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13 entries from April 2009

Pour Homme, e pour Straight, Chapitre Deux.

Barber The story so far:

Screenwriter Neil Kramer, your Citizen of the Month, confessed he had never worn after-shave.  He wondered if a splash of male fragrance might make a good impression on mommybloggers, which was, at the time, his chosen dating pool.  In the spirit of the Queer Eye, I agreed to be his personal homoscentual.

Two Hommes Ordinaire

Neil chose his counsel wisely.  He understands that just because I'm gay, doesn't mean I groom.   Sexually, I'm a homo, and not a metro.  The Honourable Husband, though possessed of the rapier wit and contempt for taboo which distinguishes an avant-garde homosexual from an oil-changing, beer-drinking, couch-clinging straight, is just a regular guy.  His only vanity is a little after-shave.    

Neil is a regular guy, too.   He knows so much about regular guys, his screenwriting credits actually include many episodes of  Home Improvement

That means I owe Neil a big one*.  Every time Richard Karn, as Al Borland, did something straight-dudely, the sexual cred of the gay bear subculture climbed a notch.  Those of you who have seen The Honourable Husband in person, know how grateful I must be. 

Since I don't have a garage, I do all my masculine pottering on the after-shave shelf.  It's very straight. I mean, there's no Jean Paul Gaultier anywhere. 


Aqua (not) Velva

Starting on the left, you'll see an unopened box of Bulgari Aqua. (Should that be Bvlgari Aqva?) This makes a good beginner's fragrance. Fresh and clean, but not soapy or floral. Light, but still masculine.  Somebody even says it has undertones of mandarin, posididonia and mineral amber.   Whoah!  I don't understand three-dollar-words. 

Even better, when I bought it in-flight on British Airways, it qualified for a BOGOF. That's technical marketing-speak for Buy One Get One Free. Inside the box, you'll find a cool bottle, too, if you can call it that. It's a sort of flying saucer shape that's meant to slip into a pocket or bag, rather than stand on a shelf. User-friendliness earns a place at number two on Neil's list.

Windsor Cannot

The small vial to the right came as a freebie, from a Cathay Pacific amenities pack. Woods of Windsor For Gentlemen. Shockingly simple, it reminds one of that marvellous bay rum which a generation of barbers would splash on shorn heads. If there were no such thing as Old Spice (see below), this would be my white t-shirt of scent. Some day, I might actually buy a bottle.  Like with money, even.

  Except they're discontinuing it. 

Apres Sport

Moving further right, we come to the sports section. The silver ingot contains Chanel Allure pour Homme Sport, and the blue bottle Ralph Lauren Polo Sport.

Sport generally means that you take a decent fragrance, add lime cordial to give it a "citrus" note, and flog it to people who think that wearing an after-shave with sport in its name gets you out of going to the gym.  

The word sport masculinises after-shave, just like the words after-shave masculinise perfume.

For Ralph Lauren, such subterfuge is no scent-crime.  I mean the man makes as much money nowadays from paint as from fashion, right?  The linked review suggests that  RL Polo Sport contains rather a lot of seaweed.  But Chanel...how could you?

OK, they succumbed to the sport-fad. But Allure Sport PH still manages a rich, glorious, spicy nose. I take this travelling, because like Aqua, it slips easily onto a bag or pocket.

On your way to eternity, you might start to smell a little.

In the foreground, you see a small sample-size bottle. It holds a concoction known as Calvin Klein Eternity. Eternity Arthur Stace

Not a fan of Eternity. (Hey, I'm not even a fan of the next five minutes.)

The scent evokes memories of a frustrated, trying-to-be-straight youth. Once, in the 80s, I cut through a department store on my way from university campus to bus-stop.   As I passed the white grand piano**, a makeup-caked saleswoman thrust a scented card under my nose. "Sir, would you like to try Eternity for Men?"

"Let me tell you about Eternity for Men," I snarled. "FOREPLAY. That's eternity for men!" The woman gave me a sample bottle, thinking I might need a little help with the opposite sex. I still have it, so she may have been right.

Calvin Klein loves citrus notes so much, that I sometimes think he flogs wearable lemon juice. Or follows around tomcats with an empty bottle, as they mark their territory.  Parfumiers describe this scent as fougere, or fern-like.  I haven’t quite fougered that one out.

Ten Gallons of It.

On the far right, we find another souvenir of the eighties: a bottle of  Dallas after-shave.  It's dark green, the color of crude.  

P1110932Dallas smells like my mother's Tweed  Good friend Cash McBuck gave it to me, so it earns pride-of-place in the medicine cabinet.  It came in a gift set, with a shaker of talc that turned to limestone after living in steamy bathrooms for many years.  The after-shave bottle is half-empty, mainly from evaporation.  I wish Eternity would evaporate as fast. 

