Nothing Like Having A Stranger’s Knife At Your Throat

Barber shaving with straight razor

(CC) 2006 Hendrik Dacquin

For women, it’s the mani-pedi or the hairdresser. Both men and women, often together, can enjoy a massage, but that gets expensive. So what’s a dude to do when he wants pampered?

Me? I like to let a complete stranger hold a knife to my throat. No, it’s not kinky. I won’t discuss what kinky stuff I like here (other than to say the safety word is “bananas.”) What I mean is having a straight razor with lots of hot foam on your face. If the barber does it right, they use hot towels before and after. If not…

There’s nothing quite like a straight razor shave. I won’t do it myself for much the same reason I stopped trimming my own facial hair. Add to that the danger I could easily slit my own throat, and you have all the reason in the world to have a professional clean up the man mess on your face.

I used to trim my own beard. I also used to buy the $9 pack of cheap razors to shave every other day. But a funny thing happened. I noticed the Dollar Shave Club was pitching a set of four razors for $6 a month sent directly to your home. The razors weren’t those el cheapo things that come in a bag and have to tossed every time anyone with hair enters the room. I noticed my wife shaves her legs with a sturdier razor and uses a cream not specifically designed for legs or… You know. She said, “Try that on your face” last time I ran out of shaving cream.

I did. It’s the cold version of the stuff they use in barber shops and not all that different from the shave butter Dollar Shave Club pitches. Hmm…  But the razors still sucked, so the next time I went to the store, I bought a set of these Bic triple-blades with the thick handles. My face is always smooth even when I skip a day, and I haven’t bought new blades in about six weeks. Cheaper than Dollar Shave. (Yes, I’m talking about a product I don’t use at all. But it looks like a good deal, and a lot of my friends use them. So they get the props. And buy a Jetta. And a Surface Pro 3. And the new Foo Fighters album.)

So one Saturday afternoon, I thought to myself, “What would a straight razor feel like?”

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it feels wonderful. If they don’t use the hot towels, it can be a little unsettling. When they do, it’s magic. And either way, my face feels awesome when I’m done. So I make it a point to go every couple of weeks to get a shave with my beard trim. I go to an old-time barber shop here in town that’s a throwback to the 1950’s almost. You can even get a beer while you wait. This is a place where they watch Fox News, talk guns and ammo (complete with a flyer for a local shooting range in the window), and complain about how spoiled kids are these days. On Facebook, this is every bit as annoying as that tree-hugging liberal you work with who won’t shut up. But, like when you go to the coffee house and meet the hippie types running it, you don’t mind having one of these folks put a sharp instrument near your jugglar. Here, it’s the atmosphere. And like that coffee shop run by the artsy types, it puts you at ease. Everyone is themselves. And if not, they’ve got sports on most of the TV screens.

If I’m lucky, I get Donna to do my shave. Donna doesn’t ask. She just goes right for the hot towels and wraps your face in them. By the time the blade hits your skin, you are so relaxed and you barely feel a thing.

So you ask, what do men do when they don’t really do the spa? They get a knife to their throats. It’s so relaxing.

But I can’t help but remember this video whenever I go…

Repost: What’s Right With America: Why We’re Still So Friggin’ Cool

Originally posted July 4, 2012. Happy Fourth!

I post here a lot on what’s wrong with this country. After all, our nation needs to go into the shop for some long overdue maintenance. But if I didn’t love my country, I wouldn’t be calling out banks and the major parties and… Oh, I still got a list to get through.

However, today is the United States’ 236th (238th. This is a couple years old, after all.) birthday. This is a time to celebrate what’s right with America.

