Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Stand-up Comedians

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From watching old-school nightclub veterans on old VHS tapes, HBO Specials, seeing them in person, or just watching their specials where they fill stadiums; stand-up comedy has been part of my life since I can remember. I have great memories watching Rodney Dangerfield’s Young Comedians Specials back in the 80s where I wasintroduced to the likes of Louie Anderson, Yakov Smirnoff, Harry Basil and Bob Nelson. There was even a time when I was a kid that I laughed so hard at Howie Mandel’s HBO special that I woke my parents up. When I became an adult I would go see comedians live. I have been able to see comedians like Mitch Hedberg, Jim Gaffigan, and even Larry the Cable Guy.

Even though putting yourself through the ‘choice’ process is risky and sometimes arduous task, I want to do so since stand-up comedy and comedians have been such a large part of my life. So without wasting anymore of your time with rambling, lets get to the important stuff. I present to you (my choices of the) – Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10:  Stand-up Comedians: 

Updated Honorable Mentions: Bruce Bruce, Jonathan Winters, Sam Kinison, Lavell Crawford, and Bill Cosby

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10. Jerry Seinfeld – Most people recognize the name Seinfeld because of the “show about nothing”. The sitcom, Seinfeld, ran for almost a decade and showcased the mundane yet hilarious daily lives of George Costanza (played by Jason Alexander), Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), the doting across the hall neighbor Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards) and Jerry Seinfeld playing a fictionalized version of himself named Jerry Seinfeld; but long before the sitcom became one of the two top shows of its time (second only to ER), Seinfeld was a very popular comedian. Again calling back to my Rodney Dangerfield specials, I remember watching Seinfeld on Rodney Dangerfield’s HBO special early in his career. This stand-up career earned him the number 12 position on Comedy Central‘s greatest Comedians of all time list and even higher on mine.

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9. Dave Chappelle – My dad took me to see the 1993 Mel Brooks movie Robin Hood: Men in Tights. It was so funny that I distinctively remember us both laughing so hard that we cried. A young Dave Chappelle starred as Ahchoo (yeah, I know) and over time, Chappelle would continue popping up. From the cult classic “Cheech and Chong-esque” stoner film Half Baked to starring as the insulting comedian in The Nutty Professor to his HBO stand-up specials to the immortally popular Chappelle’s Show; Chappelle was all over the comedy map. Heck he was all over the comedy universe until he abruptly left the Chappelle Show due to ethical and personal concerns that he had. He took a journey to Africa and ‘found himself’ again. He would tour sporadically but his career resurged in 2013 when he began co-headlining tours with the Flight of the Concords. 2016 was a big year for Chappelle when he finally hosted Saturday Night Live and Released multiple stand-up comedy specials through Netflix.

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8. Brian Regan – Even though the self-deprecating comic hates being known as a ‘clean comic’, the fact of the matter is that you can listen to Brian Regan with your 60 year old mom and not be embarassed by what she will hear. Regan’s material is mostly free from any profanity or off-color humor which is why we watched Brian Regan as a family. His eccentric body language, wild facial expressions, and atypically physical humor appeals to any age group. I know it appeals to 12 year olds and people in their thirties because Brian Regan is one of the comedians that is played more than anyone at our home.

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7. George Carlin – The aforementioned Comedy Central (as well as Rolling Stones Magazine) Greatest Comedians list placed George Carlin as second and it is a well deserved location for this black comedian. Now when I say ‘black comedian’, I am by no means referring to the color of his skin. The term black humor, black comedy or dark comedy is a comedic style that makes light of subject matter that is generally considered taboo. You know all that stuff that most people would pass over because it might offend someone? Well black humor takes those topics and slaps in the face with them all while using all of the seven dirty words to curse you out. Widely regarded as one of the most influential stand-up comedians of all time, the ‘dean of counterculture comedians’ almost worked as a shock comic after he reinvented himself in the early 1970s. He hired talent managers to appeal to a younger audience and even though his venturing into smaller clubs caused a drastic cut in his income; Carlin’s popularity was increasing exponentially. Carlin was bringing back the radical social commentary comedy that Lenny Bruce had pioneered during the 1950s. My first experience were his ever popular HBO specials. Of course at the time, I had to sneak to watch them because his comedy was undeniably inappropriate for a ten year old to listen to.  But after watching Carlin playing Rufus, the time-traveling mentor of Bill & Ted in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure…I had to see more of this guy. His comedy became more relevant as I grew older and could understand the powerful wisdom that this man had pouring from his mouth.

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6. Louie Anderson – You usually don’t start off the conversation about a comedian with the description ‘Emmy award winning actor’. The author, actor, television host, and stand-up comedian has been making people laugh professionally for over 30 years. Ever since I watched Louie on that Rodney Dangerfield Comedy Special VHS tape, I appreciated his style of comedy. Not only is the comedian still touring on the comedy circuit but has won Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 2016 and 2017 for his role as “Christine Baskets” in the critically acclaimed comedy Baskets aside funny-man Zach Galifianakis. He is one my top list as well as the Rolling Stones Top 100 comedian list.

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5. Mitch Hedberg – Once you heard the unconventional, deadpan delivery of his non sequitir jokes one-liners or short absurd jokes…then you are hooked. He’s the comedian that you have to listen closely to because you just might miss something important. Millions of comedy fans, myself, and many big named comedians like George Carlin, Dave Chappelle, Mike Birbiglia and Lewis Black were huge fans of his comedy; and he was even dubbed the next Seinfeld by Time Magazine. Sadly he was found dead in a hotel room in 2005. It was only a few weeks before that I was watching him live in Athens, GA during one of his last performances. His impact is felt by the many comedians that were in attendance at that venue that night. It will be a show that I will never forget; just like the many up-and-coming comics that were in attendance that night have made it known the influenced that that one show had on them starting their career.

