USA No, Elsewhere Yes – WIF Edu-tainment

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Things You Can Do

in Other Countries

You Can’t Do

in the USA

 

The citizens of the United States of America like to consider themselves one of the freest countries in the world. However, the truth is actually a lot more complicated than that. The United States enjoy some of the most lax laws in the world when it comes to saying whatever you please, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to being free to do what you want to do. In many countries around the world, it is perfectly legal to do many things people wish they could do in the States.

 10. In The Czech Republic You Can Use Magic Mushrooms

Magic mushrooms are the common given nickname for a class of mushroom that has an active compound called psilocybin that can have very strong psychedelic effects when ingested. Of course, most people who find this mushroom intriguing will need to accept that it is beyond their reach, as it remains in the realm of the black market of illegal drugs. That is, unless they are willing to live in the right, very specific country.

In the European country of the Czech Republic, mushrooms are actually mostly decriminalized, making it fairly easy to use them or get your hands on them. While it is not legal

 to sell mushrooms, import them into the country, or buy them, it is perfectly okay to own small amounts and grow them yourself. The law was likely set up this way so that their citizens could have their own freedom, without too strongly encouraging tourists to come to their country just to get a chance to go on a drug trip. Also, in the country of Brazil psilocybin is mostly legal, but only because of a technicality and the fact that no law has yet been written to correct it – this is mainly because it isn’t really a problem there in the first place.

9. In Mainland China People Often Allow Their Young Children To Pee In Public

China is known for being overpopulated despite having had a one child policy for a long time. Their major cities are also especially known for being overcrowded, and as such they have to deal with certain cultural situations in different ways. Not long ago, a Chinese couple from the mainland caused a stir because they were visiting Hong Kong, and allowed their small boy to pee into a diaper in a public space. This was quite controversial to do in Hong Kong, but in mainland China, their actions would have been perfectly normal.

Parents in mainland China often allow their children to pee in public if they are having trouble finding anywhere else for them to go in time – this has likely cropped up over time as a solution to the overcrowding issue. Of course some people may find the very idea repulsive, but those parents who do so claim that their child would have had to go anyway, and they usually find a corner as out of the way as possible.

8. In North Korea It Is Both Legal And Commonplace To Smoke Weed

North Korea is known for being a strict, fascist dictatorship that rules everyone inside with an iron fist. Most areas of the country are extremely poor and hardly anyone enjoys anything that can be called a quality of life. Even those who tow the party line and get to live in the major cities don’t exactly live in the lap of luxury. However, on one particular front, the North Koreans tend to be incredibly lax. They are totally okay with the growing, and smoking of marijuana and make regular use of the drug.

Those who have managed to sneak around enough in North Korea to find out have discovered that it can even be found on the roadsides, that people grow it for personal use and that it enjoys incredible popularity. Weed can grow fairly easily in North Korea, and cigarettes and alcohol can be expensive to import in, so weed is usually the major drug of choice for most North Koreans. Tour guides discourage visitors from looking for weed, mainly because they don’t want to be known only for drugs. For those stoners who are interested in visiting North Korea and trying some of their weed, it likely isn’t worth the effort. Those who have tried it claim it is fairly poor quality as far as the drug goes.

7. In Japan It Is Considered Strange If You Don’t Slurp Your Noodles Loudly And Proudly

There are some particular cultural traditions out there that happen to be completely the opposite in another part of the world, and this is one of them. In the United States, and most Western countries, making a lot of noise while eating is generally frowned upon. Even while eating foods like noodles, we have come up with many different techniques to eat our food as noiselessly as possible. However, in Japan, eating noodles is a completely different experience.

In Japan, they believe that noodles should be eaten when they are still piping hot in order to fully enjoy them. And to eat them piping hot essentially requires the mouth movements that create that distinctive slurping sound. No one in Japan minds because it is simply considered a sound that is necessary in order to properly eat noodles – in fact, if a Japanese person does not hear you slurping, they may make the mistake of thinking that you do not like your food.

6. In The UK And Much Of Europe It Is Legal To Jaywalk As Much As You Wish

In the United States, nearly everyone has a car, and roads have become very serious business indeed. Places like New York are the exception instead of the rule, and even in places with a decent public transportation infrastructure, most people still find it more convenient to have their own method of transportation. This means we often have very congested roads full of very peeved drivers, and have thus made very rigid rules on where and when pedestrians should cross the street in order to ensure public safety. There is also a legal element involved, as it helps deal with liability in a country with a lot of lawsuits, if there are well laid out places and ways that people are supposed to safely cross the street.

However, in the United Kingdom, where they are a little less sue happy and have a lot less cars on the road, the rules are much different. Some visitors from across the pond have even found themselves arrested in the United States because they crossed the road randomly in a very busy place without using a proper crosswalk. While it is not always enforced, jaywalking is against the law in the United States, but there is no law against it at all in the United Kingdom. Instead, in most European countries, people are simply expected to cross responsibly, wherever and whenever it is safest.

 5. In New Zealand Prostitution Is Fully Legal And Regulated

In many countries in Europe sex trafficking is a problem, and some countries believe the solution to this is to clamp down hard on the legality of prostitution. Most of them are targeting those who buy the services of the prostitutes instead of the prostitute themselves – as they may be a victim of trafficking – but New Zealand has long felt that this is the wrong approach to dealing with the situation. They feel that in order to deal with sex trafficking, you need to remove the veil of secrecy from the business and regulate and keep an eye on it like any business.

To this end, in New Zealand a law was passed in 2003 that decriminalized prostitution and set up a framework that would allow for brothels to be inspected just like any other business for health and safety standards. This ensures that women in the business will go to the police when needed, and give them information, instead of living in fear. It ensures that they won’t fear their clients will dry up for fear of police prosecution, and helps avoid exploitation because they know workers’ rights laws and the officers of the law are all on their side. Some countries in Europe argue that New Zealand’s system only works well because they are so isolated, and that as countries with bigger trafficking problems, they need more restrictive laws – not less.

