Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Cheesiest Pick-up Lines

In a recent discussion with my son, I found out that my corny ‘dad-jokes’ are getting even cornier. Well I’m fine with that because it still gets a comedic reaction from people. The reason I remember this is because he said this just after we were talking to him about ‘flirting with girls’. He’s getting to that age where things like that are important and I told him that my extremely successful go-to was to break the ice with a corny pick-up line. I then proceeded to plow through most of my favorites that I used back in the day. So like I do, I thought right then and there that I needed to make a list of my top 10 favorite cheesy pick-up lines. I’m not guaranteeing that you should try these on a potential love interest or at the hot chick at your local bar; but it should get a good laugh. Which in my case was the best ice breaker there was. So here are my Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10:  Cheesiest Pick-Up Lines


 

10. Do you know what my shirt is made of? Boyfriend material. 

9. Are you a Godly person? Because you’re the answer to all of my prayers. 

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8. Is it hot in here, or is it just you?

7. You must be a magician? Because whenever I look at you, everything else just disappears!

6. Are you tired? Because you’ve been running through my mind all day. 

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5. Hey there, so what was the temperature in Heaven like before you left? 

4. Do you believe in love at first sight or do I need to pass by again? 

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3. Hey, are you from Tennessee? Because you’re the only ‘ten I see’! 

2. My buddies bet me $100 that I wouldn’t be able to start a conversation with the hottest girl in the room. So, what are we going to spend the money on. 😉 

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  1. Did it hurt? When you fell from Heaven. 

 


 

Images

Taylor Thermometer by Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47085176

Angel Statue, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=436019

Tennessee State Map by Internet Archive Book Images – https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/18157297401/Source book page: https://archive.org/stream/americanmal6719881990amer/#page/n27/mode/1up, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43331442

Angel Statue by Louise Docker from Sydney, Australia – The Shepherds and the Angels- The real meaning of Christmas, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3018254

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Anthony Bourdain: More than just a celebrity chef

As a child I was always enthralled by cooking and cooking shows. My grandfather was the head chef while he served in World War II; and he brought his love of cooking home with him. Cooking was never a ‘woman’s job’. It was an art that was enjoyed because food was something that we enjoyed. As I grew up the the bevy of cooking shows started to build up on TV and I loved them all. My TV time in the 80s was mostly made up of reruns of Julia Child, Justin Wilson’s cajun inspired cooking shows on PBS, and Great 145px-Food_Network_New_LogoChefs of America/Great Chefs of the World. This continued throughout the 90s when my family got a big satellite dish in the backyard which coincidently was the time that the Food Network started broadcasting. The introduction of shows from Bobby Flay and Mario Batali also brought Emeril Lagasse and Rachel Ray. I was in love with cooking and was one step away from going to culinary school. I won’t divulge you with the real reason that I didn’t go to culinary school (I’ll just say that the closest one was about 6 hours from my home and I had a girlfriend…so…you do the math).

I went on to college and continued to enjoy cooking in my spare time. My roommate and I would invite friends over and always enjoyed cooking for them. This trend continued into my 20s after graduating from college. It was about that time that a new cooking show trend started. The ‘traveling’ show that highlighted not only food but the chef/host of the show eloquently spoke to you. It was like a well written essay that centered around some of the most interesting people and places in the world. I became obsessed with Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain. Anthony Bourdain’s panache and deft writing ability amplified the sometimes unremarkable places he visited.

Anthony_Bourdain_at_Maxwell_Food_Centre,_Singapore_-_20060324Anthony Bourdain had shot to Pop Culture fame in 2000 when his best-selling book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly exposed the rest of the world to the dirty underbelly of the culinary world; where he candidly wrote about his drug use among other tantalizing topics. I remember his face first becoming relevant in the culinary world when he started appearing on the Food Network in 2002 on his show A Cook’s Tour. Then three years later his superstar status skyrocketed when his hit Emmy award winning TV show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations started on the Travel Channel. He jumped to CNN in 2013 with a new show called Parts Unknown which is where we would find him traveling the world for 250 days a year. The show is in its 11th season and it was in France, where he was working on and filming and episode of his show, where they found him dead in his motel room this morning. It was reported this morning that he was found by his best friend and fellow celebrity chef Eric Ripert, who was there filming with him. He had died of an apparent suicide by hanging.

