CLOSE
Original image

L.A.'s Uncanniest Eatery

Original image

Opened in 1935, it's said that the over-the-top decor at Clifton's Cafeteria inspired Walt Disney to create his theme park. These days, however, the proud-but-sagging local legend has become the Strangest Place on Earth -- or at least in Southern California -- to fill your stomach. Word on the street is it might not be around much longer -- yet another trendy downtown bar may be replacing it -- so I had to check it out while I still could!

Established in the depths of America's Great Depression, Clifton's do-gooder founders took a big gamble by instituting a "pay what you wish" policy (which still stands), making their cafeteria a refuge for millions of penniless and hungry customers over the years. It's also quite literally designed to be a refuge from the urban bustle right outside its doors: its elaborate redwood forest theme, complete with foliage, indoor waterfalls, taxidermied forest animals and countless other strange touches make it simultaneously calming and unsettling; imagine the Rainforest Cafe with decor and a menu that haven't changed in 70 years, populated mainly by homeless people slowly nursing cups of thin coffee. (If that sounds like a bizarre juxtaposition, it certainly is. And that's why I love it!)

enter.jpg
Jack Kerouac probably ate at Clifton's, if this passage from On the Road is any indicator:

"Terry and I ate in a cafeteria downtown which was decorated to look like a grotto, with metal tits spurting everywhere and great impersonal stone buttockses belonging to deities and soapy Neptune. People ate lugubrious meals around the waterfalls, their faces green with marine sorrow."

This may also refer to a long-gone sister branch of Clifton's called the South Seas, which sadly became a parking lot in 1960.

Here's what Clifton's looked like in its heyday (long before the Beats deigned to eat here), when instead of Muzak over loudspeakers, the owners had trained singing canaries in the trees. (The health department eventually but the kibosh on that.)
brook_int2_tall.jpg

A wooden stag keeps watch over the first-floor dining room, the furniture in which, you'll notice, is still identical to that in the photo above.
stag.jpg

In the 1950s, Clifton's played host to meetings of the influential LA Science Fiction Society, frequently attended by luminaries like writer Ray Bradbury and movie monster-maker Ray Harryhausen.

Diners try to ignore the looming, pink moose-head:
moosehead.jpg

It's also worth noting the strangeness of the surrounding neighborhood: Clifton's is smack in the middle of downtown LA's "historic core," at 7th and Broadway, which is a dingily grand collection of beautiful old buildings and silent-era movie palaces long ago converted to flophouses, discount electronics shops and Spanish-language churches. Hawkers of every sort sell the randomest things on the street outside (a woman twice approached me selling miniature guitars), and it's worth noting that it was in front of Clifton's that I had my strangest-ever encounter with a homeless man: while two police officers looked on bemusedly, a filthy guy in a sombrero cackled madly and danced, pointing to a bowl on the street full of coins. He wore matching dirty grey track pants and a gray sweatshirt that read, in bold college-style letters, "DARK SIDE."

Detail of the moose:
moose2.jpg

The place is absolutely enormous; in fact, with 600 seats, it's the largest restaurant in Los Angeles. Back-lit scenes from nature are everywhere:
picture.jpg

My friend Brooke contemplates the waterfall:
waterfall.jpg

Oh yeah -- the food. (Almost forgot.) There's so much of it, it's nearly as overwhelming as the restaurant itself -- but aside from a huge selection of pies and Jell-os, it reminds one of the taste and consistency of elementary school cafeteria food -- except you never had this much choice in your life.

transfat.jpg

Apologies for the blur, but this motorized raccoon moves quick, bouncing in and out of his hole with a fish skeleton in hand:
racoon.jpg

chapel2.jpgThe strangest touch of all, however, is a little grotto on the second floor, with a neon cross on top. Inside is a cramped viewing booth, where you sit peering into a little diorama-style forest scene. At the push of a button, you hear a 50s-era narrator read "The Parable of the Redwood." An uncannier dining experience, I cannot imagine.

For more, check out this NPR feature on Clifton's from a couple of years ago.

Original image
DreamWorks
arrow
entertainment
15 Must-Watch Facts About The Ring
Original image
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.

Original image
Land Cover CCI, ESA
arrow
Afternoon Map
European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
Original image
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]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios