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The First Time News Was Fit To Print, XII

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Every Monday, mental_floss ventures into the The New York Times archives to find first mentions worth mentioning. Leave your Volume XIII suggestions in the comments.

ARPANET

June 24, 1975

Aide Says Pentagon Computers Aren't Used To Check Citizens
departmentofdefense.jpgDefense Department officials acknowledged today that they operated a number of computers but they said that none of them were used to hold files on American citizens.

One of the biggest Pentagon computer networks is called ARPANET and D.O. Cooke, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, told a hearing of two Senate subcommittees:

"Let me emphasize that it is not a 'secret' network, that it is used for scientific research purposes, that it contains no sociological or intelligence data on personalities, and that it is a marvel in many ways. But it simply does not fit the Orwellian mold attributed to it."

Lee Harvey Oswald

November 3, 1959

oswald.jpgAmerican Awaits Soviet Word
Lee Harvey Oswald shut himself in his hotel room today to await a decision on his request for Soviet citizenship. Mr. Oswald, a former Marine from Fort Worth, Texas, turned in his American passport to the United States Embassy here [in Moscow] last week-end. "I am awaiting a reply from the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet on my application for citizenship and have nothing to say meanwhile," he said over the telephone.

Jerry Seinfeld

March 30, 1979

Funny Finalists Stand Up For Laughs
seinfeld.jpg"The Big Laff Off," 40 stand-up comedians, some of them professionals only in the sense that they had had a few small club dates, most of them amateurs, some of them walk-on novices, performing over six nights in the last two weeks at the city's comedy cabarets, the Comic Strip, Catch a Rising Star, and the Improvisation.
* * * * *
The Comic Strip's regular master of ceremonies, Jerry Seinfeld, will be there Monday discussing the complexities of "those little hangers they have for socks" and how embarrassed he is when he has to go to Disneyland, "because all those movable dolls know more than me."

Keep reading for Seinfeld (the show), the iPhone (not the one you waited in line for), Labrador retriever, Don Mattingly, Lorne Michaels and more.

The Seinfeld Chronicles

June 28, 1989

Stand-Up Comics Bloster Sitcoms
jerry.jpgNext week, on Wednesday at 9:30, NBC is presenting The Seinfeld Chronicles, starring Jerry Seinfeld, another rising star in the stand-up arena. Clean-cut and boyish, Mr. Seinfeld takes an offbeat approach to the common functions of everyday life "“ a shower or doing the laundry. In this half-hour special, written by Larry David and directed by Art Wolff (The Tracey Ullman Show), he plays himself, coping with little crises in his private life and transforming them into material for his stand-up routines. The jokes will be familiar to anyone who has seen his cable comedy specials. NBC will be closely monitoring reaction to next week's broadcast.

Labrador Retriever

May 3, 1914

Dog As Caddy: Scarcity Of Boys Causes Innovation
On English Golf Links

remote.jpg An innovation has lately been made by a player on the Tyneside golf course at Rytown, which is likely to be adopted on other courses, particularly where engaged couples like to indulge in the game without human observers. At Rytown, in order to overcome difficulties created by a scarcity of caddies, the player in question trained his dog, a Labrador retriever, to carry his clubs and hunt for lost balls.
* * * * *
"From every point of view the dog is so much the superior of the boy as a caddy that I expect to see dogs used universally in the future. With a dog as your caddy there is no one to hear you swear and no one to make fun of your play."

[Note: The phrase "Labrador Retrievers" (plural) was used once before, in March of 1914. This was funnier.]

iPhone

December 15, 1997

Cyberspace Cutting Edge Seems Pretty Dull
iPhone-Cidco.jpgIt sure was big, whatever it was. More than 65,000 people last week jammed into the Javits Center to attend Internet World, which has become one of the nation's largest trade shows.

But unlike other huge industry events, most notably Comdex, there was less sense that any particular development was revolutionary than that it was time to pay attention to make the reality of switches and networks live up to the dreamy prognostications of techno-utopians.
* * * * *
Many of the 600 exhibitors focused on hardware, software and services of use to those putting together Web sites. Hot categories included programs to serve as hosts for catalogs and take payments for goods and services on line.

Several specialized hardware devices were introduced. For example, Cidco, a telephone accessory maker introduced the iPhone, a $500 telephone with a black-and-white screen that can be used for surfing the World Wide Web. And Encanto began selling a $1,000 all-inclusive device that small business can use to be host of their own Web sites.

