Happy Birthday to Bob Barker, Frank Sinatra and the Motel Inn

December 12 has been a rather eventful day throughout history. You may know about some of today's bigger historical events, such as Juan Diego seeing the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531; the first trans-Atlantic radio signal being received by Guglielmo Marconi in Newfoundland in 1901; and Delhi replacing Calcutta as India's capital in 1911. But you probably don't know about many of today's notable births and less well-known historical events, including"¦

1. Both Anne of Denmark and Marie Louise of Austria were born, the former in 1574 and the latter in 1791. Anne was the daughter of King Frederick II of Denmark and wife of King James VI of Scots, while Marie Louise was Marie Antoinette's great-niece, the second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Empress of France.

2. John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was born in New York City in 1745.

3. In 1805, the abolitionist and journalist who founded the American Anti-Slavery Society and who was editor of the radical newspaper The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison, was born.

4. Gustave Flaubert, who gained lasting fame with his first novel, Madame Bovary, was born in France in 1821.

5. The first king of the Netherlands, William I, died in Berlin in 1843 at the age of 71, just three years after abdicating the throne. Fifteen years later, Jacques Viger, the first mayor of Montreal, also died at age 71.

6. The architect Bruce Price was born in 1845. Although he was an American, he is most well-known for the stations and hotels he designed for Canadian Pacific Railway. His daughter, Emily Price, became famous as the etiquette author Emily Post.

7. In 1866, Alfred Werner, a Swiss chemist and professor who won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1913, was born.

8. The first black congressman, Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina, took his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1870.

9. 1876 marked the birth of Alvin Kraenzlein, an American athlete. Kraenzlein was the first sportsman to win four Olympic titles in a single Olympic game (1900, Paris).

10. Robert Browning, the British poet and playwright, died in Venice, Italy, in 1889 at the age of 77.

11. Herman Potocnik, aka Hermann Noordung, was born in Pola, Austria-Hungary (now Pula, Croatia), in 1892. Noordung was a rocket engineer and a pioneer of cosmonautics.

12. In Paris in 1904, Baron Nicolas Louise Alexandre de Gunzburg was born. He would later become editor-in-chief of Town & Country as well as fashion editor at Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.

13. Frank Sinatra, singer and Academy Award-winning actor, was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1915.

14. The American cartoonist best known for developing the look of Archie Comics in the '50s and '60s, Dan DeCarlo, was born in 1919. A year later, Fred Kida, another American comic book and comic strip artist was born in New York City.

15. Bob Barker, the nineteen-time Emmy Award winner and former host of The Price is Right, was born in 1923.

16. Motel Inn, the first motel, opened in San Luis Obispo, California, in 1925.

17. Douglas Fairbanks died in 1939, after a successful career as an actor, screenwriter, director, and producer, most famous for his roles in The Mark of Zorro, The Three Musketeers, and Robin Hood.

18. The five-time Grammy Award-winning singer, United Nations Global Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization, and former U.S. Ambassador of Health, Dionne Warwick, was born in 1940.

19. A six-block tract of Manhattan real estate was accepted as the site of U.N. headquarters after it was offered as a gift by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

20. The satirist Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22 and Three Short Stories of Utter Annoyance, died at age 76 in 1999.

21. Keiko, the world's favorite killer whale, died in a Norwegian fjord in 2003.

And for all you readers born on December 12, happy birthday! Does this date hold special significance to anyone else?

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Richard Bouhet // Getty
4 Expert Tips on How to Get the Most Out of August's Total Solar Eclipse
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Richard Bouhet // Getty

As you might have heard, there’s a total solar eclipse crossing the U.S. on August 21. It’s the first total solar eclipse in the country since 1979, and the first coast-to-coast event since June 8, 1918, when eclipse coverage pushed World War I off the front page of national newspapers. Americans are just as excited today: Thousands are hitting the road to stake out prime spots for watching the last cross-country total solar eclipse until 2045. We’ve asked experts for tips on getting the most out of this celestial spectacle.


