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A Dunder Mifflin Tour of Scranton

Scranton, Pennsylvania, is a Mecca of sorts for fans of The Office, playing home to the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company and the lovable cast of characters that work there. While the show is actually filmed in California, there are plenty of references to Scranton hangout spots sprinkled throughout the script. To see if these Office-endorsed locales are all they’re cracked up to be, I ventured on a tour-de-Electric City, Michael Scott-style.

Places that actually exist

Alfredo’s Pizza Café

In the episode “Launch Party,” Michael tries to win over his disgruntled employees by ordering takeout from their favorite pizzeria. Unfortunately (and predictably), he screws up. Instead of ordering from the delectable and popular Alfredo’s Pizza Café, he orders from Pizza by Alfredo’s — an eatery famous for cranking out pizza that tastes “like eating a hot circle of garbage,” in Kevin’s assessment.

While Pizza by Alfredo’s is fictional, Alfredo’s Pizza Café is a real restaurant in Scranton. It’s a classic sit-down Italian eatery that serves up a variety of salads, sandwiches, and pastas. To see if the pizza is truly the best slice in Scranton, I ordered a piece of thin crust for review. Friends and I collectively agreed that it was not like eating a hot circle of garbage, but perhaps not worth $2.25 a slice.

Chili’s

Michael Scott’s favorite restaurant will be forever memorialized in the minds of Office fans. It was the site of the Dundee’s award ceremony — when Pam got plastered and banned from the franchise. It’s also the location of Michael and Jan’s infamous first kiss following their antic-filled meeting with a crazy client played by Tim Meadows.

There isn’t actually a Chili’s in Scranton. However, people who want their baby back (baby back, baby back) ribs can find one just a fifteen-minute drive away in nearby Wilkes-Barre. The restaurant is. . . well, just like any other Chili’s.

Cooper’s Seafood

The Office name-drops Coopers about as often as Michael Scott makes a “that’s what she said” joke. And in the episode “Business Ethics,” Michael actually takes Holly there. In the typically absurd scene, he gestures wildly with a crab claw as he discusses whether he should report Meredith for sleeping with a client in exchange for steak coupons.

The real Cooper’s is a popular Scranton seafood house modeled after a pirate ship. When I stopped by, the restaurant was hopping — crowded and pleasantly noisy, punctuated by the odor of salty fish. The eatery is divided into several rooms, including the ship’s pub, the lighthouse bar, the tiki bar deck, the whale room, the train room, the original pub, and the private coral room. There’s also a gift shop that offers a hodgepodge of lobster shot glasses, Dunder Mifflin-themed paraphernalia, and fish puppets. If you’re ever in Scranton on your birthday, Cooper's will treat you to a free meal.

Electric City signs

In the episode "The Merger," Michael and Dwight make a rap video called “Lazy Scranton” to introduce their out-of-town colleagues to the Electric City. In the immortal words of Mr. Scott, “They call it that cuz of the electri-City.”

Well, sort of. Scranton is indeed called the Electric City. That’s because America’s first electric-operated trolley system was developed there in 1886. While the line is no longer in commission, the nickname stuck. There’s a huge Electric City sign downtown that lights up at night, as well as a colorful mural next to the overpass on the way into Scranton.

Froggy 101 Radio Station

Dwight’s a big fan of this country music station. He’s even got a Froggy 101 bumper sticker on his desk. There was also a Froggy 101 sticker on the desk of Michael’s boss during his stint at the telemarketing company.

The real Froggy 101 is a popular Scranton-based country-western station. I figured a drive to Office country wouldn’t be complete without tuning in to good ol’ 101.3FM to pump some beats. In the half-hour or so that I listened to the station, DJ Crockett played a nice mix of mainstream and countrified artists — Rascal Flatts, Bon Jovi, Taylor Swift, Josh Turner, and Dierks Bentley. And of course, Kenny Chesney’s “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems.”

Lackawanna Coal Mine/Anthracite Heritage Museum

Michael and Dwight’s infamous “Lazy Scranton” rap video features footage of the Anthracite Heritage Museum. And in the episode “Healthcare”, Michael considers taking his staff on a tour of the Lackawanna coal mines after promising them an exciting but unspecified surprise.

