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9 entries from March 2009

Mother of the Nation

Where is he gay today? Hua Hin, Thailand
My Hotel Lobby
My hotel lobby

I'm in Thailand for a wedding right now.  My hotel in Hua Hin, some three hours from Bangkok on the Gulf of Siam, is an historic one.  It dates to the 1920s, and was the first such resort in Thailand.  It occupies a prime position on the beach, next door to the Royal Family's summer palace.

The Royal Family have taken up residence there, to celebrate Queen Sikrit's birthday on August 12.  Since she is the Mother of the Nation, the Thais also declare it Mother's Day.

I have visited, and even lived in, monarchies before. But few monarchies take their monarchs so seriously.  Patriotic tributes to the Queen are everywhere, and the fact that the Queen's Birthday holiday occurs on her actual birthday shows a level of devotion which the Brits, say, would find hard to match. 

And if a few rogue subjects (or others) come up light on the devotion front, the Thai Navy has positioned warships off the beach, just in case.  The Navy decked them out in lights, as a festive tribute to Her Majesty.  Terribly thoughtful, but perhaps shows a poor understanding of camoflage..


Pour Homme, e pour Straight.

medicine.jpgChapitre Un. 

Screenwriter Neil Kramer is Citizen of the Month.

Neil chose the word "citizen" deliberately. He sees the blogosphere as a democratising force, where a regular Joe can fight the tyranny of mediated opinion. Blogs turn personal narrative into instant social history.  Original voices need not be silenced by the caprice of an editor, nor deadened by an academic. To Neil, a blog champions the common man, and his everyday life.

Perhaps that's why he bit on the Medicine Cabinet Meme.  It’s perfect material for the social historian; something so commonplace that it’s practically transparent, but which speaks tellingly about the owner’s life and time. 

As memes go, it seems no more invasive than usual. It doesn't demand that you reveal five secrets, six phobias, or three strangers on the bus you wish you'd asked for a blow job.

One simply lets the world peek behind one's bathroom mirror, and Preparation H does the talking.

Neil’s medicine chest is commonplace, indeed.  The only remarkable thing about it, is that it contains quite a bit of actual medicine.

Now, you need to know that Neil lives in the United States.  A primitive, Third-World country without universal health insurance. 

The presence of medicine doesn't mean that he's sick, just that he's well-to-do. An empty amoxycillin jar is as good as flashing a black Amex at Le Cirque.


Since he earns enough to be medicated, I gave him shit for being a cheapskate. What, no aftershave? Soon, an email appeared in my inbox.

I have never worn aftershave, ever. Should I start? Neil.

It took a few seconds to sink in. This was a milestone in my gay life. A straight man asked me for a tip on personal grooming.

Honourable Husband, you've been QueerEyed!  It’s your fifteen minutes of fabulousness!

Some gay guys get this all the time. Their apartments are tasteful, their clothes stylish, and their comportment perfect. People flock to them for advice on paint colour, wine lists, or romantic poetry. Me? I drink beer and pick my nose.  I'm a slob.

But when it comes to after-shave, yours truly is an idiot savant. I love the stuff. For proof, you only need to look in my medicine cabinet; it groans with smells.

By chance, the Honourable-Right medicine cabinet also houses laundry supplies, since one corner of the bathroom hosts the Waschtrockner*. As you can see, we are so fragrant, even our laundry wears after-shave.

Front and centre, we see selections from the Lenor Mystery Series Fabric Softener Range. The purple bottle holds Sumatra, where scents of cinnamon and hibiscus take us on a magic journey of Silk Road romance. To the left we find Sahara, which gives us the cool embrace of twilight as the sun settles behind the dunes, and the perfumes of Araby waft from the sultan's tent. Or something.

For daywear, we use Frottee.  It sounds like some sort of sexual practice. If you had to say what Frottee smells like, you'd have to say it smells like good value-for-money. That's a big step up from smelling like nothing at all, which is how our clothes used to smell before we moved to Europe and started to wear fancy-schmantzy couture, washed gingerly in appliances that cost a fortune and take three hours to complete a cycle.

(Off-topic: American readers will notice the plastic container on the left. In Germany, Mr. Clean is Meister Proper. The label tells us that the bottle contains Bad-Spray. Good-Spray costs more, I guess.) 

Fragrance Japonaise

Master Right may love snuggling up in Frotteed sheets, but he eschews fragrance on the body.  It's a Japanese thing.  To the Japanese, prominent scent suggests that you're concealing another odour, and thus not clean.

Successful Japanese fashion designers can't quite crack fragrance. Experts describe Yohji Yamamoto's 2004 pour Femme as "Decent. Neutral. Too polite."  Others stick to easy-to-understand smells like wood or coffee. 

Issey Miyake's first fragrance, L’eau d’lssy, aims to smell "as clear as crystal water".   It's the minimalist Steve Jobs black turtleneck of scent (which, by the way, Miyake also designed). Soon after its launch in 1992, Miyake increasingly reached out to guest designers for his scents.

Odeur 53Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, perhaps in frustration, reacted with an anti-perfume. According to reviews, her Odeur 53 shows hints of burnt rubber, ozone, photocopiers, static electricity, and cathode-ray TV sets.

L'humeur de l'amour

So Master Right turns up his nose at my after-shave habit, if you'll pardon the expression. But pour this homme, after-shave is grand.

Nothing affects your mood so powerfully, for good or ill, as a smell. It's aromatherapy you carry around all day.

Smells go straight to our lizard-brains; they cue masculine or feminine, clean or unclean, fancy or plain, rich or poor.

Believe me, Neil, you want to be on the right end of a smell.

But for that you'll have to wait for Chapitre Deux.  That's when The Honourable Husband gives you a tour of his personal after-shave shelf.

