Barbers – “In you we trust”

360px-Barber_Pole_in_Jersey_Shore,_PA_(3873481587)I have known my barber for most of my life; (even before he became a full time barber) so I feel more comfortable with him than most of you would feel with yours. Many people find themselves extremely uncomfortable in social interactions and sitting in a chair making small talk while someone uses sharp objects above and near their face is quite nerve racking. A student of mine recently did his 12th grade job-shadowing at a barber shop near our school and it got me to thinking about the history of barbering and hair stylists. Before the ‘shave and a haircut – two bits’ time, barbers served a much darker purpose. Barbers performed surgery, did bloodletting and leeching, performed fire cupping, gave enemas, and even extracted teeth! They were known as barber surgeons and the barber pole that hangs outside of your local barber shop references the time when barbers performed the medical procedures. The red symbolized the blood while the white symbolized the bandages.

Archivo_General_de_la_Nación_Argentina_1890_aprox_barbero_ruralAs early as 6,000 years ago, barbers were part of society. The nobles of Egyptian society had ‘barbers’ shave their heads with sharpened stones. In the middle ages, barbers performed shaving, gave hair cuts (most of the time checking for and treating lice), dressed wounds and performed small surgical operations. Which leads us to today where the American barbershop is a respect place where communication is passed through reversed glances in a mirror. You can picture Andy Griffith sitting in Floyd’s barber chair discussing town issues with Barney. The barber shop has also been vastly important in the African American community. Kentucky State University professor David Shabazz  said that, “African American barbershops are discursive spaces, where identity is shaped as young men are initiated into manhood and African American culture,”  in his Journal of Black Studies article. But in our current cultural climate, even the barbershop has lost a lot of its social significance. Some people have lost the desire to interact with others due to the convenience of the $5 impersonal cut.

640px-Xela,_Guatemala_PeluqueriaSo you’ve been used to getting your hair cut at the clip-and-go shopping mall location (and there is nothing wrong with that if you do!) and you want to try something new. The firs time you’re sitting down in the leather armed chair of a real barber shop…what do you say while you breathing the same air? Let’s just say that until you get to know the person, it might not be the best time to throw your hat into the ring with the most controversial of topics. To forgo the awkward arguments from fellow patrons or from the barber himself, sit aside your yearning to discuss religious and politically themed topics until you have gotten to know your barber and the environment better. Honestly some people look to their barber as if they were their own personal therapist; or even a mirrored confessional where the falling hair symbolizes another penance with a pile of Hail Mary’s here and 2 Our Fathers still holding tight to the black cape pinned tightly around your neck. Maybe even ask the barber about his life. Point your conversation to them. Ask how their day is going. Ask them if they have any interesting stories because you can only imagine the interesting stories that have happened been shared while standing behind that authentic barber chair.


Images:

Barber Pole in Jersey Shore, PA by and attributed to Doug Kerr from Albany, NY, United States – 083009 495Uploaded by GrapedApe, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25151791

Featured Image – Rural Barber attributed to the Archivo General de la Nación Argentina, circa 1890, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33842286

Xela, Guatemala Peluqueria Barbershop in Quetzaltenango by Gamdrup – Guatemala, Fair use, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27379073

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Wolverine’s Wednesday Whips: The Ford Mustang

1964_Ford_Mustang_Convertible_(14175159527)So, I forgot to post yesterday in honor of National Mustang Day. April 17th might seem like a very odd day to memorialize such a famous American automobile; so why that day? On March the 9th, 1964 the first Mustang; a Wimbledon White convertible with a 260-cubic inch V-8 engine; rolled off the assembly line in Dearborn, Michigan. A little more than a month later, on April 17th, 1964 the Ford Mustang debuted at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. It was on that stage that a legacy was born. The introduction of the Mustang started a new class of cars commonly known as: the pony car. The Mustang’s styling caught the world’s eye and grew in popularity. It also inspired a lot of the competition which are known now as the Significant 7 (The Ford Mustang, The Chevrolet Camaro, The Pontiac Trams Am, The Plymouth ‘Cuda, The Mercury Cougar, Dodge Challenger, The AMC AMX). The Mustang was originally sold as just a hardtop and convertible option; but in August of 1964, customers could also get a fastback version.

