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The Late Movies: "Pop Pilgrims" Visit Pop Culture Sites

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The Onion's AV Club has been traveling the U.S., visiting significant locations from film, TV, and music. I've collected some of my favorites from their series, which is currently 32 episodes long. These are bite-sized collections of trivia and pop culture lore, and are a lot of fun -- though the theme song and sponsor branding might drive you nuts after the third or fourth video.

New York: The Ghostbusters firehouse

Only used for exteriors, this firehouse is still in use, and 9/11 first responders were dispatched from it. In this clip, we learn some Ghostbusters history and trivia as well as some New York history.

Austin: We're gonna need you to go ahead and visit the Office Space building

"For the ultimate in dull, [Mike Judge] looked to southeast Austin and found the Southpark office complex, where his workers suffered five days a week and sometimes even on Saturday."

San Francisco: Jimmy Stewart's Vertigo apartment

Near the "crookedest street in the world," we find 900 Lombard, the house from Vertigo. Jeffrey M. Anderson calls Vertigo the "ultimate San Francisco movie."

San Francisco: City Lights Books, birthplace of a literary revolution

A hugely significant independent bookstore (and publisher). Features an appearance by Daniel Handler!

Memphis: Sun Studio - Home to Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis

I've heard of Sun Studio (and Sun Records) forever, and have seen fictionalized versions of it in movies, but hadn't seen the real thing -- or at least I thought I hadn't, until I realized it was in Rattle & Hum, including the "Angel of Harlem" video. The studio is surprisingly small for its massive cultural impact.

Austin: We visit fictional Dillon, TX, home of Friday Night Lights

See also Friday Night Nights. Interestingly, the show never used sound stages -- everything used a real location (although "East Dillon" had to reuse space from existing parts of "Dillon" proper).

Seattle: The diner from Twin Peaks, Twede's Cafe

Oh, the Double R Diner and its cherry pie -- "this must be where pies go when they die." As fans know, there was a major fire in 2000, so the interior has been replaced.

Chicago: The Blues Brothers bridge

Jake Blues hates Illinois Nazis.

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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0
Get Your GIFs Ready for This International Public Domain GIF-Making Competition
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“Dissension” by Tobias Rothe. Original image courtesy Fondazione Federico Zeri/Università di Bologna // CC-BY 3.0

Excellent GIF-making skills can serve you beyond material for your clever tweets. Each year, a group of four digital libraries from across the world hosts GIF IT UP, a competition to find the best animated image sourced from public domain images from their archives.

The competition is sponsored by Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), New Zealand’s DigitalNZ, and the National Library of Australia’s Trove, all of which host millions of public domain works. The requirements are that the source material must be in the public domain, have a 'no known copyright restrictions' statement, or have a Creative Commons license that allows its reuse. The material must also come from one of the sponsored sources. Oh, and judging by the past winners, it helps if it’s a little whimsical.

The image above won the grand prize in 2015. And this was a runner-up in 2016:


This year’s prizes haven’t been announced yet (although Europeana says there will be a new one for first-time GIF makers), but last year’s grand prize winner got their own Giphoscope, and runners-up got $20 gift cards. (Turns out, there’s not a lot of money in public domain art.)

Not an expert GIFer yet? You can always revisit the audio version of DPLA’s advanced GIF-making tutorial from last year.

The fourth-annual GIF IT UP contest opens to submissions October 1.


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