Beginners Guide On Using Hickory and Mesquite For Smoking Meat

The heat is on! Summer is here and it’s perfect for grilling and smoking meats outdoors. For those of you not familiar with using smoke for cooking, it is important to understand the variety of woods that can be used, whether you are smoking brisket, pork ribs, fish, or poultry. Think of using smoke in the same way as you would use spices, garlic, ginger, curry, or basil in a dish you are preparing. Each one of these will give a distinct flavor to your dish and will either work for or against your dish, depending on how you use them.

Meat should be smoked prior to grilling for that special flavor. You don’t need a dedicated smoker. Here are some handy solutions for smoking meat using your gas or charcoal grill.

If you’re new to smoking meats, you should familiarize yourself with a variety of woods to choose from, suitable for smoking meats. Many fruit trees are suitable for smoking meat. Apple, cherry, pear, plum, and almond woods will lend a sweet, fruity flavor to most meats.  Apple wood is a very fine option as it results in a light, fruity, sweet smoky flavor.

We’ll start with Hickory and Mesquite since these are amongst the most popular woods used for smoking meat. Both Hickory and Mesquite are high-quality hardwoods, so in order to choose between these two firewoods, you’ll need to know more about their individual characteristics, flavor, smoking point, and burning time.

Hickory vs Mesquite

In order to get the best results, when choosing which wood to use when smoking meats, a good place to start would be to examine the differences between Hickory wood and Mesquite wood. These are both hardwood trees, which means they make for high-quality firewood.

If we were to measure Hickory and Mesquite on a spectrum that spanned from mild to strong, we would find Hickory in the middle, along with other woods, such as maple and oak. These woods are excellent for smoking pork and bold enough to smoke beef, and game meats as well. Mesquite is in another category, all of its own. It produces the strongest tasting smokey flavor and should be used in moderation, or combined with other woods when smoking lighter meats. Let’s have a closer look at the characteristics of these two fine hardwoods.

Hickory Chips

Hickory

Hickory is the longest-burning wood of the two, it is high-quality firewood and because it has quite a high heat output, Hickory tends to last longer than many other kinds of wood and delivers consistent smoke throughout the entire cooking period.

Hickory is a versatile smoking wood that works well with most types of meats and is the classic choice for bacon and turkey. Just about anyone is familiar with hickory bacon. Hickory produces a strong-flavored smoke, slightly more intense than alder and other fruitwoods, such as cherry wood or applewood, and Hickory has a milder profile than Mesquite wood does. Many Pitmasters will pick Hickory because it adds a dark coloring to smoked meats.

Hickory is a clean-burning wood that provides longer slower smoking times and can be mixed with other wood types if desired. With Hickory, you’ll have less to worry about when cooking different types of meats together or steaks of various thicknesses. Hickory is a simpler choice, for anyone who is new to smoking meat.

Mesquite Chips

Mesquite

Mesquite is also a prized wood for both smoking and grilling meats because it produces a lot of heat and gives the meat a deep flavor. Mesquite has a unique, pleasant scent and flavor, both strong and tangy. However, Mesquite burns faster than Hickory.

Mesquite also produces long-lasting coals, although not as long-lasting as Hickory. More smoke is produced when using Mesquite than any other type of smoking wood because it contains higher levels of Lignin, which gives us that fantastic BBQ smokey flavor when burned

It is recommended that Hickory be used as the base, and Mesquite be added either at the beginning or near the end of the smoking process. Mesquite should be added in small amounts, or you risk turning the meat bitter tasting, and so as not to overpower the meat.

Generally, when smoking light meats, Mesquite should be used moderately. For those who prefer a more robust smokey taste, then Mesquite is for you. However, remember that if you need longer cooking times, Hickory is a better choice.

Depending on the meat you are smoking there are some combinations that are proven to be winners. The general rule of thumb is that Mesquite is more suitable for smoking dark red meats. and game, because of its strong-flavored attributes. Meats that need less cooking time are best for smoking with Mesquite wood, as these don’t risk staying on the grill long enough to turn bitter.

Is Hickory or Mesquite Preferable On Different Meats ?

Smoking meat before and during grilling

Hickory or Mesquite For Chicken

Poultry is an excellent meat to add flavor to by smoking. Poultry meat will take on any wood smoke and will work with most woods. It is a matter of personal taste. Super strong woods like mesquite may be overwhelming for those people who prefer a milder smoked chicken flavor. Hickory is not as strong as Mesquite and works wonders with Turkey and Chicken.

Hickory or Mesquite For Ribs

Both Hickory and Mesquite work well for smoking ribs. Hickory is the preferred choice for a traditional Southern barbecue. It imparts a strong, sweet smoky flavor to meats and is used mainly to smoke pork shoulders and ribs. Mesquite will give a more robust smoky taste to your meat dishes, which works very well for ribs and any other strong-flavored meats.

Hickory or Mesquite For Pork

Traditionally Hickory is used for smoking pork. Hickory will give a rich flavor and darker coloration to the meat. You could try adding a little Mesquite at the end to add a little extra smoky and tangy flavor.

Hickory or Mesquite For Brisket

Mesquite can be an acquired taste, however, if you’ve been dying to try Mesquite for smoking, then brisket lends itself perfectly to the task. Since it is a richer meat than most, it can handle the stronger smokey flavor of Mesquite. Being a fast-burning wood makes Mesquite the ideal choice for authentic Texas-style brisket.

Hickory or Mesquite For Steak

Mesquite burns faster than Hickory and is suitable to use for quick cooks like steak. Mesquite will add color to smoked meats, although it’ll be a bit lighter in color than meat smoked with Hickory. If you have not used Mesquite before then try mixing it, using Hickory as a base.

