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I am a freak for the American road trip. And I’m not alone, as some of this country’s best writers have taken a shot at describing that quintessentially American experience. “There is no such knowledge of the nation as comes of traveling in it, of seeing eye to eye its vast extent, its various and teeming wealth, and, above all, its purpose-full people,” the newspaper editor Samuel Bowles wrote 150 years ago inAcross the Continent, arguably the first true American road-trip book.

The above map is the result of a painstaking and admittedly quixotic effort to catalog the country as it has been described in the American road-tripping literature. It includes every place-name reference in 12 books about cross-country travel, from Mark Twain’s Roughing It (1872) to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild (2012), and maps the authors’ routes on top of one another. You can track an individual writer’s descriptions of the landscape as they traveled across it, or you can zoom in to see how different authors have written about the same place at different times.

Most interestingly of all, for me at least, you can ruminate about what those differences say about American travel, American writing, American history.

A word to close readers: I hand-typed most of these 1,500-plus entries and located their coordinates as best I could. Some were difficult to track down. I beg forbearance if you, a hermit in the mountains of Wyoming, find that I have pinned Mark Twain’s reference to Horse Creek in a place where it could not have been, or if you, a denizen of what Tom Wolfe rather unkindly called “the Rat lands” of Mexico, find my estimation of the precise location of Chicalote, Aguascalientes, somewhat inexact.

To be included, a book needed to have a narrative arc matching the chronological and geographical arc of the trip it chronicles. It needed to be non-fictional, or, as in the case of On the Road, at least told in the first-person. To anticipate a few objections: Lolita’s road-trip passages are scattered and defiant of cartographical order; The Grapes of Wrath’s are brief compared to the sections about poverty and persecution in California; the length of the trip in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is short in the geographical sense even if it is prodigiously vast in every other; and yes,The Dharma Bums is On the Road’s equal in every respect, and if you want to map the place-name references in all of Kerouac’s books, I salute you.

These passed the test:

Wild, Cheryl Strayed. 2012. After a series of personal crises, the author hits the Pacific Crest Trail and walks from Southern California to Portland. Self-actualization ensues.

The Cruise of the Rolling Junk, F. Scott Fitzgerald. 1934. Scott and Zelda’s wacky adventures along the muddy, unkept roads of the mid-Atlantic and the South, as they drive from Connecticut to her hometown of Montgomery, Alabama.

Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails With America’s Hoboes, Ted Conover. 1984. Conover, our most accomplished method journalist, studies with a merciful lack of sentimentality a subculture of transients that has long been mourned and romanticized more than it has been loved or even tolerated.

A Walk Across America, Peter Jenkins. 1979. Jenkins and his dog Cooper hoof it to New Orleans from upstate New York; along the way they encounter poverty, racism, hippies, illness, hateful cops and—at least for one of them—violent vehicular death. Oh, and in Mobile, Alabama, God.

Cross Country: Fifteen Years and 90,000 Miles on the Roads and Interstates of America with Lewis and Clark, Robert Sullivan. 2006. As much a free-association history of the American road trip as the chronicle of one in particular, Sullivan’s book is rare in that it documents a time-restricted straight-shot across the continent, interstates and chain-motels and all. Abandon nostalgia, all ye who enter here.

The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson. 1989. A sneering account of this exile’s return from abroad and his re-acquaintance with his native country. Bryson seems to be reminded on almost every page of why he chose to leave it, and we of why we let him.

Blue Highways: A Journey into America, William Least Heat Moon. 1982. Not less critical of America and Americans than Bryson but more interestingly so, the author takes his van on the road for three months after separating from his wife and sticks only to smaller highways while avoiding the cities. He has long debates about local history and current affairs with people on the road and pays especial attention to quirky place-names–a traveler after my own heart.

On the Road, Jack Kerouac. 1957. Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty search for bop, kicks, speed and the night.