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4. Rodney Dangerfield – In regards to the amount of people that give credit where credit is due; “(he) don’t get no respect, no respect at all.” Many successful comedians from the 80s and 90s can thank Rodney Dangerfield’s comedy and his Young Comedian’s Showcase of young comedians for their success. His HBO shows helped the careers of comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Jeff Foxworthy, Jim Carrey, Tim Allen, Sam Kinison, Roseanne Barr, Robert Townsend, Bill Hicks, Rita Rudner, Andrew Dice Clay, Louie Anderson, Bob Saget and many more. Jim Carrey owes Dangerfield a special debt of gratitude due to Dangerfield signing Carrey to be his opening act for two years worth of shows after seeing his performances at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles. His multi-decade stand-up career, grammy award winning comedy albums, popular Miller Lite beer ads, Tonight Show appearances, a string of movies (Caddyshack, Easy Money, Back to School, and many more), and his outrageous personality brought him to the forefront of comedy in my opinion; but earned him a coveted place in the Smithsonian Institute (his trademark white shirt and red tie are on display).

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3. John Pinette – John Pinette might  not be the most notable comic in the world but he is definitely one of my favorites. The comic got his start doing the comedy club circuit but got his big break when Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, asked him to tour with him. John’s acting credits are numerous but are not as important as his DVD sales and his being named Stand-Up Comedian of the Year by the American Comedy Awards. He received many awards during his life and at the time of his death, he held the record for the highest-selling one-person show in the history of Just for Laughs. We watch/listen to John Pinette in my house every couple of months and it never gets old.

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2. Jim Gaffigan – What can truly be said about the palest man in comedy? What needs to be said besides his contribution to the comedy game cannot be denied. As one of the top grossing comedians, Jim Gaffigan has risen to be more than just the “Hot Pocket” guy. Even though his funny catchphrases may be memorable; Gaffigan’s comedic style is what is truly unforgettable. His ‘connection with the audience’ voice is always a favorite part of his routine. His routine which normally centers around topics that we all can draw inferences to our own lives (i.e. food, being lazy, losing weight, parenthood, and other normal life experiences). His comedy could be deadly because I remember almost laughing so hard that I lost my breath a couple of times when we went to see him live. Guess that’s the price you pay to experience the best.

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1. Robin Williams –  Though Robin Williams is known in most circles for starring in award winning TV shows and movies; Williams started his career as a stand-up comedian in the 70s. He rose to fame in 1978 as the quirky alien Mork on the TV show Mork and Mindy, his career as an actor skyrocketed parallel to that of his stand-up career. Williams would go on to star in everything from a live version of Popeye to the emotionally charged Dead Poet’s Society to offering his voice as the Genie for Disney’s Aladdin and even the heart breaking, emotional roller coaster that was Good Will Hunting. His stand-up comedy had unprecedented success but the Julliard trained actor/comic was more than just a comedian or an actor; he was a light of hope and beauty into a dark and ugly world. He visited the troops over seas during USO tours countless times, gave emotional speeches about America while helping us cope with the hell in the world through humor. His work with Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal had raised over $80 million as of 2014 for the homeless through their HBO televised benefit show Comic Relief USA. He donated huge amounts of money and time to the USO, multiple charities, the Red Cross, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital…just to name a few. After his suicide, the world stood in shock and greatly affected me and my family. Not that we knew him personally but because of the immense impact that this positive person had had on our lives. Billy Crystal called him the “brightest star in our comedy galaxy” and he truly is just that.


Featured Image: Jerry Seinfeld knocks on the Oval Office window image by and accredited to Pete Souza – P120715PS-0551, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46324753

Images: Jonathan Winters 1986 image by and accredited to Unknown – Cropped from U.S. Department of Defense photo, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2590921
Howie Mandel image by and accredited to photo by Alan Light, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1598085
Jerry Seinfeld 2016 stand-up image by and accredited to slgckgc – https://www.flickr.com/photos/slgc/31240934022/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58915970
Cropped image of Dave Chappelle by and accredited to Davej1006 – Cropped from File:Sean and Kris with Dave Chappelle.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3791240
Brian Regan “The Epitome of Hyperbole” image by and accredited to Brian Regan, fair use, brianregan.com
George Carlin routine image by and accredited to Bonnie from Kendall Park, NJ, USA – Jesus is Coming.. Look Busy, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4027016
Louie Anderson image by and accredited to Melly Allen – Alicia Jacobs & Louie Anderson, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51750370
Mitch Hedberg IMDB profile image credited to IMDB, fair use, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0373136
Rodney Dangerfield in 1978 by and accredited to Jim Accordino, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7492985
John Pinette at the 2010 Leukemia Ball image by and attributed to dbking from Washington, DC – _MG_1560, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18544735
Jim Gaffigan making a goofy face image by and accredited to Alan Gastelum – Sent to him personally, CC BY-SA 1.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49897376
Robin Williams at the Happy Feet two Australian premiere image by and attributed to Eva Rinaldi – Robin Williams, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56728659
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Anything but pedestrian

It may not take a genius to sit in quiet contemplation while staring at a body of water; but you may be one for taking that time to do so. I think that Nigerian-American writer Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu said it best when she said that she, “go(es) to the ocean to calm down, to reconnect with the creator, to just be happy.” Ever since I can remember, I have had a love affair with the ocean. I would surf the waves when I was a teenager and the older that I get, the more I love just staring at the endless waves, cascading on the sandy shore. Being from Eastern North Carolina definitely has its perks because in my opinion, the beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world. But the beaches are not the only place that has been a place of quiet contemplation.

