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The Late Movies: The Hanks

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Summer's got me feeling like a southern boy stuck in a Yankee's body. All I wanna do is drink bourbon, eat barbecue and listen to the Hanks, by which I mean Hank Williams, one of the most iconic figures in country music, who set the agenda for the genre for years to come; his son Hank Williams Jr., whose exposure of mainstream audiences (all together now: "Are you ready for some football?!") aided country's rise as a major musical and cultural force; and his grandson Hank Williams III, whose heavy metal tendencies and prominence as a performer of neotraditional country in an era dominated by pop country has kept the genre from sliding off the deep end completely in recent years.

If you're in Philadelphia, just follow the scent of booze and pork to my place and we'll have a great time. If you can't join us, you can at least enjoy the tunes.

Hank Williams Sr.

"Hey Good Lookin'"
Recorded in 1951, "Hey Good Lookin'" had to wait half a century to be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Like many of Hank's best songs, it's been covered by a diverse array of other artists, including Jimmy Buffet, Johnny Cash, Joe Pass, the Minutemen and Buckwheat Zydeco.

"Long Gone Lonesome Blues"

This was Hank's second number one song on the Country & Western chart, and Hank Jr.'s cover of it, recorded when he was 14, peaked at number five. This is also the song that, when played on the stereo at work, prompted my boss to observe that I "listen to some real redneck @#%$."

"Move It On Over"
Hank's first major hit, which reached #4 on the Country Singles chart. Was later covered by Ray Charles, Bill Haley (as in Bill Haley and the Comets), Hank Williams Jr. and, most famously, George Thorogood.

"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"
Rolling Stone ranked this #111 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, to which I say, "You ignorant hippies, cut your hair and get a job." (While we're at it: "Satisfaction" at #2? Seriously? Did you guys never get a copy of Exile on Main Street?) "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" has been covered by Bob Dylan, Elvis, Little Richard, and Terry Bradshaw. The song inspired me to formulate "Hank's Law": "the quality of a country song can, more often than not, be judged by the amount of time it takes for the singer to mention a whip-poor-will."

Hank Williams Jr.

"The Conversation" (w/ Waylon Jennings)
Two country greats sit in a dark bar, drink, smoke, and heap praise upon Hank Sr. "You know when we get right down to it still the most wanted outlaw in the land."

"All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming over Tonight"
Even if you've never heard Hank Jr.'s '84 album Major Moves, you probably know this song (the version below is from a Tupelo, MS concert last July) from Monday Night Football. Williams reworked the tune ABC Sports in the late 80s and it can still be heard on MNF on ESPN.

"That's How They Do It in Dixie"
Between the setup, the stereotyping, the aping for the camera and the appearance of the late Ronnie Van Zant's brothers, this is a country music video highlight.

"Jambalaya (On the Bayou)"
This song was made popular by Hank Sr., though the origins of the songs are a little unclear. Here, Hank Jr. performs it in concert with a four-year-old kid named Hunter Hayes. If anyone's wondering what to get me for my birthday, an accordion with a crawdad design on it will do just fine.

Hank Williams III

"Pills I Took"
This is Hank III's version of a song by a Wisconsin group called Those Poor Bastards. The original is much noisier and more aggressive, but the subject matter is right at home in a country song. (Contains a few NSFW words).

"Low Down"
This is a personal favorite from Hank III's 2006 album, Straight to Hell, which was recorded in lap steel player Andy Gibson's East Nashville home on a $400 Korg digital workstation and produced and engineered by Williams, Gibson and another bandmate.

"My Drinkin' Problem"
Live at Ziggy's in Winston-Salem, NC, in October 2006. Notable for being the Damn Band's first live appearance with a banjo player.

"Cocaine Blues"
The Johnny Cash classic, sped up and roughed up, live in Spartanburg, SC.


Google Street View Now Lets You Explore the International Space Station

Google Street View covers some amazing locations (Antarctica, the Grand Canyon, and Stonehenge, to name a few), but it’s taken until now for the tool to venture into the final frontier. As TechCrunch reports, you can now use Street View to explore the inside of the International Space Station.

The scenes, photographed by astronauts living on the ISS, include all 15 modules of the massive satellite. Viewers will be treated to true 360-degree views of the rooms and equipment onboard. Through the windows, you can see Earth from an astronaut's perspective and a SpaceX Dragon craft delivering supplies to the crew.