Roughing It, Mark Twain. 1872. Twain’s book about his journey west by stagecoach a decade earlier is a incredible account of transcontinental travel before the railroad made it infinitely easier; his sections about the early Mormons in Salt Lake City, the mining settlements in Nevada and the pre-Americanized Sandwich Islands–aka, Hawaii–are also well worth the read.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig. 1974. The author and his son ride by motorcycle to California; Profound Philosophical Ruminations ensue. Very 1970s.

Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck. 1962. The aging novelist, his black-poodle pooch and Rocinante, the customized van named after Don Quixote’s horse, light out for the territories; Charley discovers redwoods, which depress him; Steinbeck discovers that you can’t go home again.

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe. 1968. Ken Kesey and the highly-acidic Merry Pranksters take the bus Further across the country to “tootle” its citizens out of lethargy. Neal Cassady rides again.

*Update, 7/22: An earlier version of the story had the wrong publication dates for Blue Highways and The Lost Continent

Source: The Obsessively Detailed Map of American Literature’s Most Epic Road Trips

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“Ask Me, Don’t Tell Me,” an amazing short film that I learned about through the Bernal Heights History Project, shows a glimpse of San Francisco street life in the late 1950s. (The film was published in 1961, but the aesthetic of its “juvenile delinquents” seems to owe more to the 50s, so let’s call it that. The 60s in San Francisco brings to mind flower children, which these aren’t.) It’s got some dated moments, but sparkles nonetheless as a little historical treasure.

The film is more interesting to me for its poetic pastiche of street scenes (and gritty bongos-infused blues) than it is as a record of the program, Youth For Service, that it was made to promote. I’ve never seen anything like this, nor have I read very much about these scenes in San Francisco. But as I watched the clip, I felt like I knew this world, if obliquely. These young men were the progenitors of the San Franciscans I grew up around. In their gestures, their expressions, their postures, and their voices, they foreshadow the later Bay Area culture with which I’m much more familiar.

Source: The gangs of San Francisco: remarkable footage from the late 1950s | Eamon Kircher-Allen

By Matt Branham Sep 01, 2015

It’s not always easy to understand the entire plot of a movie your first time through, especially with the person next to you squawking in your ear and the jackass behind you kicking your seat. Sometimes we’re smart enough to save highly anticipated movies for home viewing, but even then, there are a number of films you have to watch more than once to fully comprehend what the hell is going on. Here are ten movies very deserving of a second viewing, and you’ll be glad you watched them again. (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD)

Source: 10 Films You Have To Watch More Than Once To Get And Fully Appreciate – Mandatory

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How often do you watch a movie and wonder how many times the filmmaker’s life was actually in danger while making it? Probably not very often, right? Well, tune in to Netflix and watch director Matt Heineman’sCartel Land, and that’ll be the very first thing you think.

The film about how the drug cartels control the Michoacán region of Mexico, the effort to combat their despotic rule and the impotent Mexican government, while also looking at the efforts of a band of American vigilantes patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border in southern Arizona, is an engrossing, harrowing tale of a modern, real life horror story. It certainly impressed the DGA, which just awarded Heineman the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary documentary this past weekend, as well the documentary branch of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, which gave him his first Oscar nomination for Documentary Feature.

“There’s been a lot of coverage of the drug war in the media, and it’s been glorified in movies and TV shows,” he explains, “and my goal was to put a face to this violence. I didn’t want to talk about this from the outside, I wanted to put myself in the middle of the action and see how this violence affects every day people. The response of every day people rising up to fight back, and the ramifications when citizens take the law into their own hands.”

That violence was something that, as you can see while watching the movie, the director got a chance to experience first hand. He’ll be the first to tell you, being in a gunfight isn’t as much fun as it might appear. The movie makes Sicario, a fictional story about a lot of the same issues, look like a kid’s film.

