Facial Hair on Men

Bias: none, just a lifetime of looking around and the occasional kiss

No sir, I don’t like it.

A lot of men don’t shave because they’re lazy. Unacceptable. They end up with that stubbly shit that looks lazy and no one wants to kiss. I once dated a man who had an interestingly groomed beard, but had not shaved the negative spaces before our first, um, intimate encounter, and I had ugly red beard burn for a week. Lazy shaving will do that shit.

There are soft beards. Once kissed a guy with a very soft beard, and even commented on it. “This,” said he, “is virgin beard. I have never shaved.” Wonder if that works for everyone. Never met another man who laid claim to that, so I have no way to compare.

Of course they were in vogue when I was an older teen and I kissed plenty of bearded and mustached men. (Or do we say “mustachioed?”_ When my FWB grew his mustache back, I was very clear that I liked it not at all, but when you’re not the bottom bitch, it’s not your decision to make. Bottom bitch loved it.

Those little sprinkles of facial hair? The soul patch? OK on the right dude. I’ll go out on a limb and say, mostly musicians. Big honkin’ sideburns? The same, I suppose. But, like the soul patches, get rid of those motherfuckers when they go grey. From a distance, they look like a skin disease.

I was inspired to write about this because a dude posted a photo on Facebook with a new beard. All of his old pals liked it. Not me, and I said so. I am, I suppose, a newish friend or acquaintance. They said it made him look…I’m not sure what. No go for me.

I permit one man to have a moustache, and that is the gloriously handsome actor Sam Elliot. Sam Elliot may have as many damn mustaches as he likes.

Image result for sam elliott

This also came up, in part, relative to men’s body hair. Boy, I sure have a soft spot for that. When dear Burt Reynolds died, his famous Cosmo centerfold was reprinted in many places, and he sure did have a lovely bounty of chest hair. Something wildly virile about a man with a lot of chest hair. They can usually be spotted by dark forearm hair and a tendency to go bald; it’s a testosterone thing. There are a couple of would presently like to check on, but that can be filed under Not Very Likely. But I do enjoy rubbing my face is a pile of chest hair.


Of course, as always, Your Mileage May Vary,

Elvis ’68

The Elvis ’68 Comeback Special (theatrical version)

How obtained: I bought a ticket, about $15

Bias: None

This was a very spur-of-the-moment choice for a review, which is probably a good thing, since I’ve been knocking my head against a wall trying to figure out what to review first.

I’d never seen all of this before – just clips here and there. To situate it somewhat in time and in the life of Elvis Presley…well, I can’t go through the entire story of Elvis Presley. There are plenty of books. I recommend the two volumes by Peter Guralnick. OK,  Elvis is famous, goes into the Army, comes out of the Army, and his schtick drek (Yiddish: piece of shit) manager, Col. Tom Parker, puts him in an endless string of terrible movies where he has to sing an endless string of terrible songs. These movies are often referred to as “travelogues,” because they are basically the same story in a different setting.

Someone has a very fine idea to make a one-hour TV special where Elvis gets back to basics. After this 1968 special, alas, the Vegas years start, and all the drugs, and the white spangly outfits, and the overweight, and he’s dead within ten years. So Elvis ’68 is just a lovely little pause where a more genuine Elvis than had been seen since the Army comes out to play, if only for an hour.

The parts I had already seen were from the “jam session” segments, where Elvis and his musicians just sat around with acoustic instruments and played some of his oldies. And there is indeed magic in these segments. