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11 Signs and Disclaimers That Are No Longer Necessary

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1. “The Captain has turned off the ‘No Smoking’ sign.”

This announcement was heard less frequently beginning in 1988, when smoking was banned on all domestic flights of two hours or less. Ten years later smoking was verboten on all domestic flights, and by 2000 smoking on any U.S. airline was banned by federal law.

2. In Stereo (Where Available)

The FCC adopted a standard for stereo television transmission in 1984, but it took several years for the networks and local affiliates to update their equipment to accommodate the second audio channel. The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson was the first network show to broadcast in stereo (in July 1984), but only New York’s WNBC had stereo capability at the time. Stereo TV sets were just hitting the market and most viewers had to connect their TV set to their home stereo system (that meant a turntable/radio combination back then) in order to enjoy the enhanced sound. As different stations slowly adopted the new technology, more shows included an “In Stereo (Where Available)” announcement during their opening credits. Some syndication copies of older shows still include the notation.

3. Please Be Kind and Rewind

You're not going to believe this, but people used to actually drive to the video store and rent VHS tapes. (Just so we're all on the same page, a VHS tape is that oversized cassette shown here.) A lot of renters had a habit of returning a movie after watching only half of it, or worse, after watching the whole thing but without rewinding it. Special rewinding machines were a common component of home entertainment systems back then, because using your VCR to rewind tapes tended to wear out the video heads. But it was darned frustrating and inconvenient to come home from Blockbuster, pop The Crying Game into the VCR and have it start right at the shocking reveal. At first, stores tried using these types of gentle reminder stickers to nudge their customers; eventually many of them would charge a rewind fee for violators.

4. Unleaded Fuel Only

Lead was added to gasoline beginning in the 1920s when it was discovered that the chemical reduced engine “knock.” But in the 1970s, the federal government admitted that lead was a poison and started taking steps to remove it from our fuel. Catalytic converters were added to new vehicles, which required a new (and more expensive) unleaded gasoline. For many years gas stations offered both leaded and unleaded gas. Since unleaded was more expensive, a lot of owners of newer vehicles purchased a special gadget that allowed the leaded nozzle to fit in their unleaded gas tanks. The government intervened and made “Unleaded Only” warnings standard equipment on new vehicles. Leaded gasoline was banned completely in the U.S. in 1986.

5. No Deposit, No Return

During the Great Depression, most stores in every state charged a two cent deposit on every glass soda pop bottle, which was refunded when you returned the empty. Glass bottles were heavy, so folks returning huge sacks full of them wasn’t a problem for merchants at the time and the nuisance factor was minimal. When the 1960s rolled around, soft drink bottlers started using plastic instead of glass, and they weren’t going to re-use the empties, so consumers were free to just toss them (and save 12 cents per six-pack to boot). “No Deposit, No Return” was printed or embossed on pop bottles until the late 1970s when so-called “Bottle Bills” started passing through various state legislatures. Too many folks were littering the landscape with their discarded containers, so deposits on not only bottles but also cans were once again implemented. Even if your state doesn’t have a return law, your soda labels still have the various requisite deposit amounts printed on them.

6. No Cyclamate

Sodium cyclamate, usually abbreviated to simply “cyclamate,” was an artificial sweetener that was approved by the FDA in 1958. It was sweeter than sugar and had much less of the bitter aftertaste of saccharin. For diabetics, dieters, and kids prone to cavities, cyclamate was nothing short of a miracle. Sugar-laden products were able to offer sugar-free varieties that tasted the same. But then a study published in 1967 announced that cyclamate caused bladder cancer in laboratory mice, and manufacturers started voluntarily pulling their products from shelves before the FDA officially banned the additive in 1970. Research done since that initial study found that the mice in question were of a certain genetic strain that might have been prone to cancer in the first place, and the amount of cyclamate given to them was equal to 350 cans of diet soda pop per day. Cyclamate is still legal and used in many countries around the world, including Canada and the UK.

7. Brought to You in Living Color

All three major networks (CBS, NBC and ABC) began broadcasting in color during prime time in the fall of 1965. Many of the daytime soaps were holdouts, though, and all-color programming didn’t begin until 1972. In early 1968 economists predicted that color TV sets would outsell their B&W counterparts for the first time by the end of the year (they were off by a few years; it didn’t happen until 1972). Only 20% of U.S. households had two or more sets at the time, and almost all portable TVs (usually the choice for a second set) were still black and white due to the technology involved for color. As a result, the networks hyped their color broadcast capability until the mid-1970s in order to get those last holdouts out to the appliance store to buy an RCA console model.