The Anthracite Heritage Museum is a real exhibit in Scranton. It commemorates the workers of the coal mining and textile industries -- which formed the economic backbone of northeastern PA . The museum features old mining tools, replicas of miners’ homes, and real mine cars. And if that’s not enough, there are coal mine tours just down the road. The tour takes viewers 300 feet underground into a mineshaft, where a “miner” guide shares anecdotes about the history of anthracite coal mining. (I arrived too late to take a tour but just in time to play on the coal mine trucks without getting kicked out by security.)

Poor Richard’s Pub

It’s probably the most famous hangout spot for The Office gang, mentioned in multiple episodes as a favorite happy-hour destination. In the episode “Cocktails", the crew heads to Poor Richard’s, where the staff is on a first-name basis with Meredith. Pam tells Roy that she kissed Jim, prompting him to trash the bar with his brother in a drunken rage.

While the scene was filmed at Pickwick’s Pub in California, the real Poor Richard’s is located inside a bowling alley teeming with kids and birthday balloons. But the bar itself is not as family-friendly. It’s small and dark with several tables, an arcade machine, and a few dartboards. When I stopped by on a Saturday at 6 p.m., the pub only had two customers, both middle-aged men.

Steamtown Mall

In “Women’s Appreciation,” Michael celebrates his office gal pals by taking them to Scranton’s premier shopping site: the Mall at Steamtown. After they help him work out his relationship problems with Jan, he treats them each to one item from Victoria’s Secret.

While the episode was filmed at a mall in Los Angeles, there is a Steamtown Mall in Scranton — and it embraces its role as the center of Office-Mania. There’s a large display featuring cardboard cutouts and Office memorabilia in one of the mall’s windows. The elevator is embossed with a huge picture of a Dwight Schrute bobblehead: Rainn Wilson is an honorary safety guard there.

Places that used to exist

Farley’s Pub

In the episode “Basketball,” the losers of the game between the warehouse guys and the office guys have to buy the winners dinner at Farley’s.

The real Farley’s was a popular pub in downtown Scranton. After the show became famous, Farley’s added a special Michael Scott burger to the menu. Sadly for Office fans (and Scrantonites), the iconic bar closed earlier this year.

The “Scranton Welcomes You” sign

This sign is featured prominently in the opening credits. It used to be located on the Central Scranton Expressway. But a few years ago, city officials decided to retire the sign and replace it with a new one. The old sign is currently hanging out at the Steamtown Mall, where Office aficionados can bask in its presence.

Places that are totally made up

Hooters

It’s another culinary staple for Michael Scott. In the episode "The Secret", he treats Jim to lunch there on the corporate account and cleverly orders a chicken breast – hold the chicken.

But while the restaurant chain plays a big role in The Office, there isn’t actually a Hooters in Scranton. The nearest one is over an hour away, making it an unlikely lunch-break destination for true Scrantonites.

Benihana

To help him get over a bad breakup with Carol, Andy takes Michael to the so-called “Asian Hooters” to help him drown his sorrows in sake shots.

While it made for a great Christmas episode (aptly titled “a Benihana Christmas”), there isn’t actually a Benihana in or near Scranton. The closest one is in New Jersey.

Scranton Business Park

Located at 1725 Slough Avenue, the location of Scranton’s most viable business ventures – Dunder Mifflin, Vance Refrigeration, and others – doesn’t actually exist. Slough is actually the name of the town where the British Office takes place.

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12 Things You Might Not Know About MAD Magazine
Mad Magazine
Mad Magazine

As fast as popular culture could erect wholesome depictions of American life in comics, television, or movies, MAD Magazine was there to tear them all down. A near-instant success for EC Comics upon its debut in 1952, the magazine has inspired generations of comedians for its pioneering satirical attitude and tasteful booger jokes. This month, DC Entertainment is relaunching an "all new" MAD, skewering pop culture on a bimonthly basis and in full color. To fill the gaps in your knowledge, take a look at these facts about the Usual Gang of Idiots.

