Shaving your wallet as well as your face

I’ve always gone for the clean-shaven look on my face but recently, I decided to give it up. The main motivator for change was the fact that I also decided to cut my hair down real short and keep it that way. I can blame premature baldness/hair loss for that one – something that isn’t exactly welcome at the age of twenty-eight. I’d been stuck in a routine of allowing what was left to grow wildly out-of-control before getting it tamed at the local barbers but as one of the ladies there sagely put it, you just have to accept that the grass sometimes just won’t grow anymore. A basic cut there was costing me £7.50 a visit so just chopping it all off myself at home would already save me money on top of having a more honest, no bullshit number two all over .

But I didn’t want to have a smooth baby-face with such a hair “style” so keeping my facial hair as rough (tamed) stubble was the next decision I made. Awaken my inner Jason Statham, I thought, and get the ladies feeling a little moist around my newfound badass image (don’t worry: I did wake up and have a laugh at myself afterwards).

Back in the land of reality, there was a secondary motivation for rejecting the clean-shaven look that was of greater import than provoking a damp gusset: escaping the ritual of buying replacement razor blades. As both men AND women know, razor blade refills are an unwelcome feature on any shopping list. Scandalously expensive, rarely on promotion and roughly the same price everywhere (no matter how savvy you are with shopping around), they are one of the marketing men’s most diabolical creations. Like inkjet printers and water filter jugs, razors are one of those disgusting false economies where the base hardware (in this case, the razor itself) is yours for a reasonable price but once you’re suckered in, the refills will savage your wallet. It doesn’t feel good to be trapped in this commercial machine and a slave to the scalping tactics of these businesses.

For years I have used Gillette’s Fusion Proglide series of razors and I have always been happy with their performance but the blade refills are NOT cheap. A quick check on trusty Amazon yields a pack of six for £15.94, an apparent markdown on an RRP of £21.00…for SIX blades.

CaptureGillette

Ah, our old friend, Gillette…the company who caused a major stink by telling us that we have failed as men and must change our ways. Regardless of whether you believe that controversial ad campaign to be legit or a devilish marketing ploy to thrust the brand into the public eye, there’s no denying that Gillette are hypocrites with no moral superiority to anybody else. Frankly, I’ve been an utter mug and given them my money for far too long, dancing to the beat of their drum.

This is the company that tells us to quit objectifying women even while they are encasing attractive females in latex and plastering the Gillette brand across their shiny bottoms:

Gillette-meme-1

They encourage these false consumer economies that result in untold levels of waste when you look at razor blade packaging and all of these refills being sent to a hole in the ground where they will probably outlive the men who dutifully replaced them at Gillette’s recommended intervals.

They are a company that continually add new lubricant strips or gimmicks to their razors complete with attention-grabbing names such as “Turbo”, “Champion” or even “nitro” in order to turn us into braindead consumer-shaped sheep. If the previous iteration of the Mach 3 razor was all you needed for the “perfect shave” then why do we need a Mach 3 Turbo Champion Nitro Elite Proshield+ upgrade? Because new COLOURS and gimmicks such as the flexball “technology”.

I can’t justify the amount of money I have invested into blades and updated razors. All I can do is apologise to myself and admit that it was down to pure laziness and an unwillingness to try something new. As you can probably deduce from the preceeding rant, I was thrilled to give Gillette and disposable blades the middle finger and escape to freedom. I did what I should have done a long time ago and bought an electric razor.

So I opted for the Phillips One Blade, a compact electric razor with interchangeable combs for maintaining one’s facial hair at the desired length. Sure, you are supposed to replace the heads on these razors every six months but I’m not going to buy into that bullshit. I know from others that they last a lot longer than that. One problem that I can’t avoid however is that the razor only came with 1mm, 3mm and 5mm attachments. After a bit of experimentation, I arrived at a conclusion: 3mm was too long while 1mm was too short. No biggie though – you can after all purchase the ‘missing’ comb sizes individually. A piece of featherweight plastic likely manufactured overseas at a cost of a few pence…

OB-1

OB-2

Ragememe-1

Yoga Pants are great

In case you are a woman and wandered in here by mistake, expecting some sort of sensible discussion on the so-called “Yoga Pants” then you might want to turn around. This is me – a man – creating some blog “content” by showing my appreciation for yoga pants. You are of course welcome to stay and receive a small insight into the male psyche.