Hickory or Mesquite For Burgers

Both Hickory and Mesquite are favorites for smoking burgers. Hickory will impart a nice, bacon-like taste and aroma, whereas Mesquite will lend burgers a steak-like quality.

Hickory or Mesquite For Pulled Pork

You’ll find people debating online on whether to use Hickory or Mesquite for Pulled Pork. Generally, Hickory is favored, but in the end, it is a matter of personal taste.

Hickory or Mesquite For Jerky

If you like that bacon flavor in your Jerky, then Hickory should do it or try adding a little Mesquite if you want your Jerky a little smokier, and stronger-flavored.

Hickory or Mesquite For Bacon

Hickory has been a longstanding favorite for Bacon. For those who enjoy stronger smoke-flavored bacon, you’ll find Mesquite bacon to be tangy, savory, and surprisingly delicious.

Smoking does more than add flavor to meat dishes, it also tenderizes and adds an appealing color to the meat itself. Hickory is partially popular because it gives the meat a rich, dark color, which makes the meat more appealing and appetizing to the eye.

Although Hickory is the more popular smoking wood, Mesquite is perfect for wild game, beef brisket, duck, and lamb. For some people’s taste, Mesquite might be too strong, used for smoking chicken, fish, or even ribs, and pork shoulder. Mesquite also adds some color to the meat, but generally, not the rich, color that Hickory imparts.

Mesquite and Hickory both have their unique flavor and are high-quality smoking woods. However, the general consensus is Mesquite should be used sparingly unless you would rather opt for a richer, deeper, and stronger taste. When you need longer cooking times, as for poultry, and you prefer a slightly milder, sweeter, taste, Hickory is the right pick. For shorter cooking times, Mesquite can be used, depending on personal tastes.

The rule of thumb is to smoke the lighter meats, with the milder woods, in this instance, Hickory, and the heavier meats with the stronger flavored woods, such as Mesquite.

If you don’t have much experience with smoking meats and you want to play it safe, Hickory is a good wood to start with. It’s easy to over-smoke meat with Mesquite and you risk the meat tasting bitter as a result. With Hickory wood, you don’t risk changing the taste of the meat, and it won’t turn bitter even if you over-smoke it. Hickory is forgiving and more flexible than Mesquite. Hickory will lend a deep and rich quality to your dishes and is an exceptional choice for any meat you want to smoke, from beef to pork, poultry, and fish.

You can experiment by simultaneously using a mix of Hickory and Mesquite, or Hickory with other mild fruit woods such as cherry or apple. Hickory and Mesquite combined together, will result in a flavor that is stronger than Hickory but lighter than Mesquite. You’ll appreciate the earthy yet sweet and mellow flavor that the blend of Hickory and Mesquite will give your meat dishes.

If you’ve never tried smoking meat, when grilling, you have truly missed out on one of the great culinary pleasures. Smoked meat is super tasty, and tender beyond comparison. The results will astound your palate.

A Surgeon’s Point Of View In HD Quality With The Sunoptic LX2+

Surgeons rely on high-quality, high-end, state-of-the-art products for precision, flexibility, and ease of use. The Sunoptic LX2+ Wireless HD Headlight Camera is a groundbreaking tool, with a combined camera/light module patented design. Sunoptic Surgical, have harnessed the best solutions, combining cutting-edge technology and science, to create the very best experience in light and imaging for surgeons and OR teams.

The Sunoptic LX2+ Wireless HD Headlight Camera produces exceptionally high-quality videos and still images. This Headlight Camera system is unparalleled in quality, ease of use when presenting a surgeon’s point-of-view of the surgical site.  

The Sunoptic LX2+ Wireless HD Headlight Camera is a revolutionary system that has altered the way surgical teams collaborate. A one of a kind solution making collaboration simpler and more high quality than ever. Share HD surgical footage seamlessly with colleagues, at conferences, symposiums, and for surgical training and education, without compromising mobility, light output, or quality. 

  • Form-fitting Adjustable Headband
  • Patented Rear Cranial Support for Maximum Comfort 
  • Easy-access knob for TRUE attenuation of light 
  • Battery Holster w/ Metal Clip
  • Remote Programming Fob
  • Whisper-quiet fan 
  • Variable Spot LED Light 
  • Camera Receiver 
  • Right-Angle USB-C Cable 
  • High-Def 12mm Camera Lens 
  • 16mm and 25mm lenses available for different fields of view
  • Thumbscrew Mounting Bracket
  • Captures crisp, high-definition images 1080P @30FPS

The Sunoptic LX2+ can be used for a wide range of applications. With this revolutionary camera system, you can improve patient records, refine techniques, document revisions, and you will find it incredibly useful for teaching purposes.

The camera is removable, with the option of using only the headlight. A thumbscrew mount allows the camera to be removed for cleaning, to be used on other Sunoptic headlights, or when only the headlight is being used. The robust aluminum module is durable.  With its variable 20mm to 110mm spot you can count on 70,000 Lux (measured at 16 in/40 cm working distance) with defined uniform crisp white light throughout the variable spot size.

With the Sunoptic LX2+ Wireless HD Headlight camera you eliminate any additional cables. You’ll have superior mobility, allowing you to move around your patient with more ease, thanks to the wireless transmission.  Easy capture of both Videos and still images is available, using a remote programming fob or the corresponding buttons on the recording unit/battery pack. Easily and quickly export all of your recordings and still images to your PC from the internal 128G SD card.

