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The First Time News Was Fit To Print, XVI

Every Monday, mental_floss wanders into the archives of The New York Times "“ and wanders out with first mentions worth mentioning. In this episode, we take a look at the first time The Times discussed Woody Allen, the Titanic, and many more. If you have a suggestion for next time, leave us a comment.

Woody Allen

March 19, 1962

Young Men's Hebrew Association Presents 2nd Jazz Concert
woodyallen.jpeg On the bill were two well-established jazz groups...and a relatively unknown comedian, Woody Allen. It was the comedian who walked off with the honors for the evening.

Mr. Allen, who describes himself as "short and unloved," looks like a somewhat unkempt Wally Cox. A monologuist in the Mort Sahl style who ranges over almost every area except politics...he wandered off into what he apparently found to be more diverting topics...[for example] the problem of getting a divorce in New York ("The Ten Commandments say 'Thou shalt not commit adultery,' but New York State says you have to").

Mr. Allen's quiet, underplayed style enabled him to get laughs with what might otherwise have been little more than casual remarks.

Barbara Walters

September 13, 1964

No More Girls
barbarawalters.jpg Al Morgan, producer of Today, said he would not engage another woman to succeed Maureen O'Sullivan. The actress had succeeded a long line of so-called Today girls, although the tag had not been attached to her. The era of Today girls apparently is ended. Mr. Morgan said he would make more use of women already familiar to Today viewers "“ Aline Saarinen for discussion on art and architecture, Judith Christ for motion-picture reviews and Barbara Walters for news reporting.

Keep reading for BoingBoing, The Lincoln Tunnel, Titanic, The Beastie Boys, 'A Tale of Two Cities' and Dog Biscuits.

BoingBoing

August 8, 1993

Seriously Wired
boingboing-logo.gifCan cyberpunk still be cool if it's on the Billboard charts? In fact, a minor hullabaloo did erupt when Billy Idol logged onto the Well, a computer bulletin board based in Sausalito, Calif., where people exchange information. He posted a computer address so that anyone could send him electronic mail. But apparently a bunch of cyberpunks felt that a pop star didn't belong in their rebel universe and started sending him nasty messages. One particularly self-righteous computer geek even takes pleasure in stuffing Mr. Idol's Well file with junk mail.

Mr. Idol has responded by saying they're elitist. Mark Frauenfelder, the former editor in chief of Boing Boing, a cyberpunk-oriented publication that calls itself "the world's greatest neurozine!" takes Mr. Idol's side. "It's stupid, because the whole cyberpunk thing is that information is supposed to be free," says Mr. Frauenfelder, who is now an editor at Wired, another computer magazine. "There are all these 16- and 17-year-old cyberpunks who are afraid that everybody's going to learn their secret handshake or something."

Titanic

March 7, 1909

Giant Ships That Promise 'The Last Word'
titanic.jpg These two vessels, the Olympic and the Titanic, are by far the greatest of any that have yet been considered, and as there is no near prospect of any future expansion of piers, these two giantesses will doubtless represent for many years to come the last word in marine architecture, particular that kind of architecture which runs to a tremendous bulk.
* * * * *
The new liners will be as complete in their safety devices as in their cabin accommodations....The bridge is thus instantly notified of any suspicion of danger, even in the most remote parts of the ship. The bridge will be like a great keyboard, ready at the officer's hands, by which he may control the vast complicated machinery of every part of the ship.

The Beastie Boys

December 29, 1986

The Beastie Boys, Rap-Metal Group
licensetoill.jpg On stage Friday at the Ritz, the Beastie Boys did their best to live up to ''Licensed to Ill.'' As they shouted rhymes, danced the ''Jerry Lewis'' and shambled around the stage, the Boys - wearing red, white and blue T-shirts - poured beer on one another's heads and spewed it into the audience. Meanwhile, two disk jockeys, Hurricane and Mr. Bill, played backup tracks (including a bit of the ''Mister Ed'' theme), a woman named Eloise danced in a cage, and unnamed bouncers repulsed the audience members who repeatedly climbed onstage.
* * * * *
The Beastie Boys aren't exactly original - they rap in the cadences of Run-D. M. C. - and compared to such calmly amoral rappers as Schooly D, they're virtually a comedy act. Yet for the moment, the Beastie Boys' crafty backup tracks and personal bravado promise to put sheer obnoxiousness back in the rock-and-roll spotlight.

