Friday, April 26, 2013

HAIR SHEEP LAMBS

We got some lambs today, that's a sheep under a year old. They are both male and are known as hair sheep because unlike the sheep you think about when you hear the word sheep, these guys don't have any wool. They really look like goats if you ask me, considering the short hair and horns but they are 100% sheep! I asked the black sheep if he had any wool, instead of saying yes sir, yes sir, three bags full, he said no.
 
Once they found their hay they settled right in and started to eat. Soon they will be enjoying grass in the field!
 


 

SPRING TIME CHARGER

Look who woke up after a long winters hibernation! My 1974 Charger, ready for another year of restoration. I have big plans for the car this year and honestly thought I would have been much further along by the end of last year.

 Charger was in much need of a good spring cleaning, which he got. Started right up on the first try too after lying dormant for many cold Pennsylvania winter months. Roaring to life, I drove up and down the driveway until I was pretty sure I could take it for an actual drive. This was risky for several reasons, one being I have no idea how much gas is in the tank since the gas gauge isn't working (on the list of things to be fixed this year btw) and two it hadn't been driven in months, meaning I could stall out in the middle of a drive. I didn't care and threw cation to the wind, yet again, and took off down the road. Doing about half mile trips and turning around, I warmed up the Charger on a cool spring day.

video
 I even decided to get some driving shots. Here are two short clips of the Charger with its favorite driver, me.
 
video

So here is what's on the list for this year HOPEFULLY. I know the list doesn't seem long, but added all together that's a ton of time and money. I won't be making the Chrysler Nationals this year with my Charger, as it won't be ready by then, but you can bet on it that I'll be there anyway.
  • Bodywork/Paint job #1 priority
  • install new grille
  • New rear air shocks
  • 4 new wheels/tires
  • new headliner
  • new carpet
  • new dash pad
  • new headers
  • new exhaust dual system
  • chrome air cleaner/valve covers
  • fix gas gauge

Sunday, April 21, 2013

WHAT IS A BEATNIK AND WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?







I suppose you shouldn't care what a Beatnik is or was but if you want to know keep reading. 

(I actually own this book)
You can recognize a Beatnik, they aren't hard to spot and odds are you can name one from TV or the movies but the truth is, I don't think any of them exist any more. The Beatnik is a media stereotype that comes from the "beat generation" a term used to describe the underground nonconformist artistic youths of New York city during the 1950's to mid 1960's. That is why I say if there is one, they would have to be upwards of 80 plus years old, now we do have human beings that are that old but odds are they aren't still part of the beat generation. The same difference would be hippies, if you say there are young people today and they are hippies, not just the people left over from the 60's, then I suppose we could still have modern beatniks. 

Beatniks were known for their love of art, especially poetry, which they would read in coffee houses, their main hangouts. People would then show their appreciation and approval by snapping their fingers, cause beatniks don't clap their hands, and they sometimes would be accompanied by bongos. They are often depicted wearing berets, dark sun glasses, having goatees, wearing black turtle necks or scarfs. This was the stereotype and you could still be one without wearing this stuff. They were also known to love Jazz, and IF there are any beatniks left today I think the best place to find one would be someone in a Jazz band. Their terms included but were not limited to, "coolsville daddio," "square," and "hip cat." Mainly the beatnik would use their artistic talents as a way of expressing themselves because that was the most important thing, not to conform to societies norms.

If you're my age then the best example of a beatnik would probably be Judy Funnie from Nickelodeon's Nicktoon, "Doug." She was the quintessential beatnik and even dressed the part. Or maybe you remember Pee Wee Herman's TV show, "PeeWee's Playhouse," if you remember the puppet land band, they were all beatniks. 






