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Two Sitcoms Joked About Bruce Jenner Being A Woman Years Before He Came Out

This is dialog from a 2009 Family Guy episode (season 7, episode 14) called “We Love You, Conrad“:

Brian: Bruce Jenner is a man

Stewie: No, Brian. That’s what the press would have you believe, but he’s not. Bruce Jenner is a woman: an elegant, beautiful, Dutch woman.

 

And a decade before that, in 1996, Married… With Children showed the Bundys’ boyish-looking next door neighbor, Marcy, being mistaken for Bruce Jenner. This is from the 25th episode of season 10, “Torch Song Duet”:

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via Uproxx and Happy Place

How History Channel’s ‘Vikings’ Compares To Reality

Spoiler alert: the below contains spoilers through the third season of Vikings.

Over the past three years, Vikings has gotten better and better every year. Its story lines are consistently good, but it’s grown in scale from a Viking villagers attacking an English monastery, to a Viking king laying siege to Paris. And the show tries to be historically accurate: as a PopSugar interview with an expert tells us, the costumes, hair styles and characters all fit within the Viking culture, even if some of it is the stuff of legends. The series even has a lot of dialogue in authentic languages of the time: Old Norse, Old English, Old French, none of which sound anything like their modern counterparts.

vikings explanation

But how about the timeline and the characters? How do they compare to real history? The article gets the crux of it:

the show is both radically compressing and extending eras

The first raid portrayed in the series, in the second episode of the first season, is the infamous first Viking raid ever recorded, in 793 A.D., at the monastery on the East English isle of Lindisfarne. (The sunstone they used to navigate is thought to be real, too.) The attack was as shocking, if not more so, than the show makes it seem. To the British, the Vikings were demons.

Lindisfarne was located in what at the time was the Kingdom of Northumbria, and in the next episode, we meet its king, Ælla. Here is the first glimpse of the mangling of the timeline: in history, Ælla dies in 867. He looks to be in his 40s in the series, but let’s say life was hard back then and he was 25: that would mean he lived to be 100. However, Ælla does play a prominent role in Norse legend, particularly in one of the Norse sagas about Ragnar Lodbrok, The Tale of Ragnar’s Sons (possible future spoilers) and it makes sense that they included him in the show.

We’ll get back to Ragnar himself — as well as the rest of the Vikings — a little later but first, let’s look at the events of the second season because here, the series jumps forward four years and expands in scope quite a bit. In the second episode, the Vikings, now accompanied by King Horik, land in Wessex and we meet King Egbert. The historical Egbert lived from 770-something to 839.

Egbert_of_Wessex_map

If we count from the known raid of Lindisfarne, the series would be in 797-798, which would put Egbert in his late 20s, when he was in exile. However, he looks like he’s in his 40s, with his grown son, another historical figure named Æthelwulf, being in his late 20s. In the seventh episode, Egbert and Ælla, whose kingdoms are separated by Mercia, propose an alliance against the Vikings and Mercians, and seal it by wedding their children, Æthelwulf and Judith. It is believed that the real Ælla did have a daughter, but she was named Æthelthryth. However, the real Æthelwulf was indeed married to a Judith in order to form an alliance, but she was Judith of Flanders, and the alliance was with West Francia.

In the eighth episode, we meet a Princess Kwenthrith of Mercia, who seems to want to be either Queen Cynethryth or Princess Cwenthryth. If we have to pick one, it’s probably the former, who lived in late 700s, and was actually queen. However, neither of these women fought a civil war or ruled alone, as Kwenthrith in the series did, and so she seems to be largely fictional. The real Egbert did defeat Mercia though, in the late 820s, and was briefly the 8th and penultimate bretwalda, or ruler of all Britain. His grandson, Alfred the Great, was the last bretwalda. Incidentally, in the series Alfred is the name that Egbert gives to Aethelstan’s bastard child with Judith.

So, based on Egbert’s age and the events, the story seems to not take place as much in the late 790s as the 820s. (Egbert’s son, Æthelwulf, is first mentioned in history in 825 as heading a large army, so he had to be at least in his 20s by then, which matches up with the TV character.) If we leave Ælla and Kwenthrith out, and pretend the attack on Lindisfarne wasn’t the famous one in 793, we can almost say the series takes place in the 820s.