“It was a genuinely terrifying film to make,” he says thoughtfully. “I’m not a war reporter. I’ve never been in any situation like this before, but the film obviously led me to some dangerous places. Shoot-outs between the cartels and the vigilantes, meth labs in the dark of night, places of torture, and that’s just what happened on camera. There are so many other things that happened off camera that made it even scarier.”
Things like secretive trips to a meth lab in the middle of nowhere, careful negotiations with masked drug dealers and “freedom fighters” who had no interest in being filmed, being surrounded and threatened by men with guns, and the generally spectacular level of paranoia and mistrust of a gringo with a camera.

The primary focus of the Mexican part of the film is on Dr. Jose Mireles, a small-town physician known as “El Doctor” in Michoacán, who leads the Autodefensas, a citizen uprising against the violent Knights Templar drug cartel that has wreaked havoc on the region for years. Over the course of the film — which was shot from June of 2013 through August of 2014 — the Autodefensas gain more and more ground against the cartel, but not without cost, both physical and moral.

Mireles becomes the mouthpiece of the movement, but even as he tries to do the right thing, he doesn’t always succeed, and to Heineman’s credit, the director never whitewashes anything and refuses to turn the man into some kind of superhero. On the contrary, he shows Mireles for who he is: well-intentioned, but human and deeply flawed.

“So many documentaries go out of their way, and I think many audiences expect it now, to give a very clear answer about a certain issue, or a certain problem or a certain character,” Heineman says, “and for me, that’s not what life is. Especially this world, which is so murky and so complicated and so gray and messy. I really wanted to revel in the complexity of humanity and vigilantism and not put these people, or this movement, into nice, neat little boxes. I really wanted to show both the good and the bad of what’s happening.”

Source: Filmmaker Matt Heineman Dives Deep into Action on ‘Cartel Land’ – “Things That Happened Off Camera Made It Even Scarier” | SSN Insider

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If the success of The Revenant proves anything, it’s that there are some risks, even in Hollywood, that are simply worth taking. It’s easy to say now, of course, after the great reviews and the dozen Oscar nominations and all the guild awards and Golden Globes and everything else, but it’s important to remember that there was a time not so long ago when people were exceedingly worried about the film’s fate.

It was over budget. By a lot. It was a brutal shoot that led to complaints by the crew, many of whom quit the production. It ran past its planned production schedule and, because it had to go where the snow was, finished its principal photography in a different hemisphere than where it started. It was a disaster waiting to happen, and more than a few folks were waggling their fingers and drooling at the prospect of such a failure, much like they did almost two decades ago, with Titanic.

And we know how that worked out.

The film that was ultimately budgeted at $135 million is closing in on $160 million at the domestic box office and has a solid shot at $400 million worldwide, with several large markets still to conquer.

One can talk about how the attention to detail in its production and costume design, the portrayal of Native Americans, the communing with nature, the different use of tried and true story tropes, the beautiful photography and stunning sound work, even the balanced portrayal of the film’s villain have all contributed to the film’s success. You could even go so far as to talk about how co-writer-producer-director Alejandro G. Iñárritu made that rare movie which actually makes the audience feel like they’re a part of the action. His star certainly thinks so.

Source: The Revenant: Can a Hit Prestige Film Change the Tentpole-Centric Mindset of the Major Studios? | SSN Insider

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Super Bowl Halftime Shows Ranked: From Worst to Best

Posted February 5, 2016 By rariccardi

Pop spectacles, Janet’s nipple, Springsteen’s marathon, Left Shark and loads of soul revues – we’ve seen ’em all

There is no gig in music like the Super Bowl halftime show. You have 12 minutes to justify your legend. You have 150 million people watching, most of whom are distracted by the nachos platter, how much beer is left in the fridge or how much of the rent they bet on the Panthers. Chances are it’s the biggest worldwide audience of your life, and getting it right means rising to the hugeness of the moment. Getting it wrong can crush a career. Good luck, Coldplay.

