Monday, November 25, 2013


A reader requested that I comment on the pitiful state of men’s razors (excessive number of blades, outrageous cost, etc). As it has been quite a while since I have purchased a manual men’s razor (I have an electric razor I have used for years), I started to do a little research and discovered that things have indeed gotten out of hand. Gillette currently has no fewer than twenty distinct offerings under the banner of “Men’s Razors.”

With cryptic names like “Fusion ProGlide SilverTouch” it difficult to tell whether the product was designed to remove facial hair or provide intimate lubrication. My favorite Gillette offering would have to be the “Gillette Good News Pivot Plus Disposable Razor.” While the website offered no additional information on the unusual nomenclature, I choose to believe that the razor recites passages from Matthew’s Gospel with each successive stroke.
Fusion ProGlide SilverTouch
As creative as Gillette is with their branding, Schick’s offering sound slightly more masculine. Razors like the Quattro Titanium Freestyle and Xtreme 3 make shaving seem less like a grooming ritual and more like a lifestyle choice. For whatever reason, every razor manufacturer feels the need to incorporate a precious metal into their branding for men’s razors. I suppose this is to convey value and quality since the Gillette Pig-Iron Cinco doesn’t have a great ring to it.

It would appear that regardless of manufacturer, five blades remains the gold standard in modern razors. I assume that they have prototyped six blades at some point and realized that it compromised the structural integrity of the handle. Alas, the consumer may have to come to terms with re-shaving an area twice.

The innovations in men’s razors pales in comparison to the marketing gimmicks aimed at the fairer sex. My wife is currently using a joint venture by Gillette and Oil of Olay. In addition to having five blades, the entire cutting apparatus is surrounded by “VanillaCréme Scented Moisture Bars.” The result is a razor head with roughly the same surface area as a Yukon gold potato. It has gotten to the point that the business end of the razor is so large you can no longer visually access the area you are shaving with it.
Gillette Oil of Olay Razor

Not to be outdone. Schick offers the “Intuition Moisture Care System” which features a pomegranate serum extracts and looks eerily similar to a tazer. The Schick website even features recipes for pomegranate desserts, exhibiting an impressively comprehensive strategy based around a particular fruit. Unwilling to allow a non-existent problem to go unsolved, Schick also offers razors with “scented handles” that release a pleasing aroma while you shave. Their most popular offering in this category is the Xtreme3 Hawaiian Tropic Edition that claims to smell exactly like the famed tanning oil. 
Schick Intuition
It would be an absolute dream to produce an infomercial based on the scented handle concept. It would start with black and white footage of a woman attempting to shave her legs when she abruptly stops, lifts the handle to her nose, and reacts with visible disappointment when she doesn’t smell anything. At this point, a disembodied voice would say:

Are you tired of shaving your legs with same scentless plastic handles day after day? Maybe it’s time you upgraded your disposable razor and experienced Aroma-Grip Technology. Activated by thermal induction, the aroma-grip handles will whisk you away with exotic scents like Arctic Tranquility and Delaware State Trooper.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Zoo People

My wife and I enjoy taking our son to the zoo. There is nothing quite like witnessing the wonder in a child’s eyes as they behold the exotic and majestic animals on display there. Over many trips to different zoos I have observed several distinct groups of zoo visitors.

The first group I will call the “dolittles.” These people are unable to control their urge to communicate with the animals. While they can be found around the primate house and the lion enclosure, they seem to really hit their stride while viewing the wolf exhibit. Despite multiple signs alerting zoo patrons to the wolves’ nocturnal nature and distaste for being howled at, they are unable to restrain themselves. As if on cue, they throw their head back and let loose their best imitation of the feared predator. This usually results in at least one wolf raising their head up and, in what has to be a recurring fantasy, imagining a fence no longer separates them from the general public.
Also, I cannot even begin to describe how it enhances my zoo experience to stand next to someone cooing “hey kitty kitty.” at the panther cage. I have to fight the urge to lean over to them and whisper “I hope you realize that, given the opportunity, this animal would gladly chew your face off.” Sadly, almost none of the offenders are children and almost all of them seemed entertained by their own perceived cleverness. Tellingly, the last guy I witnessed doing this was wearing a Bud Light T-shirt.

