World Urban Extremes – WIF Geography

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Most Extreme Cities

in the World

As of 2008, for the first time in human history about as many people live in urban areas as suburban or rural ones. That means there are a lot of people who think that they deal with greater levels of traffic, more crime, more overcrowding, and higher costs of living than residents of places they consider barely populated backwaters.

 Well, those urbanites have something to consider: They live with country bumpkin-levels of those problems compared to the denizens of the following cities. Depending on the city in question, that makes them much more fortunate, or unfortunate, than the occupants probably realize.
Now, it’s important to remember, when we say “extreme” we don’t mean these are places where you should grab a Mountain Dew and a snowboard, bruh. These 10 cities, instead, exist at the extreme edge of various spectrums. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

10. Largest Population

This is one of the more contentious records as far as cities of the world go, since during rush hour or big events they can all feel like they’ve got the most people in them. Some of the most populous cities in developing nations have very outdated, underfunded bureaucracies which can make an accurate census report difficult to acquire. This is especially true for two of the leading contenders, Jakarta, Indonesia and Delhi, India. But even the highest estimates put them at the city the World Atlasclaims is the world champion: Tokyo, Japan.

As of November 2016, Tokyo’s population was reported to be roughly 37,830,000 residents. To put that very large number in perspective, the population of Japan is reported by the CIA to be roughly 127,000,000 people. More than a quarter of the island nation’s population is located in one urban area. And yet, it’s by no means the largest city or the most crowded.

9. Largest Land Area

In July 2016, Guardian magazine said that urban areas were expected to triple in size over the next forty years. That’s also probably how long it will take any of the fastest growing cities to overtake the current largest urban area in the world. The champion city in that regard is unquestionably New York City, New York, with a metro area of 8,683 square kilometers (or 5,395 square miles if you’re going to use the imperial system like a true American).

It’s over 1,700 square kilometers more than Tokyo, the next largest urban area. It’s also nearly as large as the entire state of Connecticut (5,543 square miles). As it happens, growth in New York City has been slowing as recently as 2016. So it’s not out of the question for the little joke from the start of this entry that some other city will overtake it in the coming decades will have some truth to it.

8. Most Densely Populated City

As heavily populated and vast as New York and Tokyo are, they’re not even close to the most crowded, even if stories of people having to pay hundreds of dollars to live in closets might give that impression. After all, they are cities with large numbers of wealthy inhabitants who can afford decently-sized apartments and houses  No, you have to go to the developing world to find places where people truly have no elbow room. Not even to a notoriously crowded city like Hong Kong. It’s one which many people in the Western Hemisphere haven’t even heard of, let alone a famous city.It’s Dhaka, the largest metropolis in Bangladesh.

At 16,235,000, its population is roughly a million less than that of the New York Metro area, but it’s less than 125 square miles in size. There are more than 110,000 people per square mile, and considering that the Telegraph reported that it was rated the second least livable city in the world, the housing is overwhelmingly slums. Unfortunately for many of the people who already live there, it’s only going to get worse in the immediate future because it’s also one of the fastest growing cities in the world.

7. Most Expensive City

The average person on the street would probably guess that the answer is New York City again, considering it’s a city where a single riverside house can go for as much as $130 million. But we live in a rapidly changing world, so we have to look across the Pacific once again to find the real ‘winner’. As of 2014, that honor swung over to Singapore, particularly due to the rising cost of utilities, food (11% higher than New York City), clothing (50% higher than New York City), and vehicular ownership. Not owning a car won’t save you that much: Singapore’s other transportation methods are three times more expensive than NYC’s.

This dubiously desirable record was still held as of 2016, though it’s been so volatile that it dropped and rose 10% during the time in between. With that in mind, such a volatile economic status means that a bust that leaves it one of the cheaper cities to live in might be around the corner.

6. Healthiest City

It’s time for us to look at an unambiguously positive record for a city to have, for a change. From clear air initiatives to encouraging cycling, many cities are going out of their way to increase the longevity of their citizens. The front runner is, once again, a city that’s not particularly famous. It’s the city-state of Monaco, which is totally surrounded by France except for a coast along Mediterranean Sea. You’ve probably only heard of it either if you’re into Formula One racing, or because you’re a fan ofGrace Kelly. It’s only about two square kilometers (1.24 miles) with a population of only roughly 38,000. Odds are you’ve only heard of it for how ridiculously small it is compared to most nations.

