# Water Doesn’t Naturally Flow in a Straight Line

I had to use Google Maps in order to calculate the distance between my house and a school that I will be visiting this summer. Like I always do while using Google Maps, I decided to see if the satellite image of my house had been updated. Not sure why, but I decided to trace the creek that runs behind my house and started tracing the line of the creek. I noticed how it meandered and twisted its way through the landscape. I kept noticing that it never went in a straight line for any extended period. Why is it that this creek, nor any other body of water, naturally traveling on a straight line?

The answer lies in the ground beneath our feet. The variations in morphology and makeup of the landscape of where the water is flowing and the direction of the least slope guide the path. Gravity causes the water to choose the path based on the slope; but since the landscape is composed of so many different elements that erode in different manners, the capability for the body of water to flow in a straight line is impossible. As the water flows, the landscape that it encounters erodes differently. As it moves the landscape underneath it; and as the water deepens, each side erodes differently due to the makeup of the land. Whatever kind of material is there, it will erode at a different speed; and thusly will cause one side to erode more than the other. This causes a deviation from what would be a straight line.

As the body of water flows, it carries sediments with it that are deposited when the water slows down due to decreased slope. Larger running water bodies like rivers and creeks expand differently and due to the large quantity of water flowing in the event of rapid rainfall or in the case of Pages Lake which is fed by Mines Creek outside of Fayetteville, NC. Much like the creek, so named Island Creek, which flows behind my house; Mines Creek is fed by and is connected to a much larger body of water. Mines Creek is connected by the Cape Fear River while my creek is fed by an offshoot of that same river; the Northeast Cape Fear River.

Most creeks are formed by water flowing from a larger body of water (ie a river) and either never reaching another body of water. Sometimes these small creeks flow downhill until they merge to form larger streams and rivers; but sometimes when enough water is flowing, due to the land eroding in different areas, the water expands its banks irregularly and braided channels are formed. You see this a lot when lakes rivers and creeks run dry; as is the case with Pages Lake that lies behind Camp Dixie. The Lake was formed by the low lying water eroding away at the banks over many years but the creek still continued out the other side. The water will come back whenever they open the dam that is located down the road; but for now all we see is the braided channels and stagnant water that is left behind.

The journey of a body of water is much like the journey of a human life. We all start at the same place: a newborn baby; but due to a myriad of factors, we all go down different paths. If we are ever guilty of not trying to move forward. If we ever stop trying, then we will become stagnant and lifeless just like the lake that has no movement. So keep moving my friends. God bless.

# Is the Golden Rule still the Golden Standard?

The term ‘gold standard’ was the system they used for rating the rate of currency to the gold for which it could be exchanged. The gold standard was mostly abandoned during the Great Depression of the 1930s; but the phrase stuck around to represent that that something is the best and should be used to gauge how good other items in that category are. Another ‘golden’ phrase that has been around for thousands of years is now commonly known as the Golden Rule. The term “Golden Rule” was coined as early as 17th century Britain by Anglican theologians/preacher Thomas Jackson and British novelist Charles Gibbon. Anglican preacher Thomas Jackson used the term “Golden Rule” to represent a specific ‘rule’ given by Jesus in his famous Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is quoted as saying for us to “do to others what you want them to do to you” is a perfect summary of the Torah. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus finishes by saying that, “(t)his is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets.” Historians have pointed out that this idea of ‘treating others as we would want them to be treated’ is not unique to Jesus nor was he historically the first person to instruct or suggest his people to do this; but while there is a similarity, there are still differences to the ‘Golden Rule’ that is found elsewhere.

The versions of the ‘Golden Rule’ have been found in countless written works; and has been used in many religions and belief systems:

African Traditional Religions: One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts. (Yoruba Proverb – Nigeria)

Aristotle: We should behave to our friends as we wish our friends to behave to us.

Baha’i Faith: He should not wish for others that which he doth not wish for himself.

Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. (Udanavarga 5:18)

Christianity: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you and love thy neighbor as thyself.

Confucius: “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” (Analects 15:23)

Hinduism: Do nothing to they neighbor which thou wouldst not have them do to thee. “This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” (Mahabharata 5:1517)

Islam: No one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.

Jainism: A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.

Judaism: What you hate, do not do to anyone.

Sikh: As thou deemst thyself, so deem others.

Zoroastrianism: Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others.

The Golden Rule is now known by social psychologists as the Law of Reciprocity, which they surmise that when ‘someone does something nice for you, you will have a deep-rooted psychological urge to do something nice in return. As a matter of fact, you may even reciprocate with a gesture far more generous than their original good deed.’ In regards to Biblical teaching, you could call the Law of Reciprocity, the ‘Law of Sowing and Reaping’. Though the ‘Golden Rule’, through its many variations, has major differences; but it is the Golden Rule as presented by Jesus that we see a positive command to show love proactively. The inverted nature of the non-Christian ‘Golden Rule’ will rely on passivity and are stated negatively.

Even though the ‘golden rule’ is closely associated with the Christian religion, the ethics of this concept are universal. The message was clear from everyone from African tribes to John the Baptist to Buddha…’treat others the way we want to be treated’. Sadly we have prematurely forgotten about this or that despite its many variations….it must have gotten lost in translation.

Images:

An Illustration of the Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell used as the cover of the April 1, 1961 edition of the Saturday Evening Post, obtained from http://www.flavinscorner.com/goldrock.JPG, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47391481

The Sermon on the Mount by William Hole, http://www.wikigallery.org/wiki/artist49352/William-Brassey-Hole/page-1, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34083673

La Justice by Bernard d’Agesci, painter (Jeffdelonge pict) – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8713098

# Top Cat’s Tuesday Top Ten: Most Tragic Superhero Origins

As a kid, most of us pretend to fly like Superman or pretend that we have cool gadgets like Batman; but the one thing that we don’t like to think about is the origin stories of some of our favorite characters. We don’t want to disrupt that happy image of that epic larger-than-life hero and imagine the tragedy that they have seen or that most of their path is riddled with traumatizing events, murdered family members, death, mutilation, or an immense amount of pain. So since I love to make a list I had to list out the Top Cat’s Tuesday Top Ten: Most Tragic Superhero Origins.

Honorable Mention: Black Widow, The Fantastic Four and Doctor Strange

10. Rorschach – I didn’t read the limited run DC Comics series Watchmen by Alan Moore until the release of the 2009 movie was released. The Watchmen is set in an alternative reality that closely resembles the world of our 1980s. The existence of superheroes in this world drastically changed their real-world events like the Vietnam War (which ended with a US victory in 1971 and the presidency of Richard Nixon does end because the Watergate scandal does not happen. The costumed crime fighters in the series are called “superheroes” though only one of the characters actually possesses any real superhuman powers. The character of Rorschach is especially sad. Rorschach was raised by a prostitute mother and an abusive monster of a father who brutally beat him as a child. The violence that he witnessed as a child turned him into a tightly wound vigilante who wears a white mask with alternating rorschach-esque designs (hence his name). He sees the world in black and white. His character is literally born into ugliness and his hatred of the corrupt is sadly understandable.

9. Superman – Before being rocketed to Earth as an infant, Superman was born Kal-El on the planet Krypton. Jor-El, his Kryptonian father sent him to Earth moments before Krypton was destroyed. The infant Superman was found and raised by Kansas farmers who imbued him with a strong moral compass. As he grew up, the superhuman abilities started to show and as an adult he decides to use his powers to benefit humanity.