I have mentioned before that my parents house was built 50 yards from a creek that is a tributary to the Northeast Cape Fear River. This creek connected to another small tributary that flows from a wetland area south. These tributaries met behind my parents house and the smaller tributary had a small waterfall. Over the banks of the small creek lied a huge fallen oak tree. I would sit with my back against this tree for hours listening to the sounds of the waterfall and watching a beautiful aspect of nature. There was nothing pedestrian about the situation. The sensory overload was anything but lackluster. This spot in the middle of a wooded area was my secret oasis; my serenity. I would grow older and hurricanes would tame the landscape as they saw fit. Water erodes. Trees fall down and rot. The spot does not look the same anymore but there are other spots that I frequent to try to find a break from the mundane.

On the banks of the Hollands Shelter Creek (a tributary of the Northeast Cape Fear River) sits Hollands Shelter Creek Restaurant. My family took me there when I was a kid and now that I have a kid of my own; we enjoy taking him. Daniel has always been fascinated with the river that flows by the seafood restaurant, so it seems only logical that his favorite place to go is to sit on the dock on the river, eat some ice cream and hopefully spot an alligator.

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Why do Rock Stars hate brown M&Ms?

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1993 brought a lot of things that are now forever ingrained into the Pop Culture landscape. Millions journey to and get engaged at the top of the Empire State Building because of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s rom com hit “Sleepless in Seattle”. ‘The Truth was finally out there’ when The X-Files first aired or how about Bill Murray’s continuously looping “Groundhog Day”. Jurassic Park beat E.T. to become the highest-grossing film at that time. Nirvana was a musical guest on Saturday Night Live’s fall season premiere which was hosted by Charles Barkley. Shall I go on? No? I didn’t think so but while we’re hinting around at the cultural influence that Saturday Night Live had during the 90s; and the fact that the powerhouse pushed out Pop Culture hits in 1993…like the sequel to Wayne’s World. Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar returned to the big screen in 1993. “Party on Wayne.” “Party on Garth.” We found them filming their public-access television show inside of an abandoned factory building in Aurora, Illinois but after an Aerosmith concert, Wayne’s life is forever changed. Jim Morrison and a weird naked Indian comes to Wayne in a dream and tells them to organize a major music festival. He instructs them that they must hire and find his former roadie, Del Preston. Del Preston was a roadie for some of the biggest names in the Rock n Roll business and he tells them a story about Ozzy in which he says:

So there I am, in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, at about 3 o’clock in the morning, looking for one thousand brown M&Ms to fill a brandy glass, or Ozzy wouldn’t go on stage that night. So, Jeff Beck pops his head ’round the door, and mentions there’s a little sweets shop on the edge of town. So – we go. And – it’s closed. So there’s me, and Keith Moon, and David Crosby, breaking into that little sweets shop, eh. Well, instead of a guard dog, they’ve got this bloody great big Bengal tiger. I managed to take out the tiger with a can of mace, but the shop owner and his son… that’s a different story altogether. I had to beat them to death with their own shoes. Nasty business, really. But, sure enough, I got the M&Ms, and Ozzy went on stage and did a great show.

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David Crosby and a Bengal tiger? Ozzy requesting a 1000 brown M&Ms in a brandi glass? Seems ridiculous right? I always was intrigued by this story because I had always heard of the elaborate demands that bands make before they’ll go on stage but there is no way that something like this could be true. Right? Well the story might not be as far fetched as it would seem.

Well all know that rock concerts have come a long way since the Beatles were Beatles_Metropolitan_Stadium_ticket_1965performing in hockey rinks and dance halls. The bigger the band got…the bigger the venue got. Along side the band growing, was the growing list of demands that the bands would require of promotors. No longer did they just ask for a few bottles of Pepsi and some clean towels…oh no. The larger the crowds, the more money that there was to be made. The rock stars could command higher dividends, and also make sure that their luxurious accommodations would be satisfied by the promotors. Bands and performers started to make frivolous demands of promotors just because they could. Example: In college I worked for UNCW and at one of our on campus concerts; Hootie and the Blowfish refused to perform unless we had a specific beer for them….so away we flew to the grocery store to buy their specific brand of beer. Another example is the true story that inspired Del Preston’s M&M story from Wayne’s World 2.

VAN_HALEN_2008The most notorious band provision contract was that of Rock n Roll legends Van Halen. No one can deny that Van Halen ruled the world throughout the 80s and 90s and are still filling arenas to this day; but what’s up with the M&Ms? The band requests included the surface that the stage would be built on all the way to the snacks that they wanted in their dressing room. Potato Chips with assorted dips, nuts, pretzels, Twelve Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, assorted Dannon Yogurts, and a bowl of M&Ms with all of the brown M&Ms taken out were just a few of the items listed. Wait a minute….no brown M&Ms? \Supposedly the presence of even one single brown M&M in a bowl of M&Ms was sufficient enough to cause the band to break legal bindings with the venue and peremptorily cancel a scheduled appearance without notice. Sometimes finding one brown M&M would cause the band to proceed with the full onslaught of destruction to the dressing room. Since it has been confirmed that this contract clause was real (due to a copy of the contract rider from Van Halen’s 1982 world tour has confirmed it); what in the world did Van Halen have against brown M&Ms?

