2014 - %3, August

Marines First Accepted Women Enlistees 96 Years Ago

Opha Mae Johnson was first in a line of 305 who signed up.

| Wed Aug. 13, 2014 6:00 AM EDT
Marine Reservists (F) pose for a photograph at Headquarters, Marine Corps, Washington D.C., 1918. Marine Corps Women's Marine Reserve/Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections/Flickr
 

By luck of being the first person in a line of 305 women waiting to enlist, Opha Mae Johnson of Kokomo, Indiana became the first woman to join the Marines in 1918. The Marines were looking to fill office and clerical roles in the States while all battle-ready male Marines were shipped to the frontlines of World War I. To help fill the vacancies, the Marines Corps opened enlistment to women for the first time–two years before women could even vote!

Opha Mae Johnson Wikimedia
 
Looking trim in their new uniforms are (left to right) Private First Class Mary Kelly, May O'Keefe, and Ruth Spike. The newly recruited Marines posed at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C. Marine Corps Women's Marine Reserve/Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections/Flickr
 
Swearing In - New York Recruiting Office, 17 August 1918 Violet Van Wagner, Marie S. Schleight, Florence Wiedinger, Isabelle Balfour, Janet Kurgan, Edith Barton, and Helen Constance Dupont are sworn in as privates by Lieutenant George Kneller in New York. The women are shown wearing the standard-issued men's blouse, prior to the creation of the women's uniform. Mrs. Dupont and Miss Kurgan are sisters. Marine Corps Women's Marine Reserve/Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections/Flickr
 
Women Marines post recruiting posters on a wall in New York City. From left to right, they are, Privates Minette Gaby, May English, Lillian Patterson, and Theresa Lake. Marine Corps Women's Marine Reserve/Marine Corps Archives & Special Collections/Flickr
 

The Marine Corps Women's Reserve was officially established in 1943. Five years later Congress passed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act, making women a permanent part of the Marine Corps.

U.S. Marines recruitment poster, 1915

 

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Burn Your Beatles Records!

In 1966, anti-Beatles fervor hit the States just as Beatles began their last tour.

| Tue Aug. 12, 2014 5:42 PM EDT

Early August 1966, Christian groups, primarily in the Southern United States took to the streets to burn the sin out of their beloved Beatles records in response to John Lennon's remark that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus."

Birmingham disc jockeys Tommy Charles, left, and Doug Layton of Radio Station WAQY, rip and break materials representing the British pop group The Beatles, in Birmingham, Ala., Aug. 8, 1966. The broadcasters started a "Ban The Beatles" campaign. AP

Like all good moments of mass hysteria, getting a little context helps put things in perspective.

The quote originally appeared in March 1966, in part of an interview with Lennon published in the London Evening Standard. The interviewer, Maureen Cleave, commented that Lennon was at the time reading about religion. Here is the full, original quote from Lennon:

Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I'll be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first—rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.

In late July, five months after its original publication, a U.S. teen mag called Datebook republished the interview with Lennon. Turning to the tried and true method of generating scandal to gin up sales, Datebook put the "We're more popular than Jesus" part of the quote on the cover. Woo-boy. Two Birmingham DJs picked up on the quote, vowing to never play the Beatles and on August 8th, started a "Ban the Beatles" campaign. Christian groups across the South rose up to protest the Beatles who, as it happened, were just about embark on what would be their last U.S. tour. Beatles records were burned, crushed, broken. Never a group to miss out on a good bonfire, the Ku Klux Klan got involved.

South Carolina Grand Dragon, Bob Scoggin of the Klu Klux Klan tosses Beatle records into the flames of a burning cross, in Chester, South Carolina, Aug. 11, 1966. The "Beatle Bonfire" was staged to take exception to a statement attributed to John Lennon, when he was quoted as saying that his group was more popular than Jesus. AP

On August 12, 1966 the Beatles set out on tour, meeting protests and stupid questions about the quote all along the way. It would be the last tour the Beatles would ever do in the United States, ending on August 29 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

Young churchfolk from Sunnyvale on the San Francisco peninsula protest against the Beatles and John Lennon's remark that The Beatles are "more popular than Jesus" outside Candlestick Park where the Beatles are holding a concert in San Francisco, Ca., Aug. 29, 1966. The picketers were seen by many of the teenagers but missed by the entertainers, who arrived and departed from a different direction. Some 25,000 fans went through the gates for The Beatles' final U.S. performance on their tour. AP

 

Robin Williams Has Died at 63

The legendary actor and comedian reportedly passed away this morning at his home in Northern California.

| Mon Aug. 11, 2014 7:33 PM EDT

Just awful. I'm speechless.

Rest in peace.