And with Super Bowl 50 set for this Sunday, what better time to rank the Big Game’s halftime shows from worst to best. Here’s a subjective, personal, irresponsible and indefensible breakdown of the winners and losers. The Bonos and Beyoncés and Bruces and Britneys. The Janets and Justins. The Michaels and Maccas and Madonnas. Plus the year they trapped poor Gloria Estefan in a Minnesota “Winter Magic” pageant with a bunch of figure skaters and inflatable snowmen. Believe it or not, all these Super Bowl halftime shows really happened. Some were transcendent. Some sucked. Pass those bacon fritters and enjoy the show.

Source: Super Bowl Halftime Shows Ranked: From Worst to Best

In this age of “peak TV,” when hundreds of intricate and high-quality shows must fight for survival, the success of a milquetoast show like “House Hunters” barely makes sense: The proudly formulaic HGTV series follows random homebuyers as they pat down laminate countertops and calmly discuss closet space.

But to the astonishment of rival networks, “House Hunters” remains one of the most unlikely and unstoppable juggernauts on TV. The show last year aired a staggering 447 new episodes — far more than the typical 12-to-22-episode cable season — and helped HGTV become one of the most-watched cable networks in America.

“House Hunters” serves as a fascinating counter-example to some of the TV business’ biggest anxieties, including the growing costs and competition of scripted dramas and the rise of “cord-cutters” moving their viewing online. “House Hunters” producers spend next to nothing on stars or storylines, do little to groom an Internet audience — and still consistently attract 25 million viewers every month.

“It’s happy television. It’s so safe. It’s like an old sweater,” said Terri Murray, the executive producer of “House Hunters” and its vast array of specials and spin-offs. “You can walk away from it because the storyline is so simple, the structure is so repetitive, that you can come back and already knows what’s missing.”

Source: How “House Hunters” became the most unstoppable juggernaut on TV – The Washington Post

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TV ADDONS Usage Statistics to Begin December

Posted December 14, 2015 By rariccardi

It seemed to be the right time to share a bit about how many users actually enjoy our addons on a daily basis, you’ll surely be quite impressed.

Some Interesting Usage Statistics for Kodi from TVaddons

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We’ve just gone over some statistics for the first time in a while and it seems that our community is getting closer and closer to becoming a household name. It’s very rare that we check statistics because we don’t really care about how many users we have, but the numbers are definitely more than impressive, so much so that we thought we’d share some of them with you.

We figured the best way to get a good picture of how many users are actually using our community’s addons would be to analyze the repository server’s statistics, specifically unique visitors. It is the best way of evaluating the userbase, since each time Kodi is booted it automatically checks the repository server for updates, therefore we can get a precise idea of how many are actually using Kodi actively on a daily basis.

Legend: Total Unique Visitors refers to the number of unique users in the designated timeframe, whereas Maximum and Minimum Unique Visitors refers to the highest and lowest amount of users per hour.

ACTIVE USERS IN THE LAST 24 HOURS

ACTIVE USERS IN THE LAST WEEK

ACTIVE USERS IN THE LAST MONTH

Congratulations! You’re now aware of how many people actually enjoy our addons, we just wish that a small percentage of them actually considered making a Donationtowards our server costs, it would really help immensely.

Source: Some Interesting Usage Statistics to Begin December

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11 Great Debut Novels

Posted October 10, 2014 By rariccardi

In a season when publishers issue novels by their big-name writers Jane Smiley, David Mitchell, Anne Rice, for example, there’s still plenty of room for new voices. This week, we list some of the most exciting debut novels by adult and young adult writers, including Isabel Quintero’s Gabi, a Girl in Pieces, a “fresh, authentic and honest exploration of contemporary Latina identity,” as our reviewer puts it, and Vanessa Manko’s “sober… lively and provocative” novel The Invention of Exile, set in Mexico City. Check out this week’s list and discover new writers who we think have long, healthy careers ahead of them.

via 11 Great Debut Novels.

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