1. NO ONE KNOWS WHO CAME UP WITH ALFRED E. NEUMAN.


Jamie, Flickr (L) // Boston Public Library, Flickr (R) // CC BY 2.0

MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman was in the offices of a Ballantine Books editor discussing reprints for the fledging publication when he noticed a grinning, gap-toothed imbecile staring back at him from a bulletin board. The unnamed figure was ubiquitous in the early 20th century, appearing in everything from dentistry ads to depictions of diseases. A charmed Kurtzman adopted him as MAD’s mascot beginning in 1954. Neuman later become so recognizable that a letter was delivered from New Zealand to MAD’s New York offices without an address: the envelope simply had a drawing of Alfred.  

2. THEY HAD TO APOLOGIZE ALMOST IMMEDIATELY.

MAD was conceived during a particularly sensitive time for the comics industry, with parents and watchdog groups concerned over content. (It didn't switch to a magazine format until issue #24.) Kurtzman usually knew where the line was, but when he was laid up with acute hepatitis in 1952, publisher William Gaines and others had to step in for him. Gaines thought it would be funny to offer a fictional biography of himself that detailed his father’s Communist leanings, his past as a dope dealer “near nursery schools,” and bouts of pyromania. When wholesalers were shocked at the content and threatened to boycott all of his titles, Gaines was forced to write a letter of apology.  

3. THEY PREDICTED JOHN F. KENNEDY'S ELECTION IN 1960.

But it was a cheat. In the run-up to the 1960 Presidential election, MAD printed a cover that featured Neuman congratulating Kennedy on his victory with a caption that read, “We were with you all the way, Jack!” But the issue was shipped long before votes had been tabulated. The secret? It was a dual cover. Flip it over and Neuman is celebrating Richard Nixon’s appointment to office. Stores were told to display the “right” side of the magazine depending on the outcome.

4. ALFRED BRIEFLY HAD A GIRLFRIEND.


MAD Magazine

A character named Moxie Cowznofski was introduced in the late 1950s as a female companion for Alfred. She made only a handful of cover appearances, possibly due to the fact she looked alarmingly like her significant other.

5. THEY DIDN'T RUN ANY (REAL) ADS FOR 44 YEARS.

From the beginning, Gaines felt that printing actual advertisements next to the products they were lampooning would not only dilute their edge but seem more than a little hypocritical. After some back-and-forth, MAD cut ads starting in 1957. The decision was a costly one—most print publications survive on such revenue—but led to the magazine’s keeping a sharp knife against the throat of seductive advertising, including cigarettes. Faced with dwindling circulation in 2001, Mad finally relented and began taking ads to help pay for a switch to color printing.

6. "SPY VS. SPY" WAS CREATED BY A SUSPECTED SPY.

Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias was disenchanted with the regime under Fidel Castro when he began working on what would become “Spy vs. Spy.” Because Prohias’ other newspaper illustrations were critical of Castro, the Cuban government suspected him of working for the CIA. He wasn’t, but the perception had him worried harm might come to his co-workers. To get out of the situation, Prohias came to America in 1960. With his daughter helping translate, he stopped by Mad’s New York offices and submitted his work: his sneaky, triangle-headed spies became regulars.

7. THERE WAS ONE FOLD-IN THEY WOULDN'T RUN.

Artist Al Jaffee, now 94, has been with Mad almost from the beginning. He created the famous Fold-In—the back cover that reveals a new picture when doubled over—in 1964 after seeing the fold-outs in magazines like National Geographic, Playboy, and Life. Jaffee has rarely missed an issue since—but editors backtracked on one of Jaffee’s works that referenced a mass shooting in 2013. Citing poor taste, they destroyed over 600,000 copies.  

8. THEIR MOVIE WAS A DISASTER.

With the exception of Fox’s successful sketch series, 1994’s MAD TV, attempts to translate the MAD brand into other media have been underwhelming: a 1974 animated special didn’t even make it on air. But a 1980 film venture, a military school spoof directed by Robert Downey, Sr. titled Mad Presents Up the Academy, was so awful William Gaines demanded to have their name taken off of it. (Renamed Up the Academy, the DVD release of the movie still features someone sporting an Alfred E. Neuman mask; Mad parodied it in a spoof titled “Throw Up the Academy.”)

