Insanely Great

I’m sad today. I knew Steve Jobs was very ill but somehow I thought he’d pull another rabbit out of the hat. I’d been getting mixed signals from my SiVal sources, some saying he looked terrible and some saying he looked good, real good, and was just recharging his batteries.

Steve Jobs is one of my all-time heroes and I don’t have a lot of those. Obviously it’s sad he was taken so young despite such heroic accomplishments, but part of me also mourns the loss of a brief, shining exception to the truly terrible world in which I used to dwell. The world of consumer electronics is overwhelmingly peopled by utter human filth, and in fact the worse of a person you are the greater heights you tend to climb in CE.

But Jobs was different. One in a trillion. Even though he left Apple in extremely capable hands, let’s not kid ourselves. It won’t be the same. (Yes, that means sell all your AAPL, now, right this instant. Thank you.) Apple may still dominate hearts and minds and wallets but in many ways it was the knowledge that Steve was there obsessing over the details until he was ready to release products that instilled such confidence in the people who bought the stuff he created.

There are plenty of big brains left at Apple and maybe someone will rise up and be the dick at the end of the day who risks missing a 100mil holiday season because he doesn’t like the way the mute button protrudes. I want to be optimistic but it is a sad day and I feel the world lost something a lot bigger than just a guy who sold iPods. It lost one of the very damn few titans of industry that actually thinks, believes, and says genuinely, meaningfully humanistic things that indicate he or she is somehow, despite the exorbitant wealth, a Good Person, or even Great. The kind of leader capable of stepping outside the public message points that feed his whole corporate flow and pleases his directors and stockholders and absolutely nobody else. The kind of leader who somehow got there and became an even better and more inspiring person.

How many people do you know like that in public life?

When my sister graduated from Duke the commencement speaker was former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw. His speech was steel-cut template, as canned as the corn he so legendarily fed upon as a small boy with preternaturally good hair and trustworthy mien. Open with self-deprecating joke, name drop university poobahs, fabricate hardscrabble upbringing and yes even mention the Greatest Generation if you’ve got a coffee table book coming out for the holidays, acknowledge the difficulties that await those who will soon enter the workforce of tending to the tedious tasks of the speaker’s life while he skis in Aspen, bring it all back home by telling graduates they too can be a Greatest Generation if they just go out there and do lots of great things, wave like an astronaut riding in the back of a parade Buick, collect the check, make brief appearance at private reception at college president’s home, tell car service to floor it back to the private airstrip while yelling in the back seat “Fuck it I don’t care how much they pay me I’m never doing one of the fucking things again I don’t care HOW many of my kids are graduating!!” It was the same $45K speech you heard at corporate retreats, AARP conventions, and local Rotary Club meetings in pancake restaurants all over the Midwest. It is, as they say, good work if you can get it.

I dredge up T-Braw because he typifies what most celebrities do when asked to come deliver a commencement speech. They smile the winner’s smile and Phone It In. The phony message of universal greatness possibility that they themselves clearly don’t believe at all except as useful canned auto-palaver for ginning up future peons and pool cleaners and lift chair operators and town car drivers.

Here’s Steve Jobs’s famous 2005 commencent speech at Stanford.

See if you can tell the difference.

The comparisons to great figures of the past have been flying fast and furious in the last 24 hours since reports of his passing. Edison, Lennon, Tony Stark, Newton. Whatever. I hate when people rush to be the first to bleat “He was our generation’s _______!!” I remember when Kurt Cobain actually blew his mind out with a gun and Kurt Loder gravely intoned on MTV News that Cobain was “this generation’s John Lennon.” No he wasn’t. Look, I like Nirvana, but let’s be real here. Kid was talented, could do a mean rewrite of Boston. But by no stretch of the imagination was he a John Lennon.

And Steve Jobs wasn’t either. He didn’t peak in his 20s and live on as an increasingly uninspiring figure generating lightweight irrelevance even his diehard fans had to choke back and keep telling themselves “Just Like Starting Over” was just as brain cleaving as “Strawberry Fields”. Jobs kept hitting them out of the park and then hitting them even farther and farther nearly every at bat until his last game where he somehow hit a grandslam with more than 3 men on base which is theoretically impossible but look it up in the record books it’s all there.

Forget MacIntosh. The iPod and the iTunes Music Store are lifetime achievements on so grand a scale as to be unthinkable for most tech luminaries, who would’ve ridden that one hit out for the rest of their career as the guy who did that one thing once. So what does Jobs do? Boom. iPhone. And as if that whole mobile-phone-industry’s-heart-pulled-out-of-its-chest-while-still-beating wasn’t enough, a few years later Steve Jobs delivered, at the very end of his life, his Pieta.