Lincoln Tunnel

April 17, 1937

39th Street Tube Gets Name Of Lincoln
lincoln tunnel.jpg The new vehicular tunnel under the Hudson River between West Thirty-ninth Street, Manhattan, and Weehawken, N.J., will hereafter be known as the Lincoln Tunnel, the Port Authority announced yesterday.

The tunnel, now under construction, has thus far been called the Midtown Hudson Tunnel....Use of the name Midtown Hudson Tunnel, the Port Authority explained, has now become inadvisable because of confusion arising from the fact that work is now under way on a Queens-Midtown tunnel and plans are being pushed for a Midtown Manhattan Crosstown tube.

A Tale of Two Cities

March 9, 1859

dickens.jpgEnglish Literature and Art Gossip
The first number of Dickens' All the Year Round will be published about May 1. The title of his new story is A Tale of Two Cities and is considered felicitous. Since Little Dorrit, (which was a disappointment,) we have had only occasional interludes from Dickens' pen, and the curiosity evinced by the public in regard to the new story is an evidence that the popularity of the great novelist is at its height.

Dog Biscuits

June 3, 1883

Feeding Dogs
bailey_couch.jpg A dog should be fed twice a day. I purposely italicize the word "twice," for, although the breakfast should be but a light one, it is a necessity of healthful existence. If it be not given the bowels become confined; the bile is ejected into the stomach; the dog seeks grass, and relieves himself in a natural way of what nature designed as an aperient. A bit of dry dog-biscuit, or a drop of milk or a basin of sheep's-head broth, is all my own dogs ever have for breakfast. A dog should have his principal meal "“ with a run to follow "“ at 4 P.M. in the Winter and 5 in Summer. Variety and change from day to day are most essential. Dog-biscuits, dry or steeped, and mixed with the liquor that fresh meat or fish has been boiled in, with now and then oat-meal porridge, make a good staple of diet.

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15 Heartwarming Facts About Mister Rogers
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Though Mister Rogers' Neighborhood premiered 50 years ago, Fred Rogers remains an icon of kindness for the ages. An innovator of children’s television, his salt-of-the-earth demeanor and genuinely gentle nature taught a generation of kids the value of kindness. In celebration of the groundbreaking children's series' 50th anniversary, here are 15 things you might not have known about everyone’s favorite “neighbor.”

1. HE WAS BULLIED AS A CHILD.

According to Benjamin Wagner, who directed the 2010 documentary Mister Rogers & Me—and was, in fact, Rogers’s neighbor on Nantucket—Rogers was overweight and shy as a child, and often taunted by his classmates when he walked home from school. “I used to cry to myself when I was alone,” Rogers said. “And I would cry through my fingers and make up songs on the piano.” It was this experience that led Rogers to want to look below the surface of everyone he met to what he called the “essential invisible” within them.

2. HE WAS AN ORDAINED MINISTER.

Rogers was an ordained minister and, as such, a man of tremendous faith who preached tolerance wherever he went. When Amy Melder, a six-year-old Christian viewer, sent Rogers a drawing she made for him with a letter that promised “he was going to heaven,” Rogers wrote back to his young fan:

“You told me that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. It means a lot to me to know that. And, I appreciated the scripture verse that you sent. I am an ordained Presbyterian minister, and I want you to know that Jesus is important to me, too. I hope that God’s love and peace come through my work on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

3. HE RESPONDED TO ALL HIS FAN MAIL.

Responding to fan mail was part of Rogers’s very regimented daily routine, which began at 5 a.m. with a prayer and included time for studying, writing, making phone calls, swimming, weighing himself, and responding to every fan who had taken the time to reach out to him.

“He respected the kids who wrote [those letters],” Heather Arnet, an assistant on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2005. “He never thought about throwing out a drawing or letter. They were sacred."

According to Arnet, the fan mail he received wasn’t just a bunch of young kids gushing to their idol. Kids would tell Rogers about a pet or family member who died, or other issues with which they were grappling. “No child ever received a form letter from Mister Rogers," Arnet said, noting that he received between 50 and 100 letters per day.

4. ANIMALS LOVED HIM AS MUCH AS PEOPLE DID.

It wasn’t just kids and their parents who loved Mister Rogers. Koko, the Stanford-educated gorilla who understands 2000 English words and can also converse in American Sign Language, was an avid Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watcher, too. When Rogers visited her, she immediately gave him a hug—and took his shoes off.

