The First Time News Was Fit To Print, XIII

Every Monday, mental_floss ventures into the The New York Times archives to find first mentions worth mentioning. Got a suggestions for next week's installment? Leave it in the comments.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

April 13, 1975

Bodybuilding: Is it Sport? Art?
arnold.jpg"You don't really see a muscle as a part of you, in a way. You see it as a thing. You look at it as a thing and you say, well, this thing has to be built a little longer, the bicep has to be longer, or the tricep has to be thicker here in the elbow area. And you look at it and it doesn't even seem to belong ot you. Like a sculpture. Then, after looking at it, a sculptor goes in with this thing and works a little bit, and you do, maybe then some extra forced reps to get this lower part out. You form it. Just like sculpture."

* * * * *
"It's like you have a little BMW "“ you want to race the hell out of this car because you know it's just going 110. But if you see guys driving a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, they slide around at 60 on the freeway because they know if they press on that accelerator they are going to go 170. These things are the same in every field."

"“ Arnold Schwarzenegger


April 9, 1899

NY1890s.jpgThe Taxicabs
One taxicab company, in spite of all the popular clamor for cheaper fares, has raised its rates, so that a ride of two miles, if the meter works properly and the chauffeur is honest, will cost $1.30. We fear it will turn out to be like advertised hotel rates, $1.30 "and up." The chauffeur's fee is still to be considered.
* * * * *
It would be better for the companies to practice economies; to secure honest chauffeurs, to guard against taximeter errors; than to raise the rate of fares. We have all been dreaming of the establishment of a cheap cab system. We still have nothing cheaper than a livery stable horse coupe.

Keep reading for hippies, Nude Beer, 'American as apple pie,' the Colorado Rockies and more.


April 23, 1961

magicsinging.jpgHippies And Beats
The Magic of Their Singing [by Bernard Wolfe] is a short, complex presentation of a new breed of American personality, lobotomized by hipsterism. For this hipster-type every second counts (for what?) The cut of one's jib and the position of the vent in the J. Press jacket are crucial. So are the complicated conversations with condensed meanings and sensual adventures that require new labels.
* * * * *
Using a style compounded of puns, inside jokes, cabalistic and mythical allusions, neo-Joycean syllogisms, dialectic, monologue and duologue, some lovely surrealism, and powerful barrel-chested "straight" polemical writing on love, lust, work, politics and the semantics of violence, Wolfe's new book details a week-end in the lives of a group of hippies and beats in Connecticut and New York City.


December 27, 1999

Madison Avenue Plays The Millennium For Laughs
evite.jpg The second millennium is ending not with a bang or a whimper but with a sales pitch.

Madison Avenue has embraced millennial marketing with the fervor of a zealot -- albeit one who has banished apocalyptic intimations in favor of the world view articulated by Mad magazine's Alfred E. Neuman: "What, me worry?"
* * * * *
Those preparing for the worst on New Year's Day are deemed, well, a couple zeroes shy of a millennial milestone. A commercial for McDonald's, for instance, shows a man eagerly stockpiling supplies in his storm cellar -- not water and canned goods, but french fries and ketchup.
* * * * *
Similarly, an ad for, a World Wide Web site offering invitations via e-mail, declares, "This New Year's Eve, make sure you invite some friends over to clutch in terror when the world ends.'"

Nude Beer

October 30, 1988

nude-beer.jpgNew Beer Makes A Pitch For The Upscale Market
Seven years ago Nude Beer was made for Golden Beverage by New Jersey's only contract brewery, the Eastern Brewing Corporation in Hammonton. John F. Vasallo Jr., director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, said the division called a halt to sales in New Jersey because it was deemed inappropriate to have a label that could be rubbed off to reveal a nude woman.

Now that Lion has the contract, Nude Beer is distributed in 14 states that have no such restrictions.

