Another fine scrape

A question not calculated — but certainly guaranteed — to get my attention:

I wonder what women did back when my grandmother was young, before safety razors. Did they just not worry about it? Or did they have some other method of removal? I know one of my aunts — of whom I am very jealous — has never had to shave her legs because she has very fine, very blonde hair — and the hair on her legs DOES NOT SHOW. But surely there were enough fair skin + dark hair women back in the day that hair on the legs would have been an issue. Or did they just always wear thick stockings and so many layers of undergarments that it didn’t matter? What did the flappers do? I don’t think the safety razor existed in the 1920s…

The very first safety razor — it featured a skin guard of sorts made of very thin wire — was patented in 1888, though it really didn’t make a whole lot of headway until King C. Gillette (of course) went into production circa 1903, and it became pretty much the standard after Gillette provided a razor for every American soldier sent off to the Great War.

Then again, those soldiers were, um, men. How did women get caught up in this? Cecil Adams’ The Straight Dope advises that it was a two-part process, starting with underarms:

Pete Cook of Chicago has sent me a 1982 article from the Journal of American Culture by Christine Hope bearing the grand title “Caucasian Female Body Hair and American Culture.”

To be sure, women had been concerned about the appearance of their hair since time immemorial, but (sensibly) only the stuff you could see. Prior to World War I this meant scalp and, for an unlucky few, facial hair. Around 1915, however, sleeveless dresses became popular, opening up a whole new field of female vulnerability for marketers to exploit.

According to Hope, the underarm campaign began in May, 1915, in Harper’s Bazaar, a magazine aimed at the upper crust. The first ad “featured a waist-up photograph of a young woman who appears to be dressed in a slip with a toga-like outfit covering one shoulder. Her arms are arched over her head revealing perfectly clear armpits. The first part of the ad read ‘Summer Dress and Modern Dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable hair’.”

OMG, objectionable hair! Whatever will we do?

Opaque stockings and variable hemlines made leg hair a non-issue for a couple of decades. What happened?

Though Hope doesn’t say so, what may have put the issue over the top was the famous WWII pinup of Betty Grable displaying her awesome gams. Showing off one’s legs became a patriotic act. That plus shorter skirts and sheer stockings, which looked dorky with leg hair beneath, made the anti-hair pitch an easy sell.

Yes, folks, it’s the dreaded Male Gaze. The Patriarchy wins again.

Of course, this assumes that the Patriarchy has put some thought into the matter, which is a lot to assume of a bunch of, well, guys, especially considering that guys have only a few square inches to scrape off every day, if they bother to scrape at all, which a lot of them don’t. And besides, women have a whole lot more surface area to deal with, which boosts the potential for drudgery.

That said, there are women who spurn the razor, and yes, it is possible to do that and not become “unsightly,” though it helps to have a favorable juxtaposition of hair and skin shades. As for the chemical treatments — well, I’ve tried a couple myself, and I disliked them intensely. Imagine that.

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Nobody else but you

As a rule, I tend to be somewhat skeptical of that whole “soulmate” thing; if you’ve locked your heart into There Can Be Only One mode, you’ll be ill-prepared for that other number, the one that’s hollow at the core.

Chele says, sensibly, that it’s all a little too Cinderella for her:

Cindy couldn’t have hooked up with the baker or the butcher to get her up out the rodent-infested attic? She just had to wait on the Prince, huh? Seriously, in dire straits, isn’t the coach driver starting to look real good? I bet the stable boy had a wicked sense of humor and buns of steel. But no, Cindy up in the house waiting on uncomfortable pumps and a high-falutin’ prince. You ever wonder how that happily ever turned out? What if the Prince was a spoiled Mama’s Boy expecting Cindy to prance around in those glass shoes with the tiara on all the time? Hmm? Trust and believe, Cindy’s fairy godmother would have done her a favor by hooking her up with some random dude one kingdom over and being done with it.

You’d think the poor girl might have figured that out, shortly after the stroke of midnight, when the coach turned back into a pumpkin and her diaphragm turned back into a trampoline. I suspect that this is the purpose of “happily ever after”: to forestall questions like Chele’s.

And there’s something wrong with that whole Jerry Maguire “You complete me” business:

Pull your Me, Myself, and I together and make it work. If you are broken, shattered, tattered, halved or torn asunder… can’t no man/woman put you to rights.

