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A Dunder Mifflin Tour of Scranton

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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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15 Must-Watch Facts About The Ring
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DreamWorks

An urban legend about a videotape that kills its viewers seven days after they see it turns out to be true. To her increasing horror, reporter Rachel Keller (then-newcomer Naomi Watts) discovers this after her niece is one of four teenage victims, and is in a race against the clock to uncover the mystery behind the girl in the video before her and her son’s time is up.

Released 15 years ago, on October 18, 2002, The Ring began a trend of both remaking Japanese horror films in a big way, and giving you nightmares about creepy creatures crawling out of your television. Here are some facts about the film that you can feel free to pass along to anybody, guilt-free.

1. DREAMWORKS BOUGHT THE AMERICAN RIGHTS TO RINGU FOR $1 MILLION.

There were conflicting stories over how executive producer Roy Lee came to see the 1998 Japanese horror film Ringu, Hideo Nakata's adaptation of the 1991 novel Ring by Kôji Suzuki. Lee said two different friends gave him a copy of Ringu in January 2001, which he loved and immediately gave to DreamWorks executive Mark Sourian, who agreed to purchase the rights. But Lee’s close friend Mike Macari worked at Fine Line Features, which had an American remake of Ringu in development before January 2001. Macari said he showed Lee Ringu much earlier. Macari and Lee were both listed as executive producers for The Ring.

2. THE DIRECTOR FIRST SAW RINGU ON A POOR QUALITY VHS TAPE, WHICH ADDED TO ITS CREEPINESS.

Gore Verbinski had previously directed MouseHunt. He said the first time he "watched the original Ringu was on a VHS tape that was probably seven generations down. It was really poor quality, but actually that added to the mystique, especially when I realized that this was a movie about a videotape." Naomi Watts struggled to find a VHS copy of Ringu while shooting in the south of Wales. When she finally got a hold of one she watched it on a very small TV alone in her hotel room. "I remember being pretty freaked out," Watts said. "I just saw it the once, and that was enough to get me excited about doing it."

3. THE RING AND RINGU ARE ABOUT 50 PERCENT DIFFERENT.

Naomi Watts in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

Verbinski estimated that, for the American version, they "changed up to 50 percent of it. The basic premise is intact, the story is intact, the ghost story, the story of Samara, the child." Storylines involving the characters having ESP, a volcano, “dream logic,” and references to “brine and goblins” were taken out.

4. IT RAINED ALMOST EVERY DAY WHEN THEY FILMED IN THE STATE OF WASHINGTON.

The weather added to the “atmosphere of dread,” according to the film's production notes. Verbinski said the setting allowed them to create an “overcast mood” of dampness and isolation.

5. THE PRODUCTION DESIGNER WAS INFLUENCED BY ANDREW WYETH.

Artist Andrew Wyeth tended to use muted, somber earth tones in his work. "In Wyeth's work, the trees are always dormant, and the colors are muted earth tones," explained production designer Tom Duffield. "It's greys, it's browns, it's somber colors; it's ripped fabrics in the windows. His work has a haunting flavor that I felt would add to the mystique of this movie, so I latched on to it."

6. THERE WERE RINGS EVERYWHERE.

The carpeting and wallpaper patterns, the circular kitchen knobs, the doctor’s sweater design, Rachel’s apartment number, and more were purposely designed with the film's title in mind.

7. WATTS AND MARTIN HENDERSON HAD A FRIENDLY INTERNATIONAL RIVALRY.

Martin Henderson and Naomi Watts star in 'The Ring' (1992)
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

The New Zealand-born Henderson played Noah, Rachel’s ex-husband. Since Watts is from Australia, Henderson said that, "Between takes, we'd joke around with each other's accents and play into the whole New Zealand-Australia rivalry."

8. THE TWO WEREN’T SURE IF THE MOVIE WAS GOING TO BE SCARY ENOUGH.

After shooting some of the scenes, and not having the benefit of seeing what they'd look like once any special effects were added, Henderson and Watts worried that the final result would not be scary enough. "There were moments when Naomi and I would look at each other and say, 'This is embarrassing, people are going to laugh,'" Henderson told the BBC." You just hope that somebody makes it scary or you're going to look like an idiot!"

9. CHRIS COOPER WAS CUT FROM THE MOVIE.

Cooper played a child murderer in two scenes which were initially meant to bookend the film. He unconvincingly claimed to Rachel that he found God in the beginning, and in the end she gave him the cursed tape. Audiences at test screenings were distracted that an actor they recognized disappears for most of the film, so he was cut out entirely.

10. THEY TRIED TO GET RID OF ALL OF THE SHADOWS.

Verbinski and cinematographer Bojan Bazelli used the lack of sunlight in Washington to remove the characters’ shadows. The two wanted to keep the characters feeling as if “they’re floating a little bit, in space.”

11. THE TREE WAS NICKNAMED "LUCILLE."

The red Japanese maple tree in the cursed video was named after the famous redheaded actress Lucille Ball. The tree was fake, built out of steel tubing and plaster. The Washington wind blew it over three different times. The night they put up the tree in Los Angeles, the wind blew at 60 miles per hour and knocked Lucille over yet again. "It was very strange," said Duffield.

12. MOESKO ISLAND IS A FUNCTIONING LIGHTHOUSE.

Moesko Island Lighthouse is Yaquina Head Lighthouse, at the mouth of the Yaquina River, a mile west of Agate Beach, Oregon. The website Rachel checks, MoeskoIslandLighthouse.com, used to actually exist as a one-page website, which gave general information on the fictional place. You can read it here.

13. A WEBSITE WAS CREATED BY DREAMWORKS TO PROMOTE THE MOVIE AND ADD TO ITS MYTHOLOGY.

Before and during the theatrical release, if you logged into AnOpenLetter.com, you could read a message in white lettering against a black background warning about what happens if you watch the cursed video (you can read it here). By November 24, 2002, it was a standard official website made for the movie, set up by DreamWorks.

14. VERBINSKI DIDN’T HAVE FUN DIRECTING THE MOVIE.

“It’s no fun making a horror film," admitted Verbinski. "You get into some darker areas of the brain and after a while everything becomes a bit depressing.”

15. DAVEIGH CHASE SCARED HERSELF.

Daveigh Chase in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

When Daveigh Chase, who played Samara, saw The Ring in theaters, she had to cover her eyes out of fear—of herself. Some people she met after the movie came out were also afraid of her.

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European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
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Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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