Give them the Axe

The tall bottle hidden behind JR is the curious Puma I'm Going.  To call this an after-shave, means armies of whiskers have died in vain.  It's a new-fangled body-spray.  That's fine, but such things simply don't smell enough. You can't dab a little behind the ear, for your beloved to discover as you canoodle.  The object of your affection won't smell a body spray until you're naked, so it will appeal only to those in committed relationships, or the easy.


The garish bottle in the middle is Bulgari pour homme Extrême. (Or should that be Extrémé? Or Extrèmè? Or Êxtrěmé? Come to think of it, shouldn't that be Bvlgari povr homme? Maybe I should just shvt vp.) 

Bulgari fragrances are the opposite of their loud, heavily-branded watches; there's little that's extreme about Extrême.  It's light, subtle and pleasant, smelling of nothing in particular but friendliness.  I put this as number four on Neil's list. 

The Heavyweight Champion

Between Dallas and Extrême, we see the two after shaves which I use often enough to keep cupboard stock.  Lurking in the back you’ll notice a familiar ivory shape.  The venerable Old Spice

Old Spice is the granddaddy of them all.  Sometime last century, those cunning chaps at Proctor and Gamble found that men quite liked the idea of smelling nice—which suggests being clean—but shunned perfume.  The way to get perfume on a bloke was to make it hurt.  Throw some alcohol over freshly-scraped skin, that’s exactly what it does. 

Of course, it hurts doesn't make great copy, so it became the bracing sensation you get from pure salt air and the crisp refreshing brace of  the open sea.  That’s what Old Spice does.  It braces.  There's so much bracing in an Old Spice ad, you'd think you were in an orthodontist's office***.

But the original scent of Old Spice is exactly what I want on most days—to smell clean.  Nothing smells cleaner than Old Spice. This is number three on your list, Neil. 

My Signature Scent

The red-wine coloured box in front, though, contains a more formal scent.  Antaeus, by Chanel. 

AntaeusAntaeus was my first truly grown-up aftershave.   I bought it, by chance, duty free in Bahrain—this was so long ago that Qantas jets had to refuel twice between Australia and Europe; not once, as they do nowadays.   The northwestern part of India and the Middle East seem to have a penchant for scent, and Bahrain sold it by the gallon. 

There was a catch at the time.  In order to avoid duty at your destination, one needed to open the bottle en route. It gently scented my backpack, so Antaeus provided a kind of olfactory soundtrack to that marvelous, youthful picaresque. I bought another bottle on the way home, and have been hooked ever since. 

Antaeus drips with wood and spice; it’s like tasting a sweet, peppery Cabernet Sauvignon.  I would recommend it as your fragrance of choice, Neil.  Except for one thing.  It’s mine.

An After Shave Adventure

No, we need to find Neil a personal bouquet.  Luckily, I have to go to London this week, which means passing through two of Europe’s most extensive duty-free obstacle courses.  Franz-Joseph Strauss Terminal Two, and Heathrow Terminal Five. 

(Of course, Diane needs to weigh in on the issue, too.  In the European blogosphere,  we share joint custody of Neil)

Hold your breath for part trois.

*   *   *   *   *

Photo Credit: Arthur Stace's Eternity script is copyright to the Sydney City Council. All photos link back to source.

* Luckily, I have a big one

**Australians will know what I'm talking about.

***Here's the joke if you speak British English: "There's so much bracing in an Old Spice ad you'd think you could use the stuff to hold up your pants."

I Can't Put Into Words How Much I Don't Care.

English litters words around other languages like a sloppy dustman, and German catches its fair share.  Most are adopted just to sound cool, or as we say in German, cool.  High speed trains are Inter-City Expresses, or ICE, rather than Zwischenstadt Schnellzuge.   Music is downgeloadet rather than heruntergeladen.  And everyone thinks that's OK.

It happens the other way around, too. 

For example, English speakers use the German word über (usually spelled incorrectly as uber) to mean dismissively superior.  I have read, for example, a screed that described Oktoberfest as an über-kegger.  Somehow, the latinate English alternatives like ultra, mega, or to the max don't convey the same nuance.

Usually, because English borrows so shamelessly from other languages, it acts as a clearing house from which many others can borrow. 

Japanese has borrowed the English word happy to suggest a youthfulness that is innocent and carefree. Between cram school, enforced respect for elders, and a stress upon duty, the idea of a carefree youth is rather exotic in Japan.  Of course, the word happy traces its roots back to the word hap, meaning by chance or luck. We see this also in the word haphazard.