In an episode of "The Simpsons" the character Ned Flanders has a flashback to his parents and turns out they were both beatniks. But the most famous beatnik that appeared in TV would have to be Maynard G. Krebs from the show, "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis." Maynard G. Krebs was the beatnik best friend of the title character and he was played by Bob Denver, who you know went on to play Gilligan. In another episode of "The Simpsons," Homer imagines himself dropping a bomb on a group of beatniks having a poetry reading, the bomb gets stuck so he has to loosen it. (This was a spoof of the movie "Dr. Strangelove") Homer then yells out, "TAKE THAT MAYNARD G. KREBS!" right before he is yelled at for riding the bomb. 















Audrey Hepburn plays a beatnik character in the movie, "Funny Face." A scene from this movie was later put into a commercial for the GAP. And since I love her so much and AC/DC and the commercial, here is a link to the commercial.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBjtSEZNkkE









Media loved to depict the beatniks in TV, movies, and books but eventually the beatniks got over run with the hippie craze and the beatniks were riding trains to nowheresville daddy-O, sure a few survived instead of going out into the world to get real jobs. If nothing else the beatniks contributed one main thing....the use of the word "like" as a quotative, so the Kardashians owe them a big thanks for that. 

I hope you understand the stereotype of a beatnik a little bit better now, and if not don't be too worried, there aren't that many left and they are and always were harmless. 

Like check out these totally hip clips that really show what a Beatnik was like back when they were living in the moment.....like WOW man.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWjRgzFeE_8
From the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, Bullwinkle shows how to become a beatnik. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8fC4dvAmf8 
Maynard G. Krebs in class with his friend Dobie 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Byg9gMQhqC8
Maynard explains how clothes are a prison.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8W4wZVGnu4
A clip from the show Peter Gunn that shows how a coffee shop full of Beatniks might have been like, and Wilbur the beatnik explains his art. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

HOW TO GROW YOUR OWN MANGO TREE FROM A SEED



So you want to grow a mango tree from a seed do you? Well good because it's a fun and easy experience that can be very rewarding. Just follow my simple steps and you too can have a baby tree living in your home. 

Mangoes are originally from South Asia but they are now grown any where tropical OR in your own back yard OR in your own home, depending on where you live. I find them quite good and almost always have them on hand. You can find mangoes in almost every produce section of your grocery store, including Wal-Mart. They run about a dollar each but can be less or more depending on the time of year, where they are from, which store you go to, and where you live. They can be tricky to eat with their big seed in the middle, but hold on to that thing if you want to grow your own baby mango tree! 

STEP ONE: PICKING OUT A MANGO. 

Don't ask me how to do this part. All I know is all mangoes contain seeds so it doesn't matter a whole lot on what you get from your local grocery store. Green or red, and sometimes both is their common color. They can be firm or feel a tad bit squishy, this doesn't matter if you're just planning to get the seed out, HOWEVER if you want to eat them too, go for the more firm feeling mangoes. I have found that when they start to rot and become squishy and even begin to fall apart they are better for seed use because they are good and ripe and that seed is ready to grow! They don't taste good at this point and it really is tricky on finding one that is ready to eat, I often miscalculate this. Point is, if you're going to eat it then watch closely on how to cut them up, which is discussed in step two coming up..............NOW

STEP TWO: CUTTING UP THE MANGO.

Mango seeds grow inside the middle of the fruit vertically and are slender. (scroll down to see the pictures to get a better idea) You'll have to cut off one side of the mango and then the other, leaving an oval shape of fruit and skin. 

Now if you are going to eat a Mango this is a good way to cut it anyway. The sides that you are left with, make good eating. Cut a checker board pattern into the fruit part without cutting the skin on the other side, then simply turn it inside out and you have cubes of mango meat ready for eating. Note: A mango can be ridiculously juicy. 