Don Mattingly

September 2, 1980

Yankee Hopefuls Face Crossroad At Greensboro
mattingly1.jpgDon Mattingly, a 19-year-old outfielder from Evansville, Ind., hit in the vicinity of .370. He has a knack for turning fastballs into line drives. Mattingly's fielding has been questionable, but he improved after working with Ken Berry, the two-time Gold Glove winner who is now a Hornet coach.
* * * * *
Kim Mattingly, 17, left high school to marry Don....Being married to a minor league player is lonely, Kim says. There are so many bus trips and so many days with nothing to do. Some of the wives look forward to the games as much as the players do. Kim Mattingly likes to get out and walk around the stadium and talk to fans and the wives and girlfriends of other players. She says she realizes that hers is strictly a supporting role to her husband. "When he's happy, I'm happy," she says. "When he goes 0 for 8, then he gets grumpy and he's grumpy to me too."

"Vote With Your Feet"

January 17, 1976

Reagan.jpgReagan Says Plan Could Harm Needy
Ronald Reagan said today that the poor and minorities living in states resistant to social action might have to migrate elsewhere if these states failed to substitute adequate welfare programs for the Federal ones he would like to eliminate.

"You can vote with your feet in this country," he declared in a campaign swing through the countryside of southern New Hampshire. "If a state is mismanaged, you can move elsewhere."

Lorne Michaels

April 23, 1975

New Comedy Series Due Oct. 11 On NBC
A new 90-minute series designed as an outlet for young comedians was announced by NBC-TV yesterday for Saturday nights at 11:30. Entitled Saturday Night, the program is scheduled to premier Oct. 11, replacing the Saturday reruns of Tonight....An NBC spokesman said the time had been chosen because the routines of many of the new comics were too sophisticated for general audiences.

Saturday Night will be produced by Lorne Michaels, who has been a comedy writer for the Monty Python and Laugh-In series and a producer of the Lily Tomlin and Flip Wilson specials.

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
"¢ Volume XI: RFK, the Olsen Twins, Digg

T.jpgYou need not rely on us to find The First Time News Was Fit To Print. Get complete access to the The New York Times archives when you become an NYT subscriber.

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Pop Culture
The Sweet Surprise Reunion Mr. Rogers Never Saw Coming
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Family Communications Inc./Getty Images

For more than 30 years, legendary children’s show host Fred Rogers used his PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to educate his young viewers on concepts like empathy, sharing, and grief. As a result, he won just about every television award he was eligible for, some of them many times over.

Rogers was gracious in accepting each, but according to those who were close to the host, one honor in particular stood out. It was March 11, 1999, and Rogers was being inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, an offshoot of the Emmy Awards. Just before being called to the stage, out came a surprise.

The man responsible for the elation on Rogers’s face was Jeff Erlanger, a 29-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin who became a quadriplegic at a young age after undergoing spinal surgery to remove a tumor. Rogers was surprised because Erlanger had appeared on his show nearly 20 years prior in 1980 to help kids understand how people with physical challenges adapt to life’s challenges. Here's his first encounter with the host:

Reunited on stage after two decades, Erlanger referred to the song, “It’s You I Like,” which the two sang during their initial meeting. “On behalf of millions of children and grown-ups,” Erlanger said, “it’s you I like.” The audience, including a visibly moved Candice Bergen, rose to their feet to give both men a standing ovation.

Following Erlanger’s death in 2007, Hedda Sharapan, an employee with Rogers’s production company, called their poignant scene “authentic” and “unscripted,” and that Rogers often pointed to it as his favorite moment from the series.

Near the end of the original segment in 1980, as Erlanger drives his wheelchair off-camera, Rogers waves goodbye and offers a departing message: “I hope you’ll come back to visit again.”

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© 2002 Twentieth Century Fox
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entertainment
20 Things You Might Not Have Known About Firefly
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© 2002 Twentieth Century Fox

As any diehard fan will be quick to tell you, Firefly's run was far, far too short. Despite its truncated run, the show still offers a wealth of fun facts and hidden Easter eggs. On the 15th anniversary of the series' premiere, we're looking back at the sci-fi series that kickstarted a Browncoat revolution.

1. A CIVIL WAR NOVEL INSPIRED THE FIREFLY UNIVERSE.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels from author Michael Shaara was Joss Whedon’s inspiration for creating Firefly. It follows Union and Confederate soldiers during four days at the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Whedon modeled the series and world on the Reconstruction Era, but set in the future.

2. ORIGINALLY, THE SERENITY CREW INCLUDED JUST FIVE MEMBERS.

When Whedon first developed Firefly, he wanted Serenity to only have five crew members. However, throughout development and casting, Whedon increased the cast from five to nine.

3. REBECCA GAYHEART WAS ORIGINALLY CAST TO PLAY INARA.

Getty Images

Before Morena Baccarin was cast as Inara Serra, Rebecca Gayheart landed the role—but she was fired after one day of shooting because she lacked chemistry with the rest of the cast. Baccarin was cast two days later and started shooting that day.

4. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS WAS ALMOST DR. SIMON TAM.

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Before it went to Sean Maher, Neil Patrick Harris auditioned for the role of Dr. Simon Tam.