Germans, sensibly, have borrowed the English word ticket. The traditional way to describe a ticket in German refers to the material on which it is printed. A paper airline ticket is a Flugschein, whereas a cardboard train ticket is a Bahnkarte.  Nowadays, you can board a plane with a bar-code on your Blackberry screen, and many Scheinen live as zeroes and ones on a server.   Borrowing the word Ticket to refer to them all solves a problem for which German, thanks to its fetish for accuracy, had no immediate answer.

Which brings me to the point.  Sitting in a business meeting this week, I discovered that a new word has leaked from English into German.  The word is whatever.

Apparently, phrases which use the constuction egal welche don't quite sum up the utter indifference of a casually tossed-off whatever. 

It's a pretty un-German concept. The very idea of leaving an outcome to chance, or surrendering control...well, chaos must follow!  Does the language reflect cultural bias, structurally?  Many English speakers who learn German lament the demand for strong verbs, rather than just lots of non-commital is and has.  It's tempting to read a cultural bias into this.

It's tempting to think so in Japanese, too.  A culture which makes a fetish of perfect detail sometimes has trouble just throwing up its collective hands and saying so what?  These signs in Azabu and Toranomon amused me every day, on the way to work.   They resort to English in order to express whimsical carelessness.  Because, dammit, English is so good at it.


Degrees of indifference

You may think that's a pretty crude generalisation about language and culture. Yeah, whatever.

Interview 2009. The Barfhof.

Here's the third installment of Interview 2009.   Gypsy asked a question dear to my heart.  

When I arrived in Munich for Oktoberfest, oh, 13 years ago, the train station (Hauptbahnhof) was pristine. When I left, three days later, there was vomit everywhere and drunken sailors pissing on the tracks. Does this happen every year, and who are the worst culprits of drunken idiocy? I blame the Italians. Alice? Alice? Who the fuck is Alice?

Ah, so you read my post, Octoverfest.

I have no idea who the fuck Alice isZurika once explained it to me, so I’ll throw her a lifeline on that one.  Whenever an Oktoberfest band plays Living Next door to Alice (which, regrettably, they do), spak twats in the audience wait for the end of the title line to shout, in English, who the fuck is Alice?  Drinking songs don’t have to make sense, but who-the-fuck-is-Alice reaches a new low in bone-headed quatsch.   Short answer: Alice can fuck off.

The vomiting people probably aren’t sailors.  And I don’t think they’re Italians, either.  Nor Brits, who vomit their way across Europe every summer, as you know.   

Bahnhof drunks bewareDrunks.  Sometimes you have to remind them.

Look at it this way.  You’re a young man.   You live in Dullsdorf, in rural Bavaria.  You work the family farm, or maybe assemble gearboxes at the local Bosch factory.  Presto!  The world’s biggest beer festival lands on your doorstep.  Whatcha gonna do?   Since you’re German, you can’t smile until the third drink.  Hey hey hey.  Pukestadt.

Bavaria is the Texas of Germany.  A bit too big.  A bit too loud.  A bit too religious.  A bit too rich, and much too vulgar.  The Oktoberfest Ralphs are the local good ol' boys.  Or to use Australian expressions, they're yobbos, boguns or larrikins.  

(Australians have a gift for terms that describe drunken misbehaviour.  Like Eskimos need 20 words for snow, Australians invent endless terms for vomitRalph, spit, yak, spew, maut, chunder, sick, barf,  pavement pizza, liquid laugh, curbside quiche, and my favourite,  technicolour yawn.)

So the Oktobarfesters are not Italians.  They’re Erdingers, Rosenheimers, Kissingers, Feldmocheners, Laimers, Unterschließheimers, Friesingers, Füsseners, Augsburgers, Ulmers, or Bad Tölzers.  Though inner-city Giesingers always win the blue-ribbon in puking events.

By the way, I think it’s a stretch to call Munich Hauptbahnhof  pristine, even at the best of times.   Among the first structures rebuilt after the war were train stations, and many, like Munich’s, were done in haste.  The place seems to wear a coat of permanent shabbiness.  Nonetheless, it stays busy this time of year, with armies of ski-bunnies on the way to catch some last-minute spring snow on the Zugspitze.

Bahnhof smoke free

Smoke-free.  But alas, not puke-free.

Photo Friday: Wealth

 Where is he gay today? Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo Luxury Cars Pop into the casino Saturday night, and sip a little too much Krug?  Best to cab it home, and pick up the car in the morning. 

That's when I snapped this photo outside a very famous casino, one Sunday in August, 2005. 


Littered across the forecourt from left, we see a Ferrari Scaglietti, a Roller, an original E-Type Jaguar, a Maserati Quattroporte, and a Bentley Continental. 