The second group that is interesting to observe I will refer to as “over-dressers.” On our most recent trip to the zoo, my wife noticed several young women congregated in front of the elephant display. Strikingly, one of them was in evening wear, full makeup, and heels. Wondering aloud, my wife remarked, “if she trying to pick someone up at the zoo!?” I suppose there are worse ways to answer the “so how did you two meet?” question (family reunion, STD screening, Arby’s) but the zoo has never struck me as a mecca for eligible bachelors. Perhaps she was hoping a younger man would sidle up to her at the Big Cat Emporium and remark “I have always wondered what it would be like to have a cougar of my very own…”

Over-dressers are not always female. I have seen a few men who apparently agonized over the correct tie for ostrich observation. Unless you are visiting dignitary, just dress comfortably and enjoy your time at the zoo. Generally speaking, if I am going to spend the majority of my day within 50 yards of animal feces I do not find it necessary to wade into the “dry clean only” section of my closet.

The final group consists of amateur photographers. These people haul in DSLRs, tripods, and an array of zoom lenses that would make any celebrity stalker green with envy. I myself have a DSLR and enjoy taking pictures, but there comes a time when camping out in front of the hippo pool for 3 hours detracts from the rest of us. The dedication is admirable, but let’s stops pretending that you are tracking a snow leopard while on assignment for the Discovery Channel.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Atheist Church

My father recently sent me an article about an unlikely movement called “Sunday Assembly.”  Colloquially referred to as the “atheist church,” the Sunday Assembly movement is the brainchild of British comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans and consists of groups of like-minded individuals congregating on Sunday mornings to “Live Better, Help Often, and Wonder More.”  They market the fact that they are “marrying the best parts of religion with modern science” and the monthly services normally consist of sing-alongs to popular artists like Journey or Stevie Wonder followed by the “Talk” delivered by that service’s chosen speaker. There is also a moment of silent reflection, a time to greet fellow attendees, and refreshments afterward. 
Sanderson and Pippa

Sunday Assemblies have been established in over 30 cities nationwide including London, New York, Dublin, San Diego, and Nashville. Their operational guidelines appear in a succinct charter posted to their website:
  • 100% celebration of life. We are born from nothing and go to nothing. Let’s enjoy it together.
  • Has no doctrine. We have no set texts so we can make use of wisdom from all sources.
  • Has no deity. We don’t do supernatural but we also won’t tell you you’re wrong if you do.
  • Is radically inclusive. Everyone is welcome, regardless of their beliefs – this is a place of love that is open and accepting.
  • Is free to attend, not-for-profit and volunteer run. We ask for donations to cover our costs and support our community work.
  • Has a community mission. Through our Action Heroes (you!), we will be a force for good.
  • Is independent. We do not accept sponsorship or promote outside businesses, organisations or services.
  • Is here to stay. With your involvement, The Sunday Assembly will make the world a better place.
  • We won’t tell you how to live, but will try to help you do it as well as you can
  • And remember point 1… The Sunday Assembly is a celebration of the one life we know we have.

As my father astutely observed, one of the most appealing characteristics of atheism was the fact that you were not required to wake up on a Sunday morning in order to attend services so they are certainly taking a bold step. If the movement continues to grow and the local assemblies increase their attendance they may find themselves in need of a permanent facility. This would of course require capital in the form of a “building fund” endowed by congregants. Realizing it would be unwise to entrust the money to a single person, a committee would be formed to provide an acceptable level of accountability. Once the required amount of capital is reached and the construction completed, trustees will need to be chosen and an administrative council formed in order to author and enforce acceptable parameters of use for said facilities.

By this time, attendance will have reached a point that necessitated full-time staff in order to secure speakers, lead music, and prepare the obligatory post-fellowship refreshments. Inevitably, the autonomy enjoyed by the satellite assemblies will begin conflicting with one or more of the constraints set forth in the original charter. Hoping to avoid an irreparable schism, a hierarchical structure will be created at the regional, national, and international levels to interpret the charter and resolve internal disputes. The untenable bureaucracy created by this system will spread disillusionment throughout the organization until someone reaches a breaking point and decides to create an entirely new organization called Progressive Sunday Assemblies to differentiate itself from the newly-rechristened United Sunday Assemblies.Welcome to the family atheists!

I must admit that it is humbling to have an atheist organization utilize “radical inclusion” as a way to differentiate their philosophy from that of the existing church. As a Christian, I find it troubling how easily and convincingly this mantle can be taken from followers of Jesus. Instead of being scandalized by who we fellowship with, we are allowing ourselves to be defined by who we denounce. Christ was notorious for fraternizing with the immoral and the marginalized. He did so not to validate their choices, but to remind them (and us) that our poor decisions and missteps are powerless against the grace and love of Almighty God.