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The Anthony Bourdain that I watched on TV was and is unapologetic. His insight,eloquent words and delightful descriptions brought a poignant beauty into the world. He was one of my idols. I can recall many episodes of his TV shows that have left me in tears. The bitter slap of reality that he hit us with is real. It was never evident by watching his shows that he was suicidal; but most of the time it never is. If you are in the US and need someone to talk to you can contact the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Test Line by texting HOME to 741741. Those of you from the UK can call the Samaritans at 116123.

Anthony Bourdain’s eloquent and sometimes crass descriptions have impacted me. I will pray for the ones he left behind: his loved ones and especially his friend Eric Ripert. Anthony’s extraordinary storytelling on his TV shows brought the world into our homes and not only that but he inspired us to go out and visit those places. Anthony Bourdain I hope that you have found peace. Know that your words have always inspired us; but leaving us with an ellipses instead of a period has impacted us immensely. You will be greatly missed.


Images: 

Anthony Bourdain at Maxwell Food Centre in Singapore by Cheryl/miss bake-a-lot. – Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thebakerwhocooks/117114719/., CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1459812

Anthony Bourdain receiving his Peabody for “Parts Unknown” attributed to the Peabody Awards – Anthony Bourdain, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51812465

Food Network logo by and attributed to the Food Network – http://www.foodnetwork.com, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25239626

 

Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Actor’s Improvised Scenes

I’m not an actor but I do appreciate the craft. Part of that reason lies in the fact that I love movies and TV shows. I’m just a fan of Pop Culture in general. I’m the nerdy guy that always watches the extra footage, ‘behind the scenes’, and ‘the making ofs’ of movies and TV shows. Since I’m one of those people that tries to be funny off-the-cuff; I find the improved scenes and lines of movies to be extremely interesting. So many directors allow their actors to make suggestions to the scene or just give them suggestions of how to go about their scene; which can lead to some amazing footage. Sometimes those improvised scenes or lines become more infamous than the movie or TV show itself. Take for instance what would have been my number 13 choice; Dustin Hoffman’s off-the-cuff improvisation of the line “I’m walking Here!” while walking across the street full of actual New York City traffic for the 1969 classic Midnight Cowboy. Director John Schlesinger loved the improvised line so much that he kept it in the movie, and thusly becoming one of the movies most memorable scenes. Much like the improvised quote by Michael Madsen in the torture scene in Quentin Tarantino’s infamous cult classic Reservoir Dogs, “You hear that?” Mr. Blonde, what you hear are my choices for the Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Actor’s Improvised Scenes. Hopefully by the end of this blog I’ll be able to confidently ask “Do I amuse you?” just like Joe Pesci did in the scene from The Goodfella’s where he improved the line for the quick-tempered enforcer.  And much like Roy Scheider’s off-script line, “you’re going to need a bigger boat,” in the 1975 classic movie Jaws, I need a bigger list!



Honorable Mentions:

Good Will Hunting (1997) – “Farting Wife Story”

A movie which shows the life struggles of reluctant genius Will Hunting (played by a young Matt Damon), the scene I am referring to is now just as infamous than the Academy Award winning movie itself. Hunting is in a session with his therapist (played by Robin Williams), and is as always reluctant to open up about his life. So therapist Sean Maguire beings to tell him a personal story about his late wife to help bridge the gap. The story about his late wife’s sleep flatulence was improvised at the moment by Robin Williams. Damon’s genuine belly laugh is matched by the laughter of the cameraman whom you can clearly see is laughing so hard that he shakes the camera during the filming of the scene. Williams dramatic portrayal of the therapist earned him his only Academy Award but his time on the comedy stage which allowed him to improvise this scene caused him to be on my list.