9. THE APRIL 1974 COVER HAD PEOPLE FLIPPING.


MAD Magazine

MAD has never made a habit of good taste, but a depiction of a raised middle finger for one issue in the mid-’70s caused a huge stir. Many stores wouldn’t stock it for fear of offending customers, and the company ended up accepting an irregular number of returns. Gaines took to his typewriter to write a letter of apology. Again. The relaunched #1, out in April 2018, pays homage to this cover, though it's slightly more tasteful: Neuman is picking his nose with his middle finger.

10. THEY INVENTED A SPORT.

MAD writer Tom Koch was amused by the convoluted rules of sports and attempted to one-up them in 43-Man Squamish, a game he invented for the April 1965 issue. Koch and artist George Woodbridge (“MAD’s Athletic Council”) prepared a guide that was utterly incomprehensible—the field was to have five sides, positions included Deep Brooders and Dummies, “interfering with the Wicket Men” constituted a penalty—but it amused high school and college readers enough to try and mount their own games. (Short on players? Try 2-Man Squamish: “The rules are identical,” Koch wrote, “except the object of the game is to lose.”) For the less physically inclined, Mad also issued a board game in which the goal is to lose all of your money.  

11. WEIRD AL WAS A GUEST EDITOR.

In what must be some kind of fulfilled prophecy, lyrical satirist “Weird” Al Yankovic was named as a guest editor—their first—for the magazine’s May 2015 issue. Yankovic told Entertainment Weekly that MAD had put him on “the dark, twisted path to becoming who I am today … I needed to pollute my mind with that kind of stuff.” In addition to his collaborations with the staff, Yankovic enlisted Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, and Chris Hardwick to contribute.

12. FRED ASTAIRE ONCE DANCED AS ALFRED E. NEUMAN.

In a scene so surreal even MAD’s irreverent editors would have had trouble dreaming it up, Fred Astaire decided to sport an Alfred E. Neuman mask for a dance number in his 1959 television special, Another Evening with Fred Astaire. No one seems to recall why exactly Astaire would do this—he may have just wanted to include a popular cultural reference—but it was no off-the-cuff decision. Astaire hired movie make-up veteran John Chambers (Planet of the Apes) to craft a credible mask of Neuman. The result is … well, kind of disturbing. But it’s a fitting addition to a long tradition of people going completely MAD.

Additional Sources:
Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America.

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iStock
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Can You 'Hear' These Silent GIFs?
iStock
iStock

GIFs are silent—otherwise they wouldn't be GIFs. But some people claim to hear distinct noises accompanying certain clips. Check out the GIF below as an example: Do you hear a boom every time the structure hits the ground? If so, you may belong to the 20 to 30 percent of people who experience "visual-evoked auditory response," also known as vEAR.

Researchers from City University London recently published a paper online on the phenomenon in the journal Cortex, the British Psychological Society's Research Digest reports. For their study, they recruited more than 4000 volunteers and 126 paid participants and showed them 24 five-second video clips. Each clip lacked audio, but when asked how they rated the auditory sensation for each video on a scale of 0 to 5, 20 percent of the paid participants rated at least half the videos a 3 or more. The percentage was even higher for the volunteer group.

You can try out the researchers' survey yourself. It takes about 10 minutes.

The likelihood of visual-evoked auditory response, according to the researchers, directly relates to what the subject is looking at. "Some people hear what they see: Car indicator lights, flashing neon shop signs, and people's movements as they walk may all trigger an auditory sensation," they write in the study.

Images packed with meaning, like two cars colliding, are more likely to trigger the auditory illusion. But even more abstract images can produce the effect if they have high levels of something called "motion energy." Motion energy is what you see in the video above when the structure bounces and the camera shakes. It's why a video of a race car driving straight down a road might have less of an auditory impact than a clip of a flickering abstract pattern.

The researchers categorize vEAR as a type of synesthesia, a brain condition in which people's senses are combined. Those with synesthesia might "see" patterns when music plays or "taste" certain colors. Most synesthesia is rare, affecting just 4 percent of the population, but this new study suggests that "hearing motion synesthesia" is much more prevalent.

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

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