At Sunoptic Surgical they have been dedicated to developing state-of-the-art surgical equipment for more than four decades. Their commitment to excellence and constant innovation has made Sunoptic an internationally recognized brand and a leading medical device supplier.  They specialize in high-end high-value surgical light sources, headlights, camera systems, lamps, replacement parts, and components for both the medical and dental industries.

100% of their products are designed, tested, manufactured, and shipped from their headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida. They’re dedicated to providing solutions, to their customer’s light delivery and illumination needs, worldwide. Come and see for yourself how this revolutionary system can make a difference and be of value to your entire surgical team.  Call to schedule a no-charge, no-obligation trial. 

Relocating Can Be A New Lease On Life

It is a known fact that moving and/or relocating is one of the most stress-inducing events one can sign up for.

Studies indicate that those who grew up with frequent moves show an increased risk of suicide, substance abuse, and possible early death. It has also been noted that people who move frequently are more likely to leave relationships behind along with physical possessions. Makes sense.

As a child, my family moved to different parts of the city, over the years. This meant new schools, new friends, and losing sight of old friends. For me, it also meant a language change from French to English, with serious implications and readjustments. For a young child, simply moving 4km away is enough to impact their lives and friendships.

I’ve often wondered whether all the moving about, as a child, starting with my parents leaving Europe for Canada when I was barely two years old, turned me into the restless spirit I came to be.

I have recently completed yet another gargantuan move, leaving the city behind and closing the final chapter on twenty years of my life. I have often referred to my life as a book, trilogy, or chapters because I feel I have lived many lives already, enough to write several unrelated novels.  

This recent move is a life changer, but no more than when I chose to relocate to a new continent, across the ocean, and start from scratch, which included learning a new language. I will admit to having suffered stress and anxiety surrounding my moves or relocations, but ultimately these are always a rebirth for me. 

I’ve never felt suicidal or hopeless, as a result of my numerous relocations to different cities and countries in both North America and Europe. I chose to. No one ever put a gun to my head, forcing me to leave behind friends, family, and a great-paying job that I actually enjoyed.  

Life often dictates our moves. When I was younger I was looking for greener pastures, new experiences, challenges, and growth as I moved across Canada and the USA. I eventually took a leap and landed in Europe. A leap of faith would be more accurate.

A part of me believes that these leaps of faith are very much akin to time travel, or rather leaping in time. For those familiar with the idea of parallel universes, you will understand when I say that making big leaps at the right time is also a way of crossing over to those parallel universes.

Another way of explaining it, is that relocating can offer the opportunity of starting with a clean slate. You can reinvent yourself. Find new stimulus and motivation. Meet new people, make new friends and embark on new adventures. It is a way of getting out of a rut and growing. It is not for everyone. In a world where stability, continuity, and connections are valued, those who choose a nomadic lifestyle, embark on a brave endeavor.

The beauty of life is that no matter where we go, we will connect with kindred spirits. I came to realize, from a very young age, that time and space can’t stand in the way of kindred spirits.

In Milan, I spent 20 years that slightly resembled normality, where all I did was move to different locations within the city of Milan. Following one year of lockdowns, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I had no more use or desire for city life and I have relocated to a small town surrounded by lakes, nature and a lot less people.

I have everything I need, and it is the perfect setting for a writer. It is never too late to start over and do it all different. Relocating is not a magical solution to anything. Distance will not erase any outstanding personal issues. You may land a better paying job and resolve economic issues or find love, however, personal issues are never left behind. These are like your shadow, at the first sign of light they will creep up again.

I recommend spending some quality time in the location you plan to move to. Remember that you’ll experience a new location and culture differently when you are visiting as a tourist, as opposed to being a resident. Inform yourself well, so you are prepared for the changes that await you. Familiarize yourself with laws regulating taxes, wages, property rentals and purchases, driver’s license, and so on.

If you are considering moving to a country where English is not the spoken language, you had better start learning the local language, especially if you are thinking of setting up base for a while. You can’t expect to integrate into the culture if you don’t have at least a basic understanding of their language.

Relocating can provide the right stimulus for your personal growth and evolution, if you know what you want to achieve and you are committed to your own personal path.

The Evolution Of The Seductive Shoe

Fashion is ephemeral, constantly throwing new styles, shapes and colors at us as it mirrors societal changes. Historically, Fashion turned what used to be a necessity into an artistic expression of the times, cultural norms, sensibilities, sexuality and morals. Fashion ushered in a world where novelty, rapid changes in taste, and societal trends attributed a new significance to clothes and footwear.

As early as the mid 14th century, Fashion had become a system of rules by which people could express their disapproval through ridicule, criticism and ostracism. Fashion was driven and associated to extravagance and wealth.

Louis XVI’s brother, Count d’Artois, was known to order 365 pairs of shoes per year, revealing him to be far more of a shoe hound than Marie Antoinette ever was. Although in all fairness, it should be pointed out that in mid century France, interiors, even in palaces, were very dirty, muddy and often there was animal excrement about. For those who could afford to, shoes were disposable and replaced on a daily basis.

The Turning Point For Shoes

French Silk Damask Shoe with buckle c. 1760-65

Until the 14th century, shoes for men and women were similarly fashioned, sporting flat soles and almond shaped toes. With the shortening and tightening of clothing, in the mid 14th century, for both men and women, shoes came into full view for the first time and this caused ripples throughout all of society. Shoes had become as important as a hat, and needed to be “au courant,” lest one wanted to be the brunt of ridicule.