Previous generations had hotpants and miniskirts to melt their eyes. Well, now we have yoga pants. Or are they leggings? I always thought that they were leggings, at least here in the UK. “Yoga Pants” sounds like an American term to me and perhaps it is. But who really cares! All that matters is that sometime in recent years, somebody somewhere decided it would be a great idea to take a piece of tight, form-fitting “activewear” designed for exercise (and Yoga I guess) and make it everyday, casual wear. A replacement for stiff, constricting jeans and unflattering jogging trousers (sorry, I’m British; I can’t keep calling trousers “pants”). Crazy tie-dye prints followed and now they are everywhere.

yp1

And, from a man’s perspective, it is fucking distracting. Really distracting. In the best possible way of course.

Women might call us out for being perverts but I’m sorry ladies; you can’t walk about in skin-tight leggings/yoga pants/whatever they are called and expect us not to look. As girl group Little Mix sang in one of their hit songs, it’s in our DNA. I’m sure that the reason you wear them is for comfort and less restriction but you must also realise that we think you look damn good in them.

That’s all I have to say really. I mean, what else is there to say?

All hail the yoga pants and how they brighten our lives.

I dreamed a dream…

…and it sucked.

It’s a recurring theme of late: interesting or decent dreams that can’t seem to reach a satisfying endgame without turning bizarre or enormously disappointing in the style of a rug being whipped out from beneath one’s feet. I was having a good one this morning for example but it was just a massive tease, the conclusion seeing me being royally screwed over and humiliated.

But it got me thinking: do common narratives weaved into the fabric of my sleepy adventures actually mean anything? Are the similar conclusions pointing towards something?

I should say that I’m not one of these people who believe in “reading” dreams. Furthermore, I also don’t believe that dreams are prophetic or magical in any way. I’ve always considered dreams to simply be the sewage of our subconsciousness, constructed from recent events in our lives and ancient, archived data (hence the random appearance of faces from our past). Brain farts if you feel like using a totally non-glamourous term.

This morning’s brain-fart for example featured the main high street in my local town centre (something I see frequently) and a girl that I know (and also see semi-frequently). It also – randomly and very briefly – featured the actress Ali Bastian. Probably because I recently saw her on TV and remembered how ridiculously fit she is, even moreso now that she’s older than she was in her Hollyoaks/The Bill days.

dream1
[image: dreams.co.uk]
Anyway, I’m not sure that these specific elements or features are that important, nor are the actual surface level events in dreams. As I said, I don’t believe in the mystical ooga-booga interpretations of what our idle brains conjure up but I DO think our dreams are a reflection of our desires, fears and insecurities. The actual events of a dream mean nothing but they might be a vehicle for your innermost insecurities and longings to make themselves known. That’s what I think anyway.

As somebody who is very interested in trying to pin down their core, personal values (no matter how shitty they may be), I find myself wondering if dreams may help in some way, even if they can simply kickstart a thought train. I feel like a fucking idiot for even musing over the idea but I’m also intrigued to do some research and see what theories are out there. Dreams are just one of a gazillion things that I often wonder about but never bother to look further into. Obviously, I’m aware that I will be sifting through the crackpot notions but in general, I want to research answers to stuff rather than simply wondering aimlessly before returning my focus to real life. And why not begin with dreams?

I would be interested to hear the ideas and beliefs of others so feel free to share in the comments.

My notebook obsession

Well, I don’t have a particular subject to discuss today. There’s nothing I feel like reviewing and I’m currently suffering with a condition that advanced medicine describes as my-back-is-fucked-itis so I’m not really in the mood to be sampling and analysing the world’s batshit-crazy excuses for “news” stories today. Instead I thought I’d reflect briefly on a newfound obsession of mine which – like all good obsessions – seems to have snuck up on me like a stealthy ninja moving through the shadows.

Notebooks: I appear to accumulated a fair few of them…

DSC_0186

I’m sure that I had a purpose or use in mind each and every time I spent money on these hunks of murdered trees but if I’m being honest, I can’t recall those no-doubt noble intentions.

The two tabbed project books were probably bought for projects that never got off the ground while the Moleskines were likely attempts at keeping personal journals, something I’m hopeless at. Others I bought just because they, err…looked nice?