Once your sides are cut off start to cut off or peel the remaining skin from around your center part. Don't worry about the skin, you can't eat it and it won't hurt the seed. I often start mine with a knife and then just rip the rest off. Once off you have the seed surrounded by remaining mango fruit. 
Now comes the annoying part, getting all the fruit off of the seed. You'll feel the seed in there and getting the remaining fruit off with a knife is near impossible, that's why I just bite off the fruit with my teeth. You can also just squish it off with your hands or with a knife, but this is a long process. Using running water helps with this part too. Once you get most of the fruit off a knife scraping along the seed's sides is a good tool to clean it up. Again running water helps with this. Scrape off all of the fruit until you are left with our husky little friend, the mango seed. 

Be careful, some seeds may have already started to sprout and you may end up chopping off your little seed's root without knowing! Usually the seed won't be growing this much yet (it's only happened to me one time ever...tonight actually.) 

STEP THREE: GETTING THE SEED. 

Ah but WAIT, this isn't the seed itself, no this is just the husk (endocarp) or outer part that contains the seed, much like a shell to a nut. The seed is inside and getting it out isn't as easy as cracking open a peanut. 

Every outer seed cover, seen here, has a curvature on one of its sides. I'm pointing it out here with my thumb but on this one it is VERY difficult to see. In real life it's easy to feel if you just run your fingers around the edge. THIS CURVE IS VERY IMPORTANT because it is where you need to make your incision to get the seed out. You will now need to be VERY CAREFULLY, and I can't stress that enough, put the tip of a sharp knife blade into the curved part of the seed shell. NOT DEEP!!! The seed is very close to this area and you can easily stab it, cut it, or break it, ruining the seed's chances to grow. I can't count how many times I've done this myself. 

Run the blade along the ridge, you won't have to go far, all you need is a small enough opening to get your thumb tips in so you can break open the husky shell covering. Please take your time with the knife and be gentle, as I said before the seed is very close to this ridge and you can cut right into it. NOTE: That may happen no matter how careful you are, and if it does it's no big deal, that is why I'd suggest getting several mangoes to be on the safe side. Once you have a slit big enough for a thumb, insert your thumb and run it along the slit helping to crack the seed cover. At this point you'll be able to peek inside and see your little seed baby. 



Once the opening is big enough, push both thumbs or fingers inside and break the covering in half, exposing your seed. I broke one entire side of the shell off so you can see how the seed sits inside its covering. NOTE: Mango seeds have umbilical cords. It's true. You'll see this tiny cord attaching the actual seed to the covering, it's safe to just pull it off, it won't harm your seed. 

Your seed may have a "skin" on it, that is ok to pull off, often it is falling off on its own. You don't have to get rid of this skin but it is of no importance to the seed or planting. The seed also may have started to sprout at the top of the seed, this is good and it would be great if you can get one that is already starting to grow. If not, don't worry, your seed can still grow. You can see on this seed where the root will start to sprout and in this other seed you can see how the root was already on its way to sprouting.
 
STEP FOUR: PREPARING YOUR SEED FOR GROWTH.

Now that your seed is free from its fruit enslavement, it is ready to be planted. There are many different ways to plant a seed but I find the best and fastest way is the wet paper towel and plastic baggy method.   

Take your seed and take a sheet of paper towel. Wrap the seed in the paper towel and wet it. It doesn't matter how wet it gets but I usually squeeze out the excess water. Once wrapped in the soaking wet paper towel put it into a plastic bag, squeezing out the air and sealing it up. 


You can leave your plastic bag in a warm place as your seed will sprout its root. This will be the first thing it grows and the trunk will come out of the opposite end. 
It will be ok to open up the bag and unwrap your seed to check on its growth but be gentle with it. It will be good to change the paper towel as well. Be patient and give it time. Depending on temperature and genetics from the seed itself there is no telling on how fast or slow this may take. Many seeds are "duds" and although disappointing.....well not although, it is just plain disappointing BUT it does happen, again one more reason why I always do more than one seed at at time. 