James Bonds, Ranked

According to a new poll from CBS News, a lot of Americans are wrong on Bond.

| Mon Aug. 11, 2014 2:59 PM EDT

According to CBS News, 51 percent of Americans think correctly that Sean Connery was the best James Bond. A misguided 12 percent—presumably millennials confusing the cause of their affection for the '90s— think Pierce Brosnan was the No. 1 007. Third place went to Roger Moore with 11 percent of respondents inexplicably calling the worst Bond ever their favorite. Current Bond Daniel Craig netted the favor of only 8 percent and rounding errors Timothy Dalton and George Lazenby both came in at just 1 percent.

Connery is without question the best, but let's go deeper. Here are all the Bonds ranked, according to me, a person with opinions.

1. Sean Connery

2. Daniel Craig

3. Pierce Brosnan

4. Timothy Dalton

5. George Lazenby

6. Roger Moore

(Note: I didn't included David Niven because the 1967 Casino Royale doesn't count.)

Watch John Oliver Explain How Payday Loans Are Awful

"Payday loans are the Lays potato chips of finance. You can't have just one and they're terrible for you."

| Mon Aug. 11, 2014 12:31 PM EDT

Payday lenders are awful, horrible scum who prey on the desperation of the working class. Payday loans are awful, horrible deals wherein a borrower gets a small amount of cash at an exceedingly high interest rate and agrees to pay it back in a short amount of time, typically two weeks. If a borrower can't pay it back then they're hit with an avalanche of fees and end up having to borrow more and then its a vicious cycle all the way down. According to the Center for Responsible Lending, the average borrower ends up paying $1,105 to borrow just $305.

On Sunday's Last Week Tonight, John Oliver made these points and more in a way that will make you eventually run your head into a brick wall because you have no more tears left to shed.

Watch:

This Is What Happens When You Like Everything on Facebook

Things go crazy!

| Mon Aug. 11, 2014 11:08 AM EDT

Fun fact about Facebook: You should be discerning with the Like button because the News Feed algorithm is pretty sensitive. This can be a struggle because logging onto Facebook is a bit like hiking up a very tall mountain with Satan. It shows you the world and says, "all these things I will give you if you fall down and Like them." Facebook gives you an unending slew of opportunities to Like things because the more you Like, the more accurate the algorithm gets at predicting what you want to see in your News Feed. In general, it's pretty good at this. However, it makes a few assumptions about your Like. The assumptions are (1) that you actually Like the posts you Like—you may not like some bad breaking-news alert, but you like that you received it, you like that you received it from the page that posted it; and (2) you are somewhat picky about what you Like. Maybe not too picky! But picky. If you Like everything, you Like nothing and it's all meaningless.

What happens though if you Like everything? Every Candy Crush request? Every political post? Every bad joke? Every marriage announcement? Wired's Mat Honan gave it a shot and the answer is, well, things get crazy:

My News Feed took on an entirely new character in a surprisingly short amount of time. After checking in and liking a bunch of stuff over the course of an hour, there were no human beings in my feed anymore…Nearly my entire feed was given over to Upworthy and the Huffington Post…As I went to bed, I remember thinking "Ah, crap. I have to like something about Gaza," as I hit the Like button on a post with a pro-Israel message.

By the next morning, the items in my News Feed had moved very, very far to the right. I'm offered the chance to like the 2nd Amendment and some sort of anti-immigrant page. I like them both. I like Ted Cruz. I like Rick Perry. The Conservative Tribune comes up again, and again, and again in my News Feed. I get to learn its very particular syntax.

The syntax he identifies will look familiar to anyone has spent any time on Facebook lately. The whole article is pretty interesting. Go read the whole thing.

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80 Years Ago: Alcatraz Takes In First Group of No Good Thugs

The Rock opened as a Federal Penitentiary on August 11, 1934.

| Mon Aug. 11, 2014 6:25 AM EDT
Group portrait of the Alcatraz Guards and Officials in front of the Administration Building. In the center with the light hat is Warden Johnston. Second to the right of Johnston is Capt. Henry Weinhold. c1930s. Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, Weinhold Family Alcatraz Photograph Collection

On August 11, 1934, Alcatraz accepted 14 federal prisoners, considered to be the grand opening the Rock. Of course, once you dig a little deeper, you learn that there were already prisoners on the island when those 14 inmated arrived on armored railcars (via ferry). But history is filled with asterisks, right? Alcatraz had long been used as a military prison, going back to the Civil War. On August 11th, a few military prisoners still serving out their terms were on the island to welcome their new Rockmates.

The new federal inmates were all transferred from McNeil Island Penitentiary in Washington. They were joined by 53 more inmates on August 22nd. Alcatraz remained open as a Federal Penitentiary until March 1963 and is now one of the most popular tourist attractions on the West Coast.

Because there are so many great photos of Alcatraz, we're going to stretch our legs a bit today.

