Assortments of Thought

Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

As the days grow cold and the nights grow long, it’s that time of year again. Families and individuals across the nation–and much of the world–are gearing up to celebrate, or else already have. It’s a time of joy and yet stress, of frantic paces and yet quite moments, and a time of remembrance, indeed, and yet of looking forward as well. Yet it’s also a time of some controversy, over the usual squabbles; whether the proper greeting is “Merry Christmas” or not–whether “Happy Holidays” is offensive or not–and how much or how little governments, businesses, and schools should adhere to given traditions. Such may colorfully be referred to as the “War on Christmas”; but despite the strong feelings often involved, perhaps there’s really very little we have to fret about. Such diverse holidays as Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s, Chinese New Year, Eid al-Fitr, and Kwanzaa do indeed represent divergent traditions, traditions that can’t be entirely reconciled. Perhaps there’s nonetheless a common thread throughout all our “winter” holidays though–a spirit of togetherness, love, and hope for the future–that’s really all that need matter to all of us outside of most traditions. The issue with public institutions is a bit more complicated, involving separation of church and state; private rights in public but privately-owned businesses; and cultural or secular traditions versus religious ones; but, even there, just accepting each others’ traditions needn’t be so hard. We need only to think of each other in the spirit of the season, and then whatever our own traditions or choices of greeting may be, speaking and listening with our hearts, we’ll surely have happy holidays for all.

Continue reading “Happy Holidays to All” …


There are foods that are largely known and widely eaten, and then there’re foods that are no less enjoyed, yet far less common. Take, for instance, peanut butter sandwiches. Nearly everyone has had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but many other peanut butter sandwiches are out there as well, loved by those who know them, yet largely unknown to many others. Such is the case, for example, with peanut butter sandwiches that include banana, mayonnaise, or marshmallow creme, or even such diverse items as honey, bacon, pickles, tomato, and lettuce. These sandwiches appear to be regional in their appreciation–yet quite cherished within families, after having been passed down through generations–and this probably all came about as people began eating them for their cheap and readily-obtainable ingredients. The fact is, however, that not only are these “alternative” peanut butter sandwiches good, they continue to be simple and inexpensive snacks or meals, and, compared with many snack foods, they’re relatively nutritious too. Hence if you’re ever looking for something new to try, you just might want to give some of these sandwiches a shot–substituting almond or some other alternative nut butter if need be–taking part in a very special tradition in the process.

Continue reading “Peanut Butter Sandwiches” …

Scary stories and films and such have been favorites for generations. From the monsters of the silent film era to contemporary horror films, and from all the scary tales surely told since the dawn of humanity, of ghosts and goblins, vampires and witches, there’s been something about the dark and the supernatural that’s just too alluring to pass up. Hence we’ve called for the production of all the scary movies and books and such that people continue to enjoy, and today, one man and company furthers this vibrant tradition with everything from stories to artwork, and even music. Indeed, Joseph Vargo has created many stunning works of gothic art, and even more remarkably, he founded and works in the band Nox Arcana–until recently along with William Piotrowski–to bring the world several gothic, instrumental concept albums, in a significant step beyond the typical “Halloween music” that’s more suited for the background than focused listening. He’s also collaborated with various other writers to produce a couple of story anthologies, and has–through his company, Monolith Graphics–made various other gothic items available as well. And so Vargo, Nox Arcana, and Monolith Graphics continue to bring forth a wonderful assortment of spooky and darkly romantic works, just perfect for when allure of the darkness comes tempting … or, for when a little gothic romanticism feels right.

Continue reading “A Tour of the Shadows” …

For various reasons, a lot of people aren’t too fond of rap and hip-hop music. Some simply don’t like the style, of artists rapping over beats. A few, sadly, shun it for its black origins, out of a sense of racism. Many, however, are simply turned away by the subject matter they hear: killing, violence, profanity, drug abuse, cheap sex, disrespect to women, and get rich no matter what schemes. While the artists that focus on these themes are not without talent or skill, it’s understandable that many people aren’t interested in what they have to say. Yet rap is not defined solely by these subjects, and indeed, there is a lot of rap out there that not only avoids them, but even delves into issues like persevering and working hard, setting good examples for kids, and taking life seriously and positively, among more trivial topics. I would therefore like to highlight the lyrics of one rap duo in particular, Blackalicious, that expresses such sentiments, as well as discuss those of Gift of Gab, Blackalicious’ emcee, solo, if only to demonstrate this often-overlooked side of hip-hop.

Continue reading “A Brighter Side of Rap” …

Mention the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll to anyone at all, and chances are they’ll know right away who you’re talking about. For of all the popular musical performers we’ve seen over the decades, perhaps Elvis Presley was and remains the most famous and beloved of them all. He absolutely captivated young audiences back then with his provocative performing style and amazing voice, and even now, thirty plus years after his death, people still visit his old home as if expecting to catch a glimpse of him there, while Elvis impersonators abound in both number and popularity. Yet alongside this public phenomenon was once a very different and personal one in the life of someone who was simply a man before he was a famous singer, a man who likely never imagined the unprecedented status he would achieve, or the prices that would accompany it. For all the obsessive fame and that which sustained it took Elvis from humble and simple beginnings through nothing less, ultimately, than substantially declining health and prescription drug abuse, culminating in his untimely death long before his time. Such is the other side of the Elvis phenomenon, the personal one concerning all the hardship he had to endure in his famous lifetime, and one people might think about just a little more if they’re to truly appreciate all that the King left behind.

Continue reading “In Appreciation of the King” …

Theme parks continue to be among the more popular choices for summer fun by people everywhere. Yet while many parks are visited mostly because they’re close to where people live, others are visited in spite of their distance because they really are that good. Take, for instance, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana. Located in the southwestern portion of the state, far away from even the closest big cities and metro areas for the most part, one might wonder why many people would even bother going there. Between its three renowned wooden coasters though; a vast assortment of quality rides even for the really young; an exceptional water park; and a high degree of friendliness, cleanliness, reasonable prices, and even free stuff (like soda) that many other parks simply don’t match; its appeal becomes obvious. Indeed, of all the parks to travel to for an all-around enjoyable visit, Holiday World truly belongs high on everyone’s lists.

Continue reading “One Exceptional Theme Park” …



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