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5 City Council Crazies!

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Maybe you can't fight city hall ... but you can certainly drive them nuts. Most local government proceedings like city council meetings have a mandatory "public comment" segment, in which members of the audience can stand up and "have their say" for a proscribed (and thankfully short) amount of time -- whether what they have to say is relevant to the proceedings, or the ramblings of a madman. The ones that end up on YouTube, more often than not, fall into the latter category -- with hilarious results! Let's take a look at some of the weirdness our city councils are forced to put up with every day. All we can say is, thank goodness they tape these things.

Terrorist Pu$$sies and Rogue Helicopter Pilots

David Thompson took the podium at a Jan 28, 2002 meeting of the Charlotte, NC City Council, and his comments prompted one councilman to ask Thompson to tone it down for fear he might be "scaring the Boy Scouts we have in the audience today." Needless to say, his insane rant is YouTube gold.

"Here's a little song. Sorry about this ..."

When the Austin, TX City Council introduced a resolution that would mandate the use of a helmet while riding a bicycle, some libertarian-minded citizens took issue. One even wrote a protest song about it -- and there was nothing anyone could do to stop her from singing it.

Arrested for dropping the f-bomb

Comedian James Inman appeared before the Seattle City Council just after the infamous WTO protests to describe the time he got arrested for saying the "f-word." His rant is downright hilarious, eventually turning into a kind of almost-obscene beat poem, and earns him a standing ovation from the audience.

"Is this gonna be on YouTube tonight?"

Scranton, PA gadfly Ray Lyman is locally infamous for appearing at almost every meeting of the City Council and incoherently threatening to sue the mayor and/or council members. His screeds became so well-known that they garnered a small following on YouTube (which even the council members seem to be aware of), and someone was kind enough to make Ray his own page on MySpace. Everyone except Ray seems to regard him as a one-man comedy team.

Cathy Brandenhorst Jedi Council

Brandenhorst is a fixture at San Jose City Council meetings, where her weekly complaints about lasers, Mexicans with AIDS and homicidal city officials have made her both a pariah and an occasional dose of comic relief. Metroactive did a piece featuring her, and they transcribe one of her more colorful rants:

A woman seated in the middle of the council chambers gets out of her seat and walks toward the podium. She is wearing black sneakers, black pants and a black shirt. She has long, straight gray hair, which is pulled back into a pony tail fastened by a smart black-and-white bow. Everyone in the chamber has seen her many, many times before.

"My name is Cathy Brandhorst," she begins slowly. "I came today because"--she pauses to gather herself--"I guess it's a difficult situation. I was a kidnapped child. And I was kidnapped by Priscilla Presley." The council has not heard this one before from Brandhorst, who has been coming here to speak during the so-called "oral communications" segment of the council's meetings for years. Some council members listen, blinking.

"She had kidnapped me when I was a small baby," she continues. "It all began--I was also an entertainer. I was very small when I started entertaining. ... I became a very popular singer and a dancer at the same time. I continued to be an entertainer until I was approximately 14 years old. I was also a very abused child." Brandhorst holds up a National Enquirer she has brought with her for the council to see. By now, most council members are either suppressing laughter or talking to a colleague, not paying attention to Brandhorst.

"They keep putting my baby picture in [the tabloid]," she says, pointing to photos of murdered beauty-contest princess JonBenet Ramsey. "I am this missing person and I can prove it. This child has cords around her neck; I also have the same cord marks around my neck." She now abruptly segues into her finale: "As I continue to say, you people are all from Mexico. You continue to murder children, you kidnap children. ... It doesn't make any difference who you murder, who you destroy. ... We all deserve a way to stay alive without being murdered."

Rather than showing you a simple clip of Brandenhorst speaking, we found something much more entertaining: an enterprising computer graphics whiz has edited Brandenhorst into a meeting of the Jedi Council, and the cutaways to Ewan MacGregor, Sam Jackson and Yoda's reactions are priceless.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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