Paris_in_9_century

Almost, because the events of the third season would disagree. Noting that there’s no jump in time like the four year one in the previous season, Kwenthrith’s uncle, Beorhtwulf, dies in the battle in the first episode, and she poisons her brother, Burgred, in the fourth one. In reality, both of them were kings of Mercia for decent amounts of time: the former from 840 to 852 and the latter from 852 to 874. This not only really upsets the correspondence with the series, but also puts the story even later, in the mid 800s. The invasion of Paris introduces even more confusion.

First, we meet Count Odo, who in reality, fairly successfully defended Paris from the Viking siege of 885-886. However, all other signs indicate that the siege portrayed is the one from 845, because it:

  • was the first Viking siege of Paris, and this seemed to also be the case in the series
  • was led by Ragnar
  • better matches the battle tactics used
  • occurred during the reign of the Frankish emperor Charles the Bald, who was the grandson of Charlemagne, as mentioned in the series
    • Charles the Fat ruled during the 885-886 siege, and he was great-grandson of Charlemagne
    • Charles the Bald was named so ironically, because he had lots of hair, just like in the series
    • Charles the Bald had a daughter, as in the series, while Charles the Fat did not
  • ended with a raid inside the city and the payment of 5670 lb of gold and silver, as shown in the series

So it’s pretty clear that aside from Odo’s presence, who was not yet born then, the siege depicted is the one in 845. In the season three finale, Ragnar pretends to convert to Christianity and then die, uses his coffin as a Trojan horse to get into the city, fights his way to the gates, and lets his army in. In reality, they didn’t need to do that to get into the city, and that story is actually attributed to Ragnar’s son, Björn Ironside, who did the same thing to get into what he thought was Rome, but was actually Luna.

Princess-Gisla-MORGANE-POLANSKI-and-Emperor-Charles-LOTHAIRE-BLUTEAU

Finally, Charles the Bald marries his daughter Gisla to Rollo, in order to secure an alliance with the Vikings. This is interesting for two reasons:

  • Remember Judith of Flanders, who married Æthelwulf? She was Charles the Bald’s daughter. It’s strange that in the series, they named his wife Judith and made it a diplomatic marriage, but with the wrong kingdom
  • Charles the Bald did not have a daughter named Gisla but his grandson, Charles the Simple, is believed to have had one named Gisela, whom he did give to Rollo — in 911

Which brings us to the Vikings themselves and some history, which may or may not turn out to be spoilers of later seasons of the show:

  • The actual Rollo lived from about 850 to 930, and apparently had nothing to do with Ragnar. He and his army eventually settled in Normandy — which took its name from the Normans, meaning North men
    • Incidentally, Rollo is the great-great-great-grandfather of William the Conqueror, and thus an ancestor of Queen Elizabeth II and many other European monarchs.
  • King Horik ruled the Danes from 827 to 854
  • It’s not known which historical figure Ragnar was, if he even existed, but legend has it that the Great Heathen Army, which conquered much of England starting in 865, was led by his sons and constituted to avenge his death

Ragnar-and-Charles-1940x1456

If that’s true, that would mean Ragnar was born in the early 800s, and could’ve laid the 845 siege to Paris. But there’s no way much else in the timeline makes sense:

  • King Horik died 9 years after the siege of Paris in real life, but before it in the series
  • The historical King Egbert died in 6 years before the siege, but he’s still alive in the series
  • Rollo was born 5 years after the siege, Odo 7
  • The situation with the Mercian monarchy in no way represents reality

However, we do get a sense that even though people and events have been shifted both backwards and forwards through time, the story does take place in the mid-early 800s. The two firm historical dates we have are the raid on Lindisfarne in 793 and the siege of Paris in 845. Given they both can’t be true, and based on the other events in the series, fixing it to the latter seems more “correct”.

So in that case, Lindisfarne has been pushed forward in time almost 40 years; Egbert and Æthelwulf about 10 years; Ælla and Ragnar are about where they should be; Horik has been pulled back 10 years, and Rollo and Odo about 40; Gisela, almost 70.

Which is actually not a bad way to do the series: it takes about a century from the height of the Viking Age, compresses it down to a few years, and tells the most interesting stories, with compelling characters that shared a history, even if they weren’t actually contemporaries. Portraying that much history in one series would be very hard without a device like this. And actually, our historical sources from back then are so shaky, that who knows if what we think we know actually happened that way.