Because the imagery was captured in zero gravity, it’s easy to lose sense of your bearings. Get a taste of what ISS residents experience on a daily basis here.

[h/t TechCrunch]

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Lucy Quintanilla/iStock
6 East Coast Castles to Visit for a Fairy Tale Road Trip
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Lucy Quintanilla/iStock

Once the stuff of fairy tales and legends, a variety of former castles have been repurposed today as museums and event spaces. Enough of them dot the East Coast that you can plan a summer road trip to visit half a dozen in a week or two, starting in or near New York City. See our turrent-rich itinerary below.


59 miles from New York City

The crumbling exterior of Bannerman Castle
Garrett Ziegler, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bannerman Castle can be found on its very own island in the Hudson River. Although the castle has fallen into ruins, the crumbling shell adds visual interest to the stunning Hudson Highlands views, and can be visited via walking or boat tours from May to October. The man who built the castle, Scottish immigrant Frank Bannerman, accumulated a fortune shortly after the Civil War in his Brooklyn store known as Bannerman’s. He eventually built the Scottish-style castle as both a residence and a military weapons storehouse starting in 1901. The island remained in his family until 1967, when it was given to the Taconic Park Commission; two years later it was partially destroyed by a mysterious fire, which led to its ruined appearance.


116 miles from Beacon, New York

William Gillette was an actor best known for playing Sherlock Holmes, which may have something to do with where he got the idea to install a series of hidden mirrors in his castle, using them to watch guests coming and going. The unusual-looking stone structure was built starting in 1914 on a chain of hills known as the Seven Sisters. Gillette designed many of the castle’s interior features (which feature a secret room), and also installed a railroad on the property so he could take his guests for rides. When he died in 1937 without designating any heirs, his will forbade the possession of his home by any "blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.” The castle is now managed by the State of Connecticut as Gillette Castle State Park.


74 miles from East Haddam, Connecticut

The exterior of Belcourt castle
Jenna Rose Robbins, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Prominent architect Richard Morris Hunt designed Belcourt Castle for congressman and socialite Oliver Belmont in 1891. Hunt was known for his ornate style, having designed the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, but Belmont had some unusual requests. He was less interested in a building that would entertain people and more in one that would allow him to spend time with his horses—the entire first floor was designed around a carriage room and stables. Despite its grand scale, there was only one bedroom. Construction cost $3.2 million in 1894, a figure of approximately $80 million today. But around the time it was finished, Belmont was hospitalized following a mugging. It took an entire year before he saw his completed mansion.


111 miles from Newport, Rhode Island

Part of the exterior of Hammond castle
Robert Linsdell, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Inventor John Hays Hammond Jr. built his medieval-style castle between 1926 and 1929 as both his home and a showcase for his historical artifacts. But Hammond was not only interested in recreating visions of the past; he also helped shape the future. The castle was home to the Hammond Research Corporation, from which Hammond produced over 400 patents and came up with the ideas for over 800 inventions, including remote control via radio waves—which earned him the title "the Father of Remote Control." Visitors can take a self-guided tour of many of the castle’s rooms, including the great hall, indoor courtyard, Renaissance dining room, guest bedrooms, inventions exhibit room, library, and kitchens.


430 miles from Gloucester, Massachusetts

It's a long drive from Gloucester and only accessible by water, but it's worth it. The German-style castle on Heart Island was built in 1900 by millionaire hotel magnate George C. Boldt, who created the extravagant structure as a summer dream home for his wife Louise. Sadly, she passed away just months before the place was completed. The heartbroken Boldt stopped construction, leaving the property empty for over 70 years. It's now in the midst of an extensive renovation, but the ballroom, library, and several bedrooms have been recreated, and the gardens feature thousands of plants.


327 miles from Alexandria Bay, New York

Part of the exterior of Fonthill castle

In the mood for more castles? Head south to Doylestown, Pennsylvania, where Fonthill Castle was the home of the early 20th century American archeologist, anthropologist, and antiquarian Henry Chapman Mercer. Mercer was a man of many interests, including paleontology, tile-making, and architecture, and his interest in the latter led him to design Fonthill Castle as a place to display his colorful tile and print collection. The inspired home is notable for its Medieval, Gothic, and Byzantine architectural styles, and with 44 rooms, there's plenty of well-decorated nooks and crannies to explore.


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