WTF Fun Fact 13197 – Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Credits

Did you know Steven Spielberg was a college dropout? Well, in any case, he returned to his college, Cal State – Long Beach, when he was in his 50s to earn his BA degree. But the story of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic credits is less well-known.

A director drops out of college – and comes back

Speilberg has been given some honorary degrees over the years and spoke at a commencement or two. For example, he spoke at Harvard’s 2016 graduation ceremony. It was there he revealed his own college story.

He told students and their parent’s about his own graduation, just 14 years earlier.

Spielberg began college in his teens but was then offered his dream job at Universal Studios in his sophomore year. He told his parents that if his movie career failed, he would re-enroll.

But it didn’t happen quite like that. It did, however, take him 37 years to finally graduate.

He told the audience:

“…eventually, I returned for one big reason. Most people go to college for an education, and some go for their parents, but I went for my kids. I’m the father of seven, and I kept insisting on the importance of going to college, but I hadn’t walked the walk. So, in my fifties, I re-enrolled at Cal State — Long Beach, and I earned my degree.”

Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic credits

It’s probably a lot easier to master college and its demands when you’re wealthy and have nothing to lose. But that’s not an attempt to diminish his achievement (just a nod to college students out there still grinding away)!

Another thing that helped the Hollywood director? Spielberg told that Harvard grads that he was given three credits in paleontology for making Jurassic Park.

Now, if you’ve seen Jurassic Park, you know there’s some sketchy molecular biology in there, but we’re hoping they got the paleontology right!

Regardless, Spielberg finished up his degree in film production. And we’re guessing he had a pretty high GPA by the end – at least in his major!

Here are some other words of advice he had to offer:

“And the way you create a better future is by studying the past. Jurassic Park writer Michael Crichton, who graduated from both this college and this medical school, liked to quote a favorite professor of his who said that if you didn’t know history, you didn’t know anything. You were a leaf that didn’t know it was part of a tree. So history majors: Good choice, you’re in great shape…Not in the job market, but culturally.”

Hey, we know an awful lot of history majors working in museums, journalism, marketing, politics, and law! We even know some who work as consultants on movie sets, Spielberg!  WTF fun facts

Source: “Steven Spielberg to Grads: ‘Earn This'” — TIME

WTF Fun Fact 13196 – Francis Scott Key and F Scott Fitzgerald

Francis Scott Key and F Scott Fitzgerald have some interesting things in common. Fitzgerald’s full name is actually Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald. That’s because his parents named him after his distant relative who wrote the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Francis Scott Key and F Scott Fitzgerald were relatives

Francis Scott Key was an American lawyer, author, and amateur poet from Maryland. We know him best for writing the lyrics to the United States’ national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The poem was originally titled “Defense of Fort McHenry.” Key wrote it in 1814 after he witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British during the War of 1812.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was an American novelist, short-story writer, and playwright. He is considered one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. We know him best for his novels “The Great Gatsby” and “Tender Is the Night.” Scholars characterize Fitzgerald’s works by their themes of wealth, youth, and disillusionment, and they helped to define the “Jazz Age” of the 1920s. notes that: “The two were only distantly related—Key was a second cousin three times removed—but Fitzgerald was known to play up the family connection. While driving past a statue of Key in an alcoholic haze in 1934, he supposedly hopped from the car and hid in the bushes, yelling to a friend, ‘Don’t let Frank see me drunk!””

Other fun facts about Fitzgerald

In addition to having a famous relative, revealed that Fitzgerald was also an awful speller. That’s pretty impressive since he made his living writing before the days of the spell checker. Luckily, he lived in the days of good editors.

His book “The Great Gatsby” was also not a bestseller in his lifetime. “It performed poorly compared to his first two novels, selling just over 20,000 copies and only turning a meager profit for its publisher. Popular interest in the book didn’t spike until World War II when some 150,000 copies were shipped to U.S. servicemen overseas.” WTF fun facts

Source: “10 Things You May Not Know About F. Scott Fitzgerald” —

WTF Fun Fact 13192 – Frank Sinatra Was Offered Die Hard Role

It’s hard to imagine anyone but Bruce Willis playing the lead character in Die Hard. But believe it or not, Frank Sinatra was offered Die Hard role John McClane.

Frank Sinatra offered Die Hard role but turned it down

Had Sinatra starred in Die Hard, it would have been a very different movie.

The film is based on a book by Roderick Thorpe called Nothing Lasts Forever. It was published in 1979 and was a sequel to Thorpe’s 1966 novel The Detective.

Now, The Detective WAS made into a movie. And this one did star Frank Sinatra as the main character, Detective Joe Leland. Is it starting to become clear why Frank Sinatra was offered the later Die Hard role?