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The first-generation Mustang was relatively unchanged from 1964 through 1973. Lee Iacocca, who was one of the original creators behind the original Mustang, had became President of Ford Motor Company by the time 1974 rolled around and in response to the oil crisis; he ordered the design team to create a smaller, more fuel-efficient Mustang. Dubbed the Mustang II, it didn’t really have anything in common with the preceding model. it was ultimately based on the Ford Pinto subcompact car and made its debut on September 21, 1973 (two months before the oil crisis). The reduced size allowed the car to be competitive against the newly imported Japanese Toyota Celica and the European Ford built compact car, the Mercury Capri. The 1975 saw the inclusion of a V8 option after the 1974 models were only available in the 2.3 liter inline four cylinder from the Ford Pinto or the 2.8 liter Cologne V6 found in the Mercury Capri. The 302 cubic inch (4.9 L) Windsor V8 was only available with a C-4 automatic transmission. It continued to be this way until the end of the Mustang II which was in 1978.

The third generation of the Mustang saw a complete change. The new Mustang was based on the larger Fox body platform (other Fox body cars include the Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr). With the larger body, the Mustang had an increased wheelbase which yielded more space. The larger engine bay, back seat and trunk capacity was a big hit with buyers. Ford now offered a coupe (aka the notchback), hatchback, and convertible and with each variation offered a variety of packages and engine options.

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In November of 1993, a car code-named the “SN-95” was debuted. The Mustang saw its first redesign in 15 years and incorporated styling cues from earlier Mustangs but was very different at the same time. For the first time since 1964; the Mustang was not available in a coupe (aka notchback) model. The Mustang came as either a 3.8 OHV V6 or a V8. The Mustang also, after nearly 30 years of use retired the 302 cid pushrod small-block V8 and was replaced with a modular 4.6 L 281 cid SOHC V8 for the 1996 model year. In 1999 was again reskinned  The interior, proportions and chassis were remained the same but the 1999-2004 Mustang had Ford’s new styling with sharper contours and creases in its bodywork.

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Code-named the “S-197” (I guess they use a lot of code names in the car business) was introduced at the 2004 North American Auto Show. The newly re-designed 2005 model year Mustang was reminiscent of the fastback Mustang from the late-1960s. The car not only saw a newly designed exterior with a reduced drag coefficient while the engine was unchanged, the interior saw a few upgrades.

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The sixth generation brings us to present day. Back in 2015, Ford debuted yet another rendition of the famous Mustang. The current Mustang is as popular as ever and whether we’re referring to the Ford direct cars or the many variations modified by companies (ie Shelby, Saleen, Roush) throughout the years; Mustangs are the American muscle car. I’m sure that any Camaro fan would disagree with me in emphasizing the cultural significance of this car but since my first car was a Fox-body Mustang; I am slightly partial.


 

Images:

1964 Ford Mustang Convertible by Sicnag – 1964 Ford Mustang Convertible, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40645649

1978 Ford Mustang King Cobra by Sicnag – 1978 Ford Mustang King Cobra, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40645475

1980 Ford Mustang Ghia Hatchback by Sicnag – 1980 Ford Mustang Ghia Hatchback, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40645609

Featured Image – 1993 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra Hatchback by Sicnag – 1993 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra Hatchback, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40645591

1995 Ford Mustang GT by Kieran White from Manchester, England – 1995 Ford Mustang 5.0 GT, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38606091

Mustang by Ben – Mustang, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66494677

Geneva Motor Show 2014 (photo taken on first press day) by Norbert Aepli, Switzerland, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31448683

Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Words that Differ in American English

We have lots of (what would be considered by some to be arguments) discussions about a variety of topics at my house. One all too common discussion is the proper pronunciation of words. As an English teacher, my patience is depleted all too frequently when we argue about words and their meaning. Now after saying that I sound very pompous and I must admit that I do make mistakes. I’m not the end-all authority on the English Language despite my ‘vast knowledge’ (inside joke). One of my college English professors told us that the written English language is the most difficult language to learn. To English as a second language learners, the every day grammar and word usage that we find so easy to comprehend are the things that confuse our foreign friends. When watching TV or talking to someone from another English speaking country, the things we hear our foreign brethren say sometimes make us laugh because the word’s definitions are sometimes different from country to country. The most noticeable difference between American English and that of our foreign friends (specifically British English) is the vocabulary. There are countless words that are different in American English that are vastly different from those of our British cohorts. For example Americans open the hood of their car to access the engine while the British would ask you to open the bonnet to look at the engine.