A Clockwork Orange (1971) – “Singing in the Rain”

Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of the Anthony Burgess novel “A Clockwork Orange” had many controversial scenes. The book/movie centers around a teenager whose love for ‘ultraviolence’ finally catches up with him. One scene in particular, Alex (played by legendary actor Malcolm McDowell) and his miscreants break into a house and assault and rape a woman. Stanley Kubrick did not like the scene was turning out during filming, so he just tells McDowell to “(J)ust do whatever you want.” In the next take, McDowell breaks out in to a creepily happy version of “Singing in the Rain” while physically and sexually assaulting the woman. The take was used in the film and thusly helped reveal the truly sadistic side of Alex.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – Sword vs Gun scene

I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t at least heard of Indiana Jones. But did you know that one of the most infamous scenes from Raiders of The Lost Ark improvised? The scene is a wild chase in the Cairo market streets, and Indiana Jones (played by Harrison Ford) runs into a crowded market. The crowd separates to reveal a black-robed warrior wielding a huge sharp sword. After the warrior intimidatingly swings the sword around, Jones puts away his trusty whip and shoots the guy. It’s ruthless but it most definitely plays into his character. The scene had been rehearsed for weeks with Jones and the black-robed warrior having an elaborate whip vs sword fight. Well Harrison Ford got food poisoning, so he went to Steven Spielberg and decided to improvise. The scene became so infamous that I’m sure even Ford himself is okay with the food poisoning he endured the night before shooting that scene.


10. Dumb and Dumber (1994) – “Most Annoying Sound in the World”

Yes its dumb….but no one can deny Dumb and Dumber‘s influence on the comedy landscape. When Dumb and Dumber hit the big screen in 1994, one scene in particular has stuck in the minds of fans ever since; but would you ever imagine that this scene was completely improvised. The script just called for the duo (made up of Lloyd  played by Jim Carrey and Harry played by Jeff Daniels) to argue about jelly beans while the hitchhiker (who is actually a hitman sent to kill them) sat between them got more and more agitated. During the improvised scene, the two of them horse around until the hitman loses his cool and yells “Enough!” Thankfully for him there is a moment of calm until Lloyd breaks the silence and asks, “Hey wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?” Then he proceeds to squeal as loud as possible in his ear. This improved scene is successfully one of the most memorable comedic scenes (to me) of all time.

9. Star Wars – Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – “I love you…I know”

Han Solo is cocky. To be the best pilot in the universe, you have to be. In an effort to continue the tough guy image that Harrison Ford had perfected in his Han Solo character, he Ford argued on a line in one of the more touching scenes of the movie. When Solo was supposed to show his more sensitive side and say “I love you too” in response to his Princess Leia; George Lucas told Ford to just say what he thought was best for the character. So his response to her “I love you” was…”I know”. The response meant more than it let on but it fit perfectly with his character’s cocky persona.

8. Caddyshack (1980) – “The Cinderella Story”

Bill Murray, who is to me one of the funniest human beings on the planet, created one of the best and most quoted scenes from Caddyshack. The scene; which consisted of the dimwitted groundskeeper Carl Spackler (played by Murray) mutters off a story to himself where he, an unknown golfer, wins the Masters golf tournament. Murray said in his 1999 book Cinderella Story: My Life in Golf, that “The Cinderella Story” was a spur-of-the-moment idea. ‘Get me some flowers.’ I said. ‘Four rows of mums.'” After the mums were planted and the cameras started rolling, he ad-libbed the “Cinderalla Story” and demolishes the mums golf swing by golf swing. It truly is comedy gold.

7. The Dark Knight (2008) – The Slow Clap

In what is arguably Heath Ledger’s greatest performance, his version of the villainous Joker is brilliant. Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is comic book movie gold but Ledger’s performance as The Joker pushes the bounds of perfection. In this particular scene, The Joker (whom Ledger had completely embedded himself into the character) waits in a solitary holding cell in the middle of the police headquarters after being arrested. Mayor Garcia (played by Nestor Carbonell) announces the promotion of Jim Gordon (played by Gary Oldman) to the position of Police Commissioner. As the officers in the room applaud, The Joker begins (unscripted) to slowly clap while keeping the same maniacal facial expression. The result was a dark and extremely unsettling set up for the rest of the scene. This simple improvisation deserves more than a slow clap itself…it deserves the posthumous Oscar that Ledger received for his performance as The Joker.