5. JOSS WHEDON WROTE THE THEME SONG.

Whedon wrote the lyrics and music for Firefly’s opening theme song, “The Ballad of Serenity.”

6. STAR WARS SPACECRAFT APPEAR IN FIREFLY.

Star Wars was a big influence on Whedon. Captain Malcolm Reynolds somewhat resembles Han Solo, while Whedon used the Millennium Falcon as inspiration to create Serenity. In fact, you can spot a few spacecraft from George Lucas's magnum opus on the show.

When Inara’s shuttle docks with Serenity in the pilot episode, an Imperial Shuttle can be found flying in the background. In the episode “Shindig,” you can see a Starlight Intruder as the crew lands on the planet Persephone.

7. HAN SOLO FROZEN IN CARBONITE POPS UP THROUGHOUT FIREFLY.

YouTube

Nathan Fillion is a big Han Solo fan, so the Firefly prop department made a 12-inch replica of Han Solo encased in Carbonite for the Canadian-born actor. You can see the prop in the background in a number of scenes.

8. ALIEN'S WEYLAND-YUTANI CORPORATION MADE AN APPEARANCE.

In Firefly’s pilot episode, the opening scene features the legendary Battle of Serenity Valley between the Browncoats and The Union of Allied Planets. Captain Malcolm Reynolds takes control of a cannon with a Weyland-Yutani logo inside of its display. Weyland-Yutani is the large conglomerate corporation in the Alien film franchise. (Whedon wrote Alien: Resurrection in 1997.)

9. ZAC EFRON'S ACTING DEBUT WAS ON FIREFLY.

A 13-year-old Zac Efron made his acting debut in the episode “Safe” in 2002. He played Young Simon in a flashback.

10. CAPTAIN MALCOLM REYNOLDS'S HORSE IS A WESTERN TROPE.

At its core, Firefly is a sci-fi western—and Malcolm Reynolds rides the same horse on every planet (it's named Fred).

11. FOX AIRED FIREFLY'S EPISODES OUT OF ORDER.

Fox didn’t feel Firefly’s two-hour pilot episode was strong enough to air as its first episode. Instead, “The Train Job” was broadcast first because it featured more action and excitement. The network continued to cherry-pick episodes based on broad appeal rather than story consistency, and eventually aired the pilot as the show’s final episode.

12. THE ALLIANCE'S ORIGINS ARE AMERICAN AND CHINESE.

The full name of The Alliance is The Anglo-Sino Alliance. Whedon envisioned The Alliance as a merger of American and Chinese government and corporate superpowers. The Union of Allied Planets’ flag is a blending of the American and Chinese national flags.

13. THE SERENITY LOUNGE SERVED AS AN ACTUAL LOUNGE.

Between set-ups and shots, the cast would hang out in the lounge on the Serenity set rather than trailers or green rooms.

14. INARA SERRA'S NAME IS MESOPOTAMIAN.

Getty Images

Inara Serra is named after the Mesopotamian Hittite goddess, the protector of all wild animals.

15. THE CHARACTERS SWORE (JUST NOT IN ENGLISH).

The Firefly universe is a mixture of American and Chinese culture, which made it easy for writers to get around censors by having characters swear in Chinese.

16. THE UNIFORMS ARE RECYCLED FROM STARSHIP TROOPERS.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

The uniforms for Alliance officers and soldiers were the costumes from the 1997 science fiction film Starship Troopers. The same costumes were repurposed again for the Starship Troopers sequel.

17. "SUMMER!" MEANS SOMEONE MESSED UP.

Every time a cast member flubbed one of his or her lines, they would yell Summer Glau’s name. This was a running gag among the cast after Glau forgot her lines in the episode “Objects In Space.”

18. THE SERENITY SPACESHIP WAS BUILT TO SCALE.

The interior of Serenity was built entirely to scale; rooms and sections were completely contiguous. The ship’s interior was split into two stages, one for the upper deck and one for the lower. Whedon showed off the Firefly set in one long take to open the Serenity movie.

19. "THE MESSAGE" SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE SHOW'S FAREWELL.

Although “The Message” was the twelfth episode, it was the last episode filmed during Firefly’s short run. Composer Greg Edmonson wrote a piece of music for a funeral scene in the episode, which served as a final farewell to the show. Sadly, it was one of three episodes (the other two were “Trash” and “Heart of Gold”) that didn’t air during Firefly’s original broadcast run on Fox.

20. FIREFLY AND SERENITY WERE SENT TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION.

American Astronaut Steven Ray Swanson is a big fan of Firefly, so when he was sent to the International Space Station for his first mission (STS-117) in 2007, he brought DVD copies of Firefly and its feature film Serenity aboard with him. The DVDs are now a permanent part of the space station’s library.

This post originally appeared in 2014.

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