The now legendary ‘no brown M&M clause’ was not included in the contract for a gastro-influenced reason. It provided a simple way of determining whether the technical stipulations of the contract had been thoroughly read and complied with. Van Halen lead singer David Lee Roth explained in his autobiography that when they began touring that they were rolling up to venues with a convoy of eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear and the venue would not have bays for them to unload their equipment. Or the steel girders of the stage would sink into the floor due to the weight or the doors weren’t wide enough to even bring in the stage gear. A contract rider is a huge document that sometimes the punch list of items were not followed through by the facility. Roth says that, “…if I saw a IMG_3254brown M&M in that bowl….guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally life-threatening.” So if part of the stage was not structurally sound due to the venue not fully reading the contract then the results could be devastating. So if they saw brown M&Ms that meant that they would have to do a complete line-check of the entire production to prevent damage to equipment or to prevent potential harm to crew, band or concert attendees. Sure the M&M stipulation got a little out of hand when Roth did $12,000 worth of damage to a dressing room while the production equipment did about $80,000 worth of damage to the floor of the Colorado University basketball court. So of course news outlets and MTV thought that a story of a drugged Rock n Roll band doing $95,000 worth of damage to a University because of the lead singer’s distaste for brown M&Ms sounded better than said university not following the protocols of a contract thusly resulting in damage to their new basketball court.



Images:
Garth’s Merthmobile photo by and attributed to Thomas R Machnitzki (thomas@machnitzki.com) – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19551735
Beatles ticket by and attributed to Unknown – http://www.rarebeatles.com/photopg7/mn82165.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16847200
Van Halen image by and accredited to GHOSTRIDER2112 – Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ghostrider2112/2523049277/), CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15278712

What can you see through Broken Windows?

IMG_0760The second story windows of the old Johnson Cotton Company building in Wallace, NC have become weathered. Some panes have been broken by the rock of a rebellious child or pine branch thrown by the forceful breeze of a summer storm. The lower level windows were bricked years ago, while the building’s front entrance houses a set of decorative metal framed display windows that lead you to the entrance of the long been shut down store. The recessed entrance is still inviting because it is now used as storage but the hints of its history peak through.

The now Historic Commercial District sat formidably as the nucleus of a booming railroad and agricultural town. This small Southern town is situated in the coastal plains region of North Carolina and lies in the southern edge of Duplin County. Wallace was originally incorporated in 1873 as the settlement known as Duplin Roads; but was incorporated as the town of Wallace (named after railroad official Steven Wallace) in 1899. Like many Southern railroad towns, the small town’s orthogonal grid developed along the railroad tracks. The small town grew and grew because it was an important transportation link between the large port city of Wilmington to the South and Faison to the North.

Over the years, Wallace continued to expand. Fast food restaurants were built on Highway 117 and businesses extended passed the grid pattern that once hugged the railroad. The one and two story brick buildings in this historic area now house offices or maybe even modern stores. Buildings whose foundations were laid in the late 19th and early 20th centuries found themselves booming in a post World War II period. So these historic buildings, like the Johnson Cotton Company; whose second story windows still peer down upon the renovated Train Depot; still scintillates above a town that they help inaugurate.

Layers

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Layering most frequently reminds me clothing but the way that we perceive the landscape around us. The way that one object coincides with something that appears parallel but is actually in the viewable distance. The mixing of natural and man made lines with the overlap of modern lines layered in front of centuries old brick. I walk past this every day and sometimes forget to appreciate the depth and beauty found in brick, concrete and wood.

Just in the Nick of Time: A History of Interesting Idioms and Colloquial Phrases – Part 8

It has been quite some time since I’ve written about one of my favorite things: the idioms and colloquial phrases that we use in our every day language. As we have discussed before; these idioms and colloquial phrases sometimes sound completely ludicrous out of context, but many of them have very real and amazingly explainable origins.  This time we will look into the history of:

Hold a candle to, One in the hand is better than two in the bush, The pot calling the kettle black, Bust your balls, It’s getting deep, Blood is thicker than water



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“Hold a Candle to” – 

Origin: The phrase ‘hold a candle to’ has a pretty straight forward origin. Before the advent of electricity, apprentices were expected to hold a candle for the more experienced workman could stay focused on their task. Someone who was not able to live up these expectations would not even able ‘to hold a candle’ for whom the person tried to apprentice. The phrase was first found in the writing of Sir Edward Dering where in 1641 he wrote that he “…be not worthy to hold the candle to Aristotle.”

Meaning: To compare yourself to an expert when you are unfit to even hold a subordinate position to said expert.



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“One in the Hand is better than Two in the Bush/A bird in the Hand is worth Two in the Bush”

Origin: Sometimes old idioms and colloquial phrases are actually ancient proverbs that we still find ourselves using in our modern day. This reigns true for the “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” proverb that has two possible and Bird-in-Hand,_PA_Keystone_Marker.jpgmaybe coinciding meanings. First off, the phrase has absolutely  nothing to do with the sleepy little town in Pennsylvania’s Amish County; Bird-In-Hand, PA. The first warns us against taking a great risk to try and gain more but end up losing everything; while the other refers to an ancient hunting technique. In medieval times, falconry was extremely popular and therefore the bird (aka your falcon) was a more valuable asset to a hunter and certainly worth more than two potential prey (the other birds) in a bush. The first printed version of this expression is found in John Ray’s 1670 book, A Hand-book of Proverbs in which he says, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Despite the phrase originating hundreds of years ago, the warning still remains true to this day.

Meaning: It’s better to have something than to try for the possibility of something greater and end up with nothing at all.



