Life on the razor’s edge

This story was found at: http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/06/01/1054406072441.html
June 2 2003

The label on my shaving cream describes a product with almost magical properties. Its fatuous promises and pseudo-scientific excesses are staggering. “Unique microcapsule Dual Delivery System protects and lubricates skin throughout the shave giving excellent razor glide.” Furthermore, it guarantees a “pain- free shave”, which will leave my skin “super cool and refreshed”. At least, I think that’s what it says. My eyes are still watering from the sting of the shaving cream.

The world of men’s shaving products has gone mad. From the advertising campaigns, it’s increasingly hard to tell the difference between a razor and a piece of super-charged military hardware. Even the shaving lotion ads sound like propaganda.

Over the years, razors have ceased being merely blades for hacking away at whiskers. Razors are now “shaving systems” and they’re marketed like the latest gadget from your friendly neighbourhood arms dealer. Hell, they don’t even call them blades any more – “flexible micro fins that deliver unprecedented shaving closeness”. With its independently suspended, triple-blade comfort edge, advanced indicator and lubricating strip, this isn’t shaving – this is warfare. Shock and Awe for your jaw.

Television ads feature athletic, military types, flying jet aircraft, their square chins as slippery-smooth as Teflon. Shaving isn’t just a daily drag: with the right product, you’ll be tall, you’ll be aggressively masculine and you’ll get laid twice a day. The razor has been glamorised and fetishised out of all proportion. It’s the ultimate James Bond gadget.

This marketing strategy may be ridiculous, but it clearly works. Last year, Gillette made $US893 million ($A1.35billion) just from their blades and razor sales. This figure was 16per cent up on the previous year. Much of this is attributable to the popular MACH3 razor, which Gillette boasts is the “most advanced shaving system in the world”.

This redoubtable razor is protected by 35 patents, and is probably the most extreme example of technological overkill. Even the MACH3 handle is a design miracle, featuring “knurled elustomeric crescents” for “better handling”!

New products come and go like pop stars. For 20 years, I have vainly pursued a decent shave, and I have come to the conclusion that there are only two types of razor – the diabolical (disposable) and the dastardly (all the others). Yet I keep turning up to the shaving section in aisle six of my supermarket in the futile hope that the latest flashy product will provide the answer to my prayers. Is there something fundamentally wrong with me? Is all this ever-escalating razor arms race a form of brainwashing?

Internet sites offer masses of tips and remedial assistance for frustrated blade shavers. Mostly, they argue that successful shaving, like climbing Everest, all comes down to the right equipment and a faultless technique. Having tried every blade on the market, and every cream and lotion from sorbolene to KY jelly, I can only assume that it’s my technique that sucks.

An English shaving site offers this advice for the perfect shave: first, apply a compress of steaming hot towels to your face. Follow this with a light application of hair conditioner, underneath a deftly applied layer of shaving cream. Shave in short strokes with the direction of hair growth, rinsing the razor after each stroke in a lukewarm preparation of water infused with tea tree oil. Now repeat the process, this time shaving against the direction of hair growth. The entire ritual takes just under an hour to achieve, so thanks for the tip, guys, but I’m due back on planet Earth.

Mind you, it might beat the alternative. I’m one of the few men alive who cuts himself with an electric razor. Whoever invented these useless devices was either a consummate practical joker or an employee of Bastards Incorporated. Let this be known: electric razors don’t work. Electric razors are like attacking your face with an orbital sander. Electric razors abrade the skin, making your cheeks resemble poor quality suede. Electric razors leave embarrassing patches of hair so that your chin looks like it has alopecia. Electric razors are the work of Satan.

Consider these statistics. The man who shaves daily has about 20,000 shaves to look forwards to in a lifetime. The latest in razor technology will set you back about $260 per year. Add the cost of shaving cream and that means about $17,000 over the course of a life. Wouldn’t you rather put that money into real estate?

No wonder so many men have stopped shaving on a daily basis. You can save yourself about $10,000 by shaving once a week. Unfortunately, it’s no good telling yourself that Brad Pitt or George Clooney look good with a five o’clock shadow. Brad and George also take home 40 million bucks a year and have the faultless jawlines of Greek gods. They’re not real people. You and I go a week without shaving and we look like dirty bums.

Shaving is ancient. Primitive man used sharpened stone tools to scrape away at his beard. In those days, shaving could be life threatening. One moment of lost concentration and you’d lose your lips. But has there been much progress?

