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19 Things You Might Not Know About My So-Called Life

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A look back at the year Claire Danes and Jared Leto spent at Liberty High School.

1. Alicia Silverstone almost played Angela Chase.

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While Claire Danes ended up playing Angela Chase in My So-Called Life, then-unknown Alicia Silverstone was considered for the role. The 16-year-old Silverstone was ultimately declared "too pretty" to play such a confused character by series co-executive producer Marshall Herskovitz, and 13-year-old Danes—who better fit the awkward teenager role—was chosen instead. Silverstone would get her breakout role later, in the form of Clueless's Cher Horowitz.

2. And so did A.J. Langer.

Silverstone wasn't Danes' only competition for the role of Angela Chase. A.J. Langer also auditioned for the part before Danes landed the role. Instead, Langer got the role of Rayanne Graff, a troubled teen and Angela’s new best friend.

3. Rickie Vasquez was the first openly gay teenager on American network TV.

Wilson Cruz played the character of Enrique “Rickie” Vasquez, a troubled teen, on My So-Called Life. Although there were gay characters on TV before 1994 (Billy Crystal played the 20-something gay son Jodie Dallas on Soap back in 1977), Rickie Vasquez was the first openly gay teenage character on American network TV.

4. Jared Leto almost turned down the role of Jordan Catalano.

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Jordan Catalano was only supposed to appear in the pilot episode. "But as soon as we got Jared on film, we knew he had to be a continuing character," series creator Winnie Holzman said. Leto was also very hesitant to take the role because he was less interested in acting at the time and was flirting with the idea of going to art school instead. "I remember not being positive that he wanted to do it," Holzman said. "I was a little worried that he didn’t want the part that much. He seemed to have ambivalent feelings. Maybe I am projecting.”

5. Where’s Tino?

During the entire series run, the character of Tino was mentioned, but never seen.

6. The Show Filmed at a Real High School.

The Pittsburgh-based Liberty High School is fictional. My So-Called Life was shot on location at University High School in Los Angeles. Filming took place during the school year, so students, teachers, and classes had to be shifted to other parts of the school that weren’t being used for production. The school was also used in 7th Heaven, Joan of Arcadia, and Arrested Development.

7. Series Creator Winnie Holzman has a cameo.

She played teacher Mrs. Krzyzanowski in the episode “Father Figures.” Holzman only appeared in one episode during the series run.

8. Jared Leto's Brother Also had a Role on the Show.

Jared Leto’s older brother Shannon appeared on My So-Called Life as Jordan Catalano’s bandmate (Frozen Embryo’s drummer) Shane. A few years later, in 1998, the brothers started the real-life rock band 30 Seconds To Mars. Jared Leto is the band's lead singer/guitarist and Shannon Leto plays drums.

9. Bess Armstrong had an Interesting Nickname.

Bess Armstrong, who played Angela’s mother Patty Chase, was nicknamed “Precious Poodle” while filming My So-Called Life. Actress Mary Kay Place, who played Sharon’s mother Camille Cherski, gave her the nickname.

10. Only two episodes don't have an Angela Chase Voiceover.

Angela Chase provides the voiceover in all the episodes except two: “Weekend,” which Danielle Chase narrated, and “Life of Brian,” which Brian Krakow narrated. Todd Holland directed both episodes.

11. My So-Called Life Faced Stiff Competition.

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Though it was critically acclaimed, My So-Called Life had a difficult time finding new viewers thanks to its highly competitive time slot: The show aired on Thursday nights at 8PM EST against Mad About You and Friends on NBC and Martin and Living Single on Fox.

12. It aired on MTV.

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Before ABC officially canceled My So-Called Life in 1995, episodes aired during MTV’s Buzz Bin programming block—which usually featured music videos from up-and-coming alternative bands of the mid-'90s—in an attempt to build an audience for the struggling teen drama.

13. Fans Tried to Save the Show.

In 1995, Operation Life Support was a short-lived fan campaign to save My So-Called Life when it was on the verge of cancellation—the first online fan campaign undertaken to save a beloved TV show. Fans sent ABC thousands of letters that pleaded with network executives to renew the show for a second season and posted on AOL in an attempt to revive the teen drama from cancellation.

Ultimately, ABC canceled My So-Called Life after one 19-episode season due to its very low ratings and Danes’ reluctance to reprise her role as Angela Chase for another year. She would later co-star with Leonard DiCaprio in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet.

14. Danes won a Golden Globe.

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In 1994, when she was just 15, Danes won a Golden Globe for Best Actress – Television Series Drama for playing Angela Chase in My So-Called Life, beating out Jane Seymour, Heather Locklear, and Angela Lansbury. Danes would later win two more Golden Globe Awards in 2011 and 2012 for playing Carrie Mathison on Showtime’s Homeland.

15. And Danes Wasn't the Only Award Winner Among the Cast.

In 1995, My So-Called Life won three Youth In Film Awards for Best New Family Television Series and Best Performance by a Youth Ensemble in a Television Series. Lisa Wilhoit, who played Danielle Chase, tied with Earth 2’s J. Madison Wright for the Best Performance by a Youth Actress in a Drama Series award. Devon Gummersall, who played Brian Krakow, was nominated for Best Performance by a Youth Actor in a Drama Series, but lost to Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman’s Shawn Toovey.