 However, Monaco exists in no small part as a tax shelter, and thus it has drawn a highly disproportionate number of wealthy people. So not only does it have enough people who can afford top-of-the-line medical treatment and lifestyles, it has taken on green initiatives and has many electric cars for government employees, driving down illnesses caused by emissions. The result is the residents have an average life expectancy of a staggering 89.6 years. Perhaps the city-state doesn’t seem so silly now?

5. City with Worst Traffic

Even people who’ve been stuck in traffic for hours doesn’t really understand how bad it can get. Imagine that the worst traffic you’ve experienced was not only significantly worse, but that such an amount of traffic is effectively routine. If you can imagine that, then you’ve just pictured life for the average driver in Mexico City, the city which has held the title for “Worst Traffic” for multiple years. It’s also the only country in the Western Hemisphere in the top five.

During regular hours, a driver in Mexico can expect a trip to take at least 66% longer to reach the destination than if there was no traffic congestion. When rush hour comes around, however, this will balloon to around 101%. Every driver can look forward to spending an average of just under an hour a work day stuck in congested traffic. Even factoring in days off and other times that might help them avoid the worst congestion, the average person in Mexico City will still spend 227 hours a year stuck in traffic, or just over nine days total. It’s frankly kind of amazing enough people are willing to put up with that, to the point where the traffic can remain so bad.

4. Most Impoverished City in the World

It’s no surprise that the poorest city in the world is located in an area that was torn apart by civil war for decades. Even 14 years after the end of a 23-year civil war, Monrovia, Liberia can hardly be described as having recovered. It’s the largest city in Liberia and the capital, with a population of roughly one million. Despite that, amenities most people take completely for granted are generally out of the question for them.

Public transportation is limited to sparse private taxis. Electricity is utterly unreliable, leaving such devices as ATMs and credit card readers out of the question. Those with access to electricity aren’t supposed to use it between 2 and 6 a.m. Monrovia’s plumbing infrastructure is so insufficient that only one third of the population even has access to a flush toilet. They have to rely on makeshift latrines or even public spaces. Even for those whose toilet functions, the sewage system for the city is failing, leaving the sanitation bad enough that it’s no surprise the city was hit by an ebola outbreak.

3. Happiest City

Okay, since that was pretty grim, let’s lighten the mood by focusing on something positive. It might seem difficult or unscientific to quantify something as abstract as the happiness of a city. However, the design and consultation firm Arcadis’s method for determining it still seems pretty credible. It was to take the balance of the population’s health, the amount of prejudices the citizens faced and expressed, the levels of education, employment levels vs. cost of living, and the crime rate. After crunching the available data of all that, the city in question turned out to be none other than Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. You might think that a city that is constantly threatened with nuclear destruction by a notoriously unstable neighbor would make the city more paranoid, but this does not seem to be the case (it undoubtedly helps that North Korean missiles are infamously unreliable).

Unfortunately for fans of small government, this success is attributed in no small part to extensive urban planning. Seoul’s government also heavily favors globalist policies. Maybe you feel living in a happier city might not be worth accepting all that, but it feels like something worth considering.

2. The Most Homicidal City

Let’s get the most negative one out of the way. Many people believe that cities are inherently more violent than rural areas (although a study published in 2013 showed that cities actually aren’t any more dangerous than less populated areas), so they’ll assume that the most violent one must be practically a free-fire zone. That city would be Caracas, Venezuela, which is also that nation’s capital.

As the World Atlas reported in February 2017, the capital’s murder rate reached 119.87 per 100,000 people, meaning that with a population of 2.1 million, 2,517 homicides will occur there in a year. It’s one of only four cities in the world where the murder rate is more than 100 per 100,000. To give an idea just how much homicide there is in Venezuela, there are two other Venezuelan cities in the worldwide top ten for homicides a year. It’s more than double the homicide rate of St. Louis, Missouri, which now has the highest murder rate in America per capita. It’s also not a brand new development. Even back in 2011, Caracas’s murder rate became notorious when it rose above Baghdad’s. Hopefully there’s still time for anyone reading to cancel their plans to take a vacation there.

