Cowboy Confidential – Old West Misconceptions

Leave a comment

Common Misconceptions

About Cowboys

Image result for old west

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

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

10. Most Cowboys Didn’t Carry Guns

gun

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

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

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

9. They Almost Never Got in Fights

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

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

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

8. Many Were Ravaged by Venereal Diseases

old west

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

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

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

 7. Plenty Didn’t Do Any Riding Whatsoever

cowboys

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

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

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

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

6. Some That Did Ride Rode Camels

camel

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

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

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

 5. ‘Brokeback’ Encounters Were Surprisingly Common

brokeback

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

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

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

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

4. Black Cowboys Were Also Surprisingly Common

black cowboys

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

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

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

3. Outlaws Were Shameless Self-Promoters

billy the kid

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

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

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

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

cowboys2

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

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

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

 1. Modern Germans Love Them

german flag

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

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

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


Cowboy Confidential

wif-confidential-001

– Old West Misconceptions

Snacks from Around the World – WIF Fast Food

Leave a comment

Delicious Global

Snacks

You Should Try

There are many, many reasons to travel: to meet new people, to explore new cultures, to see awesome cities, to hike through spectacular scenery. But what about food? For some, sampling the cuisine of another country is like peeking inside the mind of an entire culture.

We’re not talking Michelin-starred, fancy, five course dining, either. From Europe, to Asia, to the Americas and Africa, some of the best eats on the planet are stuff you can pick up at markets and from street vendors. Here are ten delicious snacks from around the globe that will blow your mind and leave you craving more.

10. Okonomiyaki (Japan)

10

It’s said that you haven’t really tasted Japan until you’ve tried Okonomiyaki. In the land of sushi, noodles and seafood, Okonomiyaki stands out by being exactly what you wouldn’t expect. A sort of cabbage-based pancake traditionally served with aonori seaweed flakes, bonito fish flakes, super-sweet mayonnaise and the heavenly Okonomiyaki sauce (not unlike the UK’s HP sauce with a hint of soy), this snack is eaten across the country by the truckload.

Garnish aside, it’s tricky to say what actually makes an Okonomiyaki. The name itself loosely translates as “what you like, grilled.” This means the combinations are essentially endless. You might nab a shrimp or octopus one in Osaka, then high-tail it to Tokyo for a pork filling. There are even local variations on how to cook it. Hiroshima style means putting the ingredients on top; Osaka style means mixing them all into the batter.

You can grab one of these taste-explosions at one of the many Okonomiyaki bars across the country. Just rock up, place your order and prepare to have your tastebuds blown.

9. BeaverTails (Canada)

beavertails

The standard joke is that America is a nation of bulging waistlines, while Canadians are svelte and trim. Judging by the existence of BeaverTails, the only rational explanation for this is that those north of the border are riddled with tapeworm. A fried dough pastry stretched into the shape of a beaver’s tail and loaded with more sweet stuff and condiments than you can shake a proverbial stick at, BeaverTails are a delicious heart-attack-in-the-making.

Just look at this picture, for example. Really, look at it. For those of you who hate right-clicking, it’s a pastry snack the size of your face, coated in chocolate and topped with Smarties (chocolate buttons that inexplicably aren’t available south of the Canadian border). It looks like everything you never knew you wanted while mildly drunk at an ice hockey game.

A branded snack, BeaverTails have only been around since 1978. But our sweet tooth would take them over poutine any day.

8. Kürtoskalács (Hungary)

8

If you’re ever wandering around the top of Budapest at night, follow your nose to the ancient castle. That sweet, doughy smell tickling your senses and making your mouth water like Niagara Falls? That’s probably coming from the Kürtoskalács stalls. Known as Transylvanian Chimney Cakes, these Hungarian bad boys are even tastier than they smell.

Supposedly, the dish originated in modern-day Romania (hence the Transylvania part of the name), among the Hungarian community living there. Today, Kürtoskalács are called the oldest pastry in Hungary, and pop up at street food stands everywhere. So, you might be asking, what the heck are they? It’s pretty simple, really. Chimney cakes are made by rolling dough slowly round a wooden spoon (or similar vessel), coating the outside in sugar and oil and heating it over a fire. So you get a sweet, crunchy exterior and a warm, doughy inside. Just to send the calorie count even higher, plenty of Hungarians take them with chocolate spread.

The absolute best time to try Kürtoskalács is when it’s so cold out you can see your breath. Then the heat of the dough and the sweetness combine to feel like an elixir of life.   

7. Tamiya (Egypt)

tamiya

Everybody in the Middle East does falafel, and most countries do it excellently. No one, however, does it as well as the Egyptians. Only they don’t call it falafel, oh no. They want to keep a dish this good a secret. If you’re ever in Cairo or Alexandria (according to food critics, the two best places for Egyptian falafel), keep an eye out for Tamiya. It’ll change your ideas of just how freakin’ good falafel can be.

The secret here is fava beans. While most Middle Eastern countries use chickpeas to make falafel, Egypt bucks the trend by using fava beans. The result is a falafel that’s moister and lighter than anything you’ll find elsewhere. It’s cheap, too. Stalls will sell you a tamiya wrap for around the equivalent of 30 cents a pop. According to the experts, though, the place to head for is Mohammed Ahmed, a cheap eatery in Alexandria. There you can combine it with fuul (a bean paste) and eat yourself into a coma. In fact, tamiya is so cheap and delicious and plentiful that many joke Egypt is the best country for making vegetarians fat.

6. Red Red (Ghana)

red red

West African food is famous across the continent for its intense flavors and inventive style. But in West Africa itself, the country that takes the crown is probably Ghana. While there’s plenty to be said for Nigerian or Senegalese food, Ghana just edges its neighbors out the running. Part of the key to that success? Red red.

A kind of simple tomato stew made with black-eyed peas, red red is practically Ghana’s national dish. People eat it at home, on the way to work, while hanging out and at restaurants. The reason being that it’s delightful. The texture of the beans, combined with the vague, smoky flavor of the meat all combines to make a mouthwatering dish. Then there’s the red palm oil. Supposedly, the mixture of this oil with tomatoes is why the stew is called red red in the first place.

Although Ghanaians eat red red at pretty much any time, apparently the time to really appreciate it is breakfast time. It’s a fair point. We’re trying and we honestly can’t think of any better way to start the day than with a spicy, smoky, tomatoey African stew.

 5. Klobasa (Czech Republic)

kolbasa

The Czech Republic consumes more beer per capita than literally any other country on God’s green Earth. Yes, that includes Ireland, Austria and Germany. As such, you’d expect their best street food to cater to the needs of drunks; i.e. warm, fatty and deeply delicious. Enter the infamous klobasa. A smoked, German-style sausage traditionally served with mustard and two slices of brown Czech bread, its 1:00 a.m. drunken street food elevated to an art form.

All this is a pretty recent development. In 1948, the Communists took over what was then Czechoslovakia and immediately started being jerks about it. One of the things they were jerky about was what people could eat. A book was published, called Recipes for Warm Meals. If you cooked and sold anything that wasn’t in it, you’d get yourself thrown in jail. Combined with meat shortages in the ’70s and ’80s, this led to Czech sausages almost vanishing. When the Communists were overthrown in 1989, Czechs went klobasa crazy.

Today, klobasa is so popular that English-speaking locals even runinternational blogs about where exactly to chow down on the best Czech sausage. One to study before you go.

4. Hormigas (Colombia)

ants

In the heart of Colombia’s Santander department sits a little, whitewashed village called Barichara. Legendarily beautiful, it looks like a slice of southern Spain relocated to South America. That’s not why people go there, though. For foodies and snack fans, there’s one overwhelming reason to visit this sleepy village. Barichara is where you can buy hormigas.

