fla., formerly of Boston. A June wedding is planned.
* * * * *
Her fiancé, who was graduated from the Milton (Mass.) Academy, is a member of the class of '48 of Harvard University, where he belonged to the Spee and Varsity Cubs and the Hasty Pudding Institute of 1770. He was captain of the freshman football team there and on the varsity squad for three years.*

A veteran of three years of wartime Navy service, Mr. Kennedy is a student at the University of Virginia Law School. The prospective bridegroom is a brother of Representative John F. Kennedy and the late Lady Kathleen Hartington.

*This wasn't actually true. In a March 1957 profile, RFK's athletic resume was re-stated: "Mr. Kennedy is an active sportsman. He plays tennis, golfs in the 80's and skis. He played end on the Harvard football team for two years. Now a favorite week-end diversion is 'touch' football."

Zip Codes

November 29, 1962

New Mail Codes Will Aid Sorters
use-zip-code.jpgThe Post Office Department will add a five-digit number to everyone's address after July 1. The new number will be called the zip code.

Postmaster General J. Edward Day, who announced the plan today, said the digit code would help postal clerks pinpoint the destination of mail as it was sorted. He said this could speed delivery by as much as 24 hours.

To help publicize the plan, the department has created a cartoon character named Mr. Zip. "Zip" stands for Zone Improvement Plan.
* * * * *
Mr. Day he did not expect the new system to bring about any reduction in the postal payroll or in postal rates. The volume of mail increases every year and, in any case, most postal employees are letter carriers.

"I don't think we'll ever get to the point where a clanking robot brings mail to your door."

Keep reading for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, David Bowie, product placement, Digg and the Olsen Twins.

Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen

June 7, 1992

Q-Ratings: The Popularity Contest Of The Stars
olsen.jpg How do you figure out a Q-rating? Take the percentage of people surveyed who describe a show or performer as "one of my favorites," then divide by the percentage who recognize the name in the first place. Drop the decimal point. For instance, a show that is called a favorite by everyone who has heard of it would have a rating of 100.

Here are Q-ratings of some of America's current favorites, according to the most recent surveys available. In cases of ties, shows and performers are listed alphabetically.

1. Jaleel White (49)
2. Bill Cosby (45)
3. Estelle Getty (42)
4. Whoopi Goldberg (42)
5. Michael Jordan (42)
6. Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen (twins) (42)
7. Robin Williams (42)
8. Kevin Costner (40)
9. Ted Danson (40)
10. Carroll O'Connor (39)

Digg

January 11, 2006

In A Flash, Camera Dealers Feel The Web's Wrath
digg-logo.jpg The market for digital camera gear, it turns out, happens to have a lot of overlap with the technology-minded, Web-logging set, whose vengeance is served without much pause. 'So many people have had the same problem before,' said Danny Start, a computer systems analyst in Birmingham, England...'This time, we all heard about it and thought we'd do something about it.'

On Nov. 29, Thomas Hawk posted a 2,333-word complaint about Price Rite Photo on his Web site, describing hard sales tactics and threats. By 2 a.m. the next day, this dispute over a $3,000 camera was an enormously popular topic of discussion online, casting Mr. Hawk in the timeless role of the outraged underdog.
* * * * *
After reading Mr. Hawk's complaints, Yahoo! Shopping blocked Price Rite from its service, according to Sabrina Crider, a spokeswoman for the company. Mr. Hawk quickly declared victory, and online discussion forums with names like Digg filed the story under headlines like "Digg Users Take Revenge at Bad Online Store."

David Bowie

July 11, 1971

Bowie, Bolan, Heron "“ Superstars?
davidbowie.jpgMind and music are a powerful team, too. David Bowie is the most intellectually brilliant man yet to choose the long-playing album as his medium of expression. His best album is Man of Words/Man of Music* (Mercury). It is over a year old and not easy to find in record stores, but it is well worth special-ordering or sending to England for or borrowing from a friend. It is worth any three records now on the charts.

*This album was re-released in the United States as Space Oddity in 1972.