6. Forrest Gump (1994) – “My name’s Forrest Gump.”

Okay, so Forrest Gump is full of famous one-liners but one of the most quotable was an off-the-cuff improvisation by Tom Hanks. The scene shows Forrest introducing himself to another character, Bubba. Bubba says upon inviting Forrest to sit with him, “My given name is Benjamin Buford Blue, but people call me Bubba. Just like one of them ol’ redneck boys. Can you believe that?” Tom Hanks improves a line which fits perfectly when he responses with, “My name’s Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump.” The simple showcase of this man’s sincere yet simple mind is as beautiful as it is funny. It is the beginning of a relationship that would impact Forrest forever and the improvised line would be one of the most quotable lines in all of cinematic history.

5. Taxi Driver (1976) – “You talking to me?”

The phrase, “You talking to me?” has become a cultural phenomenon. People are using the quote in that context without realizing that it comes from the 1976 cult classic Taxi Driver. The movie follows the taxi driver himself, Travis Bickle (played by legendary actor Robert De Niro) and showcases how his mentally spiraling out of control. In a specifically creepy neurotic and sociopathic episode, Bickle is shown talking to himself in the mirror. The original script only called for De Niro to ‘talk to himself’ in the mirror to showcase Travis’s mental state but De Niro took it upon himself to create a whole scene. He pretends that he is confronting the politician that he plans to kill. He looks at himself in the mirror and says, “You talkin’ to me?” before whipping out and pointing a gun. The scene not only does well to showcase the irrational state of the character but De Niro delivers one of the most classic and memorable one liners ever.

4. The Warriors (1979) – “Warriors, come out to play!”

David Patrick Kelly’s improvised line is the exclamation mark to the statement about his remarkable performance as Luther in the 1979 movie, The Warriors. The script said for Luther to taunt the Warriors; but, in the moment, Kelly slipped three bottles on his fingers to clang together and screeched out “Warriors, come out to play!” The director of course kept the take in the final cut of the film and the rest is history. Pop Culture history.

3. The Shining (1980) – “Here’s Johnny”

The Shining follows Jack Torrance (played by Jack Nicholson), his wife and son as Jack goes insane inside the walls of the hotel that they are looking after during its closed down off-season. After finally snapping, the deranged husband and father runs after his family with an axe. He grabs the axe and begins to chop the door down which is only heightened by intermitted screams from his wife. After a hole is finally visible, Jack puts his head inside the jagged hole and says, “Here’s Johnny!” The quote is actually Ed McMahon’s popular catchphrase from when he introduces Johnny Carson on The Johnny Carson Show which adds all kinds of creep level when used in this context. The improved part of the scene is amazingly memorable and one of the most quoted in pop culture.

2. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – “The Hiss”

Actors know when to improvise but sometimes it is ultimately the guidance of the director that guides the scenes and ultimately the movie. During the filming of The Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins would try to spook Jodie Foster. In one of his scenes where he describes one of his cannibalistic adventures; he gives a vivid description of his meal. You remember the meal. He was eating the liver of a census-taker with ‘some fava beans and a nice Chianti,” but it was the freakish hiss at the end that is even more devilish than the thought of the cannablistic act itself. Turns out that Hopkins would hiss during the rehearsals in his many attempts to spook her. Director Jonathan Demme decided to keep it in the film to maximize the revolting aspect of the already frightening scene. His 25 minutes of screen time earned him an Academy Award but that hiss will live on in infamy.

1. The Terminator (1984) – “I’ll be Back”

I don’t think I have to describe the synopsis about the cyborg assassin known as the Terminator who travels back in time from 2029 to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor. That’s right. I’m talking about Arnie and the Terminator! The movie that would springboard Arnold Schwarzenegger into superstardom. One of the biggest movies in pop cultural. Director James Cameron let a short unscripted moment into the final cut of his movie and he should be glad that he did. Arnold as the Terminator is not allowed into the police station, and the script simply instructed him to turn and leave in disappointment; but Schwarzenegger decided to look at the officer and say “I’ll be back.” Cameron loved the line, and it was not only used in subsequent Terminator movies but has become one of Schwarzenegger’s most memorable moments.


Images:

All gifs credited to and created by users from giphy.com. Fair use.