16. There was a follow-up book.

In 1999, a novelization titled My So-Called Life Goes On continued the story of Angela Chase and her friends. Author Catherine Clark wrote the book, which goes for upwards of $100 on Amazon.com.

17. Graham Chase Was a Great Dad—According to TIME.

Tom Irwin’s Graham Chase was named one of TV Guide’s Top 50 TV Dads of All Time. The list also included the likes of Philip Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch, and Cliff Huxtable on The Cosby Show.

18. The Show is Referenced in Juno.

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In 2007, screenwriter Diablo Cody referenced My So-Called Life in her Academy Award winning movie Juno. The character of Paulie Bleeker, played by Michael Cera, makes a comment about getting the band back together and Juno MacGuff replies, “Once Tino gets a new drumhead, we're just like ready to rock.”

19. The Ataris were influenced by the show.

Indiana Pop Punk/Emo band The Ataris wrote a song called “My So-Called Life.” The song chronicles The Ataris’ singer/songwriter Kristopher Roe’s obsession with Claire Danes.

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5 Things You Didn't Know About Sally Ride
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U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

You know Sally Ride as the first American woman to travel into space. But here are five things you might not know about the astronaut, who passed away five years ago today—on July 23, 2012—at the age of 61.

1. SHE PROVED THERE IS SUCH THING AS A STUPID QUESTION.

When Sally Ride made her first space flight in 1983, she was both the first American woman and the youngest American to make the journey to the final frontier. Both of those distinctions show just how qualified and devoted Ride was to her career, but they also opened her up to a slew of absurd questions from the media.

Journalist Michael Ryan recounted some of the sillier questions that had been posed to Ride in a June 1983 profile for People. Among the highlights:

Q: “Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?”
A: “There’s no evidence of that.”

Q: “Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?”
A: “How come nobody ever asks (a male fellow astronaut) those questions?"

Forget going into space; Ride’s most impressive achievement might have been maintaining her composure in the face of such offensive questions.

2. SHE MIGHT HAVE BEEN A TENNIS PRO.

When Ride was growing up near Los Angeles, she played more than a little tennis, and she was seriously good at it. She was a nationally ranked juniors player, and by the time she turned 18 in 1969, she was ranked 18th in the whole country. Tennis legend Billie Jean King personally encouraged Ride to turn pro, but she went to Swarthmore instead before eventually transferring to Stanford to finish her undergrad work, a master’s, and a PhD in physics.

King didn’t forget about the young tennis prodigy she had encouraged, though. In 1984 an interviewer playfully asked the tennis star who she’d take to the moon with her, to which King replied, “Tom Selleck, my family, and Sally Ride to get us all back.”

3. HOME ECONOMICS WAS NOT HER BEST SUBJECT.

After retiring from space flight, Ride became a vocal advocate for math and science education, particularly for girls. In 2001 she founded Sally Ride Science, a San Diego-based company that creates fun and interesting opportunities for elementary and middle school students to learn about math and science.

Though Ride was an iconic female scientist who earned her doctorate in physics, just like so many other youngsters, she did hit some academic road bumps when she was growing up. In a 2006 interview with USA Today, Ride revealed her weakest subject in school: a seventh-grade home economics class that all girls had to take. As Ride put it, "Can you imagine having to cook and eat tuna casserole at 8 a.m.?"

4. SHE HAD A STRONG TIE TO THE CHALLENGER.

Ride’s two space flights were aboard the doomed shuttle Challenger, and she was eight months deep into her training program for a third flight aboard the shuttle when it tragically exploded in 1986. Ride learned of that disaster at the worst possible time: she was on a plane when the pilot announced the news.

Ride later told AARP the Magazine that when she heard the midflight announcement, she got out her NASA badge and went to the cockpit so she could listen to radio reports about the fallen shuttle. The disaster meant that Ride wouldn’t make it back into space, but the personal toll was tough to swallow, too. Four of the lost members of Challenger’s crew had been in Ride’s astronaut training class.

5. SHE DIDN'T SELL OUT.

A 2003 profile in The New York Times called Ride one of the most famous women on Earth after her two space flights, and it was hard to argue with that statement. Ride could easily have cashed in on the slew of endorsements, movie deals, and ghostwritten book offers that came her way, but she passed on most opportunities to turn a quick buck.

Ride later made a few forays into publishing and endorsements, though. She wrote or co-wrote more than a half-dozen children’s books on scientific themes, including To Space and Back, and in 2009 she appeared in a print ad for Louis Vuitton. Even appearing in an ad wasn’t an effort to pad her bank account, though; the ad featured an Annie Leibovitz photo of Ride with fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell gazing at the moon and stars. According to a spokesperson, all three astronauts donated a “significant portion” of their modeling fees to Al Gore’s Climate Project.

