Despite my video and computer game obsessions of recent years "“ Guitar Hero, The Sims and World of Warcraft among them "“ if I had to rank the best games ever, Oregon Trail would still make my top 10 (along with Carmen Sandiego, obviously). In fact, I just spent way too much time playing it in the name of "research." Here's what that "“ and some actual research "“ uncovered.
1. Although you probably played it in the late "˜80s or early "˜90s, the game has been around since 1971, when a trio of student teachers from Minnesota cobbled together a program for a history class one of them was teaching. Three years later, one of the teachers took a job at Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium, a company that developed educational software. He allowed Oregon Trail to be uploaded to MECC's database and it spread across the state like cholera. By 1985 the game was so popular that it was released on floppy disk (remember those?) on a national level.
2.In the original version, players didn't get to aim a gun and hunt for buffalo and bear. Instead, the "shooting" happened by onomatopoeia "“ players had to type "Bang" and "Pow" as fast as possible. The faster they typed, the more meat they received. Misspelled words resulted in a failed hunting expedition.
3. The diseases the members of your party could potentially die of were dysentery, cholera, drowning, fever, a snakebite, typhoid, exhaustion, broken limbs and measles, among other things.
4. In 1994, MECC belatedly followed up the smash hit Oregon Trail with the decidedly less thrilling Yukon Trail. I should know; I definitely owned it. It was still enjoyable, but it was no Oregon Trail. Players would head out from Seattle in 1897 and take a ferry to one of two towns. Then, like the Oregon Trail, there are rivers to be forged and obstacles to be conquered. But along the way, wannabe gold diggers stumble across famous figures like Jack London, Sam Steele and Nellie Cashman. Then you get to claim and area and start panning for gold.
5. The Oregon Trail II was released in 1996. I must have lost interest by this point because I don't recall this game at all. It was a much more advanced version of the first "“ for instance, after selecting an occupation for your main player, you could spend extra points to give them extra skills such as botany or medicine. And there were many more occupations to choose from "“ in the original, the options are few: banker, farmer or carpenter. The updated version had more than 20 careers to choose from, including journalist. Call me crazy, but I feel like writing skills aren't going to really come in handy when your oxen fall sick or you bust a wheel on your Conestoga. The 1996 version also allowed players to select from various skill levels and starting towns.
6. MECC was behind some of the other fascinating classroom computer games of the "˜80s. You might remember Odell Lake, Number Munchers, Lemonade Stand, Spellevator and Storybook Weaver. 7. When someone from your party died, you could make a custom epitaph for them. You might remember that sometimes you would see someone else's tombstone while on your travels, specifically someone named "Andy" whose epitaph read, "Here lies andy; peperony and chease." What?! The story is that a kid named Andy was particularly amused by those Tombstone pizza commercials that growled, "What do you want on your Tombstone?" The spelling-challenged Andy answered, appropriately, "peperony and chease." So how did it get on your copy? Well, his game was saved on a disk that ended up being a disk that was very popularly pirated later on. So there you go.
8. Assuming you didn't die, right away, the landmarks you would hit on your journey included Fort Kearney, Independence Rock, Chimney Rock, Fort Laramie, South Pass, and the Columbia River.
9. Your score at the end of the game is determined by a lot of things "“ your profession, how many members of your party made it all the way through, the health of the remaining members, the time you made it in, the supplies you have left and how much leftover money you have. The world record right now is apparently 53,350 points by Craig Ian Weibman.
10. My personal favorite strategy was to give the least amount of supplies humanly possible, set off for the Trail so we would be traveling in the dead of winter, and set the pace to "grueling." Only the strong survive"¦ which apparently doesn't include me.
And because I love to help you guys procrastinate when you should be working or studying or doing something productive, here you go "“ you can now play Oregon Trail for free on Virtual Apple. If you haven't played it in years, I highly recommend clicking the link "“ the feeling of glee you will get when you see the terrible graphics and the delight you will feel when the first member of your party dies from dysentery is SO WORTH IT. Good luck, pioneers, and be sure to share your Oregon Trail nostalgia in the comments.
New items have been added to the list of foods being recalled due to possible salmonella contamination. According to Fox Carolina, snack cakes and bread products produced by Flowers Foods, Inc. have been pulled from stores in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
The baked goods company, based in Georgia, has reason to believe the whey powder it buys from a third-party supplier is tainted with salmonella. The ingredient is added to its Swiss rolls, which are sold under various brands, as well as its Captain John Derst’s Old Fashioned Bread. Popular chains that normally sell Flowers Foods products include Walmart and Food Lion.
The U.S. is in the middle of a salmonella outbreak. In June, Kellogg's recalled Honey Smacks due to contamination and the CDC is still urging consumers to avoid the brand. The cereal has sickened dozens of people since early March. So far, there have been no reported illnesses connected to the potential Flower Foods contamination.