French Silk Damask shoes with fold-over tongue, trimmed with silver lace c. 1720-30

This was a turning point for shoes, when they went from being a necessity to becoming a fashion statement and an indicator of societal status, which still holds true to this day. The infamous first lady, Imelda Marcos, was heavily criticized for her collection of fancy footwear, amounting to 3000 pairs of shoes. She was a hard contender to beat. Some quick calculations clearly demonstrate that with 3000 pairs of shoes, to her name, Imelda Marcos could not have worn the same pair of shoes more than once, for a period amounting to eight years.

Platforms, pumps, stiletto-heeled sandals or ballerina flats, shoe trends come and go and return. An ongoing debate, has been raging since the late 1800’s, with regards to high heels, posture and related injuries, and pointed toes were also put into question. Health concerns influenced the mainstream and by 1904 the masculinization of women’s footwear was well underway. These concerns resurfaced again decades later, which gave birth to Dr. Scholl and Birckenstock shoe Brands.

Very few fashion items have been regarded with as much passion as shoes. In 1939 the editor in chief of American Vogue pled with the Fashion Guild to stop the promotion of the open-toed, open-backed shoe. She represented a large number of consumers, who at the time, preferred good old fashioned closed shoes. The real issue with open-toed shoes was that women’s stockings, at the time, had toe and heel reinforcements, a small detail, which nevertheless was considered in bad taste, and going bare legged was entirely out of the question. Stockings without reinforced toes and heels hit the market in 1940 and women have not looked back since. By the 1990’s, most women had opted for comfort and freedom and chose to leave their legs bare.

New heel styles were introduced by the early 20th century. Oxford pumps and sandals dominated shoe fashion in the 1930’s. Toe baring sandals were first introduced in the late 1920’s, as beachwear. Platform shoes, which made their first appearance in the late 1930’s, were originally classified as beachwear. Platforms saw periodical comebacks over the decades as these were reinterpreted by designers.

If 19th century rules of fashion, whereby popularity was the ruler by which a design’s success was measured, were applied in today’s market, then it would be correct to say that the biggest selling shoe style of the past 80 years has been the rubber soled trainer, which went on to take many shapes and styles. The personal fitness rage, which took over the 1980’s, ushered in some creative takes on sports footwear, including sneakers with stiletto heels.

Boots And Wartime Restrictions

Until the late 1780’s women only wore boots for horse riding, at some point they began wearing boots for walking as well and so it was that the fashion for boots gained popularity. Boots became the chosen footwear for bicycling and walking until skirt hems rose, and the shafts of boots grew taller. Unfortunately wartime saw a demand on leather required for military use and as a result, in 1917, boot height was restricted to eight inches in England.

Boots have come a long way since, and boot lovers can now choose boots for functional purposes, such as work boots, motorcycle boots and climbing boots, or simply choose to wear boots as a fashion or sexual statement.

American Nylon Stockings Boots with Plexiglass heels – 1967-

Shoes And Sexuality

“Shoes figure prominently in stories and fairytales, including Cinderella (a highly sexualized tale in it’s more original versions), Puss ‘n’ Boots, Seven League Boots, The Wizard of Oz, The Red Shoes, and The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe, as well a more contemporary tales. Shoes and our desire for them are the objects of art, satire, museum exhibitions, [and] films. And they are the objects of a growing number of histories, catalogs, essays, and tributes…As all of this attention suggests, what we wear on our feet is far from a matter of indifference or utilitarianism” 

It has been reported that that 80% of shoes are bought for purposes of sexual attraction.

Since the mid 14th century, fashion has faithfully continued to be influenced by popular culture. Designers have since skillfully broken the boundaries of gender roles and identities in clothing and footwear. Take for example these Oxford Pump knock offs for men.

The Future Of Shoe Design

We’ve seen futuristic shoe design such as the self-lacing Nike or gravity defying moonwalker boots, and maybe these are an indication of what to expect in the future of shoe design. However if we’re to use the last 700 years, in the history of shoe design, as any indication of what to expect in the future, then it is safe to say that shoe design will continue to take inspiration from the past, and add a new twist or some extras. here and there. There is rarely a style that is completely new. Take for example these black leather colonial pumps, with silver buckles, by John Fluvog c. 1984.

These were clearly influenced by colonial Fashion, which in turn was influenced by earlier trends dating as far back as the 14th century France, flat with exaggerated pointy toes.

These leather pumps by John Fluvog were clearly inspired by Colonial fashion, which in turn had found inspiration in earlier designs, as far back as 1795, as can be clearly noted in the long pointed toes and flat heels. Buckles were also trendy for men’s shoes as far back as 1760 France.

The consensus is that the future of shoe design will be centered around sports and comfort. I am willing to wager that shoes who’s sole purpose is seduction, even at the price of comfort, will continue to be coveted and desired by both men and women, far into the distant future.

SOURCES

  • The Seductive Shoe by Jonathan Walford
  • Psychology Today

Vitruvian Dreams

Edwin is back on campus, on a gloriously sunny spring day, his favorite time of year, when the promise of love is in the air. He feels light on his feet and his joints don’t ache. As he brushes his hands through his hair, he is instantly joyed at finding a whole head of hair. He’s a young man again and he is at the height of his manhood.

He spots a group of young men from his fraternity and swaggers his way over towards them. There is a newcomer to the group, Patrick, who he is striking in every sense of the word. Even in his dream state, Edwin re-experiences the powerful magnetic draw, pulling at his every limb and organ, urging him to merge with Patrick. This is exactly how he had felt when he had first set eyes on Patrick.

He would do anything to live this moment forever. If he could stop time, this would be his final destination. Patrick’s smile is blinding, erasing everyone and everything else surrounding Edwin, till only he and Patrick are left.