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5 Surprising Facts About the Battle of Dunkirk
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With the release of Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed Dunkirk, the world’s attention is once again focused on the historic events recounted in the film, when a makeshift fleet of British fishing boats, pleasure yachts, and cargo ships helped save 185,000 British soldiers and 130,000 French soldiers from death or capture by German invaders during the Fall of France in May and June 1940. Here are five surprising facts about those heroic days.

1. THE GERMAN ATTACK WAS SUPPOSED TO BE IMPOSSIBLE.

By Weper Hermann, 13 German Mobile Assault Unit - Imperial War Museums, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The main reason France collapsed so quickly in 1940 was the element of surprise enjoyed by its German attackers, thanks to General Erich von Manstein, who proposed an invasion route that was widely believed to be impossible. In Manstein’s plan, the main German column of tanks and motorized infantry would force their way through the forests of Ardennes in southeast Belgium and Luxembourg—a thick, hilly woodland which was supposed to be difficult terrain for tanks, requiring at least five days to cross, according to conventional wisdom based on the experience of the First World War. The French and British assumed that little had changed since the previous conflict, but thanks to field studies and updated maps, Manstein and his colleague General Heinz Guderian realized that a new network of narrow, paved roads would allow just enough room for tanks and trucks to squeeze through. As a result the Germans passed through Ardennes into northern France in just two-and-a-half days, threatening to cut off hundreds of thousands of Allied troops, with only one escape route: the sea.

2. ONE FRENCH WORD WAS BURNED INTO WINSTON CHURCHILL’S MEMORY: “AUCUNE.”

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The German invasion of France began on May 10, 1940, the same day Winston Churchill became Prime Minister. By May 14, when he paid his first official visit to Britain’s ally, Holland had capitulated and Paris was preparing for evacuation. But an even worse surprise was in store. In one of the most famous passages of military history, Churchill recounted the moment he learned that the French didn’t have any troops in reserve:

"I then asked ‘Where is the strategic reserve?’ and, breaking into French … ‘Ou est la mass de manoeuvre?’ General Gamelin turned to me and, with a shake of the head and a shrug, replied. ‘Aucune.’ [There is none] … I was dumbfounded. What were we to think of the Great French Army and its highest chief? It had never occurred to me than any commanders … would have left themselves unprovided with a mass of manoeuvre … This was one of the greatest surprises I have had in my life.”

3. HITLER MADE A FATAL MISTAKE.

On May 24, 1940, the Allied troops on the French and Belgian coast had been totally surrounded by powerful German tank columns, rendering them essentially defenseless against the impending German onslaught. And then came a brief reprieve, as the attackers suddenly stopped for 48 hours, allowing the British to dig in and create a defensive perimeter, setting the stage for the evacuation.

For reasons that still aren’t clear, Hitler—over the protests of his own generals and to the bafflement of historians—had ordered Guderian to halt for two days to rest and resupply. It’s true the German troops were worn out after two weeks of fighting, and Hitler may have worried about a repeat of 1914, when exhausted German troops were forced to withdraw at the Marne. He may also have been swayed by Hermann Göring, chief of the German Luftwaffe, who boasted that air power alone could destroy the helpless Allied forces at Dunkirk. Less likely is the speculation that Hitler purposefully “let the Allies go” to appear magnanimous or merciful as a prelude to peace negotiations (which was not really in keeping with his character). In the end we will probably never know why Hitler choked.

4. GERMAN DIVE-BOMBERS WERE EQUIPPED WITH SIRENS TO SPREAD TERROR.

Among many examples of Germany’s evil genius for psychological warfare, one of the most famous was the decision to equip its Ju 87 dive bombers with air-powered sirens that emitted a shrieking, unearthly wail as the plane went into attack. The siren, known as the “Jericho Trumpet,” was intended to spread terror among enemy troops and civilians on the ground—and it worked. To this day the Jericho Trumpet is one of the most recognizable, and terrifying, sounds of war. It was certainly one of the lasting impressions of the Dunkirk evacuation for ordinary troops caught beneath the German bombs. Lieutenant Elliman, a British gunner who was waiting to be evacuated on Malo-les-Bains beach, later recalled the Stukas “diving, zooming, screeching, and wheeling over our heads like a flock of huge infernal seagulls.”

5. THE FRENCH FOUGHT A HOPELESS BATTLE TO COVER THE EVACUATION.

By Saidman (Mr), War Office official photographer — Photograph H 1636 from the Imperial War Museums, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Although Churchill and other Brits were quick to criticize the failure of France’s generals during the Fall of France, many ordinary French soldiers and officers fought bravely and honorably—and one hopeless “last stand” in particular probably helped enable the successful evacuation of Dunkirk.

As British and French troops withdrew to Dunkirk, 40 miles to the southeast French troops in two corps of the French First Army staged a ferocious defense against seven German divisions from May 28 to May 31, 1940, refusing to surrender and mounting several attempts to break out despite being heavily outnumbered (110,000 to 40,000). The valiant French effort, led by General Jean-Baptiste Molinié, helped tie up three German tank divisions under Erwin Rommel, enabling the British Expeditionary Force and the remaining troops of the French First Army to retreat and dig in at Dunkirk, ultimately saving another 100,000 Allied troops.

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