Tag Archives: Django Unchained

The Phrenology Head

20 Aug

Over the weekend, my wife was shopping, and I was wandering around the store. Suddenly, I saw it. Without hesitation, I picked it up and took it to the shopping cart. It was something that I had to have. It was a Phrenology Head.image-50

My wife immediately asked what I was going to do with it and breathed a sigh of relief when I said that I was taking it to work. I thought it would look interesting in my office and be a conversation piece. I was not wrong.

When my stepdaughter saw it, she asked what it was. I said it was a head. When I was unlocking my office door, my colleague asked what I had. I said it was a Phrenology Head. That means that most of the people who have seen it have made a comment about it. That is the definition of a conversation piece. Hopefully, my students will talk about the Phrenology Head when I take it to class.

That is the other reason I bought it. In the first semester of United States history, I talk about Phrenology and other such things from our past. In essence, it was the study of the human head. Practitioners would measure skulls and search for bumps and indentions. Different parts of the skull represented different parts of the brain. On top of that, each part of the brain controlled a different aspect of that person. A bumpy, indented skull meant one thing. A smooth skull meant another.

It was all very scientific.

My students laugh when we talk about Phrenology, and they will probably laugh when they see the Phrenology Head. However, it was serious business. The research was used to justify European superiority over other people. If you have ever seen the dining room scene in Django Unchained, then you know what I mean.

There is a Phrenology Head sitting on my desk, and I am waiting for the first student to walk into my office. Hopefully, they will ask about it. If not, then they are probably being polite to the crazy teacher who has this strange head. Of course, I am talking about the Phrenology Head. Although, I wonder what information a Phrenological study would get from my cranium.

Six Degrees of Joe Walsh

7 May

I have been flipping through the television dial (yes, television used to have dials that you actually got out of the chair and turned) and hit upon Guitar Center Sessions on the Audience channel. Tonight’s episode features Joe Walsh, one of the all time greats. This guy isn’t just a great guitar player. He has lived one crazy life.Joe Walsh

Walsh has had a varied career as a solo artist and member of several bands, but he may be best known as one of The Eagles. That band was founded by Don Henley and Glenn Frey. When the band broke up, they both had successful solo careers. Frey even spent some time acting on Miami Vice.Glenn Frey

Miami Vice made Don Johnson famous for his white suits, pastel shirts and cool cars. He was the definition of the 1980s. Johnson tried to parlay his television fame to the movies, but, like many television stars, the transfer didn’t go so well. However, he just appeared as a plantation owner in Django Unchained, the controversial and Oscar-winning film by Quentin Tarantino.Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino came to the attention of most people when he made Pulp Fiction. Of course, that was a ground breaking film that revitalized the career of John Travolta. He danced. He killed. He got killed before showing back up at the end of the movie. It takes a heck of a writer to come up with something like that.

Welcome Back, Kotter introduced Travolta to television audiences as one of the Sweathogs. A vehicle for comedian Gabe Kaplan, the show ended up focusing on the misfits in an inner city high school. There was Vinnie Barbarino, Horshack, Boom Boom Washington, and Epstein. It stayed on for a couple of years and launched Travolta, unlike Don Johnson, to movie stardom. Kaplan went on to play poker and become a poker commentator.Gabe Kaplan

As a member of the professional poker community, Kaplan has played against many of the great players and won Amarillo Slim’s  Super Bowl of Poker in 1980. Slim was considered one of poker’s great players, but he was a better talker. After his win in the 1972 World Series of Poker, Slim appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.Amarillo Slim

Johnny Carson’s father was known as “Kit” Carson, whose nickname was derived from a famous figure in the history of the American West. He gained fame through many endeavors, including being a trapper in the Rocky Mountains.Kit Carson

One of Joe Walsh’s best songs is Rocky Mountain Way.