Only a couple of years ago “tablet” was PC-speak for dog shit. A horrendous million-dollar mistake never to be repeated by anyone who wanted to stay alive in CE. A failed concept given a half-hearted try by a few brands like Toshiba (remember them? They used to make computers, and now they’re mostly a RAM supplier for Apple). Tablet PCs were low-end laptops with swiveling EZ-break plastic hinges for people who wanted to scratch up their soft LCD laptop screens with little plastic sticks. Bill Gates got up at a CES launch to declare The Year Of The Tablet with a Windows Tablet Edition laptop he clearly had just been handed by some Dell rep right before he got onstage and it was like he was trying to make orange juice with a toilet brush. Tablets died as fast as they appeared and the category became a cautionary tale never to be spoken of again if you wanted a job in CE.

So of course Steve Jobs invents the iPad blah blah blah. The Jobsian cycle of everyone else taking crappy stabs at a concept and then Apple with its first try not only creates the one magical product everyone in the world must own and in multiples if possible but so dominates the category that nothing else can be reasonably considered a legitimate rival.

Look, I like competition. It spurs companies to greater heights, heights they wouldn’t normally have achieved without the fear of being beaten by someone else. But clearly Apple never needed a rival to smack its nuts till it ran faster than a horse should technically be able to for a quarter mile. It had Steve Jobs.

And that’s what’s left as the Big ? hanging over Apple now. Everyone, even little kids not even in pre-K yet, knows Tim Cook has been the real CEO for years, is the reason Apple’s trains run on time, both out of the Apple Stores and into the Chinese factories that need more more more aluminum shells, static RAM, and LED backlit IPS, is a genuine genius and not just some interchangeable SilVal execubrity like Meg Whitman or Jon Rubinstein or Dabney Coleman or Garrett Morris. Cook’s the real deal, the reason I’m sitting on my Apple stock with lead weights in my Man-Spanx.

But is Cook a nut smacker? Will he walk up to Jonny Ive and literally whack him in the testicles if iPad3 has some imperceptible surface curve that isn’t exactly what Dieter Rams would’ve done on a Braun 8-track player? I don’t work at Apple so I don’t know. I can only hope that he has this essential quality in him. Because without it, the greatest team of engineers, designers, coders, and supply chain Yodas is only capable of burping up a Zune a month before Xmas without someone screaming at them to get that godawful piece of shit out of his sight before he jerks his gun out of his desk again and everyone dives to the floor like the last hundred times they showed him what they thought was great but turned out to be only sanely so.

I started to write about my thoughts today on SJ’s passing and here I am mining my old crappy turf of ha-ha techyak with a picocule of actual useful data surrounded by a metric ass ton of EZ-read filler. Only Steve Jobs could get me to sit down and “write” again after swearing off it years ago as a pointless exercise in futility best left to the young and less embittered.

So yeah, I’m sad. He’s a big-time hero of mine. We won’t see the likes of him again. You’re not college grads and I’m not Tom Brokaw bullshitting you that the future is whatever you make it. Enjoy your harrowing, bleak ride, because you are not Steve Jobs and neither am I and there’s nothing about that to make a fellow toss his hat up in the air so his parents can miss the shot of him doing so because they’re holding a Sony piece of hammered shit they got free with AmEx points instead of an iPhone.

Best. Shaving Cream Pie. Ever.

How To Be Perfect

The Right Good Rev. Daniel Harrell has honored this Vile Wicked Blog yet again with another volley in what some are calling “the greatest game of Layer Tennis ever played”.

In our case, instead of two graphic design goofuses lazily farting Photoshop wankery back and forth on a slow Friday when they should be dodge’n’burning the new Kal Kan ad for the Thrifty Nickel, the Padre and I go back and forth with ye olde log-rolling, him using wet-shaving as a metaphor for spiritual renewal, me using his sermons as validation that I am nothing less than a prophet for our times — a seer, if you will — and that my word should be taken as Natural Law.

Speaking of Layer Tennis, my brother Mark did the music for this great short film about the making of Coudal’s new Field Notes. Me, I’m all about SimpleNote on the iPad these days but if you feel your “mind mapping” diagrams for that selvedge denim and used vinyl boutique you and your girlfriend want to open in that crack neighborhood where that guy was just killed requires the formal imprimatur of ink on pulp, maybe you want to treat yourself to a beautiful handmade artisanal notebook for ten bucks a trio. As the man says, this shit is the steeze yo.


Philip Bloom is a filmmaker and evangelist of “HDSLR” - shooting high-definition video on one of the new high-end digital SLR cameras instead of a traditional video camera. Ever since I got my GF1 and hacked its firmware for better video quality, I’ve leaned on Bloom’s blog and marveled at the technical and artistic quality of the short films he makes with little more than a DSLR and some time spent hunched over a Mac.

