“Jaws” Confidential – WIF @ The Movies

Leave a comment

Surprising Facts

About the

Movie “Jaws”

Jaws is often called the original summer blockbuster, so before the next glut of CGI-laden superhero movies fills screens worldwide, why not read a few lesser known facts about the OG blockbuster that set the precedent that allows them to exist? Starting with…

10. Jaws was a PG Release

Jaws is a film that contains a scene of a man being brutally eaten alive by a shark while screaming (fun fact: the actor supposedly broke his leg during that scene so the screams of pain you hear are real), people having the limbs shorn off, and the most iconic jump scare in cinema history. On top of this, the film also involves scenes involving drinking, smoking, swearing, and at least one instance of a shark eating a chubby kid on a raft. Amazingly, censors of the time saw all this and thought to themselves, yeah, this seems suitable for kids.”

Because yeah, Jaws was a PG rated movie, meaning anyone could go watch this thing so long as they had parental supervision, even if they were still at risk of pooping their pants literally instead of metaphorically. Think about that the next time you go watch an Avengers movie and realize it’s a PG-13 because Sam Jackson says the F-word.

9. It Originally Starred Dwarf Stuntmen

The undeniable star of Jaws is the shark, a role that was variously played by a notoriously unreliable mechanical shark (which we’ll get to in a moment) and several real sharks filmed by the crew. The problem was that the shark, who we’ll just call Jaws even though he had a name (which we’ll also get to), is supposed to be a shark of exceptional size, which kind of created a problem when the crew went to film some real Great Whites and realized they’d look noticeably smaller than their robo-shark. An ingenious solution was found in the form of several midget stuntmen.

The idea was to dress these stuntmen up in the same diving suits as the regular cast and film them next to some average-sized Great Whites, creating a forced perspective that made the sharks look super-huge and buff. To complete the illusion, the production team even built a smaller version of the shark cage seen at the end of the movie that the stuntmen were supposed to float around in. This cage wasn’t built as sturdily as an actual shark cage and as a result, before one of the stuntmen could climb inside it, a Great White tore it to pieces. This led to a total rewrite to ensure…

8. Hooper Survived Because Footage of the Cage Being Destroyed was Too Good Not to Use

The footage of a shark tearing apart the shark cage at the climax of the movie was 100% real and was so good Spielberg insisted that it had to go into the movie. The problem was that the original script called for Hooper to be inside the cage at the time, and for him to be killed in the ensuing attack, just like in the book. Another problem was that after seeing a shark tear apart a shark-proof cage none of the stuntmen would get back into the water.

Not wanting to lose the footage, a hasty rewrite was made to show that Hooper survived by swimming to the bottom of the ocean and hiding from the shark. This change also allowed the editors to use footage of the shark attacking from below (where it’s most obvious nobody is in the cage), framing it as if it’s from Hooper’s point of view as he cowered from the shark in a steadily growing cloud of his own urine.

7. Spielberg Laughed When He First Heard the Theme

John Williams’ theme for Jaws is one of the most iconic in all of cinema. Countless articles and academic papers have been written exploring the deceptive depth of the theme and how it affects those who hear it on an almost primal level. Though considered an integral part of the film’s success today, Spielberg was apparently not all that impressed with the theme when he first heard it, he laughed out loud when Williams played it for him.

You see, Spielberg had assumed that the film’s score would be more akin to that of a swashbuckling pirate movie and thought Williams’ minimalist take on the theme was too Spartan. However, Spielberg deferred to Williams’ judgement for final decision, apparently quipping “okay, let’s give it a shot” when Williams insisted the theme would work. We’re assuming Spielberg has never since question Williams’ judgement after the success of Jaws.

6. The Shark Sank the First Time it was Put Into the Water

As noted previously, the robo-shark used for many of the close-ups in the movie was unreliable to an almost comical degree. This is no better summed up than by what the shark did the very first time it was lowered into the water: it sank like a depressed brick of lead with concrete shoes. Apparently it hadn’t occurred to anybody to check if the shark floated while making it.

Along with sinking, the shark often malfunctioned and would sometimes simply stop working for no reason at all. This not only caused the movie to fall 100 days behind schedule, but also meant that half the shots of the movie involving the shark didn’t have the shark in frame.

Curiously, it’s been noted that the fact Spielberg had to film around the fact the shark wasn’t there most of the time, instead having to suggest its presence, made the movie better. Which kind of makes sense. The reason Jaws is such a scary movie is because there’s a constant threat that the shark could appear at any moment and chow down on your butthole. If the shark had been on screen for 50% of the movie like Spielberg had originally planned, its few sporadic appearances would have had less impact. So yeah, when you watch Jaws and find yourself feeling on edge throughout the entire film, that wouldn’t be the case if the shark had actually worked and you could have seen how crappy it actually looked most of the time.

5. The Shark’s Name was Bruce

 The shark in Jaws is always referred to as either, simply, “the shark” or else Jaws, which is weird since throughout filming his name was Bruce. The name is supposedly a name coined by the the production crew as a nod to Spielberg’s lawyer Bruce Raynor who, like the shark, was a bit temperamental.

Spielberg himself wasn’t personally a fan of the name since, unlike the mechanical shark, his lawyer sometimes actually worked. So instead, he came up with an altogether more apt nickname considering the numerous mechanical faults the shark suffered throughout production:  The Great White Turd.

4. Spielberg Spent $3,000 of His Own Money for “One More Scream”

Jaws, hands down, contains one of the single greatest jump scares in cinema history. We’re of course talking about when Hooper finds Ben Gardner’s boat, and a big rubber head comes flying out of a shark shaped hole in the hull. That scene wasn’t in the original cut of the movie and was only added after Spielberg watched the audience reaction to the reveal of the shark at the film’s climax (the bit immediately prior to the “we’re gonna need a bigger boat” line), and realized the reaction wasn’t as intense as he’d hoped.

So Spielberg went back to the studio and asked for $3,000 to film another scene with a bigger jump scare and promptly got told not to do one. To be fair to the production company the film was 100 days behind schedule and over budget, so they were within their right to say no, but luckily for us, Spielberg didn’t take no for an answer.

With the studio refusing to pony up the cash, Spielberg decided to film the scene in someone’s pool using his own money. To make the water look more like the kind of place you’d find a sunken boat, Spielberg had the pool filled with milk powder and then put a big tarp over the top to limit the amount of light that got through to the bottom. Admittedly greedy for “one more scream” the director then instructed the sound engineers to make the jump scare happen before the music reached it’s natural crescendo, to make everyone poop their pants the first time they saw it.

3. It Had one of the Widest Releases of Any Film Ever

Jaws was, as noted, one of the first, if not the first, major summer blockbusters. In fact, prior to the release of Jaws and then

Star Wars a few years later, the summer was considered a low period for cinema since it was believed nobody would waste a ball-sweltering summer’s day sitting in a cool, air conditioned cinema. Oh, how wrong they were.

Upon release, Jaws set numerous records for having such a wide release, opening in some 400 cinemas on its first day. But here’s the really crazy part: Jaws was such a massive phenomenon that the number of cinemas screening it across the US more than doubled over the course of two months. This was unheard of back then and rarely, if ever, happens today since most films make the bulk of their money in the opening weekend. It’s a testament then to the sheer inertia of Jaws that after two months at the cinema, demand was still so high 500 more theatres decided to screen it, too.

2. It Kinda Ruined Sharks (and Beaches) for Everyone

As noted in the previous entry, releasing a film during the summer season used to be considered box office suicide since it was believed everyone would be too busy having fun at the beach. Jaws changed all that and during the summer of 1975 beach attendance fell nationwide.