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Lawyer Ads Weren’t Legal Until 1977

Toward the end of the fifth episode of Better Call Saul, Jimmy is talking to his brother Chuck about his right to advertise, at which point Chuck mentions that the practice “wasn’t even allowed until five Supreme Court justices went completely bonkers in Bates vs State Bar of Arizona“. And indeed, bar associations until that time had traditionally banned all forms of lawyer advertising — the thinking being that good work is its own advertisement through the word of mouth it generates and that discussing money matters was beneath the professionalism of a lawyer.

Chuck McGill explaining Bates vs the State Bar of Arizona, in the fifth episode of Better Call Saul

Chuck McGill explaining Bates vs the State Bar of Arizona, in the fifth episode of Better Call Saul

 

Well in 1976, an Arizona legal clinic which only handled basic legal matters placed an ad with prices for some services it provided, such as uncontested divorces and basic adoptions. The State Bar of Arizona sued them, and the Arizona Supreme Court found in their favor. But, the United States Supreme Court, having recently ruled that laws prohibiting pharmacists from advertising their prices were unconstitutional, took up the case and ruled that the same bans are unconstitutional for lawyers also. The thinking was that the rules were not only anachronistic, but that they constituted a disservice to the common man in that they prohibited the free flow of information.

It was an early ruling on the concept of commercial speech, which has since evolved quite a bit, and was most recently the reason behind the landmark ruling of Citizens United vs FEC, in which the ban against corporations spending money on political campaigns was lifted.

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From Wikipedia

Louisville, KY Is Sorta The Epicenter of Unhappiness In America

The map below shows people’s happiness levels in the United States: red means most unhappy, yellow is neutral, blue is most happy. As you can see, the biggest area of unhappiness is in Indiana and Kentucky, right around where Louisville is. But more so, there’s a kind of concentric pattern to the entire map.

City and Rural Area Happiness Controlling for Characteristics

Around Indiana and Kentucky, there’s a circle of mostly orange in which lie Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, West Virginia and Ohio: level two of the inferno. Around that, there’s another circle that’s on average happier — mostly oranges and yellows, some greens, but also some reds: Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New England.

Finally, there’s the happy outer rim, the thick fourth level which is mostly blues and greens: the entire Rockies from the Dakotas and Montana down through Colorado and New Mexico to Texas and rest of the South. If you kept going, you could imagine the ring continuing in the Atlantic, looping around through Canada — upper Quebec and Ontario — before meeting itself at the US border again.

Things go downhill again on the west coast, but there’s too little data there to say what’s going on. Perhaps that’s a small part of a larger ring that goes through Mexico and the Caribbean, the mid-Atlantic and the Northwest Passage. Or perhaps that ring is mostly yellow because happiness levels, having reached a peak in the fourth circle of (un)happiness started to go down again. Or maybe, we’re looking at the third ring of a different epicenter of unhappiness, colliding with the American one. Reading tea leaves is not easy.

wave interference

 

The happiness data comes from a survey conducted by the CDC between 2005 and 2009. The researchers that created the map are from Harvard and the University of British Columbia.

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From Unhappy Cities (PDF), via Lifehacker

The Original Plot of ‘Game of Thrones’, As Pitched In 1993

Three years before A Game of Thrones was published, a 44 year-old George R. R. Martin sent in the first 13 chapters of it to his agent, Ralph Vicinanza. With it, he included a three-page letter that laid out his vision for the series, which he had already named A Song of Fire and Ice. Pictures of the letter’s pages are below, but here are the salient points:

  • As is well-known, the series was originally supposed to be a trilogy — it since became (at least) a heptalogy:
    • The three books were to be named A Game of Thrones, A Dance with Dragons, and The Winds of Winter. The latter two names were eventually given to the 5th and 6th books, instead.
  • GRRM made it a point to say he had a strong notion of the plot and the fate of the main characters, but that he purposely didn’t want to know where the story was going, so he wouldn’t lose interest in writing it.
  • The overall plot was supposed to be comprised of three successively more serious conflicts, each being the focus of one of the books:
    1. The fight for the Iron Throne in A Game of Thrones
    2. The invasion of the Seven Kingdoms by Daenerys and her Dothraki horde in A Dance with Dragons
    3. The invasion of the Seven Kingdoms by The Others in The Winds of Winter
  • “I want the reader to feel that no one is ever completely safe, not even the characters who seem to be the heroes. The suspense always ratchets up a notch when you know that any character can die at any time.”
  • “Five central characters will make it through all three volumes”: Tyrion, Daenerys, Arya, Bran and Jon Snow
  • “Sansa Stark, wed to Joffrey Baratheon, will bear him a son, the heir to the throne, and when the time comes, she will choose her husband and child over her parents and siblings, a choice she will later bitterly rue.”
  • Robb Stark was supposed to maim Joffrey in battle, but then be killed himself — also in battle; no mention of the Red Wedding. Tyrion was then supposed to besiege and burn Winterfell instead of Theon
  • Before there was a Red Wedding, Catelyn was supposed to “die at the hands of the others”
  • Bringing a touch of incest to the “good” characters, Arya and Jon were to fall in love, but not do anything about it and instead remain tormented by passion “until the secret of Jon’s true parentage is revealed in the last book.” So, clearly Ned really is not Jon’s father, giving even more credence to R+L=J
  • Daenerys was supposed to kill Khal Drogo as revenge for him killing her brother, then run off into the Dothraki Sea, find the dragon eggs, hatch them, and use them to subdue the Dothraki and prepare to invade the Seven Kingdoms as their leader
  • After Tyrion “removed” Joffrey, Jaimie Lannister was supposed to kill his way to the Iron Throne and then blame Tyrion for all the murders. Tyrion would side with the Starks and fall in love with Arya, leading to a “deadly rivalry between Tyrion and Jon Snow”.

And now, without further ado, the actual photographs of the letter’s pages:

GRRM letter, page 1 GRRM letter, page 2 GRRM letter, page 3

 

The pictures were apparently taken at the London headquarters of HarperCollins, which publishes the A Song of Ice and Fire series in the UK and has the letter up on a wall, behind acrylic, in a “George R R Martin Room”. That paragraph that’s blacked out has piqued the interest of Reddit, where an effort to decode the text using methods that would make a spy jealous has made this much progress so far:

Decoded redacted paragraph from GRRM letter

 

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From reddit, via HappyPlace

The Microsoft HoloLens Is Like An Augmented Reality Holodeck

HoloLens Builder

The floor, couch, table and walls are real. The Minecraft stuff is not.


HoloLens in the kitchen

The TV is a hologram, too

This January, Microsoft announced the most exciting thing they’ve created since the Kinect: a combination of the Oculus Rift and Google Glass called HoloLens. Except that unlike Glass, you’re not meant to wear it in public and open yourself up to ridicule and beatings; and unlike Rift, you’re not cut off from the world and placed in a (possibly disorienting) purely virtual one.

HoloLens is a set of goggles with a built-in computer which places holograms directly in your environment. So through visual trickery, you could look at your empty desk and actually see a 3-D hologram of a block of marble on it, then sculpt it into the Venus de Milo. Or you could play a game where the characters jump on your couch. Or see a screen on a blank wall. Take a look at the concept videos:

The thing is very much a prototype now, with the promise that it will be available “in the Windows 10 timeframe”. Developers and partners are supposed to get access to it this spring, but it’s not likely to be on the open market until 2016.

Wired tried it out and really liked it — they had nothing but good things to say. Engadget was a bit more real and said that in its current state, it sucks for two reasons: the prototype is heavy, hot and uncomfortable in general and the software is demo-quality only, not fully-fledged consumer-grade functionality. They did acknowledge that it has some great possibility, if Microsoft does it right. So if and when it gets there, it should make for a very, very cool gadget to get instead of the a differently-sized iPad or a smartwatch.

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From Microsoft, via Laughing Squid

Texas Plumber’s Truck Ends Up In ISIS Terrorists’ Hands

Mark-1 Plumbing Truck in ISIS video

The Ford F-250 above was owned by Mark Oberholtzer’s plumbing company, Mark-1 Plumbing, outside of Houston, TX. He traded it in to AutoNation in November 2013, and probably after changing hands a few more times, it ended up in a photo posted by the terrorist group ISIS. The plumbing company has since been receiving a flood of phone calls and threats, because a lot of people saw the photo and erroneously think the poor guy’s aiding terrorists.