The slightly gross part first: Hormigas are ants. Specifically, they’re female leaf-cutter ants with a butt so big it could star in music videos. Harvested in the spring, they’re toasted with salt and served from little packets, just like peanuts. But this isn’t an entry we’ve thrown in just to make you go “eww!” Hormigas are considered a local delicacy, with high protein levels and aphrodisiac qualities. They’re so renowned that upscale restaurants across Colombia use them to make expensive sauces. But the best way to try them is to grab a pack in Barichara and chow on down.

Salty, earthy and a little strange, hormigas in Santander are traditionally eaten under the blazing sun with an ice cold beer. You take a sip of beer, eat an ant, then take another sip, and so on until the packet is empty.

3. Chilli Crab (Singapore)

chilli crab

Singapore is one of the smallest countries on Earth. How small? Well, you could fit the entire nation into Rhode Island four whole times and still have a bit of space left over (confused UK readers can replace “Rhode Island” with “Cornwall”). At such a reduced size, you might not expect any incredible foods to come out of Singapore, but you’d be wrong. The micro state’s chilli crab is some of the best street food in Asia.

The snack does what it says on the tin. A stir fried crab, coated in a sweet and super spicy sauce, it comes served with deep fried buns. But that explanation can’t convey just how tasty chilli crab is. CNN ranked it the 35thmost delicious food in the entire world. There are more shops, restaurants and stalls selling it in Singapore than there probably are people in Wyoming. People fly to Asia purely to sample it. That’s how good we’re talking, here.

Chilli crab is so widely available in Singapore that there’s no point in us telling you where to go for it. Just step off the plane and head towards the nearest group of people. We’re like 99% sure one of them will be able to point you to a stand within walking distance.

2. Tacos (Mexico)

tacos

Yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Tacos. Of all the street food in the world, they go and choose the dish that inspired the abomination we call Taco Bell. Well, hold your horses there, pardner. What you probably think a taco is, is light years from what you’ll get on a street in Mexico. Forget the Tex-Mex thing with the crispy shell, real tacos are as close to them as your fourth grade art project was to the Sistine Chapel.

Let’s start with the basics: Proper Mexican tacos come in a flat, homemade tortilla. They also contain more than just a begrudging serving of meat and some salsa. El Chupacabra’s taco stand in Mexico City, for example, claims over 100 different ingredients go into each and every one of their tacos…and that’s before you get onto the sides. Here’s a picture of their truck. See those endless vats full of sauces and garnishes and deliciousness? If you want to, you can pile in stuff from each and every one of those (plus many others off camera) to make a taco exploding with so many flavors you’ll wind up accidentally recreating that scene from When Harry Met Sally.

Basically, get away from the border cities, and tacos in Mexico go from being cheap junk food you eat when you hate yourself and no longer want your pants to fit, to awesome, working class street food that deserves its spot on this list.

1. Burek (Bosnia-Herzegovina)

burek

The Balkans have easily some of the best food in the world, and that includes the best street food. Pljeskavica meat patties in Serbia, shkembe chorba soup in Bulgaria…the list goes on. For our money, though, there’s one clear winner. Burek (also called Borek) from Bosnia-Herzegovina is perhaps the tastiest snack in the whole of the Balkan region.

Originally from Turkey, this pastry snack really came into its own in Bosnia, where it was brought along with Ottoman rule in the middle of the last millennium. Basically, you take some pastry, fill it with aromatic mincemeat, goat’s cheese, spinach and herbs, roll it up, lightly spice it, glaze with oil and bake until it is golden and delicious. The result is a kinda-sweet, kinda-savory dish that’s crispy on the outside, and has the consistency of al dente pasta on the inside.

 The best place to grab burek is on the streets of Sarajevo, where a serving goes for around the equivalent of $1.70. Awesomely, it tastes good both drunk and stone cold sober, meaning it’s probably, therefore, the most perfect snack in the entire world.

Snacks Around the World

WIF Fast Food-001

– WIF Fast Food

Prehistoric Man and His Petrifying Pets – WIF World

Leave a comment

Terrifying Animals

That Lived Alongside

Prehistoric Man

hunting-the-cave-bear

Hunting the Cave Bear by Zdenek Burian

Our species, Homo sapiens, have only been around for about as long as a blink of an eye in terms of Earth’s history. It’s believed that the Earth formed over 4.6 billion years ago, and the first humans evolved about 200,000 years ago in Africa.

 In order to survive so that modern humans could flourish, our prehistoric ancestors had to fight off and hunt animals that were much bigger and far stronger than them. These are 10 horrifying animals that they may have encountered as humans migrated all over the world.

10. The Columbian Mammoth

Columbian mammoths were one of the biggest mammals to ever walk on Earth, and they were cousin to the more famous woolly mammoths. Columbian mammoths were found all the way from modern-day Canada to Mexico, while woolly mammoths, who were smaller, were found in northern Asia, Russia, and Canada. Another major difference is that Columbian mammoths had much less hair, so they looked closer to modern day elephants, but bigger with much longer tusks.

Columbian mammoths were 12 to 14 feet tall and weighed anywhere between 5.5 and 11 tons. The Columbian mammoth also had the biggest tusks out of the elephant family. They were, on average, 12 feet long, spiraled, and very strong. They would have been used to fight off predators, including humans.

9. The Ground Sloth

We know that this list is about terrifying animals, and sloths are anything but terrifying. However, their ancient ancestors, ground sloths, were a bit more intimidating than their modern day counterpart because they were some of the biggest mammals to ever live.

There were several different subspecies of ground sloths and the ones that lived in North America were the size of rhinos and humans most likely dined on them. However, the biggest ground sloths, the Megatherium, which lived in South America up until about 10,000 years ago, were as big as an elephant. From head to tail, they were 20 feet long and weighed up to four tons. Also, because they had sharp teeth and long claws, there is some speculation that they may have been carnivores.

Ultimately, the last species of ground sloths lived until about 4,200 years ago on theCaribbean islands. When humans arrived on the islands, it was the final death blow to the ground sloths.

8. Gigantopithecus

The biggest known primate to ever walk the earth was the Gigantopithecus, which is a relative of orangutans. They were 10 feet tall, and they weighed around 1,100 pounds.

One thing you may notice is that the Gigantopithecus looks a lot like the mythical Sasquatch. However, before anyone begins to speculate, the Gigantopithecus died out 100,000 years ago. So unless a group of 10-foot, half ton apes actively hid themselves from humans for one thousand centuries, it doesn’t seem likely that people have seen Gigantopithecus and thought it was Bigfoot.

The reason they died out after living on Earth for six to nine million years is because they needed a lot of food, like fruits, to sustain their giant bodies, which wasn’t a problem when their home in Southeast Asia was tropical forests. But then, because of weather changes their forests started to disappear and they became dry savannas, meaning there was less food and the giant primate just died out.

Of course, Gigantopithecus may be familiar to those people who saw the very excellent live adaptation of The Jungle Book, because King Louie is a Gigantopithecus.

7. The Cave Hyena

Cave Hyenas, also known as spotted coyotes, were about double the size of their relatives, the laughing coyote. They weighed up to 285 pounds, they were about three feet tall, and were nearly five feet long. According to calculations based on fossils, one cave hyena was strong enough to take down a 5-year-old mastodon that weighed a ton.

However, they lived in packs, sometimes consisting of 30 coyotes. These made them much more effective hunters, and they could take down a nine-year-old mastodon that weighed nine tons. Needless to say, a small family of humans would not want to come across a pack of hungry hyenas.

