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All About Anne (of Green Gables)

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Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery's first book about Anne, the redheaded orphan of Canada's Prince Edward Island, and her misadventures. But this year, Anne fans are in for a treat.

This week, the Anne of Green Gables canon (the Anne-on?) is expanding: Publisher Penguin is releasing the complete version of The Blythes Are Quoted, Montgomery's very last installment in the Anne series. The book, dropped off at her publisher's on the day of the author's death in 1942, was published in part in 1974, lacking about 100 pages of stories and poems. This version includes 15 "new" short stories about Anne, as well as poetry ostensibly by the heroine and her son Walter, a soldier who died during World War I. The book is also a bit of a departure from the light-hearted optimism that marked Anne's other appearances—this one includes references to some seriously dark subjects, such as murder, revenge, death, despair, bitterness, and reflects Montgomery's own opposition to war.

With that in mind, here are a few facts about everyone's favorite redheaded orphan (no, the other redheaded orphan) and the woman who created her:

Anne of Green Gables was the first of L.M. Montgomery's books about Anne Shirley, a lonely redheaded orphan who comes to live with the middle-aged Cuthberts, the stern Marilla and her brother, Matthew, on Prince Edward Island. Anne is clever and supremely imaginative, if melodramatic and disposed to "getting into scrapes"—like the time she accidentally got her best friend Diana drunk on currant wine, or when she broke a slate over Gilbert Blythe's head. Anne and her "queer ways" would go on to appear in 10 more books, becoming the Island's brightest student, winning a scholarship and going to college, before coming back to Avonlea to marry Gilbert Blythe and raising six children.
Anne of Green Gables was a massive hit when it was first published in 1908, so much so that publishers issued 10 printings of the book in the first year alone. Even Mark Twain was reportedly a fan, calling Anne "the dearest and most lovable child in fiction" since Lewis Carroll's Alice. The following year, Anne was introduced to Europe, where she became an instant phenomenon. At least 50 million copies in 36 languages of Anne of Green Gables have been sold worldwide.
Anne is huge in Japan. Like Harry Potter huge. Anne of Green Gables was translated into Japanese by a respected and well-known Japanese author; in 1952, when Japanese officials were looking for translations of enriching, inspirational Western literature to teach in schools, Anne became part of the Japanese curriculum. Japan fell head over heels for Anne, finding her red hair exotic, her hardworking attitude and kind nature endearing, and her story of winning over the town inspirational.
Anne has become an entrenched part of Japanese culture: There is an Anne Academy, a nursing school nicknamed the "Green Gables School of Nursing," and several national fan clubs. People get married in Anne-themed weddings, thousands of Japanese tourists visit Prince Edward Island each year, and surveys still consistently find that the book is the most favorite of young women across Japan. In 2008, Canada and Japan created anime-style Anne stamps featuring characters from the book. The stamps were so popular in Japan that they sold 10 million of the 15 million run in the first month of their release.
During World War II, Polish soldiers were issued copies of Anne to take with them to the front, while on the home front, the books were a big part of the thriving black market. Feisty Anne was something of a hero who is even now celebrated:

This year, Polish celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the book's European debut attracted thousands of teenagers and children, many dressed in costume and, reports say, "pumping their fists into the air." The kids even mobbed the Canadian ambassador for his autograph when he showed up to open the celebration.

(The book was actually translated into Polish in 1912, but had arrived in other languages in 1909.)
In 1934, Anne of Green Gables was made into a film—starring an actress named Anne Shirley in the title role. Shirley, who was at the time only 16 years old, was actually born Dawn Paris, but was so taken with the character Anne that she decided to take her name in real life as well. (More on Shirley here.)
Anne is still big business: On Prince Edward Island, which jointly owns the trademarked term "Anne of Green Gables" with Montgomery's heirs, Anne-fans can buy Anne tea sets, Anne straw hats, Anne candies, Anne note cards and pencils, Anne dolls, Anne cookbooks, and Anne light switches. Then there are the spin-offs, the movies, the mini-series, the stage musicals and plays; last year, an authorized prequel called Before Green Gables by 81-year-old Canadian author Budge Wilson was published with great success.
Despite the inspirational, even borderline mawkish, stories that she wrote, L.M. Montgomery was not always a happy woman. Montgomery's mother died when she was very young and her distant father sent her off to live with her severe Presbyterian grandparents. Unlike Anne, however, Montgomery was never able to win over her adoptive family and her childhood was not a happy one. When her father remarried, Montgomery was sent to live with her father's new family, but less as a daughter and more as a live-in servant, pulled out of school to take care of her stepmother's new baby.

Things on the home front never really got better for the budding author, even as her literary career began to take off: Three years after the publication of Anne, she married a minister who suffered from what was referred to at the time as "religious melancholia," but was more likely clinical depression. Montgomery spent much her married life ministering to his increasingly demanding needs; even as she took care of her husband, however, she began suffering from her own depression and fierce mood swings.
Montgomery died in 1942, allegedly of heart failure—but last year, Montgomery's granddaughter revealed that the 67-year-old author had actually killed herself, overdosing on drugs and leaving a note in which she asked for forgiveness.
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anne-disneyWhen I was a little girl, my grandfather was a huge Anne fan. So much so that when I went on vacation with my grandparents in their RV (didn't everyone's grandparents have one of those in the "˜80s?), we headed straight up the coast to hop the ferry from Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island. Along the way, we watched Disney's film version, featuring Megan Follows as the feisty, melodramatic redhead with a penchant for playacting, and I tried to read the entire series of the Anne books. It was Anne-overload, but I loved it—because who doesn't love Anne-with-an-"˜e'?

Do you have any Anne memories? Do you love the redheaded heroine—or did you hate her?




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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.


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


"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


"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


"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



"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


"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


"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


"[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


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:
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:

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


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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