4. In Spain People Take A Several Hour Nap In The Middle Of The Workday

Many people may have already heard of the Spanish Siesta — the habit of Spaniards knocking off for three hours during the hottest part of the afternoon and enjoying a nice, relaxing snooze. The habit developed over time because the area was mostly used for farming, and it made a lot of sense to take a break when the sun was highest in the sky. Today, it is more of an inconvenience for the people of Spain, what with the fast paced industrialized world that most people now live in. Shops will close at 2:00 p.m. and people will often come back and reopen their shops around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. and stay open until late at night.

While it may sound relaxing to knock off for three hours in the middle of the day, it is hardly good for you to segment your work day up that way, and end up constantly working late into the night – and the people of Spain are well aware of this. It is hardly realistic in the modern age to use the time for a nap, and most people actually take the time to get things done instead. Unfortunately, they still have to report for work at the same time every morning. This has led to a culture where most people in Spain stay up late, get up early, rarely nap and don’t get much sleep overall. While the siesta has given them a reputation of laziness, they are actually a hardworking, sleep deprived country that is increasingly considering removing the siesta completely and just shortening the workday to a reasonable amount of time to begin with.

3. In Japan You Can Buy Poisonous Fugu Fish

Most people have heard of the poisonous puffer fish known as Fugu, which is a delicacy in the country of Japan. In the United States and other countries around the world, if you want to taste Fugu, you will have to pay large amounts of money to eat fish that was specially prepared by Japanese chefs and imported frozen to your part of the globe. This is because Japan is the only country in the world that legally allows people to prepare the fresh Fugu for serving, and they have extremely stringent requirements in order to earn that legal right.

The fish has a poison known as tetradoxin that is extremely poisonous, causing paralysis and asphyxiation in a very short time in humans, with only a small amount required to be deadly. Certain parts of the fish are not poisonous, and are actually quite delicious, and it is these that the highly trained chefs carefully separate from the inedible or dangerous parts of the fish. It takes three years of training and only about a third of those who take the licensing exam even pass the test. These standards ensure that those who buy Fugu in a restaurant will not truly be gambling with their lives – although it is said that a truly skilled chef leaves just enough poison to make your lips tingle and remind you of the danger, without actually putting you in harm’s way.

2. In Russia It Is Perfectly Acceptable To Leave Young Children Home Alone

In the United States there are laws about how young a child can be and still be legally left home completely alone by their parents, and in today’s United States, most parents couldn’t imagine their child walking to or from school alone. If a child too young were too be left home alone in the United States, and the authorities found out, it could lead to a visit by child protective services. However, in the federation of Russia, they do not look at the issue in the same way at all. In Russia it is far more commonplace for children to leave the house on their own at a young age, either to go to school or simply go to the store, and it is not illegal to leave young children home alone.

Some parents in certain parts of Russia have lobbied in the past to make stricter laws regarding the matter, especially due to cases where children have been left home alone and got hurt, but ministers in charge of law making seem reluctant to push the issue. They feel that punishing parents for leaving young children home alone is more of a Western thing, and aren’t sure if that is the route they want to go. While it could someday change, it seems for the moment, Russians aren’t interested in worrying too much about the matter.

1. In Estonia They Vote For Public Officeholders Online

The United States like to consider themselves one of the most technology advanced nations in the world, but despite our many advances, voting online and doing many other government related actions online is still a thing of fantasy. In that particular regard, we are being beaten rather badly by a small country in Europe called Estonia. They are known for being incredibly digitally connected, possibly the most connected in the entire world. They have made training in the understanding of computers and the internet a core part of all school curriculums, and almost all important business can be done online.

 Estonians all get their own unique government ID that also comes with its own special PIN. This special ID allows Estonians to have their own online fingerprint and use that identity to do pretty much everything government related that they could possibly need to do. With this ID, Estonians do business with the library, pay taxes, vote for political candidates and many other things as well. While some Americans fear the possibility of massive voter fraud or cheating, the Estonians have not yet had any reason to believe that their system has been tampered with. They also believe their proportional voting system helps discourage those who would consider attempting to cheat in the first place.

USA No, Elsewhere Yes

WIF Edu-tainment-001

– WIF Edu-tainment

Cowboy Confidential – Old West Misconceptions

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Common Misconceptions

About Cowboys

Image result for old west

They’re the guys with the thousand yard stare. The one with six-shooters in their holsters, a broad-brim hat on their heads and enough jagged iron in their guts to break down even the toughest steak. They are the cowboys, and everyone knows they’re the coolest, calmest, most-heroic folk in America history.

 Or are they? What if we were to tell you that the cowboys you think you know are nothing like the real ones? That your mental image of cowboys could do with slightly less stoicism and gunfights… and more camels, examples of poor personal hygiene, and venereal diseases. Here are 10 little-known, crazy facts about the men who really tamed America’s wild west.

10. Most Cowboys Didn’t Carry Guns

gun

The gun-totin’ cowboy is the only cowboy most of us can picture. He’s Clint Eastwood on the way to a shootout. John Wayne blowing away bad guys. Yet take your Blu-Ray player back to the 19th century and show a genuine cowboy these films and he’d likely look at you askance. Why? Because real cowboys only rarely carried weapons.

Sure, you might need them when you were out on a cattle drive or whatever. But when you got to town? Check that baby at the door. Most towns in the wild west enacted strict gun control, just to make sure the sort of shootouts we see in movies didn’t happen on a daily basis. Even the infamous Tombstone didn’t let its cowboys walk round armed. The Gunfight at the OK Carrol only came about because Doc and Earp were trying to enforce gun laws.

The city wasn’t alone. Dodge City, Wichita, and others all stopped their visitors from packing heat. So how did cowboys solve problems without their pistols? We’re glad you asked…

9. They Almost Never Got in Fights

It’s said that “the true story of the American West is one of cooperation, not conflict.” Although 90 percent of westerns involve people getting shot, a barroom brawl, a violent posse riding into town, or (more likely) all three, the truth of the frontier was that acting tough was a good way to wind up dead. If you wanted to survive, you basically had to get on with your neighbors.

This meant no high noon showdowns, no thuggery, and no murders. Even in the roughest, toughest cattle towns, the murder rate was generally lower than that of most modern American cities. Bank robberies, too, were rare. In 2005, the University of Dayton calculated that there were more bank robberies in modern Dayton in a single year than there were across the entire Old West in a typical decade.