Christians claim to follow one of history’s most radical inclusionists, so perhaps it should serve as a wake-up call that our entire philosophy has been reduced to a negative prefix routinely added to another group. Personally, I would much rather be rebuked for befriending a Muslim than cheered for being anti-Islamic. I would rather be admonished for dinning with homosexuals than lauded as anti-gay. I would rather be criticized for showing compassion toward someone who made a difficult decision than admired for being dismissively anti-abortion. If I am honest with myself, I have an assigned seat at the sinner’s table, but I can take comfort knowing that is where Jesus routinely took his meals.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Halloween Costumes

Every year there are select group of Halloween enthusiasts who chose to obliterate the boundaries of decorum with their costume choices. I present this year’s award winners:

First is seven year-old Virginia resident Jackson Black dressed in the Klu Klux Klan robes his mother made for him. When local television station WHSV interviewed the young man’s mother about the controversial costume choice she defended the design saying, "It’s supposed to be white with white. Black with black. Man with woman and all of that. That’s what the KKK stands for. The KKK every year raises money to donate to the St. Jude’s.”
Jackson Black's Costume
Apart from the delicious irony of a white supremacist being saddled with the surname “black”, the story presents a rare insight into the thought process of a KKK enthusiast. I especially enjoyed her insistence that institutionalized bigotry can be mitigated by a charitable donation. Pretty soon Al-Qaeda will be pleading its moral standing based on participation in a Humane Society Fundraiser. I do hope the mother was at least selective with the neighborhoods she allowed junior to trick or treat in. I imagine there are several residents who wouldn’t take kindly to discovering a Klansman standing at their door demanding a bag of Skittles.

The next contestant is the already infamous Boston Marathon Victim costume donned by Alicia Ann Lynch. The Bay City, Michigan resident Tweeted a photo of herself at work dressed in runner’s gear and smeared in blood with the hashtag “#toosoon?” It is unclear where she worked but I can only hope it was a grief counseling service. Because she had previously posted a picture that featured her driver’s license, it was only a short period of time before her employer, phone number, and address were tracked down.
She now claims that both she and her family have received threats of violence including specific threats rape and murder. One twitter user even suggested mailing her a parcel of feces in retribution for her insensitivity. 

While I agree that she exhibited poor taste and even worse judgment, I am not sure these people are sending the message they think they are. Is the best way to rebuke her flippancy toward terrorist victims to murder her in front of her parents? And while I am at it, who are these Internet morons whose solution to every problem is raping someone? How has that become a knee jerk reaction to a stranger uploading a thoughtless photo? I feel like people have gotten way to comfortable suggesting sexual assault as constructive criticism.

Alicia’s actions certainly merit scorn, but I am not sure a public reprimand from someone with a FedEx box full of turds and an ax to grind is moving us in the right direction. Besides, who knows if this costume was even her first choice? For all we know this was a last minute substitute when she couldn’t locate a baby coffin and a Pol Pot wig. #killingfields

This year’s final entry features a pair of British students who dressed as the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Amber Langford and Annie Collinge were attired in replicas of the skyscrapers (complete with burning plane fuselage and inhabitants jumping from the windows) when they were awarded first prize in a nightclub costume contest. The duo split the $240 prize money and the ridicule.   
Faced with widespread public backlash, the girls issued the following apology:

We never meant to be offensive, but we apologize if any offense was caused.

I hate to say these girls are being disingenuous, but were they really surprised that this was offensive to people? Was there not a moment during their costume prep where Amber looked at Annie and said, “Do you think that attaching the victims’ bodies to outside of the costume might be pushing it?” These girls selected the costumes to elicit this very reaction, so don’t insult everyone by feigning surprise. I believe the only apology more ridiculous that theirs was the one issued by the club itself:

We are extremely concerned that an award of vouchers was made to two young women who were dressed in a distasteful and offensive manner.” There was a serious error of judgment made on the evening by a contracted DJ to award such a prize and we apologize to anybody who may have been upset or offended by this. A full investigation by the company is taking place.

A full investigation?  What would a full investigation into a nightclub costume contest even look like?  Are they going to track down all the participants and depose them under oath? Is the DJ fighting extradition? I for one am shocked by the lack of sound decision making that occurred that evening . If we cannot trust the DJ at Rosie’s Pub to exhibit integrity when awarding cash to women participating in a contest, who can we trust? I can only pray that the owners hold a press conference to announce their findings. I am holding out hope that they were able to locate a forensic costumeologist.