By my reckoning, about  a million-two worth of sheet metal. And in 2009, it's probably all quietly for sale.  

EDIT: A beautiful moment of automotive Schadenfreude, on this very spot!

Don't fight fire with fire. Fight fire with water.


The YouTube screen cap shows both debaters talking at once.  Much of the discussion progressed that way.

Mr. Joseph Solomonese,
Human Rights Campaign

My dear Joe,

Dude, you almost got reamed!  (Er, sorry, that's just an expression.)

You probably won, but it was close.  Maggie Gallagher still managed to land a few punches that, to mix sporting metaphors, should have gone straight through to the keeper. Here's a couple of tips.

  • When she interrupted you at the beginning, I wouldn't have tried to shout over her.  She'll always win. Rather, you might have waited for her to run out of steam, whereupon you may have reminded her that Chris Matthews is an able moderator, and he will ensure she has an opportunity to rebut your points.  And that in future, you will ask her to wait for the interviewer to invite her to respond, rather than interrupting.  Moral advantage scored.
  • Those pesky Methodists on the beach?  "Maggie, I believe that religious charities need to learn a lesson that gay charities learned long ago.  When you act as a business--that is, charging people rather than asking for  a donation--you need to conduct yourself like a business.  When the HRC sells a bumper sticker to raise money, we can't refuse to sell one to Maggie Gallagher because we disagree with her morals.  Of course, religious charities have been getting a free pass from the law for quite some time, and it needs to stop.  That's independent of the issue of gay marriage."God made us queer
  • Catholic doctors performing abortions?  "Catholic doctors should get out of the abortion business.  Find another specialty.  More to the point, though, is that they should not perform a service for one which they deny another.  Should a Catholic fertility specialist refuse to help a remarried divorcee, lest he abet adultery?  Should a Jehovah's Witness doctor refuse to administer a blood transfusion to a patient he treats in the ER?  Even worse, should he have the right to say that NO patient may receive blood from another, anywhere, because he finds it immoral? That's effectively what you're doing when you oppose gay marriage."
  • The Catholic adoption agency? "Faith has not protected the Catholic church from incompetence, and indeed malfeasance.  Any agency which takes children, often from failed heterosexual relationships, and denies them a loving, stable home beccause that home happens to belong to two women, raises not a question of morals, but of professional competence. We should judge the agency on whether it has denied this child an opportunity for a loving family, when loving families are so few and far between. That's the injustice, not for the prospective parents, but for the child."
  • "By the way, Maggie, show me the unbiased stats that say kids raised in gay homes fail to thrive."
  • "Of course you have your religious freedom, Maggie, which allows you to make moral judgements, to which you are entitled.  But everyone's morals differ, even within your coalition.  That's why the law concerns itself less with morals, and more with ethics and justice and fairness.   You may disagree with the morality of many people, but that's no reason they should not be treated fairly."
  • Here's an easy point everyone has overlooked. "Maggie, tell me why you chose a young black woman to say the line 'and I am afraid', and not a white guy.  It's scary for both of them, right?"
  • Now, Joe, you let her get away with the violins at the end.  We have gotta tug at the heartstrings better, while still remaining cool.  Obama is a master at this, and it left his critics with no means to fault his character or motives.  "Maggie, I actually agree with much of what you say.  That which truly puts us human beings at our best, in the eyes of God or by any other standard, is the love in our hearts.  Right now, you're saying that the love in my heart is worth less than the love in yours.  Shame on you."

Joe, by all means, keep up the good work.  But if your arguments always descend into he's-lying-she's-lying, you'll fan the flames, rather than douse them.  

Yours Sincerely,


Mr. Honourable Husband
Civil Spouse

EDIT: Now this is more like it.


Sitting on the Fenster

Bavaria winsow boxesThe Bavarian window-box is a fine institution.  Flowers gush from it, fecund and exuberant.  In our hightly ordered culture, this amounts to gay abandon.

Like most altbau buildings, ours has window-boxes.  Our landlord, Roman, maintained them in the traditional style.  As spring approached, Master Right  negotiated to take them over, since he loves gardening.

Master Right, as you recall, is Japanese.  He takes a slightly different view of gay abandon.

The Japanese drone on, in haiku after haiku, about how much they love nature.  This is bullshit.  They like the idea of nature, but when confronted with it, find the whole thing too reckless, unpredictable and icky.  I mean, have you seen what they do to trees?  

So, our flower-boxes now look like this.

P1110692I ran into Roman the other day.  "Did your...um,  friend make the flowers", he asked?

"If you mean my husband, yes, he did."

"You can tell. It's not very Bavarian."  Roman paused for a moment, searching for the right word.  "It's ikebana."