The drop in beach attendance was credited to both the success of the film, which saw millions of Americans flock to cinemas, as well as the fact it kind of made it scary to go into the water. Speaking of which, the film is still criticized today for painting an unnecessarily harsh and objectively incorrect picture of sharks, which hardly ever attack humans. However, the success of Jaws saw shark attacks not only being reported upon more often (creating the false impression that they were more common than they actually are) but also a more negative perception of the animal, which led to many of them being killed for no real reason. All of which kind of leaves a sour taste in our mouths, so let’s end on something a little lighter, specifically that…

1. Michael Caine Loved the 4th Movie

To date Jaws has made more money and has a higher Rotten Tomatoes score than all three of its sequels combined. The fourth film in particular has an impressive 0% rating on the website, and is largely considered to be the biggest cinematic turd since the one Jeff Goldblum finds in Jurassic Park.

According to critics the film has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and is more painful to sit through than a prostate exam from a pirate with hand tremors. One person who disagrees is Michael Caine, who has said of the film: I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”

Along with being paid a pretty penny for starring in the film, Caine has praised the fact that it features a realistic romance between two middle aged people (something that’s rarely seen in cinema) and enjoyed that he basically got a free trip to the Bahamas. In case you’re thinking that Caine is only positive about the film because he got a free vacation out of it, starring in the film caused him to miss the 1987 Oscars. And it’s important to note, he actually won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor that year, for the film Hannah and Her Sisters. In other words, Michael Caine had so much fun pretending to fight a giant, fake shark in a terrible Jaws sequel he didn’t mind not collecting the most prestigious award for acting in person.


“Jaws” Confidential

WIF @ The Movies

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 251

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 251

… the line of potential Eridanian adolescent suitors for the McKinney daughter extends past Orion’s sword…

On The Sword Of Orion Framed Print by Angela Foster

What are the inexpressible words which will best describe the twisted path that brought the McKinney family here, against all odds?

Like how do they explain how Sammy came to be? They had not gotten around to “that talk” before they went to Mars. Celeste surmises, “I bet you Braden took care of that!” It has been tough going without the company of their best friend, though they would never have guessed that Roy Crippen and his wife adopted their pair of space-orphans. “And they are grown men now Sam.”

Stars And Orion’s Sword by Jennifer Rondinelli Reilly – Fine Art Photography

Deimostra has blushed to a crimson shade, having recently had that famous mother-daughter “talk”, although how “it” will work with an Eridanian male has not been explored, although Cerella had discussed how she would “interact” with Deke, given the opportunity. In a case where things like that work themselves out, the line of potential Eridanian adolescent suitors for the McKinney girl extends past Orion’s sword.

“I know you have only seen images of them on our PDAs, but I want you to show them how you feel, including hugs and kisses, once they process the concept of having a little sister,” father Sam interjects, “and Celeste, try not to cloud their minds with that telepathic stuff. If they are anything like me, they won’t take to it very well.”

“You need not worry father,” maintains the firstborn of space, “I am not the naïve child you pretend I am. It is true that I am not of Earth, but I have my mother’s wisdom and I have your….something, oh yes, your persistent persistence.”

“Thank you for that backdoor compliment Deimostra!”

“The Stellar Explorer has entered into a descending orbit,” Celeste senses aloud. Her and Sam’s memorable first impressions of Eridanus, the then unnamed planet, flood in. “It is a shame that they cannot be fully conscious, to see the mist parting to reveal the towered cities.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Orion

Episode 251


page 224

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 240

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 240

#Stay with us Celeste# whispers Cerella into her subconscious, #we are approaching their time-stem 2051.075. Once inside the ship, we have .0003 to rectify the faults in their propulsion system. You will be but partially visible to them#

Eyeball | by 1bd Photography

In the fractional-seconds it takes for the Eridanian mental connection to insert their irregular pentagonal confluence into the Stellar Explorer’s timestem, Celeste sees her entire life, after the day she became pregnant with Deke and before her arrival on Eridanus, passing before the cinema of her mind.

#Stay with us Celeste# whispers Cerella into her subconscious, #we are approaching their time-stem 2051.075. Once inside the ship, we have .003 to rectify the faults in their propulsion and remove them from their timeplot. You will be but partially visible to them and unable to verbally communicate. Project a reassuring pose and attempt to place a thought in their minds that will lead them to believe that it is you that they see and that the Eridanian technicians mean them no harm#

After being stranded on Mars, resigned to life inside an alien spacecraft on that barren planet, being whisked away on that ship for fifty million-million mile five year trip to parts unknown, and ultimately re-resigning yourself to life without ever seeing your children again, what a true miracle this is.

  • Never look a gift-horse in the mouth
  • If the shoe fits, wear it
  • Do not tempt the fickle finger of fate
  • Seeing is believing & the proof is in the pudding

The above earthly wisdom is apt and is worth the heeding.

From the stark darkness of the Black Frontier to the dim artificial light of the Stellar Explorer, the second known meeting between an Eridanian expedition and the people from Earth takes place on Earth’s home field. At a point ten million miles short of the very point in space (Mars) which effectively put an end to Eridanus’ conventional space travel, within eyeshot of that round-red-jinx, a miracle is about to be consummated.

#They are about to exceed the SOL threshold#, one of the technically trained expedition-ists thinks aloud.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 240


page 215

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 235

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 235

…This is no ordinary day and the electric atmosphere is equal to the achievement…

Reuters/Gene Blevins

On this day, the 9th of January 2051, Roy Crippen is sending his stepsons, with the legendary name of space travel, McKinney, beyond the reach of known distance and its mythical barrier of speed; SOL.

Roy had long ago resolved his issues of guilt surrounding that other pair of McKinneys, yet he will not be able to free himself from the responsibility about to be heaped upon him with this day’s foray; the exploration of the Black Frontier.

The Black Frontier, so named because space is a vacuum filled with invisible dark matter and light-catching objects scattered sparingly about, is about to have a speeding projectile slip through its tranquility. And nothing but perfection can be accepted. Such is the margin of error.

“The fusion units are online President Crippen,” reports a technician, to a man who longs to be called “just plain Roy”.

“Are the cooling sensors set to maximum Hadley? The vacuum induction will be engaged when they reach 275 miles and we cannot have hyper-generation in the meantime.”

That technician, the engineers, the pilots, and everybody in the room know this, but again, he is leaving nothing to chance. The unmanned test was a colossal success and that exact result is to be repeated.

Three hours later, arriving at runway one-niner, simultaneously with the rising sun, Deke & Gus McKinney step out of the IFOS turbotransport looking alert and wired for the day of their lives. This is no ordinary day and the electric atmosphere is equal to the achievement.

The press/dignitary area is stuffed to overflow with anyone having a handheld PC, camera or microphone (all-in-one these days), even though they will only be witness to the SLAV escorting Stellar Explorer out of eyeshot. Ironically, without the aid of super-duper slow-mo time-lapse, there will be no recorded “footage” once they engage the vacuum induction.


THE RETURN TRIP

Out of Sight by Carmen Guedez

Episode 235


page 213

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 230

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 230

…Given their druthers, Ekcello and his like may well have dismissed Earth as a lost cause…

The Lost Cause, a.k.a “T-L-C”, started as a graffiti writer and consistently built up a body of work transitioning into characters, stickers and technicolor murals

Cerella, the most familiarly physical of these “people” and heiress to the High Counsel of Eridanus, has taken it upon herself to make the new resident aliens her personal project; the three+ on site and the not-so uncomplicated task concerning the fate and ultimate destiny of the other two McKinneys, one Deke and one Gus. A truer friend or advocate they could never find on this or any other distant world.

As constant companion to Deimostra Samantha McKinney, child of space and stellar student, Cerella has immersed herself into the Eridanian experience, from the visitors’ point of view.  “XO”, as Sampson refers to him, has assigned his daughter to assimilate the McKinneys to the ways of their new life. And now the stage is set for two additional contacts. She has displayed the knack for learned, deep compassion, a singular ability among her peers. She will require every ounce of that very soon.

