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Where's Waldo? And Who's Wally?

Since I moved to London, I've gotten used to things being just a bit different: Sure, there's the whole accent thing and the driving on the other side of the road and the insertion of u's where they hadn't been before, but I mean the much more subtle differences "“ like Waldo.

With his trademark red-and-white striped shirt, his knit cap topped with a pom-pom, glasses and walking stick, Waldo has wended his way through virtually every country on every continent, through time and space and imagination, the sets of Hollywood movies and the pages of beloved books.

And Where's Waldo? you ask? Everywhere. His books have sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and have been translated into over 25 languages, and as a character, Waldo has become an icon, appearing on TV shows such as The Simpsons, Friends and Frasier. Waldo even made it onto the cover of Rolling Stone.

But here in the UK, Waldo is Wally.

And, shockingly enough, Waldo was actually Wally first "“ and he's British. Wally was the brainchild of Martin Handford, an illustrator born in the Greater London neighborhood of Hampstead. Handford said that growing up, his earliest influences were large-scale cinema epics, the kinds of movies with large crowd scenes, which he would then try to recreate with pen and paper.

wheres_wallyAlready a known illustrator who specialized in crowd scenes, Handford was asked to put together a book of his work "“ and voila! Wally was born, a visual tie-in that kept continuity from scene to scene.

Eventually, after publishers bought the book, Wally evolved into the bespectacled bumbling traveler we now know: In a typical book, Wally/Waldo carries his trademark walking stick, in addition to 11 other items that are designed to help him on his travels: kettle, mallet, cup, backpack, sleeping bag, binoculars, camera, snorkel, belt, bag and a shovel. Waldo, however, isn't particularly good at keeping track of his items and so, on each page, he loses one, requiring the reader to help him find it. To find him and his lost item, readers are tasked with visually sorting through vast scenes, often rife with visual puns and humor (sometimes a bit risqué humor at that).

The book series launched in 1987 in the UK, with Wally as its titular character; later that same year, the series was launched in the US, where Wally was introduced as Waldo. The series took off, becoming a sensation within only a few years and eventually morphing into a TV series in both the US and the UK, a comic strip, several video games (including one due out this September from Ubisoft), and even a few magazines (in the UK and Australia, Wally went on weekly adventures to new countries, which he reported on his children's geographical and cultural magazine, Wally's World).

By 1997, when the publishers of the books came out with Where's Waldo? The Wonder Book, the Waldo world also had several new characters to find: Woof, Waldo/Wally's faithful canine companion; Wenda, Waldo's girlfriend and the "one who takes pictures," according to the introduction to The Wonder Book; Wizard Whitebeard, whose magic allows the apparently jobless Waldo to travel as much as he does; and Odlaw, whose mean disposition, black-and-yellow striped clothing and slick mustache make him the villain in the Waldo-verse.

The intrepid traveler had even by then sparked some controversy "“ Waldo was spotted on the American Library Association's list of 100 most frequently challenged books, after wandering through a beach scene containing a nearly topless sunbather.

But not only has this international man of mystery gotten lost in scenes across the world, but so has his original identity. Continuing the pattern started with its introduction to the US, Wally got a new name and it seems, a new attitude with every country he was introduced. In some countries, Waldo retained the whimsical "˜w' in his name: For example, in Germany, he's Walter ("Wo ist Walter?") and in Norway, he's Willy ("Der hvor er Willy?"). But in France, he became Charlie ("Ou est Charlie?"), in Denmark, Holger and in Israel, Effi. According to Wikipedia (and therefore not entirely to be believed), American Waldo is a hipper, more "tech-savvy" traveler, while British Wally is a bit of a dork.

These days, Waldo and Wally (and Walter, Willy, Charlie, Holger and Effy) have been popping up in some pretty interesting places "“ and in some cases, in incredibly large numbers. This April, students at Rutgers University earned a Guinness Book of World Records distinction for the most number of people dressed as Waldo in one place.

google-waldo

In 2006, Waldo met with a bit of misadventure: According to Internet lore, he appeared in a field of corpses, with an arrow through his head, in a single frame of the theatrical release of the film Apocalypto. And that's not all: Now that Google Streetview has canvassed more of the earth, Waldo/Wally was recently seen at 77 Putney High Street in London; in 2008, Google Earth made a 55-foot tall version of Wally on top of a building visible; he's been found in some pretty atrocious fanfiction on the Internet; and he even made an appearance at this year's ComicCon, flanked by two scantily clad Waldettes.

Word also has it that we might be seeing more of Waldo in the near future "“ Universal has recently acquired the rights to the Where's Waldo? franchise and plans to make the beloved if plot-less books into a live action family film.

So, who do you think should play Waldo in the movie? Do you have any Waldo memories that stand out (say, the nearly topless lady in the beach scene)? Waldo/Wally turns 22 on September 21 "“ any plans to celebrate the worldwide wanderer's birthday?