Patrick and the bright light, which Edwin is reveling in, disappear without warning as Edwin gets sucked in and devoured by a beastly darkness clutching at him, plunging Edwin deep into emptiness. His downward chute comes to an abrupt halt. He finds himself naked, in a dimly lit room. In the center of the cold and barren room sits an antique gilded wooden bed, with four posts.

A man is tied naked and spread eagle, to two of the bedposts, oddly resembling Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. A golden-colored silk rope is tightly twisted around the man’s neck.

Edwin moves closer to the bed, but can’t see the man’s face because the head is bent forward and to the side in an unnatural position.

Edwin inches closer to the bed, when he finds the rope in his hands, which a moment ago had been tightly strung around the hanging man’s neck. He drops the rope, which is now searing through his flesh like molten metal. The stench of his fear and burning flesh combined with that of death permeates the room

“No, no, this can’t be happening again. A few more seconds is all I needed Patrick.” Edwin hurriedly starts to untie Patrick from the bed, all the while muttering to himself. “I never wanted this to happen, Patrick, you meant the world to me.”

The weight of Patrick’s dead body is proving difficult for Edwin to handle. The corpse falls forward, violently slamming Edwin to the floor.

Panic washes over Edwin as he scuffles and twists his way out from underneath the corpse. “This is just a dream, just a dream, nothing bad can happen to me here.”

“It was supposed to be a game, this was not supposed to happen, Patrick, believe me, I loved you, I’ve never loved anyone since you.”

In the ’70s the Fraternity initiation ceremonies had steered in many directions, and new grounds were being tested after the stonewall riots took place in 1969.

Edwin had swung both ways, at first. In retrospect, he realized he’d dated women so as not to stand out from the crowd, and to not disappoint his father, who was the sort of man who believed in perfection. An example in the community. Reliable, organized, and prudent. A man who loved to compartmentalize life. These same traits had another side to them, they had made his father overly critical and demanding, conservative and judgmental. Unable to look at a person as a whole person. Edwin had often wondered what his mother had seen in his father, aside from his being highly reliable.

His father had been a doctor and young Edwin had followed in his footsteps, although at the best of times it felt more like a shadow was following him. Edwin had been driven by the uncompromising desire to be special, to experience something more than the ordinary. As a young man, Edwin considered himself an intellectual rebel, unlike his father.

“Stop your daydreaming and get moving Edwin. Can’t you see the corpse needs immediate attention?” Edwin looks up to find his father leaning over, peering at Patrick’s naked corpse. He is not comforted by this new twist, since his father has been dead for many years.

Edwin’s father moves around the young corpse. “After four to six hours, rigor mortis begins to spread throughout the body. The pooled blood stains the skin a blackish color. Give us a hand here Edwin,” he says as he deftly turns the body over onto its back.

“At six hours muscles continue to spasm sporadically. Anaerobic processes, such as the liver’s breakdown of alcohol, continue. At eight hours the body starts to rapidly cool. This is called algor mortis.” He stands and turns to Edwin who sits terror-stricken, in a corner, holding on to his twisted limbs.

“My guess, Edwin, is this young man has been dead longer than 24 hours. You know as well as I do that Rigor Mortis ends at the beginning of this stage and the body becomes pliable again, but there isn’t much time.”

“We need to move quickly if we want the body to be presentable. If we fail to do so, the undertaker will not be able to position the body for presentation at the funeral, fold his hands and such.”

“Come on help me put him on this gurney.” A gurney magically appears, as often happens in dreams.

His father, it turns out, is as efficient in death and dreams as he had been in life. “Please let this be over. I want to wake up now,” Edwin screams.

His deceased father pays no attention to Edwin’s outburst and begins to move the corpse.

“Stop, don’t you touch him, you hear me?” Edwin cries. “You can’t take him away from me!” Edwin starts a painful crawl, on all fours, slowly making his way towards Patrick.

“At 24 to 72 hours, internal microbes putrefy the intestines and the pancreas begins to digest itself. This process liquefies the insides.” Edwin, are you listening?”

“In three to five days, decay starts to produce large blisters all over the body. We must hurry, otherwise, it will most likely not be presentable for viewing at the funeral. If we wait much longer, a bloody froth will begin to trickle from the mouth and nose.”

Edwin wakes up inside his dream pod, heaving and drenched in sweat and vomit. He bursts out of the pod, like a drowning man fighting for air. At first, he is disoriented, then relief washes over him. He’s back. His right hand unknowingly brushes his hair, or what is left of it, yes he’s back. He checks the timer and sees the dream program ran for exactly 15 minutes, as it had been set to run.

These had been the longest 15 minutes of Edwin’s life. Simply thinking of his father had been enough to conjure him up in the dream. A caricature of his father at best. Although Edwin realizes he is more shaken by his father’s sudden appearance than having to relive Patrick’s deathday, which is always painful and terrifying when it does happen. His father’s appearance and his rundown on the decomposition of Patrick’s corpse, with clinical precision, have left Edwin deeply shaken.

Since that fateful day, when Patrick ceased to be, Edwin has been in pursuit of atonement. Some way to pay for his unforgivable act of love.

The dream pod is Edwin’s golden chariot. The perfect vehicle to guide him towards redemption.

At first, the dreams had been devastating, but in time, Edwin began to enjoy the suffering and longings which the dreams unleashed in him. The threshold between pain and pleasure had long ago been blurred for Edwin.

When he dreams of Patrick’s death, even with all the gut-wrenching fear, pain, loss, and guilt, afterward Edwin feels lighter and serene for a short while, before returning to his otherwise hollow, guilt-ridden existence.

