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The Quick 10: 10 Controversial Music Videos

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jeremy1. "Jeremy," Pearl Jam. This one's first on the list because it's what I was listening to when I got the Q10 idea. In case you're not familiar, the video depicts a boy who is mercilessly teased by his classmates and ignored by his parents. At the end of the video he strolls into class with a gun and we see him raise his arm. The next shot is of the students in class sitting completely still and spattered in blood. The director of the video, Mark Pellington, says that one of his biggest frustrations is that viewers think that Jeremy shot his classmates "“ I have to admit, I was part of that crowd until I researched this article. MTV wouldn't permit Pellington and Pearl Jam to show a child putting a gun in his mouth, but that's what happened. I have to say, the video stands up "“ I just watched it here for the first time in years, and it still gives me chills. The controversy, of course, came after Columbine. MTV and VH1 both banned the video, and even now it's very rarely seen.

2. "Like a Prayer," Madonna. This 1989 video was all kinds of offensive, apparently. It was criticized for several things: the burning crosses imagery, the scene where Madonna has stigmata, and the part where she, you know, gets it on with a saint. People not familiar with Martin de Porres, the saint in question, thought the video depicted Jesus, so that caused a big kerfuffle as well. It cost Madonna an endorsement deal with Pepsi, sort of. She got to keep her $5 million fee, and she got tons of free publicity when the press picked up on the fact that Pepsi had pulled the commercial she had recently filmed for them. You can read more about the Pepsi deal (and more controversial music moments) here.

3. "Stan," Eminem. The song is about one of Eminem's fans who is psychologically disturbed and kills himself and his pregnant girlfriend when Eminem doesn't respond to his fan letters. The full video is more than eight minutes long and more or less uses the lyrics as a storyboard for the video. But to be shown on MTV, certain parts had to be cut out "“ namely, anything having to do with Stan (Devon Sawa) shoving his girlfriend in the trunk of his car and driving off of a bridge. The song samples the Dido tune Thank You, so it makes sense that she portrays Stan's girlfriend in the video. Reportedly she didn't want to do the video because the trunk scene scared her, but she ended up getting along really well with Eminem and agreed to do it.

4. "Smack My B**** Up," The Prodigy. The title alone is pretty controversial and led to a lot of criticism of feminist groups, but the video is also pretty crazy. We see the world from the point of view of a person who is doing hard drugs, drinking and driving and having sex with a prostitute (among other things). The video was banned almost everywhere, but fans bugged MTV so much that they eventually gave it and showed it (but only after midnight).

5. "Girls on Film," Duran Duran. Why was this video banned? Three words: Topless Mud Wrestling. MTV was only two weeks old when this video was filmed and as a result it was the first censored video on the station. At the time, Duran Duran loved the controversy the censorship caused, but now they have said that they're a little sad that the song is remembered for the controversy instead of the message: the exploitation of fashion models.

6. "Coma White," Marilyn Manson. Part of the reason this was banned from MTV was just bad timing. The video shows a re-enactment of John F. Kennedy's assassination (Manson's then-fiancee portrayed Jackie), but it was scheduled to hit the airwaves right around the time JFK, Jr., died and the Columbine Massacre occurred.

prayer7. "Erotica," Madonna. Yeah, Madonna gets two spots on the list. The video for Erotica was shown on MTV only three times, and even then it was edited. The unedited version, which was shown in Europe, features full-frontal nudity. Even without the nudity, MTV deemed Madonna's dominatrix garb and sexual moves to be too steamy for their network.

8. "Closer," Nine Inch Nails. Directed by Mark Romanek, the video shows various strange happenings in the laboratory of a 19th-century mad scientist. There's a pig's head, a naked woman, a monkey tied to a cross Jesus-style, a diagram of a vulva and Trent Reznor wearing an S&M mask and shackles. Despite (or perhaps because of) its controversial content, Romanek's video is considered a work of art: the Museum of Modern Art has added it to their permanent collection. Another one of Romanek's videos has been given the same honor: Madonna's "Bedtime Stories" video. Among other things, he has also directed Michael and Janet Jackson's "Scream" Fiona Apple's "Criminal", Johnny Cash's cover of NIN's "Hurt" and Jay-Z's "99 Problems."

9. "The Thunder Rolls," Garth Brooks. Yep, even country music artists can cause a stir. Brooks' "The Thunder Rolls" is about a cheating and abusive husband (although the video makes the abuse more evident than the song does) who gets his comeuppance when his wife kills him. The latter part was told in the third verse of the song, but it has been dropped except for live performances. The video, however, still shows this ending to the tale. That coupled with the theme of abuse got this video banned from CMT and TNN, but it won the CMA Music Video of the Year.

10. "Baby Got Back," Sir Mix-a-Lot. It seems silly now "“ it's such a funny video and so widely used everywhere, even in Target commercials ("I like backpacks and I cannot lie"¦"). But when it first came out, "Baby Got Back" was considered quite racy and could only air late at night.

I know this doesn't even begin to cover all of the controversial videos out there "“ Madonna could easily fill this list all by herself. So share your favorite (or least favorite) racy or controversial video in the comments. And have a good weekend!!

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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