Friday, August 28, 2015

What's up with the man bun?

Okay, guys, enough already. This has gone too far. Man buns are the most ridiculous hairstyle on a man I've seen since the mullet and the mohawk, even more ridiculous as a fashion trend than the bushy beards half of everyone (male) under 30 seems to be sporting these days. Let's not even talk about a combination of the two (with perhaps even a manskirt thrown in for good measure). One word I recently saw that pretty much describes the trend is "lumbersexual." Lumbersexual connotes lumberjacks, and lumberjack connotes a big burly man with perhaps less than satisfactory personal hygiene after weeks or months in the bush. The men with man buns that I see don't quite measure up, size-wise and hygiene-wise. They are all just too urban. And thinking of all that hair ending up on the bathroom floor and clogging up shower drains, I must say I am glad not to be in the female demographic that has to cope with this nonsense.

The last group of men to sport a man bun was the Japanese samurai. In those days it was called a topknot, and it was outlawed by a Japanese emperor in an effort to modernize and Westernize Japan. Now there are some differences between the topknot and the man bun. The topknot was worn by men who were trained warriors and carried big swords with which they routinely cleaved other men in half. Under no circumstances would one be tempted to even assay a snicker looking at such a man. The modern man bun on the other hand ... One doesn't snicker because one is polite, but one is certainly tempted.

I don't get the purpose. On the one hand "lumbersexual" seems to suggest that some kind of ultra-masculinity is being sought here, but to me the effect of the man bun is one of feminization. You take a young man with smooth skin, put him in a baggy outfit of jeans and sweatshirt, top him with a man bun, and half the time I honestly can't tell whether I am looking at a man or a woman. Or rather most of the time I can only tell it's a man because I figure a woman wouldn't wear one of those things unless she were a babushka or a ballet dancer. On the other hand I suppose if women can have short hair (as I've done for the past 30 years), then men should be allowed to have their hair however long they want, and to put it up in a bun so it doesn't get into their eyes. But for God's sake, guys ... must you?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Go away, richface - a rant on the new trends in plastic surgery

Okay, so maybe not so new. Surely by the time a trend makes it into the staid Globe & Mail, it has to have been around the block a few times. Here is the article: "The rise of richface: why so many young women are getting plastic surgery." Apparently young women in their twenties are willingly getting themselves injected with God knows what to acquire grotesquely bloated lips and "puffer-fish cheeks" or going under the knife to augment their breasts and change their faces, sometimes becoming practically unrecognizable (Heidi Montag, anyone?). This obsession is driven by celebrity culture, one-upmanship, and a shallowness and lack of foresight of truly, truly frightening proportions. According to the article the whole point of getting work done is to be seen as someone who can afford to get work done, so it can't be subtle, it has to be (pun intended) in your face. Big lips are a class marker the way being Rubenesque used to be -- it's just that while in days gone by the poor could not afford food, these days apparently what they can't afford is plastic surgery.

All I can say, and I am deliberately shouting here, is WHAT THE **** IS THE MATTER WITH YOU PEOPLE? You are young, you are beautiful, and your 40- or 50-year-old self will want to bitchslap you silly for your youthful idiocy once the trendy alterations you paid through the nose for are no longer in fashion. Honestly, have you got nothing better to spend your money on? No yen for travel? Or life experience? Or education? And in case you haven't noticed, the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket, there is climate change going on, so by the time you get to middle age there could well be water wars and food line-ups for basics, and parts of the world, including south Florida and some New York boroughs, could easily be underwater, and there you will be with your duck lips and your inflated breasts and the shrunken rest of you wondering what the heck you did with your youth while the living was still good. Why hadn't you gone to Paris or Rome or London or Barcelona or Hong Kong or Australia on the money you wasted having poison injected into your skin? Why haven't you heard great opera in some of the great opera houses of the world, or visited the Gothic churches of Europe, or if you are not that way inclined, surfed in Hawaii or gone diving on the Great Barrier Reef, or hiked up Mount Fuji or Kilimanjaro, or sea-kayaked in Belize? You could have had some truly great food and wine or some transcendent life-altering experiences; you could have, God forbid, even helped some people in need near you or in some other part of the world. But, no, you would rather stick needles in your lips and cheeks to look like some inane celebrity than actually have a good life.

