Revisiting The Razor Wars

Schick sent a Hydro five-blade razor sample in the mail and I tried it. I still like the Gillette Fusion better and I still haven’t tried the Pro Glide with Flexball because I really don’t think I need my shaves to get any closer. We’ve made some pretty big leaps over the past several decades to get from straight edge to this point.

But getting the free razor reminded me of a great expose on the disposable razor blade industry that the New Yorker ran 16 years ago. The article stuck with me for several reasons. Partly because there are not many magazines out there willing or able to delve 14,000 words into razor blade technology.¹ It’s one of the reasons I both love and hate the New Yorker at the same time. I love it because it practices longform and literary journalism at the highest level. Hate it because often the people who like to talk about what they’ve read in the New Yorker seem to do so specifically because they like to show off the fact that they read the New Yorker. (As if that in itself is an estimable endpoint.)

But what I like most about that razor article is that it reminds me that if you write well you can write about pretty much anything. John McPhee demonstrated the same thing with his 17-pound book about  Interstate 80.

But back to the razors. These things all have five blades now. Five. How will they top that? There’s got to be six or seven blades coming down the pike, maybe that you can wear in the form of some hip looking wristwatch. I hope somebody has something interesting to say about it.

1. I’m only guessing at 14,000 words but everything in the New Yorker seems to run that long. Except the cartoons.

war paint

War Paint, Redux

Once in a post I likened the darkened bars on the gill plates of a smallmouth bass to war paint.

War Paint

In the last issue of The Drake, I wrote an essay about smallmouth bass where I described the “dark bands on the gill plates popping like war paint.”

Many times when you write for print it’s as if you send it out via pneumatic mail tube, never to be heard from again.  So it was gratifying to get a package in the mail from an angler  from Michigan named Jon Lee.

“That stuck with me,” he wrote of the line. “I paint fish and couldn’t get it out of my head so I painted it.”

Thanks Jon Lee, to me that’s about as cool as it gets.

war paint

 

Best Practices For Paradigm Shifts

There’s a vodka called Tito’s that reportedly has a moonshiner’s heritage and I drank too much of it.  As this happened, the enthusiasm for fishing at sunrise crescendoed but everyone else involved knew it would no longer come to pass.

The rod tube and sling resting by the door would remain so.

 In the morning, the moment of recognition to this did not come until after three tepid glasses of water and a round of seven push-ups.

Fishing and writing are two things I like to do that are predisposed to disappointment. Either from not doing them, or doing them and finding the effort unrewarded.

The rejection letter still sat better than the not fishing. Upon rereading, the supportive tone of it made it seem more injurious than it actually was. “You are a skilled writer but your submission lacks the necessary tension…”

I knew he was right. Without tension, I might as well have submitted instructions for building a cabinet. To paraphrase something someone else said once that deserves recap, “Get to the point, and make the point as uncomfortable as possible.”
 
He had me until the last sentence, “Good luck with your future writing!” Which seems innocuous but for the exclamation point. Whenever I see one of those¹ I want to snap it over my knee like bonfire kindling.
 
(1. Exclamation points should only be permissible in children’s books and text messages.)
 
 

 

Flattery

“Everyone is influenced by everybody but you bring it down home the way you feel it.” –Thelonious Monk

These kids played on Letterman and I liked the song so I listened to it again.

The baseline reminded me of this song from the Raconteurs:

Jack White supposedly gets pissed about this sort of thing (witness his feud with the Black Keys), which is funny because he basically states in the documentary It Might Get Loud that his idea for the guitar-drums ensemble came from watching the Flat Duo Jets, before they added a bass player. (He also raves about them in Two Headed Cow):

OK then.

White also once said he didn’t trust anyone who didn’t like Led Zeppelin, who might be the biggest musical plagiarists of all time.

But, hey, it’s ok to be influenced by someone else. Witness these J Roddy Walston and the Business fellows… 

..who have a Kings of Leon vibe…

But then to me they all sound a bit like Uncle Tupelo covering the Stooges:

And Uncle Tupelo is among the best of my generation and they are both heavily influenced and original all at once, which is the best kind of thing…

So bring it down home kids, there’s always room for more.

TOPFLOOD

BOOK REVIEW: Top of the Flood

There’s a certain mindset I’ve come to expect from Texans based upon those I’ve run across. If I had to explain it, it’s something along the lines of,  “We need to disassemble this 10 ton truck and walk it piece by piece across the length of the panhandle? Let’s get started.”

Tosh Brown has that in him, as evidenced in his revelation that he left behind his University of Texas business degree and a job in commercial real estate to shoot pictures. “Ditch the tie, get a camera and go on to be one of the most acclaimed fly fishing photographers of the past two decades? Let’s get started.”

He was certainly that way when he teamed up with me to publish our photo-essay book [shameless-self promotion alert: The Blitz: Fly Fishing The Atlantic Migration]. On our trips together, I learned a few other things about Tosh. First and foremost, he is a family man, proving that you can reconcile creative pursuits with raising kids in a functional manner.  Second, he loves good jokes and great stories.

When I read through Tosh’s new book, Top of the Flood: Halfway Through a Fly-fishing Life, I think back to those slogs through New England on the ferry, eating food warmed under a rotisserie heat lamp, listening to Tosh and waiting for the payoff.

TPF-Dropjacket1

Tosh’s recollections come across on the page as they would in person, well-told and with comic sensibility. In his essay called “A Matter of Record,” he recounts his nonchalance about applying for potential IGFA records for flounder and red snapper. He says of the latter, “If my memory serves, we ate that one grilled with new potatoes and a fabulous Veracruz sauce.”

There are great one liners like that in every chapter. (In his essay, “Extremes,” he aptly notes that “…snook are fastidious little pricks, even in Texas.”)

For more, read “The Bass Phase” in this month’s issue of The Drake, check out this excerpt on the Departure Publishing site, and buy a signed copy for $24.95

feet2

Summer Feet

You would think the continuous wearing of flip-flops would inspire a person to trim his toenails, but in fact the opposite is true. It takes podiatric confinement, and the realization that a wayward blade is stabbing into the adjoining toe, to effect action.

Either way, I’m not a man who likes his feet encumbered. Seasonally, the nicks and bruises start to accumulate like battle scars, accentuated by a pale tan line that splays in a V from the webbing between the big toe and the index toe.

I’ll take that any day over the ankle tan achieved by golfers or any other sock loving subset.

My first football coach encouraged us to go barefoot over the summer to toughen our feet. We went 1-9 that season so maybe that wasn’t such a great focal point.

 

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