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History
A Founder of Earth Day Looks Back on How It Began
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated

On the very first Earth Day in 1970, Denis Hayes stood on a stage in Central Park, stunned by the number of people who'd come to honor the planet. Now in his 70s, Hayes remembers it was like looking at the ocean—“you couldn’t see where the sea of people ended.” Crowd estimates reached more than a million people.

For Hayes, who is now board chair of the international Earth Day Network, it was the culmination of a year’s worth of work. As an urban ecology graduate student at Harvard University, he’d volunteered to help organize a small initiative by Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson. Nelson was horrified by the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, and wanted to raise awareness about environmental issues by holding teaching events similar to those being held by civil rights and anti-war activists.

Senator Nelson saw a growing disconnect between the concept of progress and the idea of American well-being, Hayes tells Mental Floss. “There was a sense that America was prosperous and getting better, but at the same time, the air in the country was similar to the air today in China, Mexico City, or New Delhi," Hayes says. "Rivers were catching on fire. Lakes were unswimmable.”

Nelson's plan for these environmental teach-ins was for speakers to educate college students about environmental issues. But he had no one to organize them. So Hayes, Nelson’s sole volunteer, took control on a national level, organizing teach-ins at Harvard first and then across the U.S. Initially, the response was tepid at best. “Rather rapidly it became clear that this wasn’t a hot issue at colleges and universities in 1969,” Hayes says. “We had a war raging, and civil rights were getting very emotional after the Nixon election.”

Still, both Hayes and Nelson noticed an influx of mail to the senator's office from women with young families worried about the environment. So instead of focusing on colleges, the two decided to take a different tactic, creating events with community-based organizations across the country, Hayes says. They also decided that rather than a series of teach-ins, they'd hold a single, nationwide teach-in on the same day. They called it Earth Day, and set a date: April 22.

Hayes now had a team of young adults working for the cause, and he himself had dropped out of school to tackle it full time. Long before social media, the project began to spread virally. “It just resonated,” he says. Women and smaller environmental-advocacy groups really hooked onto the idea, and word spread by mouth and by information passing between members of the groups.

Courtesy of Denis Hayes

With the cooperation and participation of grassroots groups and volunteers across the country, and a few lawmakers who supported the initiative, Hayes’ efforts culminated in the event on April 22, 1970.

Hayes started the day in Washington, D.C., where he and the staff were based. There was a rally and protest on the National Mall, though by that point Hayes had flown to New York, where Mayor John Lindsay provided a stage in Central Park. Parts of Fifth Avenue were shut down for the events, which included Earth-oriented celebrations, protests, and speeches by celebrities. Some of those attending the event even attacked nearby cars for causing pollution. After the rally, Hayes flew to Chicago for a smaller event.

“We had a sense that it was going to be big, but when the day actually dawned, the crowds were so much bigger than anyone had experienced before,” Hayes said. The event drew grassroots activists working on a variety of issues—Agent Orange, lead paint in poor urban neighborhoods, saving the whales—and fostered a sense of unity among them.

“There were people worrying about these [environmental] issues before Earth Day, but they didn’t think they had anything in common with one another," Hayes says. "We took all those individual strands and wove them together into the fabric of modern environmentalism.”

Hayes and his team spent the summer getting tear-gassed at protests against the American invasion of Cambodia, which President Nixon authorized just six days after Earth Day. But by fall, the team refocused on environmental issues—and elections. They targeted a “dirty dozen” members of Congress up for re-election who had terrible environmental records, and campaigned for candidates who championed environmental causes to run against them. They defeated seven out of 12.

“It was a very poorly funded but high-energy campaign,” Hayes says. “That sent the message to Congress that it wasn’t just a bunch of people out frolicking in the sunshine planting daisies and picking up litter. This actually had political chops.”

The early '70s became a golden age for environmental issues; momentum from the Earth Day movement spawned the creation of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Environmental Education Act (which was initially passed in 1970 and revived in 1990), and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We completely changed the framework within which America does business, more than any other period in history with the possible exception of the New Deal,” Hayes says. “But our little revolution was brought entirely from the grassroots up.”

In 1990, Hayes was at it again. He organized the first international Earth Day, with about 200 million participants across more than 140 countries. Since then it’s become a global phenomenon.

Despite its popularity, though, we still have a long way to go, even if the improvements Hayes fought for have made these issues feel more remote. Hayes noted that everything they were fighting in the '70s was something tangible—something you could see, taste, smell, or touch. Climate change can seem much less real—and harder to combat—to the average person who isn’t yet faced with its effects.

Hayes also notes that people have become more skeptical of science. “Historically, that has not been a problem in the United States. But today science is under attack.”

He warns, “This [anti-science sentiment] is something that could impoverish the next 50 generations and create really long-term devastation—that harms not only American health, but also American business, American labor, and American prospects.”

