Monday, September 21, 2015

Some of the United States’ Most Underrated National Monuments

The United States National Park System maintains more than 50 national monuments throughout the country. These monuments often go ignored as crowds flock instead to national parks, but many of these protected areas offer incredible sights.

The Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction, Colorado, for example, offers an amazing look at deep canyons and towering sandstone formations. Visitors can follow the trails of explorer John Otto and see golden eagles and coyotes in addition to the beautiful landscape.

Another underrated attraction is White Sands National Monument in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Here, visitors can walk on sand that is so white that it resembles snow. Exploring the dunes is an experience unlike any other in the U.S.

The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in eastern Oregon will delight visitors who are interested in paleontology. The area contains fossils of both plants and animals that date back between 7 and 44 million years.

Cedar Breaks National Monument in southern Utah includes a three-mile natural amphitheater with unbelievable vistas dotted by ancient bristlecone pines -- some over 1,000 years old. Visitors can also enjoy challenging day hikes. The best time to visit is during the summer, since snow can largely cover the monument between October and May.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

William Friedkin - From Poverty to Hollywood Acclaim


Born to a low-income family in an impoverished area of Chicago, William Friedkin went on to become one of the star directors of 1970s American cinema. After graduating from high school, he began working in the mailroom of the local WGN TV station. It was during this time that he first saw Citizen Kane, the cinematic masterpiece that spurred his directorial ambitions. 

Early Life

Friedkin moved into live television directing and documentary filmmaking and led the development of more than 2,000 television programs throughout the 1950s, first garnering acclaim for his 1962 documentary, The People vs. Paul Crump. The film earned numerous festival accolades and ultimately resulted in the reversal of Paul Crump’s death sentence. This success caught the attention of David L. Wolper, a producer, who offered Friedkin his first Hollywood job. 


After heading west, Friedkin struggled to find his footing with his first fiction films, but he finally found success by returning to his roots as a documentarian. In 1971, he released his adaptation of the best-selling true crime novel The French Connection, an action thriller that earned critical acclaim and had a significant impact on the style of future cop movies. The French Connection received eight Academy Award nominations and took home five Oscars, including a Best Director trophy for Friedkin, leading author William Peter Blatty to recruit Friedkin to direct the adaptation of his popular supernatural thriller, The Exorcist. After overcoming obstacles related to the film’s budget and schedule, Friedkin released The Exorcist in 1973, drawing 10 Oscar nominations, thrilling audiences across the country, and solidifying his esteemed position in the history of American cinema.