And if it should look like you were “completed” by this experience, what happens when it unravels? Do you go to pieces again? (And if so, are they the same pieces, or do you fracture along whole new lines?)

Romance demands that we take an occasional risk. Common sense requires that we look both ways before plunging off the cliff.

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As the inventory shrinks

The Chicago Tribune looks at a new book by a shoplifting expert, and appends a list of Things Most Swiped In British Shops. Some of these things I can understand: Similac (desperation), HP ink cartridges (absurd pricing), energy drinks (boredom).

But how would you sneak a KitchenAid mixer, not a tiny object by any means, out of a High Street store? You’d practically have to be wearing a trench coat with its own built-in trench.

(Via Fark.)

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The dreaded Third Orange

Orange socks, yet, from London’s Jonathan Aston:

Ankle socks by Jonathan Aston advises that these socks are “incredibly stretchy and really soft. They will look great with your pants or ankle boots and a skirt.”

This completes the Orange Trifecta, unless of course something else comes along that draws my attention.

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The passing of a hero

We will always need people like this:

Kenneth McLeod, who has died aged 92, was captured by the Japanese in the Second World War and was one of the last surviving veterans who worked on the bridge over the River Kwai.

Now his daughter and son are donating his war medals, Glengarry bonnet and sporran to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders museum at Stirling Castle, where he was based more than 70 years ago.

From the Department of Sheer Ingenuity:

[H]e volunteered to go to Siam rather than return to Singapore with the wounded prisoners. This meant he was in No 1 work party which built two bamboo camps before starting the wooden bridge on the north side of the River Kwai at Tamarkan, immortalised in the epic film The Bridge on the River Kwai starring Alec Guinness.

Mr McLeod sabotaged his work by farming termite eggs which he placed at each joint and at the base of every upright.

In the fictionalized film version, Colonel MacEachern (Guinness), the senior Allied officer at the bridge, would not tolerate this sort of thing. However, the real-life British commander, Colonel Philip Toosey, actively encouraged screwing with the Japanese at every turn, including the termite scheme. Once again, Life > Hollywood.

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Not so fast there, Death Star

You may remember that I was basically betting that I’d finish up this new T-Mobile contract extension before the AT&T engulf/devour process takes place.

The FCC has now informed AT&T that there will be just a slight delay:

Within the past week, AT&T has indicated that, since filing its public interest statement supporting its proposed acquisition of T-Mobile and its opposition comments to various petitions to deny the merger, it has developed new models upon which it now relies. Indeed, AT&T is now expressly relying on these models to bolster its arguments concerning the size of the efficiencies made possible by the merger as weighed against the potential anti-competitive effects. We first learned of the scope of these models on July 13, 2011, during an ex parte meeting on economic issues held at the Commission, and now understand that our first opportunity to access the finalized versions of the new models will be on July 25, 2011… As such, the clock has stopped effective today, July 20, 2011. The Commission will restart the clock once the new evidence has been provided to us in a format and with sufficient explanation and back-up information to enable us, and third parties entitled to have access to the information, to adequately evaluate it. We will also allow time before restarting the clock for those third parties to have a meaningful opportunity to comment on the submission.

I have to figure that anything that slows this process down has to be a boon to T-Mo customers.

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Another word for it

Fillyjonk lays down some modest smack on a pretty — but pretty annoying — plant:

On the way out after finding the points, I noticed a population of a wetland plant with magenta-pink flowers … and the first thing I thought was “Purple loosestrife!” Purple loosestrife (well, the one that goes by the scientific name Lythrum salicaria) is a big, bad invasive plant — I remember a few years ago, when I was in Nebraska for some meetings, a lot of the Platt River wetlands were totally choked with it. And there were some areas up near Chicago where the wetland was a monoculture (or so it appeared) of the plant.

Turned out to be something else that she’d found. However, the term “invasive species” itself is apparently not doing the job for some folks:

The call in question was for a survey on behalf of the City of Calgary, designed with the obvious intent of figuring out how to get people to stop planting non-indigenous species that end up spreading throughout the local eco-system. You know the type: wisteria on the North American East Coast and purple loosestrife here in the West. Would we, the survey caller wanted to know, be less likely to introduce a plant into our yard if we knew it was an invasive species — or an aggressive ornamental? Now that you mention it, I think we’ll stay away from the aggressive ornamentals, those lovely but neurotic plants that are prone to outbursts of snarling and clawing at your bare ankles as you walk by. Nor, apparently, do they play well with other plants. They have a tendency to leap over the garden fence and be rather belligerent towards the local flora.

