The idea of Darth Vader being Luke's father started as a joke

The idea of Darth Vader being Luke's father started as a joke

From Inverse: "George Lucas didn’t plan on making Darth Vader the secret father of Luke Skywalker. As much as fans have been told that Lucas had a massive plan for the Star Wars saga prior to 1977, the sources closest to that process say the opposite. “When I was his wife, I never knew there were nine stories,” Marcia Lucas says in the new docuseries Icons Unearthed: Star Wars. “I never knew there were two stories.” But perhaps the greatest revelation in this under-the-radar documentary involves the origin of the franchise’s most famous twist. It turns out the “I am your father” moment started as an offhanded joke at a dinner party. Lucas was struggling to come up with some kind of big twist for Empire’s third act when he invited screenwriters Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz over for dinner. When Lucas described his struggles with writing the Empire story, Huyck joked, “You can always make Darth Vader Luke’s father.”

The children's classic Goodnight Moon was inspired by a stormy lesbian romance

The Enduring Wisdom of 'Goodnight Moon' - The New York Times

From The Hornet: "A biography of Margaret Wise Brown by Amy Gary reveals that Brown, author of the classic children’s books Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny, had a tumultuous love life which included an affair with a married woman. Brown never married or had children. Instead she had a string of apparently torrid romances, including one with Blanche Oelrichs (who used the male nom de plume Michael Strange for her erotic poetry), a married woman 20 years her senior. The two women’s romance was actually the inspiration behind the beloved children’s book classic Goodnight Moon. During one breakup, she wrote a poem about a girl who moved from the country to the city and to soothe herself imagined her old room. Later, the poem returned to her in a dream along with images of her downstairs neighbor’s apartment — its bright green walls, red furniture with yellow trim. The result was Goodnight Moon."

Greeting someone by saying hello started when the telephone was invented

Alexander Graham Bell: Telephone & Inventions - HISTORY

From NPR: "The Oxford English Dictionary says the first published use of "hello" goes back only to 1827. And it wasn't mainly a greeting back then. Ammon says people in the 1830's said hello to attract attention ("Hello, what do you think you're doing?"), or to express surprise ("Hello, what have we here?"). Hello didn't become "hi" until the telephone arrived. It was Thomas Edison who put hello into common usage. He urged the people who used his phone to say "hello" when answering. His rival, Alexander Graham Bell, thought the better word was "ahoy." "Ahoy," it turns out, had been around longer — at least 100 years longer — than hello. It too was a greeting, albeit a nautical one, derived from the Dutch "hoi." Why did hello succeed? Aamon points to the telephone book. The first phone books included authoritative How To sections on their first pages and "hello" was frequently the officially sanctioned greeting."

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Aethelred, the Queen of the Saxons, was mostly written out of British history

From the BBC: "How does a ruler defeat bloodthirsty invaders, secure a kingdom and lay the foundations for England - and then almost get written out of history? When that ruler is a woman. Born into a war for survival against Viking invaders, Aethelflaed, daughter of Alfred the Great, grew up in a realm teetering on the brink of disaster. Married at 16 to Aethelred, Lord of Mercia, Aethelflaed's new lands were the front line as an uneasy and fitful peace came to a fiery end with Alfred's death in 899. Aethelflaed's marriage strengthened an alliance between Mercia and Alfred's Wessex in the south west and south east. As her older husband's health declined, Aethelflaed's reputation seems to have grown. Building projects, treaties and even - unusually for a woman - military campaigns, were conducted in her name. An Irish chronicler, observing her skilful handling of troublesome Vikings in Chester, called her "Queen of the Saxons".

The founder of Little Caesar's paid Rosa Parks' rent for more than a decade

Little Caesars founder Mike Ilitch passed away on Friday.

From CNN: "Mike Ilitch, the Little Caesars founder and Detroit Tigers owner, had an impact on the daily life of one of the most iconic figures from the civil rights movement. For more than a decade, Ilitch had quietly paid for Rosa Parks’ apartment in downtown Detroit. Shortly after her famed defiance of segregation sparked the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, Parks moved to Detroit and became an important presence in the city for years afterward. But in 1994, Parks was robbed and assaulted in her home at the age of 81. Friends worked to find Parks a new, safer apartment at the Riverfront Apartments in Detroit. Ilitch read the story in the newspaper and offered to pay for Parks’ housing indefinitely. He continued paying for the apartment until Parks died in 2005."

Napoleon III wanted meat for his troops so a Scottish butcher invented Bovril

Portrait of Napoleon III (Winterhalter) - Wikipedia

From Wikipedia: "In 1870, Napoleon III ordered one million cans of beef to feed his troops. The task of providing this went to John Lawson Johnston, a Scottish butcher living in Canada. Large quantities of beef were available across the British Dominions and South America, but transport and storage were problematic. Therefore, Johnston created a product known as 'Johnston's Fluid Beef', later called Bovril. By 1888, over 3,000 UK public houses, grocers and dispensing chemists were selling Bovril. The company also made concentrated pemmican-like dried beef as part of the British Army's emergency field ration during the war. The ration came in the form of a pocket-sized tin can that contained the beef, which could be mixed with water to create a beef tea."

This catfish can survive for years in dried mud until the rains come

Acknowledgements: I find a lot of these links myself, but I also get some from other newsletters that I rely on as "serendipty engines," such as The Morning News from Rosecrans Baldwin and Andrew Womack, Jodi Ettenberg's Curious About Everything, Dan Lewis's Now I Know, Robert Cottrell and Caroline Crampton's The Browser, Clive Thompson's Linkfest, Noah Brier and Colin Nagy's Why Is This Interesting, Maria Popova's The Marginalian, Sheehan Quirke AKA The Cultural Tutor, the Smithsonian magazine, and JSTOR Daily. If you come across something interesting that you think should be included here, please feel free to email me.