8. This Film is Rated GP

The MPAA started issuing ratings for films in 1968, and the Original Four ratings were G (for general audiences; all ages admitted), M (mature audiences), R (restricted; children under 17 must be accompanied by an adult) and X (no one under 18 admitted). The M rating confused a lot of patrons who equated “mature” with “nudity” or “sex scenes”, so in 1969 M was changed to GP (general audiences, parental guidance suggested). The MPAA officially changed GP to PG in 1970s so that the “parental guidance” angle was more obvious, but a lot of studios stuck with GP long afterward. The 1980 Olivia Newton-John bomb Xanadu was the last commercially released movie with a GP rating.

9. Quadraphonic

If the two channels/two speakers used for stereo sound were good, then quadraphonic sound, which required four channels/speakers, was better, right? Quad sound was originally available only on reel-to-reel tapes until 1971, when Columbia and Sony started marketing quadraphonic vinyl LPs. In order to enjoy the full effect of four channels, however, one needed to buy a compatible (very expensive) quadraphonic audio system. Some quad albums were “stereo compatible,” meaning they could be played on standard stereo equipment, but they didn’t provide the full “surround sound” experience that was intended. A few radio stations experimented with broadcasting in quadraphonic, including Detroit’s WWWW.FM (W4).

10. Home Quarantine Signs

These are actually even before my time, and I’m fairly ancient. But both my parents remember seeing similar signs in their neighborhoods when they were kids. In the pre-antibiotic days, scarlet fever was highly contagious and frequently caused damage to the heart valves. The U.S. achieved measles eradication in 2000, and cases since then have mostly been imported by unvaccinated folks returning from overseas. Other conditions that were cause for quarantine by local health departments at one time include whooping cough, influenza and diphtheria.

11. Free TV! Telephones in Every Room!

Today’s travelers look for lodgings that provide free Internet access. But at one time free TV was a selling point for Mom & Pop motels. And we’re not talking free cable – we mean an actual television set. At one time TVs were such a luxury item that many motels and hotels only had a limited number available for rent from the office. And in-room telephones? Forgetaboutit. They were another luxury that usually added a dollar or two to the price of the room. Unless you were a businessman who lived and died by the phone, most folks saved their money and used the payphone outside.
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As always, we love to hear from you! Share your memories of signs you haven’t seen in a while, or other similar disclaimer-type thingies.

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© 2002 Twentieth Century Fox
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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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10 Hush-Hush Facts About L.A. Confidential
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Warner Bros.

On this day 20 years ago, a rising star director, a writer who thought he’d never get the gig, and a remarkable cast got together to make a film about the corrupt underbelly of 1950s Los Angeles, and the men and women who littered its landscape. This was L.A. Confidential, a film so complex that its creator (legendary crime writer James Ellroy) thought it was “unadaptable.” In the end, it was one of the most acclaimed movies of the 1990s, a film noir classic that made its leading actors into even bigger stars, and which remains an instantly watchable masterpiece to this day. Here are 10 facts about how it got made.

1. THE SCRIPTING PROCESS WAS TOUGH.

Writer-director Curtis Hanson had been a longtime James Ellroy fan when he finally read L.A. Confidential, and the characters in that particular Ellroy novel really spoke to him, so he began working on a script. Meanwhile, Brian Helgeland—originally contracted to write an unproduced Viking film for Warner Bros.—was also a huge Ellroy fan, and lobbied hard for the studio to give him the scripting job. When he learned that Hanson already had it, the two met, and bonded over their mutual admiration of Ellroy’s prose. Their passion for the material was clear, but it took two years to get the script done, with a number of obstacles.

"He would turn down other jobs; I would be doing drafts for free,” Helgeland said. “Whenever there was a day when I didn't want to get up anymore, Curtis tipped the bed and rolled me out on the floor."

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY INTENDED AS A MINISERIES.

When executive producer David Wolper first read Ellroy’s novel, he saw the dense, complex story as the perfect fodder for a television miniseries, and was promptly turned down by all the major networks at the time.

3. JAMES ELLROY DIDN’T THINK THE BOOK COULD BE ADAPTED.

Though Wolper was intrigued by the idea of telling the story onscreen, Ellroy and his agent laughed at the thought. The author felt his massive book would never fit on any screen.

“It was big, it was bad, it was bereft of sympathetic characters,” Ellroy said. “It was unconstrainable, uncontainable, and unadaptable.”