Perhaps I have a strange fetish for notebooks that is only now revealing itself. If I ever have trouble getting it up between the sheets then I’ll definitely broach the idea of a threesome…with a nice, quality hard-backed notebook. Complete with elasticated strap of course.

They’re everywhere too. Some are stuffed down the side of the bed (for those late night writing sessions), others are on my desk where I tend to treat them as mere scrap paper for noting shit down and then there are unused notebooks stacked up beneath the desk in amongst piles of other crap (that I really should get around to sorting). Even as I’m typing this post, I’ve just remembered that there’s another mini notebook in the drawer on my left – also with no defined purpose.

The question is, do they even need a purpose? Even in this digital age, there’s always a call for a bit of paper to write something down on or record research. You can’t beat a good old-fashioned hard copy after all. And I do sometimes like to write reviews and stuff on physical paper first, just to keep the quality of my writing in good order. Writing is also fast becoming a lost art and people with GOOD handwriting are an endangered species, under threat from the invading forces of Tabletonia and Laptopolis – high tech civilisations that have steadily been infilitrating society and making the populance smarter (debatable).

So maybe there is nothing to worry about. Maybe I’ve just trivialised something entirely pointless in order to generate a filler post for the day. Even so, I still look at those mostly blank pages and think, “why?”

Roadman

I’m only twenty-eight years of age but already, I regularly find that I’m slipping behind with slang and the language of the “cool” kids. It really is an effort to keep up when everybody your own age continues to use the same slang that we did ten years or so ago. In short, you just aren’t exposed to the new wordz on the street so unless you work with some younger people or have a much younger partner then you really can’t be blamed for thinking “huh?” when you hear some of that fresh speak.

But I like to believe that I’ve been doing okay recently. That is until I heard a new descriptive from somebody in their early twenties.

Roadman.

To me, a “Roadman” is a hi-vis, hardhat-wearing road construction worker. I might even be able to believe that it could be the title of a so-bad-it’s-awesome 80’s B-Movie but it turns out that a Roadman is neither of these things.

“Roadman” is apparently the new term for “Boy Racer” or “Chav”.

BR1
The standard chariot of a Boy Racer Roadman [image: Daily Mail]
You know the sort. They drive around in cheap hatchback cars that have been dressed up to look and sound furious. They believe that dropping their car, fitting a wobbly, oversized exhaust (de-silenced of course) and applying crappy cosmetic upgrades can result in a car that is superior to the standard factory version that a manufacturer spent millions on designing. Said cars are so powerful that they are unable to stick to speed limits in built-up urban areas (don’t forget that each bit of tacky plastic bolted on to the exterior adds at least an extra 10bhp) and the obnoxious, thundering exhaust note rattles windows in its quest to disguise the car’s 1.2l origins.

As for the owners of these superb automobiles, you will usually find them backed up in the corner of a McDonalds carpark with their seats dropped as low as they can go and reclined so far backwards that they are essentially lying down. Supermarket carparks and desolate industrial estates are alternative haunts for the Roadmen and their supercar-terrorising bean can exhausts on wheels. They don’t tend to do anything in particular other than simply hang around in tracksuits, smoking spliffs, littering and saying things like “Know what I mean, mate?”, “Innit, bruv” or “Wag one, geez”

Thing is, the name “Roadman” is too good for these people. First of all, it includes the word “man” and it’s difficult to consider Adidas-garbed, drug-smoking loiterers who see the Vauxhall Corsa as a serious performance vehicle as actual men. Secondly, it’s an insult to the guys working on the roads who are getting confused with jobless boy racers still living off mommy and daddy.

I’d like to know where the Roadman name originated from but I fear it may involve unearthing a dastardly scheme by the more elite chavs to give their creed some more credibility via the establishment of a new, more serious umbrella term for people like them. It’s the kind of shit that may result in me being made to disappear after a few days of being tailed by black undercover vehicles. Fortunately I’m reasonably confident that I’d be able to spot the operatives of this arm of the MIB thanks to the quaking exhaust note of their cars.

So, the Roadmen. Now you know.

Should you still listen to the music of disgraced artists? [ft. R Kelly and Lostprophets]

Back when I was a sixth form student (or “college” in other words), I didn’t have much money at all and I wasn’t clued-up on the dark arts of ‘acquiring’ music for zero outlay so I used to listen to the same handful of CDs – ripped to my MP3 player – over and over. Liberation Transmission by Lostprophets was the soundtrack of my sixth form days and the singles released from the album (Rooftops, A Town Called Hypocrisy and Can’t Catch Tomorrow) were still being played over and over on Kerrang Radio so there was no escaping the Welsh band’s sound…not that I wanted to anyway.

I left education behind in 2008, just as the job market was at a seriously bad point. The recession (sparked by the banking crisis) had hit and jobs were thin on the ground. CV’s went ignored and countless applications for basic office roles were turned down again and again. Eventually, the Job Centre (a government-run set-up here in the UK that is supposed to help you find employment and also ensure that you ARE properly looking for work if you want to keep your unemployment benefit money) sent me on an ’employability’ course which was probably one of the most miserable, demeaning experiences of my life. That’s a story for another day though. Why I mention it at all is because Lostprophets’ music (still on that ancient MP3 player!) got me through those dark days.

So to say I liked their music would be an understatement.

LP1
[image: NME.com]
But then, in December 2012, front man Ian Watkins was arrested and charged with thirteen counts of sexual offences against children including the attempted rape of a one-year-old girl. To say that the news came as a shock was as much an understatement as me saying that I thought his band’s music was just “all right”. It was the sort of headline that you hope isn’t true but unfortunately, Watkins later pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 29 years in prison.

After that, I was left with a moral dilemma: do I still listen to Lostprophets as I had done before Watkins’ terrible crimes came to light? All around me, others had made up their minds. The band’s music vanished from the airwaves, Music Magpie (a company that buys unwanted CDs/DVDs/Games) wouldn’t accept my Lostprophets albums when I was having a clear-out and people were saying that they felt dirty themselves if they listened to the band.

I’ve even been told that listening to Lostprophets means that YOU are also a paedophile which is utterly ridiculous and a fucking stupid thing to say.

In the end, I decided that I WOULD continue to listen to Lostprophets for several reasons.

  1. I’ve never been the kind of person to ‘follow’ bands/artists closely beyond enjoying their music so in many cases, I don’t even know what they look like in real life. Ian Watkins was one such case so I didn’t have that problem of seeing and hearing ‘him’ when listening to the music, something that others have cited as their reason(s) for no longer being able to listen to Lostprophets.
  2. I remembered that Lostprophets was more than just Watkins. Yes, he sang the songs but they were the work of a group and the rest of the guys weren’t to blame for what had happened.
  3. Because fuck everybody else and what they thought. I liked Lostprophets’ music and their songs meant something to me, taking my head back to the times (for better or worse…) where I hammered the Liberation Transmission and Start Something albums.

I can see why people chose to sever ties completely though. After all, buying and playing their music is kind of supporting a convicted sex criminal in a way. You also can’t cruise around with their tunes belting from your car either because the majority of people simply don’t see it as the done thing.

The uncomfortable truth however is that good music doesn’t stop sounding good just because the singer got banged up for heinous crimes. I genuinely believe that overly vocal former Lostprophets fans who loudly reject the music they once adored still like what they hear but refuse to admit it. Because doing so is seen as taking the side of criminal or even condoning his despicable actions. Bullshit in my opinion. Does a beautiful woman look any less sexy for being a murderer? Is vast wealth and power any less appealing despite being the cause of devastating wars and the oppression of the less fortunate? Do fast cars become any less desirable even though they pollute the atmosphere more than sensible vehicles?

Me, I prefer to just be honest and simplify the whole thing. After all, you can say the ‘correct’ thing in public but lying to yourself is foolish and impossible to boot. So…

I like Lostprophets’ music.

I don’t like Ian Watkins. What he did is fucking disgusting and (by all accounts) utterly predatory. I don’t give a fuck what happens to him in prison.

But now it is happening again, this time with R&B singer R Kelly who turned himself into the police last week. Kelly is accused of multiple sexual assaults, several of the alleged victims being minors at the time. Now this isn’t such a big deal for me personally as I’ve never been a massive R Kelly fan beyond a few songs (a quick look at the bloated music library on my phone revealed that I only have She’s Got That Vibe and Bump N’ Grind) but even so, if Kelly is convicted, will we have to ask ourselves the same questions again? Will his songs be removed from existence as if they never happened?

FILE PHOTO: Singer R. Kelly arrives at the 41st American Music Awards in Los Angeles
[image: tekportal.net]
In the case of R Kelly I can take it or leave it. I like the couple of tracks I have but I’m not bothered either way. They certainly don’t feature in my “Most Played” playlist.