There are other ways to get the seed to grow. Putting the seed in a tub of clean water in a warm area can cause the seeds to grow. I have tried this method and have had some growth but I can never get very far so I don't use it. Also for whatever reason, I find the paper towel/baggy method is much faster for starting the seeds. You can also simply put the seed in a pot with dirt. I have never tried this method but my problem with it is, you never know what the seed is doing, as in growing or if it's a dud, so you can wait and wait and wait for perhaps nothing. I suggest if you want to do it like that, then please read up on how to do it. 

Well there you have it! Once you see a root started it will be time to plant the seed into soil. This is where it always goes wrong for me and I believe, from what I've researched, it is due to my soil itself. Apparently mangoes HATE good, rich, black soil...in fact, it kills them, as it has to several of my baby trees. I have read that SAND, with no soil is the best thing for a seedling to start its life. Well that is what I'll try as soon as these little guys sprout for me. I will do a future update on these seeds. 


Thursday, April 18, 2013

MOVIE REVIEWS: MY FAVORITE MOVIE, "SHAKA ZULU"

I decided I should write a review about my favorite movie of all time. Odds are you aren't going to know it or have ever watched it but in my opinion this movie kicks the asses of every other movie ever made, there isn't even a close second. 

William C. Faure's Shaka Zulu was actually a miniseries from 1986 depicting the life of the South African war Chief of the Zulu nation, Shaka. (technically pronounced Shaga in isiZulu). Although Shaka only ruled for 12 years, (1816-1828) he did more in it than most rules do in a life time. He took a tribe harmless herdsmen and turned them into a Spartan Army of a quarter of a million. Like Aztecs, Spartans, or Romans, Shaka built his empire on the idea of war, without it there was no economy. Shaka literally created the art of war and changed the lives of millions of people and dozens of local tribes forever (many effects lasting to this day). Before Shaka single handedly changed it, war was a fun event, much like sports are today, and rarely people died during these battles. Shaka changed that into hand to hand combat where total destruction was the outcome of every battle. The Zulu's had a battle cry, "Victory or Death." Once a territory or tribe was over taken they were welcome to join the Zulu nation, however they could also choose to be slaughtered instead with the Zulu's taking their cattle, land, and valuables (tough choice). In this way Shaka was able to gain more land and people for his army. In Shaka's short reign he gained more land than the Roman Empire or Alexander the Great and it said he was personally responsible for over one million deaths. His nickname was Isigidi or "the one that fights like a million," and was also known as "The Great Elephant."

Real life drawing of Shaka from 1828
So as Shaka ran out of tribes and territory to conquer it led him further and further south as they looked for more wars and into unknown lands, the land of the whites. Cape Town to be specific where the British Empire had started their African colony. Instead of an all out war which the British knew they could never win with the resources they had in Africa they chose a different route, to send in a few of their subjects to talk about a peace treaty. This is what the movie centers around. 

Coming in at 8 hours and 40 minutes, yes, I said 8 hours, this movie takes a long time to watch but is there a boring scene in it??? Not in my opinion. I also have watched it upwards of 100s of times, I really don't know how many for sure, but as a kid I used to watch it, then rewind it and start it as soon as it ended. I also know the movie word for word by heart, and I should if I've watched it that many times. I'm not big on watching a movie more than once unless I really, really like it and there are very few that I can do that with. However Shaka Zulu is one that I just have to watch from time to time when I'm feeling the need. 

You probably won't recognize anyone in the movie other than Christopher Lee, and he has a small part but when I saw him in Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings movies I was like, HEY I KNOW HIM FROM SHAKA ZULU! It also stars Edward Fox, Robert Powell, and Fiona Fullerton. If you know any of the actors it would be these few. But I feel the movie was stolen by the acting of its title character, Henry Cele who plays Shaka Zulu. I know they don't give out Oscars to TV mini series but if they did, he should have won one for best actor. He was in The Ghost and the Darkness, and The Last Samurai and was a native of South Africa. When it comes to a good movie acting is always at the top of my list and I can't think of a better performance than the one Henry Cele gave in Shaka Zulu. Oh I'd also like to add that in my opinion Henry Cele has the best abs of all time, count 'em ladies, it's not a six pack, it's an eight pack. 