There were exceptions, of course. In the immediate post-Civil War period violence sporadically flared up, and Native American tribes often experienced the brutal side of the frontier. But these were the exceptions. Even notorious outlaws were less violent than their reputation suggests. Billy the Kid, for example, spent way more time rustling cattle than he ever did robbing banks or shooting people.

8. Many Were Ravaged by Venereal Diseases

old west

If your mental image of a cowboy is John Wayne acting all moral and clean-cut, you might not want to read this entry. The reality of cowboy life was dirty from beginning to end. Cowpokes often went days on end without bathing. They were smelly. Often covered in grime and stale sweat. But dirtiest of all was what was happening inside their bodies. Y’see, it’s now thought that many citizens of the frontier were crawling with venereal diseases.

Depending on where you were in the Old West, between 50 to 90 percent of the local prostitutes were likely carrying STDs. And since many cowboys liked to, ahem, avail themselves of these ladies’ talents, that meant a whole bunch of cowboys were riding around with a growing bacterial menagerie between their legs.

Although precise figures are hard to come by today, we know that new recruits to the US Army between 1876 and 1896 were frequently diseased, suggesting many of the general population were, too. Some have even suggested that crazy behavior by guys such as the Wild Bill Hickok might have been due to syphilis, making them act all eccentric.

 7. Plenty Didn’t Do Any Riding Whatsoever

cowboys

Close your eyes. Picture a cowboy. Got him? Right: What animal did he appear with?

Despite the name, almost none of you said ‘cow’. For a good reason. Cowboys in modern mythos are almost completely inseparable from their horses. The image of them riding across the high plains on a long cattle drive is one charged with romance and the spirit of adventure. For many cowboys, that was exactly what life was like.

But not for all of them. For a significant minority, their job description involved absolutely no riding whatsoever.

This was especially true at the end of the era, from about 1885 onwards. A dry summer and a terrible winter had convinced many ranchers to keep their cattle close to home. For a huge chunk of cowboys, that meant the romance of the plain was suddenly replaced with menial labor like mending fences and checking penned cows for disease. If they got to ride anything at all, it would likely be a haymow. Unsurprisingly, most hated such work.

6. Some That Did Ride Rode Camels

camel

Here’s a classic western scene. The sun stands at high noon, baking the lifeless city streets. A tumbleweed blows through the dust. A shadow appears on the horizon. It’s the cowboy. He emerges out of the heat haze, skin like cracked leather… and proceeds to ride into town on the back of his Arabian camel. Wait, what?

It’s true. In certain parts of the Old West, horses were as rare as they are in big cities today. Instead, ranchers had their cowboys ride on the backs of camels that had been imported in the 1850s, and accidentally released into the wild at the height of the Civil War.

Because of the harsh conditions on the frontier, it had been theorized camels would cope much better than horses with the heat. The US Government agreed. At great cost it imported hundreds of camels to Camp Verde, only for war to break out. When the Confederates seized the camp they released the camels. For the next few decades, enterprising ranchers occasionally caught a few, broke them in and gave them to their cowboys to work with.

 5. ‘Brokeback’ Encounters Were Surprisingly Common

brokeback

Remember 2005? That was the year Brokeback Mountain hit cinemas and Heath Ledgerproved he didn’t have to be in clown makeup to provide a magnetic performance. The movie was also controversial among some who thought it was grafting our modern notions of sexuality onto a historic setting (in this case, the 1960s).

Interestingly, this is the one criticism that can easily be refuted. According to historian and author Patricia Nell Warren, gay encounters were way more common in the Old West than we ever realized.

A lot of this is thanks to the conditions cowboys had to endure. Long stretches of time away from women, surrounded by other men, led to occasional ‘one-off’ trysts simply as a way of relieving sexual tension. Within that mix, you had a handful of genuinely gay cowboys, who’d often fled out West as a way of achieving anonymity. Because manpower was scarce, it was impractical for landowners to refuse to hire them due to their sexuality.

As social historians John D’Emilio and Estelle Freedman noted in their book Intimate Matters, there are even surviving love poems written from cowboys to one another. It might have been frowned upon by the rest of society, but on the Frontier, homosexuality was relatively open.

4. Black Cowboys Were Also Surprisingly Common

black cowboys

Quick: how many westerns can you name that feature black cowboys? Most of us can probably only get Django Unchained and Blazing Saddles. As a result, you might think African-American cowpokes were a rarity on the frontier. You’d be wrong. By some estimates, as many as one in four cowboys were black.

It makes sense when you think about it. Cowpunching, as it was often called, was a dirty, difficult, badly-paid, working class job. In the post-Civil War era, those were exactly the sort of jobs newly-emancipated slaves might be expected to do. And as we mentioned above, the Old West was one area where employers couldn’t afford to turn a good pair of hands away, no matter what the color of their skin was.

That’s not to say everything on the frontier was racial harmony. Way into the 20thcentury, black cowboys were expected to do the hardest, toughest jobs of all. They were the ones breaking in wild horses, doing all the cooking on wagon drives, and holding the cattle down at branding time. On the other hand, black cowboys often had a degree of autonomy and responsibility they would have lacked in other jobs. Perhaps that’s why so many ex-slaves chose to head out West.

3. Outlaws Were Shameless Self-Promoters

billy the kid

When you hear that robbers today are live-Tweeting their own break-ins, it’s tempting to assume we’ve hit rock bottom as a culture. Such nonsense would never have happened in the stoic Old West, right? Kinda. Although photographs of Pat Garrett playing on his smartphone have yet to surface, outlaws of the cowboy era were just as narcissistic as today’s criminals. When conducting major crimes, they frequently handed out press releases.

Jesse James was notorious for this. When holding up a train, he’d pass witnesses a carefully-written note, boasting about his own exploits. He wasn’t the only one. Billy the Kid deliberately inflated his kill-count from 8 to 21, and boasted about his violent temper. In fact, the Kid almost never got involved with shooting, robbing or hold ups. The main reason the law went after him was because he kept rustling cattle.

On the other side, the good guys were equally image-conscious. Wild Bill’s nickname actually referred to his gigantic nose, similar in size to a duck’s bill. It was only by effort he made out it referred to his ‘wild’ and dangerous nature, thereby terrifying local criminals.