Real fans will have a decision to make however and it will be interesting to see the outcome although I’m already made up on how I think it will go down based on the fallout of Ian Watkins’ crimes.

What would you do?

Car Talk: You can’t beat a sunny Sunday afternoon drive

A strange thing has happened here in Brexit land the UK over the past week: it has been warm and sunny in February. I realise that temperatures of around 15C (give or take a few either way depending on the day) probably sound chilly to some of you but over here, we go crazy for it. Ice cream vans come out of their temporary winter retirement, people immediately start wearing shorts and outdoor attractions are taken by surprise as the whole country turns out to enjoy a quick fix of what is surely a fake dosage of “summer”. Regrettably the womenfolk aren’t all fooled so easily so if you are ready to appreciate the wonders of short-shorts and flimsy vest tops then I’m afraid it’s a false dawn. Be patient.

To put things into perspective, this time last year we were in the grip of The Beast From The East and had snow/ice on the ground. We were all miserable and gloomy as we should be at this time of year. On a side note, the so-called ‘Beast’ was a bit of a wimp and social media enjoyed exaggerrating it’s powers and overly-dramatising the kind of snow and low temperatures that I’m sure other countries would scoff at. Unfortunately, we are not used to snow here in Britain and so the reality of the situation was distorted by our lack of hardiness and also the stupidity of certain people who believe it’s perfectly fine to drive at normal speeds on ice in powerful, rear wheel drive German cars.

Winter and our inability to deal with a few centimetres of snow is a whole other topic for another time however.

roads1

I’m here to talk about the joys of going for a drive for the sake of it, something I do quite often but an undeniably more attractive proposition when the weather is great as it was this Sunday. I’m fortunate to live not far from some beautiful, picturesque countryside and fantastic driving roads so it was with zero hesitation that I decided to spend Sunday afternoon attacking the lanes in my car and cruising through laid-back English villages, lapping up the lazy Sunday afternoon atmosphere and sunshine. Sunglasses and race driver wannabe Alpinestars gloves on. Window dropped all the way down. Tunes pumping from the speakers (old school House courtesy of 808 State, 28th Street Crew and Frankie Knuckles).

My chariot for this jaunt is also my daily driver: an FN2 generation Honda Civic Type-R. the last gasp (quite literally) of naturally aspirated, high-revving V-TEC power before regulations and emissions bullshit forced Honda to start turbocharging their engines. I’ve had the car for almost four years and absolutely love it. The styling still strikes me as futuristic and it’s perfectly useable as an urban runabout or daily commuter (aside from the spine-shaking suspension…) but on a day like the Sunday just gone, I can really enjoy winding that 2.0 lump up into the high ranges of the rev counter and listening to the building banshee wail as V-TEC kicks in (yo).

CTR-1
[image: autocar.co.uk]
The only downside (other than watching the fuel guage deplete…) is that you are always aware that the FN2 isn’t quite as dynamic as it’s predecessor, the much-loved EP3 Civic Type-R. The rear suspension for example isn’t independent and so you have to watch that the back end doesn’t break away upon hitting crested/bumpy corners at silly speeds. You have to push hard for such a disaster to occur of course but the possibility lives in the back of my mind.

I tend to try and stay somewhere in between subdued and mental, making sure to have my fun without being a lunatic. By day I work as a delivery driver and have to suffer sluggish, speed-restricted and tracked vans so it’s good to let loose on a day off and feel that freedom.

Sundays see many car lovers bring their pride and joy out of storage, even more so when the sun is shining. You can see some great stuff, both classic and modern. Highlights for me this weekend were a Triumph TR6, B5 gen Audi RS4 Avant and a McLaren (don’t ask me which though; aside from the F1 and P1, I’m hopeless at distinguishing which is which).

I suggest that anybody into cars or driving takes the opportunity to enjoy a sunny Sunday when possible and just go for that destination-less drive. To me, little else is as satisfying as booting it along British B-roads and lanes while working a manual ‘box and simply feeling in-sync with your car. Too often these days the media tries to make us petrolheads feel guilty for stubbornly sticking with loud, unapologetic, polluting sports cars and I sometimes wonder if such basic pleasures will be forcibly taken away from us one day for “the greater good”.

Enjoy it while you can.