One commenter suggested there might be more enthusiastic compliance with a local ordinance if it spurned both “invasive species” and “aggressive ornamental” in favor of “noxious weed.” No floral relativism here, thank you very much.

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Who buys these things?

Nissan says the Leaf has now sold over 4,000 copies, and has revealed a few bits of demographic information.

Of most interest to me is whether the buyers are using it as their primary vehicle or simply as a commuter/grocery-getter. Says Nissan, most of the buyers are getting by with just the Leaf, though 19 percent of Leafs share a garage with a Toyota Prius. And owners of other Nissan vehicles aren’t flocking to the Leaf: only 14 percent of Leaf buyers are previous Nissan owners. Clearly this is a case where product characteristics outweigh considerations of brand loyalty.

Range anxiety seems to be a minor concern at best: most Leaf drivers travel about 60 miles a day, well within the car’s range — in coastal California, anyway. In places where it gets really cold, the range is reduced a bit. (Damn you, laws of physics!)

The typical Leaf driver, says Nissan, has an annual income of somewhere around $140k, implying that he can afford the two grand for the 220/240V, 40-amp home charging station, which is twice as fast as merely plugging the car into the nearest 110-volt outlet. Then again, given the cost of living in coastal California — but never mind, we won’t go there.

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Strange search-engine queries (286)

It’s time once again for a gleeful, fun-filled romp through the server logs as we seek out the goofiest search strings from the past seven days — as we’ve done for the last five years without once ever running a deficit.

“forgetting to put on a skirt”:  Far be it from me to hold a grudge.

“Stephen michael cohen” donates china:  Just our luck, he’s donating it to North Korea.

X Called; They Want Their Y Back:  Well, they can jolly well kiss my A.

list of people who must die 2011:  Far as I know, the Recording Angel doesn’t have a Web site.

you don’t hear the word inestimable very often:  For that matter, you don’t hear the term “budget surplus” at all.

bathtub bling:  I have a small ring around my tub, but it’s not the least bit blingy.

yugoslavian crotch bugle:  These days, it’s more like Serb Yourself.

howard dananberg asshole:  Um, he’s a podiatrist. I doubt that he can help you with your ‘roid rage.

minerva mink naked sunbath:  Is that you, Wilford B. Wolf?

worship from afar:  Probably your best bet with Minerva Mink.

let the grass die:  Curiously, it will grow just fine in cracks in the concrete.

rebecca black net worth:  By now, she can afford to sit in the front seat or in the back seat.

what does “three quarter story” for a house mean:  Approximately how much you’re being told by the average packet of disclosure statements.

flagrante soixante-neuf:  If it isn’t flagrant, it’s barely worth twisting yourself into position.

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Supermarket shuffle

A unified theory of grocery shopping? Not here.

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Eighteen days

I had an idea for a mixtape (on CD, but work with me here), and the first thing I did was run a database query for Charting Songs Mentioning Friday, 1950-1994. Got 14 hits, which seemed reasonable, so I proceeded across the calendar:

Friday: 14
Saturday: 42
Sunday: 56
Monday: 28
Tuesday: 11
Wednesday: 8
Thursday: 5

2 1/2 WeeksOf those five Thursday tunes, incidentally, only one mentions Thursday in its actual title: “Sweet Thursday” by Johnny Mathis, which I didn’t have on the shelf. I had no problem with doing more recent songs, but it was apparent that I was going to have to do some shopping as well.

Two hours and three dollars later, I wound up with 2½ Weeks, which runs Friday through Thursday, Friday through Thursday again, and then Friday through Monday. This last segment is technically not a half a week, but four-sevenths, but at this point, I’m not overly concerned with rounding errors, if you know what I mean, and I think you do. And no, I didn’t hunt down the Johnny Mathis track.

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Unpredictive text

Can’t argue with this at all:

Damn you autocorrect!

Even dumb phones like mine do irritating mortarfoaming things like that.