2. The Rest of the Country Considered Them Suspicious and Dirty

cowboys2

The cowboy is enshrined in legend as the epitome of American values. While other eras and professions have their draws, it’s impossible to think of a historic figure today more beloved by the entire nation. Which just goes to show how times change. In the early days of the Frontier, cowpunchers were regarded as ill-educated vagrants at best, and dangerous carriers of disease at worst.

Around the Deep South, cowboys were considered trespassers who used public land for their own gain. The North generally considered them illiterate (they usually were). Even along the Great Plains, there was much resentment. Cattle drives routinely trampled the crops of farmers and Native Americans, and it was the cowpunchers themselves who got the blame. Many people even feared they would spread dreaded ‘Texas Fever’ throughout the land. It’s safe to say that, during the golden age of the cowboy, most of America regarded them as a smelly nuisance.

It wasn’t really until the early 20th century that pulp novelists and early Hollywood began to transform these tough, dirty, uneducated men into folk heroes. Fast forward to today and that’s the image that remains.

 1. Modern Germans Love Them

german flag

Of all the countries in the world, which do you think has fallen for the cowboy myth the hardest (aside from the good ol’ US-of-A, that is)? Nope, it’s not Canada. Not Australia. Not even Great Britain. The country most obsessed with the cowboy today? Germany.

For some reason, Germans go nuts over cowboy-related stuff. Hundreds of clubs exist across this mountainous European nation, where people go on weekends to dress as cowboys and pretend they’re living in 19th century Texas. It’s estimated that several tens of thousands of Germans do this every single week, with many, many thousands more holding a passing interest in such exploits.

Nor is this a completely modern thing. Back in the 1930s, the Nazis venerated cowboys almost as much as they did genocide. Hitler himself was known to be a huge fan of westerns, often reading cowboy books between bouts of conquest and megalomania. For some reason, this very un-German tradition has taken deep root in a country far more ordered and rule-abiding than the Old West ever was. Which just goes to show, we guess, that you never can tell what the future has in store.


Cowboy Confidential

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– Old West Misconceptions

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 116

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 116

…“My Great-Great Grandfather Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen was hanged in London for dismembering his wife.”…

 

“I have a million credits stored up in my account and it’s burning a hole in my purse. I believe that you need new swim/tennis shorts and my bikini has a strap that is about to let loose.”

“You don’t have to buy me stuff, I can get by.”

“Not with me! And I’ve always wanted to have a guy to buy things for.”

“What about Larry?” He dares to go down that road.

“Let’s not go there. I am not in a good spot on that subject.”

“As long as you deal with him straight-up, after all you did agree to marry him somewhere along the line.”

“He knows where I stand Roy. I walked out on the station, violated my contract, and told him I was leaving the country with you. I think he gets the hint. If that makes me a coldhearted bitch, then so be it.”Related image

“Hey, I’m not trying to push my luck and I certainly do not want you to change your mind. If you are a coldhearted bitch, then I guess that I have taken a liking to coldhearted bitches.”

“C-H-B is harsh, but I’m not that same cutthroat TV reporter who called NASA out of the blue. It appears that you’ve made an honest woman out of me.”

“Speaking of acronyms, c-h-b you’re not, F-blank-B stands for what?”

“Nothing.”

“Francine Nothing Bouchette… boy your parents had low expectations.”

“I didn’t get a middle name; in fact I changed my name for television. In my high school yearbook, Francesca Boucheletta was voted “Most Likely to Be Famous”, but no way that was going to happen with an Italian name like that; sounds more like a wine & appetizer.”

“An Italian with a French name?”

“How about you Roy?” He wasn’t to get off that easy.

“My Great-Great Grandfather Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen was hanged in London for dismembering his wife.”

Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen

Francine immediately does an Internet search for the name, “I do not see the family resemblance.”

“I don’t know about that, but my parents did not want me to go to medical school… and I get queasy at the sight of blood, but I do like a bloody Mary from time to time and it is noon somewhere… want to join me F blank B?”

“The best place to find out about a new town is to talk with the bartender. We need to see what’s happening around here.”


 

THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 116


page 144

 

Contents TRT

Easy to Learn Languages – WIF Grammar

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Incredibly Easy

Languages to Learn

Everyone but the biggest knuckle-dragging Neanderthal agrees that learning another language is a good thing. Aside from unlocking a whole new way of thinking, it also allows you to appear worldly, sophisticated and (probably) great in the sack. But with only a small percentage of Americans and an even-smaller percentage of British speaking a second language, it seems most of us can never dream of achieving this common goal.

Or so you’d think. Despite what your Spanish-fluent coworker may want you to believe, not every language is difficult to master. For every tongue like Czech, Japanese or Mandarin that’ll leave your head spinning, there are a dozen that you can comfortably pick up over the course of a single, intensive summer. Not too long ago we told you about the hardest languages to master. Well, there’s a flip-side to that coin. Want to start unlocking the secrets of those exotic foreigners? Here are ten languages so easy even amiable doofuses like us could pick them up.

10. Spanish

Spanish is a major, major world language. If world languages were a high school, then Spanish would be the laid-back popular kid all the other kids want to hang with (English would be the frat dude who insists on chanting USA! USA! while everyone’s trying to talk). Most of Central and South America speaks Spanish, as does Equatorial Guinea in Africa and, err, Spain. Simply put, you learn Spanish and you’re unlocking a heck of a lot of the world for yourself.

So why is Spanish so easy for us English-speakers? Well, both Spanish and English incorporate a whole lot of Latin into their vocabulary. The structure is fairly simple, too. While there are some differences (you’d say “the car red” instead of “the red car”, for example), they’re pretty easy to wrap your head around. Then there’s the ease with which you can practice. Just about everybody living in the USA has access to Spanish-language cable TV, so soaking up that sweet vocabulary is super-easy.

9. Portuguese

Compared to other colonial powers, Portugal didn’t leave a particularly important legacy (sorry, Macau and Angola). But it’s greatest impact just happened to be in one of the largest countries in the Americas. Brazil is massive, a regional economic titan that sprawls across nearly 50 percent of South America. It has over 200 million residents, one of the greatest soccer teams on Earth, and more jaw-dropping natural beauty than even yo momma.