War On Drugs

June 14, 1919

Health Commissioner Copeland Defends His War On Drugs
According to a statement given out yesterday by the Bureau of Narcotic Research, representing in its membership a number of philanthropists and medical men interested in the drug problem...the question that is interesting the doctors is how far the municipal and State authorities are seeking to interfere with the private practitioner's efforts in curing drug addicts. Any amendments to the sanitary code as have been proposed that will aim to treat as a single class the thousands of persons addicted to the use of narcotics will be vigorously resisted by the doctors, says the bureau's statement.

It also states that, according to figures compiled by the Police Department, there are at present some 250,000 addicts in New York. Of this number only about 15 percent are of the criminal or underworld classes, it says, and 212,500 of the total are making every effort to be cured.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

June 4, 1971

Biggest Name in NBA: Jabbar
kareemBucks.jpg For Oscar Robertson, it will be a chance to "listen and learn"; for Lew Alcindor, a "return to the fountainhead."

These were the terms in which the two basketball stars today described their upcoming tour of six African countries on behalf of the state department.
* * * * *
Twice during the short news conference Alcindor asked to be called by his Muslim name, Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

"I first used the name in 1969," he said, "but now that I am going overseas to represent my country, I would appreciate that courtesy."....Alcindor said he didn't expect the [Milwaukee] Bucks to change his name in their advertising "because I've become famous with it. I do expect people to use my Islamic name when they're talking to me."

Product Placement (in movies/TV)

November 15, 1982

Plugging Products In Movies As An Applied Art
The script for Rocky III is amended to include a Wheaties scene, in which Rocky advises his young son to eat the "breakfast of champions" if he wants to grow up big and strong. In North Dallas 40, a scene involving salad dressing is inserted so that the actors can conspicuously use Bertolli Olive Oil. In Honeysuckle Rose, the beer bottles are carefully arranged so that a particular beer is by Willie Nelson's side when he's relaxed and happy. As for the troublemakers, they drink another brand.

tv_friends.gifThese touches are the handiwork of an up-and-coming entrepreneur called the product placer, whose business it is to make sure that moviemakers and manufacturers enjoy a close, symbiotic relationship. In the days when Hollywood cared more for elegance, this might not have been possible "“ brand-name products on screen would have seemed hopelessly declasse. Even in recent years, the use of merchandise in movies was fairly random. But nowadays it's becoming an organized process, and the brand-name products that turn up as movie props are less and less likely to have landed there by accident.

[Image of mental_floss on Friends courtesy of The Trivia Hall of Fame. "Actor David Arquette became a fan, and a copy ended up in Courtney Cox-Arquette's hands on the set."]

Previously on The First Time News Was Fit To Print:
"¢ Volume I: Barack Obama, Jon Stewart and the iPod
"¢ Volume II: Hillary Clinton, Starbucks, McDonald's
"¢ Volume III: JFK, Microwave Oven, the Internet
"¢ Volume IV: Larry David, Drudge Report, Digital Camera
"¢ Volume V: Walkman, Osama bin Laden, Iowa Caucuses
"¢ Volume VI: Times Square, Marijuana, Googling
"¢ Volume VII: Lance Armstrong, Aerosmith, Gatorade
"¢ Volume VIII: Bob Dylan, New York Jets, War on Terror
"¢ Volume IX: Hedge Fund, White Collar Crime, John Updike
"¢ Volume X: E-mail, Bruce Springsteen, George Steinbrenner

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

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History
A Founder of Earth Day Looks Back on How It Began
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated

On the very first Earth Day in 1970, Denis Hayes stood on a stage in Central Park, stunned by the number of people who'd come to honor the planet. Now in his 70s, Hayes remembers it was like looking at the ocean—“you couldn’t see where the sea of people ended.” Crowd estimates reached more than a million people.

For Hayes, who is now board chair of the international Earth Day Network, it was the culmination of a year’s worth of work. As an urban ecology graduate student at Harvard University, he’d volunteered to help organize a small initiative by Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson. Nelson was horrified by the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, and wanted to raise awareness about environmental issues by holding teaching events similar to those being held by civil rights and anti-war activists.

Senator Nelson saw a growing disconnect between the concept of progress and the idea of American well-being, Hayes tells Mental Floss. “There was a sense that America was prosperous and getting better, but at the same time, the air in the country was similar to the air today in China, Mexico City, or New Delhi," Hayes says. "Rivers were catching on fire. Lakes were unswimmable.”