'Til then, adieu.  Or is it au revoir? I can never tell those apart.


* a Waschtrockener is a high tech device which both washes and dries your clothes. We bought it because the name of the manufacturer, Siemens, reminds us of man-sex.  So does one of its cycles: Schnell. 

Photo credit: links to source.

I'm all shook up

Elvis Forever!

Fans of Deutschland über Elvis may be forgiven for thinking that Elvis is dead. 

Don't despair.  He's not dead.  He just left the building.

If you're reading this, you know that already. Welcome to the new home of Deutschland über Elvis, which nestles snugly under its very own domain name.

This new beginning signals that the recent blogging funk is about to lift. I've been in a bit of a personal funk, too, lately.  Nothing serious, just a few weeks of rehearsal for the role of grumpy old man, which I shall perfect before taking it on the road.

More than you need to know

A Free Man, in a shameless rip-off of Neil Kramer's Great Interview Experiment, has asked his readers to interview each other. I participated in Neil's oiginal project, which proved fascinating and highly worthwhile.

For AFM's 2009 project, I interviewed the awesome Mongolian Girl.  She pulled no punches in her answers to some confronting questions.  But then, she's a pretty amazing woman. 

Quite some time ago, the Strange Dark Gypsy Girl sent me a list of very thoughtful questions, which, in typical HH style, I have pondered for too long.  Expect the answers serialised over several posts.

How to Smell

Neil himself has landed in a bit of a funk lately.  That's probably why he asked for some advice on mood-altering chemicals.  To whit, after-shave.  The business of scent is serious, so expect more than puffery.  It will take several posts to distill my lifetime of research.

A Little Action on the Side

Those helpful folk at Ask And Ye Shall Receive once kindly remarked that the sidebar on the old DüE groaned under the weight of too many links, book recommendations, and silly widgets.  Have I taken their expert advice?

Nope.  Fuck those arrogant pricks*, I like sidebars full of gooby shit.  Now there's not one, but two.  Take that.

I did heed one suggestion, though.  You'll find link lists on separate pages.  Transferring links is a tedious buiness, and the pages will be under construction for a while.  If your link has disappeared, drop me a line.

Voracious Readers

Peppered across the ample new sidebars, you'll find several opportunities to subscribe in a reader or RSS feed.  They will subscribe you to posts; if you wish to subscribe to comments, then you can use the TypePad Connect feaure.

Image credit.  Elvis Forever, die deutschen Seiten

*They love it when bloggers take umbrage at reviews. 

Interview 2009. The Strange, Dark Gypsy Girl bangs on my head.

As mentioned in a previous post, A Free Man has asked his readers to interview each other.   (And to answer your accusation, Ian in Hamburg.  No, this is NOT a meme. So there.)

Some time ago, the Strange Dark Gypsy Girl sent me a list of very thoughtful questions.  Quite a lot of them; she grilled me good.   Here is the first lot of answers. 

Bewitched03As an ad man, are you watching Trust Me, or is it even available in your corner of the world? How about Mad Men?

No, I'm not watching Trust Me.   I don't watch The Gruen Transfer.   I gave up on Bewitched when they switched Darrens.  Shows about ad agencies make me cringe.

I ordered the first season of Mad Men on DVD, and have just finished watching it.  Brilliant series, but it's not about advertising.  It's about lies.  About how the lives Americans constructed for themselves in the sixties denied their true natures.  The main character, Don Draper, is a lie on two legs.  A show about lies?  Hey, let's set it in an ad agency!   *sigh*

Anything which appears as an ad in the mainstream media, almost an ywhere in the world, must meet strict standards for truthfulness.  Once, a woman sitting next to me at a dinner party asked whether I was responsible for “that sneaky subliminal advertising.”  I replied that first, what people call subliminal advertising doesn’t actually work; and second, anything which even smells like subliminal advertising is illegal.  “I bet they tell you to say that,” she sneered.   *sigh*

As an atheist, how do you feel about paganism and new age woo-woo-ism?

I'm an apostate Catholic.  Let me assure you, the line between paganism and Catholicism is a thin one. 

Look at it this way.

The sun does good things.  It raises my crops, keeps me warm, and lets me see my enemy as he approaches. 

Maybe, naively, I want to offer something to the sun. Either as a bribe, so the star continues to rise every morning.  Or as a thank-you, to make sure the sun knows how important it is to us.

Since the sun is so important, it makes me feel better to think that I can actually make a difference to whether the sun will rise. That the sun-god demands to be pleased, and there are things I can do to please him.  That the people who please the sun-god are morally better than the people who don’t, since these sun worshippers ensure that we all suvive and prosper.

Since science tells us that dancing in a circle and sacrificing virgins make no difference to whether the sun rises, modern man is at a loss.  Is the universe actually indifferent to us?  Are we really that powerless? 

Mayors frauenkirche 197 Ah, homo sapiens' inventiveness has rescued him.   There is no sun-god who ensures the star rises in the morning.  There is, though, a god-god who ensures the sun will appear, and has made a liveable, if dangerous, planet for us.  It seems we still have to stay sweet with Him, or else…or…um, well, He works in mysterious ways.

So-called new-age and pagan religions function exactly like more evolved religions.  They create the illusion that our behaviour can give us power over our fate in an indifferent universe.

Is paganism and new-age barf less harmful than religion proper?  Maybe, maybe not.  Being grateful for what the universe provides, and worshipping a putative provider of those blessings, are two different things.  

The author of Drink-Soaked Trotskyite Popinjays for War put it beautifully when he composed a title for this link.

Leader of delusional cult that thinks it’s drinking the blood of a bloke who probably never existed — and if he did, died 2000 years ago — warns against ‘witchcraft’.