8. Spiderman – There can not be a sadder background story than that of Peter Parker. To not only be living with his aunt and uncle because his parents had been killed in a plane crash.  Peter was bit by a radioactive spider while on a field trip with his school. He went through some physical changes causing him to have immense physical powers thusly allowing him to gain notoriety and money from that notoriety. One night he allowed a fleeing criminal to pass on by and didn’t use his powers to try and stop him. Turns out that that fleeing thief was the man that had just robbed and murdered his Uncle Ben. He vowed from then on to use his powers for good due to the famous words of his Uncle: “With great power there must also come–great responsibility.”

7. Batman – Bruce Wayne witnessed the murder of his parents, Dr. Thomas and Martha Wayne which led him to ultimately craft the Batman persona and seek justice against criminals. Wayne keeps suspicion of his nighttime crime fighting persona by portraying the image of the extravagant, playboy billionaire Bruce Wayne. Psychologically, Bruce grew up obsessing over and training to rid the world of the crime underworld that took his parents away. Since Batman/Bruce Wayne does not have any ‘superpowers’ he uses his genius intellect, physical prowess, martial arts abilities, detective skills, intimidation, and indomitable will. His vast wealth allows him to have the funds to use the science and technology around him to create increasingly sophisticated Bat-themed weapons to aid in his continuing journey in crushing the criminals of Gotham City or whatever villain that he may encounter.

6. Doctor Manhattan – I spoke earlier about the only character in the Watchman to actually have powers; well that character was Dr Jonathan Osterman or as he became known: Doctor Manhattan. He was transformed into one of the most powerful beings in the DC Universe after he was painfully disintegrated in an Intrinsic Field Subtractor. He is literally vaporized and over the course of a few months painfully reconstructs himself. So almost immediately after realizing his powers, he is immediately pressed into becoming a pawn for and is used them for the US Government to turn the tides in the West’s favor. The already brilliant scientist gained amazing powers through his transformation, but the experience was excruciating both mentally and physically. His humanity declines as time goes on and he quite literally sheds the uniform of humanity.

5. Swamp Thing – In a turn of events similar to that of Doctor Manhattan, the original Swamp Thing character was originally named Alex Olsen. Olsen was a scientist who was caught up in a lap explosion that was caused by his co-worker and fellow scientist, Damian Ridge. Ridge intended to kill him and gain the hand of Olsen’s wife Linda so he could kill her. The explosion did not kill him, but the chemicals and forces within the swamp altered him into a monstrous creature. The creature kills Ridge before he kills his wife but in the monstrous form, he is unable to speak so he cannot reveal his true identity. So he sadly returns to the swamp.

4. Rocket Raccoon – Now before you laugh at me for putting Rocket Raccoon’s origin above that of Superman, hear me out. Rocket Raccoon aka Rocky aka Rocket comes from the Halfworld planet in the Keystone Quadrant; where animals are genetically manipulated to grant them human level intelligence and bipedal body construction so that they can become the caretakers of the inmates on the planet which houses the mentally ill. Rocket was the colony’s chief law officer. After villains tried to kill him, he and his cohorts fought and destroyed them. They left the planet to go on their own adventures but a short time later he was a laboratory subject on the Stranger’s planet. Thankfully he escaped and was able to go wonderful adventures and become a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy but the training and powers that he has are all thanks to a pretty miserable origin. To gain the cybernetics that cause him to be more powerful, he was quite literally torn apart.

3. Spawn – The antihero Spawn was originally USMC Retired Lt Colonel Albert Francis “Al” Simmons. Simmons was a highly trained Force Recon Marine who at one point saved the President from an attempted assassination. He was promoted to a high level and was recruited to work with the CIA and worked on a black ops team. Once there he began to question the morality of what he was doing because some of the missions seemed wrong. Simmons’ friend and partner, killed him after he was hired by Jason Wynn to do so. In a blazing inferno, Simmons was killed and due to his sins on Earth (specifically the killing of innocents while working with the CIA), was damned to Hell. While in Hell, Simmons made a deal with the evil being known as Malebolgia and in exchange for his soul, would once again be allowed to see his wife. However, when returned to the human realm, five years had gone by and he was transformed into a demonic creature with only faded memories of his former life. After he gains his memories back, he seeks out his wife, only to find out that she had moved on and married his best friend whom with she had had a daughter. After this the Violator, forces Spawn to use his powers for the benefit of Hell.