The Die Hard we know and love

The sequel to The Detective, which we now know as Die Hard didn’t get a green light for production until the late 1980s. That was a good decade after the book was published. And by then, Sinatra was 73 years old.

However, since the movie was technically a sequel, the production company was obligated to offer the role to Sinatra first. As we all now know, he turned it down. (But can you imagine Sinatra as John McClane? We can’t!)

And believe it or not, Bruce Willis wasn’t the second choice. The role was then offered to Arnold Schwarzenegger. According to Business Insider (cited below), “the movie was pitched as a sequel to the actor’s 1985 film Commando rather than a sequel to The Detective. Schwarzenegger also turned down the offer…”

It wasn’t until after the second strike and miss that producers offered the role to Bruce Willis and the leading role was tweaked a bit, with the character renamed John McClane instead of Joe Leland.

At the time, Bruce Willis was known for his comedy roles, so the producers were taking a risk casting him in an action film.  WTF fun facts

Source: “73-Year-Old Frank Sinatra Was Originally Offered The Lead Role In ‘Die Hard'” — Business Insider

WTF Fun Fact 13189 – I Hate Elvis Badges

Meme sites and Reddit boards have long shared a tidbit of Elvis’s history that people find hard to believe. Elvis Presley’s manager once sold “I Hate Elvis” badges so he could make money off of people who hated The King just as he did with fans. And it appears to be true.

Selling I Hate Elvis badges

Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker was quite the marketing genius. He was also excellent at making himself money in any way possible. Many of Elvis’s early music and performance deals paid Parker half of the money.

By the end of 1956, Elvis’s merchandise was bringing in $22 million! For this, Parker got 25% of the profits. But it was a little reverse psychology that made him even more money.

Not everyone loved Elvis. And we all know that when something or someone is super popular, people take great pride in outwardly hating it to somehow set themselves apart from the “masses.” (Not to mention that older generations saw Elvis as a corrupting influence.)

As a result, Colonel Parker decided to make both sides happy and created “I Hate Elvis” badges for non-fans. That way he could make money off of the other side too. (Too bad he didn’t come up with an “I feel ambivalent about Elvis” badge – he could have covered all his bases.)

In a book titled Colonel (The True Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley), author Alanna Nash mentions the badges. She states:

“Parker, who tied on a vendor’s apron to peddle both I LOVE ELVIS and I HATE ELVIS buttons to folks who reacted strongly one way or another, didn’t care what the newsmen said as long as they said it — and paid their own admission to the shows.”

All press is good press if you’re making money off of it, apparently! You can still find vintage “I hate Elvis” buttons online.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Did Elvis Presley’s Manager Sell ‘I Hate Elvis’ Buttons to Profit From ‘Haters’?” — Truth or Fiction

WTF Fun Fact 13185 – Non-Religious and Atheist People

There are roughly 2.38 billion Christians,1.91 billion Muslims, and 1.16 billion Hindus in the world. But a growing number of people identify as non-religious and atheist. In other words, they don’t affiliate with any specific religion, though their range of beliefs is still quite wide.

It’s interesting to see that 85% of the world still does identify with some organized religious group.

Defining non-religious and atheist people

Of course, religion is complicated. You may identify as a Christian but believe the person sitting next to you in a Church pew is not. However, what matters is how they identify, not whether they act according to a religion’s belief system.

People often associate religion with someone’s morals. But it’s not true that non-religious and atheist people don’t have a set of morals and virtues they abide by. Those “rules” or guidelines simply don’t come from a single, organized religion. And non-religious people and atheists may not even have much in common.

Non-religious people may be agnostic or spiritual. In other words, they may believe in the eternal or an afterlife, but not a deity that controls it). Atheists are a diverse group, though they tend to be defined as those who do not believe any kind of god exists. However, there are generally two types of atheists – those who reject the idea that gods exist and those who aren’t as explicit in their rejection of deities but still don’t believe in any.

While there are famous atheists who have tried to define the word to the world and construct a system of thinking around the world. But atheists are free to reject these words and still call themselves atheists.

Atheists in the world

The number of atheists has always been difficult to measure. Some have posited that the number of atheists is declining because the birth rates in religious countries have gone up. But that implies that those children will not someday identify as atheists (at least on a survey when asked privately!). Others have suggested that there are far more non-religious and atheists in the world who still identify as religious out of social pressure. And since many people incorrectly associate atheism with anti-religious beliefs or fringe beliefs (like Satanism), they may be reluctant to identify as such.