Water Doesn’t Naturally Flow in a Straight Line

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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?

Golden_Rule_by_Norman_RockwellThe 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.346px-The_Sermon_on_the_Mount_-_William_Brassey_Hole

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.

Taoism: Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.

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.

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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

Water Flowing Through My Place in this World

IMG_0637 2My mom has always said, in times of trials and tribulations, that ‘this place is not my home’. She was of course referencing Bible verses found in the book of John that tell us that we are “not of the world” and that God’s “Kingdom is not of this world.” John 17:16 that says, “(T)hey are not of the world, just as I am not of the world,” and this is a verse that a lot of Christians lean towards in our modern times. They lean on the the hope of what is to come; just as much as the Jews and Christians that would have read these words 2000 years ago. My current place in this world isn’t that bad. Saying that “I am blessed” may be a cliche thing for Christians and non-Christians alike to say; but in comparison to so so many, I am. When I think about someone being grateful for their current situation; I think about Huck Finn. Huck Finn was along on that rift with Jim. Jim was free of the bonds of slavery while Huck was being carried away from not only his abusive father but from the civilizing life in St. Petersburg. Huck says that, “you feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft.” Huck was beginning to realize the freedom that water possesses. The solitude of that raft allowed them to stay away from the crazy reality that lie beyond the shore.

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The water is a representation of finding freedom from society’s corrupt fingers and symbolizes how life continues to flow. The reality that Huck and Jim ran from consisted of a set of dishonorable rules and jaded authority figures. While on that raft, they are like the water. They have no one to answer to and no rules to abide by. Water, even when dammed, still has life unless it is allowed to become stagnant. When Huck and Jim stop on land, then they find chaos and death. Then that life within it dies. When I stand on the shore of the creek behind my house or find myself drifting on the river like Huck and Jim with only the thin aluminum of the boat between myself and the water; I am like them. I am caught betwixt the society which I find to be mostly dishonorable and jaded, and the freedom that I see in the flowing water. When I find myself leaving my earthly home…I shall then find complete freedom since I truly am not of this world.

The Sin Eater: History’s Worst Profession

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In the Ghost Rider comic issue #74, Marvel Comics introduces us to Centurious, who in a Faust-esque manner, sold his soul to Mephisto to fight the demon Zarathos and save the woman he loved. Unknowing to him, the punishment for losing his soul was that he would roam the world and became a soulless immortal. While studying the mystic arts many centuries ago, he acquired the Crystal of Souls. In issues #80 and 81 of the same series, Centurious uses a sin obsessed pastor, Ethan Domblue, who longed for his congregation to be sinless. After being approached by the devilish Centurious, Domblue was given the power to ‘eat’ his congregation’s sins; which left them in a ‘sinless’ but passive state. The parishioners of the town of Holly were trapped inside the Crystal of Souls. The zombie-like slaves were then loyal to Centurious. The Ghost Rider showed up and defeated Centurious and freed the townspeople from the Crystal. As a last act to redeem his own soul, Pastor Domblue helped removed Zarathos from Johnny Blaze and placed the demon inside the Crystal of Souls, which therefore freed Johnny from the curse of the Ghost Rider. This may have been one of the first times that a sin eater had been introduced in comic book culture; but the real life occupation had been around for a long (and I do mean long) time.

The sin-eater is someone who eats a ritual meal in order to take on the sins of that person or persons. The food is believed to have been the vessel to carry the sins of the deceased person and therefore the sin-eater ‘eating’ the sins of this deceased person would absolve them of their sins. Allowing that person’s soul to be clean in the afterlife and based on the religious beliefs of the believer, would be allowed into Heaven/afterlife/wherever. In most mythologies, the sin-eater lives a slightly morbid life, isolated from the rest of the community because of his ‘unclean’ life. The sin-eater in the Ghost Rider comic, is not the only mention of the occupation in popular culture as it has appeared in movies, books, and other comic books. Despite its mention in certain venues; it is a relatively unknown thing.