The movie begins 60 years after Shaka's death with his decedent meeting with Queen Victoria to ask for his kingdom back. This is a short scene and the credits roll. We then go back to the height of Shaka's power and see the colonial Cape Town being worried about the approaching Zulus. This is what gets a small group of British subjects sent to the court of king Shaka as a way of avoiding war. This is all true by the way, it's also where the Zulu's got their nickname for their white friends "swallows" because like those tenacious little birds, as if by magic, they came across the sea. It is also said that they nicknamed the whites "swallows" because they built their houses out of mud. Either way, after the whites make contact we get to see Shaka's life from before he was born in a flashback as one of the whites, a doctor named Henry Francis Fynn (real man in real life) played by Robert Powell relays the story he has pieced together from what he has learned. In real life he truly did keep a journal of this event from history and you can buy it and read it, this is the source for most of our information about King Shaka. I like that about the movie, it is historically accurate when it comes to names, places, dates, and music. The movie shows us how the prophecy becomes a reality as Shaka's mother Nani's destiny seems to be controlled by the ancient izingoma (witch doctor) Seti. Shaka's arrogant father, Prince Senzagakona refusal to properly marry Nandi forces her to become an outcast. As Shaka is born he is the target of much harassment, (which was a bad idea because years later in real life he got his revenge on anyone that ever hurt his mother or him in anyway). 

The jumping around in time actually is a good break up for the movie and after Shaka is born, and grows up in hardship, and rises to power to take his rightful place on the throne of his father and his ancestors we get back to where we left off with the British in Shaka's kingdom. I always thought the movie started out slow because I never cared about Christopher Lee talking to King George about the Zulu problem, I just wanted to get to the Zulu fighting parts and yet I now think every scene is good and I enjoy all the parts. In fact I almost say, "this is my favorite scene in the movie" to every scene but then again I just feel it's that good of a movie. 

Music is a major part of any movie and for me, as I've always said, it can make or break a movie. Shaka Zulu in my opinion has the best score of any movie I've ever watched, and it's the best by leaps and bounds. Not only does it incorporate all the native music and songs that are 100s of years old but a beautifully orchestrated score that is heavy on the string section, (just how I like it as the violin is my favorite instrument). The music is always interesting and many of the characters have their own special themes, which intertwine with each other from time to time as the story moves on. Dave Pollecutt did a fabulous job writing the music for this movie but just knowing that it incorporates music that was actually used by the Zulu people back in the time of the real Shaka Zulu over 100 years ago is something special. 

As far as plot goes this movie couldn't have a better one. A real life story always captivates an audience more than something someone just wrote. The actual life of Shaka Zulu is ridiculously fascinating and was perfect for a movie. In real life Shaka was abnormally tall and well-built and as the outcast son of the Chief he had no choice but to take his throne by force (which he did). The most interesting thing, and something the movie does VERY well, is depict all the magic that surrounded the real life Shaka. The Zulu people had a prophecy and whatever you want to believe, Shaka fit that prophecy perfectly and then went on to do what the prophecy said he would do. It's hard to believe in witchcraft and magic and prophecies but it's a true story and their people honestly believed Shaka was the one the prophecy spoke of, a main reason why he was able to do what he did, the people thought it was all destiny and welcomed it. Again, this makes for a perfect movie plot because the writers didn't have to add things to make the story better, it was already right there waiting for them in history. 

There have been other Zulu movies. "Zulu" and "Zulu Dawn" however these movies take place AFTER king Shaka's death and deal with the British fighting the Zulus. It's actually kind of ironic but I really think Zulu Dawn is the worst movie ever made. Haha, I hated that pile of crap and wouldn't even waste my time bashing it anymore than this. They just don't compare to the movie Shaka Zulu. From the freaky old witch doctor Seti, to the pygmies, to the bloody battle scenes, to the breath taking scenery  South Africa supplies, to the meddling British Empire, to the love story, this movie really does have something for everyone. 