2. The Crow – James O’Barr created The Crow series as a way to cope with the death of his girlfriend, who had been killed by a drunk driver. Eric Draven’s story in the Crow is extremely dark. The happiness of Eric and his girlfriend Shelley is thwarted while returning from a romantic getaway when their car breaks down on a deserted road and a car full of gang members stop to take advantage of their misfortune. They shoot Eric in the head which only paralyses him, and he is forced to watch the gang rape and then murder Shelley in the car. Eric dies hours later in the hospital. A year later, Eric is resurrected by a supernatural Crow (who is the link between the living and the beyond, so that the dead that he resurrect can seek justice on the person/people that harmed them) who helps him exact vengeance on the men responsible for their deaths.

1. Wolverine – The life of James Howlett is anything but picturesque. The guy literally had a crappy life from the beginning. James was born in northern Canada during the late 1880s to rich farm owners though he is actually the illegitimate son of the Howllett’s groundskeeper, Thomas Logan. Thomas is kicked off of the family farm after his other son, Dog, tries to rape James’s childhood companion, Rose. Rose was brought in to the help take care of James because he was an extremely sick child. His illegitimate father comes back to the farm out of anger and kills John Howlett. In a fit of rage, young James’s mutation manifests and he kills Thomas with bone claws that emerge from his hands.

He flees with Rose and he works on a mining colony in the Yukon territory where he adopts the name “Logan”. Logan accidently kills Rose with his claws and lives in the wilderness among the wolves. He is captured and is placed in Hugo Haversham’s circus. While at this circus he meets Saul Creed and his sister Clara. Clara is the animal handler at the circus and saw the human quality inside of the wild beast that Logan had become. She tries to civilize him but her brother is not happy about their relationship. Saul sells Logan’s location out to the leader of the Marauders: Mister Sinister. The Marauders, who act as a commando strike-force, assassinate other mutants and carry out acts of mass murder. Nathaniel Essex aka Minister Sinister tries to kill Logan and Clara but Logan accidently stabs Clara in the malay. He thinks Clara is dead so he goes and drowns Creed in Sinister’s potion. Turns out that Clara is not dead but is so hurt by Logan killing her brother that she tells him that she doesn’t want to ever see him again.

Logan is again broken hearted but returns to civilization and lives with the Blackfoot Native American people. After a while there, Logan is again faced with the death of a friend or lover when Victor Creed (brother of Clara and Saul), now known as the infamous Sabretooth kills his Blackfoot lover, Silver Fox. Logan is then ushered into the Canadian military during World War I before spending time in Madripoor (a a fictional island in Southern Asia known as a haven for pirates, essentially lawless and does not extradite criminals). After Madripoor, he moves on to Japan where he trains with ninja and martial arts master Ogun. While in Japan he falls in love with and marries a local woman named Itsu. Logan returns home from a failed ceremony for their soon to be born child and finds Itsu dead from gunshots to the head and stomach.

He again leaves emotionally broken and during World War II, he continues his career as a mercenary and even teams up with Captain America. He serves with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion during D-Day, and later works with the CIA before being recruited by “Team X”, a black ops unit. During his time with Team X, Logan is given false memory implants and is under mental control. He breaks free of the mental control and joins the Canadian Defense Ministry before being kidnapped by the Weapon X program. While there he is held captive, experimented on, and has his entire bone structure forcibly/painfully fused with adamantium. He escapes and begins to work with an intelligence operative for the Canadian Government. He becomes Wolverine and in his first mission, he is dispatched to stop the destruction caused by a brawl between the Hulk and the Wendigo. Later Professor Xavier recruits Wolverine to be a member of the new iteration of the X-Men where it is revealed that he was ctually sent there to assassinate Professor X but Professor X wiped his memories and forced him to join the X-Men. After many years of being in the X-Men, Wolverine has the adamantium forcibly torn from his body which causes his healing factor to burn out and it almost kills him.