1. Oldest City in the World

We’ll conclude this list with a neutral fact. In this case, we don’t mean which was the first city ever built (evidence indicates this would be long-abandoned Jericho of Old Testament fame). What we’re looking for is which city has been continuously occupied since it was founded for the longest time. You might think it’s somewhere in Africa, where humans first evolved. Maybe you assume it’s somewhere in Eastern Asia? How about in the Middle East, where Mesopotamia is known as the Cradle of Civilization? Turns out it’s the last one, and it’s a city that likely will be quite familiar to anyone following current world events. As reported by The Guardian magazine, it’s poor, war-ravaged Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, that has the strongest claim.

Aleppo was first founded as a city circa 6,000 BC, because it occupied easily defended, hilly terrain. Its easy access to the Queiq River connected it to what’s now the nation of Turkey, and made it a valuable trading center for millennia. Being located in the notoriously volatile Middle East has meant it was conquered and reconquered many times by many empires including the Assyrians, Egyptians, and so on. So while it’s currently experiencing extreme turmoil, we can be assured that it will be able to recover eventually. It certainly has plenty of times in the past.


World Urban Extremes

– WIF Geography

 

Facebook Turns 13 – WIF Facts and Figures

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Facts About

Facebook

Facebook was launched on February 4, 2004 as TheFacebook.com by Mark Zuckerberg, who was studying psychology at Harvard at the time. 24 hours later,1,200 students at Harvard had registered and then within a month, over half of the undergraduate students were signed up.

 From there, Facebook expanded to other universities throughout the United States and in August 2005, they became Facebook.com, after purchasing the domain for $200,000.

In September 2005, high school students in the United States could sign up, and then it moved overseas to universities in the United Kingdom in October. After originally only being available to people with a “.edu” email account, Facebook finally started to allow anyone with any email address to sign up in September 2006. Since then, it’s grown to be an indelible part of world culture, to the point where the point where rumors persist that Zuckerberg may eventually run for president. Yes, of the United States.

Of course, things didn’t exactly go smoothly for Zuckerberg and Facebook, but there is a whole movie dedicated to their problems. These are 10 facts about Facebook that you won’t find in The Social Network.

10. Crazy Language Settings

If someone leaves their Facebook open and you want to prank them, don’t pose as them and post something stupid on their wall, because that could lead to some unintended problems. Instead, we recommend changing their language settings.

For people who speak English, there are two fun options that allows the person to use Facebook as normal, but things will seem a bit… off.

The first is the Pirate setting, which it changes things around to be more of a pirate theme. Duh. For example, your wall is called the Captain’s Log, the post box asks “What’s troublin’ ye?” and the smiley emoji says “Yo ho ho,” while the shocked face is “Shiver Me Timbers.”

However, if that prank is a bit too lighthearted and you really want to mess with someone, there is another language setting that turns all the text upside down. We tried it, and it can make you dizzy.

To change the languages, go to Settings, Language, and then “What language do you want to use Facebook in?” And you’re all set.

9. The Most Popular People on Facebook

The most popular person on Facebook is Cristiano Ronaldo, who is the star player of Real Madrid. But since he’s so popular, we figure you already knew that.

Ronaldo also became the first athlete to break 100 million likes, and he is currently at 119.57 million likes. In second place is Colombian pop singer Shakira, who has 104.49 likes, then in third it’s the bald headed star of The Fast and the Furious series. Oh wait, you say that nearly all the male stars of The Fast and the Furious are bald? Well, it’s Vin Diesel. He has 101.22 million likes.

8. Someone Will Always Have More Friends Than You

Do you ever get the feeling that your Facebook friends have more friends than you? Well, according to statistics, nearly everybody has a friend who has more friends than themselves.

The reason everyone has a friend who has more friends is because of a strange thing that happens in statistics called the Friendship Paradox. How it works: let’s say you have a small amount of Facebook friends. You’re bound to have at least one friend who is popular, because people with lots of friends are more likely to be your friend. Secondly, popular people are misrepresented when it comes to averages. By being popular, they spread themselves out when it comes to averages, and this effects probability.

