The Late Movies: The Hanks

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.

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These Sparrows Have Been Singing the Same Songs for 1500 Years
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Swamp sparrows are creatures of habit—so much so that they’ve been chirping out the same few tunes for more than 1500 years, Science magazine reports.

These findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, resulted from an analysis of the songs of 615 adult male swamp sparrows found in six different areas of the northeastern U.S. Researchers learned that young swamp sparrows pick up these songs from the adults around them and are able to mimic the notes with astounding accuracy.

Here’s what one of their songs sounds like:

“We were able to show that swamp sparrows very rarely make mistakes when they learn their songs, and they don't just learn songs at random; they pick up commoner songs rather than rarer songs,” Robert Lachlan, a biologist at London’s Queen Mary University and the study’s lead author, tells National Geographic.

Put differently, the birds don’t mimic every song their elders crank out. Instead, they memorize the ones they hear most often, and scientists say this form of “conformist bias” was previously thought to be a uniquely human behavior.

Using acoustic analysis software, researchers broke down each individual note of the sparrows’ songs—160 different syllables in total—and discovered that only 2 percent of sparrows deviated from the norm. They then used a statistical method to determine how the songs would have evolved over time. With recordings from 2009 and the 1970s, they were able to estimate that the oldest swamp sparrow songs date back 1537 years on average.

The swamp sparrow’s dedication to accuracy sets the species apart from other songbirds, according to researchers. “Among songbirds, it is clear that some species of birds learn precisely, such as swamp sparrows, while others rarely learn all parts of a demonstrator’s song precisely,” they write.

According to the Audubon Guide to North American Birds, swamp sparrows are similar to other sparrows, like the Lincoln’s sparrow, song sparrow, and chipping sparrow. They’re frequently found in marshes throughout the Northeast and Midwest, as well as much of Canada. They’re known for their piercing call notes and may respond to birders who make loud squeaking sounds in their habitat.

[h/t Science magazine]

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18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer
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Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

1. ROSÉ WINE GLASSES; $60

Rosé Wine Glass
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Wine not? When the temperature rises and beer isn’t your thing, reach for the rosé. Riedel’s machine-blown SST (see, smell, taste) wine glasses will give the sparkly stuff ample room to breathe, making every refreshing sip worthwhile.

Find It: Amazon

2. NERF N-STRIKE ELITE SURGEFIRE; $25

Nerf SurgeFire
Hasbro

Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

Find It: Hasbro Toy Shop

3. BUSHEL & BERRY PLANTS; $34

plant
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: You don’t need to have a green thumb to create a brag-worthy garden this summer. Besides producing snackable mid-season berries, these open-growing bushes can be planted immediately for easy set-up to make you look like a botanical pro.

Find It: Amazon

4. INFLATABLE DONUT; $17

Doughnut float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When the only dunking you’re doing is taking a dip in the pool, a 48-inch inflatable donut is the perfect way to stay afloat.

Find It: Amazon

5. STAR SPANGLED SPATULA; $21

American flag spatula
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: O say can you see by your grill’s charcoal light / Meats so proudly we cooked ... with a star spangled spatula. Depending on the specific model, these all-American grilling tools (designed in New Jersey and made in Chicago) are made of a combination of walnut and stainless steel or nylon. As an added bonus: 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Penn Abramson Cancer Center.

Find It: Amazon

6. MLB HOT DOG BRANDERS; $8 AND UP

MLB San Diego Padres Hot Dog BBQ Brander
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Take your hot dogs, sausages, brats, and more out to the ballgame without ever leaving your grill. These branders from Pangea Brands are dishwasher-safe and made of ceramic-coated cast iron.

Find It: Amazon

7. UNA GRILL; $139

grill
MoMA Shop

Why It’s Cool: This portable charcoal-heated grill is as efficient as it is stylish. The compact size lets you cook at the park, after hitting up MoMA, or anywhere in between.

Find It: MoMa Shop

8. HAMBURGER GRILLING BASKET; $21


Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

Find It: Amazon

9. COPPER FIRE PIT; $121

metal fire pit
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: The grill isn’t the only place for a roaring fire this summer. This 100 percent solid copper fire pit makes for the perfect gathering spot at your next BBQ, or just to warm up after a cool summer evening.

Find It: Amazon

10. BENDY STRAW POOL NOODLE FLOAT; $10

Bendy Straw Inflatable Pool Float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Inflatable pool floats shouldn’t be boring, and this bendy straw float definitely does not suck. This unique spin on traditional pool noodles is sure to make for some cheesy jokes, but at least you’ll be comfortable floating in the pool or at the beach.

Find It: Amazon

11. GRIDDLER DELUXE; $111

Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

Find It: Amazon

12. VINTAGE SNOW CONE MAKER; $30

Vintage Snow Cone Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: With its old-timey design, dual cone shelf, and endless flavor options, this snow cone maker is guaranteed create a cool treat.

Find It: Amazon

13. DACHSHUND CORN ON THE COB HOLDERS; $7

Dog Corn Holders
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: While meat-lovers will inevitably scarf down a lot of hot dogs this summer, vegetarians who happen to love another kind of dog will be smitten with these stainless steel, Dachshund-shaped corn on the cob prongs. They’re a fun spin on a summer grilling favorite.

Find It: Amazon

14. ICE CREAM SANDWICH MAKER; $16

Ice Cream Sandwich Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Four sandwiches are better than one, especially when they're of the ice cream variety. Make four ice cream sandwiches at once with this homemade spin on a classic cold treat.

Find It: Amazon

15. UE WONDERBOOM; $68

Bluetooth speaker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

Find It: Amazon

16. ROLLORS GAME; $38

Rollors Backyard Game
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

Find It: Amazon

17. HAMMOCK; $174

hammock
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Rest easy knowing that this 100 percent hand-woven and hand-dyed cotton hammock contributes to artisan job-creation in Thailand.

Find It: Amazon

18. VSSL SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS; $59

Emergency Survival Tent Outdoors
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Compact, convenient, and durable, the VSSL Shelter can come in handy when things don’t go quite as planned. The device—which features a lightweight emergency shelter all within the handle of a compact, weather-resistant aluminum LED flashlight—is designed to keep you safe under the worst conditions.

Find It: Amazon

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