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“Pot Calling the Kettle Black” – 

Origin: In the 1620 Thomas Shelton translation of Cervantes Saavedra’s History of Don Quixote; the phrase ‘pot calling the kettle black’ is hinted upon by Cervantes when he says “you are like what is said that the frying=pan said to the kettle. ‘Avant, black-browes’. Years before this translation showed up, Shakespeare used a similar expression in the 1606 tragedy Troilus and Cressida when he said that “(t)he raven chides blackness.” It was William Penn’s (you know the founder of Pennsylvania) 1682 Quaker version of the Poor Richard’s Almanack, Some Fruits of Solitude, that we found its modern usage when he wrote that “a covetous man to inveigh against Prodigality…is for the Pot to call the Kettle black.” It is definitely a truly obscure comparison; but the phrase has found itself staying in the lexicon of different languages across the planet which has continued to spread throughout the centuries.

Meaning: The notion that the criticism someone makes of someone could apply to themselves.



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“Bust your Balls” – 

Origin: Martin Scorsese’s 1990 crime film Goodfellas is a classic tale of mob life showcases a rare glimpsed into the mob subculture and doesn’t provide a glamorization of the deplorable acts of the mob; but what it does provide some amazing movie quotes. One of those quotes came from the veteran actor Frank Vincent’s portrayal of Billy Batts when he tells Tommy DeVito that he is just “breaking your balls”. The crude reference has been popular ever since and derives from an old Italian expression: non rompermi i coglioni which is translated as “don’t break my balls”. So where in the world did they get this imagery from? Well the true meaning of the phrase is in reference to actual ball busting. Yeah, I know. Ball busting occurs in the cattle industry and beef cattle farmers prefer to have ‘castrated’ male bulls; because they are more docile and are not as rough on equipment during the killing process. Whatever the origin and for whatever reason someone starting using the slang phrase, we know that it is definitely offensive language but it definitely gets the point across. So…don’t bust my balls, I’m just writing a blog. 😉

Meaning: To pick on someone to the point that it evokes anger.



Read the story of this trip on www.mylastdestination.eu !

“It’s getting deep” – 

Origin: There is no definite origin to speak of when it comes to someone saying that ‘it’s getting deep’ or that something is ‘deep’. What I can tell you is that this situational phrase is used to describe a time when a person telling a story is telling so big of a far fetched tale that it feels like the room is filling up. I have always heard that it is a reference to someone calling someone on their ‘bullcrap’ and therefore the room is filling up with all of the ‘bullcrap’. It could also be in reference to someone filling up the room with the trash that they are speaking. Either way, we all know that one guy who fills up rooms every time he speaks.

Meaning: Phrase used to describe a situation in which a person telling  story is spewing so may untruths that the room is metaphorically filling up with their lies.



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“Blood is thicker than water” – 

Origin: Family. Family is first thought that comes to mind when you think about blood being thicker than water; and that was exactly what famed Scottish novelist, poet, historian, and biographer had in mind when he used the phrase for the first time in his 1815 work Guy Mannering. In the work a character says, “Weel, blude’s thicker than water; she’s welcome to the cheese and the hams just the same.” Being that Scott is known for coining new phrases; the man known to be the ‘greatest practioner of the historical novel” was more than likely the originator of the phrase. So this phrase truly has nothing to do with the viscosity of blood vs that of water; but that family bonds are closer than that of others.

Meaning: The bonds of family are closer than those of others.



Don’t forget to check out parts 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 of this series to continue in your educational journey. 



Images: 
Candela Fotografata by and attributed to Luca Casartelli – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18794750
Iranian bowl featuring image of horseback rider hunting with a falcon at Royal Ontario Museum image by Daderot – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34022346
Featured Image: Keystone Marker for Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania image by and accredited to Doug Kerr – Flickr: Bird-In-Hand, Pennsylvania, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17171452
An Old Red Kettle, blacked with soot image by and accredited to Susan Dussaman – https://flic.kr/p/9MScDZ, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48282660
French Charolais Bull image by and accredited to Forum concoursvaches.fr – http://www.concoursvaches.fr, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10644454
Flooded Room in Linz image by and accredited to Guillaume Speurt from Vilnius, Lithuania – Flooded room in Linz, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25615112
Inupiat Eskimo family portrait by and accredited to Edward S. Curtis – This file was derived from Inupiat Family from Noatak, Alaska, 1929, Edward S. Curtis.jpg:, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24953870

Waiting for the Inevitable

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From the early 90s back to the end of World War II, the entire world had a heightened level of international tension that we now refer to as the Cold War. Non-Communist nations, US included, faced what they saw as a potential threat to world peace, democracy and the safety of it’s people. The Soviet Union had developed atomic weapons and they were flexing their nuclear muscles to try and extend their ideology into the rest of the world. The US federal government responded to our growing fear and created the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA), which later became known as the Office of Civil Defense. This agency sent out information as to how to prepare for a nuclear attack. Some of us will remember sitting under desks in elementary school with our hands over our heads and being told that this would protect us.

In 1949, President Harry Truman, made it public knowledge that the Soviet Union had detonated their first atomic bomb; thusly ushering in an age of fear. The civil defense department thought that if we were informed that we could better protect ourselves. The government helped communities create evacuation plans for big cities and thought that if given enough time, that they would be in a safe enough distance. Fast forward into the 1950s, the government would also suggest ‘fallout shelters’ to reduce the amount of exposure to the harmful fallout from the nuclear blast (the radioactivity that would occur in the aftermath) and also from the explosion itself. The Eisenhower administration (around 1957) took notes from the destruction that occurred during the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to educate the populous (specifically urban areas because it was believed that they would be targeted first) in ways of survival. Tensions continued to rise through ages and into the 1960s when the Soviets built the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis was all too real for Americans. In the summer of 1961, President Kennedy asked Congress for more than $100 million to help build public fallout shelters and implement home-based ‘imminent nuclear danger alarm systems’.