For all the superiority and refinement on Eridanus, a tendency has rooted itself over the millennium. The auras of love and friendship have been supplanted by pragmatic substitutes, ones that infer oneness and shared ideals, a collective mentality if you will. Whether this switch to emotional temperance was coincidental or contrived, the task of not losing touch with those fleeting human qualities has fallen to Cerella. There is a worthiness factor to emotion that will benefit Eridanus, particularly because their current Earth-induced interaction is not going to end.

And that this prominent heiress has taken such interest is truly a stroke of luck for the McKinneys specifically and Earth in general. Given their druthers, Ekcello and his like may well have dismissed Earth as a lost cause. Without the “love” Cerella has shown, even Celeste would not have been able to comfortably call Eridanus “home” —


THE RETURN TRIP

Neo-humanity

Episode 230


page 208

You Oughta Be a Picture – WIF @ the Movies

Leave a comment

 True Stories That

Should Be Movies

Reading today’s headlines is undertaken at one’s own peril. The increasingly dire news is filled with a seemingly never-ending glut of brutality, corruption, and disease. Fortunately, there are always the movies to provide a distraction from the wicked, wicked world.

Although the entertainment industry isn’t immune from the chaos and destruction of the coronavirus, sweeping changes are now taking place that includes production safety measures and how movies are being released to the public.

For now, large crowd scenes are gone. The same goes for any steamy sex encounters (unless the actors are already a couple off-screen). However, history remains a valuable goldmine of untold stories that would make great movies — even if they star sock puppets or filmed entirely in clay animation.

10. Un-Brotherly Love

Formed in Manchester in 1991, Oasis would emerge as the kings of Brit-pop (although Blur fans will vehemently disagree) with several chart-topping hits, including “Wonderwall,” “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” and “Champagne Supernova.” The same relentless drive that propelled the band’s success also nearly ended in fratricide.

Throughout their meteoric career, the brothers Gallagher created a legacy marked by booze, brawls, and belligerent banter that usually involved the C-word. One of the more infamous disputes involved a live performance of MTV Unplugged at London’s Royal Festival Hall in 1996. Claiming illness, younger brother Liam pulled out at the last minute only to turn up with ‘refreshments’ in the balcony to heckle his bandmates during the performance.

Although Oasis hasn’t played together in over a decade, rumors have recently swirled of a possible reunion. Music fans probably shouldn’t hold their collective breath. Regardless of whether the lads ever decide to mend old fences, this script has already been written, and you can bet your [bleepin’] arse it’ll be [bleepin’] good theater.

9. Josh Gibson

He was dubbed “The Black Babe Ruth” and widely considered the best player of his generation. However, Negro League star Josh Gibson did something “The Bambino” never achieved: smack a home run out of Yankee Stadium. More impressively, the blast wasn’t even the power-slugger’s most impressive feat.

For baseball fans, stories of Gibson’s diamond heroics abound. Whether or not some of the tales are apocryphal is irrelevant — Josh Gibson possessed the kind of rare talent in which anything seemed possible.

Born in 1911 during the Jim Crow era in Georgia, Gibson’s family later relocated to Pittsburgh, where his prodigious baseball skills were honed. The solidly-built catcher spent his entire baseball career in the Negro Leagues, Mexican and Caribbean Winter Leagues, starring for elite teams such as the Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords over a 17-year career.

Gibson routinely out-performed white opponents in exhibition games throughout the 1930s and ’40s. Baseball historians estimate that he hit more than 800 total home runs that includes crushing a ball 600 feet during a 1941 Winter League game in Puerto Rico.

In 1943, Gibson fell into a coma and was later diagnosed to have a brain tumor. He refused medical treatment and continued playing despite suffering from recurring headaches as his condition grew steadily worse. At the age of 35, Gibson died of a stroke on January 20, 1947 — just three months before Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier.

Although Robinson’s historic achievement can never be diminished, most old-timers agree that he wasn’t the best African-American player. That honor goes to Josh Gibson, who would posthumously be inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

8. The Winning Ace

Sgt. Keith Chisholm had already earned ace status (five or more kills) and the Distinguished Flying Medal when fate took a near-fatal turn on October 12, 1941. The Australian fighter pilot was shot down over the English Channel and later taken to a POW camp in Germany. Relying on his wits and sheer determination, he would eventually escape. Twice.

Originally from Petersham, New South Wales, Chisholm had trained as a dentist when war broke out and soon joined the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). He was assigned to Squadron 452, the first Australian squadron formed in Britain during World War II. The Spitfire unit featured several other outstanding pilots, including “Paddy” Finucane (more on him later), and became one of the war’s most successful squadrons.

Chisholm was initially held at Stalag VIII-B Lamsdorf in Silesia, which is now part of southwestern Poland. The airman managed to escape after swapping identities with another prisoner to join an outside work camp. Although he was later caught, Chisholm pulled the same stunt again. This time it worked.

For nearly three years, Chisholm cleverly evaded the Nazis while also collaborating with the resistance in Poland and France. His schoolboy athleticism also came to the fore during an incident in which the Aussie used a rugby tackle to push an official into the Vistula River. He eventually made his way back to England and later returned to Australia, earning the Military Cross for ‘his dogged persistence and careful planning’ in successfully escaping from the enemy.

7. Dr. Pat

Irish-born athletes have a long, illustrious tradition with the hammer throw, earning gold in five out of the first six Olympiads. According to ancient folklore, the mythological hero, Cú Chulainn, was said to have hurled a chariot wheel great distances. Fittingly, a modern-day legend became the first athlete to win an Olympic gold medal for the Free Irish State at the 1928 Games in Amsterdam.

In previous years, Irish champions but had been forced to compete for Great Britain or had immigrated to America. But a medical student from County Cork would change that. Although he stood only 5-foot-11, Pat O’Callaghan relied on his explosive power and quick feet to become the best in the world. Four years later, he yearned for another chance at Olympic glory — and would travel 5,000 miles to get it.

The 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles featured plenty of sunshine and glamour at its modern Roman-style Coliseum. Athletes from 37 nations participated in the Summer spectacle while hobnobbing with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars like Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and his equally famous actress wife, Mary Pickford. But the real drama would star a shamrock-clad Irish doctor in search of gold.

Unbeknownst to O’Callaghan, the arena’s throwing surface was unusually hard and ill-suited for his long spiked shoes designed for grass. He struggled as a result until a teammate helped him perform minor surgery with a hacksaw and file down the doc’s spikes. Despite trailing throughout the competition, O’Callaghan unleashed an enormous effort on his final throw to grab victory and raise the Tricolour once again.

While in LA, MGM boss Louis B. Meyer offered O’Callaghan the role of “Tarzan” which the good doctor turned down. After all, he had patients to see back home in Ireland. But that didn’t stop “Dr. Pat” from celebrating his well-deserved win in Prohibition America.

As the story goes, O’Callaghan had smuggled a few bottles of poitín (Irish moonshine) in his suitcase for the long voyage ahead. Upon arrival, a customs official had questioned him about the clanking bottles. The fast-thinking Irishman replied, “Medicine. I’m the team doctor.”

6. Golden Eagle

Lilli Henoch didn’t merely win — she dominated. Coming of age in Berlin during the 1920s, she displayed a natural all-around talent in several sports, making her accomplishments even more impressive considering the few opportunities available for female athletes at the time.

Henoch joined the Berlin Sports Club (BSC) in 1919 and wasted no time making an impact. She helped pioneer their women’s athletics program and became the first female to receive the “Golden Eagle” — the prestigious club’s highest award. Between 1922 and 1926, the superstar set five world records in athletics and won ten German championship titles, competing in the shot-put, discus, long jump, and BSC’s 4 x 100-meter relay.

Unfortunately, she was denied competing in the Olympics during her prime because Germany wasn’t allowed to send athletes in 1920 and 1924 as punishment for WWI. She would also be persecuted for being Jewish — a crime that eventually resulted in fatal consequences.