Their population started to dwindle about 20,000 years ago, before going extinct somewhere between 11,000 and 13,000 years ago. One reason may have been humans, because we competed with hyenas for cave space during the last ice age.

6. Smilodon

Saber-toothed cats are often given the very misleading title of saber-tooth tigers. It’s misleading because while they are part of the Felidae family, they weren’t closelyrelated to tigers.

Saber-toothed cats first appeared 42 million years ago. There were many species of them and most of them had died before humans first appeared. However, it’s believed that humans living in the Americas could have come across two different species of saber-toothed cats, Smilodon fatalis and Smilodon populator. They ranged in size and they could be as big as an African lion, which is the biggest wild lion living today. They also could weigh as much as the biggest subspecies of tiger, the Siberian tiger.

With their size came great strength. The smilodons could take down much bigger animals than themselves, like mammoths. Often, they would wait for prey to get close and then launch a surprise attack.

Out of the feline family, the smilodon didn’t have the strongest bite. According to calculations, it only had about one-third of the bite strength of modern lions. However, it had a really flexible jaw and could open its mouth 120 degrees, compared to a lion, which maxes out at 60 degrees.

The smilodon also had fairly weak teeth, but researchers think to compensate for that, they developed the strongest forearms of all cats. It’s believed that they used this strength to hold down their prey and then stabbed their fangs through the prey’s neck. Another theory is that the Smilodon repeatedly stabbed the prey with their fangs after it was held down. No matter how they killed their prey, a human did not want to find itself under the forearms of a smilodon.

5. The Dire Wolf

Fans of Game of Thrones may recognize Dire Wolves, but unlike many other animals on the show, Dire Wolves were real.

They first appeared about a quarter of a million years ago. They were similar tomodern-day gray wolves but sturdier. The gray wolf, which is the largest living wolf, is about 4 feet to 6.6 feet long and weighs 40 to 170 pounds, while Dire Wolves were about 5 feet long and weighed up to 200 pounds.

Dire Wolves, which were found all over North and South America, had a bite force that was 29 percent stronger than gray wolves. Their diet consisted of mostly horses.

They became extinct like so a lot other carnivores, at the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago.

4. The American Lion

Like a lot of other animals on this list, the American Lion is horribly named because it’s not a lion at all. Its scientific name is Panthera atrox, and as it suggests, the American Lion is more closely related to panthers than lions. One part about their name that is correct is that they lived in modern-day America starting about 330,000 years ago.

One notable aspect that our ancient ancestors would have noticed right away if they encountered an American Lion is that it was huge. In fact, it is the biggest known wild cat in history. On average, they weighed 772 pounds, which is 25 percent larger thanan African Lion. The American Lion was also incredibly strong. They were powerful enough to bring down a bison, meaning a small group of humans would have been in trouble had they encountered one of these lions.

They died around 11,000 years ago around the end of the last ice age.

3. The Megalania

Megalania was a monitor lizard, which is the same lizard family as the Komodo dragon, and it lived in Australia until about 50,000 years ago; around the same time that humans migrated there.

The size of Megalania is a highly debated topic. Originally, it was thought to be 23 feet long, while other estimates put its size more in the range of 11 feet long.

Regardless, they were bigger than Komodo dragons, but like the Komodo dragon, the Megalania also had poisonous glands. It would simply bite its prey and if it didn’t die of blood loss, then it would be slowly poisoned to death and the Meaglania would feast on its carcass.

Today, Komodo dragons are considered a very dangerous animal. They are fast, strong, and poisonous. They are also on average 6.5 feet long. The Megalania could have been four times that size; not exactly something a human, either prehistoric or modern, would want to bump into.

2. The Short-Faced Bear

Bears first appeared about 40 million years ago, and several subspecies have evolved over the years. One that our prehistoric ancestors would have encountered is the short-faced bear.

Short-faced bears (Arctodus pristinus) were five feet tall at shoulder height, but when they stood up, they were 12 feet tall and with its arms raised it was 14 feet tall. It also had the ability to run on two legs. If that wasn’t terrifying enough, the short-faced bear also had long limbs, and could run faster than a grizzly, possibly reaching speeds of 40 miles per hour. That means even Usain Bolt, who was clocked in at 28 miles per hour, would be dinner for this beast.

The Giant Short-Faced Bear was one of the biggest carnivores in North America. They first appeared about 800,000 years ago and they became extinct about 11,600 years ago.

1. The Quinkana

According to fossils, the Quinkana first evolved about 1.6 million years ago and they lived in modern day Australia. They were huge members of the crocodile family and they could grow to be 23 feet long. Just for some perspective, the longest crocodile in captivity was Lolong and he was 20 feet long.

A major difference between the Quinkana and many other crocodiles is that they were land dwellers. Since they lived on land, there was two major physical traits that the Quinkana developed. The first was that it had long, powerful legs. It would hunt its prey by chasing after them for long distances. The second difference is that crocodiles use their teeth to latch on and drag their prey into the water and drown it. The Quinkanas’ teeth, on the other hand, were much sharper and they were used for cutting.

They died out about 50,000 years ago, about 10,000 years after humans first arrived in Australia.


Prehistoric Man and His Petrifying Pets

wif-global

– WIF World

The White House – WIF Fun Facts

Leave a comment

Fascinating Facts

About

the White House

lego-white-house

One of the most famous, if not the most famous, Presidential homes in the world is the White House, which is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Over 6,000 people visit it every day, and it is one of the top tourist attractions in America’s capital. Of course, besides being a famous monument, it is also a home that is steeped in history.

 These are 10 of the most fascinating facts about the White House and the people who lived in it.

10. They Had A Design Contest To Build It

In 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which established Washington, D.C. as the capital of the United States. Congress also ordered that the capitol buildings, including the President’s House needed to be built within 10 years.

In order to find architectural plans for the house where the President would live, Congress held a contest. At the urging of George Washington, Irish-born architect James Hoban submitted his plans, which Encyclopedia Britannica said was influenced by Leinster House in Dublin.

Hoban won the contest and his reward was $500 and a lot in D.C. He was also hired on to oversee the construction of the President’s House, which started in 1793. The second President, John Adams, moved into the house in 1800, before it was actually finished.

The total cost of building the President’s House (its name before the White House) was$232,372, which is the equivalent of about $100 million today.

9. It Was Built By Slaves, Freed Slaves, And Immigrants

In July 2016, former First Lady Michelle Obama made some waves during her speech at the Democratic National Convention when she said “…I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.” After the comment, several prominent people said it wasn’t true, or justified the use of slavery by saying they were “well-fed” slaves. However, Obama’s statement was totally correct.

According to the book The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House, about 400 of the 600 people who built the Capitol, including the White House, were slaves. The other 200 were about 50 freed slaves and the remainder were poor immigrants.

The White House Historical Association confirms that slaves did help build the White House, but they weren’t government owned. Instead, they just rented them out from slave owners. Because that totally makes it OK, right?

8. The British Burned It Down

In June 1812, the United States, which was only 36-years-old at the time, declared war on Great Britain. There were several underlying reasons for the war, but one of them was to take over Canada, which was a British colony, and make it part of America.

Throughout the war, each side had major victories and suffered terrible losses. One of the biggest military defeats for the Americans happened on August 24, 1813, when British forces invaded Washington, D.C. In retaliation for sacking York, which is now Toronto, the President’s House was relieved of a few souvenirs before it was set ablaze. The ensuing fire nearly destroyed the building. After torching the President’s House, several other prominent buildings in Washington were burned to the ground.

Rebuilding started soon afterwards and the White House was restored to its original architectural plans. In fact, James Hoban, who oversaw the original construction, was rehired to oversee the reconstruction to make it as close to the original as possible. The reconstruction was completed by 1817, just in time for President James Monroe to move in.