Fallout shelters were built in both small towns and big cities alike. From Manhattan to small town America: including my home town of Rose Hill, NC. Inside the basements of churches and other structurally more sound buildings, fallout shelters were erected. The constructed shelters were not glorious but the sense of security in an unsure time that it gave you was beautiful enough to mask any miscalculation. Over the years the fallout shelter doors were taken down and the constant fear of waiting for some imminent threat has been forgotten; but the faded reminders of what now lies in a cold, fearful period of American history can still be found.

Life Hack: Relief for Gout and Arthritis

The_gout_james_gillrayAll of the male members of my family have been riddled with the gout since I can remember. My grandfather used to get it in his knee and my dad would get it in his big toe on his right foot. As for me, my flare ups come in three toes on my left foot and in my ankle on the spot where I broke it many years ago. If you have never had experienced the gout or don’t know what it is; the gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis and the attacks typically pop up within a twelve hour period. The gout is caused by an elevated level of uric acid in the blood which causes the uric acid to crystalize inside of joints, tendons and surrounding tissue. This pain is literally as bad as it sounds and 1-2% of the Western population has had or will experience the gout during their life. Medicines (anti-inflammatory drugs, colchicine, and steroids) have been used to lower uric acid levels in recent years and even a change in your diet can help reduce uric acid levels; but food only accounts for 60% of the outbreaks that will happen to a person suffering from gout.

Regretfully the gout medications are expensive and I had to give up my prescription to Uloric (a prescription gout medication) because even with my deductible, the price had risen to well over $150 per month. I could of course order the pills from Canada at a lower price but I would still be spending around $65 a month for 30 pills. So I looked into the world of natural cures and with help from The Vitamin Shoppe, I found a life hack that is quite literally improving my quality of life. In my research, I found that coffee, vitamin C and low fat dairy products help reduce the risk of a gout outbreak while the consumption of alcohol, soft drinks, red meat and seafood increases the risk. Some key ingredients that work to reduce uric acid levels and help with inflammation are Cherry juice, turmeric and ginger. Along with drinking Pineapple Juice (pineapples are a great source of vitamin C and have anti-inflammatory properties), I created a concoction that isn’t the greatest tasting thing in the world…but I can guarantee you that it works for us. The Dynamic Health company actually has created a Tart Cherry, Turmeric, and Ginger Tonic that is available at The Vitamin Shoppe. I simply take the suggested dose of tonic and add in my preferred level of Pineapple Juice and there you have it: The Deflator (get it…cause gout and arthritis form inflammation…anyways).

tonic and juiceI woke up the first morning after taking it and my pain had subsided overnight. It was still tender but I was at least 90% better. I am still taking the mixture days later and am actually feeling better. My wife heard me talking about how good I felt and how that I was able to move the joints in my big toe like I had not been able to in years; and she was curious if it would work for her arthritis in her back. Well she took it and the next morning she woke up for the first time in years without pain.  Daniel, my son plays full contact football and his back was strained the other day…we gave him some of the tonic and he woke up feeling great. I can’t guarantee that this will work for you because I am not a doctor…but I can guarantee that it has worked/is working for my family. I want to tell everyone that I can about what appears to be a miracle cure for us.

braggsI will also be reintroducing Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar into my every day routine. It is very good for the treatment of gout because the apple cider vinegar moves the pH scale towards alkalinity and therefore, reduced the gout symptoms. I just take it straight like a shot of whiskey but you can dilute it in a cup of warm water or mix 2 tbsp of it with honey.

These suggestions are completely up to you but I could not urge you any harder to please at least try these remedies if you suffer from the gout or arthritis.

 


Images:

The Gout by James Gillray. Published May 14th 1799. Via copy at [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3796712

Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, Fair Use.

Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Famous Deadly Weapons

Before Lockheed Martin created the F-22 Raptor and even before the Kalashnikov family created the AK-47 during World War II; there were many weapons that were infamous for being deadly. Whether the wielder made the weapon famous or vice-versa, people knew that if they disobeyed the wielder or were on the wrong end of this weapon…then it ultimately meant their doom. With the sword first appearing during the Bronze Age; being made primarily out of copper and was uncovered at the Harappan sites in what is now present-day Pakistan. By the Middle Ages iron and steel swords were being mass produced and used in battle. Time went by and generals, kings, emperors, soldiers and all around bad-asses yielded swords and other weapons of mass destruction. This was however before the era of guns but as soon as primitive firearms came to be in 13th century China; the age of portably propelling projectiles utilizing gunpowder had begun. The era of modern firearms has led to automatic and assault rifles strong enough to pierce a tank’s thick skin. In this blog we will discuss historically famous weapons who made the wielder famous or the wielder made it famous. Weapons from mythology, movies, video games, TV shows, etc. will not be listed but with that being said; here are, in my opinion, are – Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Famous Deadly Weapons


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Honorable MentionSmith & Wesson Schofield .45 revolver – One of the most notorious outlaws that lived in the annals of Old West history, Jesse James was without argument a robber. He and his top-break action Smith & Wesson Schofield revolver became somewhat of a folk hero after the Civil War. James and his brother Frank robbed banks in the former-Union territory and the press at the time portrayed him as the Confederate’s Robin Hood. Though his motives deviated from any ‘give-to-the-poor’ mentality, he and his revolver have went down in history none-the-less.

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10. Tizona Sword – Formed in Córdoba, Spain from damascus steel in 1002 AD, the medieval sword known as Tizona was one of many swords owned by Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar aka El Cid. El Cid would use Tizona to fight against the Moors. Due to Tizona’s wielder, El Cid became known as one of King Alfonso VI’s most valuable asset. Tizona is now on display in the Museo de Burgos (Burgos Museum) in Spain and definitely helped El Cid become a Spanish hero.