All this is supremely easy to access. Portuguese is closely-related to Spanish, with all the advantages that entails. In our high school analogy, Portuguese is basically Spanish’s shy but friendly cousin everyone secretly has the hots for. The flip-side of this is that if you already know Spanish then Portuguese is harder to initially get to grips with. This is because the two languages are stuffed with ‘false friends’, words that sound identical but carry very different meanings. So you might construct a perfect restaurant order in Spanish, only to find you’ve accidentally asked to spend a filthy evening with your waiter’s wife (or whatever).

8. French

We’re gonna let you in on a secret. If a language falls into the ‘romance’ category, then it’s gonna be easy for you to master. And ‘romance’ is a category French doesn’t just belong to; it’s a way of summing up France’s entire cultural ethos.

French is the prettiest, most-sophisticated girl at school. The good-looking dude who knows he’s the coolest in class. It’s a language that once was perhaps the most-important on Earth. Although those days are gone, it’s still Kind of a Big Deal. Want to travel to Morocco, Algeria, the Congo, Belgium, Switzerland or Haiti? Learn French. Want to impress the pants off your next boyfriend/girlfriend? Learn French. We’re not sure how much clearer we can make this. French is freakin’ cool.

Once again, French incorporates a lot of Latin words. It also has a strong history with English. In 1066, William the Conqueror stomped on England and made medieval French the lingua franca of the ruling classes. That influence can still be felt today, in words like encore, serviette and coup d’etat. In total, English incorporated over 10,000 words from French.

7. Italian

Italy never quite acquired the global clout its cousins did. Today, learning Italian pretty much restricts your travels to Italy. Lucky for you, Italy just happens to be one of the most-cultured, historically-important, and beautiful countries on Earth.

Italy is the reason you can learn Spanish, Portuguese and French with such ease. It was the Romans who spread out and brought Latin to these countries, stamping their mark on everywhere from modern-day Britain, to Libya, to Syria, to Germany. Spanish is essentially just a bastardized descendant of ‘Vulgar Latin’, the language used by the grunts and soldiers of the Empire. This means there’s a whole lot in common between the two modern tongues, one especially pronounced if you happened to learn Argentinian Spanish, which has a rhythm more suited to the backstreets of Naples than the sidewalks of Madrid.

Perhaps the biggest advantage to learning Italian is just how much awesome culture you get to unlock. From Dante’s Divine Comedy, to the films of Federico Fellini, Italian is the language of some of the world’s most kickass masterpieces.

6. Swedish

Let’s step away from the sunny climes of southern Europe. Sweden is a completely different kettle of (fermented) fish. A cold, snow-bound country in the darkest reaches of Northern Europe, it’s about as removed from our previous languages as rotten herring is from pasta. Yet, crucially, it isn’t all that removed from English. See, English doesn’t just have Latin roots; it also has Germanic. And Swedish is aprime example of a Germanic language.

For learners, this translates to a language that’s comparatively simple. Aside from shared words (like midnatt for midnight), the two languages have a similar grammar, meaning mastering Swedish is essentially an exercise in remembering lots of vocabulary. As a special extra treat, the verbs don’t change much. So while English speakers would say “Ispeak English, he speaks English,” a Swede would just say “I speak Swedish, he speak Swedish.”

So what are the advantages of learning Swedish? Not many, if you hope to travel the globe; Swedish is spoken by only 10m or so people, nearly all of them in Sweden. If you want to live in one of Europe’s most pristine countries, though, it’s a no-brainer.

5. Norwegian

Norwegian is the closest we have in the modern day to being able to speak Viking. That alone should be reason enough to study it. But if you’re not swayed by manly beards, manly helmets with manly horns, or man-punching your way across the seven seas, then there’s at least one other good man-justification. Norwegian is easy for English-speakers to learn.

Another Germanic language, Norwegian shares all the positives of Swedish, while beingeven simpler. The grammar is close to English, while verbs are easy to master (there’s little change depending on the context). Again, there are a lot of closely-related words. Again, the rhythm and emphasis are not too dissimilar. In a broad study conducted at the turn of the 21st century, the Federal government declared Norwegian one of the easiest languages for Americans to learn.

There is a downside to all this. Not only is Norway’s population under 6 million, about 95% of them speak perfect English. The language is taught at all school levels. Meeting a Norwegian who doesn’t speak English is almost as rare as meeting an American who is fluent in Norwegian.

4. Esperanto

Esperanto is the most widely-spoken made-up language in the world. Yup, even Klingon and Elvish have fewer devotees (perhaps related to Klingon and Elvish being stupidlyhard). Invented in 1887 by L.L. Zamenhof, it was designed from inception to be crazy easyto pick up. One of Zamenhof’s stated goals was to make a language so simple that learning it would be “mere play.”

To that end, he incorporated different bits from lots of European languages, mashed them all together, simplified them, and called it a language. The result is a tongue that sounds strangely familiar, whether you’ve ever encountered it before or not. Go watch a video of someone talking in Esperanto. Chances are you’ll find yourself vaguely understanding bits and pieces of it.

In lists like this, we wouldn’t usually include a made-up language, because that way madness lies. But Esperanto is in a different league. Around 2 million people have some knowledge of it, and it’s estimated that up to 1,000 families may be ‘native’ speakers. For comparison, that’s more native speakers than even an actual language like Cornish has.

3. Afrikaans

The language spoken by the descendants of Dutch famers in South Africa and Namibia, Afrikaans has a long and turbulent history. For some Boers, it is an integral part of their identity, a way of planting their flag in a culture that has changed seismically over the last 20 years. It’s also the African language English speakers stand the greatest chance of learning. For example, the sentence “what is that?” translates, unbelievably, to wat is dit?

Afrikaans exists somewhere between Dutch and English, while being simpler than both. The grammar is logical and consistent, with none of the weird exceptions English insists on throwing in. The verbs are also super-easy. While in English we use dream, dreamed and dreamt to all mean the same thing in different contexts, Afrikaans would simply use ‘dream’.

