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10 Things You Should Know Before Boarding an "Unsinkable" Oceanliner

I was telling my husband that I wasn't sure how to start a Titanic story, and this was his suggestion:

"Hey, this is a little-known fact... an obscure, low-budget movie was made about it in the 90s."

So, on that note, today is the 96th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Yes, we all know about Jack and Rose and their brief-but-intense relationship aboard the ship, but which details did James Cameron get right, which did he exaggerate and what did he leave out altogether? Below are 10 things you may not know about the real Titanic. [And if that gets you in the mood to buy some Titanic merchandise, order our "Ship Happens" shirt.]

1. Iceberg Warnings

iceberg
Seems like this ship was doomed. Captain Edward Smith actually changed course a little bit in response to iceberg warnings he received over wireless, but, obviously, icebergs were in the Titanic's future anyway. Two boats, the Amerika and the Mesaba, both sent messages to the Titanic to warn the captain that despite changing course, huge icebergs were still in the ship's path. Neither message made it from the wireless operator to the bridge. Around 11 p.m., The Californian sent word that they were stopped for the night because of the ice. Like the others, this message never left the wireless room.

2. Notable Passengers

passengers
Being the first to ride on the luxury ocean liner was a big deal "“ thus, some very rich and prominent people called the first-class cabins "home" 96 years ago. Just a few of the passengers included:

"¢Millionaire John Jacob Astor and his pregnant wife, Madeleine. They had been on their honeymoon when she became pregnant, which is why they booked tickets on the Titanic. Many legends about Astor and the Titanic are floating around, but none of them have ever been substantiated. It's rumored that he was the one who let all of the dogs out of their kennels so that they might have a fighting chance; it's also said that he put a woman's hat on a younger boy so that he would be mistaken for a woman and would be able to board a lifeboat. My favorite, though, is the rumor that when the iceberg struck the ship, Astor quipped, "I asked for ice, but this is ridiculous."

Benjamin Guggenheim, the son of mining magnate Meyer Guggenheim and the father of museum founder and art collector Peggy Guggenheim. He was reportedly the one who said, "We've dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen."

Isidor Straus, co-owner of Macy's department store. His wife, Ida, refused to leave his side even though she was offered a spot on a lifeboat.

Molly Brown, who was friends with the Astors and decided to return home with them when she learned that her grandson was ill. Molly survived by boarding a lifeboat and tried to commandeer the boat when the boat's Commander, Robert Hichens, refused to go back and pick up people in the water even though the lifeboat was only half-full.

Dorothy Gibson, who, after Mary Pickford, was probably the best-known and highest-paid silent film actress of the day. She survived and made a film about her escape from the Titanic, even wearing the same clothes she wore on that fateful night "“ a white silk dress with a cardigan and polo coat. She may have been the inspiration for Rose in the 1997 movie that you may have heard of if you like little indie films.

3. The prices

Third-class passage was only about $36.25, although that was still quite a bit of money in those days, especially for a large family. Second class was about $66 and first class started at $125. The highest priced suite was $4,500, though, which was a huge amount of money "“ at the time, a decent house could be found for $1,000, so to spend more than four times that on temporary lodgings was pretty shocking. I suppose that's why they called it "The Millionaire's Suite".

4. A close call

close call
Both J. P. Morgan (right) and Milton S. Hershey (left) had reservations on the Titanic and surely could have booked the Millionaire's Suite. Mrs. Hershey fell ill so the Hersheys booked passage on a different ship "“ The Amerika. The Hershey museum displays a copy of the check Hershey wrote to the White Star Line as a deposit for his first-class room on the Titanic. The White Star Line was actually owned by J.P. Morgan, who was scheduled to be staying in his own private suite. He canceled for unknown reasons.