5. HE WAS AN ACCOMPLISHED MUSICIAN.

Though Rogers began his education in the Ivy League, at Dartmouth, he transferred to Rollins College following his freshman year in order to pursue a degree in music (he graduated Magna cum laude). In addition to being a talented piano player, he was also a wonderful songwriter and wrote all the songs for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood—plus hundreds more.

6. HIS INTEREST IN TELEVISION WAS BORN OUT OF A DISDAIN FOR THE MEDIUM.

Rogers’s decision to enter into the television world wasn’t out of a passion for the medium—far from it. "When I first saw children's television, I thought it was perfectly horrible," Rogers told Pittsburgh Magazine. "And I thought there was some way of using this fabulous medium to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."

7. KIDS WHO WATCHED MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD RETAINED MORE THAN THOSE WHO WATCHED SESAME STREET.

A Yale study pitted fans of Sesame Street against Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood watchers and found that kids who watched Mister Rogers tended to remember more of the story lines, and had a much higher “tolerance of delay,” meaning they were more patient.

8. ROGERS’S MOM KNIT ALL OF HIS SWEATERS.

If watching an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood gives you sweater envy, we’ve got bad news: You’d never be able to find his sweaters in a store. All of those comfy-looking cardigans were knitted by Fred’s mom, Nancy. In an interview with the Archive of American Television, Rogers explained how his mother would knit sweaters for all of her loved ones every year as Christmas gifts. “And so until she died, those zippered sweaters I wear on the Neighborhood were all made by my mother,” he explained.

9. HE WAS COLORBLIND.

Those brightly colored sweaters were a trademark of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the colorblind host might not have always noticed. In a 2003 article, just a few days after his passing, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote that:

Among the forgotten details about Fred Rogers is that he was so colorblind he could not distinguish between tomato soup and pea soup.

He liked both, but at lunch one day 50 years ago, he asked his television partner Josie Carey to taste it for him and tell him which it was.

Why did he need her to do this, Carey asked him. Rogers liked both, so why not just dip in?

"If it's tomato soup, I'll put sugar in it," he told her.

10. HE WORE SNEAKERS AS A PRODUCTION CONSIDERATION.

According to Wagner, Rogers’s decision to change into sneakers for each episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was about production, not comfort. “His trademark sneakers were born when he found them to be quieter than his dress shoes as he moved about the set,” wrote Wagner.

11. MICHAEL KEATON GOT HIS START ON THE SHOW.

Oscar-nominated actor Michael Keaton's first job was as a stagehand on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, manning Picture, Picture, and appearing as Purple Panda.

12. ROGERS GAVE GEORGE ROMERO HIS FIRST PAYING GIG, TOO.

It's hard to imagine a gentle, soft-spoken, children's education advocate like Rogers sitting down to enjoy a gory, violent zombie movie like Dawn of the Dead, but it actually aligns perfectly with Rogers's brand of thoughtfulness. He checked out the horror flick to show his support for then-up-and-coming filmmaker George Romero, whose first paying job was with everyone's favorite neighbor.

“Fred was the first guy who trusted me enough to hire me to actually shoot film,” Romero said. As a young man just out of college, Romero honed his filmmaking skills making a series of short segments for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, creating a dozen or so titles such as “How Lightbulbs Are Made” and “Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy.” The zombie king, who passed away in 2017, considered the latter his first big production, shot in a working hospital: “I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made. What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.”

13. ROGERS HELPED SAVE PUBLIC TELEVISION.

In 1969, Rogers—who was relatively unknown at the time—went before the Senate to plead for a $20 million grant for public broadcasting, which had been proposed by President Johnson but was in danger of being sliced in half by Richard Nixon. His passionate plea about how television had the potential to turn kids into productive citizens worked; instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV increased from $9 million to $22 million.

14. HE ALSO SAVED THE VCR.

Years later, Rogers also managed to convince the Supreme Court that using VCRs to record TV shows at home shouldn’t be considered a form of copyright infringement (which was the argument of some in this contentious debate). Rogers argued that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Again, he was convincing.

15. ONE OF HIS SWEATERS WAS DONATED TO THE SMITHSONIAN.

In 1984, Rogers donated one of his iconic sweaters to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

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5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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