November 18, 2009

There Is Still Time For You To Celebrate International Mustache Month

There Is Still Time For You To Celebrate International Mustache Month

The mustache was invented more than 2500 years ago, by Peisistratos of Athens. As chronicled in The Histories of Herodotus, the original tyrant of the Greek polis carved the first mustache because he thought it made him look more execrable, and helped him accrue power. He fashioned it using a bronze blade*.

The American President also has a long tradition of imposing facial hair. What follows are the eight greatest examples of manifest destiny the new world has ever produced:

Grover_Cleveland_Mustache#8 Grover Cleveland
Cleveland was the leader of the Bourbon Democrats. This mustache makes it obvious why. The city of Cleveland is in fact named after his bourbon ’stache.
Andrew_Jackson_Brows#7 Andrew Jackson
Old Hickory reminds us that eye brows count as facial hair too. They look thick enough to erase chalk boards. Awesome.
Grover_Cleveland_Mustache2#6 Grover Cleveland
After failing in his reelection campaign in 1888, Grover Cleveland returned to private life determined to grow an even more daunting mustache. His reelection in 1892 proved his mission was a success, and made him the only president to be counted twice.
Rutherford_Hayes_Beard#5 Rutherford B. Hayes
Remember Captain Caveman? I am fairly certain Hanna-Barbara got the character design from this portrait. Hayes actually retired in 1879, but his beard carried out the rest of his term.
William_Taft_Mustache#4 William Taft
Taft’s Mustache, measuring 8 inches across, was the last facial hair to hold presidential office. It was known to have beaten Teddy Roosevelt’s ’stache in a wrestling match.
Chester_Arthur_Mustache#3 Chester A. Arthur
Much like Sisyphus, Arthur’s mustache and sideburns are forever striving to touch, but always falling just short.
Abraham_Lincoln_Beard#2 Abraham Lincoln
The only member of the Illinois Amish ever elected to federal office, Lincoln sacrificed his mustache in order to unite the country after the American Civil War.
Martin_Van_Buren_Burns#1 Martin Van Buren
Little known fact: Shortly before his death, Van Buren played the cowardly lion on Broadway.
Obama_MustacheOne can only hope that Obama realizes the majestic might of a properly grown mustache and return America to its rightful place as the most awesome nation of mustache growers this side of Russia.

*This is in fact patently untrue on a number of different levels.

November 8, 2009

Giant Cabbages From Outer Space

There are two surefire signs that Autumn has officially arrived in Beijing.

First of all, you have the two week stretch of November that is invariably the coldest of the year, thanks to the Government’s central heating rules. In America, you might think of central heating as the thermostat control that lets you turn up your heat as high as your electricity bill will allow.

In China, however, central heating is the neighborhood controlled system that allows one boiler to provide warmth to an entire village. In Beijing, November 15th is something of an informal holiday every year, as that is the date when the city’s boilers switch on. But for those first two weeks of the month, you find yourself bundling up to go to the bathroom, and showers gain you entry into the polar bear club.

The second sure fire sign of Autumn in Beijing is the deluge of 白菜 that descends on the city like an alien invasion. Harking back to the 3 vegetable winters of decades past, every old woman in the capital stocks up on the hardy cabbages, buying enough to last a family all the way to spring.

Speaking of alien invasions, I finally watched District 9 this week. Definitely worthy of all the hype. I especially enjoyed the father and son prawns. The strongest characters in the movie.

The only drawback was the documentary style. The feel of it was nice, but I was constantly annoyed because too often the scenes were shot in places and circumstances that never would have allowed for cameras. Inside the alien hideout? Close-ups during a firefight? If you are going to use the faux documentary technique, go all the way. Otherwise, YOU, the filmmaker, have violated our tacit agreement by which I, the viewer, have agreed to willingly suspend my judgment concerning the implausibility of the narrative.

And I hate it when that happens.