There’s a new razor on the market that boasts of blades, sorry, “fins which are individually mounted on highly responsive springs … that automatically adjust to facial contours”. Yes, those fins adjust to and follow the rugged contours of one’s face with the dogged persistence of an Exocet missile. Problem is, you still cut yourself and you can still feel the hair left behind after it has “glided effortlessly” down your chin.

I suspect a sharpened piece of flint mounted on a stick would do a similar job. I can see the marketing now. “Genuine gnarled eucalyptus twig facilitator incorporating a retro blade crafted from a revolutionary piece of specially chipped stone.”

I like the sound of that. An honest shave. Who cares if my face looks like it’s covered in smallpox? Or should that be “knurled elustomeric crescents”?


Best Of The Blogs

What a Tangled Web
We Weave . . .

. . . when first we practice to

Posted by billmon at May 29,
2003 03:20 AM


“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.”


Speech to VFW National Convention August 26,2002

“Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological
weapons. “

George W. Bush

to UN General Assembly
September 12, 2002

“If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.”

Ari Fleischer

Press Briefing December 2, 2002

“We know for a fact that there are weapons there.”

Ari Fleischer

Press Briefing January 9, 2003

“Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. “

George W. Bush

State of the Union Address January 28, 2003

“We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more.”

Colin Powell

Remarks to UN Security Council February 5, 2003

“We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons — the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have.”

George W. Bush

February 8, 2003

“If Iraq had disarmed itself, gotten rid of its weapons of mass destruction over the past 12 years, or over the last several months since (UN Resolution) 1441 was enacted, we would not be facing the crisis that we now have before us . . . But the suggestion that we are doing this because we want to go to every country in the Middle East and rearrange all of its pieces is not correct.”

Colin Powell

Interview with Radio France International February 28,

“So has the strategic decision been made to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction by the leadership in Baghdad? . . . I think our judgment has to be clearly not.”

Colin Powell

Remarks to UN Security Council March 7,

“Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”

George W. Bush

Address to the Nation March 17, 2003

“Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly . . . all this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes.”

Ari Fleischer

March 21, 2003

“There is no doubt that the regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction. And . . . as this operation continues, those weapons will be identified, found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard them.”

Gen. Tommy Franks

Press Conference March 22, 2003

“I have no doubt we’re going to find big stores of weapons of mass destruction.”

Defense Policy Board member Kenneth Adelman

, p. A27March 23, 2003

“One of our top objectives is to find and destroy the WMD. There are a number of sites.”

Pentagon Spokeswoman Victoria Clark

March 22, 2003

“We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.”

Donald Rumsfeld

ABC Interview March 30, 2003

“Obviously the administration intends to publicize all the weapons of mass destruction U.S. forces find — and there will be plenty. “

Neocon scholar Robert Kagan

Washington Post op-ed April 9, 2003

“But make no mistake — as I said earlier — we have high confidence that they have weapons of mass destruction. That is what this war was about and it is about. And we have high confidence it will be found.”

Ari Fleischer

Press Briefing April 10, 2003

“We are learning more as we interrogate or have discussions with Iraqi scientists and people within the Iraqi structure, that perhaps he destroyed some, perhaps he dispersed some. And so we will find them.”

George W. Bush

NBC Interview April 24, 2003

“There are people who in large measure have information that we need . . . so that we can track down the weapons of mass destruction in that country.”

Donald Rumsfeld

Press Briefing April 25, 2003

“We’ll find them. It’ll be a matter of time to do so.”

George W. Bush

Remarks to Reporters May 3, 2003

“I’m absolutely sure that there are weapons of mass destruction there and the evidence will be forthcoming. We’re just getting it just now. “

Colin Powell

Remarks to Reporters May 4, 2003

“We never believed that we’d just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country.”

Donald Rumsfeld

Fox News Interview May 4, 2003

“I’m not surprised if we begin to uncover the weapons program of Saddam Hussein — because he had a weapons program. “

George W. Bush

Remarks to Reporters May 6, 2003

“U.S. officials never expected that “we were going to open garages and find” weapons of mass destruction.”

Condoleeza Rice

Reuters Interview May 12, 2003

“I just don’t know whether it was all destroyed years ago — I mean, there’s no question that there were chemical weapons years ago — whether they were destroyed right before the war, (or) whether they’re still hidden.”

Maj. Gen. David Petraeus, Commander 101st Airborne

Press Briefing May 13, 2003

“Before the war, there’s no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical. I expected them to be found. I still expect them to be found.”

Gen. Michael Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps

Interview with Reporters May 21, 2003

“Given time, given the number of prisoners now that we’re interrogating, I’m confident that we’re going to find weapons of mass destruction.”

Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff

NBC Today Show interview May 26, 2003

“They may have had time to destroy them, and I don’t know the answer.”

Donald Rumsfeld

Remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations May 27, 2003

“For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.”

Paul Wolfowitz

Vanity Fair interview May 28, 2003

“It was a surprise to me then, it remains a surprise to me now, that we have not uncovered weapons, as you say, in some of the forward dispersal sites. Believe me, it’s not for lack of trying. We’ve been to virtually every ammunition supply point between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad, but they’re simply not there. “

Lt. Gen. James Conway, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force

Press Interview May 30, 2003

“Do I think we’re going to find something? Yeah, I kind of do, because I think there’s a lot of information out there.””

Maj. Gen. Keith Dayton, Defense Intelligence Agency

Press Conference May 30, 2003


Following found at http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/HL0306/S00033.htm


John Chuckman
June 3, 2003

The saga of America’s Private Lynch, no matter what the details of her movie-set escape prove to be, adds only banality to needless bloodshed in Iraq.

Another young American woman, Marla Ruzicka, went largely ignored. Ms. Ruzicka runs a non-profit organization that works to make accurate counts of a war’s civilian dead. It is small wonder Ms. Ruzicka is not given the same coverage as Private Lynch, since, based upon detailed field work in Iraq, she says that between five and ten thousand civilians were killed.

Generally in wars, total casualties, which include wounded, crippled, and lost, are many times the number killed, often as high as ten times. I do not know what the appropriate ratio is for Iraq, but it’s not hard to see that the United States killed and hurt a great many innocent people in a few weeks of “precision” war.

Of military losses, poor boys drafted to defend their homes, we as yet have no good estimate. In the first Gulf War, between sixty and one hundred thousand Iraqi soldiers were slaughtered. With Iraq’s population being less than ten percent that of the United States, such losses must be multiplied by ten to get some feel for their impact on the society.

So while Americans, thirty years later, still weep at the Vietnam Memorial in Washington – a monument representing about sixty thousand deaths over ten years of war – they have inflicted on Iraq, in just three weeks, that same proportionate loss – all of them civilians. The one-sided slaughter of soldiers in the first Gulf War represented the equivalent of the U.S. having sustained between half a million and a million deaths just over a decade ago. No society recovers easily from such losses of its youth.

In a real war, a war in which most people agree there is some powerful motivating cause, the fate of an individual soldier like Private Lynch becomes almost unimportant. Soldiers in real wars are reduced to just about the status of soldier-ants in a war between two ant-nests.

But the public can be mercurial when it comes to invasions with flimsy excuses and gas-bag ideology. Public support can shift quickly or melt away entirely, so a little juicing-up may be prescribed. Besides, when there is almost no real news being reported, as was true in America for Iraq, you need a little something to satisfy the chips-and-television crowd anxious to be informed from their couches.

Since America’s modern warriors are limited to follow-up after missiles and bombs have reduced everything to a vision of hell, much of the touching stuff that once inspired the home front is missing. There are no more pitiful and tragic images of young Americans falling in what seems a worthy cause.

So the Pentagon’s prisoner-liberation simulation, like its staged statue-toppling in Baghdad, so suggestive of news photos at end of World War Two, served several purposes.

Is this how a great power behaves in the early part of the 21st century? Especially a power that enjoys reminding us at every opportunity – I suppose because it is so easy for the rest of the world, just watching its actions, to forget – that America stands for human rights and democratic principles? Yes, unfortunately, that is exactly how it behaves. Only, the complete picture is bleaker still.

Mr. Bush at the G-8 summit in Evian, France – a summit he considered not even attending and at which, in any event, he cut short his stay – made an effort at grand-poohbah statesman with, “We can have disagreements, but that doesn’t mean we have to be disagreeable,” a lifelessly trite line, but one certainly ranking at the peak of this President’s eloquence.

Just a few days before (May 30), Bush abandoned the session with reporters that customarily precedes a G-8 summit, perhaps reflecting advisors’ concerns that he would blow it with his anger when questioned about recent events. He left the session for his tactful National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, to blow.

On the subject of Canada, Ms. Rice gave us, “I think there was disappointment in the United States that a friend like Canada was unable to support the United States in what we considered to be an extremely important issue for our security [Emphasis is mine].”

Does Ms. Rice read the newspaper? Her words about security come within days of reports of an interview with the Pentagon’s Paul Wolfowitz in which he admits the business about weapons was an excuse for invading Iraq. His admission only punctuated weeks of reports about American forces not finding anything remotely suspicious and America’s hack chorus of national columnists swelling their breasts to a theme about weapons not being important after all.

