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Towns With Themes (And a Crazy Marlon Jackson Rumor)

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Linda Rodriguez recently moved to England, and she posts about happenings in her new country a few times each week. Her column needs a name. "A Broad Abroad" sounds demeaning and Sarah Lyall just published a book called "The Anglo Files." Got any other ideas? If Linda picks yours, you win a mental_floss t-shirt. So get brainstorming.

Sir Terry Pratchett may not be exactly a household name in cities in the US, but he certainly is in households in the small Somerset town of Wincanton.


That's because Wincanton is currently modeling itself after a town in Pratchett's most famous creation, the fictional universe of Discworld "“ a world that's pancake flat, resting on the back of four elephants, which are standing on a giant turtle. Discworld and the adventures of its inhabitants, who include wizards, witches, trolls, dwarves, the Grim Reaper, the Hogfather (he's like Santa Claus) and a few humans, have been the subject nearly 40 books, all piss-takes of science-fiction and fantasy tropes, crime novels, martial arts, corporate crime, and The Da Vinci Code, among many other topics. They've been incredibly successful "“ Pratchett has sold more than 55 million Discworld books worldwide, netting himself a loyal following and a knighthood for services to literature to boot.

And now, Pratchett's creation is bleeding out into real life.

In 2002, Wincanton twinned itself to Ankh-Morpork, a metropolitan city based squarely in the fantastic Discworld, making it the first city in the world to twin itself to a fictional town. Since then, tourism to the small, previously nondescript town has exploded, with Discworld fans flocking to the Discworld Emporium, a themed store on the Main Street, to fancy dress balls, festivals and masquerades.

Wincanton has also recently named two streets after street names in the book series, with Pratchett, costumed residents and hordes of fans on hand for the dedication ceremony. The streets, Peach Pie Street and Treacle Mine Road, are located in a subdivision neighborhood of amusingly named Wimpey Homes, currently under construction and slated for completion in July. Two families have already promised to buy homes on the streets.

Wincanton may be the first town to twin with a fictional city, but it's certainly not the first town to take a theme and just run with it for the sake of tourism. Here are a few others:

Scotland: Ab FAB

Sadly, no, these three Scottish theme towns in the Dumfries and Galloway region are not dedicated to bringing the sordid, drunken world of Absolutely Fabulous to wondrous mid-"˜90s life. But Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbright and Wigtown are, respectively, designated Food, Arts, and Book towns. Get it? The towns, all small and rural, are reinventing themselves for the tourist trade: Castle Douglas is home to more than 50 food specialty shops and restaurants; Kirkcudbright has been an artist's commune since the 1800s; and Wigtown hosts an annual Book Town Literary Festival.

Pacific Northwest: Partying like its 1899

Everybody likes cowboys, right? Well, a few towns in the US and Canada sure hope so "“ especially since they've remade themselves into pioneer towns as part of a bid to attract tourism. In Washington, there's sleepy Winthrop, which was remade in 1969 as an homage to Western pioneer towns, and is now all weathered wood storefronts, hitching posts, late 19th century frontier town architecture, and rough-cut boardwalks. Up in British Columbia, there's Barkerville, a gold-rush town where costumed residents take you on guided tours, real stagecoaches still run, and you can go real old school in a schoolhouse from 1870. And in Oregon, there's Jacksonville, a National Historic Landmark preserving its pioneer past through architecture, costumed tours, and shopping.

Ironbridge: The Revolution Continues

Ironbridge, or the "Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution" as it bills itself, is a small town in the West Midlands of England that has never really moved past the Industrial Revolution. Home to the Ironbridge, a massive testament to the 19th century age of steam and iron, the town has worked hard to maintain its Victorian roots. Though a small town and valley, it has no less than 10 museums dedicated to Industrial Revolution history, as well as streets of Victorian era storefronts and shops, historical home tours, and, of course, the requisite costumed tours.

And lastly, bad taste

And finally, on the subject of themes "“ here's some news that just seems so weird, so wrong, and so disrespectful. Marlon Jackson, brother of Michael, LaToya, and Janet and former member of the Jackson Five, seems to be upholding the Jackson Family tradition of bad ideas: He's reportedly involved in plans to open a "slavery theme park" in Badagry, Nigeria, an historic port city that had been the point of departure for thousands of Africans leaving their country in chains as slaves. In addition to a replica of a slave ship, the Badagry Historical Resort Development project is also slated to have golf courses, casinos, and shops, and to house Jackson's collection of Jackson Five memorabilia.

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entertainment
10 Surprising Facts About The Babadook
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In 2014, The Babadook came out of nowhere and scared audiences across the globe. Written and directed by Aussie Jennifer Kent, and based on her short film Monster, The Babadook is about a widow named Amelia (played by Kent’s drama schoolmate Essie Davis) who has trouble controlling her young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), who thinks there’s a monster living in their house. Amelia reads Samuel a pop-up book, Mister Babadook, and Samuel manifests the creature into a real-life monster. The Babadook may be the villain, but the film explores the pitfalls of parenting and grief in an emotional way. 

“I never approached this as a straight horror film,” Kent told Complex. “I always was drawn to the idea of grief, and the suppression of that grief, and the question of, how would that affect a person? ... But at the core of it, it’s about the mother and child, and their relationship.”

Shot on a $2 million budget, the film grossed more than $10.3 million worldwide and gained an even wider audience via streaming networks. Instead of creating Babadook out of CGI, a team generated the images in-camera, inspired by the silent films of Georges Méliès and Lon Chaney. Here are 10 things you might not have known about The Babadook (dook, dook).

