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The Weekend Links

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We all know that spelling in the English language is a convoluted subject at best, a point made rather clear in this clip, where 102-year-old Ed Rondthaler gives a convincing argument in his quick English spelling reform lesson.

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Ok, Flossers: agree or disagree? Here are 10 geeky movies on which to raise your kids. Sad to say I've only seen a few. Does anyone have suggestions for ones left off the list?

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Another round of Steve, Don't Eat It! featuring Cuitlacoche. Warning: obviously not safe if you have just eaten. I find it hard to believe things like these exist and are consumed by people without irony!

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Slate.com recently took an informal poll to determine which Netflix movies sat on readers' shelves the longest before they were watched. Check out the results here. Any confessions from you guys? I'll admit, Rashomon sat on my shelf for at least 4 months before I popped that baby in.

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Glass blowing has always fascinated me - it seems like such a magical art. Check out this video where a guy makes a glass cat in less than 2 minutes.

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20 of the world's strangest endangered species. It doesn't even pay to be a cute animal anymore - no one is safe!

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In college, my Saturdays were often spent on the couch watching countless hours of Mythbusters marathons. Never failing to impress, Adam and Jamie have done it again - this time creating a machine that can draw a Mona Lisa in 80 milliseconds at NVIDIA's show. Be sure to watch until the very end where they replay it in slow motion. Amazing!

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The Sartorialist is a great photo blog if you're looking to see what crazy, amazing, and often inspired outfits people are wearing on the streets these days.

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From Jan, a photoshop "simplicity" contest for a $500 Apple gift card. According to pattern, it seems most everyone could use a much simpler phone and computer to start.

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Because there can never be too much discussion about the Dark Knight ... an article on Game Theory in the opening scene of the latest Batman film.

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Friend of Mental_Floss Regator.com just launched their site, which is most definitely worth a look. It's a blog aggregator (get it?) that features hand-picked stories from the internet each day, with users voting on the content. It's a great way to find out the best of the best! (For instance, I just found this gem on there).

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If you're as upset as I am and countless other HP fans that the next Harry Potter movie has been delayed until Summer 2009, you will get a major chuckle from this video on the subject. Never have subtitles been so unexpected (and apt!)

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From Joanna, this site allows you to input text or a URL to see which words appear most frequently, and arranges them in an aesthetically pleasing way. Full disclosure: my OS isn't upgraded enough for the Java applet, but I'd be interested to see what comes up when you put up mentalfloss.com. Can someone try and link to it?

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A note from Jason: This is long overdue, but we need to crown a winner of the Wow Us With Your First Lady Facts contest. Congratulations to Jean Butler! Here's her entry:

Harriet Lane was the first First First Lady to have a warship named after her - the Revenue Cutter Harriet Lane, commissioned in 1857. The Revenue Cutter was the forerunner of today's US Coast Guard. Harriet Lane was the niece of our only bachelor President, James Buchanan and served as his hostess. She became such a huge fashion and social icon of the day, that she was referred to as America's First Lady. Thus began the tradition of referring to the President's wife/hostess as the first Lady.

Jean, I'll be in touch about your prize—Cormac O'Brien's Secret Lives of the First Ladies: What Your Teachers Never Told You About the Women of the White House (published by Quirk Books). Thanks to everyone who entered. We promise the next contest will not take 9 days to judge. Back to you, Allison.

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Is it an office supply or a crazy weapon? Find out here.

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Finally, have some fun with this collection of tongue twisters.

As you all bask in the cerulean resplendence of the forthcoming autumn this weekend, try not to forget to keep sending in those links! You know the drill: FlossyLinks@gmail.com.

[Last Weekend's Links]

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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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entertainment
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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