As the Nazi war machine kicked into high gear, Jews were forcibly removed from their homes, and all non-Aryan schools became shuttered. Despite her status as a national icon and well-respected coach, Henoch soon found herself laboring as a harvest worker outside of Berlin. In early fall 1942, she and her mother, Rose, were put in a livestock railcar and deported to Riga, Latvia.

The journey from Berlin lasted three days. Records show them listed as “missing” on September 8, 1942. They were most likely murdered by Einsatzgruppen death squads and buried in the mass graves outside of Rumbula.

The memory of Lilli Henoch has been honored with various landmarks around Berlin, including a small brass-plated stone known as a Stolperstein (“stumbling block”). The tribute is one of the 60,000 similar engraved memorials placed across 21 countries in Europe that serves as a poignant reminder of Nazi crimes.

5. Spitfire Paddy

As the Battle of Britain raged during the summer of 1940, the Allies were in desperate need of courageous pilots and a bit of luck to stop the German onslaught through Europe. The Royal Air Force (RAF) would get both with “Paddy” Finucane (pronounced FIN-NEW-KIN), who quickly emerged as a top ace and eventually became the youngest wing commander in RAF history while flying his shamrock-adorned Spitfire.

Born in Dublin in 1920, Finucane later relocated with his family to London as a teenager. He joined the RAF at the minimum age requirement of 17 and a half and went on to record 32 kills in operations over the English Channel and Nazi-occupied France. He also earned the Distinguished Flying Cross with two bars and the Distinguished Service Order and was personally decorated by King George VI at Buckingham Palace. The Irishman’s story is even more remarkable when considering his father once fought against the British during the Easter Rising of 1916.

Fearless, personable, and good-looking, Finucane became a worldwide celebrity when the war’s outcome still hung in the balance. He even found time for romance and became engaged to an attractive young woman named Jean Woolford, who lived on the same street as the Finucane family. Sadly, the ace pilot’s story and the ‘girl next door’ would end tragically when his Spitfire crashed in the English Channel in 1942 and vanished into the sea. He was only 21.

An outpouring of grief spread across the globe as military personnel, friends, family, and admirers mourned the loss. A gathering of over 2,500 people attended his memorial at Westminster Cathedral, and Finucane’s name was later inscribed among ‘The Few’ on the Battle of Britain Memorial on London’s Embankment.

4. Noir Christmas

The perennial holiday favorite, “White Christmas” sung by Bing Crosby remains the world’s best-selling single, selling more than 50 million copies. Although the song’s lyrics evoke memories of more innocent and happier times, the popular crooner real life reveals a much different tale replete with gunsels, dames, and dimly lit, smoke-filled rooms.

At the peak of his fame, Crosby was easily one of the most beloved — and well-paid — entertainers in the world. But his wholesome image as a golf-loving, family man stood in stark contrast to a darker side plagued by his addiction to gambling and alcohol.

The dangerous combination would lead to alleged connections to the mafia that required a bailout from his Rat Pack pal, Frank Sinatra. Crosby’s shadowy shenanigans would result in the FBI keeping tabs on him, files that later revealed ties to mobster Bugsy Siegel, and two of Al Capone’s top henchmen, Frank Nitti and Jack “Machine Gun” McGurn.

Following Crosby’s death from a massive heart attack in 1977, the song and dance man’s reputation received another black eye with the release of a tell-all memoir by his oldest son, Gary. The scathing book, Going My Own Way, depicts his father as a physically and psychologically abusive tyrant — the polar opposite of the benevolent priest character that earned the elder Crosby an Academy Award for Best Actor in the 1944 film, Going My Way.

3. The Human Howitzer

More than ever, America needs heroes as a reminder of the sacrifice that made the country great. Men such as Al Blozis, an athlete-turned-soldier, who stood 6-foot-6 and weighed 250 pounds of solid muscle. His larger-than-life persona would even warrant three nicknames: “The Human Howitzer,” “Jersey City Giant,” and “Hoya Hercules.”

The son of Lithuanian immigrants, Blozis grew up in New Jersey, where he broke 24 high school records in track and field. He later accepted an athletic scholarship to Georgetown University and also starred on the football team while establishing several world records in the shot put.

As the nation’s top thrower, Blozis set his sights on winning gold in the Olympics. Worldwide conflict, however, would lead to the cancellation of both the 1940 and 1944 games. He made several attempts to enlist but was turned away due to height restrictions. Instead, the multi-talented sportsman signed with the Giants and enjoyed immediate success in the NFL as an All-Pro defensive end.

He eventually convinced Army officials to lift their size ban and reported to Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia. There, the modern-day Hercules added to his legend by tossing a grenade nearly 95 yards. Before shipping out to Europe, Blozis joined his Giant teammates in the 1944 NFL Championship against the Green Bay Packers at the Polo Grounds. It would be the last game he ever played.

The Army assigned him to the 110th Regiment, 28th Infantry Division, near the Vosges Mountains in France’s Alsace region. During an evening snowstorm on January 31, 1945, Lt. Blozis went looking for two soldiers from his platoon after the men had failed to return from a scouting mission earlier in the day. Despite facing a well-entrenched enemy, pitch-black darkness, and freezing conditions, he set out alone to find them. The towering champion never returned and was later declared KIA.

A simple white cross memorializes 1st Lt. Al Blozis at the Lorraine American Cemetery in Saint -Avold, France. The serene, lush grounds of Europe’s largest US WWII cemetery sits peacefully in a region now known as the Grand Est (The Big East) — a fitting tribute to a true American hero.

2. Bird is the Word

When news broke in 2009 that former Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher, Mark “The Bird” Fidrych had died in a farming accident, the sporting world mourned the loss of one of its most unforgettable characters. His brief, injury-prone career lasted only five years, but his first year in the Bigs is the stuff of legend.

The year is 1976. Rocky tops at the box office. The American bi-centennial is on full display everywhere. And a gawky right-handed pitcher for the Detroit Tigers became an overnight sensation en route to winning Rookie of the Year. His triumphs on the mound and boyish charm made him a massive fan favorite, a budding superstar who freely admitted that if it weren’t for baseball, he’d be pumping gas back home in Northborough, Massachusetts.

With long, shaggy hair, the free-spirited hurler thrilled the Motor City with his quirky on-field theatrics that included talking to the ball during games. During one remarkable stretch, he won back-to-back 11-inning, complete-game victories. Astonishing. He was later named the American League’s starting pitcher in the All-Star Game and finished the season 19-9.

In 1977, he started the season strong and appeared poised to continue his success until experiencing the first of several arm injuries. An un-diagnosed tear to his rotator cuff would ultimately derail his promising MLB career that ended in 1980.

Fidrych then retired to Northborough, where he and his wife raised a family on their 107-acre farm. Over the years, he occasionally appeared at old-timers games in Detroit, but preferred his quiet, rural lifestyle and being just another blue-collar worker, husband, and father.

Perhaps more than any other sport, baseball is heavily steeped in nostalgia and enduring memories that slowly fade but manage to endure the test of time. That said, true aficionados will never forget that magical summer of ’76 and still hear the crowd’s echoes, chanting “We Want The Bird, We Want The Bird.”

1. Non Stop Go-Gos

The eponymously titled 2020 documentary, The Go-Gos, explores the rise and fall of the first chart-topping, all-female band to write their own songs and play their own instruments. While informative and engaging, interspersing old footage with recent interviews by all the band members, the presentation is missing a crucial element that only a feature film could properly deliver: drama. And more specifically, the topsy turvy rollercoaster ride of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll taken by these legendary ladies.

The story opens in the late ’70s in LA, where a teenaged girl named “Dottie Danger” aspires to be a singer in a punk rock band. She later meets a few other like-minded gals and starts gigging in local seedy bars and clubs. While hanging out at the infamous ‘Rock and Roll Denny’s’ on Sunset Blvd., the group settled on the name “The Go-Gos” and soon broke away from their punky persona to a more radio-friendly, power-pop sound.