1. THE NAME “BABADOOK” WAS EASY FOR A CHILD TO INVENT.

Jennifer Kent told Complex that some people thought the creature’s name sounded “silly,” which she agreed with. “I wanted it to be like something a child could make up, like ‘jabberwocky’ or some other nonsensical name,” she explained. “I wanted to create a new myth that was just solely of this film and didn’t exist anywhere else.”

2. JENNIFER KENT WAS WORRIED PEOPLE WOULD JUDGE THE MOTHER.

Amelia isn’t the best mother in the world—but that’s the point. “I’m not a parent,” Kent told Rolling Stone, “but I’m surrounded by friends and family who are, and I see it from the outside … how parenting seems hard and never-ending.” She thought Amelia would receive “a lot of flak” for her flawed parenting, but the opposite happened. “I think it’s given a lot of women a sense of reassurance to see a real human being up there,” Kent said. “We don’t get to see characters like her that often.”

3. KENT AND ESSIE DAVIS TONED DOWN THE CONTENT FOR THE KID.

Noah Wiseman was six years old when he played Samuel. Kent and Davis made sure he wasn’t present for the more horrific scenes, like when Amelia tells Samuel she wishes he was the one who died, not her husband. “During the reverse shots, where Amelia was abusing Sam verbally, we had Essie yell at an adult stand-in on his knees,” Kent told Film Journal. “I didn’t want to destroy a childhood to make this film—that wouldn’t be fair.”

Kent explained a “kiddie version” of the plot to Wiseman. “I said, ‘Basically, Sam is trying to save his mother and it’s a film about the power of love.’”

4. THE FILM IS ALSO ABOUT “FACING OUR SHADOW SIDE.”

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Kent told Film Journal that “The Babadook is a film about a woman waking up from a long, metaphorical sleep and finding that she has the power to protect herself and her son.” She noted that everybody has darkness to face. “Beyond genre and beyond being scary, that’s the most important thing in the film—facing our shadow side.”

5. THE FILM SCARED THE HELL OUT OF THE DIRECTOR OF THE EXORCIST.

In an interview with Uproxx, William Friedkin—director of The Exorcist—said The Babadook was one of the best and scariest horror films he’d ever seen. He especially liked the emotional aspect of the film. “It’s not only the simplicity of the filmmaking and the excellence of the acting not only by the two leads, but it’s the way the film works slowly but inevitably on your emotions,” he said.

6. AN ART DEPARTMENT ASSISTANT SCORED THE ROLE AS THE BABADOOK.

Tim Purcell worked in the film’s art department but then got talked into playing the titular character after he acted as the creature for some camera tests. “They realized they could save some money, and have me just be the Babadook, and hence I became the Babadook,” Purcell told New York Magazine. “In terms of direction, it was ‘be still a lot,’” he said.

7. THE MOVIE BOMBED IN ITS NATIVE AUSTRALIA.

Even though Kent shot the film in Adelaide, Australians didn’t flock to the theaters; it grossed just $258,000 in its native country. “Australians have this [built-in] aversion to seeing Australian films,” Kent told The Cut. “They hardly ever get excited about their own stuff. We only tend to love things once everyone else confirms they’re good … Australian creatives have always had to go overseas to get recognition. I hope one day we can make a film or work of art and Australians can think it’s good regardless of what the rest of the world thinks.”

8. YOU CAN OWN A MISTER BABADOOK BOOK (BUT IT WILL COST YOU). 

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In 2015, Insight Editions published 6200 pop-up books of Mister Babadook. Kent worked with the film’s illustrator, Alexander Juhasz, who created the book for the movie. He and paper engineer Simon Arizpe brought the pages to life for the published version. All copies sold out but you can find some Kent-signed ones on eBay, going for as much as $500.

9. THE BABADOOK IS A GAY ICON.

It started at the end of 2016, when a Tumblr user started a jokey thread about how he thought the Babadook was gay. “It started picking up steam within a few weeks,” Ian, the Tumblr user, told New York Magazine, “because individuals who I presume are heterosexual kind of freaked out over the assertion that a horror movie villain would identify as queer—which I think was the actual humor of the post, as opposed to just the outright statement that the Babadook is gay.” In June, the Babadook became a symbol for Gay Pride month. Images of the character appeared everywhere at this year's Gay Pride Parade in Los Angeles.

10. DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH FOR A SEQUEL.

Kent, who owns the rights to The Babadook, told IGN that, despite the original film's popularity, she's not planning on making any sequels. “The reason for that is I will never allow any sequel to be made, because it’s not that kind of film,” she said. “I don’t care how much I’m offered, it’s just not going to happen.”

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Space
NASA Is Posting Hundreds of Retro Flight Research Videos on YouTube
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If you’re interested in taking a tour through NASA history, head over to the YouTube page of the Armstrong Flight Research Center, located at Edwards Air Force Base, in southern California. According to Motherboard, the agency is in the middle of posting hundreds of rare aircraft videos dating back to the 1940s.

In an effort to open more of its archives to the public, NASA plans to upload 500 historic films to YouTube over the next few months. More than 300 videos have been published so far, and they range from footage of a D-558 Skystreak jet being assembled in 1947 to a clip of the first test flight of an inflatable-winged plane in 2001. Other highlights include the Space Shuttle Endeavour's final flight over Los Angeles and a controlled crash of a Boeing 720 jet.

The research footage was available to the public prior to the mass upload, but viewers had to go through the Dryden Aircraft Movie Collection on the research center’s website to see them. The current catalogue on YouTube is much easier to browse through, with clear playlist categories like supersonic aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. You can get a taste of what to expect from the page in the sample videos below.

[h/t Motherboard]

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