You can find the full list of recalled items below. If you have one of these products in your kitchen, throw it out immediately or return it to the store where you bought it to be reimbursed.
10 Facts About Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian
BY Jay Serafino
July 19, 2018
Nearly every sword-wielding fantasy hero from the 20th century owes a tip of their horned helmet to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Set in the fictional Hyborian Age, after the destruction of Atlantis but before our general recorded history, Conan's stories have depicted him as everything from a cunning thief to a noble king and all types of scoundrel in between. But beneath that blood-soaked sword and shield is a character that struck a nerve with generations of fantasy fans, spawning adaptations in comics, video games, movies, TV shows, and cartoons in the eight decades since he first appeared in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales. So thank Crom, because here are 10 facts about Conan the Barbarian.
1. THE FIRST OFFICIAL CONAN STORY WAS A KULL REWRITE.
Conan wasn’t the only barbarian on Robert E. Howard’s resume. In 1929, the writer created Kull the Conqueror, a more “introspective” brand of savage that gained enough interest to eventually find his way onto the big screen in 1997. The two characters share more than just a common creator and a general disdain for shirts, though: the first Conan story to get published, “The Phoenix on the Sword,” was actually a rewrite of an earlier rejected Kull tale titled “By This Axe I Rule!” For this new take on the plot, Howard introduced supernatural elements and more action. The end result was more suited to what Weird Tales wanted, and it became the foundation for future Conan tales.
2. BUT A “PROTO-CONAN” STORY PRECEDED IT.
A few months before Conan made his debut in Weird Tales, Howard wrote a story called "People of the Dark" for Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror about a man named John O’Brien who seemed to relive his past life as a brutish, black-haired warrior named … Conan of the reavers. Reaveis a word from Old English meaning to raid or plunder, which is obviously in the same ballpark as barbarian. And in the story, there is also a reference to Crom, the fictional god of the Hyborian age that later became a staple of the Conan mythology. This isn't the barbarian as we know him, and it's certainly not an official Conan tale, but the early ideas were there.
3. ROBERT E. HOWARD NEVER INTENDED TO WRITE THESE STORIES IN ORDER.
Howard was meticulous in his world-building for Conan, which was highlighted by his 8600-word history on the Hyborian Age the character lived in. But the one area the creator had no interest in was linearity. Conan’s first story depicted him already as a king; subsequent stories, though, would shift back and forth, chronicling his early days as both a thief and a youthful adventurer.
There’s good reason for that, as Howard himself once explained: “In writing these yarns I've always felt less as creating them than as if I were simply chronicling his adventures as he told them to me. That's why they skip about so much, without following a regular order. The average adventurer, telling tales of a wild life at random, seldom follows any ordered plan, but narrates episodes widely separated by space and years, as they occur to him.”
4. THERE ARE NUMEROUS CONNECTIONS TO THE H.P. LOVECRAFT MYTHOS.
For fans of the pulp magazines of the early 20th century, one of the only names bigger than Robert E. Howard was H.P. Lovecraft. The two weren’t competitors, though—rather, they were close friends and correspondents. They’d often mail each other drafts of their stories, discuss the themes of their work, and generally talk shop. And as Lovecraft’s own mythology was growing, it seems like their work began to bleed together.
In “The Phoenix on the Sword,” Howard made reference to “vast shadowy outlines of the Nameless Old Ones,” which could be seen as a reference to the ancient, godlike “Old Ones” from the Lovecraft mythos. In the book The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, editor Patrice Louinet even wrote that Howard’s earlier draft for the story name-dropped Lovecraft’s actual Old Ones, most notably Cthulhu.
In Lovecraft’s “The Shadow of Time,” he describes a character named Crom-Ya as a “Cimmerian chieftain,” which is a reference to Conan's homeland and god. These examples just scratch the surface of names, places, and concepts that the duo’s work share. Whether you want to read it all as a fun homage or an early attempt at a shared universe is up to you.
5. SEVERAL OF HOWARD’S STORIES WERE REWRITTEN AS CONAN STORIES POSTHUMOUSLY.
Howard was only 30 when he died, so there aren’t as many completed Conan stories out in the world as you’d imagine—and there are even less that were finished and officially printed. Despite that, the character’s popularity has only grown since the 1930s, and publishers looked for a way to print more of Howard’s Conan decades after his death. Over the years, writers and editors have gone back into Howard’s manuscripts for unfinished tales to doctor up and rewrite for publication, like "The Snout in the Dark," which was a fragment that was reworked by writers Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp. There were also times when Howard’s non-Conan drafts were repurposed as Conan stories by publishers, including all of the stories in 1955's Tales of Conan collection from Gnome Press.