Main Cell Block Guard Carl T. Perrin, March 21, 1963. Keith Dennison/Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives
 
Alcatraz guards at the sallyport, c. 1939-1962. Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, Carl Sundstrom Alacatraz Photograph Collection
 
View of the original control center at Alcatraz Federal Prison. Taken during the World War II period as can be seen by the war bond poster on the wall behind the gentleman. Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, McPherson/Weed Family Alcatraz Papers
 
Alcatraz mess hall and kitchen with Christmas menu, date unknown. Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, Sheppard Alcatraz Collection
 
Alcatraz inmates playing dominoes and baseball in the recreation yard, c1935-1960. Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, Betty Waller Collection
 
Alcatraz inmates arriving at the main cell house, c1960. Leg irons and handcuffs can be seen on most of the inmates. Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives, Marc Fischetti Collection
 
Construction of Alcatraz 1890-1914 Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives
 
Press Photo from the 1962 Alcatraz escape, June 1962. View from the west side building diagram directions. Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives

 

A New Album From Elvis? Sort of.

"Elvis: That’s the Way It Is" Revisits the King at his best. Binge-listening is permitted.

| Mon Aug. 11, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Elvis Presley
Elvis: That’s the Way It Is (Deluxe Edition)
RCA/Legacy

Elvis That's The Way It Is

How many versions of Elvis singing Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" would you like to hear? Is eight enough? That's what you get on this mammoth eight-CD (plus two-DVD) set. Revisiting one of the true high points of his career, Elvis: That's the Way It Is (Deluxe Edition) chronicles his summer 1970 run of shows in Las Vegas, when The King was in undeniably fine voice and great spirits. Contents include the original album of the same name, six complete shows (with not-quite-identical set lists), a fun disc of rehearsals, and, on the DVD side, the original theatrical release of the film chronicling the shows, as well as the special edition from 2001. Yes, it's overkill, but also surprisingly, compulsively entertaining—assuming already you're a fan. Encompassing the rollicking rock of his youth and the grandiosity of his grown-up self, Elvis would never sound this great again, whether belting out "Hound Dog" or getting convincingly angsty on a latter-day gem like the soaring "Suspicious Minds." If it becomes disconcerting to hear him cover other people's hits (for example, Neil Diamond’s "Sweet Caroline"), or indulge in corn like "The Wonder of You," or break the mood with dopey wisecracks, ultimately Elvis's obvious delight in being onstage transcends any shortcomings in the repertoire. Binge-listening is permitted.
 

Book Review: "Excellent Sheep"

Mon Aug. 11, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Excellent Sheep

By William Deresiewicz

FREE PRESS

Something is rotten in higher education, William Deresiewicz writes in Excellent Sheep, as promising students, driven by an almost neurotic need for overachievement, are caught up in an escalating race. Deresiewicz, a former Yale prof, argues that America's top institutions have become career mills that funnel privileged kids into a narrow selection of professions—namely consulting and finance (and more recently, tech). Many end up unfulfilled, anxious, depressed, and fearful of failure, he notes, citing reports from a Stanford mental-health task force and the American Psychological Association. While it's largely anecdotal, the book still makes a pretty good case that these colleges are failing in their most essential mission: to help kids "build a self."

Fly Through Pyongyang With This Gorgeous Timelapse Video

A peek inside the capital of North Korea, like you've never seen it before.

| Fri Aug. 8, 2014 5:35 PM EDT

Enter Pyongyang from JT Singh on Vimeo.

Timelapse videos of mega-cities like New York have become something of a viral video cliché in recent years. (If you're anything like me, you lap them up without shame, all the same). But I bet you've never seen the capital of the world's most reclusive nation, North Korea, quite like this before. The filmmakers—JT Singh and Rob Whitworth—spent six days in Pyongyang filming this video that delivers you right into the very-human nitty gritty of a place that looks far less creepy than those "Mass Games" videos would lead you to believe.

Even so, how much can we rely on this portrait for an accurate take on North Korea as a whole? Not a lot: the capital is home to the ruling elite, and used by the regime as a showcase city; people here are hardly representative. For example, 16 million of North Korea's 24 million people suffer from critical food insecurity, relying only on state-rationed food, according to the UN; one out of every three children is too short for his or her age. Hunger, poverty, lack of electricity, brutal repression and political reprisals... you name it: A UN special inquiry recently described North Korea's human rights violations as without "parallel in the contemporary world."

It's also true that the video is effectively an advertisement for a company operating out of Beijing called Koryo Tours, which has run tours into North Korea since 1993; the group covered the filmmakers' travel expenses. (Full disclosure: I'm pals with Vicky Mohieddeen, who accompanied the film crew, and works for Koryo).

But I think it adds vital perspective to a place shut away from the world by its repressive government. It's oh-so-interesting taking a look inside.