 

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9. The Fujiwara Kanenaga samurai sword – World War II is not a time that is known for samurai and ninja legends but the man known as “The Tiger of Malaya” is famous for his time in battle. Tomoyuki Yamashita was a general of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II and became legendary after he led the Japanese to conquer the British colonies of Malaya and Singapore. After WWII he was tried for the atrocities that took place in the Philippines and Singapore (specifically the Manila Massacre) which culminated with a controversial death sentence. The controversial case changed the way the United States rules in regards to military leaders responsible for war crimes (a law that is now known as the Yamashita Standard and has been added to the Geneva Conventions). The Fujiwara Kanenaga sword (created somewhere between 1640 and 1680) which was by his side during his military career is now displayed in the Military Arms wing of the West Point Military Museum.


 

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8. Ieyasu spearHattori Hanzōs famous 14 foot long spear and ceremonial battle helmet are on display inside the Sainen-ji temple whose cemetery in Yotsuya, Tokyo house the remains of one of Japan’s most Japan’s most historical figures…during the greatest periods of samurai culture. Hanzō’s significance has bled beyond the immediate Samurai culture and is now a pop culture icon where his likeness is seen in many films, anime, manga, and comic books (mostly due to the fact that there were rumors of Hanzō’s supernatural abilities which were rumored to be teleportation, psychokinesis, and precognition). Hanzō was an expert tactician, and despite having many beautiful swords; he was known to be a master of spear fighting. He lived the last years of his life as a monk under the name “Sainen”. This brave ninja leader, born into a samurai class, will forever be known for his ferocity on the battlefield; and commitment to his leaders and the men that he commanded.


 

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7. The Cutlass – The 15th Century French Pirate François l’Olonnais was as ruthless as they came and his cutlass was used as a tool to inflict pain and fear into fellow sea-goers. During his bloody reign as a French Pirate during the 1660s, led a fleet of upwards of eight ships housing over 400 pirates and even sailed alongside the infamous pirate Captain Morgan (yes the one that they named the rum after). He and his men raped/pillaged cities and preyed upon sea going vessels in a blood thirsty manner which earned him a reputation for being a cruel and ferocious pirate. “The Bane of Spain”, as he was so nicknamed, came to Central America where he pillaged the town of Puerto Cavallo in Honduras where he captured two Spaniards, drew out his cutlass, sliced open the chest of one of the men, pulled out his heart and began to ‘gnaw it with his teeth, like a ravenous wolf’. The surviving Spaniard showed l’Olonnais a clear passage to San Pedro, he and his crew were captured by the indigenous Kuna tribe where he was torn to pieces and eaten. Call it Karma…call it justification. I call it just an epic ending that a pirate with blood lust with be proud to call his own ending.


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6. Smith & Wesson Model 3 – Upon the day of the most famous gunfight in American history ‘The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral’; Wyatt Earp (sworn in as a temporary policeman); his older brother and town Marshal Virgil; his younger brother; Special Policeman Morgan; and temporary policeman Doc Holliday sought to end a long-simmering feud with a loosely organized group of outlaws called the Cowboys. The shootout took place around 3:00 on Wednesday, October 26, 1881 near the narrow lot on the side of C.S. Fly’s Photographic Studio on Fremont Street (despite the aforementioned name) in the town of Tombstone in the Arizona Territory. The gunfight was not relatively well known to the American public until Stuart Lake published the biography Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal; which began a myriad of pop culture references to the gun fight and subsequently Old West’s Superman: Wyatt Earp. Despite becoming the archetype for the stereotypical Old West story, Wyatt Earp didn’t actually carry a gun called “The Peacemaker” on the day of the infamous O.K. Corral gunfight (which in pop culture was conceived to be the Colt Buntline Special that Stuart Lake described in the biography). On the day of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Earp was carrying a Smith & Wesson Model 3 (with a modified 8-inch, 200 mm barrel) that he received as a gift from Mayor and Tombstone Epitaph editor John Clum. That gun and now Wyatt Earp are immortalized in the annals of pop culture forever.


 

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6. Zulfiqar Scimitar – Muhammed, the prophet and founder of Islam, gave Ali (his cousin and son-in-law (not sure how that works)) a Scimitar at the Battle of Uhud. The scimitar, which is now a symbol of the Islamic faith and is admired by millions of people is a West Asian or South Asian curved blade sword. The sword was famously used during the Battle of the Trench where the Prophet Muhammed, Ali and other Muslim defenders built trenches to protect the city of Medina against the oncoming calvary. The sword became known as “Zulfiqar” and has been passed down from each new Imam (name for their religious leader) since the death of Ali.


 

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4. Colt Single Action Army .45 Revolver – So a slave, born in 1838, learns of the abolishment of slavery after fleeding north into Indian Territory; he grows up to become the first African-American US Deputy Marshal west of the Mississippi River; after he Bass_Reeveslearns the Indian languages and masters skills of hunting and tracking with the Cherokee, Seminole, and Creek Indians. Sounds like a premise of a Hollywood blockbuster right? Well its the life story of one of the greatest lawmen in the history ofthe US. Bass Reeves and his Colt Single Action Army .45 Revolver are credited with more than 3,000 arrests and killed 14 outlaws in self defense. During his long career, he would track outlaws and criminals hundreds of miles through thorns, over mountains and through dangerous Indian territory to bring them back to meet justice at the hands of “The Hanging Judge” Judge Isaac Parker. Bass Reeves may not be a household name but that does not change the fact that he and his Colt Revolver overcame great odds and helped bring justice to dysfunctional land while being a real life Lone Ranger.