'Emerging Voting Bloc'

June 21, 1983

Stay Home, Rising Star
russert_cuomo.jpg In any case, it's not difficult to understand why political writers have been drawn to Mario Cuomo. He embodies that rare combination of an old-fashioned liberal who has traditional, conservative family values "“ calling for compassion for the needy and afflicted while inveighing against a lack of discipline in American life. He is an articulate, sometimes inspirational orator whose speeches are written mostly by himself. Also, on a national ticket he could bring with him a large and emerging voting bloc "“ Italian-Americans.
* * * * *
And last - though not to be overlooked - is the fact that his political strategist is a man he wooed from his job as Senator Moynihan's top aide, Timothy Russert, whose lines to the Washington tastemakers are strong.

Colorado Rockies (NHL team)

September 1, 1976

rockies.jpgRockies Name Wilson As Coach
The Colorado Rockies, based in Denver, the newest franchise in the National Hockey League, named Johnny Wilson as head coach yesterday.

[Note: The Colorado Rockies moved to New Jersey and became the Devils in 1982. Other names considered: Americans, Blades, Coastals, Colonials, Generals, Gulls, Jaguars, Meadowlanders, Meadowlarks and Patriots.]

Colorado Rockies (baseball team)

June 11, 1991

Coors And Partners Give Baseball To Wild West
rockies1.jpgA franchise here will give major league baseball a new time zone, a convenient stopover between the Midwest and the West Coast, and a stake in the nation's great Wild West.

Indeed, promoters of a Denver franchise talk of a regional team that will cultivate loyalties from Kansas to Utah, Wyoming to New Mexico.

If baseball executives had any doubt about the intentions here, the chimes at City Hall played "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," during the executives' evaluation visit in March. And schoolchildren were arranged in the shape of a baseball as the helicopter for the franchise committee flew over.
* * * * *
Newspapers here have conducted polls on a favored name for a new team. The clear favorite is the Denver Bears, the former name of the minor league team here, now called the Zephyrs.

But promoters say that could cause trademark problems and confusion with the Chicago Bears football team. Among the names the promoters favor: the Colorado Rockies.

'American as Apple Pie'

July 22, 1928

Mrs. Hoover, Too, Has Served The Nation
LouHoover2.jpg Mrs. Hoover was not only a good but an inveterate home-maker. She created abiding places one after the other in Peking, Tientsin, Tong Shan "“ where she was the only resident white woman "“ in Tokio, Leningrad, or St. Petersburg, as it was then; in Kalgorli and Broken Hill, Australia; in romantic Mandalay, and between times in less exotic places such as London and Paris. All were, as one guest put it, "as American as apple pie or corn pone," and through them all ran the motif of the eventual rest home...Mrs. Hoover finally built in 1921 at Palo Alto, overlooking the campus of Stanford.

Previously on The First Time News Was Fit To Print:

"¢ Volume I: Barack Obama, Jon Stewart, 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
"¢ Volume XII: Jerry Seinfeld, Lee Harvey Oswald, Don Mattingly

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.

job secrets
10 Secrets of Hotel Room Service

Guests visiting New York City's Waldorf Astoria hotel in the 1930s enjoyed an amenity that was unheard of at the time: waiters delivering meals directly to their rooms. While the Astoria’s reputation for luxury has endured, room service is no longer exclusive to five-star stays. Roughly 22 percent of the country’s 54,000 hotels [PDF] are willing and able to bring breakfast, lunch, or dinner to people who prefer to eat while splayed out on a large and strange bed.

To get the scoop on what goes into getting food from the kitchen to your floor, Mental Floss spoke with Matt, a hospitality specialist who spent a total of 10 years working in and around room service for a major San Francisco hotel. Matt preferred not to use his last name; since his stories sometimes involved naked people, undercooked chicken, and Oprah, you can understand why. Below, check out a few things you should know before you dig into that tray.