After the Burning of Washington, the Americans fought back against the British and won several important victories. This led to the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814. Part of the treaty was that any captured territory by either side would be returned.

What’s interesting is how this part of history is taught in schools in the United States and Canada, who have had uninterrupted peace with each other since the War of 1812. In the United States, students are taught that the War of 1812 was a war that earned the respect of the British and strengthened the nation as a whole, allowing them to expand westward.Canadian students, on the other hand, learn that the War of 1812 was the one time that the aggressive Americans tried to invade Canada and for their troubles, they got their capital and the White House burned down.

7. Why Is The White House White?

One myth about the White House is that it’s white to cover up the fire damage that was caused when it burned down in 1814. However, that isn’t true because it was white before it was set on fire. In 1798, a lime-based whitewash was painted on to protect the porous stone from cracking. Usually, the whitewash would have weathered and faded away. However, instead they kept reapplying the whitewash until 1818, when it was painted with lead-based white paint.

The house was originally called the President’s House, but since it was distinctively white, its nickname was the white house for almost a century. It wouldn’t officially become the White House until 1901 under President Theodore Roosevelt.

6. Pets There Have Included Alligators, Badgers, Bears, and a Dog Named Satan

Besides being home to the First Family, the White House has also had its fair share of pets. Out of 45 Presidents, there are only three Presidents who have no record of owning a pet: Chester A. Arthur, Franklin Pierce, and Donald Trump.

In most cases, the pets were dogs or cats. Abigail Adams had a dog named Satan, for instance. However, it’s also been home to some more exotic pets. Calvin Coolidge had a menagerie and the main attraction was a 600 pound pygmy hippopotamus named Billy.

Two different Presidents had alligators roam the White House grounds – Herbert Hoover and John Quincy Adams. Supposedly Adams kept a gator in the bathroom in the East Room and used it to scare guests.

Martin Van Buren was given two tiger cubs by the Sultan of Oman. However, supposedly Congress made him donate the cubs to a zoo.

Finally, Theodore Roosevelt had a badger named Josiah and was given a bear, which his children named Jonathan Edwards, by a group of voters in West Virginia. However, he didn’t have the proper accommodations for the bear, which Roosevelt called “queer-tempered,” and he ended up donating the bear to the Bronx Zoo.

5. Lyndon B. Johnson’s Shower

Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, was a relentlessly hard worker who was known for getting things done. He was also a man with a strong sexual appetite who seemed to be obsessed with his own genitals. He was known to whip it out whenever and where ever he wanted to. So it really shouldn’t be a surprise that he had some odd requests when it came to his shower.

According to Kate Andersen Brower’s book The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House, Johnson wanted to have several nozzles that switched from hot to cold. He also wanted the pressure to be intense, like a fire hose. Finally, he wanted a nozzle pointed directly at his genitals and to shoot up his rear end.

When the plumber said it couldn’t be done, Johnson himself called the plumber and chewed him out. To inspire him, Johnson said, “If I can move 10,000 troops in a day, you certainly can fix the shower.” So the plumber tinkered with the shower and it ended up with four nozzles. One time, an usher apparently tried the shower and it pinned him to the wall.

When Nixon moved into the White House in 1969, he ordered the plumber to get rid of Johnson’s shower.

4. Market Value

Before Donald Trump was elected President, we could say with certainty that the White House would never go on sale; but now, who knows what will happen? He is a real estate mogul, after all.

If he were to put it on the market, what would be a fair asking price? Well, the real estate website Zillow came up with an estimate for the house, which is a single family home with 142 rooms on six floors and about 55,000 square feet, and sits on an 18 acre lot. If you were to include all the historical artifacts with it and the hot tub that was installed under Bill Clinton (because of course Slick Willie installed a hot tub), then it would cost $398 million. Or if President Trump wanted to rent it out, it would cost $2,079,473.

3. The White House’s Deadly Water Supply

The ninth President of the United States, William Henry Harrison, holds two Presidential records and the common belief is that these two records are connected. The first is that Harrison gave the longest inaugural speech, which he did outside on a cold and miserable March day without a coat. The second record is that he was President for the shortest amount of time. He died on April 4, 1841, 32 days into his presidency, from what was believed to be pneumonia, which he caught while giving his long inauguration speech.

However, according to Dr. Philip A. Mackowiak of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who did a modern-day medical investigation, Harrison most likely died of Typhoid Fever and not of pneumonia. The source of the typhoid fever was the White House’s water supply. Mackowiak also thinks that the water in the White House killed President James K. Polk, who died in 1849, three months after leaving the White House, and president Zachary Taylor, who died in office in 1850.

2. Does It Have Secret Passages?

One of the most mythical elements of the White House is its secret passages and tunnels. For example, it was rumored that John F. Kennedy used the tunnels to sneak out of the White House to meet Marilyn Monroe. However, that’s all they appear to be – myths.

While there have been renovations of the White House over the years, including additions, the White House wasn’t really designed to house things like tunnels and secret passages. The closest thing to a secret lair is the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, which was built after the attack on Pearl Harbor. At the time, the Council of National Defense urged Franklin D. Roosevelt to move out of the White House because they thought it was a “firetrap.” His compromise was to build a bomb shelter in the White House.

The Presidential Emergency Operations Center is in the basement of the East Wing. It serves as the communication center and it is able to withstand a nuclear blast. It’s also important to note that the shelter is not the same as the Situation Room, which is in the basement of the West Wing.

One notable time it was used was on September 11, 2001. Vice President Dick Chaney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among others, were evacuated from their offices into the Presidential Emergency Operations Center.

1. It Was Almost Torn Down In 1945 Because It Was In Such Bad Shape

By 1945, the White House had been lived in for 145 years and it was in rough shape. Besides being nearly destroyed in 1814, there was another fire in the White House on Christmas Eve 1929. The White House was hosting a party and when the fire started in the West Wing, Herbert Hoover left the party to oversee the removal of papers and documents from the Oval Office, while the First Lady kept the party going. The fire ended up gutting the West Wing, including the Oval Office.

Another problem was that the White House wasn’t constructed to have indoor plumbing and electricity and that was all added well after it was built. This added a lot of stress to the structure of the building. It got to be so bad that Harry S. Truman thought it was going to collapse. In fact, his daughter’s piano fell through a floor into the room below it.

The condition of the White House got to be so bad that it would have been cheaper to tear it down and build something new in its place. However, since it was a national monument Truman was against the idea. They chose to gut the interior of the White House and rebuild it as close to its original design as possible. The reconstruction took four years, during which time Harry and Bess Truman lived in Blair House, which is across the street from the White House.


The White House

wif-fun-facts-001

– WIF Fun Facts

Marvel/DC Comic Mashups – WIF Graphic Novels

Leave a comment

Marvel-DC Mashups

from contributor 

What would happen if you took elements of two famous comic book characters, one from Marvel and one from DC, and mixed them together? Would the two powers complement each other and make the hero better? Or would having two powers be a hindrance to the character? Well, we wondered the same thing, so we had several artists develop mashup characters using characters from the two dominant comic book universes, the Marvel Universe and the DC Universe. Now we want to know which ones you like the best; please vote up for your favorites and down for ones you don’t like. Also, in the comments below, please feel free to share any ideas you have for Marvel-DC mashups that we don’t have on the list.

1. Captain Bat

 The mashup of two characters that both have an unbeatable, indomitable will is a nice character trait. But think about this, Batman uses the bat to instill fear and the Captain America uses the American flag for inspiration. Together they inspire fear like no one else.
Illustrated by Doubleleaf.