Belinda Carlisle, having ditched “Dottie” for her real name, now fronted the new lineup, featuring Jane Wiedlin, Kathy Valentine, Gina Schock, and Charlotte Caffey. After signing to a major record label, the band released their debut album in 1981, Beauty and the Beat. Hit singles followed, including “We Got The Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed” — both smash hits that helped propel the album to number one.

Shortly afterward, the real fireworks began. Fame and boodles of money quickly led to non-stop partying and lurking troubles. While cocaine was clearly the drug of choice for Carlisle and the others, lead guitarist Caffrey developed a crippling heroin addiction. Nonetheless, the band managed to soldier on, selling-out arenas worldwide to frenzied crowds. Along the way, Carlisle also became romantically involved with the LA Dodgers’ first baseman, Mike Marshall. Home run!

But alas, what goes up must come down. The band’s third album, Talk Show, underperformed as the band slowly imploded (aka “creative differences”). By 1985, nasty in-fighting fuelled by jealousy and increased drug abuse eventually took its toll, and the Go-Gos called it quits and went their separate ways.

Carlisle would have a successful solo career despite continually powdering her nose for nearly 30 years. Incredibly, she even took part in a late 1980s anti-drug commercial — which is kinda like a pathological lying narcissist making a public service announcement about the virtues of honesty and humility.

Fortunately, the story does get a Hollywood ending. The group later buried the hatchet and got back together to perform and record new material. Also, Head Over Heels, a musical featuring the songs of the Go-Go’s, enjoyed a recent successful run on Broadway at the Hudson Theatre.


You Oughta Be a Picture

WIF @ the Movies

Travel Agents Need Not Apply – WIF DNA Travel

Leave a comment

Places Where

People Have

Rarely Been

Through technological advancement and good old-fashioned human stubbornness, much of the Earth has been mapped and human boots have touched down on virtually every continent, island, desert, forest, and icy plain… or have they?

It might surprise some people to learn that there are still vast areas of the Earth left uninhabited, explored, or even mapped properly. While it is true that much of the Earth has been surveyed, vast portions of wilderness in Chile haven’t been, a handful of mountain summits remain untouched, countless cavern systems have gone unexplored, and the ocean floor remains a vast, alien world left unmapped by humans.

Here are the top 10 places where people have never been. (Except Photographers)

10. Muchu Chhish, Pakistan

In 2003, Bhutan banned all climbing, but some expeditions have been able to obtain permits. In 2014, English mountaineer, Pete Thompson, attempted to scale the mountain, hoping to reach the summit. Thompson expected to have to climb the final 1,453 meters without ropes, but the presence of hard ice derailed his plan to reach the top, forcing him to turn back at the 6,000-meter mark.

Prior to Thompson’s attempt, a Spanish team was rumored to have made it all the way to 6,650 meters and remains the highest point on the mountain anyone has reached.

Pakistan is home to 108 peaks taller than 7,000 meters, and many of these peaks belong to the Karakoram mountain range, of which 40 to 50 percent is covered in glaciers. This mountain range is so large that it borders China, India, Pakistan, and even extends to Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The Karakoram range is also one of the world’s most geologically active areas, as the range was created by the interaction of the Indo-Australian plate and the Eurasian plate.

9. 90% of the Ocean Floor

Earth’s ocean floor is a vast, alien world, which remains almost entirely unexplored by humans. While satellites have managed to map almost 100 percent of the ocean floor at low resolutions, more than 80% of it has yet to be explored or mapped at higher resolutions.

James Cameron famously explored a portion of the Pacific Northern Valley, known as Challenger Deep with a one-man submersible. Challenger deep is thought to be the deepest known point in the Earth’s seabed, reaching a depth of 10,920 meters. Cameron’s dive managed to reach an impressive depth of 10,908 meters, setting the world record.

One of the main reasons why so much of the ocean floor has yet to be mapped is due to the difficulty of developing vessels which can survive the immense pressures and conditions present in the deepest parts of the ocean floor. The deepest portions of the Mariana Trench experience a pressure of eight tons per square inch, enough to crush the human body into a messy pulp.

Before the first divers made their first journey into Challenger Deep more than 50 years ago, it was thought that the bottom of the ocean was a muddy, lifeless desert. But since then, we’ve learned that the reality is quite the opposite. Life thrives in our oceans, and if we could explore these seemingly alien worlds, we might find new extremophiles and unknown lifeforms. A prospect that has many scientists excited.

8. Northern Forest Complex, Myanmar

The Northern Forest Complex in Myanmar remains one of the largest areas of uninterrupted wilderness in South Asia, extending across lowland forests, and wetlands filled with coniferous trees (meaning they have scale-like or needle-shaped leaves). And just above the Northern Myanmar tree line are the majestic, jagged snow-covered mountain peaks.

The region boasts some of the greatest biodiversity in South Asia, many areas remaining virtually untouched by human explorers. It’s believed that numerous species of tigers, elephants, and birds make up a significant portion of that biodiversity.

The heart of the forest is nearly 13,679 kilometers and is the world’s largest tiger reserve.

Despite the relative scarcity of human life in the forest, about 1 million people live around the forest’s borders, living both inland and on the adjacent coast.

Though much of the forest remains under environmental protection sanctions, many of those sanctions are expiring, which some experts suggest could lead to disaster for the future of the forest complex’s continued biodiversity. Illegal animal tracking continues to be a problem, China being a major player in the trade of exotic animals taken from the area.

7. Namibia Desert

The Namibia Desert is one of the most hostile places to life on Earth, and it’s currently thought to be the world’s oldest desert. Because of the extreme heat and arid conditions, the region remains almost entirely uninhabited.

The Skeleton Coast is as deadly as it is beautiful, with white sprawling sands and shipwrecks from bygone eras littering its shores as if warning of the dangers the desert might contain should it be visited by unwary travelers.

Despite this, the Namib Desert and the Skeletal Coast are home to a surprising array of wildlife, such as baboons, leopards, cheetah, and brown and spotted hyena, and hippos have been spotted from time to time wading in the waters of the Skeleton Coast.

The only real traffic the area experiences is due to important trade routes.

6. Hang Son Doong Cave, Vietnam

Hang Son Doong Cave was first discovered in 1990 by a local farmer named Ho Khanh, who was seeking shelter from a passing storm in the jungle. Ho Khanh noticed that clouds and the sound of a rushing subsurface river was coming from a massive hole in the limestone in the jungle. He survived the storm but got lost making his way out of the jungle, and the location of the cave was thought to have been lost for 18 years.

Fortunately for us, he rediscovered the entrance to the cave in 2008 while hunting. The cave is now thought to be one of the largest in the world, stretching an impressive five kilometers long and reaching heights of 200 meters. The first expedition to the cave, led by a group of UK divers, was unable to map the entire cave system, due to lacking the proper equipment to continue.

The cave is home to an impressively unique eco-system, featuring its own localized weather system. Extremely rare limestone cave pearls remain scattered throughout the cave, resting in dried pools, and it’s also home to the largest stalagmite ever discovered, measuring in at a staggering 80 meters.

Because of the delicate eco-system, people are not allowed to enter Son Doong Cave, and much of it remains unexplored. It is thought that the system could be even larger than original estimates suggested.

5. Sakha Republic, Russia

Despite being the largest administrative subdivision in the world, and the largest part of the Russian Federation, the Sakha Republic is a frozen wasteland, where ancient, extinct animals have long been preserved in permafrost. It gets as cold as -43.5 degrees Celsius in the winter, and only 19 degrees in summer. It’s one of the least populated places in the world, home to less than 1 million people despite being large enough to fit several countries inside of it.