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entertainment
13 Great Jack Nicholson Quotes
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

Jack Nicholson turns 81 today. Let's celebrate with some of the actor's wit and wisdom.

1. ON ADVICE

"I hate advice unless I'm giving it. I hate giving advice, because people won't take it."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

2. ON REGRETS

"Not that I can think of. I’m sure there are some, but my mind doesn’t go there. When you look at life retrospectively you rarely regret anything that you did, but you might regret things that you didn’t do."

From an interview with The Talks

3. ON DEATH

"I'm Irish. I think about death all the time. Back in the days when I thought of myself as a serious academic writer, I used to think that the only real theme was a fear of death, and that all the other themes were just that same fear, translated into fear of closeness, fear of loneliness, fear of dissolving values. Then I heard old John Huston talking about death. Somebody was quizzing him about the subject, you know, and here he is with the open-heart surgery a few years ago, and the emphysema, but he's bounced back fit as a fiddle, and he's talking about theories of death, and the other fella says, 'Well, great, John, that's great ... but how am I supposed to feel about it when you pass on?' And John says, 'Just treat it as your own.' As for me, I like that line I wrote that, we used in The Border, where I said, 'I just want to do something good before I die.' Isn't that what we all want?"

From an interview with Roger Ebert

4. ON NERVES

''There's a period of time just before you start a movie when you start thinking, I don't know what in the world I'm going to do. It's free-floating anxiety. In my case, though, this is over by lunch the first day of shooting.''

From an interview with The New York Times

5. ON ACTING

"Almost anyone can give a good representative performance when you're unknown. It's just easier. The real pro game of acting is after you're known—to 'un-Jack' that character, in my case, and get the audience to reinvest in a new and specific, fictional person."

From an interview with The Age

6. ON MARRIAGE

"I never had a policy about marriage. I got married very young in life and I always think in all relationships, I've always thought that it's counterproductive to have a theory on that. It's hard enough to get to know yourself and as most of you have probably found, once you get to know two people in tandem it's even more difficult. If it's going to be successful, it's going to have to be very specific and real and immediate so the more ideas you have about it before you start, it seems to me the less likely you are to be successful."

From an interview with About.com

7. ON LYING

“You only lie to two people in your life: your girlfriend and the police. Everybody else you tell the truth to.”

From a 1994 interview with Vanity Fair

8. ON HIS SUNGLASSES

"They're prescription. That's why I wear them. A long time ago, the Middle American in me may have thought it was a bit affected maybe. But the light is very strong in southern California. And once you've experienced negative territory in public life, you begin to accept the notion of shields. I am a person who is trained to look other people in the eye. But I can't look into the eyes of everyone who wants to look into mine; I can't emotionally cope with that kind of volume. Sunglasses are part of my armor."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

9. ON MISCONCEPTIONS

"I think people think I'm more physical than I am, I suppose. I'm not really confrontational. Of course, I have a temper, but that's sort of blown out of proportion."

From an interview with ESPN

10. ON DIRECTING

"I'm a different person when suddenly it's my responsibility. I'm not very inhibited in that way. I would show up [on the set of The Two Jakes] one day, and we'd scouted an orange grove and it had been cut down. You're out in the middle of nowhere and they forget to cast an actor. These are the sort of things I kind of like about directing. Of course, at the time you blow your stack a little bit. ... I'm a Roger Corman baby. Just keep rolling, baby. You've got to get something on there. Maybe it's right. Maybe it's wrong. Maybe you can fix it later. Maybe you can't. You can't imagine the things that come up when you're making a movie where you've got to adjust on the spot."

From an interview with MTV

11. ON ROGER CORMAN

"There's nobody in there, that he didn't, in the most important way support. He was my life blood to whatever I thought I was going to be as a person. And I hope he knows that this is not all hot air. I'm going to cry now."

From the documentary Corman's World

12. ON PLAYING THE JOKER

"This would be the character, whose core—while totally determinate of the part—was the least limiting of any I would ever encounter. This is a more literary way of approaching than I might have had as a kid reading the comics, but you have to get specific. ... He's not wired up the same way. This guy has survived nuclear waste immersion here. Even in my own life, people have said, 'There's nothing sacred to you in the area of humor, Jack. Sometimes, Jack, relax with the humor.' This does not apply to the Joker, in fact, just the opposite. Things even the wildest comics might be afraid to find funny: burning somebody's face into oblivion, destroying a masterpiece in a museum—a subject as an art person even made me a little scared. Not this character. And I love that."

From The Making of Batman

13. ON BASKETBALL

"I've always thought basketball was the best sport, although it wasn't the sport I was best at. It was just the most fun to watch. ... Even as a kid it appealed to me. The basketball players were out at night. They had great overcoats. There was this certain nighttime juvenile-delinquent thing about it that got your blood going."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"

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