It doesn’t even have to be a word difference though. It would be spelling differences; like the word that caused our family discussion/argument the other night: flavor/flavour. There are hundreds of minor spelling differences between British and American English. Thanks to American lexicographer Noah Webster. You probably recognize his name from what he is famous for; his dictionary. The author, teacher and politician started to reform the English spelling in the latter pat of the 1700s. As an intelligent man, he grew weary of the inconsistent spelling differences between the American and British spelling of different words. As a way to better show America’s independence from England, he would do simple spelling changes like taking the u out of colour. Other changes that he proposed would thankfully fail to be approved. Like his proposal of changing the spelling of women to wimmen.

Its not just nouns that differ across the pond. Americans tend to end their past tense verbs with the ending -ed; while the British tend to use the -t. (Example: They dreamed of a beautiful sunset vs They dreamt of a beautiful sunset.)

So now that we’ve established that there is a difference but I know that you want to know more. Whether you’re traveling abroad and won’t have some magic genie to help interpret the language in a new country or if you’re just as nosey as I am; don’t fret. Everyone knows how I love to make a list; so I have put together a word list to show how meanings and words differ in America vs other English speaking countries (specifically in our case Britain). So here is the – Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Words that differ in American English.


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10. Bird

British: A colloquial term for a woman.

American: A winged mammal.

9. Shag

British: Colloquial term for a sexual act

American: A type of carpet

8. A jumper

British: A wool pullover jacket worn during the winter

American: Someone who commits suicide by jumping from a building or bridge

7. A geezer

British: A tough guy or gang member

American: An old man

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6. Solicitor

British: A legal representative

American: A door-to-door salesman

5. Pants

British: Underwear

American: Trousers

4. A rubber

British – A pencil eraser

American – A slang term for a male contraceptive

3. Trainer(s)

British: Athletic shoes

American: Person who trains you to work out at the gym

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2. Bog

British: Toilet/Bathroom

American: Marsh/swamp/quagmire

 

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1. Chips

British: French fries or thinly sliced fried potatoes

American: Thinly sliced, deep fried, baked and/or kettle-cooked crunchy potatoes (which are called crisps in the UK)


 

Images:

Featured Image – Blue Jay Cyanocitta Cristata Welland by and accredited to Rob Hanson from Welland, Ontario, Canada – Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3201406

The Rawleigh Man accredited to the Stephenson County Historical Society “This is a postcard depicting The Rawleigh Man. A door-to-door salesman of medicine and other products. 1909 – Stephenson County Historical Society, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46933270

Wavy French Fries sold in Canadian Supermarket by and accredited to Gab kiwi32 – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16105222

Marsh in Bird Sanctuary by and accredited to Liam M. Higgins – Own work. Taken with Kodak Z740 Zoom Digital Camera, Copyrighted free use, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=876501

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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 Black Widow #1 (April 2010) by Daniel Acuna. Fair use. All Marvel characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 2010 Marvel Characters, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33270654

Superman in “The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes” (August 2005). Art by Alex Ross. Fair use. Trademarks & Copyright © DC Comics, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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

Textless variant cover art of Infinity Countdown Prime #1 (April, 2018). Art by Adi Granov. Fair use. All Marvel characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 2018 Marvel Characters, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15524006

 

 

 

The Sun is Setting

Saying that the sun is setting on a certain part of your life is mostly an understatement. Most of the time we are frantically going here and there that we miss the small things; like a sunset. Before the era of smart phones with built in cameras, I used to carry around a cheap disposable camera and snap pictures of things. I would mostly take pictures of nature which included lots of pictures of the clouds, sunrises and sunsets. This picture is extremely significant because it signifies so much. When I got my driver’s license, my parents told me that I needed to get a job to help pay for gas, car payment, insurance, etc if I wasn’t going to play football; so I got a job at a local grocery store bagging groceries and stocking shelves. The job was not that labor intensive but my heart was not in it. I enjoyed the interaction with people; and I have made friendships and acquaintances that I value greatly. The downside was that when I walked out the back door to prepare a mop bucket or take a pallet outside, I saw that sunsetting over the wood line and I knew that I was stuck in a big brick building until my shift was over.

