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Archive for September, 2009

shavingI have recently taken up traditional wetshaving as a hobby of sorts. Many of you say, “Shaving? Why shaving? That’s just a boring chore we have to do every day.” I used to feel that way, too. In fact, I used to hate shaving so much that I would only do it about two or three times a week, giving me the look of a borderline hobo and thoroughly annoying my wife and my employer. Then, while mindlessly wasting time on YouTube one afternoon, I stumbled on a video that changed the way I felt about shaving. Suddenly a whole new world opened up before me. I discovered that there are groups of men that get together online to talk about shaving (shaving forums). I found out that what I was using to shave was probably just about the worst thing possible for my skin and beard. I also learned that the number of alternative and vastly superior products available for shaving was nearly infinite.

So I got some inexpensive (but high quality) traditional wetshaving soaps and creams, a new double-edged safety razor (a gift from my wife) and a introductory level boar hair shaving brush. I watched every single one of mantic59‘s shaving videos (famous clear across the shaving universe) and read hours worth of forum posts at Badger & Blade. Finally I felt ready. I installed a fresh new razor blade in my Merkur HD, lathered up my face, and…shaved. The result? Well I won’t lie to you; it wasn’t pretty. Not only did I still have itchy patches of facial hair, but now I had large amounts of blood oozing from my face as well.

The thing is, you can’t approach traditional wetshaving like you approached what I call “mass-market quickshaving”, using a Mach 3 and a can of goo. There is technique involved. There is skill. And there is something spiritual you can’t quite explain…I’ll call it, shavatation. As my technique improved, I began to get the best shaves of my life while immensely enjoying myself. Suddenly the first half hour after waking up in the morning became one of the favorite parts of my day. I loved the smell and feel of the shaving cream, the song of the steel blade, and the cool burn of the aftershave. The more I learned about wetshaving, the more I realized that the process of daily shaving is a lot like life, a perfect metaphor if you will.

We are born with a smooth face: a fresh, clean slate. As we grow, we begin to acquire peach fuzz experiences; nothing especially disturbing or distracting, just enough so that you know it’s there. As the years go by, the real growth and life experiences come in: worry, sorrow, tragedy. For some it is thick and heavy, for others thin and light, but we all get the inevitable beard of life. Trouble is, if we let the beard grow and grow without thinning it out, our countenance is soon covered with a heavy, scraggly burden. We need a way to remove the troublesome beard that distracts us from what is deep below the surface, the true, genuine face we want to present to the world. We have to rediscover that fresh face again. We have to SHAVE.

We need something special with which to remove the beard of life, and, like I discovered in traditional shaving, the options are almost limitless. Your cream and razor of choice may be different than mine. We all have that someone or something that we turn to for help, rest, and rejuvenation. For many it is family, or faith, or friends. Some turn to recreation, travel, or hobbies. Whatever it may be, we all search for that special shaving kit that will help us remove the scratchy stubble of life. If you have taken the time to learn the technique, skill, and shavatation required, you can feel brand new again, almost like you were just reborn. Because we know that there ain’t nothing like a baby’s butt shave to make you look and feel a little better. And don’t worry about losing that beard, it will always grow back.

So there you have it, shaving as a metaphor for life. Search out the smoothest face you know and find out what they are shaving with, literally and metaphorically. You’ll be glad you did.

I dedicate this post to Josh, who seems to have it very together, even with the biggest, craziest beard on Planet Earth. And to Mark, who continues to show us the way.

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Last night President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress on the topic of healthcare. It was supposed to be a historic speech, but today no one seems to be discussing healthcare much. They’re all too busy talking about what Joe Wilson did.

Wilson, a Republican Congressman from South Carolina, shouted, yes, actually shouted “YOU LIE!” at the President of the United States during the address. Everybody heard it; Nancy Pelosi’s head almost exploded. Immediately the liberals in Congress starting clamoring, but not about what you would think. In fact, if you do an online search on the subject, you will find a multitude of stories about how inappropriate and boorish Joe Wilson is, but only a few stories about the main point that should concern us all: Is Barack Obama telling the truth?

When you come right down to it, I think the Democrats are mad that someone, especially a Congressman, would dare to yell in verbal protest at President Obama during an important speech. They can’t fathom it. This, like most partisan issues, is a double standard. When George Bush discussed Social Security in the 2005 State of the Union Address, the Democrats booed him. For crying out loud, the liberals literally bubbled with glee when an Iraqi reporter threw his shoes at Bush during a press conference. Heckling Presidents is nothing new or unusual. It just wasn’t supposed to happen to Barack Obama.

