Learn the Military Alphabet!

By: Alan Meincke

Read the line above this paragraph one more time. That’s right. My last name is a tough one to spell and say correctly. Thousands of telemarketers have tried and failed. I cannot count how many times I have had to try and spell my last name to someone over the phone. Inevitably, the “m” sounds like an “n” and vice versa. Fortunately, I realized there is an easy way for me to remedy this problem! I memorized the NATO phonetic alphabet.

Due to the advent of radio communications, similar systems were independently developed by the U.S. and Britain after WWI. Battlefield conditions like background noise and static necessitated a clear way to communicate–a life or death matter for soldiers.

U.S. Navy recruitment poster from WWI

U.S. Navy recruitment poster from WWI

Once the alphabet was battle tested, it was adapted for international use (using sounds more easily found in a variety of languages). While the version below is not exactly the same as what NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) allies use today, the name stuck based on an unclassified version that was publicly released. This system is used today by radio operators around the world (airports, EMS, police, and even the lowly telemarketer).

Interesting side note: radio operators at airports like Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta use “Data,” “Dixie,” or “David” to avoid confusion with Delta Airlines.

Who would have thought radio-calling during war would lead to the ease of my spelling my name out over the phone to verify my identity to a credit card company? No longer will I be tongue-tied by searching for a random word that starts with “m”. Spoken confidently, you can sound like a badass who knows what he’s talking about. Mike-Echo-India-November-Charlie-Kilo-Echo. Naturally, our favorite letter at BBT is Whiskey.

Without further ado, I give you, the NATO Phonetic Alphabet (Morse Code included for no extra charge):FAA_Phonetic_and_Morse_Chart2.svg

Have you ever had the same problem as me over the phone? Let us know in the comments if you try this out!

Alan lives north of Atlanta with his wife. For the uninitiated, his name is difficult to pronounce.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NATO_phonetic_alphabet

The Great American Western

By: Andy Crawford

It has been said the Old West is America’s mythology. Conquering a wild continent from ocean to ocean within one short century is an achievement only America can claim in all of world history. The achievement is so extraordinary, it makes sense that Americans would celebrate their success through art.

It is appropriate that as the Old West faded in the late 19th and early 20th century, the film industry entered its infancy and began to tell stories of the West.  The first Western is usually considered The Great Train Robbery, a 12 minute silent film from 1903.

Since then, Westerns have been one of the most popular genres in Hollywood, and for good reason.  The films usually consist of a protagonist seeking justice, treasure, or revenge, with only his own rugged individualism and bravery on which to rely. Through good old fashioned American toughness and independence, he survives in a hostile environment where there is no law and order, and oftentimes must rely on only himself to defeat the bad guys. It’s like Die Hard, but in thousands of square miles of beautiful American wilderness.  (Yippee Ki Yay, indeed.)

While there are plenty of good modern westerns (No Country for Old Men, Unforgiven, Tombstone, etc.), too often we are guilty of ignoring the classics.  We see something in black and white and we are afraid we will be bored, or treated to a sub-par story or special effects.  This is a HUGE mistake, and one that will let you miss out on some of the best westerns (or films) ever made.

So without further delay, here are three classic Westerns you should see. It should be mentioned that The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and Stagecoach would be on this list, but have already been recommended to our readers before.

Winchester ’73 (1950)


This movie follows a single gun (you guessed it, a Winchester 73) through several adventures.  Jimmy Stewart’s character, Lin McAdam, wins the gun at the beginning of the movie, but subsequently misplaces it. The gun sees surprise Indian attacks, a duel, and an armed robbery, touching the hands of other actors, such as Tony Curtis and Rock Hudson.  It’s a fun plot, and an action packed movie.

The Searchers (1956)


John Wayne plays a Civil War veteran whose beloved niece is abducted by Indians.  He spends years relentlessly looking for her, traveling across desert and mountains.  Often considered one of John Wayne’s greatest performances, he drifts into madness as he tirelessly pursues the abductors.  The viewer wonders if he is driven more by love for his niece, or hatred for her Indian captors. The film also explores racism, and the moral ambiguity between Cowboy and Indian.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962)


Jimmy Stewart plays a young lawyer seeking to bring a new era of law and order to the Old West.  John Wayne is the classic hero, who has made a career using his six shooter to enforce justice in a lawless wilderness.  Lee Marvin plays his usual surly and violent antagonist, Liberty Valence.  Who will vanquish Liberty Valence?  The Old West or the New?  This is an amazing film that not only has a lot to say about the passing of the Old West, but also how we perceive history.

Andy lives near Athens with his wife and daughter.  He watches a lot of Turner Classic Movies because most current television is awful.  When he’s not watching TCM, he’s eating figs and yelling at youths to get off of his lawn.


TGIF (Yes, the one from your childhood)

This week, I had no idea what I was going to write about until Thursday morning. I’ve had the Friday post for a couple months now, and I was thinking about what I used to do on Fridays as a kid. Then I knew. I knew I had to write what might be the most important blog post that will ever run on BourbonBrainTrust.com, if not the internet. I knew I had to rank the top 5 shows to ever grace the airwaves of the wonderful TGIF lineups.


TGIF was a mid 90s programming block on ABC. It featured some of the best family sitcoms of all time. Both my wife and I have very fond memories of watching with our families as we ate Domino’s pizza. It was the only day of the week I got to watch more than 30 minutes of TV. I very much took advantage of it.

Here is my list of the top 5 shows from the TGIF lineups, in very particular order:

#5 - Step by Step 1991-1997

If you don’t remember it, Step by Step was a rip-off of The Brady Bunch. I thought Alan Thicke starred as the dad instead of Patrick Duffy. Man, that would have been a helluva better show. It also featured creepy nephew Cody who lived in a van and invented crystal meth.

#4 Family Matters 1989-1997

When I saw how long this show ran, I was astonished. Nine years for any show is great. Once upon a time, an 8 year old Casey Carpenter went as Steve Urkle for Halloween. As I walked out of the school bathroom in my high water pants, suspenders, and enormous glasses, I was proud to be associated with the dorkiest black man that has ever graced television. Yes, I did do that.

#3 Sabrina the Teenage Witch 1996-2000

Melissa Joan Hart and Salem the smart-ass cat. The only reason this show didn’t rank as #2 or #1 is because there weren’t any Pearl Jam references. Would it have killed the writers to include a shout out to Clarissa Explains It All?

#2 Boy Meets World 1993-2000

It was really hard to put this show at #2 instead of #1. The antics of Cory Matthews and his loyal, dim-witted sidekick Shawn often made me laugh and cry. Now that I’m an old fart, I want to emulate the dad-isms of Mr. Feeny and Alan Matthews. Damn, I loved this show. I hope this remake isn’t as ridiculous as all of the other crap on Disney these days. But there can only be one…

#1 Full House 1987-1991

This was the best family sitcom of the 1990s, regardless of TV block. Before you mildly write your grievances in the comment thread about how there’s no way this should be #1, please consider what the cast of FH achieved after the show was off the air:

  • one inspired the best selling album of the 1990s (Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette)
  • one married and divorced Mystique
  • one may have contributed to the death of the Joker
  • one is currently dancing with the stars
  • most did a lot of drugs, but only one did a lot of METH
  • one hosted America’s Funniest Videos then became a vulgar comic
  • one was the voice of Aladdin
  • and one was a badass dog named Comet


Good Friday everyone!