Bloom has a special obsession with shaving, as the above clip demonstrates. Out of respect for the man and his work I’ve holstered the snark for this post because mainly I just dig watching razor-sharp high-def footage of shaving, and especially the nutty 100mm macro lens closeups of his whiskers, which look like trees growing on a giant flaky croissant.

Bloom’s growing a mustache during the month of November for Movember, a charity project focusing on prostate cancer awareness. I support their efforts but will not be growing a stache of my own, it being little more than a symbolic gesture and I really, really can’t deal with the itchiness and ’70s porn actor look. Also, unlike Bloom, I enjoy shaving every day, which is sort of self-evident I guess if you’ve been reading this far. But the guy’s a genius, one of the few people online whose work I follow like a blushing fanboy, and the video’s a visual treat. Enjoy, and please go get your balls checked this month.

They can shut the Internet down now

Nothing will ever be better than this.

I’m not good at getting praise

So I’m hunting the Intertubes for confirmation as to whether the kinda sorta grayish market GF1 camera I bought online locks shutter at 1/100 (Canadian version) or 1/120 (US market) in Flicker Reduction Mode when word comes from Young Petrovich that one of our jointly favorited sites, Rands in Repose, has kinda sorta grayishly mentioned this very site you are reading right now with an increasing sense of exasperation borne of not getting that immediate slug of tasty sugarmilk you’ve come to expect from this reporter.

Why can you not hazz your shaveburger already and get the hell out of here, you ask? Because all of the above — I’ll be honest with you — irks me just a little bit. No, a lot bit. Here’s my thinking on this.

I’m not a linkwhore. I don’t go jacking other D-listers off just to get linkrolled all over the faux-hipster blogosphere. It’s not why I do this (I know, I know, did is the more honest tense). I don’t write nice things about Gillette or King of Shaves just to get linkrolled by the mammoths. Couldn’t care less. I don’t ever think about this stuff, because I spent 20 years eating corporate-owned media shit and now I can’t even taste anything anymore. My tastebuds are permanently shell-shocked. It takes me a bottle of Habanero sauce in the morning just to get to normal.

So why am I irked by a nice mention by a blog I’m frankly honored to be to be on their radar? Because it’s a mention that isn’t really a mention. In fact, when Young Petrovich pointed me to the post, I reread the whole thing half a dozen times scratching my head because I couldn’t find the damned mention. Because there isn’t one. There’s not even a mention of the msnbc article which is where many people first became aware of Shaveblog, even though that article’s a watered down version of my original.

No, in order to even know why Shaveblog played any role at all in the Rands thing, you have to go read through their Twitter stream. And scroll, scroll, scroll, fuck me, I don’t have time for this — ahh, there it is, May 6th, thanks @rands (and by virtue of his retwatting, @johnwilliams713).

Fact is, I don’t know how to react to this stuff anymore. I should by all rights have sent Seth Godin, Titan of Industry, a box of Montes for his mentions. I haven’t done fuck-all lately to merit the barest periphery of his attention. And now Rands has blown a little bit of oxygen on the embers, keeping them glowing just a bit longer, and all I can respond with is wretched, miserly carping that they didn’t take their whole goddamn site down and replace it with a towering 72-pt link to Shaveblog on the center of the page and nothing else, and leave it like that, just walk away from the URL, find something else to do.

Anywho. Have a super day.

Lifehacker: You Suck At Shaving Tips

Seriously, Lifehacker, enough with the shaving tips. Between this and this and this, you keep reminding me why ever since Trapani left your site’s become the joke of the Intertubes, and considering this site is also in the running, that’s saying a lot.

Extra threw-up-just-a-little-bit-in-my-mouth points for casting the Colonel from Boogie Nights as the Shirtless Rotarian who’s somehow lived all these years without getting any smarter about shaving than your average 20 year-old Lifehacker editor.

I don’t usually like to argue semantics with naked seniors, but for fuck’s sake, if you’re gullible enough to think you can sharpen a razor cartridge with your FOREARM, and your only supportive data point is a naked old guy on YouTube, we need to talk.

Sheesh, where to begin.

It’s called a strop, not a strap. It’s made of leather (Horween shell cordovan in the good old days just like my favorite shoes, nowadays it’s mostly cowhide), and yeah, it looks like a strap, sort of. But it’s called a strop.

"Your grandfather" did not use a leather strop to sharpen his straight razor. Strop’s don’t sharpen blades. Sharpening stones (or “hones”) sharpen blades. “Your grandfather” lightly swiped his straight razor across a sharpening stone to hone and restore its sharp edge. A leather strop, on the other hand, is used between honings to realign the molecules on the very edge of the blade so it’s not curving to one side or the other, and here’s where Shirtless Rotarian’s claim falls apart:

You can’t strop a blade if you can only get to one side of it. Which is all you can get at with a cartridge like the Fusion he’s holding. Even setting aside the argument of whether he’s actually achieving anything at all by running the blade along his forearm (he’s not), even if he were achieving some level of stropitude, he’d only be rolling the blade edge over to one side instead of realigning it to point straight ahead as is the goal of straight razor stropping.