 

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3. Dane Battle Axe – A Victorian times King nicknamed “The Lionheart” wielding a twenty two pound steel battle axe on the field of battle sounds like another amazing image straight off the Hollywood big screen; but it is in reality true accounts of the King of England: Richard I of English aka Richard the Lionheart. Whether we agree with the crusades or not, no one can deny how ferocious of a site it would be to witness Richard the Lionheart wielding a Danish battle axe while attacking the Sultan Saladin and his army during the Battle of Jaffa.


 

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2. Tonbo-Giri – From the late Sengoku to the early Edo period of Japan; Honda Tadakatsu rose from a proud Japanese Samurai to a general to a noble daimyō (also known as Lord) of Otaki (a town in Chiba, Japan). He was known as the greatest Samurai of Eastern Japan and earned a reputation for being a samurai among samurai. The veteran of over a 100 battles by the end of his life never once even suffered a significant wound and was known as “The Warrior who surpassed Death itself”. The reputed samurai was known for being a recognizable figure on the field of battle by his helmet, famously adorned with deer antlers, his horse Mikuniguro, and his spear which was named Tonbo-Giri aka the Dragonfly Cutter. It was named Tonbo-Giri or Dragonfly Cutter because as the legend goes, a dragonfly landed on the tip of the spear and it was so sharp that the dragonfly was cut in two. His fighting prowess led him to be known as one of the “Three Great Spears of Japan” and the spear itself has became a natural treasure of Japan.


 

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  1. Scottish Longsword – The scabbard, hilt and belt of this sword were originally made with the dried skin of English commander Hugh Cressingham. Despite the sword being a pop culture symbol, the infamous 13th century “Guardian of Scotland” Sir William Wallace wielded the 6 lb, 4 feet by 4 inch sword during the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 and in the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. William Wallace fought and was eventually executed for the freedom of his country. Today, in Scotland, he is known as a national hero; and everyone around the world knows of his Patriotism. What is now one of the most famous swords in the world (housed at the National Monument in Stirling, Scotland); William Wallace’s longsword invokes an image of freedom. Most of that is because of Mel Gibson’s portrayal of William Wallace in the 1995 blockbuster hit “Braveheart where he flung the 4 foot long sword through the sky while yelling “FREEDOM”. That scene is forever etched into the annals of Pop Culture and William Wallace and his longsword will forever be immortalized.

 



Images:
Featured Image Jesse James colleague image courtesy of NRA, Fair Use.
Espada Tizona sword image by and accredited to Infinauta – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8027534
General Tomoyuki Yamashita’s Fujiwara Kanenaga sword image by and accredited to William Maloney – Fair use, http://www.williammaloney.com/Aviation/WestPointMilitaryMuseum/WorldWarII/pages/19GeneralYamashitasSword.htm
Hattori Hanzo spear image – Fair use, twcenter.net
François l’Olonnais from “De Americaensche Zeerovers” by and attributed to Unknown, book by Alexandre Olivier Exquemelin – The Library of Congress presents The Buccaneers of America, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=134350
Smith & Wesson Model 3 display image by and accredited to Rama – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=448083
Zulfiqar (split-bladed sword) from the Mughal period in India by and attributed to Royroydeb – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38680744
Bass Reeves photo with pistol image by and accredited to the NRA/American Rifleman, Fair Use – Bass Reeves American Rifleman article
Bass Reeves by Unknown, Fair Use – http://digital.library.okstate.edu/ENCYCLOPEDIA/entries/R/RE020.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27904696
Richard the Lionheart in Battle image – Fair use, Public Domain, Image
Honda Tadakatsu by and accredited to 不明。 unknown – 良玄寺所蔵品。現在は千葉県立中央博物館大多喜城分館にある。, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3397023
William Wallace Longsword by and attributed to Glenn J. Mason from Edinburgh, Scotland – 00022.jpg, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3534808

Waiting for Fermentation

I live in Rose Hill, NC; which is home to the largest winery in the South. Seriously. In my small town, we have an award winning winery that produces one of Martha Stewart’s favorite wines. I think that we as residents take for granted the scope of how big that the winery actually is. I think that we as consumers and residents as a whole don’t think about the items that we use. Let’s just take for instance, the wine that is produced around the world (sparkling wine, table wine, vermouth, white wine, red wine, whatever)…I don’t really think any of us think about the steps that it takes to get the grape hanging on the vine to the bottle that sits on the grocery store shelf.

According to the Wine Institute’s Preliminary research, United States residents alone consume an average of 949 million gallons of wine per year which equates to a total of 2.94 gallons of wine per resident; and with an average of 3.3 pounds of grapes going in to the creation of one bottle of wine, I can understand why I see so many fields of grapevines. The Duplin Winery has a tank capacity of over 1.7 million gallons of wine and sells over 450,000 cases of wine per year. The sweet cloying of wine lies thick in the air and the ambrosial aroma sticks to your skin as you walk among the towering tanks that house the wine whose creators are waiting for the cold fermentation process to produce a proper result.

The grapevines that I pass on a daily basis yield grapes that are used in the creation of a luscious liquid that is delivered to thirsty patrons around the world. The grape’s juice is squeezed from the fruit and transferred to the tanks whose behemoth bellies house the sweet muscadine juice until a time that the aluminum leviathan creatures will entrust its created bestowal upon the bottlers. The wine-makers carefully monitor the process and from the ‘terminus a quo’ of the spheroidal fruits to the transfiguration of the a delicious wine. The journey of the berry’s menial genesis into something so complex amazes me but with science a little bit of love…anything can happen.

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