Nelson's plan for these environmental teach-ins was for speakers to educate college students about environmental issues. But he had no one to organize them. So Hayes, Nelson’s sole volunteer, took control on a national level, organizing teach-ins at Harvard first and then across the U.S. Initially, the response was tepid at best. “Rather rapidly it became clear that this wasn’t a hot issue at colleges and universities in 1969,” Hayes says. “We had a war raging, and civil rights were getting very emotional after the Nixon election.”

Still, both Hayes and Nelson noticed an influx of mail to the senator's office from women with young families worried about the environment. So instead of focusing on colleges, the two decided to take a different tactic, creating events with community-based organizations across the country, Hayes says. They also decided that rather than a series of teach-ins, they'd hold a single, nationwide teach-in on the same day. They called it Earth Day, and set a date: April 22.

Hayes now had a team of young adults working for the cause, and he himself had dropped out of school to tackle it full time. Long before social media, the project began to spread virally. “It just resonated,” he says. Women and smaller environmental-advocacy groups really hooked onto the idea, and word spread by mouth and by information passing between members of the groups.

Courtesy of Denis Hayes

With the cooperation and participation of grassroots groups and volunteers across the country, and a few lawmakers who supported the initiative, Hayes’ efforts culminated in the event on April 22, 1970.

Hayes started the day in Washington, D.C., where he and the staff were based. There was a rally and protest on the National Mall, though by that point Hayes had flown to New York, where Mayor John Lindsay provided a stage in Central Park. Parts of Fifth Avenue were shut down for the events, which included Earth-oriented celebrations, protests, and speeches by celebrities. Some of those attending the event even attacked nearby cars for causing pollution. After the rally, Hayes flew to Chicago for a smaller event.

“We had a sense that it was going to be big, but when the day actually dawned, the crowds were so much bigger than anyone had experienced before,” Hayes said. The event drew grassroots activists working on a variety of issues—Agent Orange, lead paint in poor urban neighborhoods, saving the whales—and fostered a sense of unity among them.

“There were people worrying about these [environmental] issues before Earth Day, but they didn’t think they had anything in common with one another," Hayes says. "We took all those individual strands and wove them together into the fabric of modern environmentalism.”

Hayes and his team spent the summer getting tear-gassed at protests against the American invasion of Cambodia, which President Nixon authorized just six days after Earth Day. But by fall, the team refocused on environmental issues—and elections. They targeted a “dirty dozen” members of Congress up for re-election who had terrible environmental records, and campaigned for candidates who championed environmental causes to run against them. They defeated seven out of 12.

“It was a very poorly funded but high-energy campaign,” Hayes says. “That sent the message to Congress that it wasn’t just a bunch of people out frolicking in the sunshine planting daisies and picking up litter. This actually had political chops.”

The early '70s became a golden age for environmental issues; momentum from the Earth Day movement spawned the creation of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Environmental Education Act (which was initially passed in 1970 and revived in 1990), and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We completely changed the framework within which America does business, more than any other period in history with the possible exception of the New Deal,” Hayes says. “But our little revolution was brought entirely from the grassroots up.”

In 1990, Hayes was at it again. He organized the first international Earth Day, with about 200 million participants across more than 140 countries. Since then it’s become a global phenomenon.

Despite its popularity, though, we still have a long way to go, even if the improvements Hayes fought for have made these issues feel more remote. Hayes noted that everything they were fighting in the '70s was something tangible—something you could see, taste, smell, or touch. Climate change can seem much less real—and harder to combat—to the average person who isn’t yet faced with its effects.

Hayes also notes that people have become more skeptical of science. “Historically, that has not been a problem in the United States. But today science is under attack.”

He warns, “This [anti-science sentiment] is something that could impoverish the next 50 generations and create really long-term devastation—that harms not only American health, but also American business, American labor, and American prospects.”

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entertainment
13 Great Jack Nicholson Quotes
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

Jack Nicholson turns 81 today. Let's celebrate with some of the actor's wit and wisdom.

1. ON ADVICE

"I hate advice unless I'm giving it. I hate giving advice, because people won't take it."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

2. ON REGRETS

"Not that I can think of. I’m sure there are some, but my mind doesn’t go there. When you look at life retrospectively you rarely regret anything that you did, but you might regret things that you didn’t do."

