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Netflix Rental Patterns, or, Minnesotans Love to Rent "The Bucket List"

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A bit of nerdy interactive fun for you today: the New York Times has an Interactive Map of Netflix Queues covering 100 "frequently rented" titles from 2009, including very heavily-rented titles like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and less-rented titles like Happy-Go-Lucky and Adventureland.

The map is interactive, allowing you to slide or step through various movie titles and see how popular each title is in twelve metro areas in the US: New York City, Boston, Chicago, Washington, the Bay Area (aka San Francisco, Oakland, etc.), Los Angeles, Seattle, Minneapolis, Denver, Atlanta, Dallas, and Miami. What's better, you get a geographic breakdown by ZIP code within each metro area, so you can see if a title is popular in the city center or the 'burbs. For example, Milk (a biopic about Harvey Milk, who lived and worked in San Francisco) is the #1 rented title in many ZIP codes in the city center of San Francisco.

While the Times notes that distinct patterns are visible with the titles Mad Men (popular in city centers), Obsessed (popular in predominantly black neighborhoods), and Last Chance Harvey (popular everywhere but city centers), I found the most interesting pattern overall in The Bucket List: popular almost nowhere except in Minneapolis, where it stains the landscape like a bizarre, vaguely urine-colored invader (seen above). Check out the map for yourself and see what you can figure out! (See also: the comment thread for the infographic, which is full of privacy concerns, political flames, and requests for more info on the raw data and methodology. One excellent comment from "DCR" in Arlington, Virginia: "We don't just live in red, blue and purple zip codes; we live in Milk, Tyler Perry and Slumdog Millionaire zip codes.")

For what it's worth, you can get similar data yourself directly from Netflix if you're a member. Scroll to the bottom of the Netflix site, click Friends, scroll down to "Unique in [Your City] and click "See What's popular in Other Locations," then note the box in the upper right portion of the page -- you can get statistics for any ZIP code . Here's a direct link that may or may not work for you.

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fun
New Tolkien-Themed Botany Book Describes the Plants of Middle-Earth
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While reading The Lord of the Rings saga, it's hard not to notice J.R.R. Tolkien’s clear love of nature. The books are replete with descriptions of lush foliage, rolling prairies, and coniferous forests. A new botany book builds on that knowledge. Entertainment Weekly reports that Flora of Middle-Earth: Plants of J.R.R. Tolkien's Legendarium provides fantasy-loving naturalists with a round-up of plants that grow in Middle-earth.

Written by University of Florida botanist Walter Judd, the book explores the ecology, etymology, and importance of over 160 plants. Many are either real—coffee, barley, wheat, etc.—or based on real-life species. (For example, pipe-weed may be tobacco, and mallorns are large trees similar to beech trees.)

Using his botany background, Judd explores why Tolkien may have felt compelled to include each in his fantasy world. His analyses are paired with woodcut-style drawings by artist Graham Judd, which depict Middle-earth's flowers, vegetables, fruits, herbs, and shrubs in their "natural" environments.

[h/t Entertainment Weekly]

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Pop Culture
IKEA Publishes Instructions for Turning Rugs Into Game of Thrones Capes
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HBO

Game of Thrones is one of the most expensive TV shows ever produced, but even the crew of the hit HBO series isn’t above using an humble IKEA hack behind the scenes. According to Mashable, the fur capes won by Jon Snow and other members of the Night’s Watch on the show are actually sheepskin rugs sold by the home goods chain.

The story behind the iconic garment was first revealed by head costume designer Michele Clapton at a presentation at Los Angeles’s Getty Museum in 2016. “[It’s] a bit of a trick,” she said at Designing the Middle Ages: The Costumes of GoT. “We take anything we can.”

Not one to dissuade customers from modifying its products, IKEA recently released a cape-making guide in the style of its visual furniture assembly instructions. To start you’ll need one of their Skold rugs, which can be bought online for $79. Using a pair of scissors cut a slit in the material and make a hole where your head will go. Slip it on and you’ll look ready for your Game of Thrones debut.

The costume team makes a few more changes to the rugs used on screen, like shaving them, adding leather straps, and waxing and “frosting” the fur to give it a weather-worn effect. Modern elements are used to make a variety of the medieval props used in Game of Thrones. The swords, for example, are made from aircraft aluminum, not steel. For more production design insights, check out these behind-the-scenes secrets of Game of Thrones weapons artists.

[h/t Mashable]

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