And that is just a brief summary of the hell that this man has gone through. Wolverine may be a celebrated and well loved character, but he has gone through a lifetime of massively traumatic events.

Images:

Cover of Detective Comics #27 (May 1939 DC Comics). Art by Bob Kane. “Detective Comics #27 from The Grand Comics Database. Retrieved December 19, 2004. Full front cover as published. Fair use. Trademarks & Copyright © 1939 DC Comics, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Swamp Thing and Poison Ivy NYCC 2014 by Docking Bay 93 – CC BY 2.0, Fair use. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41693096

# Typical Fan: The Psychology of why we need Superheroes

Video games, comic books and super heroes in general are seeping into every crevice of the Pop Culture landscape. An estimated 150,000+ attendees of this year’s San Diego Comic-Con which will have an estimated \$140 million positive impact on the economy. Still not convinced? Maybe the \$1.5 billion box office income of 2012’s Avengers movie or the well over \$1 billion estimated income of this year’s Black Panther will help you see that its easy to see that super heroes are extremely popular. As previously said, the popularity goes well beyond the movies; and is seeping all over the Pop Culture landscape. So why do we need superheroes? What is the draw to invest so much of our time, money, and emotions into these superheroes? Why do these super heroes and even villains receive so much idolization thusly becoming role models to children and adults alike? Why do hardcore fans stick around after the increase in popularity and commercialism of the industry?

The term ‘superhero’ was not used until 1917 and was very popular during the Golden Age of Comics (the 1930s). The current Modern Age of comics brought about more psychologically complex characters, as well as a larger audience base. Many have claimed that superheroes are an integral part of American society; and despite some otherworldly aspects, comics are a reflection of our world. During World War II, Marvel famously showed Captain America punching Hitler in the face. Then years later (after finding out that President Obama collected Spider-Man comics), Marvel put Obama on the cover of their The Amazing Spider-Man issue No 583 where ‘Spidey meets the President’. Continuing to address and be on the forefront of social issues, in 1992 Marvel revealed Northstar to be a homosexual. Comic books and super heroes writers seem to mirror our lives, which in turn makes them even more relatable.

So we have established that the evolution of comics and superheroes themselves sometimes reflect the events that are happening around us as well as address the societal problems that our world is facing; but what about our idolizing relationship to a superhero? As we read comics, especially the young audience, we not only increase our ability to read and understand more complex works; but we develop emotions and morals. Take for example, Tony Stark. Despite Tony’s celebrity status and the ultra-powerful Iron Man suit…he is a broken character. Throughout the years of Iron Man comics, the Tony Stark/Iron Man character has had to deal with insecurities due to his broken relationship with his father, has suffered from alcoholism, suffered panic attacks and even bouts of paranoia. This flawed character, much like many other comic book superheroes, help us see the human qualities and make us look at ourselves. But like fairytales and children stories, superhero stories serve a didactic purpose. Most superheroes teach the reader how to succeed in life. Whether that success is to better the world around them and defeat evil villains or just by demonstrating exemplary behavior. On the basic level, they educate readers between right and wrong.

When we are little, most of us pretend to be law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, cowboys, or someone in the armed forces. The same principles that cause use to look up to those people, are the same reasons they pretend to be Iron Man, Batman, Spider-Man, or Superman. These superheroes are larger-than-life, epic characters that do anything to take away evil and make things right. We admire paramedics, Marines, firemen, etc. because they help save us in our times of need. The psychological theory called terror management theory proposes that people’s fear of death strengthens their allegiance to certain cultural values. For example, during times that we witness evil and death a typical response would be for us to think more about the fragility of life and it leads us to value heroes even more. Heroes also fulfill our need for fairness and lawfulness, which is sometimes lost in our normal everyday lives. In the 1950s Superman TV show always spoke of Superman’s never-ending quest for “truth, justice, and the American way”. They bring us hope.