Again, Afrikaans isn’t a great traveling language. You’re pretty much restricted to just two countries in southern Africa. On the other hand, if you’ve ever wanted to understand Boer culture or to spend extended time in South Africa, it would almost be crazy not to learn it.

2. Frisian

Quick, hands up who has ever heard of Frisian? By our estimate, roughly 90 percent of you just sat on your hands, shook your heads and muttered something like “Fri-wha?”That’s OK, don’t sweat it. It’s a pretty obscure tongue. So, to quickly bring us all up to speed: Frisian is the native language of Friesland, a part of the Netherlands that Americans basically never go to, due to its lack of pot and hookers. It’s spoken by half a million people, and it’s probably the closest language to English in the world.

Seriously, Frisian and English were basically the same darn thing until comparatively recently. The two languages only started evolving independently 1,200 years ago, a long time in terms of getting over your last breakup, but next to nothing on the linguistic timescale. Even today, Frisians like to drop the old saying “good butter and good cheese, is good English and good Fries” into conversation. In both English and Fries, the sentence sounds identical.

If you’re a native English speaker, learning Fries is a walk in the park. While the written form looks more like Dutch, the spoken form has a near-identical vocabulary, sentence-structure and pronunciation to English. You’re probably reasonably fluent already, without taking a single lesson.

1. Dutch

Dutch is considered by linguists to be the easiest major language for English speakers to understand (Frisian’s easier, but by no stretch of the imagination is it ‘major’). It is spoken in the Netherlands (duh), Belgium, Surinam and the Netherlands Antilles, with about 23 million speakers worldwide. It has so much in common with English that you can learn it in almost no time at all.

This is the result of a happy historical accident. While most languages easy for English speakers incorporate Latin or Germanic root words, Dutch incorporates both. This means a staggering amount of Dutch vocabulary sounds extremely familiar to English speakers, with the added bonus that the structure is similar too. Pronunciation is also pretty intuitive, aside from the odd, weird vowel sound. Lastly, the grammar is consistent, logical and doesn’t feature any odd (for English speakers) stuff like genders or cases. For English-speakers, that’s like hitting the Konami Code of language learning.

The only downside with Dutch is similar to Norwegian. Nearly everyone in the Netherlands and Belgium speaks fluent English, meaning chances to practice your stuttering Dutch are basically non-existent.


Easy to Learn Languages

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– WIF Grammar

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 73

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 73

“What happened to your lousy English and didn’t your hair used to be black?”…

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The Plot Thickens by Donna MacDonald

“Then why has his hair color changed?” On a thin whim he says, “Let’s pay Gherkin a visit.” With time dwindling, hunches played trump hunches ignored.

Roy Crippen douses power to the what-not room as he and Francine scamper over to the nerve center of mans’ first colony away from Earth. From scamper to gallop, their pace quickens and if Francine had any doubts as to the seriousness of the situation, all she need do is keep up with the bulldog in front of her.

In a big building with odd angles and unexpected transitions, Roy barrels over an unsuspecting  technician, sending him sprawling. He excuses himself, sort of, while acquiring a limp in the process.

Francine mostly ignores the tech, asking, “Are you going to be alright Roy?”

“What…. Oh yes, come on,” not a complete answer.

“I hope I’m not out of line, but are we chasing a ghost here. You are making a pretty big fuss about one little man.” She is not privy to Roy’s unfolding theory.

He stops to collect himself, address her issues with a glance and a right hand thru his floppy brown straight hair. Francine straightens his tie thereby restoring the look of a man in control.

He speaks, seemingly into the thin air, alerting security as to the nature of his pending confrontation, rejoining the previously frantic pace, with a newswoman bring up the rear.

At this late stage of the approaching launch, less than an hour now, nearly every eye sneaks a peek at NASA’s man of the hour. He looks like a man under the gun, acts like a man possessed, and don’t you dare get in his way.

With Roy grabbing the Spatial Debris tech by the shoulders, spinning him around in-your-face style, the man is startled by the aggressive move, “There is no problem in the launch window, Mr. Crippen, only some small stuff out at 500,000 out.”

“What happened to your lousy English and didn’t your hair used to be black?”

“I do not know what you are talking about, Sir.”

“What is your name and when did you get here?”

“My name is Gurkhas Shah Dhangotma and I have been here all day, except for a short break early this morning. I had been on duty for sixteen hours. Someone relieved me for an hour, no more.”

“You could barely speak English when we spoke this morning.”

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THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 73


page 90

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Contents TRT

Pun Central Catalog – WIF Wit and Humor

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Just My Type

Pun Central Catalog

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WIF Wit and Humor

Puns #1   Puns, Puns #1

Puns #2  Puns, Puns #2

Puns #3   Puns, Puns #3

Puns #4   “Did You Here the One….?”

Puns #5  I Heard Something Punny…

Puns #6   Punny Men

Puns #7   One Vote for Puns

Puns #8   Killer Puns

Puns #9   Illuminating Puns

Puns #10  Now Serving Tennis Puns

Puns #11  Covert Puns

Puns #12  Courting Legal Puns

Puns #13  Punny Money

Puns #14  Egotist Puns & Quotes

Puns #15  Post-Olympic Sporty Puns

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Puns #16  Hopeful Spring Puns

Puns #17  Sunny Puns

Puns #18  Puns Driving Humor

Puns #19  Familial Puns

Puns #20  Homespun Puns

Puns #21  Every Problem May Be a Punny One

Puns #22 Laborious Puns

Puns #23  Puns W/a Melody Image result for pun

Puns #24 Puns For Your Holiday

Puns #25  Spelling Puns

Puns #26  Irish Puns & Quotes

Puns #27  Puns Imported From Italy

Puns #28 Summer Sunday Puns

Puns #29  New Year Puns & Quotes

Puns #30  Presidential Puns

Puns #31  Nuts For Puns

Puns #32  Halloween Puns & Facts

Puns #33   Partisan Puns


Pun Central Catalog

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WIF Wit and Humor

Film Characters Based on Real People – WIF @ the Movies

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Movie Characters

Based on Real People

As Mark Twain famously put it, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” And so it is with movies. As authors and screenwriters use their imaginations to come up with some truly amazing stories, they do draw inspiration from the real world on occasion. Events, places, and even characters are influenced by what really is out there. Believe it or not, many of our beloved protagonists, or villains for that matter, are rooted in real life.