When a room service delivery employee takes a tray from the kitchen to your room, it’s typically covered in a metal lid to retain heat and to prevent other guests from sneezing on it. The higher up you are, the longer it has to travel—and the more that lid traps steam, soaking your food in moisture. “Food sweats in there,” Matt says. “Instead of having crispy, toasted bread, you get wet toast. The longer it stays in there, the worse it gets.” If you want crunchy fries, you’d better be on the first couple of floors.


A seafood dinner is presented on a plate

That lid is a nuisance in other ways. Because it traps heat, it’s effectively cooking your food in the time it takes to get from the chef’s hands to yours. “If you order a steak medium, it will probably be medium well by the time it gets to you,” Matt says. While you can try to outsmart the lid by requesting meat be cooked a notch lower than your preference, it's not so easy to avoid overcooked fish—which will probably also stink up your room. Instead, stick with burgers, club sandwiches, or salads. According to Matt, it’s hard to mess any of them up.


Just because you see a menu in your room, it doesn’t mean the hotel has a kitchen or chef on-site. To cut costs, more hotels are opting to out-source their room service to local eateries. “It might be ‘presented’ by the hotel, but it’s from a restaurant down the street,” Matt says. Alternately, hotels might try to save money by eliminating an overnight chef and having food pre-prepped so a desk clerk or other employee can just heat it up. That’s more likely if sandwiches or salads are the only thing available after certain hours.


Two coffee cups sit on a hotel bed

No, not for the reason you’re thinking. Because so many hotel guests are business travelers who are away from home for weeks or months at a time, some of them get tired of eating alone. When that happens, they turn to the first—and maybe only—person who could offer company: the room service waiter. “People are usually traveling alone, so they’ll offer you food,” Matt explains. Sometimes the traveler is a familiar face: According to Matt, he once sat down to eat with Oprah Winfrey, who was eating by herself despite her suite being filled with her own employees. He also says he had a bite with John F. Kennedy Junior, who wanted to finish watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High before heading for his limo.


Busy hotel kitchens aren’t always paying attention to whether the chicken wings they buy in bulk are frozen raw, frozen cooked, or somewhere in between. “Ask for them extra crispy,” Matt says. That way, they’ll be cooked thoroughly regardless of their freezer status. “I recommend that to everyone.”


A hotel guest pours milk into a bowl of cereal

Breakfast is undoubtedly the busiest time for room service, and those little cards that allow you to check off your menu items the night before are a huge help. “It’s great for everybody involved,” Matt says. “The kitchen can pace themselves and you can get your food on time.”


Yes, guests answer the door barely clothed. No, this is not optimal. “We don’t want to see it,” Matt says. “It's something we dealt with numerous times.” While it's likely your waiter will use discretion, any combination of genitalia, drugs, or illicit activity is best kept out of their sight.


A hotel room service tray sits in a hallway

That move where you stick your soggy fries outside your door? It can lead to some awkward encounters. Matt says he’s seen other guests stop, examine trays, and then pick up discarded food from them. Other times, people leave unimaginably gross items on the trays. “I’ve found condoms on there. Divorce paperwork. All kinds of things.”


Weird people aside, “We don’t really want it out there,” Matt says. “It stinks.” Instead, dial 0 for the front desk and let them know you’re done eating. They’ll dispatch someone to come and get it.


A tip is placed near a hotel check

People pay out the nose for room service, with hotels adding surcharges for “service” and “in-room” dining that can turn a $5 club sandwich into a $15 expense. That’s not great news for guests, but it does mean you don’t need to feel bad about not offering a cash tip. Those service fees usually go straight to the employees who got your food to your room. “I never tip,” Matt says. “Most of the time, the service and delivery charges are given to the waiter or split between the people who answered the phone and pick up the tray. It’s better to leave it all on paper to make sure it gets divided up.”

Big Questions
What is Mercury in Retrograde, and Why Do We Blame Things On It?

Crashed computers, missed flights, tensions in your workplace—a person who subscribes to astrology would tell you to expect all this chaos and more when Mercury starts retrograding for the first time this year on Friday, March 23. But according to an astronomer, this common celestial phenomenon is no reason to stay cooped up at home for weeks at a time.