From an interview with The Talks

3. ON DEATH

"I'm Irish. I think about death all the time. Back in the days when I thought of myself as a serious academic writer, I used to think that the only real theme was a fear of death, and that all the other themes were just that same fear, translated into fear of closeness, fear of loneliness, fear of dissolving values. Then I heard old John Huston talking about death. Somebody was quizzing him about the subject, you know, and here he is with the open-heart surgery a few years ago, and the emphysema, but he's bounced back fit as a fiddle, and he's talking about theories of death, and the other fella says, 'Well, great, John, that's great ... but how am I supposed to feel about it when you pass on?' And John says, 'Just treat it as your own.' As for me, I like that line I wrote that, we used in The Border, where I said, 'I just want to do something good before I die.' Isn't that what we all want?"

From an interview with Roger Ebert

4. ON NERVES

''There's a period of time just before you start a movie when you start thinking, I don't know what in the world I'm going to do. It's free-floating anxiety. In my case, though, this is over by lunch the first day of shooting.''

From an interview with The New York Times

5. ON ACTING

"Almost anyone can give a good representative performance when you're unknown. It's just easier. The real pro game of acting is after you're known—to 'un-Jack' that character, in my case, and get the audience to reinvest in a new and specific, fictional person."

From an interview with The Age

6. ON MARRIAGE

"I never had a policy about marriage. I got married very young in life and I always think in all relationships, I've always thought that it's counterproductive to have a theory on that. It's hard enough to get to know yourself and as most of you have probably found, once you get to know two people in tandem it's even more difficult. If it's going to be successful, it's going to have to be very specific and real and immediate so the more ideas you have about it before you start, it seems to me the less likely you are to be successful."

From an interview with About.com

7. ON LYING

“You only lie to two people in your life: your girlfriend and the police. Everybody else you tell the truth to.”

From a 1994 interview with Vanity Fair

8. ON HIS SUNGLASSES

"They're prescription. That's why I wear them. A long time ago, the Middle American in me may have thought it was a bit affected maybe. But the light is very strong in southern California. And once you've experienced negative territory in public life, you begin to accept the notion of shields. I am a person who is trained to look other people in the eye. But I can't look into the eyes of everyone who wants to look into mine; I can't emotionally cope with that kind of volume. Sunglasses are part of my armor."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

9. ON MISCONCEPTIONS

"I think people think I'm more physical than I am, I suppose. I'm not really confrontational. Of course, I have a temper, but that's sort of blown out of proportion."

From an interview with ESPN

10. ON DIRECTING

"I'm a different person when suddenly it's my responsibility. I'm not very inhibited in that way. I would show up [on the set of The Two Jakes] one day, and we'd scouted an orange grove and it had been cut down. You're out in the middle of nowhere and they forget to cast an actor. These are the sort of things I kind of like about directing. Of course, at the time you blow your stack a little bit. ... I'm a Roger Corman baby. Just keep rolling, baby. You've got to get something on there. Maybe it's right. Maybe it's wrong. Maybe you can fix it later. Maybe you can't. You can't imagine the things that come up when you're making a movie where you've got to adjust on the spot."

From an interview with MTV

11. ON ROGER CORMAN

"There's nobody in there, that he didn't, in the most important way support. He was my life blood to whatever I thought I was going to be as a person. And I hope he knows that this is not all hot air. I'm going to cry now."

From the documentary Corman's World

12. ON PLAYING THE JOKER

"This would be the character, whose core—while totally determinate of the part—was the least limiting of any I would ever encounter. This is a more literary way of approaching than I might have had as a kid reading the comics, but you have to get specific. ... He's not wired up the same way. This guy has survived nuclear waste immersion here. Even in my own life, people have said, 'There's nothing sacred to you in the area of humor, Jack. Sometimes, Jack, relax with the humor.' This does not apply to the Joker, in fact, just the opposite. Things even the wildest comics might be afraid to find funny: burning somebody's face into oblivion, destroying a masterpiece in a museum—a subject as an art person even made me a little scared. Not this character. And I love that."

From The Making of Batman

13. ON BASKETBALL

"I've always thought basketball was the best sport, although it wasn't the sport I was best at. It was just the most fun to watch. ... Even as a kid it appealed to me. The basketball players were out at night. They had great overcoats. There was this certain nighttime juvenile-delinquent thing about it that got your blood going."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

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