While this concept might be a little hard to wrap your head around, you can check it yourself by seeing if any of your Facebook friends have more friends than you. Except you, Larry. We both know it’d be a waste of your time to check, because we already know the answer, don’t we.

7. The Yellow Facebook

One thing that made Facebook different from MySpace and other social media sites at the time was its uniformity. Everyone’s Facebook page layout was similar, and you couldn’t change the coding on it to add media, like music or pictures, which you could on MySpace. That uniformity is still prevalent today and everyone has very similar looking Facebook layouts. Well, nearly everyone.

The employees of Facebook have a more advanced version of the application that has a yellow icon instead of Facebook’s famous blue color. Mark Zuckerberg gave people a glimpse at the employee version in 2016, when he announced that live video streaming was heading to Facebook. In the video, Zuckerberg shows some features that have yet to be added, like being able to post slideshows and music from their music service. However, Zuckerberg said that some of the features on the yellow Facebook may never be made public.

Besides that video, not a whole lot is known about the yellow Facebook, but it is thought that it’s used by the upper echelon of Facebook to test new features.

6. Facebook Friends

According to a study from Oxford University, the average amount of friends a Facebook user has is 155. The same study, which looked at a group of 3,300 students, also found that they only had four real friends.

Why people have so many Facebook friends, but very few real, close friends, is explained by Dr. Robin Dunbar, who authored the study. He said:

“Social media certainly helps to slow down the natural rate of decay in relationship quality that would set in once we cannot readily meet friends face-to-face but no amount of social media will prevent a friend eventually becoming ‘just another acquaintance’ if you don’t meet face-to-face from time to time.”

These findings are consistent with other studies on close friendships, like an American study from 2011 that found that people, on average, only have two close friends. Another study from Dunbar found that, on average, people know up to 150 people, but they are only intimate with 15, and only five of those 15 are trustworthy.

5. It Can Wreak Havoc on Your Romantic Relationship

Saying that things that happen on Facebook can wreak havoc on your real life shouldn’t be a surprise. Perhaps you’ve experienced it yourself, or you may have witnessed it happen to one of your friends on your news feed. If you haven’t, humor websites have massive collections of them.

Besides anecdotal evidence, there are studies that show that Facebook can add more stress to a romantic relationship. One study that was conducted on 2,000 married people in Britain found that one-in-seven had thought about divorcebecause of something that happened on Facebook. In another British study, a quarter of the people surveyed said Facebook led to a fight once a week with their romantic partner, and 17 percent said a fight happened every day because of Facebook.

Meanwhile, between 2005 and 2010, divorce courts in the United States saw a dramatic increase in Facebook being used as evidence. Finally, a study from the Loyola University Health System found that 20 percent of all cases cited problems stemming from Facebook as part of the reason for divorce.

4. MySpace Had Two Chances to Buy Facebook

In the mid 2000s, the monster of social media was MySpace. Facebook was started essentially as an imitator; it was just better organized and more uniform, and at the time, it was more exclusive because you needed to have a university email address to get an account. These two aspects proved to be popular and Facebook started to gain a lot of traction. As they started to amass users, MySpace had the opportunity to buy Facebook… twice.

In the spring of 2005, MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe visited Zuckerberg and company. At the meeting, Zuckerberg offered to sell him Facebook for $75 million and DeWolfe turned him down. They met again later in 2005, and this time Zuckerberg wanted 10 times his original offer, $750 million. DeWolfe turned Zuckerberg down again.

Just two years later, Microsoft purchased 1.6% of Facebook for $240 million, giving Facebook a $15 billion valuation. By 2009, Facebook was getting twice as many visitors as MySpace. Today, well, Facebook is the thing that everyone uses and MySpace is something you have to Google to see if it’s still online (it is).

At the time of this posting, Facebook market capitalization is over $400 billion and some people think it could grow to be worth a trillion dollars in the next few years.

3. What Happens to Your Facebook When You Die?

Before 2015, when someone died, their family could contact Facebook with proof, like a death certificate, and request that the deceased’s Facebook profile be memorialized.