While video game characters, comic books and superheroes of all types are exaggerated examples of what traits we hope to exhibit, they fill a purpose. We admire the masked superhero. The prosocial behavior has a positive impact on the readers/players. We sometimes find ourselves escaping the setbacks and failings that we are experiencing in our own lives; and we are living vicariously through these characters. Sometimes these characters help us face real adversity in our lives. Giving us courage and inspiring us to overcome health problems, failures, or even just the everyday challenges that we find. Heroes lift us up on a personal level by allowing us to compare and contrast the traits that they portray; and allow us to personify the best parts of their personalities, ethical commitments, and moral traits.

My son, Daniel, may have said it best when he said that when he’s watching a good movie or playing video games that he can forget about stressors, homework or chores; and just be lost in that character’s world. The characters that we play, watch, read, cosplay, or enjoy are sometimes flawed souls with admirable intentions. Just like normal life, we can be flawed and be successful. We can have complex backstories and have different motivations. We will continue to love and idolize these characters because we see a little bit of ourselves in them…or maybe we see something that we want to add to our own story.

Images:

# The Purposeful Behavior in Romeo and Juliet

It could go without saying that when someone says ‘love story’ that you will more than likely think of Romeo and Juliet. The story has represented the image of true love and romance since it was first performed at the Globe Theater in 1595. The story has been and is retold in many forms; while the story itself is quoted and referenced throughout Pop Culture in movies like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and The Princess Diaries, songs like “Love Story” by Taylor Swift and “(Just like) Romeo and Juliet” by The Reflections, or even a TV show like Doctor Who. So I think that we would be foolish if we said that the story has not had a considerable influence on not only Pop Culture but our society in general.

So what about the actual story in Romeo and Juliet? Writers explain that there are only seven basis plot types in literature: overcoming a monster (which has existed since Beowulf and Biblical stories like David and Goliath), rebirth, a quest, voyage and return, rags to riches, comedy, and in our case…the tragedy. So if we think about the story itself, what causes the tragic story of these two star-crossed lovers whose death ultimately brings together the feuding families of the Capulets and Montagues? In regards to human behavior, what drove the now archetypal young lovers into one another’s arms in love and ultimately in death?

According to the principles of praxeology, humans engage in purposeful behavior. Meaning that humans and their decision-making processes are based on their preferences. In his book Human Action, Ludwig von Mises states that, “human action is purposeful behavior. …(a)ction is will put into operation and transformed into an agency, is aiming at end goals, is the ego’s meaningful response to stimuli and to the conditions of its environment, is a person’s conscious adjustment to the state of the universe that determines his life.” Is it possible to say that the love between Romeo and Juliet, demonstrates a tragic display of what happens when the forced behavior of humans meets the chaotic complexity that is life?

An ‘action axiom’ is defined as something that ‘embodies a criterion for recommending action’, and essentially states that ‘if something holds, then the following should be done.” Despite any last-ditch-efforts, the families in Romeo and Juliet could not rectify or correct the chaotic turn that their chosen behaviors had taken. Their love could be nature itself repairing the predetermined course that their families had chosen for them. It is definitely defendable that the love, and regretfully tragic death, of Romeo and Juliet is merely the result of the family’s predetermined action axiom. Although the meeting of Romeo and Juliet at the ball was happen stance; the push and pull of the Capulets and Montagues to keep them apart was the the cause of their love. Even through the families had fought to achieve a desired result; who would have thought that the result of their choices would have been the death of two love-struck teenagers? Sadly the result of Romeo and Juliet’s tragic story is based on the actions of some other ‘Human’s Action’.