The countries with the most “convinced atheists” (at least in a 2012 survey) were China, Japan, the Czech Republic, France, South Korea, Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Iceland, and Australia (10%).  WTF fun facts

Source: “Religion by Country 2023” — World Population Review

WTF Fun Fact 13184 – People in India Read the Most

People in India spend 10 hours and 42 minutes a week reading, the most of any country on Earth. The U.S. makes up about 30% of the world’s book-buying population. But Americans don’t crack the top 5 for the time spent reading metric.

Where do most readers live? People in India read the most

India, Thailand, China, Phillippines, and Egypt round out the top 5 for the most time spent reading per person, on average, per week.

Data collected between 2017 and 2022 showed that:

  • India ranks first, with people spending 10 hours and 42 minutes reading per week (556.4 hours per year).
  • Thailand ranks second with weekly totals averaging 9 hours and 24 minutes (488.8 hours per year).
  • China readers average 8 hours a week (or 416 hours per year).
  • Those in the Philippines tend to read 7 hours and 36 minutes per week (395.2 per year.)
  • And Egyptians read for 7 hours and 30 minutes per week (or 390 minutes per year).

Books and their readers

Data collected between 2011 and 2020 shows that Americans love buying books (and they do read them, so it’s not just book hoarding). And most Americans do read books.

The World Population Review compiled numbers from various research studies and showed that while people in India read the most (in terms of hours spent reading):

Altogether, Americans read 275,232 books per year and makeup 30% of the market share of book buyers. A Pew Research Center study published in 2016 found that 72% of Americans had read a book the preceding year, a number that rose to 75% in 2022. But that rise was almost certainly due to the pandemic keeping people at home. In 2016 Americans read an average of 12 books a year (though 50% of the nation reads 4 or fewer, so we’re depending on some people to read a lot of books to make us look good). But we still tend to read more physical books than e-books, even though the e-book trend is growing in the U.S.

In other countries:

  • China reads 208,418 books on average per year (10% of all books purchased).
  • The United Kingdom reads about 188,000 books every year, and book sales have reached about 212 million!)
  • Japan makes up 7% of the market share for book buyers, and the Japanese read an average of 139,078 books per year. This makes up about 7% of the total market share.

What are the most popular books in the world? Well, you can probably guess – it’s the Holy Bible and the Holy Qu’ran. Next in line come The Harry Potter Series, The Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung, and Lord of the Rings. Eclectic!  WTF fun facts

Source: “Average Books Read Per Year by Country 2023” — World Population Review

WTF Fun Fact 13183 – The Gruen Transfer

We’ve all fallen victim to the Gruen Transfer. In fact, stores, casinos, and malls are built around this theory in order to make us fall victim to it. The payoff is more spending on our part.

What is the Gruen Transfer?

Have you ever gone to a store and just started wandering around? Plenty of us can run in and out for what we need, but it’s hard to not start wandering occasionally, just to see if there’s anything else we might need or want. And that’s the whole point.

Marketers and designers specifically build floor plans and displays that disorient us and lure us in. It’s all designed to give us a general desire to keep shopping and looking at things. If you just go to Target for fun, you’re WAY deep into the Gruen Transfer.

According to Gizmodo (cited below): “The Gruen transfer is the idea that the shopping experience itself was worth doing, and that paying money for something not on any specific agenda was the agenda.”

Of course, it’s all about getting you to consume more things.

Who was Victor Gruen?

The Gruen Transfer “mind trick” is named after architect Victor Gruen. But he’s probably rolling over in his grave since he hated the idea of disorienting consumers. His goal was to put items people needed in the same general location for convenience.

What his goal WASN’T was to confuse people and make them feel disoriented. In fact, Gizmodo’s article on the Gruen Effect (cited below) brings this to the fore, noting that “Gruen wasn’t a fan of the transfer at all. He railed against confusing, maddening stores that baffled consumers. In fact, his whole idea of a mall was based on efficiency on a very wide scale.”

“And, because there were only so many ways to design efficiently, many stores would be standardized. But Gruen wanted something more. Shopping places, he thought, should feature gardens, benches, cafes, and courtyards. It should be an experience. Then things like malls wouldn’t just be commercial zones, but would serve as public gathering places, where everyone, from every level of society, could mingle. He wanted to entice people, and get people to interact with each other, not confuse them.”

Making the transfer

Nevertheess, his name became associated with what the marketers and other designers did with his ideas. It became applicable within a store as well – such as a grocery store. Confusion reigns so you can see more things you might want to buy. The same is true of casinos. It’s easy for people to become disoriented, spend more time there, and part with more money.

Gruen just wanted public space for all. Now those places are ones where you can’t go to socialize anymore. You can only be there if you plan to shop.