Words And Ideas Can Change The World

The words Dame, Damsel and Fishwife were long ago eradicated from the English language. The term “Art of Manliness” which was quite in vogue, was long ago relinquished, along with other words and phrases which referred to a way of life, values and beliefs which no longer applied.

PHRASES AND WORDS DISAPPEAR AS LANGUAGE EVOLVES

In the late 90’s we crossed a bridge, where technology and the internet forever changed our lives, and impacted our means and modes of communication, beyond return. Along the way we lost words, phrases and their meanings, and we gained new terms which gave shape and a means to communicate and express ourselves in ways which were more in line with our technologically driven lives.

Words such as “email”, “Internet”, “Facebook”, “Google”, “Youtube”, “emojis”, “Twitter” and “apps”, were not part of our vocabulary until not so long ago. The name Google has even become a verb.

The internet has pushed the boundaries of language. Barely one decade ago, many were concerned that social platforms were dumbing down language while fostering a generation of screen-obsessed illiterates. On the other end of the spectrum, you would find people, such as Linguist David Crystal, who described texting as “one of the most innovative linguistic phenomena of modern times.”

The media’s concern over the demise of language, due to the internet, has died down since the early 2000s. The internet has given us permission to break the rules. We’ve repurposed design principles and components, embraced lowercase text, punctuation is an optional when texting and we use emojis to convey tones, gestures and moods.

There is a theory which claims that you can’t feel or think things for which you have no words. With this in mind, is it possible we have lost something along the way, something which amounts to more than words or outdated phrases? Conversely, what have we gained?

Perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, it is more accurate to say that not only language, but our use of language is evolving, so it can more accurately reflect and express the world we live in.

Some say the digital world has had an homogenizing effect on language. The meaning of phrases and words have been altered, creating what George Orwell might have referred to as “Newspeak,” a term which referred to idea that language can corrupt thought and that the powers that be use language to restrict, rather than broaden, ideas.

Take for example the term “politically correct,” which has taken on new dimensions as of late. The term “politically correct” has had a multitude of definitions, over time. It was used to describe what was considered to be politically wise, and was often used as a vehicle for ironic self-mockery. This phrase hasn’t just changed meaning, it has changed targets, especially when related to issues of multiculturalism and diversity. In her article ‘Politically Correct’: The Phrase Has Gone From Wisdom To Weapon, Kate Chow explains how and why.

In a contentious piece for the Hollywood Reporter Bill Maher stated Americans “have been choking on political correctness and overly careful politicians for the last generation or two and are sick of it.”

The internet may have set to pasture the rules of grammar and punctuation for our texting purposes, however never before has it been so important to observe the way we use words. Never before have so many people, globally, been alert, watching and listening. Never before have so many had an outlet to speak up.

In the virtual landscape, which has become our preferred way to communicate and gather data, we need to observe the way we use words and how words are being used on us. It is words and ideas that change the world. Words have power.

Would You Rather Go To Mars Or Rebuild Earth?

Almost two decades have been marked by record-breaking hurricanes, floods and heatwaves. It is snowing plastic in the Arctic, our shorelines and marine life are choked and bound in plastic, yet conditions continue to deteriorate further. Since the 2020 pandemic began, there have been an estimated 194 billion disposable face masks and gloves being tossed every month, washing up on shorelines, worldwide.  

Almost 15 years ago, ‘sustainability’ became an overnight household term. From one day to the next, practically every existing corporate company had put in place a sustainability program, recycling bins, dedicated staff and budgets. Never before have the concept and implications of sustainability reached so far, as they have in the last two decades. Yet in the blink of an eye, it has been put to rest with the arrival of Covid-19. 

The long term impact of our day to day actions, on the environment, have been a concern for mankind far longer than most of us realize. As far back as the 17th century, Forestry was the first economic activity where people were confronted with the long term issues surrounding forestry and sustainability.  

Following the USA’s first landing on the moon, in the 1970’s, there was a strong stirring with concerns for the future of our planet. In just a few decades we’ve reached a critical point. Now that we have the resources, tools, knowledge and technology to save our planet, those with the means to do so have turned their eyes, power and wealth towards Mars.

New Frontiers To Fight Over Are In Cyberspace Or Outer Space

In the midst of a global pandemic, China managed 140 launches into orbit. With an exhaustive five year program for their new orbital space station, the retrieval of Martian samples and a Jupiter exploratory mission, for starters. 

India launched its ‘Defense Space Research Organization’ which is charged with finding and implementing defense applications for India’s entire spectrum of space technologies and protecting India’s interests in space.

So far, NASA, China and the United Arab Emirates all launched missions to mars in July, 2020. Always follow the money if you want a glimpse of the future. We are living at a time when the new frontiers to fight over are in cyberspace or outer space. 

We all know where Musks stands when it comes to ensuring the survival of the human race. He is a firm believer that a permanent and self-sustaining presence on Mars is needed, in case earth is left uninhabitable and he has put his money where his mouth is.  

A Martian city is being designed in the Dubai desert, made up of pressurized bio-domes, covered with transparent polyethylene membrane, like those we’ve seen in many sci-fi movies and series. 

So far, NASA, China and the United Arab Emirates all launched missions to mars in July, 2020. Always follow the money if you want a glimpse of the future. We are living at a time when the new frontiers to fight over are in cyberspace or outer space and 2021 promises to be a competitive race for all invested parties.

We were promised a sustainable future, with cars that don’t burn oil, a future where central power stations would be redundant, and carbon emissions, a thing of the past. Where industries no longer dump toxic waste into our waters. We have the resources and the technology, to do all this and we are already seeing important changes in the automotive industry.