Memorializing the profile removed the deceased from public searches and notifications, like for their birthdays. Their memorialized profile could also only be viewed by people who were Facebook friends with the deceased before it was memorialized. Nothing else could be done with the account and some people found this upsetting. A notable example was Hollie Gazzard, who lived in Gloucester, United Kingdom. She was stabbed to death by her boyfriend Asher Maslin in February 2014. Her family had her Facebook memorialized and this included memorializing pictures of Gazzard and her murderer. Obviously, the family was upset by this and repeatedly asked Facebook to remove the pictures. For months, Facebook refused to take the pictures down and finally only removed them because of copyright infringements.

This type of dilemma prompted Facebook to allow users to pick a “legacy contact.” The legacy contact is able to pin a notice to your wall with information like funeral services. It also allows the contact to respond to new friend requests, change your cover and profile photos, and archive your Facebook posts and photos. The one thing that the legacy contact will not be able to do is read your private messages. So don’t worry about your loved ones finding Facebook messages expressing your profound love for Nickelback after you pass away.

To add a legacy contact, go to your security settings and it should be there. When you set the legacy contact, it will send a message, which you can edit, to the friend with information about the policy.

2. Every Minute Facebook Goes Down Costs Them $52,583

One of Facebook’s best qualities is that it is reliable. When was the last time you remember Facebook not being available when you tried logging on? It’s so rare that when Facebook went down in 2014, people called 9-1-1.

When it did go down in 2014, The Atlantic figured out how much money Facebook lost per minute by looking at their profits. They concluded that every minute the site was down, it cost them $24,420. This is over $1.4 million an hour and over $35.1 million a day.

But that was three years ago. Since then, Facebook’s revenues have gone up and in 2016, they made $27.638 billion. If the crash were to happen in early 2017, it would cost them $52,583 a minute, which is $3.1 million an hour and $75 million a day.

1. Everyone is Connected by 3.57 People

The theory of six degrees of separation was put forth in 1929 by Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy, in his 1929 short story “Chains.” In the story, the characters came up with a game, where:

“We should select any person from the 1.5 billion inhabitants of the Earth – anyone, anywhere at all. He bet us that, using no more than five individuals, one of whom is a personal acquaintance, he could contact the selected individual using nothing except the network of personal acquaintances.”

There have been several attempts to prove the theory over the years, including one by famed psychologist Stanley Milgram, and all the tests have resulted in varying degrees of success. The jury is still out on whether or not we’re connected to Kevin Bacon, as well.

In 2016, on its 12th anniversary, Facebook released some data that shows that everyone on Facebook is separated by 3.57 degrees. This, however, does not pertain to the real world, and it is just the world of Facebook. That being said, even if someone doesn’t use Facebook, they just have to know a Facebook user to be connected with the rest of the world. And really, there are good odds nearly everyone on the planet knows someone who uses Facebook. As of April 2017, Facebook has 1.86 billion monthly active users; that is almost a quarter of the entire population of the world.


Facebook Turns 13

– WIF Facts and Figures

Double Takes – WIF Photography

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Photographs

That’ll Make

You Look Twice

You know the famous idiom, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” For the most part, it’s true. But those thousand words we make up for ourselves can be completely off if we don’t have the right backstory or any context in which that photo was taken. So, with that in mind, we’re going to show you some photos here that are pieces of history in their own right, and we’ll also give you the circumstances in which they were taken. The rest you’ll have to fill in for yourselves… but only within a thousand words, right?

 10. Arnold Schwarzenegger Walking Down a Munich Street – 1967

This particular photo was taken back in 1967 in downtown Munich, Germany. Nothing out of the ordinary in this particular description so far, but as we can all see here, Arnold was wearing only a Speedo, and nothing else. And by the look of those people in the background and the ladies wearing scarves around him, this wasn’t a common sight in Munich back 1967. Heck, it probably isn’t one today, either. He was 20 years old when this photo was taken, and given his physique, nobody was really complaining even back then.

By this time, he already won several bodybuilding contests and titles, including the Mr. Universe. He was the youngest participant ever to do so. During his time in Munich in 1967, he was training six hours per day, attending business school, and promoting his own gym he acquired that same year. In fact, this was exactly what he was doing here in this photo – promoting his gym and the benefits of bodybuilding.