5. Commander Charles Lightoller

lightoller Commander Charles Lightoller was the senior-most crew to survive, but even his was a narrow escape. When water washed over the bow of the ship, Lightoller decided that he might as well jump in the water voluntarily before it took him unexpectedly. He surfaced from his dive only to be sucked back under as water flooded one of the ventilators. He was pinned to the grates until a blast of air from the ship pushed him back up to the surface. He then helped passengers cling to an overturned lifeboat until they were rescued. He continued to be a hero even after getting back to dry land - it was his testimony and recommendation that spurred safety improvements such as basing lifeboat numbers on passenger numbers (instead of the weight of the ship), 24-hour radio communications in all ships and lifeboat drills for the passengers.

6. The Titanic Curse

It doesn't really exist, but at the time, people thought the ship was cursed from the start. The ship was supposedly assigned the number 390904. Read that backward in a mirror and it vaguely resembles the phrase "No Pope". The Titanic was actually assigned the number 401, so there's really no truth to the "curse" at all.

7. Rediscovery

bow
The doomed steamliner wasn't found until 1985, when oceanographer Robert Ballard discovered it near Newfoundland using new sonar technology. He was actually just looking for debris, not the ship itself "“ over the years, experts decided that debris would have been scattered over a large area as the ship sank to the bottom of the ocean. Soon after sighting debris, the crew spotted a boiler and then the hull of the ship. The biggest discovery the team made is that the ship did actually split into two parts "“ both American and British inquiries had determined that the ship sank as one whole piece.
Ballard and his crew didn't take any artifacts from the ship at the time; he considered it graverobbing. Eventually, though, more than 6,000 items were recovered and put on display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England. Many objects were also part of a traveling Titanic museum exhibit.

8. The Last Survivor

deanMillvina Dean was the youngest person on the Titanic at a mere two months old. Her parents were moving from England to Wichita, Kansas, and managed to get third-class tickets for the Titanic. They never made it to Wichita - her father didn't survive the crash and her mother, being left with two small children, wanted to go home to England to be with her surviving family.

Strangely enough, her brother, Bertram, died on April 14, 1992, the 80th anniversary of the Titanic striking the iceberg.

9. Was the accident foretold?

Maybe Morgan Robertson was psychic. About 14 years before the Titanic sank, Robertson wrote Futility, a novel about the largest ship ever built hitting an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean on a cold April night. The ship "“ The Titan "“ sank, leaving only 13 survivors out of 3,000. The Titan was also billed as "unsinkable" and was also a British ship on its way to New York. A little spooky, no??

10. The last meal

What did all of these wealthy people dine on before going down with the ship? Well, it was quite a feast. Offerings at dinner on the night of April 14, 1912, included oysters, filet mignon, lamb with mint sauce, roast duckling, chateau potatoes, roast squab and cress, pate de foie gras, Waldorf pudding, peaches in Chartreube jelly, chocolate and vanilla eclairs and French ice cream.
Second-class passengers didn't fare quite so well "“ their dinner was their choice of haddock, chicken, lamb or turkey, boiled rice, boiled potatoes, plum pudding, American ice cream, fresh fruit, biscuits and coffee.
Third-class passengers received Irish stew, stewed apricots, fresh bread and butter and tea.

Well, these are just a few stories. Share your Titanic facts, speculation and urban legends in the comments!

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12 Things You Might Not Know About MAD Magazine
Mad Magazine
Mad Magazine

As fast as popular culture could erect wholesome depictions of American life in comics, television, or movies, MAD Magazine was there to tear them all down. A near-instant success for EC Comics upon its debut in 1952, the magazine has inspired generations of comedians for its pioneering satirical attitude and tasteful booger jokes. This month, DC Entertainment is relaunching an "all new" MAD, skewering pop culture on a bimonthly basis and in full color. To fill the gaps in your knowledge, take a look at these facts about the Usual Gang of Idiots.

1. NO ONE KNOWS WHO CAME UP WITH ALFRED E. NEUMAN.


Jamie, Flickr (L) // Boston Public Library, Flickr (R) // CC BY 2.0

MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman was in the offices of a Ballantine Books editor discussing reprints for the fledging publication when he noticed a grinning, gap-toothed imbecile staring back at him from a bulletin board. The unnamed figure was ubiquitous in the early 20th century, appearing in everything from dentistry ads to depictions of diseases. A charmed Kurtzman adopted him as MAD’s mascot beginning in 1954. Neuman later become so recognizable that a letter was delivered from New Zealand to MAD’s New York offices without an address: the envelope simply had a drawing of Alfred.  

