Don’t buy a Dishwasher

dishwasher-4I know, right? An extremely random topic to concoct a post on (even for this blog) but hear me out. This might well be a public service announcement of sorts.

Or I’m chatting a load of bollocks and you will continue to rely on your dishwasher.

If there’s one kitchen-based chore that everybody dreads having to do and will avoid at all costs, it’s emptying the dishwasher. That’s the situation in our house at least. And it got me thinking: why do we put ourselves through it? Why do we knowingly and willingly load up these appliances with our dirty dishes, leave it to do its thing and then huff and puff our way into the kitchen late in the evening to FINALLY empty the damn thing lest the cupboards run dry of essentials such as plates and glasses?

For many women, it’s to avoid the sink and the effect on their hands that repeated washing-up sessions can have over a period of time. For men such as myself, I think it’s laziness. We don’t want to wash up. Have you seen the average single male’s abode? But women can wear rubber gloves to (mostly) protect their hands. As for us blokes? We need to stop being so damn lazy and pitch in – just get the job done. We aren’t beneath cleaning up after a meal.

The REAL reason that a dishwasher is so appealing is the convenience. There’s no standing at the sink, scrubbing pans or plates. You just load it up throughout the day, kick back while it does all of the cleaning for you and then empty it later. I get that; I really do. But the thing about convenience is that it rarely benefits you in the long term; it’s all about the instant gratification and relief at avoiding work. Convenience food for example is tasty as fuck but it’s bad for you in regular doses and gets you out of prepping a proper meal.

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It’s not that bad – honest.

But convenience is what we seem to be all about these days. Dishwashers used to be a luxury appliance but now they are a standard feature of a kitchen. Heaven forbid it breaks down though (more on that in a moment) and you have to remember how to wash up in the sink. For some people, this is a genuine disaster. My father is an appliance engineer and has dealt with customers who are complaining that the dishes are piling up by the sink because the dishwasher is broken and they can’t cope. You feel like giving these people a good smack in the face and instructing them to just deal with it. Surely they won’t die from having to temporarily revert to ye olden days of using a scrubbing brush or sponge in the sink?

But back to convenience. When you are merrily filling the dishwasher up with the remains of your breakfast, lunch and dinner (‘Tea’ to us Brits), do you know what you are actually doing? You are delaying the inevitable and just postponing the work – not eradicating it altogether. It reminds me of a quote from Terminator 3:

“You only postponed it. Judgment Day is inevitable.”

So you’ve been avoiding the washing-up all day but there’s no escape from having to empty an absolutely loaded dishwasher.

It’s far faster to simply wash up after each meal. There’s less to clean if you do it that way and it takes a matter of minutes to get it done.

Plus you are saving money. A dishwasher is more than just an initial outlay of cash, remember. You have to buy tablets, rinse aid and salt. It becomes yet another object of constant maintenance in your home – another ongoing cost that never ends. And when it breaks down (which it will), it will cost more money to repair or – worst case scenario – replace altogether. Old-school dishwashers didn’t suffer so much in this respect as they were built to last but the current stuff is cheaply-engineered crap designed to satisfy rampant consumerism that demands everything NOW at bargain basement prices. You will get what you pay for and there’s no way your dishwasher will last fifteen or twenty years like your parents’ might have done.

This cost factor is probably the biggest issue here because you don’t really need a dishwasher do you? But those tablets and bottles of rinse aid all add up over time. A 60-pack of Finish tablets is currently £9.00 on the ASDA UK website for example. Let’s say that you put the washer on once a day (it could even be more) and that’s six packs that you will need to buy over the course of a year, totalling £54.00. Over five years, that’s £270.00. £540.00 over a decade. Obviously, prices go up and down and there are different brands available blah, blah, blah but that’s a lot of money to avoid washing up by hand and we haven’t even factored in rinse aid, the initial purchase price, repair costs or even how many dishwasher units you would have had to buy during that ten-year span. And yes, you could also point out that our lives are loaded with such compounding costs and you would be correct. But we really should look to eliminate as many as possible if we want more money in our wallets to do better and more enjoyable things with.

My point is this: for the sake of washing up a few plates, glasses and mugs after each meal, you can save yourself a load of money and hassle. In my eyes, it’s a no-brainer but maybe I’ve just over-thought this. But the next time you are moaning about emptying the dishwasher or arguing over who should do it, just remember that convenience is a double-edged sword.