Not to put too fine a point on it, to my mind duck lips are the ultimate frivolity, a decadence to rival anything ancient Rome could offer. A hideous distortion of femininity, they aren't even attractive, but pure and simple grotesquery, pursued by the shallow for the shallowest of reasons. Welcome to celebrity culture, the end of civilization.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Discovering Eric Burdon

For much of my adult life, my ignorance about popular music has been a bit of a running joke among my friends. Having grown up in Eastern Europe and South America, I managed to miss all of the sixties and much of the seventies, music, social turmoil and all. I remember "Ob-la-di Ob-la-da" from my childhood and "Black Magic Woman" from my early teens, but that pretty much covers the lot.

When I arrived in North America, this profound ignorance continued for quite some time. When everyone in my grade 10 class was selling tickets for a raffle for which the prize was attendance at an Elton John concert, I was out there talking up John Elton tickets, because the name "Elton John" made no sense to me. And later, when I was working in a leather store (pipe down, we sold purses, wallets, and luggage, not kinky stuff) and Eric Clapton's manager walked in to buy luggage for -- who else? -- Eric Clapton, I was not the least bit impressed, because I had no clue who Eric Clapton was. The shocked manager asked whether I had been living on the moon, and gave me four tickets to Eric Clapton's show. My date and I sat in the audience and gamely sang along with everyone else at the right times -- except when they sang the refrain "cocaine, cocaine," we enthusiastically sang "okay! okay!" The poor guy was just as clueless as I.

This is a long preamble to the astonishing statement that two weeks ago, a mere 50 years after they burst on the music scene, I managed to discover Eric Burdon and the Animals. I was perusing YouTube and somehow ran across "The House of the Rising Sun." With vague memories of having heard the song before, I watched the video. And here was this very young guy (Eric Burdon), looking dreadfully uncomfortable in a suit and also like someone who has been woken up early after one heck of a rough night. But then he opened his mouth and this incredible voice came out that just went straight for your gut and your heart.

I am a creature of serial obsessions. A few winters ago I watched all of "Boston Legal"; last winter was the winter of "House," as I watched every single episode of all eight seasons on Netflix. Having discovered Eric Burdon, I next went on an internet hunt and listened to pretty much everything I could find on YouTube, and let me tell you there is a lot. My next favourite after "House of the Rising Sun" was this one, sung by a much more mellow Burdon in 1970:

The man just loves to sing. His voice is an instrument with incredible range. Rolling Stone has him as number 57 of their 100 Greatest Singers, calling his voice "big and dark." He apparently inspired Bruce Springsteen, who in 2012 gave Burdon and the Animals a deeply felt (and funny) tribute. He said their music was the first he heard that reflected his own life and that they gave him hope because they were one of the ugliest bands around, that Eric Burdon looked "like your shrunken daddy with a wig on" and "couldn't dance":

Springsteen's comments gave me a different perspective on "We Got To Get Out of Here" and "It's My Life." There is social consciousness in them there hills! It's not "just" rock and roll! So here is another Burdon song with a message, "Letter from the County Farm," which I don't think is very well known, but should be:

And, surprise, surprise, Eric Burdon is still around. He has had a tumultuous life but it sounds like he has now found safe harbour. He has gone through a series of bands, the Animals, the New Animals, War, the Eric Burdon Band, and still more Animals, but he never stopped singing. Since Springteen's tribute his career has kicked into high gear: he does up to a dozen concerts a month and released an album in 2013 that some people say contains his best work. He is now 74 years old. The voice has aged like rich dark wine but still packs a punch.

PS: to get an idea of Burdon's range, listen to this in comparison to either "House of the Rising Sun" or "Spill the Wine", or better yet, "See See Rider":

Hello, everyone

Hello, everyone!

I've created this blog because my soapbox at Suite 101 became unavailable quite some time ago and because Twitter and Facebook don't give writers much scope to tease out ideas beyond the bare minimum.

Most of you who read this will know me, so there is no great need for introductions. You will already know that I am eclectic and opinionated, and that I don't hold back when I got something in my craw. I will try to strive for a balance between kwetching and enthusiasm, and promise to steer clear of politics in order not to bore anyone.