Surely between climate and marine policy advisors, and activists, technology and science, we should stand a chance of saving the planet, but will this happen? How can this happen when countries, governments, top scientists, researchers, architects and tycoons are invested in an evacuation program to Mars?

Regardless of the scope, ambitions and investments being made with this race towards Mars, one thing is clear, Mars represents something other than a solution to our dying planet, and it will permanently alter our world’s geo-political equilibrium. New powers will emerge. 

Earth Or Mars?

I have a foreboding that sometime soon the planet will be polarized and split into two, between those that believe the future of the human race can only be ensured by colonizing Mars and those that believe we can fix Earth. Which of these two factions would you side with? 

Call me old world, but I happen to love planet earth and have intuitively known, since I was a child, that it was the only planet I could call home. Sure, like most kids, I had my share of fantasies about space travel, and going to the moon, after all my generation grew up with the space race between Russia and the US and witnessed the first landing on the moon. 

As magical, life changing and mind bending it was to watch Neil Armstrong do his moonwalk, I was grateful we had earth. 

It has been said that Modern man often lives detached from his environment and has long lost the understanding that we are one with nature. Perhaps we don’t deserve this exotic paradise we named earth. Perhaps we deserve to live under plastic domes on a desolate, unwelcoming planet such as Mars?  If so, how will future generations feel about not having had the chance to live their lives as earthlings? In most sci-fi stories, they always want  to find a way back to earth, even if it means dying.

If nothing else, at least our stories speak loud and strong about our passionate love for planet earth.  In a world divided by frontiers, race, religion and politics surely we must be able to identify as earthlings, at the very least.

It is frustrating to see so much money and resources being invested in a space race, when these powers could join forces to save our planet. How ironic and sad, to think that all that awaits human civilization, in the near future, is a desolate, harsh planet where people live in bubbles, imitating earth. 

How To Take The Lead As A Newbie Copywriter

I felt compelled to write this article, following my own decision to embark on a career as a copywriter. There are many blog and copywriting gurus, out there, promising to share their trade secrets and help you pave the way to becoming a highly paid copywriter, double and triple the traffic to your blog or turn you into a famous blogger.

They’ll promise you writing material you can’t buy anywhere or from anyone else and zillions of hours of content and templates, all organized to save you loads of time, and double or triple your blog’s traffic.

There are no shortcuts and no get rich quick schemes. The best way to learn to be a writer is by writing, every day and reading what others write. I literally dove into writing overnight. I had been writing short stories, mostly fiction, for my own amusement and for some close friends. Last year I left my job of 20 years, in television, and I embarked on my writing path.

How I Got Started As A Copywriter

I took a few grammar and writing tests online, with a couple of agencies. I jumped on board with the first one that let me in, I was eager.

I will be brutally honest. The pay sucks and it is often difficult to get inspired by the topics of the articles being requested. Although that could have been a personal setback due to my bout with writing fiction. The client briefs can be totally incoherent, inexistent or exhaustive. Guess what, it’s the perfect bootcamp experience for any newbie copywriter.

Your Toolkit As A Copywriter

No matter where or how you decide to embark on the copywriting train, before you do so make sure you’ve done your homework and honed your skills before you enter the arena.

You must have polished writing skills, know how to write powerful headlines and have an awareness and empathy for user experience and marketing. After all, copywriting needs to reach the niche needs of consumers. Every sector has its own language, at times quite technical. It is imperative that you be able to swiftly grasp and synthesize the basic concepts you are to communicate in writing and do so in a way that elevates the brand and user experience. The tone and language you use needs to be in sync with the topic, the client’s brand and demographics.

Copywriting takes on different forms, from copy for advertising, websites, blog posts, UX writing, landing pages, brochures, product descriptions and reviews, lead magnets, white papers and more. Do some research and study these different formats. Do get familiar with SEO writing techniques as most web content requires this. Read as often as you write.

Set Goals For Yourself As A Copywriter

You need to set goals for yourself. My goal, starting out as a ghostwriter online, was to get promoted to a higher tier of writers, where I could access higher paying assignments, within a month. If I could get over 40 five star reviews and recommendations, I could make it, and I did.

In order to achieve this, I needed to get some repeat customers. I managed to secure three loyal clients, who gave me first dibs on their requests. In one instance, it was the client who contacted me after reading the first article I had written. I also tried to pick clients with multiple assignments and write at least two articles for them, this is was a good way of starting a working relationship with that particular client. In this manner, I secured two more loyal customers. They were very pleased with the two articles I had written and asked me if I would be interested in writing all their content, from there on.

I love baptism by fire. What I mean by that is, I enjoy learning on the go and under the gun, so to speak. I perform well under pressure. In those four weeks or so, not only did I manage to get promoted to a better pay rate, the most important accomplishment was writing article after article, day after day, for three different clients, who’s businesses, brands and message had nothing in common.

As a writer I spend 60% to 70% of my time researching and 30% to 40% writing. Writing 40 articles covering the ins and outs of any topic can be an education in itself. Having a couple of websites where you did all the copywriting, is an excellent achievement for a newbie copywriter and for your portfolio. It’s what gives you credibility as a copywriter.

Build A Track Record As A Copywriter

As I mentioned earlier, the pay sucks, but that shouldn’t matter when you are starting out. The reason being, if you are a newbie copywriter, chances are, you have no track record. You’ll need to build a portfolio and get reviews and recommendations. This is the only way to build credibility and gain trust from prospective clients.

This is exactly what I did, working on a poor paying platform, for a couple of months. I wrote for numerous clients, until three of them became loyal clients. They were very pleased with the writing and the turnaround time so I got an exclusive, which also pays a higher rate, although that was not where my motivation lay. My goal was to reach further, one step at a time and move off the platform.