(Via FAILBlog’s WIN!)

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Eat your peas or else

I am always amused to hear about how the Evil Capitalists control us all down to the nth degree, how our every move is dictated from the boardroom.

KingShamus solves for the value of n, and it ain’t much:

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never walked into a Wal-Mart and seen the old dude greeter whip out an AK-47 to make the customers get the sale-priced cheese doodles. Old Navy doesn’t threaten folks with ten lashes tied to the yard-arm if they don’t immediately purchase a pair of cargo shorts. No realtor I’ve ever met has been armed with anything stronger than a fierce territorialism and an ambitious go-getter attitude.

Which is not to say that Big Business never gets its way, of course. But more often than not, when it does, it’s because government at some level has cleared the way: there are few things in life J. Random Plutocrat likes better than regulations that keep upstart competitors from cutting into his market share. For instance, ask anyone trying to save money on a casket in Louisiana.

So I am more than a little distrustful of any effort to “correct” the perceived excesses — or deficiencies — of the market: someone’s trying to move the goalposts, and he’s likely brought his own referee.

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Tears dry on their own

The very first time I heard her name mentioned, it was on the Spectropop mailing list back in ’04. It went right past me.

Two years later, on that same list, came the next reference, titled “Shirley Ellis > Amy Winehouse”:

Check out her new video here … the “Clapping Song”isms, the bells, the strings, the legs, the sudden end — it’s all too fantastic for words.

As a long-time fan of Shirley Shirley Bo Birley, I of course immediately sought out the video, and that was enough to propel me to this bit of effusiveness:

[T]hem thar Intarwebs have made finding music a lot more interesting, and I’ve even got a possible Favorite Single for this year, and it hasn’t even been released yet: “Rehab,” a glorious Sixties-soul tune by Amy Winehouse, who wasn’t even thought of in the 1960s… As reworked Sixties soul goes, this might be the best I’ve heard since Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.”

“Rehab” was eventually released to great acclaim and big sales. We all know what happened after that. An extremely-unfortunate remark by yours truly in the summer of ’09: “Let’s hope she makes it past 27.”

Which she didn’t. Damn.

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Personal continental drift

For many years, American Express used the tagline “Don’t leave home without it.” For the first time ever, being with it has made me appear to have left home.

I snagged one of the new Amex prepaid cards for the purpose of stashing small amounts of cash which I could later expend on trifles. Up to now, it’s thrown no one for a loop.

Then I tried to buy an MP3 from Amazon with said card, and they sent me back a stern lecture to the effect that music downloads are offered only in the United States. Huh?

Working theory: All Amex cards start with the same two digits (37), but the next two digits denote the particular card series, some of which are issued outside the US. I’m thinking that Amazon has a list of known (to them) Amex card ranges, which hasn’t been updated to include this newish series. I pitched that theory to their customer-service robot, which is presumably working on the problem. I probably should have mentioned that the iTunes Store handles it with no issues at all.

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Another point on the learning curve

Ingvild Waerhaug on Vedic art:

Vedic Art is shared through an oral tradition given from teacher to student. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the well known guru and teacher of meditation, received these teachings from his guru Swami Brahmananda Saraswati (Guru Dev). In the sixties Swedish artist Curt Kallman studied with Maharishi. Quietly, Maharishi tested Curt, and after seven years of testing, he decided to share with Curt the teachings of Vedic Art. For the next fourteen years Curt Kallman integrated these teachings into his art and life. Then in 1988 he started to share these teachings in Scandinavia.

The seventeen principles are a map that activates your creative life force through practical and meditative tasks. Vedic art calls forth your creativity from deep down in your subconscious with the result that you become more confident about yourself and your capabilities. Veda is neither a religion nor a philosophical tendency, but rather combines life and art. The first results are manifested in your painting, then in your life and finally in society.

If you’re a bit more than merely curious, Waerhaug, who studied under Kallman, is conducting a workshop at Oklahoma City’s Pickard Art Gallery, 5211 North Western, August 12-14 — yes, Friday night through Sunday afternoon. $265 buys the package, including lunch Saturday and Sunday. Drop a note to vedicartusa(at) if you’d like to attend.

(For some inscrutable reason, I am considered something of a player in local media, which is undoubtedly why Ben Pickard wrote to tell me about this.)

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