Russian folklore tells that God flew over this immense expanse of frozen land, carrying Earth’s treasures, and because of the extreme cold, his hands froze, causing him to drop those treasures all throughout the Sakha Republic. The region is home to some of the richest deposits of natural resources, making up 82% of diamonds, 17% of gold, 61% of uranium, and 5% of iron ores in Russia.

Vast portions of wilderness in the Sakha Republic have been left completely unexplored by man.

4. Gangkhar Puensum, Bhutan

Considered to be the world’s tallest “unclimbed” mountain by many, Gangkhar Puensum’s peak has never been scaled, and it’s unlikely that anyone ever will if the government has anything to say about it. The peaks of Gangkhar Puensum are sacred to the people of Bhutan, and it’s considered an extreme taboo for anyone to attempt to scale its slopes and peaks.

But ordinances and taboos can’t stop everyone, and since part of the mountain extends across the Chinese border, the first and only attempt to assail it was led by a Japanese climbing team in 1998. They were stopped short of their goal to explore the uncharted mountain by political fueled outrage from Bhutan.

The mountain remains untrodden by humans.

3. Karjiang I, Tibet

When viewed from a distance, Karjiang mountain looks like a taller, icy mountain was smashed in by an asteroid, creating a large crater around which the sharp, frozen peaks point inward. Like most mountains in Tibet, it’s an incredible sight. With a height of 7,221 meters, Karjiang’s first peak remains one of the tallest unclimbed peaks in the world.

The Karjiang mountain rests near the Bhutan-China border in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

The last serious attempt to reach its summit was by a Dutch expedition in 2001. At some point in their climb, the Dutch explorers had to turn back due to harsh weather conditions, though they did manage to reach an elevation of 6,820 meters, climbing Karjiang III, before retreating.

While Karjiang I remains indominable, Karjiang II’s summit was reached in 1986 by a party of Japanese explorers led by N. Shigo.

The difficult with Karjiang I is that its slopes are prone to avalanches and the ever-shifting weather patterns make it nearly impossible to predict what conditions will be present during an expedition.

2. Greenland Northern Islands

Greenland is the world’s largest island, and it’s home to stunning glaciers and ice covered mountains which stab up from the Earth like jagged blades. The country is recognized as an autonomous part of Denmark, and most of it is uninhabited, featuring less than 58,000 residents. Greenland’s untamed landscapes tell a story dating back nearly 3.8 billion years and the few travelers that are able to venture there tell of how geological time seems uniquely evident when looking upon the country’s vast glaciated peaks and immensely diverse landscapes.

In 2005, melting polar ice revealed new islands, which escaped categorization when Greenland was first mapped nearly a century prior. The discovery of new lands connected to the immense island is just one of many secrets which could be revealed if climate change continues unimpeded. Scientists are very concerned that global warming could lead to the melting of the glaciers which cover most of the island’s interior.

The country’s largest geological feature, the Jakobshavn Glacier, moves at an incredible speed of 30 meters a day, faster than any other glacier on Earth.

It’s thought that this ice sheet was the source of the iceberg which sunk the Titanic.

1. Northern Patagonia, Chile

The vast wilderness of Northern Patagonia is home to temperate rainforests, glaciers, fjords, and hot springs, and it’s one of Chile’s least populated regions. While the Los Glaciares Park in Argentina and Torres del Paine National Park in Chile continue to be tourism hubs, outside of that area the wilderness remains largely unexplored. As many of the tourist sites touting the desirability of the area for its appeal to outdoorsmen attest, the safety of the average hiker depends greatly on which trails they choose to take. There are vast regions so inhospitable, that even the toughest explorer might have issues navigating the terrain.

The Aysen Region features hanging glaciers, immense fjords which take on complex patterns, stunning blue caverns, and steaming, dangerous rainforests.

The area is only accessible by the Carretera Austral, the name given to Chile’s Route 7 highway.

The ice fields are so vast, in fact, that they’re comparable to those found in the arctic circle and prove incredibly difficult to map properly.


Travel Agents Need Not Apply

WIF DNA Travel

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 163

Leave a comment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 163

…No strangers to astronomy, like any astronauts worthy of his or her spacesuit, the combined knowledge of the McKinneys serves them well …

The Great Orion Nebula was captured with a Canon T1i using a Celestron CGEM-800 telescope by Philip A. Cruden

Image result for speeding away gifCeleste gradually recovers from time distorting space speed and the resulting blackout, examining Sammy for signs of physical harm. It seems that the 1st baby in space has slept through the 100-to-300,000 mph acceleration. She is very much like any other child when come to riding in the family car; after a couple boring minutes they are fast asleep, usually for the duration.

For the duration of their trip away from their solar system home-space is:

  1. up for grabs
  2. one guess is as good as the next
  3. let the meter run
  4. the GPS is on the fritz

Unlike distances between planets in the same sun-system, intergalactic space travel entails the equivalent time light needs to travel from point A to point B, and where the only significant “landmark” celestial bodies are an occasional asteroid, meteors of erratic size, and the granddaddy of them all, the wandering comet.

No strangers to astronomy, like any astronauts worthy of his or her spacesuit, the combined knowledge of the McKinneys serves them well. They are charting their progress through this new astronomical perspective with the aid of galactic star charts salvaged from the dear departed Tycho plus old fashioned reconnoitering.

orion“Do you remember the history syllabuses that taught us about Alpha Centauri correctly being the closest star to our star and all the speculation about where other forms of life may come from,” asks Sampson about the horse ‘n buggy days of dim understanding.

“Yes I do. They were a light-year short in calculating the distance and didn’t even know that it was part of a three star system.”

They harken back to when the Hubble Telescope altered cosmic perspectives from seeing uncountable #’s of stars to reveal a jaw-dropping millions of galaxies.

Then to have had the brief privilege of working with Space Colony’s 20” mirror, you could say that the Universe is getting smaller and bigger at the same time. “But we are not traveling on a course that remotely resembles a path to Centauri. I think we are going to dissect the Orion Constellation, right about at “The Hunter’s” navel.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Lego Hubble Telescope

Episode 163


page 154

Curious Europe on a Dime – WIF Travel

Leave a comment

Interesting Facts

About Europe

Isn’t it scary how many people don’t know if Europe is a country or a continent? Wow…
What kind of expectations should we have from the poor, ignorant people if even the president called Europe a country?!

Now, let’s give the man the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he wanted to say “countries like in Europe” and not “countries like Europe”

But it is a continent and a quite enchanting one at that.

10. Istanbul, the City of Two Continents

Since ancient times, Magical Istanbul has united Asia and Europe through the mighty Strait of Bosporus. Without a doubt, this amazing city is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Istanbul is the only metropolis in the world bridging two continents. Istanbul was Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2010, a program initiated by the European Union.

Throughout history, the city has been the capital of many empires. Napoleon Bonaparte once said: “If the earth was a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.”

If you are considering breakfast in Asia and lunch in Europe, Istanbul is the place for you!

9. Europe’s Most Famous and Active Volcanoes

Etna is Europe’s largest active volcano. With a maximum elevation of about 3350 m, Mount Etna is a stratovolcano situated in Sicily, southern Italy.

The tallest European volcano is actually one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Etna erupted again this year and one of the most recent eruptions occurred at the end of July. You can look for updates on this topic browsing the website of Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia. An English version is available. The volcano’s eruptions have been documented since ancient times, more exactly since 1500 BC. It’s the longest period of documented eruptions in the world.

Stromboli is also one of the planet’s most active volcanoes. It is one of the eight Aeolian Islands (Isole Eolie), a volcanic archipelago off the coast. According to specialists, Stromboli is the only active volcano on the European mainland.

Mount Vesuvius, best known for its eruption that completely destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, last erupted 67 years ago, in 1944.

Vatnajökull (Iceland) is the largest European glacier in volume and underneath its ice-cap are at least seven volcanoes located.

8. The Largest/Smallest Country in the World

Image result for vatican

Europe is home to both the smallest country in the world, Vatican City State

(Stato della Città del Vaticano), and the largest, Russia (by both population and area). China is the country with most neighbors (15), followed by Russia (14) and Brazil (10).