2. FlasHulk

 The Flash & The Hulk may not come to mind as good combination superhero, but super-speed and super-strength actually make him…um, Superman….if he couldn’t fly and was green and had anger management issues. Sounds like a good guy to have at parties, “Flash smash fast!”
Illustrated by Doubleleaf.

3. Wonder Phoenix

 The mashup of two powerful super-heroines, Wonder Woman and Phoenix (Jean Grey) is a natural combo of two heroes with great hair. An Amazon combined with the Phoenix Force would be a hot date unless you are blue-haired, asparagus-looking aliens.
Illustrated by Rick Marin.

 4. Iron Robin

Even I’m not sure how I came up with Iron Man and Robin as a good mashup. Maybe I was going for a mashup that really makes no sense. They are such opposites. Metal armor vs. tights. Solo hero vs. sidekick. Cool name vs. bird name. Playboy vs. just a boy. I better stop, Robin might be reading this and the differences are quite depressing from his point of view.
Illustrated by Felle.

 5. Captain Crawler

 Blending Nightcrawler’s distinctive features with the wholesome good looks of DC’s Captain Marvel (Shazam) gives us a dashing guy in a hoodie who can teleport and stand toe-to-toe with Superman. Does he remind anyone of Ezio Auditore da Firenze from Assassin’s Creed? Yeah, me too.
Illustrated by Doubleleaf.

 6. CyThing

 Two loveable, but sometimes brooding characters who would rather have the body they were born with rather than the body fate gave them. The Thing and Cyborg are more alike than either probably realized, so better to mash them up into CyThing! The Thing would be even more badass with a cannon for an arm, yes?
Illustrated by Rick Marin.

 7. Thor Hawk

Two guys that swing a deadly, blunt instrument, a hammer for Thor and a mace for Hawkman. Seems like a good mashup of beings from other worlds who came to defend earth or Midgard.
Illustrated by Kelly Ishikawa.

 8. Green Wolverine

(Green Claw?)

 Mashing up a blood thirsty killer turned hero and a hero who went insane probably isn’t a good combination for mental stability, but you know he will keep it interesting at the JLA or X-Mansion. You must admit that having claws made out of green energy is pretty cool.
Illustrated by Doubleleaf.

 9. Aquadevil

 Daredevil, the Man Without Fear combined with Aquaman, the King of the Seven Seas is a typical fish out of water story mashup. Doesn’t ol’ hornhead need buildings to bound from? Well, at least he has something to throw, and this “billy club” has dangerous barbs. They both share a sonar capability for navigating dark waters.
Illustrated by Doubleleaf.

 10. Amazing Super-Spider

Red and blue superhero costumes never looked better than when worn by Spider-man and Superman. Mashing up Marvel and DC founding superheroes, who seem to be just a bit more of a hero than anyone else, just feels right. And who didn’t want to see Spider-man in a cape with webbing and Superman shooting webs, even though the webs are redundant when he can fly?
Illustrated by Rick Marin.

Marvel-DC Comic Mashups

WIF Graphic Novels-001

– WIF Graphic Novels

Video Games and You – WIF Pop Culture

Leave a comment

Video Games That Are

Part of Enormous

Pop Culture Franchises

wif-pop-culture-001

Though not all agree, video games can be considered as being a new art form. Moreover, video games are seen by many as a form of art with which one can actively interact. From the breathtaking landscapes, to the incredible soundtracks and general atmosphere, as well as the enticing plot, some video games can bring together much of what other mediums already have.

In fact, some video games out there were inspired by various bestselling novels, or in turn generated a whole book series with thousands of fans of their own. Some video games have even inspired movies. Be it a strategy game, a shooter, or a role-playing game, it doesn’t really matter as long as it has a good back story, a whole universe, and an extensive lore surrounding it. Here are 10 such video games, even though many others also deserve a spot in this list.

10. Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

Developed by Headfirst Productions and published by Bethesda Softworks, Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth was released in 2005. First came the Xbox version, and then a PC version one year later. The game is an action-adventure/survival/horror genre that perfectly combines a first-person perspective with many stealth elements. The story is set mostly in 1922 and follows a mentally unstable private detective hired to investigate the fictional town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts. Unlike many other FPS games, Call of Cthulhu features no heads-up display, and everything from the player’s condition to his ammunition and other stats are represented as realistically as possible. A broken leg, for example, would be shown as the character limping, while a broken arm by a loss in accuracy. Each injury needs its own type of remedy and the player even needs to count the ammunition he’s got left.

All in all, the game received only positive reviews from critics and was considered by some to be among the best horror video games of all-time. However, the game itself was an economic failure, with the planned sequels being cancelled when Headfirst Productions went under. In recent years there has been a revival of the series, and in 2017 a new video game is expected to be released. Dark Corners of the Earth is inspired on H.P. Lovecraft‘s 1936 novella, The Shadow over Innsmouth. Lovecraft was also author of The Call of Cthulhu and several other related stories all within the Cthulhu Mythos.

 A recurring theme in Lovecraft’s works is the complete irrelevance of mankind in the face of the cosmic horrors that exist in the universe. Cthulhu himself and other cosmic deities exist, but have fallen into a deathlike sleep. After Lovecraft’s death in 1937, August Derleth took on the challenge to synthetize and expand the Cthulhu Mythos.

9. Mass Effect

Mass Effect is a sci-fi/action/role-playing/third person shooter first released in 2007. Two later installments came out in 2010 and 2012. A fourth game is expected to be released sometime in 2017. If you’re a fan of this style of video games, it’s almost an impossibility to have not already heard about or played Mass Effect. Developed by BioWare, the trilogy starts off in the year 2183 and revolves around Commander Shepard, who’s entrusted to save the entire Milky Way galaxy and all its inhabitants from a mysterious and overwhelmingly powerful race of machine beings known as the Reapers. And while the plot and story itself are quite complex and enticing, there is an extensive lore surrounding the game series.

To date there are four novels centered on various protagonists other than the ones in the video game. But the plots take place around the time of the games themselves. These not only better explain ambiguous facts from the game, but also expand the history of the Mass Effect universe. A fifth novel, Mass Effect: Andromeda Initiation is set to be published sometime in 2016. Two more books are scheduled for 2017 and 2018. There is also a fan written, interactive novel circulating out there called Mass Effect: Pick Your Path, from 2012, as well as numerous other comics. Also in 2012, an anime film version was released, and there are even talks of a Hollywood production in the works.

8. Mortal Kombat

 This fighting game has been around for a very long time. Originally developed by Midway Games, Mortal Kombat hit the arcades back in 1991. Its idea was thought up even earlier, in 1989, along with its storyline and game content. Mortal Kombat is a fantasy/horror themed fighting game, renowned for its high levels of gore and bloody violence. One of its most notorious parts, the finishing moves, also known as Fatalities, are in part responsible for the founding of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board). Modeled after movies like Bloodsport and Enter the Dragon,Mortal Kombat aimed to be a bit more realistic and serious than its cartoon fantasy-style counterpart, Street Fighter.

After Midway’s bankruptcy, Mortal Kombat was bought by Warner Bros. and rebooted in 2011. The game became highly popular among young people and is now one of the few successful fighting franchises in the history of video games. Since its inception it has spun off into a series of comic books, card games, a theatrical live tour, countless game sequels, two TV series, and two movies. These two major motion pictures, Mortal Kombat (1995), and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation(1997) grossed in $122 and $51 million, respectively. While not particularly good, the movies gathered a cult following; especially the first one. The second installment, however, was poorly received by both critics and fans alike, resulting in it bombing at the box-office. Though entirely unofficial, an 8-minute short film was released back in 2010, revealing that a new Mortal Kombat movie is being planned in Hollywood.

