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5 Great Love Stories That Weren't Really All That Great

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Valentine’s Day annoys a lot of people. So here’s a reminder that some relationships that are considered the greatest love stories of all time were pretty messed up.

1. Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson

© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

??Why we love it: Edward was king of England, and he gave it all up for a woman. He even made a famous speech where he poured his normally guarded English heart out to the whole nation, saying he couldn't be the best king he could be without "the help and support of the woman I love." Since Wallis Simpson was divorced (twice) and an American to boot there was no way she could marry him and be queen; the royal family and the public wouldn't have accepted it. Instead, Edward became the first British monarch to abdicate.
If you want to see a “based on a true story” version of their romance just pop down your local movie theater right now; the Madonna-directed W.E. is about their relationship.??

What we forget:

Wallis Simpson didn't really want to marry Edward. Sure, she might have given in if there were a crown involved, but she did not want her boyfriend to abdicate. By then she was sick of him, but knew she was pretty much trapped. Plus, it wasn't that much of a sacrifice on “David’s” part, since he knew being king would be a drag, what with all the opening of Parliament and ship christening getting in the way of his jetting around the world to party. ??The newly dubbed Duke and Duchess of Windsor stayed together until Edward's death. They indulged in their hobbies of throwing house parties where they screamed at each other in front of guests, having affairs, and talking about how great Hitler was, an opinion the Duke aired in public until at least the late 1960s.

2. ??Abelard & Heloise

??Why we love it: Star-crossed lovers of the Romeo and Juliet variety, Abelard and Heloise is the classic story of two people deeply in love whose circumstances made it impossible for them to be together. They were forced apart by her family but wrote love letters to each other for years.

The book of their letters is still popular and studied in some schools. Their story has been the inspiration for many novels, plays, movies, and even a ballet, and their relationship is referenced today in everything from Being John Malkovich to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to The Sopranos.

??What we forget: The important medieval thinker Peter Abelard was rich, pretty famous, and much older than the teenage Héloise when he was hired to be her teacher sometime in the 1100s. Since even medieval celebrities need groupies, he seduced her. He bragged openly about it, but when he inevitably got her pregnant he sent her away to the French countryside. At some point they secretly got married. When the girl's uncle found out about the wedding he sent some thugs to beat up and castrate Abelard, because no great love story would be complete without the sexy male lead having his genitals chopped off. ??Abelard, by this time probably pretty angry at his wife's family, became a monk. Not content to be the only one in the relationship who was suffering he forced Héloise to become a nun, something she told him she absolutely did not want to do. Oh and that romantic correspondence they engaged in? Yeah, some of it includes Abelard detailing the times he raped her and telling the mother of his child that he never really loved her. Romance!

3. Napoleon and Josephine

Why we love it: Just as we fixate on royal couples today, Napoleon and Josephine allow us to escape to an opulent world full of power and passion. Napoleon’s letters to Josephine are so brimming with love and affection that you can imagine they were absolutely devoted to one another. In one he says, “Since I left you, I have been constantly depressed. My happiness is to be near you. Incessantly I live over in my memory your caresses, your tears, your affectionate solicitude. The charms of the incomparable Josephine kindle continually a burning and a glowing flame in my heart. When, free from all solicitude, all harassing care, shall I be able to pass all my time with you, having only to love you, and to think only of the happiness of so saying, and of proving it to you?”

What we forget: Josephine was a widow set on finding an important man. She had already seduced many of the most influential French politicians when the rising star Napoleon caught her eye. He seems to have fallen head over heels immediately (except with her name, which he forced her to change from Rose to Josephine) and they were married. Unfortunately, only a few days later he had to go off on a military campaign. He wrote his passionate letters from abroad, which Josephine may have read with one of the many men she took as lovers while he was away. When Napoleon found out he was furious, and embarked on affairs of his own.

Their marriage almost ended shortly before their joint coronation, when Josephine walked in on Napoleon with another woman. But it was after he impregnated one of his mistresses that he finally divorced her, now knowing that he could in fact produce children and was not reliant on her previous offspring for the succession. Napoleon, who could be very romantic on paper, was far less so when he stated that he wanted to “marry a womb.”

4. Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour

??Why we love it: Considered the greatest love story between a king and his "official mistress" ever, Madame de Pompadour only lost her exalted position when she died at 42, after 19 years with the king. He was so distraught at her death that he didn't take another mistress for four years. More than half a dozen movies have centered on their relationship, and it is compared to that of Eva and Juan Peron in the musical Evita.?

?What we forget: Not only was Louis her boyfriend, he was also her landlord, employer, and — oh yeah — her absolute monarch. There was no way this was ever going to be a two-way relationship. She spent virtually every day of those 19 years by Louis's side because if the royal eye wandered she would find herself out on the street and possibly broke. ??This meant partying until all hours with a smile on her face when she was really sick, joining the king on long hunting expeditions that routinely gave her pneumonia, and acting like everything was fine when both her only child and father died in the same week. Also, since she rarely slept with the king due to a painful gynecological condition, she encouraged him to make use of his private brothel, which housed girls as young as nine.??

5. Bonnie and Clyde

Why we love it: Perhaps no criminals are as romanticized as Bonnie and Clyde. We forgive their crimes because they played up their relationship to the camera, and through those historic photos they become real people, real kids in love. Even their violent death rings of Romeo and Juliet: two people whose only choice was live apart or die together. Their relationship has been romanticized in song and movies, most famously in the classic 1967 film starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty.

What we forget: Beyond the whole robbing banks and killing people stuff that everyone already knows about, new research shows that Bonnie may have had a mental disorder that made her attracted to seriously violent men. There is a sexual fetish called hybristophilia, or “Bonnie and Clyde Syndrome,” and we still see it today in the dozens of admirers that convicted murderers attract. Some even marry them, like Carol Ann Boone did with serial killer Ted Bundy. So the entire romance between the intelligent and vivacious Bonnie and the career-criminal Clyde was down to her disturbing paraphilia.

Not only that, but despite being just 23 when she died, Bonnie had been married for seven years…and not to Clyde. Her husband was also a murderer and she was still wearing her wedding ring when she died.

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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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