4. CURTIS HANSON SOLD THE FILM WITH CLASSIC LOS ANGELES IMAGES.

To get the film made, Hanson had to convince New Regency Pictures head Arnon Milchan that it was worth producing. To do this, he essentially put together a collage of classic Los Angeles imagery, from memorable locations to movie stars, including the famous image of Robert Mitchum leaving jail after his arrest for using marijuana.

"Now you've seen the image of L.A. that was sold to get everybody to come here. Let's peel back the image and see where our characters live,” Hanson said.

Milchan was sold.

5. KEVIN SPACEY WAS ON HANSON’S WISH LIST FOR YEARS.

Though the other stars of the film were largely discoveries of the moment, Kevin Spacey was apparently someone Hanson wanted to work with for years. Spacey described Hanson as a director “who’d been trying for years and years and years to get me cast in films he made, and the studio always rejected me.” After Spacey won an Oscar for The Usual Suspects, Hanson called the actor and said “I think I’ve got the role, and I think they’re not gonna say no this time.”

6. SPACEY’S CHARACTER IS BASED ON DEAN MARTIN.

Warner Bros.

Though he cast relative unknowns in Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce, Hanson wanted an American movie star for the role of Jack Vincennes, and decided on Kevin Spacey. In an effort to convince Spacey to take the role, Hanson invited him to dine at L.A.’s famous Formosa Cafe (where scenes in the film are actually set). While at the cafe, Spacey asked a vital question:

“If it was really 1952, and you were really making this movie, who would you cast as Jack Vincennes? And [Hanson] said ‘Dean Martin.’”

At that point, Spacey looked up at the gallery of movie star photos which line the cafe, and realized Martin’s photo was right above him.

“To this day, I don’t know whether he sat us in that booth on purpose, but there was Dino looking down at me,” Spacey said.

After his meeting with Hanson, Spacey watched Martin’s performances in Some Came Running (1958) and Rio Bravo (1959), and realized that both films featured characters who mask vulnerability with a layer of cool. That was the genesis of Jack Vincennes.

7. HANSON CHOSE MUCH OF THE MUSIC BEFORE FILMING.

To help set the tone for his period drama, Hanson began selecting music of the early 1950s even before filming began, so he could play it on set as the actors went to work. Among his most interesting choices: When Jack Vincennes sits in a bar, staring at the money he’s just been bribed with, Dean Martin’s “Powder Your Face With Sunshine (Smile! Smile! Smile!)” plays, a reference to both the character’s melancholy, and to Spacey and Hanson’s decision to base the character on Martin.

8. THE CINEMATOGRAPHY WAS INSPIRED BY ROBERT FRANK PHOTOGRAPHS.

To emphasize realism and period accuracy, cinematographer Dante Spinotti thought less about the moving image, and more about still photographs. In particular, he used photographer Robert Frank’s 1958 collection "The Americans" as a tool, and relied less on artificial light and more on environmental light sources like desk lamps.

"I tried to compose shots as if I were using a still camera,” Spinotti said. “I was constantly asking myself, 'Where would I be if I were holding a Leica?' This is one reason I suggested shooting in the Super 35 widescreen format; I wanted to use spherical lenses, which for me have a look and feel similar to still-photo work.”

9. THE FINAL STORY TWIST IS NOT IN THE BOOK.

Warner Bros.

[SPOILER ALERT] In the film, Jack Vincennes, Ed Exley, and Bud White are all chasing a mysterious crime lord known as “Rollo Tomasi,” who turns out to be their own LAPD colleague, Dudley Smith (James Cromwell). Though Vincennes, Exley, and White are all native to Ellroy’s novel, the Tomasi name is entirely an invention of the film.

10. ELLROY APPROVED OF THE MOVIE.

To adapt L.A. Confidential for the screen, Hanson and Helgeland condensed Ellroy’s original novel, boiling the story down to a three-person narrative and ditching other subplots so they could get to the heart of the three cops at the center of the movie. Ellroy, in the end, was pleased with their choices.

“They preserved the basic integrity of the book and its main theme, which is that everything in Los Angeles during this era of boosterism and yahooism was two-sided and two-faced and put out for cosmetic purposes,” Ellroy said. “The script is very much about the [characters'] evolution as men and their lives of duress. Brian and Curtis took a work of fiction that had eight plotlines, reduced those to three, and retained the dramatic force of three men working out their destiny. I've long held that hard-boiled crime fiction is the history of bad white men doing bad things in the name of authority. They stated that case plain.”

Additional Sources:
Inside the Actors Studio: Kevin Spacey (2000)

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