7. Warhammer 40K

warhammer

Without a doubt, the Warhammer 40K franchise has among the richest lore and backstory in video game history. That’s because the whole idea of this fictional universe first came into being way back in 1983. Back then, the game was known simply as Warhammer, and was created by Games Workshop as a tabletop war game. That game still exists, and continues to expand even to this day. Then in 1987, a futuristic version was developed, sharing many of the game mechanics. This is the 40K, which stands for the year in which the fictional action now takes place. We won’t bother going into detail with the original Warhammer games, since they deserve a top 10 list of their own, and instead try to focus on what’s at hand; namely their video game versions of the 40K universe.

The story takes place during the 41st millennium in a fictional, gothic-looking dystopian universe. The Imperium of Man, as it is called, is a galaxy-spanning human interstellar empire, dominating most of the Milky Way, though it’s not the only power out there. The most iconic and finest warriors of the Imperium are theSpace Marines, a combination between sci-fi super-soldiers and fantasy knights, who are sworn to defend their empire from all the other alien races in the galaxy. The Warhammer 40K universe has a total of 31 different style video games. The most notable of these are eight real-time strategy games and expansions, part of the Dawn of War series.

Four novels have been published alongside this series, somewhat following and better explaining the actions taking place in the games. But the entire list of novels, novellas and other short stories surrounding the 40K universe is humongous, enough to completely fill up a big personal library. And that’s without mentioning itscomic book series. In 2010 the CGI Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie was released to DVD. Terence Stamp, John Hurt, and Donald Sumpter, among others, voice some of the Space Marines.

6. Resident Evil

Making its debut in 1996, the Resident Evil series first appeared for the PlayStation. Initially called Biohazard in Japan, its country of origin, Capcom’s director decided to change its name since it was impossible to trademark it in the US. An internal contest was held within the company regarding the game’s name, finally settling on Resident Evil. Even though the director believed it to be “super-cheesy,” it makes reference to the original game, which took place in a mansion filled with evil monsters.

In its 20 years of existence the franchise has expanded into 11 main games and 22 other spin-offs. As of 2015, Resident Evil has sold over 61 million units worldwide. Originally, the game series was more of a survival horror genre, based mostly on horror film plotlines, exploration and puzzle solving. Since Resident Evil 4, however, the series took on a more third-person shooter approach, focusing on gunplay and weapon upgrades.

The plot revolves around the sinister Umbrella Corporation, a worldwide company with ties to every major industry, and which secretly makes extensive research into bio-engineering. More exactly, they are aiming to create an extremely potent virus that can transform any individual into a super-powerful, yet perfectly obedient being. However, most of these experiments were wildly unsuccessful and have backfired with some truly gruesome results. In their several attempts to create the perfect weapon, the Umbrella Corporation initiated a series of viral outbreaks and mass infection of the civilian population, transforming humans and animals into mindlessly aggressive zombies. Players take on the role of various characters trying to survive and unravel the Corporation’s many secrets.

 The Resident Evil movie series loosely follows the same plot, even though much of the original content is missing or has been changed. The main protagonist, Alice, played by Milla Jovovich, was a security operative working for Umbrella. But with the start of the first movie, she becomes an enemy of the Corporation. Though the movie received poor reviews from critics and fans alike, mostly because of the inconsistencies between it and the game series, the Resident Evil film tripled its budget, and got four more sequels over a span of 10 years. A last installment,Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, is set to premiere in 2017. A more faithful CGI animated movie series also exists, and another film, Resident Evil: Vendetta, will also be released next year. Moreover, the franchise also has its own seven book series.

5. Halo

halo

Halo is a sci-fi/first person shooter franchise set in the 26th century, in which humanity has achieved faster-than-light travel speed and colonized numerous other planets across the Milky Way. The series centers itself on an interstellar war between humans and an alliance of aliens known as the Covenant, also inhabiting the galaxy. The player takes on the role of Master Chief John-117, a member of a group of super-soldiers known as the Spartans.

Since its first release in 2001 with Halo: Combat Evolved, the franchise has been praised by many and is considered to be among the best FPS video games played on a console. Managed and developed by Microsoft Studios under one of its subsidiaries, 343 Industries, Halo benefited from a tremendous marketing campaign and four more original sequels and their respective DLCs. In total the franchise sold over 65 million copies and earned a record breaking $3.4 billion from the games alone.

These incredible sales and its increasing fandom have allowed Halo to expand into other media as well. Besides the various spin-offs of the game, including a real-time strategy installment entitled Halo Wars, the franchise boasts its own five-part TV mini-series, called Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, released in 2012. Another miniseries was released in 2014, called Halo: Nightfall. A full length movie adaptation was set in motion back in 2005 by 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios, but due to financial reasons, the project was dropped two years later. However, a future TV show on Showtime is said to be in development, though the exact details of the production are still largely unknown. In any case, up until that moment arises, fans of the video game series can also expand their knowledge of the Halo universe by taking a look at its 13 novel canon.

4. The Witcher

The Witcher started off as a series of fantasy short stories written by Andrzej Sapkowski, which are now collected into two books. The first of these stories, entitled simply The Witcher, was written in 1986 as part of a contest held by a magazine, winning third place. The subsequent five novels, which became known asthe Witcher Saga were written and published throughout the 1990s in Poland, and later translated into English and other languages. Before gaining international notoriety with the release of the first video game in 2007, the saga was adapted into a movie and television series in 2001 and 2002, respectively, with both being called The Hexer. In fact, this was the preferred translation of the first story’s title by the author. But with the release of the first video game, however, the publishing company CD Projekt RED decided on the name Witcher instead.

With two more video games in the series, the story follows the Witcher, Geralt of Rivia, (a sort of travelling monster-hunter for hire) as he struggles to regain his memories and prevent the destruction of the world. Set in a medieval fantasy universe, The Witcher is an action/role-playing hack and slash video game. The use of Geralt’s amnesia in the game allows the player to make decisions that the character from the books would not have necessarily made. It also permitted the developers to introduce those who weren’t familiar with the backstory with certain aspects of the Witcher canon.

Sapkowski uses a tone that is slightly ironic and with subtle links to modern culture in the books, which are also apparent in the games. Unlike most other similar fantasy stories, The Witcher also emphasizes the duality of human nature, with nobody being 100% good or bad. These aspects have helped both the novels and the video games to be widely claimed by fans as the best of Polish fantasy. Back in 2011, President Obama received a copy of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings video game from the Polish prime minister in one of his visits to the country. Obama later confessed that he didn’t actually play it.

3. Assassin’s Creed

 Another video game series that’s made frequent headlines in recent years is theAssassin’s Creed franchise. With a movie set to be released in December, the series made its debut in 2007, and has since released another eight sequels, 17 spin-offs, several short films, as well as a number of other supporting materials. Developed predominantly by Ubisoft, the various games can be played on almost every platform conceivable, and its gameplay, varying only slightly from game to game, is set in the historic action-adventure genre, with a particular emphasis on combat, acrobatics, free-running, and stealth. The protagonist of each sequel changes, as the action takes place in different moments and locations throughout history: from the time of the Third Crusade, to the Renaissance period, the Colonial Era, the French Revolution, and the Victorian Era among others.