To see the partial phases of the eclipse, you will need eclipse glasses because—surprise!—staring directly at the sun for even a minute or two will permanently damage your retinas. Make sure the glasses you buy meet the ISO 12312-2 safety standards. As eclipse frenzy nears its peak, shady retailers are selling knock-off glasses that will not adequately protect your eyes. The American Astronomical Society keeps a list of reputable vendors, but as a rule, if you can see anything other than the sun through your glasses, they might be bogus. There’s no need to splurge, however: You can order safe paper specs in bulk for as little as 90 cents each. In a pinch, you and your friends can take turns watching the partial phases through a shared pair of glasses. As eclipse chaser and author Kate Russo points out, “you only need to view occasionally—no need to sit and stare with them on the whole time.”


There are plenty of urban legends about “alternative” ways to protect your eyes while watching a solar eclipse: smoked glass, CDs, several pairs of sunglasses stacked on top of each other. None works. If you’re feeling crafty, or don’t have a pair of safe eclipse glasses, you can use a pinhole projector to indirectly watch the eclipse. NASA produced a how-to video to walk you through it.


Bryan Brewer, who published a guidebook for solar eclipses, tells Mental Floss the difference between seeing a partial solar eclipse and a total solar eclipse is “like the difference between standing right outside the arena and being inside watching the game.”

During totality, observers can take off their glasses and look up at the blocked-out sun—and around at their eerily twilit surroundings. Kate Russo’s advice: Don’t just stare at the sun. “You need to make sure you look above you, and around you as well so you can notice the changes that are happening,” she says. For a brief moment, stars will appear next to the sun and animals will begin their nighttime routines. Once you’ve taken in the scenery, you can use a telescope or a pair of binoculars to get a close look at the tendrils of flame that make up the sun’s corona.

Only a 70-mile-wide band of the country stretching from Oregon to South Carolina will experience the total eclipse. Rooms in the path of totality are reportedly going for as much as $1000 a night, and news outlets across the country have raised the specter of traffic armageddon. But if you can find a ride and a room, you'll be in good shape for witnessing the spectacle.


Your eyes need half an hour to fully adjust to darkness, but the total eclipse will last less than three minutes. If you’ve just been staring at the sun through the partial phases of the eclipse, your view of the corona during totality will be obscured by lousy night vision and annoying green afterimages. Eclipse chaser James McClean—who has trekked from Svalbard to Java to watch the moon blot out the sun—made this rookie mistake during one of his early eclipse sightings in Egypt in 2006. After watching the partial phases, with stray beams of sunlight reflecting into his eyes from the glittering sand and sea, McClean was snowblind throughout the totality.

Now he swears by a new method: blindfolding himself throughout the first phases of the eclipse to maximize his experience of the totality. He says he doesn’t mind “skipping the previews if it means getting a better view of the film.” Afterward, he pops on some eye protection to see the partial phases of the eclipse as the moon pulls away from the sun. If you do blindfold yourself, just remember to set an alarm for the time when the total eclipse begins so you don’t miss its cross-country journey. You'll have to wait 28 years for your next chance.

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Pop Culture
IKEA Publishes Instructions for Turning Rugs Into Game of Thrones Capes
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Game of Thrones is one of the most expensive TV shows ever produced, but even the crew of the hit HBO series isn’t above using an humble IKEA hack behind the scenes. According to Mashable, the fur capes won by Jon Snow and other members of the Night’s Watch on the show are actually sheepskin rugs sold by the home goods chain.

The story behind the iconic garment was first revealed by head costume designer Michele Clapton at a presentation at Los Angeles’s Getty Museum in 2016. “[It’s] a bit of a trick,” she said at Designing the Middle Ages: The Costumes of GoT. “We take anything we can.”

Not one to dissuade customers from modifying its products, IKEA recently released a cape-making guide in the style of its visual furniture assembly instructions. To start you’ll need one of their Skold rugs, which can be bought online for $79. Using a pair of scissors cut a slit in the material and make a hole where your head will go. Slip it on and you’ll look ready for your Game of Thrones debut.

The costume team makes a few more changes to the rugs used on screen, like shaving them, adding leather straps, and waxing and “frosting” the fur to give it a weather-worn effect. Modern elements are used to make a variety of the medieval props used in Game of Thrones. The swords, for example, are made from aircraft aluminum, not steel. For more production design insights, check out these behind-the-scenes secrets of Game of Thrones weapons artists.

[h/t Mashable]


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