7 Great Misconceptions About Australia

As an Australian, I'm greeted with open arms whenever I go overseas. It's great to be liked"¦ but though I hate to admit it, there are a few things people get wrong about us. I'm afraid I don't have a pet kangaroo, I don't live on a wide-open Outback farm, I don't eat copious amounts of Vegemite, and I don't greet everyone by saying "G'day, mate." Some Aussies do those things, I'll admit, but most of us don't. While I'm here, I should clear up a few other misconceptions"¦

1. Captain Cook discovered Australia

Captain James Cook (who was actually a Lieutenant at the time) is famous for discovering Australia in 1770. He claimed the land for England, which duly sent the first white settlers 18 years later. But many other explorers saw Australia well before Cook's time. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Chinese discovered the land in the 15th century. Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog visited Australia in 1616, and was possibly the first European to recognize it as a new land. In 1688, William Dampier became the first Englishman to set foot on Australia, recording the sight of a "large hopping animal" in his journal. Of course, the true discoverers of the land were the Australian Aborigines, who "“ despite being properly called "native Australians" "“ probably hailed from Asia. They have only been living in Australia for tens of thousands of years.

2. Qantas never crashed

QantasRemember the scene in Rain Man when Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) refuses to travel on any airline except Qantas, claiming that "Qantas never crashed"? If you saw it as an in-flight movie, you probably don't remember that scene, because it was edited out on most airlines. (Except one... but you could probably figure that out.)

The movie has long been a source of pride (and no doubt, good business) for Qantas. Still, while Australia's national airline does have an impressive safety record, it is not perfect. And that perfect record was marred very early on in the company's history. In Queensland in 1927, a passenger flight ended tragically, killing all three people aboard. Altogether, 80 people have died in Qantas crashes, though the last fatal crash was way back in 1951. Perhaps Raymond meant that the airline has never had any fatal jet airliner crashes. All of their crashes were in small aircraft.

3. All Aussies live on the land

The image of the bronzed, rugged, Outback-dwelling bushman, as seen in the "Crocodile" Dundee movies (and more recently, Hugh Jackman's robust hero in the film Australia), is not as common as you might assume. Despite the size of the Outback (1.2 million square miles), only one percent of Australians actually live there. (As so much of the Outback is arid land, it couldn't really sustain many others.) Aussies are really rather urbanized. Half of Australia's 21 million people live in the five largest cities, with a third of all Aussies living in the metropolises of Sydney and Melbourne. Very, very few Australians eat grubs, wrestle crocodiles, or hypnotize wild animals.

4. The dangers of Australian snakes

Australia is notorious for dangerous snakes and spiders. This is partly due to a government campaign, a few years ago, to scare away prospective refugees with tales of terrible wildlife. (The campaign might have backfired, as potential tourists also decided to avoid the place!) But while it does have many venomous critters, they have killed very few people. Bushwalkers might be at risk, but if you're visiting a city (or even a country town), you can breathe easy. It is true, however, that Australia has the world's most venomous snake. The inland taipan (or fierce snake) has enough venom to kill 100 grown men. So how many people has it killed? Er"¦ none. Thanks to antivenom treatment and its own shyness (it would rather slither away quietly than stay and fight), it's been strangely harmless.

5. Saving the Brits at Gallipoli

No military battle stirs as much sentiment in Australia as the Gallipoli campaign, an ill-fated (and poorly organized) World War I offensive on the Turkish coast that killed thousands of soldiers. Though Aussies salute the heroism of their soldiers, many believe they were used as decoys to save the cowardly British officers. This legend was boosted by Gallipoli (1981), an early Mel Gibson film, which was a huge hit in Australia. In this film, Aussie soldiers die in battle while British officers stay safely in their tents, calmly drinking tea. The truth is that, during the real Gallipoli attack, the English had even more casualties than the Aussies.

The Australian cavalry, meanwhile, was commanded by Australian officers (as you might expect), not British ones. The movie implied otherwise, making it appear that it was callous British officers who sent the young Aussies to their deaths. Actually, the movie never says that the officers are British, but it does give them very strong British accents. (In fairness, perhaps the movie wasn't as historically inaccurate as it sounded. Back in World War I, it was not unusual for well-educated, affluent Australians to sound frightfully British "“ and as you might imagine, many of them became military officers.)

6. Kangaroos are brilliant

skippyPeople around the world believe that kangaroos, one of Australia's national animals, are highly intelligent, and can be trained to unlock doors, open safes, guide lost people through bushland, control helicopters, even tinker on the piano. Why do they think that? Blame the television series Skippy, which premiered in 1967, and was soon shown in 100 countries (a world record at the time) by over 300 million people. Even kids in the Eastern Bloc (where American series were banned) adored the adventures of a heroic kangaroo that (in the spirit of Lassie, Flipper and other clever TV animals) could save the day every week. The only Western nation to turn down Skippy was Sweden, which was afraid that the series gave "a misleading impression of an animal's ability."

Alas, the Swedes were right. As kangaroos are impossible to train, Skippy was played by 14 lookalikes. Before each scene, one kangaroo was kept in a hessian bag, so that she (Skippy was a girl) could emerge, dazed, to stand still and film for a few minutes before nonchalantly hopping away. Her dexterity, allowing her to open doors and pick up objects, was the work of fake paws, operated by puppeteers.

7. Koalas are bears

koalaKoalas are not bears. In fact, they are not even distantly related. Like kangaroos and Tasmanian devils, they are marsupials (carrying their young in pouches). Perhaps the only thing they have in common with bears is their propensity for sleep "“ but even bears couldn't possibly match them in this. Each day, the average adult koala spends about fourteen hours sleeping, five hours resting, roughly five hours eating and four minutes traveling (climbing further up their tree). Of course, this lifestyle doesn't require much energy, and as they eat mainly Eucalyptus leaves, they don't exactly have a high-energy diet. While they don't like to be disturbed, they wouldn't attack with the ferocity of a bear.

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Recall Alert: Swiss Rolls And Bread Sold at Walmart and Food Lion Linked to Salmonella
Evan-Amos, Wikimedia Commons // CC 1.0

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.

  • Mrs. Freshley's Swiss Rolls
  • Mrs. Freshley's Swiss Rolls
  • Food Lion Swiss Rolls
  • Baker's Treat Swiss Rolls
  • Market Square Swiss Rolls
  • Great Value Swiss Rolls
  • Captain John Derst's Old Fashioned Bread

[h/t Fox Carolina]

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Marvel Entertainment
10 Facts About Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian
Marvel Entertainment
Marvel Entertainment

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. Reave is 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 Conqueror sold at auction for $1,000,000. Later, his Conan the Destroyer went 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.

The cover to Marvel's Conan the Barbarian #21
Marvel Entertainment

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 a mass 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.

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