Your arm is not made of something like leather. Even Shirtless Rotarian’s arm isn’t made of something like leather. Leather is thick animal hide that’s been dried, cured, treated, coated, manipulated, and toughened to the point where it can withstand a great deal of abuse, such as forcing the edge of an extremely sharp steel blade to move back into shape. This is why they make strops out of leather instead of Shirtless Rotarian skin, which tends to either get cut by the blade if they meet head-on, or do nothing at all if the blade is stroked along the forearm as demonstrated in the video above.

My guess is Mrs. Shirtless Rotarian is secretly replacing his Fusion blade every week without telling him. I hope so, because I’d really like to think he’s not so out of it that he believes rubbing a Fusion cartridge on his arm keeps it shave-sharp for TWO YEARS, and that he believes this such an important discovery that he’s moved to shoot shirtless bathroom video of himself and post it on YouTube.

Hey, could be worse. He could be somebody’s doctor.

It all makes sense now

This made me cry

Seriously, you guys are the best. I love you all.



I’m tempted to switch to old school shaving, but have a question – would your methods/equipment change for a bald(ing) man who shaves his entire head 2/3 times/week?



Not being bald myself I can’t state for certain that what’s good for the puss is good for the pate, but feedback from some of my readers who do chop it all off seems to indicate that the bon temps definitely continue to roulet when you shave your head with an old-school safety razor.

You do need to be careful and take it slow when you first transition from a modern multi-blade to an old-school, single-blade DE (double-edge). You’re still swiping a blade-onna-stick across your skin, but beyond that it’s a whole different trip — how much pressure you apply, how much more attention you need to pay to your hand/razor/skin relationship to keep the blade angle right, the audio feedback from the cutting of the whiskers. It’s like learning how to shave all over again, although what it really is is learning how to shave right for the first time. Most guys (me included) need a week or so to get to the point where they can get through a DE shave without a nick.

If I was balding I’d definitely chop it all off. Because if I’m going to be bald I want to be bald, son. None of that Gallagher crap with the party in back — when this glorious Michael Landonesque Jew Mane starts falling out in clumps because of all that 1st-gen Blackberry phone RF I soaked up back in the day, that’s it, issue me my Player’s Club card and get out of this bald, virile man’s way.

And no modern multi-blade razor, be it the Fusion, Mach3, Quattro, Sensor, whatever, gives me as close or as long-lasting a shave as a good DE. Forget those little hand-grip “headshavers” on the drugstore shelves that take multi-blade Gillette cartridges — nobody who uses those things is getting as close a shave as they should be.

Back in the day, when balding guys went Full Monty they had their barber do it with a straight razor, and that’s why these guys looked absolutely clean, I’m talking “Mr. Clean” clean, not with that faint skinhead “rough trade” stubble that all modern cartridge-fed “head shavers” leave behind. Unless you’re trying to rock that look, which is a personal choice and also a wrong one, because for the life of me I can’t understand why a guy would want to look like the Commish when Michael Chicklis would be plenty happy if he looked like Eric Banna even when he was Chopper.

If you want to shave your head old-school, the same rules for face shaving apply up top. You need to soak your stubble in warm water for at least 2 minutes, to waterlog the hair so it’ll slice through neatly like wet noodles. Use a high quality glycerin-based shaving cream or shaving soap, and of course a good shaving brush is mandatory. Short, careful strokes, not those ridiculous eyebrow-to-Adam’s-apple glides you see on the Gillette commercials. I got news for you, there’s as much actual blade in those prop razors the male models are miming with as there is sexual interest in the towel-wrapped girls hugging them from behind.

If you’re shaving your head with a DE for the first time, I recommend laying down a protective layer of Jojoba oil to smooth the runway a bit for your first few forays. Five or six drops rubbed between your hands and spread over your skull should do it. A little Jojoba makes everything glide along just that much more smoothly, and it helps you get the hang of the much less forgiving nature of an old-school DE razor. When you’ve got your technique and touch down, you won’t need to use the Jojoba, although you may want to continue anyway as it’s really good for freshly-shaven skin and you may even find you won’t need to use moisturizer up on the dome anymore, as Jojoba does the job better and with less expense.

Help Me Out Here

Governor-elect Christie

The guns I get. The ammo, sure. And the speedloader, the mags, the black Speedo, even the odd discoloration on the upper thigh near the crotchular region. I get all that.

Why the Guitar Hero controllers?


Rule #1: Use a shaving brush


Glad to see one of my favorite new blogs gets Rule #1 exactly right.

What’s doubly cool is Walker and his wife ended up having a girl, but he continues to advise his future son anyway.