Comic Book Talk: Ghost Rider #1-#27 (1990-)

GR-1The 90’s gets a bad rap when it comes to comic books. The 60’s and 70’s established many of the characters and ongoing books that readers are familiar with while the 80’s featured countless classic story arcs and famous runs on big name comics. Fast forward to the modern day and the likes of Marvel and DC are enjoying more exposure than ever and, as befits the age we live in, the comics themselves enjoy slick presentation and the individual titles are far more integrated into the main ‘universe'(s) with frequent crossovers and major ‘events’.

By contrast, the 90’s is often cited as the decade of forgettable storytelling, uninspiring ideas and a lack of anything “big”. Thing is though, while many of the mainline books suffered a period of stagnation in the 1990’s, it simply isn’t true to claim that the decade as a whole is worth forgetting about because there were some fantastic comics. Case in point, the 1990 Ghost Rider reboot which is one of my favourite runs of any comic to date.

The powers of the Ghost Rider are picked up by new lead character, Dan Ketch, and he struggles to cope with the Rider’s furious need for vengeance as well as his own personal life which begins to spin out of control once he begins moonlighting as GR. This is a different Ghost Rider to the original Johnny Blaze incarnation and so this run had the freedom to go its own way while posing numerous questions and mysteries regarding the Ghost Rider.

I’m only going to talk about the first 27 issues here in this post because from there on, the Sons of Midnight crossover project began and I haven’t read any further since I need to track down some more comics to fill in the gaps in my collection. Those 27 issues however are pure dynamite. This is a dark book that doesn’t shy away from violence, blood and innocent death. A core of recurring, brand-new villains are also established for Ghost Rider to contend with and while they don’t exactly have the most dynamic of personalities between them, the psychotic brutality of their actions and the joy they extract from killing, makes them fascinating adverseries for GR to face off against.

Blackout is a crazed, sharp-toothed killer that enjoys ripping people’s throats out, Deathwatch is an evil businessman that cracks necks and appears to draw energy from the death of his victims and Zodiac is a sick serial killer that continually manages to escape the vengeful wrath of Ghost Rider. This trio of villains are collectively behind a wave of violent murders and disappearances in the Forest Hills area of Queens, New York. Ghost Rider might be a powerhouse of a character with high immunity to damage but he struggles to permanently put these sickos down. Deathwatch for example hides behind the persona of a respectable businessman and pulls the strings from the shadows. Blackout on the other hand deduces GR’s identity and makes things personal, striking out at those close to Dan Ketch. He even attacks the hospital and tears the throat out of Ketch’s comatose sister! You end up really despising these villains and rooting for Ghost Rider as he takes on a sort-of anti-hero role, beating the shit out of bad guys and not being constrained by the morality codes that the likes of Spiderman and the Avengers abide by. As I said before, this is a dark book.

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During these 27 issues, Ghost Rider also encounters Dr. Strange, teams up with The Punisher to take on Flag Smasher and battles the Brood alongside the X-Men. Mephisto makes an appearance, Ghost Rider has his first battle with Scarecrow and Johnny Blaze himself even shows up but the motive for his return isn’t what you might expect.

The thing that really makes this run of Ghost Rider so special is the creative team behind it. After reading some truly woeful Spiderman arcs in the late 90’s from Howard Mackie, I didn’t ever expect to praise the same guy for his writing but here, it is superb. The human side of Dan Ketch and the effect that his actions as Ghost Rider have on the supporting cast is as integral to the ongoing plot as are the villains that refuse to give up and die and Mackie does a great job of striking a balance between them. Better yet is the artwork which is absolutely stunning in that raw, detailed style that only comics from the 80’s and early 90’s could deliver before presentation as a whole moved to another level and computer work sucked some of the soul and purity from the pages.

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Javier Saltares kicks things off before being replaced by regular artist, Mark Texeira (also known as simply ‘TEX’). Both men really bring the book to life with grim, brooding artwork but Texeira in particular is on another level. Ron Wagner steps in from time-to-time too and honestly, I rate him almost as highly as Texeira. There really is no weak link in the art department for these opening 27 issues.

Overall, I cannot recommend this volume of Ghost Rider enough. I don’t disagree that the 90’s served up some real duds in the comic book arena but in my experience, it is the B-Tier characters and books that give the decade some appeal. In particular, I love the dark characters and horror themes that Marvel saw fit to push out in the early 90’s; the 1990 reboot of Ghost Rider being a front-runner (or should that be ‘rider’?). It remains to be seen whether the rest of the run manages to uphold the same quality and thrilling reading but I have high hopes.

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.

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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:

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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…

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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.

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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.

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[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…

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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”.

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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.