"We don't know of any physical mechanism that would cause things like power outages or personality changes in people," Dr. Mark Hammergren, an astronomer at Chicago's Adler Planetarium, tells Mental Floss. So if Mercury doesn’t throw business dealings and relationships out of whack when it appears to change direction in the sky, why are so many people convinced that it does?


Mercury retrograde—as it's technically called—was being written about in astrology circles as far back as the mid-18th century. The event was noted in British agricultural almanacs of the time, which farmers would read to sync their planting schedules to the patterns of the stars. During the spiritualism craze of the Victorian era, interest in astrology boomed, with many believing that the stars affected the Earth in a variety of (often inconvenient) ways. Late 19th-century publications like The Astrologer’s Magazine and The Science of the Stars connected Mercury retrograde with heavy rainfall. Characterizations of the happening as an "ill omen" also appeared in a handful of articles during that period, but its association with outright disaster wasn’t as prevalent then as it is today.

While other spiritualist hobbies like séances and crystal gazing gradually faded, astrology grew even more popular. By the 1970s, horoscopes were a newspaper mainstay and Mercury retrograde was a recurring player. Because the Roman god Mercury was said to govern travel, commerce, financial wealth, and communication, in astrological circles, Mercury the planet became linked to those matters as well.

"Don’t start anything when Mercury is retrograde," an April 1979 issue of The Baltimore Sun instructed its readers. "A large communications organization notes that magnetic storms, disrupting messages, are prolonged when Mercury appears to be going backwards. Mercury, of course, is the planet associated with communication." The power attributed to the event has become so overblown that today it's blamed for everything from digestive problems to broken washing machines.


Though hysteria around Mercury retrograde is stronger than ever, there's still zero evidence that it's something we should worry about. Even the flimsiest explanations, like the idea that the gravitational pull from Mercury influences the water in our bodies in the same way that the moon controls the tides, are easily deflated by science. "A car 20 feet away from you will exert a stronger pull of gravity than the planet Mercury does," Dr. Hammergren says.

To understand how little Mercury retrograde impacts life on Earth, it helps to learn the physical process behind the phenomenon. When the planet nearest to the Sun is retrograde, it appears to move "backwards" (east to west rather than west to east) across the sky. This apparent reversal in Mercury's orbit is actually just an illusion to the people viewing it from Earth. Picture Mercury and Earth circling the Sun like cars on a racetrack. A year on Mercury is shorter than a year on Earth (88 Earth days compared to 365), which means Mercury experiences four years in the time it takes us to finish one solar loop.

When the planets are next to one another on the same side of the Sun, Mercury looks like it's moving east to those of us on Earth. But when Mercury overtakes Earth and continues its orbit, its straight trajectory seems to change course. According to Dr. Hammergren, it's just a trick of perspective. "Same thing if you were passing a car on a highway, maybe going a little bit faster than they are," he says. "They're not really going backwards, they just appear to be going backwards relative to your motion."

Embedded from GIFY

Earth's orbit isn't identical to that of any other planet in the solar system, which means that all the planets appear to move backwards at varying points in time. Planets farther from the Sun than Earth have even more noticeable retrograde patterns because they're visible at night. But thanks to astrology, it's Mercury's retrograde motion that incites dread every few months.

Dr. Hammergren blames the superstition attached to Mercury, and astrology as a whole, on confirmation bias: "[Believers] will say, 'Aha! See, there's a shake-up in my workplace because Mercury's retrograde.'" He urges people to review the past year and see if the periods of their lives when Mercury was retrograde were especially catastrophic. They'll likely find that misinterpreted messages and technical problems are fairly common throughout the year. But as Dr. Hammergren says, when things go wrong and Mercury isn't retrograde, "we don't get that hashtag. It's called Monday."

This story originally ran in 2017.


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