In the end Joe Wilson succumbed to the pressure of the gutless GOP and the Obama machine and called to grovel out an apology to Rahm Emanuel for his outburst. He said his emotion got the better of him. Too bad it turned out this way. Had Congressman Wilson played his cards right, he might have been able to shut the speech down, or at least make the President find a quieter spot to speak. Kind of like this:

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obama-at-law-schoolToday President Obama delivered his much anticipated first-day-of-school speech to America’s public school children. If you believe the mainstream media (depending on your network of choice), everyone who lauded the speech is a wacko socialist while those who opposed it are crazy glue-sniffers. But what about those who don’t place themselves on the far right or left? From a limited government, independent standpoint, was the speech good or bad for America’s children?

In order to answer this question, let’s look at the major talking points from both left and right.

Left:
1. We won the election, so shut it you crazy conservative right-wing psychopaths. This is pretty much the left’s current battle cry. They feel that the President has a voter-bestowed mandate to do most anything he wants. There is some truth to this. The voters did elect the Democratic Party pretty much across the board. However, as has been seen during the Congressional recess, there is still a vocal-if-not-large portion of the public that doesn’t care for this argument.
2. The speech was so benign, uplifting, and conservative, it sounded like a Republican speech anyway. True to an extent, but, as shall be demonstrated, the President wove some subtle statist mumbo jumbo into his “don’t give up, stay in school” message.
3. The right will oppose anything Obama does, no matter what it is. I have to say that this is probably true. He has become the anti-right, even if some of his anti-rightness is purely imaginary.

Right:
1. Obama is indoctrinating the children. He’s trying to turn my kid into a socialist. OK people, I read and watched the speech. There were a few little things, but for the most part the speech was apolitical. Most of the kids weren’t paying attention anyway. In fact, if you ask them tomorrow morning what the message of the speech was, most likely they would reply, “Study hard, stay in school.” That is, those who remembered that they watched a speech at all would say that. I doubt any of them were convicted to mark “D” on their first ballot in 2-10 years purely on the merits of this talk.
2. Obama is trying to teach my kid values I don’t agree with. Really? Like what? Work hard, do your best, finish school? Those are pretty darn good suggestions regardless of where they come from. Again, the speech was not controversial in this respect. There was nothing about abortion, gun control, or homosexuality, although the President did encourage students to stand up for kids who are different and are being bullied. I don’t think a million newly minted school age liberal socialists spilled out of America’s schools today at 3 pm. The speech was just not that value laden.
3. I just don’t like the guy and he shouldn’t be talking to my kids. Fair enough. Many school districts didn’t show the speech, and many more parents kept their kids home today. When it came right down to it, parents who felt strongly that their children should not hear what the President had to say found a way to keep them from hearing it. Was it a big loss? Probably not.

Sadly, the above points are about as deeply as most liberals and conservatives are looking at the issue. From my standpoint, though, there are a few other things to consider, some pro-speech and some con. For instance:

1. Why are we so afraid that our children hear a speech from THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES? Haven’t we taught our kids to think critically about an argument before they accept it wholesale? Don’t we have any confidence at all that we have bestowed our cherished values in them? We send them off to public school every day to be molded by state employed teachers and other kids, yet we are afraid for them to hear the President, the holder of an office we should teach them to respect?
2. On the other hand, the federal government is not supposed to interfere in public school curriculum. That realm is reserved for the States. The White House provided a much edited study guide to go along with the Obama speech. This should not have been done. Speech OK. Assignments related to the speech, not OK.
3. Get a load of the ego on this guy. One of the things that amazed me about the speech was how Barack Obama turned the first day of school into Obama Appreciation Day. I mean, shouldn’t the first day of school be about students, teachers, and the excitement of a new school year? Instead the day was completely disrupted all for the sake of a 15 minute story about how young Barry became a success against all odds. I hope the kids loved him because he sure loves himself.
4. Perhaps most disturbingly, the theme of the speech, while hiding behind a mask of determination and perseverance, was really about dependence and malleability. Consider the following quote:
“So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country? Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn.”
Do our kids need the government in order to learn, make discoveries, solve problems, or make a contribution? It seems to me that these great things most often occur when government influence is absent. We all know that actions speak louder than words. What will our kids think when their President tells them:
“You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.”
“We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.”
“Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future. That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.”

and then they see the same President’s government taking the fruit of their talent and hard work and handing it to dropouts and quitters? That doesn’t sound like writing your own destiny. That sounds like signing your own indenture.

So will President Obama’s speech make that much of a difference? Probably not. Like most speeches, it will likely be thrown into the dustbin of history. Was it good or bad for the kids? Probably neither. Most of the kids won’t remember it anyway. On the other hand, I was a public school student in October 1991 when George H.W. Bush delivered his (much maligned by the left) public school speech, and I still remember that. Yes indeed. I explicitly remember thinking, “Man…that dude is old.”

Read the speech here.

Watch the speech here.

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Dear Mr. President,

I just watched your “I Pledge…” video. I am now 100% unable to take you seriously. Next time you want to indoctrinate me, get somebody besides the host of Punk’d to deliver your message. Now if you need me, I’ll be off flushing twice after each pee.

Sincerely,
Garret

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