2. THEY HAD TO APOLOGIZE ALMOST IMMEDIATELY.

MAD was conceived during a particularly sensitive time for the comics industry, with parents and watchdog groups concerned over content. (It didn't switch to a magazine format until issue #24.) Kurtzman usually knew where the line was, but when he was laid up with acute hepatitis in 1952, publisher William Gaines and others had to step in for him. Gaines thought it would be funny to offer a fictional biography of himself that detailed his father’s Communist leanings, his past as a dope dealer “near nursery schools,” and bouts of pyromania. When wholesalers were shocked at the content and threatened to boycott all of his titles, Gaines was forced to write a letter of apology.  

3. THEY PREDICTED JOHN F. KENNEDY'S ELECTION IN 1960.

But it was a cheat. In the run-up to the 1960 Presidential election, MAD printed a cover that featured Neuman congratulating Kennedy on his victory with a caption that read, “We were with you all the way, Jack!” But the issue was shipped long before votes had been tabulated. The secret? It was a dual cover. Flip it over and Neuman is celebrating Richard Nixon’s appointment to office. Stores were told to display the “right” side of the magazine depending on the outcome.

4. ALFRED BRIEFLY HAD A GIRLFRIEND.


MAD Magazine

A character named Moxie Cowznofski was introduced in the late 1950s as a female companion for Alfred. She made only a handful of cover appearances, possibly due to the fact she looked alarmingly like her significant other.

5. THEY DIDN'T RUN ANY (REAL) ADS FOR 44 YEARS.

From the beginning, Gaines felt that printing actual advertisements next to the products they were lampooning would not only dilute their edge but seem more than a little hypocritical. After some back-and-forth, MAD cut ads starting in 1957. The decision was a costly one—most print publications survive on such revenue—but led to the magazine’s keeping a sharp knife against the throat of seductive advertising, including cigarettes. Faced with dwindling circulation in 2001, Mad finally relented and began taking ads to help pay for a switch to color printing.

6. "SPY VS. SPY" WAS CREATED BY A SUSPECTED SPY.

Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias was disenchanted with the regime under Fidel Castro when he began working on what would become “Spy vs. Spy.” Because Prohias’ other newspaper illustrations were critical of Castro, the Cuban government suspected him of working for the CIA. He wasn’t, but the perception had him worried harm might come to his co-workers. To get out of the situation, Prohias came to America in 1960. With his daughter helping translate, he stopped by Mad’s New York offices and submitted his work: his sneaky, triangle-headed spies became regulars.

7. THERE WAS ONE FOLD-IN THEY WOULDN'T RUN.

Artist Al Jaffee, now 94, has been with Mad almost from the beginning. He created the famous Fold-In—the back cover that reveals a new picture when doubled over—in 1964 after seeing the fold-outs in magazines like National Geographic, Playboy, and Life. Jaffee has rarely missed an issue since—but editors backtracked on one of Jaffee’s works that referenced a mass shooting in 2013. Citing poor taste, they destroyed over 600,000 copies.  

8. THEIR MOVIE WAS A DISASTER.

With the exception of Fox’s successful sketch series, 1994’s MAD TV, attempts to translate the MAD brand into other media have been underwhelming: a 1974 animated special didn’t even make it on air. But a 1980 film venture, a military school spoof directed by Robert Downey, Sr. titled Mad Presents Up the Academy, was so awful William Gaines demanded to have their name taken off of it. (Renamed Up the Academy, the DVD release of the movie still features someone sporting an Alfred E. Neuman mask; Mad parodied it in a spoof titled “Throw Up the Academy.”)