The overall plot of the series revolves around the centuries-old, fictional struggle between the historically-accurate Order of Assassins and the Knights Templar, who each desire world peace but through different means and ideologies. On the one hand, the Assassins believe in peace through free will, while the Templars consider it achievable only through world domination. Inspiration for the games came from a Slovenian novel, Alamut, written by Vladimir Bartol, as well as from concepts borrowed from the Prince of Persia series. In all, the Assassin’s Creed series has been very well received by critics and fans alike, and as of April 2014 over 73 million copies have been sold, making it Ubisoft’s bestselling franchise. Aside from the comics, Assassin’s Creed also has a book series. Each of the eight novels are tie-ins to their respective video games, following the various assassins throughout the centuries, in their ongoing war with the Templars.

2. Warcraft

No list like this is complete without mentioning the Warcraft universe. Developed byBlizzard Entertainment, the franchise is made up of five core games, the most notable of which are Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, a real-time strategy game, and its expansion pack The Frozen Throne, as well as the infamous World of Warcraft (WOW), a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) and bestselling title here. At its peak in 2010, WOW had 12 million simultaneous subscribers worldwide, becoming the world’s largest subscription-based MMORPG.

The latest title in the series, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, is a digital collectible card game. Another notable game in the franchise, though only a mod for Warcraft III, is Defense of the Ancients (DotA), a multiplayer online battle arena. In this game, two teams of players are pitted against each other in an attempt to destroy the enemy’s heavily guarded structures at opposing corners of the map.

All of the games in the series are set in or around the high fantasy world of Azeroth. The story begins by focusing on the human nations that make up the Eastern Kingdoms and the Orcish Horde that arrived to Azeroth through a dark portal, igniting the great wars between the two. Over the years, and with the subsequent game releases, the developers have expanded the planet by creating new continents. With them, there’s been the emergence of other new playable races.

 Unsurprisingly, the series has since spawned its own sizable collection of novels, covering a broad range of characters in various timelines, vastly expanding the lore and backstory of the Warcraft universe. Many comics have also been published alongside these books, delving even further into the canon. In June 2016, its first Hollywood movie was released by Universal Pictures. With only 5.5 million subscribers to WOW as of 2015, the film arrived a little too late, and bombed in the US. However, it did manage to gross over $422 million worldwide, making it the highest grossing game adaptation of all time.

1. Neverwinter Nights

neverwinternights

Neverwinter Nights is a third-person role-playing video game developed by BioWare, and was released in 2002. In the following years the game got several expansions and premium packs, and due to its growing popularity, a sequel was released in 2006. It, too, had its own series of expansions. The story follows the player’s character as he tries to stop a plague from sweeping over the city of Neverwinter. The city is located along the Sword Coast of Faerûn, in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting of Dungeons & Dragons. As it is in the original tabletop D&D games, players of Neverwinter Nights are able to create their own character from scratch at the very beginning of the game. Everything from gender, race, character class, alignment, abilities, and name can be customized to suit the preferences of each individual player. Overall, the video game was met with positive reviews and universal acclaim.

GameSpot referred to it as “one of those exceedingly rare games that has a lot to offer virtually everyone, even if they aren’t already into RPGs,” while PC Gamer called it “a total package—a PC gaming classic for the ages,” and said that its “storyline [is] as persuasive as any I’ve encountered in a fantasy roleplaying game.”  It has its own collection of books entitled the Neverwinter Saga, written by R.A. Salvatore, which is made up of four novels. However, these are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of literature surrounding the Forgotten Realms universe, since the saga itself is just part of an even larger, Legend of Drizzt series. And for those who really want to immerse themselves into the canon of “The Realms” and probably never emerge out again, the entire book series is a whopping 302 novels.

 


Video Games and You

Image result for video game gif

– WIF Pop Culture

BS or Truth III – WIF Confidential

Leave a comment

Facts That

Sound Like

BS

no_bs_zone

 

It seems like only yesterday that we dredged the back vaults of our list-writing brains to give you ten facts that sounded like they couldn’t possibly be true, but were. And what a list that was, huh? Full of crazy, once-in-a-lifetime facts of the sort you’re unlikely to witness ever again, the sort of tales that could only come once in a blue…

 No. Hold on, now. You mean we’ve got a whole other list of impossible facts lined up? And this one features a levitating city, 20 million tons of unclaimed gold lying right under our noses, and a mouse that literally screws itself to death? Jeez, we’ve really got our work cut out for us on this one, haven’t we?

10. Chicago Was Once Raised 6 Feet (and no-one noticed)

chicago

There are some facts that you instinctively know are BS, even if you’re not sure why. The idea that someone once managed to make the city of Chicago levitate 6 feet in the air without anyone noticing is definitely one such fact. For one thing, it’s impossible. For another, well, just listen to what you’re saying. You might as well claim the Moon is made of cheese.

Well, sorry, but we’re about to completely mess with your perception of how reality works. On New Year’s Eve 1855, the Chicago Board of Sewage Commissioners tasked engineer E.S. Chesbrough with finding a solution to the city’s regular cholera outbreaks. Chesbrough decided the easiest option would be to hike the entire city out its swamp, 6 feet into the air.

It was known as the Raising of Chicago, and it was completely literal. To get the city out the cholera-infested swamp it sat on, hundreds of men jacked up the streets using massive screws, filled in the space beneath them, and called the result ‘ground level’. The work carried on for 20 years, and was often completely mad. There are stories of whole hotels being hoisted up into the air, and not a single person inside them realizing it was happening.

Nor was it a temporary fix. The Chicago you see today is the ‘raised’ version. That’s right: Chicago is still levitating today, and no-one living there has ever noticed.

9. Irish Traffic Police Accidentally Invented their own Supervillain

prawo-jazdy

Not so long ago, the name Prawo Jazdy struck fear into the hearts of Ireland’s traffic cops. A Polish immigrant, Mr. Jazdy was also the most prolific petty-criminal the Garda had ever encountered. Over the course of two short years, he racked up over 50 speeding tickets in every part of the island. Stranger still, he’d never been caught.

It gets weirder. Mr. Jazdy was a master of disguise. Sometimes he’d be dressed as a middle-aged man when he was stopped. Other times he’d be dressed as a young woman. Irish traffic cops found he’d given them a different driver’s license every time they’d stopped him. He’d given 50 different home addresses, and 50 different dates of birth. Eventually, a special task force was assigned to catch this international man of mystery.

At which point a native Polish speaker joined the Garda’s traffic division. He took one look at Mr. Jazdy’s file and probably fell down laughing. Y’see, Prawo Jazdy wasn’t a supervillain. He wasn’t even a person at all. Prawo Jazdy is Polish for ‘driver’s license’.

According to the BBC, Ireland’s confused traffic cops had spent 2 years writing up tickets for different Polish drivers under the assumption that they were all the same person. The mistake was finally discovered in 2009, to the embarrassment of all.

8. The State of Maine Has More Black Bears than Black People1

black-bear

The northeasternmost state of the US, Maine is one of the most-rural places in America. With a population of 1.33 million, it’s not the emptiest state, but it’s definitely kinda lonesome. It’s also one of the whitest places in the whole of the States. How do we know this? Because according to data from both the state of Maine and the US Census, Maine has more black bears than it has black people.

Seriously, it ain’t even close. The last US Census recorded roughly 19,000 African-Americans living in Maine. A couple of years before, the state of Maine estimated its black bear population at roughly 36,000. In other words, there are roughly two black bears for every single black person in Maine.

That’s a crazy figure, especially if you grew up in a big city, or in the South, or on the West Coast, or, well, anywhere but Maine. Nationally, black people make up 13.2% of the US population. In Maine, they make up just 1.4%. By contrast, if black bears were people, they’d make up 2.7%.

7. Congress Name-Checks Hitler Seven Times a Month

hitler

Godwin’s Law states that the longer an argument goes on, the greater the chance of someone bringing up Hitler. It further states that, the minute Hitler comparisons are invoked, the conversation becomes worthless. Which, when you think about it, is the perfect way of describing Congress. Both parties have been engaged in a never-ending argument for decades now, and both have essentially become worthless. We know this because they just can’t stop bringing up Hitler.