  • We’re so tough, we kicked our own ass. And you better be happy the old school guys won. ‘Cuz then you’d have two of us to deal with, and tag team wrestling was popularized in the South. Just think what impact that would have had on the inevitable alliance.
  • Forty-three years later, and we still are the only ones to have gone to the moon. Nine times, walking on it six times. We even brought home the crew of the one that blew up, and they still got to circle the moon. Sure, the Chinese will likely get there around 2020, over fifty years later.
  • We invented the Les Paul and the Stratocaster. If you’re not playing Gibson or Fender, as our English cousins would say, you’re a wanker!
  • Star Trek. Sure, Jean-Luc Picard is a French guy played by a British guy and sounds, well, British. You can only get away with that on an American television show. And Jean-Luc joins a pantheon of Americans who make James Bond look like a pansy (which, in fairness to our British cousins, is pretty hard to do.): James T. Kirk (Iowa), Hikaru Sulu (San Francisco), Benjamin Sisko (New Orleans), Kathryn Janeway (Indiana), and Jonathan Archer (Upstate New York).
  • We have California. Europe has Greece. When California goes broke, people want to buy into California at bargain basement prices because even 164 years after the gold rush, everyone still wants to live in California (even people who hate it.) When Greece goes broke, the world goes into crisis. And all Europe says, “Well, no wonder. All the buildings are falling apart.”
  • Nathan’s hot dogs, Chicago style pizza, Ben & Jerry’s, Texas chili, Cincinnati-style chili, Parmanti Brothers sandwiches, Katz Deli in Manhattan, fried chicken, cajun food, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam. So what if the beer’s watery? You’re just washing down all the great food and chasing the whiskey.
  • Sure, American cars leave a lot to be desired, but we still build these…
    Chevy Camaro

    General Motors

    Ford Mustang

    Ford Motor Company

    Dodge Charger

    Chrylser LLC

    Too bad we don’t build really great high-end sports cars. Oh, wait. We do.

    Chevy Corvette

    General Motors

    We even build one that’s electric.

    Tesla Roadster

    Tesla Motors

  • I not only can change the channel, but I don’t have to pay the government for the privilege. (Well, sales tax on the cable, but I’m awfully fond of paved roads and well-paid cops.)

  • In America, someone like Charlie Sheen can make something of himself. Because it takes more than tiger blood. It takes getting a forty-third chance. America is the land of forty-third chances.

  • New Orleans. Abandoned after Katrina destroyed it? Nope. Rebuilt it.

  • We are beset by hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, drought, and political pundits. Do we fold? Nope. We just keep getting bigger.

  • Despite what other countries have accused us of (and a few wingnuts shriek to the contrary), it’s not a theocracy. Not even close. Which is good. Because I’d rather my fellow countrymen not blow themselves up in Seth McFarlane’s front yard over a Family Guy episode.

  • Speaking of which, Seth McFarlane. Deal with it.

In all seriousness, I love living here. For all our faults, it’s amazing what we’ve accomplished in 236 (238) years. Like any large republic with pretensions of greatness, we have our share of douchebags. Most of the time we can’t even agree on which ones are the douchebags. But if you look at the long line of history, the people who who win the day are those who look at that founding document, The Declaration of Independence, see that phrase “all men are created equal,” and hold the nation’s collective feet to the fire until we come a little more in line with that phrase. I didn’t have to wait until I owned property to vote. My wife can vote. I have several friends who don’t have to worry about being auctioned off as chattel or be forced to drink from a different water fountain. Maybe someday soon, a cousin of mine can get married. In the meantime, no one’s going to kill me for going to the wrong church, nor will they kill an atheist friend of mine for not going at all. Life’s not perfect, but then perfect does not exist, not even in fairy tales. (“Happily ever after” means “Sorry. I don’t do sequels.”)

And in all seriousness, I know most people elsewhere think more highly of where they are than they do of us. But this is our day. So slice off a piece of Canadian bacon, raise a cup of Tim Horton’s coffee… Oh, wait. That was Sunday (Tuesday).

Damn! And I didn’t even get Canada a card!

All right, America then! Grab thee some fireworks and blow off a finger or two in celebration!

What Is The Point Of Superman?

Christopher Reeve as Superman

No, Metropolis is totally not New York. Source: Warner Bros.