As Gizmodo notes: “And so the guy who wanted to provide a public space, where everyone could get their shopping done so they could socialize, ended up inventing a system in which socialization equals shopping.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “The cruel irony of the Gruen Transfer” — Gizmodo

WTF Fun Fact 13181 – Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 Draft

The first draft of author Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was written on a rented coin-operated typewriter in 1953. It charged 10 cents for every 30 minutes. People estimate that the monetary cost of producing the draft was around $9.80.

What is Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451

You may have heard of the iconic dystopian novel in high school or college. At least, hopefully. If you’ve only heard about it in the news, chances are you’re not getting the full story (in more ways than one).

Bradbury wrote his novel during the Red Scare and McCarthy era, a time of ideological strife and oppression as the Nazis burned books and Americans threatened to. Some see connections between the current political climate and the one Bradbury wrote in, so the book occasionally comes up during political conversations. As with any book, it’s better to read it for yourself (and also know a bit about the precise context in which it was written since Bradbury was not commenting on 21st-century matters).

The author has given a few different motivations for his writing – fear of American book burnings, fear of mass media (specifically, the rise of radio and television) ruining our interest in literature, and government censorship. Again, these are all things we worry about today, but in a different context.

If you know anything about Bradbury himself, it can further complicate the reading of the book. He felt that political correctness was a form of censorship, but also abhored politics in general, especially in education.

Set in the distant future, the book is about “firemen” who are charged with burning any book they find. The main character eventually grows disenchanted and dedicates himself to the preservation of books.

Bradbury’s basement writing

Bradbury had great disdain for media consumption via radio, TV, and later the Internet. In his later years, he often encouraged students to “live in the library” instead. Unable to afford college, he educated himself at the Los Angeles Public Library. But he was also disappointed by their lack of science fiction literature.

Nevertheless, in the early 1950s, he worked in the basement at UCLA’s Powell Library. He had children at home, so needed a quiet place. It was there that he typed out the first draft (or novella version) of Fahrenheit 451. It was originally called “The Fireman.”

As for the title, according to Open Culture (cited below):

“When it came to finding the book’s title, however, supposedly the temperature at which books burn, not only did the library fail him, but so too did the university’s chemistry department. To learn the answer, and finish the book, Bradbury finally had to call the fire department.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “Ray Bradbury Wrote the First Draft of Fahrenheit 451 on Coin-Operated Typewriters, for a Total of $9.80” — Open Culture

WTF Fun Fact 13173 – Augusta and Adeline Van Buren

While still in their 20s, sisters Augusta and Adeline Van Buren were the first women to travel from New York to California on solo motorcycles. (They were the second and third women to drive motorcycles across the continental U.S.)

Who were Augusta and Adeline Van Buren?

Augusta Van Buren was born on March 26, 1884, and her sister Adeline on July 26, 1889. They came from a wealthy New York family and were descendants of U.S. President Martin Van Buren.

They became known for partaking in traditionally male activities, like boxing and motorcycle riding, early in their lives. They were also part of the U.S. Preparedness movement, part of which involved showing that women could help enhance the military’s war effort during WWI.

In 1916, the Van Buren sisters each rode a solo motorcycle 5,500 miles in 60 days across the continental U.S.

According to the Women in Exploration website (cited below): “The Van Buren sisters set out to prove to their country that women were capable of serving in the military as dispatch drivers. They also hoped to remove one of the primary arguments for denying women the right to vote. The Van Buren’s ride was successful, but their applications to be military dispatch riders were rejected. However, both women went on to pursue careers. Adeline achieved a law degree from New York University and Augusta became a pilot and flew in Amelia Earhart’s Ninety-Nines, an international organization dedicated to creating a supportive environment and opportunities for female aviators.

The Van Buren sisters’ adventure

Augusta was 32 at the time of the ride, while Adeline was 26. They rode Indian Powerplus motorcycles, which sold for $275 at the time.

Augusta and Adeline Van Buren’s adventure began in New York City, after which they headed to Springfield, Massachusetts to visit the motorcycle factory. Their journey across the country followed what is now known as Interstate 80.

Poor maps, dangerous weather, and bad roads were all challenges on the cross-country trip, especially once they got west of the Mississippi River.

Once they got outside of Chicago, they were often harassed by law enforcement and locals because it was illegal for women to wear pants in many states. And as you might imagine, they weren’t wearing dresses on those bikes!

Regardless, they made it. On the way, Augusta and Adeline Van Buren because the first women to reach the top of Pike’s Peak on motorized vehicles.

Their journey ended at the U.S.- Mexico border just two months after they started out.

Adeline died at age 59 (in 1949( and Augusta at age 75 (in 1959). In 2002, the sisters were inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Augusta & Adeline Van Buren” — Women in Exploration