I know how long this movie is, and I understand they don't play it on TV anymore like they did back in the 80's.....on TBS if you'd believe it, considering there is a lot of nudity, but I really encourage everyone to watch this movie, it's worth it. As a mini series it always leaves you wanting more right at a critical point. The actors get an A+ in my opinion. The music gets an A+ as again, I think it is the best score ever written. The plot also gets an A+ because it has everything, action, adventure, a love story, and knowing it's a true story just adds to the enticement. It's exciting and leaves you on the edge of your seat. Well it did, and does, for me anyway! Overall I give this movie my best rating for any movie, an A+++. No matter how many times I watch this movie it never gets old and I always find it inspirational. You can watch it and hate it but as for me, there is no better movie to watch than Shaka Zulu. 

For those of you that want to see some clips from the movie, I have added a few links to youtube videos from the actual movie. Not as good as the entire thing, but gives you an idea. Keep in mind some of these scenes contain nudity and violence that is graphic, viewer discretion is advised. There are many clips online but as youtube goes some of these clips may be taken down as they are not mine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBIOfx4wYBU
At the start of every episode we have this intro which never gets old for me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUYhjgFZVm8
In this clip Shaka has come back to take over the throne. Nandi then takes her place as Queen of the Zulus which for her was very important as she had been an outcast for many years and gets to take her place as the most powerful woman in the kingdom.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylY_m-h4B-k
After being embarrassed on the battle field Shaka realizes that the long stemmed spears were not going to cut it for his intensions. Shaka is alone with his spear trying to figure out how to make his idea work. We see how the real Shaka may have come upon the idea of changing and inventing a weapon that had been used for centuries in that part of Africa. We then see Shaka training his men for the first time. It also comes right at the end of one of the episodes and the credits and theme song come on. In the beginning of the next episode it retraces its steps a bit and we see much more in between the invention and idea of a new spear and training his warriors.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J84iqdBXZnA
Shaka's making of his spear, a brand new weapon. The "nameless one" comes as he is the only one that can give the spear a power of its own. Shaka then thrilled with his short stemmed, long bladed spear perfects his new method of fighting. One of the best scenes in my opinion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cS11Y-lEuP4
The battle that changes it all. A young Shaka uses his new tactics for fighting in a war against his father and the Zulu people, as he has not yet taken the throne. It surprises everyone and changes battles forever.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NT910Cm2WgM
Shaka is speaking to King Dingeswayo of the Mtetwa's. Shaka is a general in his army and argues that his method is the only way to protect the kingdom from Shaka's main rival Zwide. Shaka asks for complete control of the army so he can train them as he sees fit. This is upsetting Dingeswayo as he would rather have his army's power used for peace. We get to hear Shaka's motto that Nandi taught him at a young age, "Never leave and enemy behind, or it will rise again to fly at your throat."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VsUAblRn7U
In this scene Shaka's love interest Pampata sings to General Shaka the song "Wemsheli Wami" but at the end is interrupted by news for Shaka by his troops.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4lWIKidY98
One of my favorite scenes, Shaka for the first time appears after an assassination attempt by his half brother, that we get to see stunned that Shaka has survived. Everyone thought Shaka would die but the with the white's help Shaka survives and goes out for the first time to put all the rumors of his supposed death to an end. Barely able to stand, let alone walk, Shaka makes his way to his people. The movie also explains that he was dying and this helps him to recover. I also love the part where Shaka's aunt bows to him, as she was in on the attempt on his life. Also another perfect example of how the music impacts the movie.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EPGWuc8clw
At the news of Shaka's father death, Shaka prepares to go back and take his rightful place as King of the Zulus. Here we see him getting ready and hailed as King as his father's funeral takes place. With a terrified half brother looking on, knowing Shaka will come to take what was given to him.