I think, out of all the superheroes I grew up on, Superman wore off on me the fastest. Think about it. Batman might be sheltered by Bruce Wayne’s millions, but in the end, he’s a psychopath with a conscience, as bad and as vulnerable as his enemies. Spiderman has to pay his rent. The Hulk, or rather David Banner, has to cover his tracks. The X Men might save the world, but they also have to elbow their way to the lunch counter and demand the freedom to marry whom they want. They’re still human, or human-like.

Then we have Superman, strange visitor from another planet, fighting a never-ending battler for truth, justice, and the American way. Why American? The dude grew up in Smallville, in Kansas in his latest incarnation. In the recent Man of Steel, he informs a general, “It doesn’t get much more American than that.” It’s a vestige of the Cold War, but he grew up among humans. Naturally, he’s going to adopt the culture around him.

Superman, however, is god-like. His only weakness is a piece of his destroyed homeworld that makes him weak as a kitten. The rest of the time, he’s impervious to fire, bullets, the vacuum of space, and, quite likely, a nuclear blast. This is why, beyond retellings of the origin story, I just don’t really care about Superman. He’s just not easy to connect with. “Oh, but he’s the outsider. He has to fit in. Haven’t you ever tried to fit in?”

Well, Peter Parker’s a misfit. Darth Vader is a misfit. Magneto and Prof. Xavier are misfits. Hell, even Sauron, the Dark Lord trying to conquer Middle Earth, is a misfit. He can’t really manifest as much more than a giant eye. If Frodo failed, they could have sent Ben Stein up the tower with a giant bottle of Clear Eyes to take out Sauron. Wow.

Once you get past Superman’s struggle to establish himself and find a role, there’s not a helluva lot of story to tell. Think about it. In the original run, you had Superman, a comedic retelling of Clark Kent’s transformation into his nerdy day-to-day persona and into a superhero, and Superman II, where the consequences of Krypton’s destruction could devastate Earth. In both, Superman has to struggle. And then…

Brandon Routh as Superman

“They got one thing right. Kevin Spacey is evil.” Source: Warner Bros.

Superman III, an embarrassment for both Christopher Reeve and Richard Pryor. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, a ham-handed sermon on the danger of nuclear weapons. And Superman Returns, a good effort to pretend the other two movies did not exist, but ultimately, a boring story.

Now we have Man of Steel, which I watched this past weekend. It was a decent action movie and an interesting take on Superman’s origins. Yet they had to go back to the beginning to find a decent story to tell. When Henry Cavill walks into The Daily Planet at the end of the movie to go to work as a reporter, I thought, “What’s left to tell? Zod is dead, and Superman is a nearly immortal hero.”

Henry Cavill as Superman

“General Zod. I crap bigger than him.” Source: Warner Bros.

He gets compared to Jesus Christ. “Hey, people keep retelling that story over and over again. How is Superman different?” Well, while Christians believe Christ was divine, he was also human. That much everyone agrees upon. Which, if you recall Mel Gibson’s subtitled torture porn movie a few years back, means he was vulnerable. The Almighty might have been saving him for his mission, but that only underscores the fact that a lightning strike, a wild animal, or a violent roadside thug could take out the Son of Man at any time. Sure, divine intervention helped. So did a large entourage. See twelve disciples and crowds of adoring followers crowding around Clark Kent?

Even the myths of old had vulnerable characters. Chronos swallowed his children, only to vomit them back up so they could condemn him to darkness. The Norse gods will all die someday. The Greek and Roman pantheons are a collection of case studies in human neuroses, from the panicked overlord (Zeus) to perpetual smartass (Hermes) to the borderline autistic (Hades and Hephestus). Pick a god, any god. They have more weaknesses than Superman and more flaws. This lets them be the hero or the villain, depending on the story.

I know I loved Superman as a kid, having this invincible hero take out much more powerful baddies than people could handle. But I’m not a kid anymore. Even my escapism needs a dose of reality.