For my first client, I wrote the web content for a Generic Viagra online store, all of it. From the About page, to disclaimers and a mountain of product reviews. I learnt everything there is to know about erectile dysfunction, every possible treatment available and what works best for whom. It was an interesting assignment, which definitely put my empathy and writing skills to the test. The five star reviews form this client were abundant and seriously complimentary. His astounding reviews were, in part, what helped me secure my next two loyal clients

For the second client, I wrote numerous blog articles, as a call to action, designed to attract local online businesses, to their marketing services. I gained a wealth of information researching the material, which has already proven useful in marketing my own small business. I received excellent reviews both on the writing platform and LinkedIn, and was tipped generously by the client.

For the third client, I completed a package of 40 articles with a call to action, for an aesthetics clinic’s website. As a result, I now have in depth knowledge of any and every procedure which can be performed on any part of the human body. Laser treatments are trending for anything from hair restoration to vaginal rejuvenation. You may be laughing right about now, or not. The fact is, the client has since offered me an exclusive long term blog writing contract for which I get to name my price.

What To Expect Starting Out As A Newbie Copywriter

Yes at first the pay is sad, but the paybacks are plentiful. You need to have realistic expectations and work your way up. Once you have what it takes, I call it ammunition, then you’re ready to play with the big guns.

To date, I have written articles promoting procedures, treatments and cures for every possible condition that ails humans. Following a mountain of DIY’s and product reviews, spanning from power tools to sex toys, I took a break and whipped up a few Bios for artists. I needed to change flavors. Then I moved on to wellness, which is a booming industry, especially following a one year global lockdown, due to COVID-19. Sex, as always, is a heavy contender in the virtual arena and maintains its poll position, so I took an assignment which masqueraded as an article on eroticism but was in fact a detailed review on different porn platforms. I was flabbergasted at how much porn has changed since blockbuster days. Wrote a couple of landing pages for online Cannabis dispensaries in the USA and Canada and these made me wish I lived there.

I enjoyed the variety and I find it keeps me fit and interested, as a writer. It’s almost as though I’m exercising different muscle groups, depending on what I’m writing about. It’s like wearing different hats and speaking different languages. You don’t need to go about it this way. You may be an expert in a certain area or prefer writing for a special niche and that’s a great way to go about starting your copywriting career.

Since I started my journey, only a few months back, I have secured two copious copywriting assignments on my own, one of which is a long term assignment should I be interested and I get to name the price for both jobs. By my standards, it’s a notable accomplishment, as a newbie copywriter. My secret? Keep it real.

Keep It Real And Take The Lead

If you choose to start copywriting, via an online writing platform such as iWriter, Upwork or fiverr, you should know the competition is fierce but don’t let that get in your way. Not everyone is as good a copywriter as you are, remember that!

Any unoriginal or plagiarized content is immediately rejected. You may write a 1500 word post for a blog and it might get rejected, even though it is an authentic original piece, without you even getting a chance to rewrite. If this happens have a look and see what, if anything, you could have done better and move on to your next assignment.

Sometimes the briefs are misleading or lacking the necessary information. You’ll need to reach out and consult with your client. Maybe their title or the subheadings they’ve requested are not effective. If so, you need to take the lead and propose alternatives that will knock their socks off. Your client will appreciate your genuine interest, commitment and professionalism. This is how you can secure loyal customers for yourself as a copywriter.

The request for written content, whether it is for social marketing or to populate websites, has increased exponentially. The subject matters are infinite and cover every topic imaginable and unimaginable.

However you choose to go about it, if you are serious about being a writer, then you need to write. No one can give you or sell you a magic, out of the box solution that will turn you into a famous, high paid copywriter or blogger, in a short time. It comes with practice, diligence, discipline and passion and there’s plenty of opportunities, to get started, if you are willing to do the work, keep it real and take the lead.

Becoming an accomplished writer is similar to forging a blade. A blade needs to be tempered through repeatedly heating, hammering and folding it, until the blade is fine, strong and sharp. The process can be demanding and laborious, if you want to secure your place amongst the sharpest of writers.

Why You Need A Brand Toolkit For Your Business

A brand is not your logo, it is so much more. It is your company’s culture, reputation, what it stands for. Your brand identity and your brand story are intimately connected. They are the emotional links and the lifeline between your company and your prospects. 

A brand kit it is a customized kit, designed to assure that your brand identity is consistent on your website and across all social platforms. If you run an online business, or use social media to promote your business online, your brand identity needs to be consistent across all your social media profiles. You will require banners, profile images, posts, stories and ads. All these have different formats and they should all be inline with your brand identity.

Designing an ad or a post in Facebook and slapping your logo on a picture won’t cut it. In order to keep your brand identity alive and make sure people recognize you, you need to have consistent branding. Here are some examples of a brand toolkit I designed for a client who is opening an online store specializing in high quality truffles and all natural truffle by products, such as condiments, oils and sauces.

The client is a truffle hunter, who lives with his hunting dogs, in Italy. He wants to distinguish his products and brand by making a connection with people who demand excellence and this means unadulterated products that are 100% natural. His product line is small, selective and top quality. In designing the elements, I took these factors into consideration. The choice of a brush stroke for the logo name was not a casual choice. The irregular symbol next to the logo has an organic feel, reminiscent of the irregular shape of truffles. The customized toolkit reflects the brand identity the client wishes to build and promote.

A brand toolkit can make all the difference. Whether you are a small or large business, the same rules apply when it comes to brand identity and consistency across all platforms. With a strong brand identity guideline and a brand toolkit you can boost communications and save yourself lots of time and grief.