6. FRANK FRAZETTA’S CONAN PAINTINGS REGULARLY SELL FOR SEVEN FIGURES.
Chances are, the image of Conan you have in your head right now owes a lot to artist Frank Frazetta: His version of the famous barbarian—complete with rippling muscles, pulsating veins, and copious amounts of sword swinging—would come to define the character for generations. But the look that people most associate with Conan didn’t come about until the character’s stories were reprinted decades after Robert E. Howard’s death.
“In 1966, Lancer Books published new paperbacks of Robert E. Howard's Conan series and hired my grandfather to do the cover art,” Sara Frazetta, Frazetta's granddaughter owner and operator of Frazetta Girls, tells Mental Floss. You could argue that Frazetta’s powerful covers were what drew most people to Conan during the '60s and '70s, and in recent years the collector’s market seems to validate that opinion. In 2012, the original painting for his Lancer version of Conan the Conquerorsold at auction for $1,000,000. Later, his Conan the Destroyerwent for $1.5 million.
Still, despite all of Frazetta’s accomplishments, his granddaughter said there was one thing he always wanted: “His only regret was that he wished Robert E. Howard was alive so he could have seen what he did with his character.”
7. CONAN’S FIRST MARVEL COMIC WAS ALMOST CANCELED AFTER SEVEN ISSUES.
Conan’s origins as a pulp magazine hero made him a natural fit for the medium’s logical evolution: the comic book. And in 1970, the character got his first high-profile comic launch when Marvel’s Conan The Barbarian hit shelves, courtesy of writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith.
Though now it’s hailed as one of the company’s highlights from the ‘70s, the book was nearly canceled after a mere seven issues. The problem is that while the debut issue sold well, each of the next six dropped in sales, leading Marvel’s then editor-in-chief, Stan Lee, to pull the book from production after the seventh issue hit stands.
Thomas pled his case, and Lee agreed to give Conan one last shot. But this time instead of the book coming out every month, it would be every two months. The plan worked, and soon sales were again on the rise and the book would stay in publication until 1993, again as a monthly. This success gave way to the Savage Sword of Conan, an oversized black-and-white spinoff magazine from Marvel that was aimed at adult audiences. It, too, was met with immense success, lasting from 1974 to 1995.
8. OLIVER STONE WROTE A FOUR-HOUR, POST-APOCALYPTIC CONAN MOVIE.
John Milius’s 1982 Conan movie is a classic of the sword and sorcery genre, but its original script from Oliver Stone didn’t resemble the final product at all. In fact, it barely resembled anything related to Conan. Stone’s Conan would have been set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where the barbarian would do battle against a host of mutant pigs, insects, and hyenas. Not only that, but it would have also been just one part of a 12-film saga that would be modeled on the release schedule of the James Bond series.
The original producers were set to move ahead with Stone’s script with Stone co-directing alongside an up-and-coming special effects expert named Ridley Scott, but they were turned down by all of their prospects. With no co-director and a movie that would likely be too ambitious to ever actually get finished, they sold the rights to producer Dino De Laurentiis, who helped bring in Milius.
9. BARACK OBAMA IS A FAN (AND WAS TURNED INTO A BARBARIAN HIMSELF).
When President Barack Obama sent out amass email in 2015 to the members of Organizing for Action, he was looking to get people to offer up stories about how they got involved within their community—their origin stories, if you will. In this mass email, the former Commander-in-Chief detailed his own origin, with a shout out to a certain barbarian:
“I grew up loving comic books. Back in the day, I was pretty into Conan the Barbarian and Spiderman.
Anyone who reads comics can tell you, every main character has an origin story—the fateful and usually unexpected sequence of events that made them who they are.”
This bit of trivia was first made public in 2008 in a Daily Telegraph article on 50 facts about the president. That led to Devil’s Due Publishing immortalizing the POTUS in the 2009 comic series Barack the Barbarian, which had him decked out in his signature loincloth doing battle against everyone from Sarah Palin to Dick Cheney.
10. J.R.R. TOLKIEN WAS ALSO A CONAN DEVOTEE.
The father of 20th century fantasy may always be J.R.R. Tolkien, but Howard is a close second in many fans' eyes. Though Tolkien’s work has found its way into more scholarly literary circles, Howard’s can sometimes get categorized as low-brow. Quality recognizes quality, however, and during a conversation with Tolkien, writer L. Sprague de Camp—who himself edited and touched-up numerous Conan stories—said The Lord of the Rings author admitted that he “rather liked” Howard’s Conan stories during a conversation with him. He didn’t expand upon it, nor was de Camp sure which Conan tale he actually read (though it was likely “Shadows in the Moonlight”), but the seal of approval from Tolkien himself goes a long way toward validation.