Images:

Featured image: Sir Frank Dicksee’s 1884 Romeo and Juliet painting by Frank Dicksee – http://www.odysseetheater.com/romeojulia/romeojulia.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=896519

Romeo and Juliet 1879 poster available from the US Library of Congress Prints and Photographs division. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1648057

Romeo and Juliet, Act II – Scene VI by Sir John Gilbert – Melhoramentos Edition, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1455599

# The Attack of Red Beard

Even though beards have been a staple in many cultures and have been a fashion statement for thousands of years…beards are in baby! They are literally everywhere and are more socially acceptable now than they ever have been. Beards are for men what mascara is for women. It is the lipstick for that weak chin, scrawny neck, and/or mask for that baby face. An internal study done by a group of psychologists have found that women found men with stubble the most attractive and preferred a man with facial hair as both short and long-term relationships. Though women might find stubble the most attractive over full baby faced or a full beard; women perceived men with full beards as ‘the most masculine, aggressive, and socially mature’. The only downfall to this is that women found these men to look older than they actually were. If you can grow a beautiful beard; there could be another potential downfall to your beard: the dreaded red beard.

I have been a strawberry blonde my entire life; and despite the fact that the famous warm reddish blonde hue being a trendy hair color, I haven’t always been truly fond of my hair color. Statistically speaking, 1 in every 4 children will be a red-head so I don’t feel completely out of place but red heads, just like blondes and brunettes, have many varying shades and tones that can vary from person to person. The strawberry blonde shade may share similar genetic make-up with its ‘ginger’ brethren but it is different. (Much like a ‘dirty blonde’ is different from a ‘platinum blonde’.) When I decided to grow out my beard, Daniel pointed out one day that the bristles descending from my cheeks and chin were bright red and my hair was a completely different color. I of course grew self-conscious of this and thought about cutting it off; but as the beard grew on me (both literally and figuratively), I started noticing that I was not the only man that was sporting a red beard without being  ginger up top. So what’s up with that?!?

But don’t let the fear of having a red-hued whiskers scare you; everyone loves the ginger beard. I do suggest that if you plan on growing out your beard that you make sure that you use the proper beard care products (beard shampoo, beard butter, or beard oil) and making sure that you check your beard for food after you eat is far more important than the hue of the whiskers. Having a beard is a big responsibility and the thing that is growing doesn’t mean that you can just ostentatiously grow hair. You still need to shave your neck, trim your beard and make sure that you check for other unsightly facial hair (unibrow, nose, and ear hair). As I said, a beard is the best that you can do to accessorize your face. Unless you want to get a tribal tattoo like Mike Tyson…but let’s hope you never get drunk enough to think that that is a good idea. 🙂

# Women: does pop culture constrict them behind the Yellow Wallpaper?

When I was little I knew that I loved women. At that age, I thought I knew a lot about women. I watched Golden Girls and Designing Women. I had a crush on Cindy Crawford and Jennifer Love Hewitt. I watched Pipi Longstockings fight pirates and He-Man’s sister She-Ra crush the evil Hordak and his minions. I knew that I loved my momma and grandmas. I knew to respect women based of what my parents taught me. As I grew up, I respected women as individuals and viewed them as equals in the workplace. I thought I knew the right things to say and the right way to act; but like most things in life, knowing what something actually is is usually plagued by our misinformation. Could this misinformation be a symptom of years of certain aspects of the media and pop culture failing us? Could negative gender stereotypes have been subliminally conditioning us to accept and misconstrue what we would ultimately believe?

The entertainment industry has came a long way since the days of the dimwitted damsel in
distress that must be saved from some sinister scoundrel by a plucky protagonist. Or have we? Gender stereotypes seem to be prevalent in almost every facet of the media and pop culture yet most of us overlook it. Despite the new Wonder Woman movie and her undeniably formidable addition to the Justice League…people still complain that her character is overly sexualized. Despite women playing pivotal roles in the world (examples like Joan of Arc, Marie Curie and even female astronaut Valentina Tereshkova); negative gender stereotypes will still pop up. Whenever we see an activity linked to a specific sex and the association that it subliminally constructs in our psyche alters our perception; then we are experiencing a gender stereotype.