It has been almost 20 years since I started that job that lasted for 4 years of my life teenage and then young adult life. I still visit that grocery store as a customer. While going to get some groceries the other night my son Daniel noticed how beautiful the sunset looked behind the store. So I snuck behind the store to get a better look and take a picture. As we turned the car around to head to the front of the store, I noticed the back door that I would stare out of those many years ago. The sky was not bathed in an abendrot hue of an Arizona sunset; but as the sun that drifted down below the horizon line built a scene that made me think about the differences in that sunset and one that I would have seen some 20 years ago. I looked over to my son and thought about my wife. I couldn’t imagine that my life would have been where it is now 20 years ago. It is truly amazing what a sunset can do to betray the feelings that should be in our hearts at that moment. img_4457

Thor’s Thursday Tour: Duke’s BBQ in Orangeburg, SC

img_3796There is nothing that is inherently elegant about a BBQ restaurant in the South. You won’t normally find a Roasted Pigeon with a Warm Foie Gras Sorbet like you would from the Villa Crespi in Orta, Italy. You won’t find fresh out of the water Langoustines as you would at Bjorn Frantzen in Stockholm, Sweden. You won’t find a $130 Waygu Tomahawk steak like you would at the EDGE restaurant in Colorado. You also won’t find the $115 Red’s Porterhouse at Halls Chophouse in Charleston, South Carolina; but if you travel an hour and 20 minutes Northwest to Orangeburg, South Carolina you will find a place that is worth its weight in gold to anyone who steps through the sticker-laden glass doors. You’ll find that that drive has led you to a place that lays out Southern comfort food at its finest. You’ll find the sweet and sultry taste of their Southern style pulled pork BBQ matched with their South Carolina style sauce, fried chicken, delicious BBQ chicken, fried livers and gizzards, all the fixins’ that you can imagine, and most importantly the img_3799hash and rice. The hash was something that I was unsure of when I was first introduced to Dukes BBQ but it is essentially somewhere between a soup and a stew. Despite the taste and texture being different than anything you’ve ever had; over some fluffy white rice it is absolutely delicious. Besides the meat selections you’ll find the Southern comfort food fixins’ on their all-you-can-eat buffet. Delicious macaroni n’ cheese, baked beans, collards, fried okra, fried potatoes, green beans, lima beans, rutabagas, yams, and almost anything that Southern part of your soul desires. The cold bar features homemade banana pudding, macaroni salad, pickled beets, potato salad, slaw and an assortment of pickles. Now pickles may seem like an odd pairing for fried chicken but just trust me; I’ve been down this road before.

Dukes BBQ is a South Carolina staple. After the Dukes recipe came from the Baltzingers who had Carolina BBQ in the mid 20th century, after Dovie Dukes married into the Baltzinger family. Dovie gave the recipe to all of his brothers and sisters, but it was his brother Earl who opened the first Dukes restaurant in 1946 outside of Orangeburg but later moved it into town. My last visit was to this location but all 7 of Earl’s brothers and sisters opened up Dukes restaurants. You won’t find one within a 30 mile radius of their kinfolks restaurant because that was the deal originally set forth by the family. As the years flew by, their children and extended family opened up restaurants and there are currently 14 locations across the state to enjoy the best Southern comfort food that South Carolina has to offer.

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Their award winning restaurant has been picked by Southern Living magazine as one of the best BBQ restaurants in the nation, been given Trip Advisors Award of Excellence, was picked as best BBQ Restaurant and best buffet by countless magazines and organizations and has an accolade from this blogger who says that its the best BBQ restaurant in the state of South Carolina. You won’t be disappointed in the ambiance or the old fashion Southern recipes that are always prepared on site. So grab your jacket, pack up your kids, call your friends, and go experience down home, Southern comfort food at its finest. I’ll meet you there.

dukes menu

Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Voices in Rock n’ Roll

I’ve been a fan of good Rock n’ Roll music for as long as I can remember. I’ve done other top ten lists where I talked about the best guitar solos and even the greatest rock music from the 90s. I’ve thought about the concerts that I wish I could go back in time to see; but one thing that I have never really explored is how amazing and individual that the voices of some Rock n’ Roll singers are. How a new raspy sound or a male singer hitting a vibrato that no one else had done before was not only something new but something that influenced the music realm about them. So since I have your yearning to hear my selections, I present to you Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Voices in Rock n’ Roll.