Be warned: there might be some small spoilers, but we’ll try to minimize them.

10. Ahmad ibn Fadlan – The 13th Warrior

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In 1999, Antonio Banderas starred in a movie called The 13th Warrior, playing an Arab ambassador. The film was based on a Michael Crichton novel called Eaters of the Dead. While stopping for supplies in a Viking village, he finds himself drawn into a quest with 12 Norsemen. The 13 men must face an overwhelming force, threatening a distant Viking king. Throughout his quest, Fadlan learns to speak the language, experiences Norse customs, and fights alongside them against that threat.

The film was a fantastical adventure, but surprisingly an Arab traveler by the same name did exist during the 10th century. As a member of an embassy of the Abbasid Caliphate, Fadlan is most famous for his first-hand accounts and detailed descriptions of the Rus Vikings, Pechenegs, Khazars, and other Turkic peoples living throughout Eastern Europe and Central Eurasia. His descriptions are the most detailed of that age. They present us with the most knowledge we have about the Vikings to date. His accounts also present the famous ship burial of a local chieftain, accompanied by the sacrificial death of a maiden.

Unlike Europeans at that time, Muslim chroniclers bore no grudge against the Vikings and thus their reports are considered by modern scholars to be far more trustworthy and reliable. And since the Norsemen had only a runic alphabet, unsuited for recordkeeping, the historic events as described by Fadlan are the best we have about the Vikings.

9. Ursula – The Little Mermaid

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Even if you’ve never seen the 1989 Disney film The Little Mermaid, you’ve probably seen the evil sea witch Ursula somewhere on the internet. But what most people don’t know is that she was actually inspired by Harris Glenn Milstead, a real person who gained fame in the 1970s and ’80s. Harris was better known by his stage name, Divine. He performed as an actor on both stage and screen. His most notable characteristic, however, was the fact that he was a drag queen. Divine was closely associated with independent filmmaker John Waters, who called Harris, the most beautiful woman in the world, almost.”

Ursula’s general appearance and demeanor were inspired by Divine. Similar to her human counterpart, Ursula received positive reviews from film critics. She was dubbed “Disney’s strongest villain in decades.” However, Divine didn’t live long enough to see the cartoon version of himself, dying one year earlier at the age of 42 of an enlarged heart.

 8. Johnny Fontane – The Godfather

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Johnny Fontane is a fictional character in Mario Puzo’s novel, The Godfather, and subsequent movie adaptations. Godson to Don Vito Corleone, Fontane is a famous singer and film star who needs the help of the family in order to launch his career. The line about the “offer he can’t refuse” was used in reference to Vito getting Fontane out of an ironclad contract. And on another occasion, in an act of intimidation, a film producer wakes up with a severed horse head in his bed. This was Don Corleone’s way of ensuring Fontane would be cast in a film that could revitalize his career. Each scene has become the stuff of cinematic legend.

In real life, however, the role of Johnny Fontane was “played” by none other than Frank Sinatra. Though never confirmed, Sinatra is believed to have been closely linked with the Mafia underworld. And while his career was plummeting during the early 1950s, many believe that some of these connections helped him get a role inFrom Here to Eternity. That film earned him an Oscar and saved his career. Puzo never did make the claim that Fontane was based on Sinatra, but he also never denied it either.

7. Zorro

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Featured in numerous books, films, and various TV series, Zorro is a fictional character created in 1919 by Johnston McCulley. Like Robin Hood of old, Zorro (“fox” in Spanish) was a vigilante who helped the commoners against tyrannical officials and all sorts of other villains. He’s always dressed in black, wears a mask over his face, and always leaves behind his calling card, the letter “Z.” He leaves that iconic mark with a few quick slashes of his rapier. The action takes place in California in the 19th century, during the era of Mexican rule. And surprisingly enough, the legendary bandito is based on a real Californian legend.

 McCulley is believed to have received inspiration for his fictional character, Don Diego de la Vega, a.k.a. Zorro, from a book called The Life and Adventures of Joaquín Murrieta. Joaquin Murrieta was in fact a real person who lived during the Californian Gold Rush. He turned from an honest miner into a unlawful bandit. Even to this day controversy surrounds Murrieta. Some call him a renegade; others, a national hero. So many stories have been told about him that it’s almost impossible to distinguish fact from fiction. What is certainly true about Murrieta, however, is that the English drove him from a rich mining claim. They also raped his wife, lynched his brother, and had Murrieta horse-whipped. All of these unfortunate events made him follow a life of crime, with the rest becoming legend.

In the 1998 film adaptation, The Mask of Zorro, Anthony Hopkins plays the role of Don Diego de la Vega. Victor Rivers plays Joaquin Murrieta, and Antonio Banderas plays Joaquin’s brother, Alejandro, who takes on the mantle of Zorro.

6. Ignacio/Nacho – Nacho Libre

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A devout priest turned luchador? That’s a comedy perfectly suited for Jack Black. But nobody in his right mind would believe it to be based on actual events. Somewhat similar to the plot of the movie, Sergio Gutierrez Benitez was a Catholic priest in charge of an orphanage in a rundown neighborhood in Veracruz, Mexico. Born in 1945, as the 16th of 17 children, Benitez was a troubled kid using drugs from a young age. He decided to become a minister, however, after he was kicked out of a church by a priest. Basically, he thought the world needed more “cool” priests.

In 1973 he founded the “La Casa Hogar de los Cachorros de Fray Tormenta”orphanage, home to 270 children. In need of money to take care of them, Father Benitez took up wrestling as Fray Tormenta. He designed a red and yellow lucha libre mask kept his true identity hidden. The padre believed that “No one would have taken me seriously as a wrestler had they known I was a priest.”

To prepare for the ring, he woke up at 4:30 a.m. every morning for a year, went to a gym in Mexico City to learn the art of lucha libre, and returned back to the orphanage by 8:00 a.m., in time for mass. The bishop overseeing his parish demanded that Father Benitez stop his wrestling career. Instead, Fray Tormenta told him that he would gladly stop only if the bishop himself would donate the equivalent of what he was earning in the ring. Naturally, that didn’t happen. Father Benitez officially retired in 2011, after 23 years of wearing the mask for his children.