According to the CIA World Factbook, Russia’s area compromises 17,098,242 sq km (land 16,377,742 sq km; water 720,500 sq km), while Vatican’s area is only 0.44 sq km. The Vatican City State is a UNESCO world heritage centre, the only site to encompass an entire state.

7. The Merry Cemetery in Romania

Cemeteries are often sad places, but they can also be amusing and entertaining. Sapanta, in Northern Romania, is worldwide famous for its Merry Cemetery, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sapanta is a unique cemetery and a major touristic attraction.  What is so unusual about it? The atypical design of the tombstones. The tombstones are big crosses sculpted from oak wood. They are painted by hand in vivid colors such as red, blue, green, yellow and engraved with funny epitaphs briefly describing the life or the circumstances in which these persons passed away.

The man behind this concept is Romanian craftsman Ioan Stan Patras, who started sculpting the crosses in 1935. The ancient culture of the Dacians, the Romanian’s ancestors, viewed death as liberation and the soul as immortal. Sapanta preserves this positive attitude towards death and welcomes it with a smile.

6. The Statue of Liberty was Constructed in France

 

Unknown to many of us, the famous Statue of Liberty was designed by Frédéric Bartholdi. The colossal neoclassical sculpture was constructed in France and given as a gift of friendship to the United States of America. Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the brilliant French engineer behind the Eiffel Tower in Paris, made the statue’s steel framework.

The total overall height of the statue  is 305 feet, 6 inches, and the seven rays on Lady’s Liberty crown represent the seven continents.

Replicas of Lady Liberty have been created all over the world, the most famous being located in France.

5. Europe, the Meaning

Image result for europa myth

According to ancient Greek mythology, Europa was a beautiful Phoenician princess. She was the daughter of Agenor, king of Tyre. Zeus felt in love with Europa, so he decided to appear in front of her as a magnificent white bull to gain her trust. Zeus’s power of metamorphosis is a key element in Greek mythology.

The princess climbed on the bull’s back and was immediately carried to Crete, where Zeus revealed himself to Europa in all his glory. The king of Gods and Europa had three children – Sarpedon, Minos and Rhadamanthys.

Etymologically speaking, the word Europe comes from ancient Greek and means broad, wide-gazing, broad of aspect.

4. The Mediterranean Was Once a Desert

Image result for Messinian Salinity Crisis

In the last 40 years solid evidence has been found that the Mediterranean Sea frequently dried up completely in the past. The event is also known as the Messinian Salinity Crisis. The amazing story of the discovery is told in “The Mediterranean Was a Desert, Voyage of the Glomar Challenger”  by Kenneth J. Hsu.

According to Rob Butler, “the ‘Salinity Crisis’ in the Mediterranean represents one of the most dramatic examples environmental change outside of glaciated areas in the relatively young geological record.”

3. Greatest Empires

Many of the greatest empires in history were based in Europe. The British Empire was at one time the largest empire in the world. It covered more than 36 million square kilometres and had a population between 480 and 570 million people. At the peak of the Empire’s power, it was said that the “sun never sets” on it, because the sun was always shining on at least one part of the Empire. It covered a quarter of the Earth’s surface.

Other notable colonial empires were the Spanish Empire, the Russian Empire, the French Empire, the Portuguese Empire etc.

The Roman Empire, a pre-colonial empire, often described as the cradle of modern civilization, was one of the world’s most successful empires.

2. The Longest Names

Image result for Llanfair

Prepare yourself for some of the longest names officially recognized. It is hard to beat Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu, the M?ori name for a hill in New Zealand, but let’s give it a try.

A village in Wales, United Kingdom contains 58 letters and is the longest European one-word place-name. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch means “Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave.” The shorter version of this name is Llanfairpwllgwyngyll.

Check out these other unusually long names: Äteritsiputeritsipuolilautatsijänkä, located in Finland, Siemieniakowszczyzna in Poland and Newtownmountkennedy in Ireland.

1. Age of Migrations

The “Age of Migrations” remains one of the most unknown facts about Europe. There was a period in history, also called the Migration Period, when various tribes flooded Europe.

The first phase of the migration movement came to an end around 500 AD, when the Germanic tribes (Franks, Goths, Saxons, Vandals, Lombards etc.) established their own kingdoms in Central, Western, Southern and SE Europe. This period was followed by the second phase of the Migration Period ((ca. 500-700 AD), the migration of the Slavic people.

The invasions of the Avars and Bulgarians, the Muslim Conquest of Sicily, the Hungarian Invasions and the invasion of the Vikings are other important moments in European history.

This is how the rich course of history has shaped and defined Europe’s peoples and their intangible culture over the centuries.


Enchanting Europe on a Dime

WIF Travel

Chance Fluke Luck Quirk Random – Historical Coincidences

Leave a comment

Bizarre

Historical

Coincidences

Given how many humans have existed in the world and how many events and incidents, both big and small, happen every day, history is littered with examples of strange coincidences. But the ones we will be looking at today are so unusual that they strain credulity and, should they have come from the pages of a book, they would have been deemed contrived or unbelievable.

10. Poe’s Tale of Cannibalism

At one point, the ship wrecks during a storm and only four men survive and are washed ashore. With no food whatsoever, after a few days they resort to the most drastic solution – cannibalism. They draw straws and the unlucky one is a young man named Richard Parker who is killed and eaten.

At first, this would seem like a straightforward, albeit grisly story. But then we move forward 46 years and something strange happens. In 1884, a yacht called the Mignonette left England headed for Sydney, Australia. Carrying four men, it also shipwrecked and left the seafarers stranded with no food. As a last resort, they also cannibalized one of their own – a 17-year-old named Richard Parker. The only main difference was that the survivors saw no need to draw straws as the real-life Parker had fallen ill after drinking seawater and was considered a goner.

Eerie coincidences aside, the case that followed after the remaining men were rescued and arrested for murder represented a landmark ruling in English law. It stated that necessity does not excuse murder, meaning you cannot kill someone else to save your own life.

9. Where the War Began and Ended

On July 21, 1861, the First Battle of Bull Run marked the first major engagement in the American Civil War. Of course, the war was horrible for many people, but it was a particularly strange inconvenience for one wholesale grocer named Wilmer McLean. He lived on a plantation near Manassas, Virginia, and the Bull Run River passed right through his land. In fact, most of the battle took place on his property and the Confederate leader, General P.G.T. Beauregard even commandeered McLean’s house to use as his headquarters.

Obviously, McLean and his family couldn’t live in the middle of a war so they relocated. A few years later, they were residing in a house near a village called Appomattox Court House. As it happens, that is where the last battle of the Civil War took place. Afterwards, Confederate General Robert E. Lee officially surrendered to Union leader Ulysses S. Grant. And he did it in the parlor of Wilmer McLean’s new home.

The McLeans later moved back to their previous estate and simply abandoned the house in Appomattox County. They also defaulted on the loans they took out to buy it so “Surrender House”, as it came to be known, was confiscated and sold at auction. Today, it operates as a museum and it is a designated National Historical Monument.

As for Wilmer McLean, he liked to say that the Civil War “began in his front yard and ended in his front parlor.”

8. The Curse of Tecumseh

Ever since 1840, American presidents have died according to a pattern which is remarkable enough that people have ascribed it to a curse. Every president who is elected in a year ending in 0 (something which happens every two decades) is fated to die in office.

First was William Henry Harrison. Elected in 1840, he died of pneumonia a month after being sworn in. Then, in 1860 came Abraham Lincoln, and we all know how that ended. In 1880, James Garfield was elected president and he was also assassinated by a man named Charles Guiteau.