 


Tomwaits

Honorable Mentions: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Tom Waits, Mike Patton and Chester Bennington

10. Axl Rose – William Bruce Rose Jr. aka Axl Rose may have been born in Lafayette, Indiana but he is best known around the world as the controversial founder and lead singer of one of the most famous rock bands of all time: Guns N’ Roses. Guns N’ Roses burst onto the music scene with their debut album, Appetite for Destruction in 1987 and by 1988 the album had reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The album became the number one best-selling debut album of all time. The driving force behind their popularity was the guitar shredding abilities of Slash and the unique voice of their lead singer. Axl truly has one of the most distinctive voices in Rock music. Developing a wide range when he sang at his local church, starting when he was only five years old but it was during his high school chorus practice that he began to truly develop his unique voice. He can go from the normal bass-baritone to a high tenor with ease. If you listen to the varying differences in his vocal range in songs like “Welcome to the Jungle”, they sound completely different from those found in their song “Patience”. Rolling Stones magazine listed him as the 6th most unique singing voice of all time but he’s only at number 10 for me because there are truly so many to choose from.

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9. Bob Dylan – Without Bob Dylan, there would be no Eddie Vedder. No Kurt Cobain. No Tom Waits. No Bruce Springsteen. No vocalist with a cracking voice or bluesy howl. Bob Dylan changed things. His impact is evident. Dylan’s was as much the voice of his generation as Kurt Cobain was the voice of his. He drew a metaphorical sword upon the generations that came before. There is a reason why Dylan was the opening act before Martin Luther King, Jr made his now infamous “I have a Dream” Speech. His singing is comparative to what Marlon Brando did to acting. He was thrusted through the chicanery of the music industry and pierced the heart of the art that music truly is.

8. Kurt Cobain – People that know me, know that I am a Nirvana fan; so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Nirvana front man appeared on this list. The listing does not come by happenstance or come undeservingly. Cobain was the voice of the ignored American youth, but that voice was distinctively unique to him. He wasn’t a complex singer with elaborate vocal range. He just belted out a naturally raspy song as only he could. His voice is not like anyone else in the business and he was obviously very hard on his vocal cords. His singing, which included a lot of distortion and guttural notes, may not have been associated with ‘proper technique’ but his voice matched his personality and definitely deserved to be the ‘voice of the generation’.

Robert_Plant_at_the_Palace_Theatre,_Manchester

7. Robert Plant – Like many English musicians (ie The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, etc), Robert Plant was obsessed with American blues. Plant heard the music early on and after seeing Sleepy John Estes, he came to the realization that he ‘wanted that voice’. He somehow got that voice that was as powerful as it was beautiful. The unearthly howl that he unleashed as the front runner of Led Zeppelin was, as quoted by Rolling Stone’s magazine as “a bluesman crossed with a Viking diety. Singing like a girl never seemed so masculine, and countless hard-rock singers would shred their vocal cords reaching for the notes Plant gained by birthright.”

6. Layne Staley – Layne Staley had a way of grabbing your soul as he sang. With true convention of the words that he spoke, the guttural lyrics were powerfully belted but sang with true conviction. “Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan said “Layne had an amazing voice that had such a beautiful, sad, haunting quality about it. He was different because his heaviness was in that voice.”He had his own distinct voice and he knew how to use the tools that he had. He would improvise in the recording studio as evident with the stacked vocal layering he used on the album Dirt; but he was also able to transform his voice as if he was using a tremolo or a Leslie speaker on his voice. Staley didn’t imitate Jim Morrison or Rob Halford or Ozzy; his distinct voice was his soul using his vocal cords as vessel to escape.