Canada has never stinted in helping Americans. Canada is the kind of neighbor any sensible people would want. But helping a scheme for “regime change” in someone else’s country, unsupported by international law, is not quite the same thing as helping Americans.

Canada was never called a poor friend for not helping in the many shadowy “regime changes” the United States has conducted across the Caribbean and Latin America. Canada’s values and interests do not lie that way. Why was the situation suddenly so different for an unthreatening small country on the other side of the planet?

The tough answer is that the United States government felt alone and naked in what it was doing over Iraq. It desperately sought international approval, which it did not get, leaving the harsh ideologues in the White House both embarrassed and angry at being embarrassed.

Ms. Rice went on to say differences with Canada had put bilateral relations through “some difficult times,” and “that disappointment will, of course, not go [away] easily. It will take some time, because when friends are in a position where we say our security’s at stake, we would have thought, as we got from many of our friends, that the answer would have been, ‘Well, how can we help?’ ”

Does any honest person reading her words find them in keeping with Bush’s G-8 stuff about “not being disagreeable”? They are clearly disagreeable, provocative, and even petty.

But Ms. Rice went even further concerning Germany, “I can’t answer the question of whether personal relations between the President and the Chancellor will ever be the same. We will have to see.”

As for France, “there were times when it appeared that American power was seen to be more dangerous than perhaps Saddam Hussein,” Ms. Rice said. “I’ll just put it very bluntly, we simply didn’t understand it.”

Well, to put it also very bluntly, American power, when it is used to bully others, in fact is more dangerous, far more dangerous, than Saddam Hussein ever was.

“We have been allies in great struggles in world wars,” Ms. Rice said of the French. “The United States gave its blood to liberate France.”

The United States gave its blood to defeat rivals Germany and Japan. Liberating countries like France was incidental, although the French have always scrupulously, respectfully maintained America’s battlefield cemeteries and commemorated America’s efforts as few others do.

The historical fact is President Roosevelt considered governing postwar France in a very high-handed manner. He pretty much detested De Gaulle, and France’s empire was something the Roosevelt people never stopped sneering at and preaching about while merrily working to build one of their own. The situation was far murkier and less heroic than Ms. Rice would have you understand, but her purpose was to put another country on the defensive, not to teach history.

Are the world’s statesmen so dense they do not understand true danger when they see it? Do they deliberately embrace evil? Of course not. Then, why Ms. Rice’s language if the need for invading Iraq was clear? Precisely because the need was not clear, and it has only become even less clear now. Manipulative language here is a substitute for thought – we are given a form of aggressive marketing rather than an honest product – a practice to which this administration is addicted.

Just a week before the G-8 summit, another Bush-administration bully, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, gave us his version of “not being disagreeable.” Rumsfeld informed the French air force that it would not be welcome at two upcoming international exercises.

Rumsfeld’s version of “not being disagreeable” included declaring that the United States would heavily cut its involvement with the Paris Air Show, traditionally the world’s most important show for aviation technology. As a Pentagon official so agreeably put it, “With troops eating military rations in the dust in Iraq, it’s not appropriate for officers to be wined and dined in Paris.”

Doesn’t that sound reasonable? So, do you think they’ve stopped wining and dining in expensive Georgetown restaurants over all the fat new Pentagon contracts being handed out these days? Or do they just quietly put aside that disagreeable stuff about dust and rations on such happy occasions? Do you think they served military freeze-dried rations at the President’s recent $18-million dollar fundraiser?

America’s top diplomat, that disappointing baritone of dissimulation, Colin Powell, has gone around for weeks uttering threats and slights towards France. A couple of weeks ago, he said the United States would reconsider its links with France following disagreement over Iraq. Does that sound anything like being “not disagreeable”?

On CBC Radio some weeks ago, there was a fascinating little story. There is a manufacturer in Quebec who actually makes some of the fancy cowboy boots beloved in Texas. During the height of American irritation over Iraq, this boot-maker was asked by his Texas customer to supply a written statement that he did not personally support Canada’s policy towards war in Iraq.

Can you imagine an American’s furious response at being asked such an inappropriate, private, personal matter in a business transaction? In effect, he was asked to supply a kind of pledge of allegiance to someone else’s foreign policy.

Something corrupt, dirty, and destructive is taking hold of America, choking even ordinary business with the sewerage of ideology. How does one talk of neighborliness, love of freedom, or democratic-mindedness while behaving like a blackmailer?