In college I was an English major with a concentration in literature and a minor in creative writing with a concentration in poetry. This led to me taking a lot of classes where the texts that I would read forced me to venture outside of my comfort zone. That comfort zone  was hit with a two-and-a-half ton nuclear bomb explosion of feminism when I walked into my Feminist Literature course at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. As I stated earlier, I knew that I loved women but the respect for women that was engrained in me since I was young would soon be questioned. Not so much questioned…but put in the midst of the nuclear blast. The first day of class, I held the not secured door for a short, young white woman whose thick dreadlocks fell atop her loose fitting flannel shirt. Her eyes squinted behind her thick framed glasses as I was met with a spitefully resounding, “I can get the door for myself.” So to not cause a fuss, I respectfully let go of the door and told her know that ‘I didn’t mean any disrespect; but it was just how I was raised’. I sat down in the circularly configured desks and I already decided that this class wasn’t for me. In an already very liberal minor, I decided that I didn’t want to deal with the confrontations that could occur from a man being in this class. Associate Professor “M” walked into class and we all began to say why we were taking it. I don’t remember what I exactly said but it sounded a little something like ‘I took this class to get a different perspective on literature and people’. I also began telling her (in front of my dreadlocked classmate) that I felt like my presence might make people uncomfortable because I had already had a negative altercation with a student. This explanation began a conversation which led to the instructor begging me to stay in the class to offer another perspective. Should I have been so brazen in our discussion? Probably not. Should she have reacted so negatively to my genuinely sincere gesture? In my opinion…no.

I learned a lot in that class and we had some amazing discussions. The instructor gained a lot of respect for me and one of the biggest things that I learned was that I knew absolutely NOTHING about women. The things that I thought I knew by my upbringing or the things that I viewed in the media/pop culture, whether positive or negative, did not reflect the reality that surrounded me. One of the biggest guides in my understanding of women was Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. In this story, the narrator thinks that the wallpaper in her room symbolizes something and she must interpret it. She must internalize this because it impacts her and her alone. The story’s deeper meaning is that the wallpaper itself symbolizes the entrapment that encapsulates her in regards to her family, the medicine that is forced upon her, and the patriarchal traditions that she endures. By the end of the story, the narrator has stripped all of the pretty wallpaper off of the wall thusly ‘stripping’ herself from the bonds that have held her captive. Her husband faints when he walks in the room and sees her in her mental condition, thusly showing him in a moment of weakness THUSLY bridging the gap between he and his wife. The husband’s assumption of not only his authority but his superior knowledge dominates his wife. This dominance causes her to retreat into the obsession over the wallpaper. This book allowed me to question the mental constraints placed on women, viewed stereotypes that I never even thought about, and realized the seriousness of women’s rights (and also the seriousness of depression).

Women are men’s equals in regards to their intelligence and should be given every chance that is given to a man; but as men, we need to realize that sometimes a stereotype that we see on TV and/or the media does not perpetuate reality. Being a woman is tough. We as a society and a world have a lot of work to do. As long as women are still being viewed as sexual objects instead of our fellow employees…then we have a problem. If a women is being paid less for a job where she is doing the same exact thing as a man…then that is a problem.

Me opening a door for you however is not adding to your problems though. I know that you can open the door yourself but as a sign of respect to any human being; I’d want you to open the door for me as well. So like I always preach, we must learn to live together as a cohesive unit in this world. Women will come in all shapes and colors. We will have women as MMA fighters, astronauts, lawyers, or homemakers. We have to be diverse to make the world go around. Is everything going to be perfect? No way…because just like everything else in life; it’s not going to be exactly like it is on TV.

Featured Image: Housewife cartoon image by and attributed to JosephineRN28 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53894269