The nonprofit Sunlight Foundation tracks all words in the official Congressional record for their Capitol Words project. The database stretches back to 1996, and contains millions of words. In 2015, they crunched the numbers for Hitler, and found Congress name-checked the Nazi dictator an average of seven times a month.

Hitler has been compared in Congress to Saddam Hussein, to global warming, to modern China, to Gaddafi’s Libya, to Sudan, to Iran, to ISIS, to the cloning of human beings, to the American military, and (bizarrely) to the Founding Fathers. No other dictator even comes close. The high point came in 2003, when Hitler was mentioned 93 times in a single month.

Republicans mention Hitler slightly-more often, with 57% of mentions to the Dem’s 43%. But, as the Daily Dot pointed out, no party has yet been known to mention Godwin’s Law.

6. We Still Have No Idea How Many People Chernobyl Killed

Chernobyldisaster1

On April 26, 1986, the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl, Ukraine, exploded. The resulting meltdown killed 31 people more-or-less instantly, and poisoned millions of square miles of land. At the time, the World Health Organization estimated the disaster would ultimately cause 4,000 deaths from radiation-induced cancer. Over 30 years later, we’re still guessing. Depending on your source, Chernobyl caused anywhere from a mere 53 deaths, to over half a million.

 The trouble is Chernobyl blew radiation over such a vast area, no one really knows how many excess fatal cancers in Europe, Asia and Africa are due to the accident. The UN estimates around 16,000. The Russian Academy of Sciences estimates up to 200,000. The Ukraine National Commission for Radiation Protection calculates 500,000.

And those numbers keep climbing. One recent high-end estimate pegged the total number dead at nearly one million. If true, that would make Chernobyl the deadliest disaster in human history bar the catastrophic China Floods of 1931 (which may have killed up to 4 million). For comparison, the combined atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima killed a maximum of 236,000. That’s right, the screw up of a bunch of Soviet engineers may yet turn out to be deadlier than the bloody endgame of the most-brutal war in human history.

5. Nintendo Existed at the Same Time as the Ottoman Empire

nintendo cards

One is a modern Japanese entertainment company, best known for a certain, red-suited, Italian plumber. The other was a vast Islamic empire founded in the 14thcentury, that was ruled by sultans and once laid siege to Vienna in Austria. Both of these things existed at the same time for thirty three whole years.

The issue here is that Nintendo is way older than you probably imagine, while the Ottoman Empire didn’t fall apart till much later than you probably think. The Ottoman Empire only collapsed in 1922 as a result of losing WWI, after the Allies had carved up its territory for themselves. Nintendo, meanwhile, was founded way, way back in 1889.

At the time, Nintendo was a simple playing card company, with nary an Italian plumber in sight. That’s probably not surprising, as Italy had only been a unified state for less than 2 decades by that point, less than the time separating us now from the release ofTitanic. Europe was still (mostly) ruled by the Prussians, Austro-Hungarians, Russians and Ottomans, and Britain had an empire that stretched all the way around the world. Meanwhile, Japan had only just left two and a half centuries of self-imposed isolation 35 years beforehand.

4. The Ocean Contains 20 Million Tons of (unclaimed) Gold

sunken-treasure

 Imagine if you discovered a near-limitless supply of gold sitting right under your nose. All your worries would be over, right? Well, we’ve got some good news and some bad news for you. The good is that such a stash of gold really does exist, likely within easy driving distance. The bad is that its scattered over the entire ocean.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), our planet’s oceans contain a staggering 20 million tons of unclaimed gold. That’s enough to give every single person alive today 9 pounds of the stuff… or to just hoard it for yourself and become the richest person on the entire planet.

The trouble, sadly, is getting at it. Much of the oceans’ gold is distributed on a very, very fine level. As in, a single liter of seawater contains 13 billionths of a gram of gold. There’s just no way of extracting that, and the stuff that’s concentrated is equally hard to get at. The biggest gold deposits are buried a mile or two under the sea’s surface, and would require a massive mining operation to extract.

Still, if you go looking, you might get lucky. In 2015, the nation of Colombia discovered$1 billion worth of sunken Spanish gold sitting right off the coast of Cartagena.

3. The Biggest Quake in History Hit 23 on the Richter Scale

earthquake

 If you live in earthquake country, you’ll know anything above about a 4 on the Richter Scale is terrifying. The 2010 earthquake that leveled Haiti was a magnitude 7.0. The 1964 earthquake that nearly upended the whole of Alaska was 9.2. The largest in modern history was a 9.6 off the coast of Chile, and that caused 35 foot waves 6,200 miles from the epicenter.

But there’s actually an even-bigger earthquake on record. It went beyond standard measurements and hit a devastating 23 on the Richter Scale.

That estimate comes courtesy of NASA, who observed the quake in action. That’s right, thankfully for all life on Earth, the quake happened millions of lightyears away, at a star known as SGR J1550-5418. The ‘starquake’ was big enough to destroy everything in a 10 light year radius.

Starquakes are caused when the crust of a magnetar – a super, super dense neutron sta1r that packs the mass of more than million Earths into an area the size of Manhattan – cracks. The resulting release of energy is one of the deadliest events in the universe. Any nearby planets would be wiped out instantly. One single, 20 minute quake releases more energy than our sun does in 20 whole years. Thank God we haven’t got any in our galactic neighborhood.

2. Antechinus Mice are so Sex-obsessed They Literally Screw Themselves to Death

mouse

 You might like to think you’ve got going power in the sack. You ain’t got nothing on the Antechinus. A mouse-like marsupial found in Australia, the male is capable of mating for 14 hours straight. In mating season, guy Antechinus’s get so much action in that they literally screw themselves to death.

We don’t mean there’s some crazy biological mechanism that makes them die after reproducing. We mean they simply keep going for so long, and go so hard, that their bodies are destroyed by multiple stress injuries and they die of a failed immune system. Think about how you get more susceptible to disease if you’re tired and already injured, from playing football, say. Mr. Antechinus gets that times a million. Eventually, his stress levels rise so high that his immune system cuts out and he dies.

According to National Geographic, this malady infects every single male Antechinus. 11 months after birth, they become so desperate to mate that they wind up screwing for 3 weeks solid. They then die, and a new generation of boys are raised, who will also grow up to have a libido even Ron Jeremy would envy.

1. You Make History Every Time You Shuffle a Deck of Cards

cards

 Stop reading this for a second, and go find yourself a deck of cards. Got it? Right, now give that mother a shuffle and lay the cards in the order they come out. Congratulations, you’ve just done something completely unique in the whole of human history.

52 cards may not sound like much, but it creates an insane number of possible combinations. Highbrow British quiz show QI calculated the number at 52 factorial, which means 52 times 51, times 50, times 49… etc. Written out, it looks like this:

80,658,175,170,943,878,571,660,636,856,403,766,975,289,505,440,883,277,824,000,000,000,000.

That’s a big number, but we’re not even close to describing just how insanely big. The QI ‘Elves’ phrased it like this: “If every star in our galaxy had a trillion planets, each with a trillion people living on them, and each of these people has a trillion packs of cards and somehow they manage to make unique shuffles 1,000 times per second, and they’d been doing that since the Big Bang, they’d only just now be starting to repeat shuffles.”

 So there you have it. If you wanna make history, don’t cure cancer or invent a new device or conquer half the world. Just grab a pack of cards and get shuffling. We guarantee the results will be historically unique.

BS or Truth III

wif-confidential-001

– WIF Confidential