5. Lucy Whitmore – 50 First Dates

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Back in 1985, an English woman by the name of Michelle Philpots suffered a motorcycle accident. The same year, she met future husband, Ian. Five years later, she was involved in another serious car accident. Together with the previous one, she was afflicted with a rare form of anterograde amnesia. In 1994, Michelle was diagnosed with epilepsy as a result of her head injuries. Ever since, she’s struggled to form new memories.

Every morning for the past 22 years, her husband, who she only remembers as her boyfriend, presents her with their wedding album and answers whatever questions Michelle might have. She leaves herself Post-It notes on the refrigerator, and all sorts of other helpful tips she might need throughout the day. She even uses a GPS to navigate her hometown of Spalding, in southeastern England.

Though she can’t form new memories, she can carry out everyday things like driving a car or having a conversation. That’s actually unusual for someone in her condition. She can also remember some bits and pieces after 1994, too, but mostly as feelings or sensations. Sometimes, she can remember special occasions. You may have noticed her story is strikingly similar to that of Lucy Whitmore, the character played by Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates. While it’s hard to say if the film is based on Philpots’s story, it’s hard to ignore how eerily similar the plot is to her real life.

4. Frank Costello – The Departed

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In the 2006 blockbuster The Departed, Jack Nicholson plays the role of a ruthless Irish mob boss, Frank Costello. Costello controls the Boston underworld. This character is based on James “Whitey” Bulger, a notorious gangster. In 1999, Bulger was named by the FBI as their second most wanted man, behind only Osama bin Laden. The movie’s plot (spoilers!) revolves around Costello planting a mole within the state police. Meanwhile, the police assign an undercover agent to infiltrate Costello’s “Winter Hill Gang.” The relationship between Costello and his mole is loosely based on Bulger and John Connolly, a corrupt FBI agent who grew up with Bulger. Connolly helped Whitey rise to power in Boston for over 20 years.

Connolly would feed Bulger information about what was going on in the criminal rackets, giving Whitey an edge on anyone else. In 1995, Connolly tipped him off about his imminent arrest, and Bulger was able to escape the authorities. A $1 million reward was issued for providing any information leading directly to his arrest. In 2011, he was finally captured and brought to trial. The 81-year-old gangster was sentenced two two life sentences, plus five years in prison. The charges included federal racketeering, extortion, conspiracy, and 11 murders. In 2015, Bulger’s story was told in a more “official” capacity with the film Black Mass,starring Johnny Depp as Bulger and Joel Edgerton as Connolly.

3. Steve Zissou – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

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 In 1930, Jacques Cousteau was accepted into France’s Naval Academy and trained as an aviator. However, a near-fatal car accident at age 26 ensured he would never be able to fly. As a Navy man, he swam rigorously to strengthen his weakened arms. One day a fellow officer gave him a pair of goggles to keep the saltwater away. The goggles opened his eyes to the beauty of the undersea world, where he spent the rest of his life.

In 1950 he leased an old minesweeper from a British philanthropist for a symbolic one franc per year. He named it Calypso and transformed it into a mobile laboratory. With it, Cousteau explored the world’s waters from the Mediterranean, to the Amazon, to the Antarctic Ice Shelf. He developed the Aqua-Lung to help divers stay submerged for long periods of time. Cousteau wrote countless books and produced dozens of documentaries. He even had his own weekly TV series, “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.”

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a 2004 American comedy-drama, which focuses on oceanographer Steve Zissou. Played by Bill Murray, the film tells the story of Zissou’s quest to exact revenge on a mythical shark that killed his partner. Along for the trip on his aging research vessel, the Belafonte, are his estranged wife, a journalist, and a man who may be his son. The similarities between Zissou and Cousteau are abundant. Their aging vessels, the names of their shows, and especially the way they dress (blue clothing and red hat) all point to this connection. The only obvious difference is that Cousteau never went on a hunt to blow up a jaguar shark.

Or did he?

2. Viktor Navorski – The Terminal

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In the 2004’s The Terminal, a man becomes trapped in New York’s JFK Airport when he’s denied entry into the US. Viktor Navorski, played by Tom Hanks, can’t return to his home country, either. A military coup took place while he was in the air. His country is no longer recognized, making his passport invalid. And so, Navorski is forced to live inside the airport. The film, as well as the character itself, is based on the story of a Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian refugee.

Being expelled from Iran after protesting against the Shah, Nasseri sought asylum in Britain. But during his layover in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport, his papers were stolen. Nevertheless, he boarded a plane to London but was promptly returned to Paris. Since he legally entered France, and no longer had a country of origin, Sir Alfred Mehran (as he became known) became a permanent resident of Terminal 1. The airport employees gave him food and newspapers. He spent his days reading, writing in his diary, or studying economics. Since he wasn’t allowed to enter France, he wandered the airport for 17 years, from 1988 to 2006, when he was hospitalized for an unspecified ailment. Since 2008, Nasseri has been living in a Paris shelter.

1. Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones

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Many of us grew up with Indiana Jones as a role model. Since his first appearance in Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981, Indy has become one of cinema’s most revered characters. George Lucas created the beloved character as an homage to various action heroes he grew up with. One such example is Charlton Heston, who in 1954 played a character named Harry Steele in a movie called Secret of the Incas. Steele has a striking resemblance to Indiana Jones, and not just when it came to their choice in clothing.

However, both Indy and Steele can thank an early 20th century professor for their existence. Hiram Bingham III was an American academic, explorer, and politician. After completing a PhD at Harvard, he became a professor of Latin American history at Yale in 1907. In 1911, he organized a Yale Peruvian Expedition. With the help of some locals, he was able to rediscover the lost city of Machu Picchu. However, he misidentified it as the “Lost City (Capital) of the Incas.” It turns out, Machu Picchu was really more of a summer resort for the Inca Emperor Pachacutiand his entourage. The actual “Lost City” (and last capital) of the Inca Empire, before falling to the Spaniards in 1572, was Vilcabamba. Bingham actuallyalso discovered that on his way to Machu Picchu, but didn’t recognize what it was.


Film Characters Based on Real People

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– WIF @ the Movies