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Smearing Cream Cheese On Newborns & Other Stories About Famous Multiples

On January 26, a woman in Bellflower, California, gave birth to octuplets "“ six boys and two girls. This bunch of babies is only the second set of live-born octuplets in the U.S. In celebration of Xeroxed siblings everywhere, this week's TVHolic salutes multiples (and their media-savvy parents).

From NICU to SAG

babies1.jpgSome star-struck parents of prematurely born twins are able to cash in on their early-bird babies by allowing them to appear in TV shows or films as a newborn. Unless it's a reality medical series, most childbirth scenes in television and films are make-believe. Child labor laws vary from state to state, but in California, where the majority of those productions are made, a baby has to be at least 15 days old in order to get a work permit. Of course, most full-term babies have lost that "newborn" look after two weeks "“ their eyes are wide open, they've gained some weight, and their heads have begun to round out. So casting directors seek out "professional preemies" "“ babies born before their scheduled due date (twins preferred, in order to skirt around that 20-minutes-max camera time rule) but who are healthy enough to be brought to the studio. The law counts the actual date of birth, not the expected date, so, for example, a baby born after only seven months' gestation is still going to look tiny and fragile and appropriately "newborn" at the age of fifteen days. The law forbids smearing makeup on newborns, so cream cheese and jam are used to give them that authentic "fresh out of the uterus" look.

Being a "Happy Baby" Pays Off

olsens.jpgIt's hard to believe in retrospect, considering the financial empire the Olsen twins have built, but when Mary-Kate and Ashley were infants, being a stage mother was the last thing on Jarnie Olsen's mind. One of Jarnie's girlfriends had been taking her infant to various casting directors and told her one day, "You've got twins, you really should get an agent, because a lot of shows are hiring twins." On a whim, Jarnie did contact an agent, and was immediately sent to an audition for a proposed sitcom called Full House. Mary-Kate and Ashley were just six months old. They were hired because, of all the babies who applied, they were the only two who hadn't cried or fussed. The show started filming when the girls were nine months old. The series' producers had originally predicted that Jodie Sweetin, who played Stephanie, would be the show's breakout character "“ she was just adorable and precocious enough to become the next Gary Coleman-type child star. However, by the end of the first season, the studio audience automatically emitted an audible "awwww" every time the baby was on stage, and soon viewers began referring to Full House as "The Michelle Show."

The Truth About Carrie Ingalls

The role of Carrie on Little House on the Prairie was credited to twins Lindsay and Sidney Greenbush, but those weren't the girls' names in real life and "Greenbush" isn't even their true surname. Billy "Green" Bush was a character actor who specialized in playing rough "˜n rugged types (M*A*S*H fans may remember him as the helicopter pilot called Cowboy who tried to kill Henry Blake in mid-air). In 1970, his wife gave birth to twin girls named Rachel Lindsay Rene and Sidney Robin Danae. Rachel and Robin, as they were known, got their first acting job at age 2, when they were cast in the made-for-TV film Sunshine. One year later Michael Landon was casting actors for Little House on the Prairie, and a producer who'd worked on Sunshine recommended the Bush twins. Once they landed the role, their mother decided to protect their privacy by using stage names for the girls. That way, she surmised, the twins could discern TV viewers from relatives or friends "“ if they were spotted in public and addressed as "Lindsay" or "Sidney," it automatically signaled a Little House fan.

Cute But Canceled

katey.jpgThe plot device of identical twins confounding teachers and prospective suitors by switching identities had already been done to death (see The Patty Duke Show), so it's not much of a surprise that Double Trouble tanked in the ratings when NBC added it to their Saturday night line-up in 1984. Real-life identical twins Jean and Liz Sagal starred in this short-lived series as the spunky daughters of a widowed father who owned a dance studio. (Home Improvement's Patricia Richardson co-starred as the father's love interest.) The plots were formulaic and predictable, but the show had enough of a following that a second season was ordered. For season two the twins had relocated to New York City to live with their aunt and pursue their dreams of becoming an actress and a fashion designer, respectively. The new locale did nothing to boost ratings, so the series was canceled in 1985. Yet the fresh-faced Sagal twins, who always looked as if they'd just stepped out of a Seventeen magazine cover shoot, had a solid fan base that convinced the USA Network to air reruns of Double Trouble during the 1990s. The twins' older sister, Katey, fared better in her acting career, playing Peg Bundy on Married"¦with Children for 11 seasons.