9. Marilyn Monroe’s White Dress – 1954

This photo will definitely make you look twice, regardless of whether you know the whole story behind it or not. But even if that’s the case, let’s, nevertheless, talk a bit about it. This iconic moment in cinematic history was captured back in 1954, during the filming of the Seven Year Itch, a movie that came out one year later. The scene was filmed and photographed at 1:00 a.m. in New York City at the corner of Lexington Ave and 52nd Street and took 14 takes and about three hours to finish. But because of the 100 photographers and roughly 4,000 onlookers who were, let’s say, reacting every time her dress was lifted by the soft, upward breeze, they had to re-shoot it in California. But to be fair, she prepared herself accordingly by wearing two pairs of white underwear.

Nevertheless, this scene almost certainly cost Monroe her marriage to baseball star Joe DiMaggio, who viewed it as an “exhibitionist” scene. Two weeks later, and following a fight at their hotel room after the filming, Marilyn filed for divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty. The late Debbie Reynolds, a fellow actress, singer, and businesswoman (not to mention Carrie Fisher’s mother), bought the dress for $200back in 1971. In 2011, she sold it for a whopping $4.6 million.

8. The Guatemala City Sinkhole – 2010

The sudden appearance of this gaping hole in the middle of a street in Guatemala City is still largely a mystery. Its almost perfect cylindrical shape does make it seem to be man-made, and done intentionally no less, but it isn’t, even though human causes may have contributed here. Sam Bonis, a geologist at Dartmouth College who is living in Guatemala City, does have a theory about what happened. The 60 feet (18 meters) wide and 300 feet (100 meters) deep hole was caused, it seems, by leaking pipes. Yes, this is true. This is what happens if you leave the water running, apparently. Bonis believes that the city’s poor infrastructure and leaking pipelines have eroded the soil underneath over an extended period of time and in 2010, with the arrival of the severe tropical storm Agatha, the ground finally gave in and collapsed, forming that huge chasm.

But before you start calling a plumber to come and investigate your pipes, you should also know that the ground’s composition also had something to do with what happened here. As it turns out, Guatemala City is located in a somewhat volcanic region and the soil underneath is made out of pumice – a very porous and light volcanic material. Normally, over long periods of time, this pumice is turned into hard stone. But this time, however, the city was built before this was allowed to happen and the soil beneath is quite brittle. Combined with seeping water, over time one such sinkhole can happen. What’s funny about this is that this exact phenomenon doesn’t really have a name of its own. Since it’s partly man-made, Bonis says it should actually be called a piping feature and not a sinkhole, per se. This is because a sinkhole is entirely natural, and this one is not.

7. China’s Rainbow Mountains

The Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park is China’s equivalent of the Grand Canyon. And even though it isn’t as huge, it definitely has its charm – as can be seen in this photo. It’s a geologic marvel, to say the least, and a jewel given to us by Mother Nature. The layer upon layer of color tells the history of Planet Earth in the most amazing way possible. The story behind this colorful mountain range goes back for many millions of years. Over time, layer upon layer of stone and minerals were deposited, but then, some 50 million years ago, India slammed into Asia. Pushing ever further at a speed of 27 feet per century, it was able to form the mighty Himalayas, as well as these mountains. Each differently-colored layer speaks to another period in Earth’s history.

Interestingly enough, these rainbow mountains weren’t always as popular as they are now. They were first mapped back in the 1930s, and only after the area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site did more people began to learn about its existence. There are some other somewhat similar places in other parts of the world, like the United States or Peru. But none of those are so striking as these rainbow mountains in China.

6. Picture, or Painting? – 2011

It’s not so easy to tell whether this is a photograph or a painting, right? Now, it does resemble a somewhat alien and surreal painting, with the trees looking almost like silhouettes and the color contrasts faintly resembling something by Edvard Munch. But no, it’s a real picture taken by photographer Frans Lanting while on an assignment by National Geographic to Namibia. The photo was taken in the early morning, just as the sun was rising over the horizon and flooding the orange sand dune in the backdrop. The barren ground in front is still under the partial cover of darkness, having a slightly bluish tint, reflecting the sky above.

Back in 2011, Lanting was in the Namib-Naukluft National Park, in a region called Sossusvlei. This is the largest conservation area in Africa and Namibia’s most sensational landmark. The sand dune in the background is known as Big Daddy, so yes, and it’s the largest in the area, measuring 1,066 feet (325 meters) in height. Though not the largest in the Namib Desert, it nevertheless dominates the surrounding area.