9. THE APRIL 1974 COVER HAD PEOPLE FLIPPING.


MAD Magazine

MAD has never made a habit of good taste, but a depiction of a raised middle finger for one issue in the mid-’70s caused a huge stir. Many stores wouldn’t stock it for fear of offending customers, and the company ended up accepting an irregular number of returns. Gaines took to his typewriter to write a letter of apology. Again. The relaunched #1, out in April 2018, pays homage to this cover, though it's slightly more tasteful: Neuman is picking his nose with his middle finger.

10. THEY INVENTED A SPORT.

MAD writer Tom Koch was amused by the convoluted rules of sports and attempted to one-up them in 43-Man Squamish, a game he invented for the April 1965 issue. Koch and artist George Woodbridge (“MAD’s Athletic Council”) prepared a guide that was utterly incomprehensible—the field was to have five sides, positions included Deep Brooders and Dummies, “interfering with the Wicket Men” constituted a penalty—but it amused high school and college readers enough to try and mount their own games. (Short on players? Try 2-Man Squamish: “The rules are identical,” Koch wrote, “except the object of the game is to lose.”) For the less physically inclined, Mad also issued a board game in which the goal is to lose all of your money.  

11. WEIRD AL WAS A GUEST EDITOR.

In what must be some kind of fulfilled prophecy, lyrical satirist “Weird” Al Yankovic was named as a guest editor—their first—for the magazine’s May 2015 issue. Yankovic told Entertainment Weekly that MAD had put him on “the dark, twisted path to becoming who I am today … I needed to pollute my mind with that kind of stuff.” In addition to his collaborations with the staff, Yankovic enlisted Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, and Chris Hardwick to contribute.

12. FRED ASTAIRE ONCE DANCED AS ALFRED E. NEUMAN.

In a scene so surreal even MAD’s irreverent editors would have had trouble dreaming it up, Fred Astaire decided to sport an Alfred E. Neuman mask for a dance number in his 1959 television special, Another Evening with Fred Astaire. No one seems to recall why exactly Astaire would do this—he may have just wanted to include a popular cultural reference—but it was no off-the-cuff decision. Astaire hired movie make-up veteran John Chambers (Planet of the Apes) to craft a credible mask of Neuman. The result is … well, kind of disturbing. But it’s a fitting addition to a long tradition of people going completely MAD.

Additional Sources:
Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America.

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Can You 'Hear' These Silent GIFs?
iStock
iStock

GIFs are silent—otherwise they wouldn't be GIFs. But some people claim to hear distinct noises accompanying certain clips. Check out the GIF below as an example: Do you hear a boom every time the structure hits the ground? If so, you may belong to the 20 to 30 percent of people who experience "visual-evoked auditory response," also known as vEAR.

Researchers from City University London recently published a paper online on the phenomenon in the journal Cortex, the British Psychological Society's Research Digest reports. For their study, they recruited more than 4000 volunteers and 126 paid participants and showed them 24 five-second video clips. Each clip lacked audio, but when asked how they rated the auditory sensation for each video on a scale of 0 to 5, 20 percent of the paid participants rated at least half the videos a 3 or more. The percentage was even higher for the volunteer group.

You can try out the researchers' survey yourself. It takes about 10 minutes.

The likelihood of visual-evoked auditory response, according to the researchers, directly relates to what the subject is looking at. "Some people hear what they see: Car indicator lights, flashing neon shop signs, and people's movements as they walk may all trigger an auditory sensation," they write in the study.

Images packed with meaning, like two cars colliding, are more likely to trigger the auditory illusion. But even more abstract images can produce the effect if they have high levels of something called "motion energy." Motion energy is what you see in the video above when the structure bounces and the camera shakes. It's why a video of a race car driving straight down a road might have less of an auditory impact than a clip of a flickering abstract pattern.

The researchers categorize vEAR as a type of synesthesia, a brain condition in which people's senses are combined. Those with synesthesia might "see" patterns when music plays or "taste" certain colors. Most synesthesia is rare, affecting just 4 percent of the population, but this new study suggests that "hearing motion synesthesia" is much more prevalent.

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

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