I had never heard of the sin-eaters until my mom insisted that I watch this 2007 movie entitled The Last of the Sin Eater. The Last of the Sin Eater takes place in 1850s Appalachia and centers around a young girl who while grieves for the loss of her beloved grandmother, who is the only person in her family that loves her because the rest of her family thinks that she is responsible for the death of her sister. During her grandmother’s funeral, the young girl looks onto the face of the village’s sin-eater (because according to lore, the sin-eater became a worse and worse with every ceremony he attended). The girl, who is distraught by the litany of deaths and pain that she feels finds comforts in the teachings and Bible of the preacher that is camping on the outskirts of the village. Since I thought that this was just a Christian tale, my mother insisted that it was a real thing. So of course I had to investigate.

360px-British_Museum_Huaxtec_1-2The sin-eaters and the interactions of the sin-eater to the people of the villages has remained a relatively unstudied part of our human history and remains as folklore for the most part. In mythology, the Aztec goddess of earth, motherhood and fertility, Tlazolteotl, had a role in the Huastec religion of the pre-Columbian Meso-American civilization. In Aztec culture, the individual who was close to death, would confess his/her sins (specifically sexual misdeeds) to the deity, and she would cleanse his/her soul by ‘eating their filth’.

We find sin-eaters in not only the Aztec culture but the occupation has been found in many other regions of the world. A letter by renowned English antiquarian, writer, and collector John Bagford (circa 1650-1716) where he wrote about the sin-eating ritual:

Notice was given to an old sire before the door of the house, when some of the family came out and furnished him with a cricket (a low stool), on which he sat down facing the door; then they gave him a groat which he put in his pocket, a crust of bread which he ate, and a bowl of ale which he drank off at a draught. After this he got up from the cricket and pronounced the case and the rest of the soul departed, for which he would pawn his own soul.

The practice was prevalent in the Marches (which is the land around the England-Wales border) and in northern Wales but mostly died out by the early 19th century. The last known sin-eater in England was Richard Munslow, who died in Ratlinghope in 1906. The English tradition finds that most sin-eaters were generally poor people and earned a small wage (normally a half-shilling) from ‘eating the sins’. This practice was frowned upon by the Christian church despite having origins based in early Christian customs where the early Israelites’ transferred their sins to a ‘scapegoat’ (found in Leviticus 16). This custom was never widely practiced but starting dying out completely in the 19th century. The gravestone of Richard Munslow is found in the small Shropshire churchyard of the St Margarets’s Church in the Ratlinghope village (of only about 100 residents) in England. The inscription is minimal but while most sin-eaters were poor, Munslow was a prominent farmer in the area. His time as the village’s sin-eater would find him ceremoniously partaking in the meal and recanting the phrase:

“I give easement and rest now to thee, dear man. Come not down the lanes or in our meadows. And for thy peace I pawn my own soul. Amen.”

The now-defunct practice which supposedly died out with men like Richard Munslow did move to America with the influx of Irish, Welch, and British immigrants to the Appalachian mountains during the 18th and 19th centuries. The author of “The Last Sin Eater” book and subsequently the movie; was intrigued by the idea of sin-eaters because of the movie The Incredible Journey of Dr. Meg Laurel starring Lindsay Wagner and James Woods which also centered around a sin-eater. Her message for all of her novels is that, “God is there waiting when you ask forgiveness;” much like the way the Aztecs worshipped the Goddess Tlazolteotl. Am I thankful that I can just go to God and ask forgiveness instead of finding someone to eat crusty bread from the chest of a dead person before drinking cheap wine just to absolve someone who they hardly know of their sins? Most definitely because I think that I’d rather starve to death than to do that job. I’d go back to digging ditches….which I actually only did for a day and a half.

 


Images:

Cover Image:  Scanned Cover of the pulp magazine Weird Tales (December 1938, vol. 32, no. 6) featuring The Sin-Eater by G.G. Pendarves. Cover art by Ray Quigley. Accredited to Weird Tales, Inc. – Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8376605

Ghost Rider (1st Series) cover photo, Issue #80, May 1983 accredited to Marvel Comics.

British Museum Huaxtec 1 accredited to Gryffindorderivative: Ophelia.summers (talk) – British_Museum_Huaxtec_1.jpg, fair use, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15254577

Richard Munslow Gravestone images courtesy of https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/58880934/richard-munslow