5. Janis Joplin – The unanimously dubbed “Queen of Rock and Roll” was singing the Black Blues; and was blowing audiences away. The raw, emotionally charged Mezzo-soprano had a curiously unique coarseness to her voice. At times the throaty and guttural chest noise that crept up could extend into octaves that matched her charismatic personality. But just as charismatic as Joplin was, the vulnerable and rough around the edges rocker paved the way for countless women to join the rock revolution. She will be remembered for her unique voice as much as becoming a megastar that bloomed during the 1960s with fellow San Franciscans Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, and Santana.

4. Roy Orbison – Tom Petty is quoted as saying that Roy Orbison is “probably the greatest singer in the world.” He is adored and has influenced some of the greatest singers/artists of all time. Artists whom he toured with like Bob Dylan said that his voice was “the voice of a professional criminal;” while his singing and music influenced powerful names like Bruce Springsteen, Chris Isaak, and k.d. lang. I remember listening to Roy Orbison with my dad when I was young. I remember listening to Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” and “Only the Lonely.” Just the other day my dad and I were listening to some of his favorite music while riding back from getting some food, and he said something that influenced me to write this blog entry. He said that, “Roy Orbison had a voice that no one could duplicate. He was just good.” My dad who is a man of purposeful words would make me think about all of the influential voices in Rock n’ Roll. The Roy Orbison that I hear is someone who could start out a song and take you on a journey that climbed to the highest highest and lowest lows. His voice is a symphony and is (and should be) celebrated as one of the greatest voices of rock; not just from the sixties but from all time.

David-Bowie_Early

3. David Bowie – Throughout his career, David Bowie would range from a sonorous low range baritone to a powerful tenor; there is no denying that the British-accented singer brought a level of drama into every song. The Starman, Major Tom, Aladdin Sane, Ziggy Stardust…whatever persona he took on, his voice would match that persona. The theatrical and talented performer influenced many generations of popular musicians throughout many decades. His distinctive and idiosyncratic singing voice was not inefficient in creating the pop culture phenomenon that he would become; but it was merely a part of the multifaceted Spaceman.

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2. Freddie Mercury – He’s been called the most inspirational frontman of all time and whatever song that the majestic, operatic singer brought forth in his four-octave range; his voice would literally rock the rock world forever. Whether he was creating an unmatchable wall of sound on tracks like “Bohemian Rhapsody” or was slamming down the hard-rock hammer on “Ogre Battle”; he will rock you. (Pun intended.)

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  1. Elvis Presley – A lot of people have great singing voices; but you venture into another realm entirely when you can create an aura around you when you start to sing. It doesn’t matter to me if Elvis wasn’t the first person to sing “Hound Dog” (or even if Big Mama Thorton’s version is truly better); its about who Elvis was. It’s about the fact that Elvis’s voice drew you in to whatever song. He painted an emotional picture with the words that he sang. From the fun Rockabilly stylings of “Jailhouse Rock” to the brutally honest emotion in “In the Ghetto”; Elvis’s voice could vary from a high and low baritone to that of a high B tenor. He was a true musical prodigy whose influence cannot be denied. I truly don’t think the Rock n’ Roll world will ever see anyone like him ever again. As a matter of fact, the world will never see anyone like him ever again.

Images:

Tom Waits Concert by ntoper – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ntoper/2708045977/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6010162

Bob Dylan in Rotterdam, Netherlands, June 1978 by and attributed to Chris Hakkens – https://www.flickr.com/photos/chris_hakkens/5109976116/in/set-72157625228594192/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15981881

Robert Plant playing live at the Palace Theatre, Manchester, on Sunday the 31st of October 2010 by and attributed to Phil King – Flickr: Robert Plant, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14698440

“Ziggy Stardust” during the Ziggy Stardust Tour (1972 or 1973) by and attributed to Rik Walton – https://www.flickr.com/photos/rikwalton/2259388449/ http://www.rikwalton.com, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9523995

Featured Image – Freddie Mercury in New Haven, CT at a WPLR Show credited to Carl Lender. FreddieMercurySinging21978.jpg: CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7798754

Elvis promotional photo for Jailhouse Rock, 1957 attributed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ6-2067Location: NYWTS — BIOG – The Library of Congress retrieved 3d02067r.jpg from Jailhouse Rock., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=727693