5. Two (or More) Heads are Better Than One – 1895

Severed human heads always have the capacity of drawing people’s attention, right? Here we have a huge collection of mokomokai, or tattooed Maori heads, and the man sitting with them is Major-General Horatio Gordon Robley. He was a British officer who was stationed in New Zealand during the New Zealand Wars, during the second half of the 19th century. As an artist and as an antiques collector, he became fascinated with Maori tattoos and these mokomokai. After the wars, the art and tradition of these tattooed heads disappeared among the Maori people of the islands, but before the arrival of the Europeans, these denoted a high social status. Now, even though predominantly males wore these tattoos on their entire faces,women of prominence had them on their lips and chin. These symbolized the wearer’s connection with the ancestors.

General Robley was also an illustrator and wrote a book called Maori Tattooing, published one year after this photo was taken. During his stay in New Zealand, he collected these mokomokai. Later, he decided to sell them back to New Zealand for £1,000, but he was refused. He later sold them to the Natural History Museum in New York for 250 pounds more. The heads themselves went through an entire process of boiling, steaming, smoking, drying, and embalming before they were preserved. They were usually kept by the families and brought out during sacred ceremonies. The mokomokai belonging to enemy chiefs were also taken as spoils of war. After a peace was brokered between two tribes, these heads were exchanged as a sign of good will.

4. The Kiss – 1979

We could’ve gone with the kiss scene from Gone with the Wind, the sailor and nurse in Times Square, or even the kiss between Britney Spears and Madonna, but no –we chose this one. It’s not every day you see two old ‘geezers’ kissing, let alone two Soviet-era leaders from the Cold War period. The man on the left is Leonid Brezhnev, the leader of the Soviet Union, while the man on the right is President Erich Honecker of East Germany. The photo was taken in 1979, during the 30th anniversary of the Soviet German Republic. Now, in its proper context, the kiss itself is not so out of the ordinary. Known as the socialist fraternal kiss this was a customary greeting between socialist leaders from the former soviet bloc. It stemmed from the old East European tradition of cheek kissing between family and friends, which itself can be associated with the East Orthodox Easter Kiss.

So, the kiss wasn’t so shocking in and of itself. What was shocking, however, was the enthusiasm shown between the two the moment they locked lips. The photo was taken by Regis Bossu and when it was published it quickly made it around the world. In 1989, when the Berlin Wall went down, former Soviet artist, Dmitri Vrubel, decided to paint it. The painting still exists in Berlin as part of the East Side Gallery. The caption running underneath it says: “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love.”

3. The Eyes of Madness – 1916

Whoever says that war is cool or glorious obviously has no idea what they’re talking about. This photograph was taken back in 1916, during WWI, and this man’s look is the living embodiment of war and what it actually stands for. That is the look of one’s reality made nightmare. This British soldier was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or shell shock, as it was called back then. Massive artillery fire was introduced during this time – weapons so powerful and devastating that they denied any chance of courage, heroism, or skill in battle, bringing only constant pummeling and misery. This was no longer an adversary one could see or even face head on – it was perpetual death raining from the sky, and there was absolutely nothing one could do about it. As writer and lecturer Adam Hochschild describes it:“Simply put, after even the most obedient soldier had enough shells rain down on him, without any means of fighting back, he often lost all self-control.”

Shell shock presented itself with a wide variety of symptoms like crippling fatigue, confusion, uncontrollable tremors, constant nightmares, impaired vision and hearing, hysterical paralysis, as well as the inability to reason, among others. But for the better part of the war, this horrific mental disorder went unrecognized and countless shell shock sufferers were convicted of cowardice or desertion and then executed. Only after officially recognizing it as an actual disease did the British government pardon those who were put to death.

2. The Guardian Angels of NYC – 1980

The New York subway scene was not pretty during the late ’70s and early ’80s. Acts of vandalism, robberies, and even shootings became widespread, and taking the underground became a serious risk for daily commuters. This came at a time when the NYPD was completely overwhelmed and some citizens took it upon themselves to make their lives and the lives of their fellow New Yorkers a little bit safer. This is civic duty in action, and it’s never more beautiful or powerful than in periods of hardship. Led by Curtis Sliwa, the Guardian Angels, as they came to be known, were a group of young men who had to deal with the crime-related problems in their own neighborhoods, and who were now looking to make the city a safer place to live.

Over 500 members joined, all wearing their emblematic red berets, leather jackets, or white t-shirts with the Guardian Angels logo on them. Though their numbers weren’t nearly enough to successfully tackle the rampant crimes happening in New York at the time, they were, nevertheless, a comforting presence for any late night subway commuter. Bruce Davidson, the man who took this photo, describes his feelings and general atmosphere of taking the city’s subway in the early ’80s:

“As I went down the subway stairs, through the turnstile, and on to the darkened station platform, a sense of fear gripped me. I grew alert, and looked around to see who might be standing by, waiting to attack. The subway was dangerous at any time of the day or night … Passengers on the platform looked at me, with my expensive camera around my neck, in a way that made me feel like a tourist – or a deranged person.”

1. The Rockefeller Salute – 1976

This is Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, flipping off a group of protesters back in 1976. When this photo was taken, Rockefeller was on a campaign tour through upstate New York, alongside Senator Bob Dole, President Gerald Ford’s running mate for that election. So, after a group of SUNY students from Binghamton showed him the finger, he responded in kind. That’s Dole in the background there, smiling at the exchange. As you can imagine, this gesture of “political maturity” was not received kindly by the media and the country’s citizens, who then started referring to it as The Rockefeller Salute. When confronted about his outburst, Rockefeller refused to apologize by cleverly avoiding the point that his apology was actually meant for the general public, and not just the students themselves.

As governor of New York, Rockefeller was constantly attacked throughout his political career. His fellow Republicans saw him as too liberal, while the Democrats viewed him simply as a Republican. In fact, during this time, all liberal Republicans were called “Rockefeller Republicans.”


Double Takes

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– WIF Photography

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 129

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 129

…The Air Jamaica aircraft lifts up and away from the seaside airport, not being a very long flight, they barely get above 20,000 feet

20000 ft by Photojournalist Rdiger Nehmzow

Old Francine

— “Do you possibly have an open seat somewhere — you know what I mean?” she points and whispers to a flight attendant to escape her sweaty human sandwich. “What is the holdup Miss?”

Old Francine would have thrown an absolute fit and shouted her way off the plane, accomplishing absolutely nothing except drawing undue attention to her disrespectful derrière.

New Francine

“We are under a security alert, something going on to the west, sort of like a red light in the sky.” A loaded passenger plane sitting on the taxiway for two hours is borderline cruel and unusual. “We just had a single window seat, 3A open up, why don’t we move you up?”

New Francine asks for the attendant’s name, “I will be writing a letter praising your service to Air Jamaica, thank you.”

Just after staking her claim at the front of the jet, the calming voice of the Captain fills the cabin, “Good afternoon passengers of Air Jamaica Flight 217 nonstop to Related imageHouston Texas. We will be taking off shortly and we thank you for your patience. The stewardesses will be handing out complimentary beverages.”

“If he weren’t the oldest pilot in the fleet, I would be offended.”

“At least he didn’t call you an airplane waitress…I’ll have a vodka rocks please,” Francine relates her similar story of having been introduced, early in her career, in a pre-sweeps station promo, as anchor-girl Francine Bushel.

The jet aircraft lifts up and away from the seaside airport. It is not a very long flight and they barely get above 20,000 feet, but the view from her window is nonstop fantastic, with Cuba fading into background of the azure Gulf-blue waters and the familiar soil and foliage of the Gulf Coast states rising to the north.

Like tiny islands, oil drinking platforms dot the water below, but one in particular seems to be the hub of activity. She reaches down to her carry-on to retrieve her trusty pair of field glasses, every good reporter has one, and gets a 20x power view of the action. She pulls back, rubs her eyes to make sure she isn’t seeing things, the one thing being the familiar blue & white paint scheme of Roy’s helicopter; blades idling, atop the one acre pedestal. There are a good thirty-odd people mulling about, many of whom belong to that huge Coast Guard cutter lashed to the side.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 129


page 159

 

Contents TRT

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

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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

wif-confidential-001

– 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