William McKinley might have escaped this alleged curse if he stuck at just one term. Alas, in 1900 he was elected president to his second term, and a year later, he was shot and killed by an anarchist. Next up was Warren G. Harding, who suffered a stroke three years after being elected in 1920. Afterwards came Franklin Roosevelt who passed away of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1945. While he did die in office, he didn’t actually die during the term which allegedly sealed his fate. And last, but not least, there was JFK, who won the 1960 election and whose assassination is all too well-known.

As you can see, seven presidents followed this extraordinary pattern. Many see it for what it probably is – a series of incredible coincidences, but others claim it is a curse placed originally on William Henry Harrison by Tecumseh, leader of the Shawnee people, for the former’s role in Tecumseh’s Rebellion.

Ronald Reagan would have been next in line. He was elected in 1980 and, although someone did try to kill him, he survived his injuries and died of old age decades after he left office. Even if the curse was real, it appears that he broke it.

7. The Church Explosion

At 7:25 p.m., March 1, 1950, the West Side Baptist Church in Beatrice, Nebraska, exploded due to a natural gas leak ignited by the fire from the furnace. It was a Wednesday and every Wednesday at 7:20 p.m. sharp, the church choir gathered there to practice. People were expecting the worst as they approached the smoking rubble, but it soon became apparent that nobody had been injured in the blast. Even though the choir director was very strict about tardiness, on this particular night, none of the 15 choir members arrived on time.

It wasn’t one single thing that caused the delays, either, but rather a series of minor occurrences that detained each person enough to evade the deadly blast. The reverend and his family, for example, were late because his wife had to iron a dress at the last moment. Two sisters both had car trouble. Two high school girls wanted to finish listening to a radio program, while another student was struggling with her geometry homework. The pianist fell asleep after dinner. A man was late because he wanted to finish writing a letter he kept putting off, while one woman was simply feeling lazy because it was cold outside and her home was warm and cozy.

And so went all the other excuses. Unsurprisingly, given the nature of the circumstances, some people considered it divine intervention.

6. Right Place, Right Time

Joseph Figlock became a hero of Detroit due to a bizarre series of events that happened over the course of a year. One morning in 1937, Figlock was at his job as a street sweeper when he was struck by something that landed on his head and shoulders. That “something” was a baby girl who fell out a four-story window. Because Figlock broke her fall, the infant survived her drop that, otherwise, would have almost surely been fatal.

A year later, the street sweeper was back at his job when he was, again, hit by a falling object. And you guessed it – it was another baby. This time, it was 2-year-old David Thomas who also fell out of his window on the fourth floor. This baby did sustain some injuries but, once more, had escaped certain doom thanks to Joseph Figlock being in the right place, at the right time.

5. Miss Unsinkable

Violet Jessop was born in Argentina to Irish immigrants in 1887. When she turned 21, she found work as a ship stewardess and, in 1911, secured a position aboard the RMS Olympic, the first of the Olympic-class ocean liners built by the White Star Line at the start of the century.

At the time, these were the largest, most luxurious ships in the world. Jessop was probably thrilled with her new job but, pretty soon, she might have reconsidered her fortunes. In September 1911, Jessop was onboard the Olympic when it collided with a warship called the HMS Hawke. The collision wasn’t too bad and the ocean liner managed to make it to port without any fatalities.

This incident didn’t deter Jessop from continuing her career as a stewardess. Although she was content aboard the Olympic, her friends persuaded her that it would make for a much more exciting experience to work aboard the White Star Line’s new ocean liner. After all, this vessel was proclaimed to be “unsinkable” and its name was the Titanic.

You already know how this went down – just four days into its maiden voyage, the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank. Jessop survived the ordeal as she was lowered down into lifeboat 16 which was later picked up by the RMS Carpathia. She later recalled that, as the boat was being lowered, an officer put a baby in her lap. Later, aboard the Carpathia, a woman leaped at her, snatched the baby and ran. Jessop always assumed that was the mother, but she never saw either one of them again.

Then World War II started and Jessop served as a nurse for the British Red Cross. She worked aboard the Britannic, which was the third and last of the Olympic-class ocean liners and had been repurposed into a hospital ship. In 1916, the vessel suffered damage from a mine explosion and sank in the Aegean Sea. For the third time in five years, Violet Jessop had survived a shipwreck, retroactively earning her the nickname “Miss Unsinkable.”

4. The Opposing Graves

Just outside the Belgian town of Mons sits the St. Symphorien Military Cemetery which serves as the final resting place for over 500 soldiers who died in the First World War.

Many of these men perished in the Battle of Mons which took place on August 23, 1914, and is considered to be the first major action of the British army in the war. One of these men, however, died a little earlier. John Parr was a private who was born in London and lied about his age so he could enlist. He served as a reconnaissance cyclist and scouted the area ahead of his battalion. However, he was gunned down by enemy fire and died on August 21, at only 17 years of age. He is generally considered to be the first British serviceman killed in action during the First World War.

His grave is at St. Symphorien and opposite of it, just a few yards away, is the grave of Private George Ellison. He died years later on November 11, 1918. This date is significant because it is, in fact, the day that Germany and the Allies signed an armistice, bringing an end to the war. George Ellison was killed just 90 minutes before peace was declared, thus giving him the unfortunate distinction of being the last British soldier killed in the war.

These two graves face each other, although this was done completely unintentionally as nobody was aware of their “first” and “last” positions when they were buried.

3. Death at Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam was one of the greatest, most ambitious engineering projects of its day, but it came with a heavy price as a lot of people died during construction.

Exactly how many is a matter of debate. Officially, the death toll was 96, but historians argue that the real number would be much higher because the official version didn’t take into account workers who died off-site of construction-related injuries or illnesses. An inquiry by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation increased the number to 213 deaths between 1921 and 1935.

The first fatality was a surveyor named John Gregory Tierney who drowned in the Colorado River on December 20, 1921, after he got caught in a flash flood. Technically, another worker named Harold Connelly died first, but his demise was completely unconnected with the project as he drowned in the river when he went swimming.

Here is the truly tragic part – the last fatality registered during construction of the Hoover Dam occurred on December 20, 1935, exactly 14 years to the day after Tierney drowned, when a 25-year-old electrician’s helper plummeted 320 feet from one of the intake towers. That man was Patrick Tierney, the surveyor’s son.

2. The King and His Double

Some say that we all have a doppelganger somewhere in the world, a person who isn’t related to us in any way but they look just like us. King Umberto I of Italy found his doppelganger in 1900 when he went to eat at a little restaurant in Monza. He discovered that the proprietor looked almost exactly like him but, more than that, they had been born on the same day.

At this point, you would think this was more a case of twins separated at birth, but the coincidences did not stop there. Both men had married women named Margherita and had sons named Vittorio. Moreover, the restaurant owner had opened his establishment the day of King Umberto’s coronation.

Shocked to his core by these revelations, the king invited his doppelganger or long-lost twin to an event taking place the next day. Sadly, neither one made it. The next morning, the restaurateur was killed under unexplained conditions. Just hours later, when King Umberto found out about his demise, he was assassinated by an anarchist named Gaetano Bresci.

1. The Writer and the Comet

The life of American writer Mark Twain has been inexorably linked to the passing of Halley’s Comet from beginning to end.

This famous comet visits us every 75 to 76 years. It will next be visible in 2061, but a noteworthy appearance happened in November 1835. Just two weeks after its perihelion (meaning the point of its orbit which is closest to the Sun), Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri. He would go on to adopt the pen name Mark Twain and become America’s most celebrated author.

Throughout his life, Twain took a keen interest in science and he was well-aware of his connection to Halley’s Comet. In the early 20th century, the writer was getting on in years and knew that the end was near. However, he also knew that the comet was due to pass by Earth again soon, and he was convinced that he would not die before that happened. As he put it: “Now there are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.”

He could not have been more right. Mark Twain died on April 21, 1910, just one day after Halley’s Comet reached its perihelion.


Chance Fluke Luck Quirk Random

Historical Coincidences