Quadrophenia

Allison Mathias is used to total strangers stopping her and asking "Are they for real?" No, they're not referring to her bosom, but to her identical quadruplets: Grace, Anna, Mary Claire and Emily. The Mathias quads were born in 2000 and are unusual because they were not the result of fertility drugs "“ they all started out as the same egg that kept dividing"¦and dividing. When they were but a few months old they earned a cool quarter-million dollars from America's Funniest Home Videos just for laughing in unison. The photogenic foursome have since starred in their own Discovery Health Channel special, made appearances on Oprah> and The Tonight Show and modeled clothes in Target commercials.

Bent Fork Babes

I Love Lucy fans will recognize Roz and Marilyn Borden "“ they played Teensy and Weensy in the episode entitled "Tennessee Bound." The Borden twins already had an impressive list of acting credits by the time Lucille Ball tapped them to play potential suitors for Cousin Ernie, but such was the power of I Love Lucy that 30 years later, when the twins were entertaining on cruise ships, they could always count on someone in the audience requesting "Ricochet Romance."

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Brain Training Could Help Combat Hearing Loss, Study Suggests
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Contrary to what you might think, the hearing loss that accompanies getting older isn't entirely about your ears. Studies have found that as people get older, the parts of their brain that process speech slow down, and it becomes especially difficult to isolate one voice in a noisy environment. New research suggests there may be a way to help older people hear better: brain training.

The Verge reports that a new double-blind study published in Current Biology suggests that a video game could help older people improve their hearing ability. Though the study was too small to be conclusive, the results are notable in the wake of several large studies in the past few years that found that the brain-training games on apps like Luminosity don't improve cognitive skills in the real world. Most research on brain training games has found that while you might get better at the game, you probably won't be able to translate that skill to your real life.

In the current study, the researchers recruited 24 older adults, all of whom were long-term hearing-aid users, for eight weeks of video game training. The average age was 70. Musical training has been associated with stronger audio perception, so half of the participants were asked to play a game that asked them to identify subtle changes in tones—like you would hear in a piece of music—in order to piece together a puzzle, and the other half played a placebo game designed to test their memory. In the former, as the levels got more difficult, the background noise got louder. The researchers compare the task to a violinist tuning out the rest of the orchestra in order to listen to just their own instrument.

After eight weeks of playing their respective games around three-and-a-half hours a week, the group that played the placebo memory game didn't perform any better on a speech perception test that asked participants to identify sentences or words amid competing voices. But those who played the tone-changing puzzle game saw significant improvement in their ability to process speech in noise conditions close to what you'd hear in an average restaurant. The tone puzzle group were able to accurately identify 25 percent more words against loud background noise than before their training.

The training was more successful for some participants than others, and since this is only one small study, it's possible that as this kind of research progresses, researchers might find a more effective game design for this purpose. But the study shows that in specific instances, brain training games can benefit users. This kind of game can't eliminate the need for hearing aids, but it can help improve speech recognition in situations where hearing aids often fail (e.g., when there is more than one voice speaking). However, once the participants stopped playing the game for a few months, their gains disappeared, indicating that it would have to be a regular practice.

[h/t The Verge]

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This Game About Soup Highlights How Tricky Language Is
Something Something Soup Something
Something Something Soup Something

Soup, defined by Merriam-Webster as "a liquid food especially with a meat, fish, or vegetable stock as a base and often containing pieces of solid food," is the ultimate simple comfort food. But if you look closer at the definition, you'll notice it's surprisingly vague. Is ramen soup? What about gumbo? Is a soy vanilla latte actually a type of three-bean soup? The subjectivity of language makes this simple food category a lot more complicated than it seems.

That’s the inspiration behind Something Something Soup Something, a new video game that has players label dishes as either soup or not soup. According to Waypoint, Italian philosopher, architect, and game designer Stefano Gualeni created the game after traveling the world asking people what constitutes soup. After interviewing candidates of 23 different nationalities, he concluded that the definition of soup "depends on the region, historical period, and the person with whom you're speaking."

Gualeni took this real-life confusion and applied it to a sci-fi setting. In Something Something Soup Something, you play as a low-wage extra-terrestrial worker in the year 2078 preparing meals for human clientele. Your job is to determine which dishes pass as "soup" and can be served to the hungry guests while avoiding any items that may end up poisoning them. Options might include "rocks with celery and batteries in a cup served with chopsticks" or a "foamy liquid with a candy cane and a cooked egg served in a bowl with a fork."

The five-minute game is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but Gualeni also hopes to get people thinking about real philosophical questions. According to its description page, the game is meant to reveal "that even a familiar, ordinary concept like 'soup' is vague, shifting, and impossible to define exhaustively."

You can try out Something Something Soup Something for free on your browser.

[h/t Waypoint]

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