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7 of Literature's Most Desirable Leading Men

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What did women do before we had People magazine to define ultimate attractiveness and tell us which leading man is the Sexiest Man Alive? Since the sexiness of said men is debatable and so many more worthy contenders are passed over, I suggest adding fictional men to the ballot. Literary characters are timeless; they never age, lose their looks or compromise their reputation. A self-proclaimed book nerd, I maintain that the most attractive men exist in the world of stories. Obviously I haven't read every book ever written and I prefer certain genres and characters, but let me nominate my top seven über-attractive men from literature. (Warning: Some spoilers ahead.)

1. Mr. Darcy (from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)

Ladies, regardless of how good Colin Firth looks in the infamous wet, white shirt, we know that it's the real Fitzwilliam Darcy who captures the heart of every Jane Austen fan at some point. He's deliciously dark. He broods. And yes, he's proud. And all this makes Mr. Darcy my number one leading man. What do I love most about Darcy? Besides the aforementioned brooding, which I cannot resist, his attractiveness increases with his willingness to go against tradition and societal pressures to love and marry the witty and independent heroine of Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet. Plus, all those repressed emotions! One of my favorite Darcy moments comes when Elizabeth and that horrid Caroline Bingley take a walk around the room and ask Darcy if he would like to join them. His flirtatious response?

"He was as much awake to the novelty of attention in the quarter as Elizabeth herself could be, and unconsciously closed his book...

"You either choose this method of passing the evening because you are in each other's confidence, and have secret affairs to discuss, or because you are conscious that your figures appear to the greatest advantage in walking; if the first, I would be completely in your way, and if the second, I can admire you much better as I sit by the fire."

2. Gilbert Blythe (from the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery)

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Growing up bookish with a love for writing, I was convinced that Anne Shirley and I would be bosom friends if only I were Canadian and living in the fictional series. But although I wished for Anne's friendship, I wanted to steal Gil away for myself. He loves her from the beginning (red hair and all), gives her his teaching job so she can live at home, resiliently endures her rejection of his marriage proposal, and inspires Anne to write her first published book! And even though it takes her longer to realize his perfection, he waits until she realizes it's not sunbursts or marble halls that she wants. It's Gil: the perfect man for the chronically romantic.

3. Almanzo Wilder (from Farmer Boy and other books by Laura Ingalls Wilder)

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Quiet yet courageous farmer boy Almanzo Wilder won my childhood heart as he won over prairie girl Laura Ingalls. A hardworking farmer who loved horses and carpentry, Almanzo proves his extraordinary bravery and noble character when he risks his life traveling on foot in a blizzard to look for wheat--which no one is certain is even available. He survives and saves the Ingalls family and the town! And while courting Laura, Almanzo picks her up in his carriage when she finishes teaching school. What a gentleman! Eventually, he suffers partial paralysis resulting from a nasty bout of diphtheria and always walks with a limp afterwards, but that only makes Almanzo all the nobler and totally swoon-worthy.

4. Mr. Rochester (from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë)

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What can I say? Issues are hot, and Edward Rochester has an aura of danger about him and an abundance of issues. The (again) dark and broody hero of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester has a tormented sense of responsibility to care for his crazy wife locked in the attic, custody of a bratty French girl who isn't his biological child, Thornfield Hall and his name to uphold, and a burgeoning love for Jane to deal with. Perhaps it's just his dark, mysterious nature, or that he tries to do right, even risking his life, but lustful Mr. Rochester is a tortured soul. What woman could resist?

5. Edmond Dantès (from The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas)

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Better known as The Count of Monte Cristo in the book by Dumas, Edmond Dantès starts out as a dashing young sailor betrothed to the beautiful Mercédès. After being set up as a traitor to the crown, Dantès is sentenced to rot in prison and loses his fiancé to her jealous cousin! To seek out revenge and clear his name, Dantès reinvents himself and assumes six other aliases, along the way charming just about everyone in Paris with his ruggedly handsome looks and a smile both angelic and diabolic. A good man with a dark past? Quelle mysteriouse!

6. George Emerson (from A Room With a View by E.M. Forster)

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When I travel abroad, I never meet dashing, disturbed Englishmen when there is a mix-up with our hotel rooms. Why is that? When proper, young Englishwoman Lucy Honeychurch (she even brings a chaperone!) travels abroad in Italy, fortuitously she encounters the rogue George Emerson on numerous occasions: at a hotel, at an art museum and of course, while witnessing a murder in the streets, after which he catches her when she faints. When they meet accidentally on a lush Italian hillside, George personifies the romance associated with Italy:

"George had turned at the sound of her arrival. For a moment he contemplated her, as one who had fallen out of heaven. He saw radiant joy in her face, he saw the flowers beat against her dress in blue waves. The bushes above them closed. He stepped quickly forward and kissed her."

Forbidden love considered socially irresponsible by Edwardian Englanders? Sign me up!

7. Enjolras (from Les Misérables by Victor Hugo)

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Forget that lovesick pansy Marius. I prefer the charismatic leader of the student revolution, Enjolras. Just the sound of his name makes me want to quit my job and fight for France. A devout believer in democracy and equality, Enjolras's ragtag followers look up to him in awe, even the most cynical describing their fierce leader as a "greek god." Alas, ever the hero, Enjolras ends up a martyr for the cause, and that kind of conviction and passion makes my mouth water. Vive la France!

Although I mentioned only seven ideal mates here, I know I have more literary crushes and you do as well. Share the wealth in the comments while I catch up on my (re)reading.

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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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Afternoon Map
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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