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From KHOU, via Cheezburger

The ‘Cutest Gangsta I Know’ Is Now In A Car Commercial

About six weeks ago, some guy caught his wife rapping in the car to Salt-N-Pepa’s 1993 hit, None of Your Business, put the 40 second video on YouTube, and it has since garnered some 16 million views. Apparently, Acura thought this would make for a great car commercial because they put her in the new one for the 2015 Acura RDX, in which she raps along to Blondie’s Rapture. It first aired during the Rose Bowl, and came out pretty well:

The woman is Chelsea Ranger from Ontario, Canada. Her husband — the one who filmed her — is Paolo Salomao and is a creative director and co-founder of the East End Project studio. About a week after he posted the YouTube video, Chelsea appeared on the Ellen show, where they shooped:

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Via iSpot.tv, Car Crushing and The Washington Post

Pope Francis Doesn’t Know The Difference Between Evolution And Intelligent Design

On October 27th, Pope Francis gave a speech to the Vatican’s science academy, on the occasion of unveiling a bust of the previous, still living Pope Benedict VXI. In it, after praising Pope Benedict, he talks about evolution briefly, and how the theory is not incompatible with Catholic faith. The entire text is printed below, but these are the relevant parts that were used in virtually all of the extensive English media coverage:

“When we read in Genesis the account of Creation, we risk imagining that God was a magician, with such a magic wand as to be able to do everything. However, it was not like that. He created beings and left them to develop according to the internal laws that He gave each one, so that they would develop, and reach their fullness.”

“The Big-Bang, that is placed today at the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine intervention but exacts it. The evolution in nature is not opposed to the notion of Creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”

Even without actually reading the whole context, it’s obvious that he’s not really talking about unguided natural selection. Phrases like “He created beings” and “evolution presupposes the creation of beings” very clearly show that he doesn’t think all life on earth descended from the Last Universal Ancestor through the various mechanisms in the Theory of Evolution, but rather that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause”, which is the very definition of Intelligent Design.

Pope Francis: evolution in nature is not in contrast with the notion of creation

One of the extremely few news sources that picked up on this was CNET, which included this paragraph along with its report:

The pope’s views differ radically from those of some eminent scientists, such as Stephen Hawking. Hawking recently made it clear that he dismisses the idea of God. He said: “Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation.”

The other error that should’ve been caught by just by simple common sense is a translation one, which would have had the Pope supposedly say — emphasis added — that “God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life.” Now, regardless of anything else, we can surely all agree that the Pope thinks God is a divine being. Him saying otherwise really should raise an alarm, but maybe every reporter thought that now that he’s cool with science, the Pope is coming out of the atheist closet, too.

The actual Italian word translated as “divine being” in that quote is “demiurgo”, which — and this is where the incompetence really becomes obvious — has a very good English translation: demiurge. If you’re not a student of philosophy though, the term probably bears no meaning, so it generally gets translated into “creator”, with a small c. It comes from Plato, and it refers to an imperfect being that did his best to bring order to the chaos that the universe used to be, and who fashioned what we know the universe to be. However, the universe is still flawed because it was made from flawed materials.

Later, in Gnosticism, the term was used for a similar being, except that he was malevolent, and was trying to keep humanity from knowing the true, benevolent God. Thus, everything material was created by the demiurge and was bad, and everything immaterial, or spiritual, was created by God and that’s the world which Gnostics tried to learn about — the term Gnostic meaning “learned person”. Clearly, a person like the Pope — very knowledgeable in philosophy and heretical religions — meant demiurge, and not divine being.

But back to the main issue, about evolution and creation. If there’s any doubt that Pope Francis was actually talking about intelligent design, here’s the entire paragraph of his speech on the matter, in which he says that creation has been going on for millenia until it became what we know it to be, and the world did not arise out of chaos. In other words, evolution has been guided the whole time, and the Big Bang was too.

“You are addressing the highly complex topic of the evolution of the concept of nature. I will not go into it all, you understand well the scientific complexity of this important and decisive question. I only wish to underline that God and Christ walk with us and are present also in nature, as the Apostle Paul affirmed in his address at the Areopagus: “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). When we read in Genesis the account of Creation, we risk imagining that God was a magician, with such a magic wand as to be able to do everything. However, it was not like that. He created beings and left them to develop according to the internal laws that He gave each one, so that they would develop, and reach their fullness. He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time that He assured them of his continual presence, giving being to every reality. And thus creation went forward for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia until it became what we know today, in fact because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the Creator who gives being to all entities. The beginning of the world was not the work of chaos, which owes its origin to another, but it derives directly from a Supreme Principle who creates out of love. The Big-Bang, that is placed today at the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine intervention but exacts it. The evolution in nature is not opposed to the notion of Creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”

The entire transcript, in Italian, can be found at the official Vatican News network, and a (correct) English translation can be found at Zenit, a Catholic news agency.

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From Zenit and NEWS.VA

Two Wild Kangaroos Boxing In A Street Brawl

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From YouTube, via Laughing Squid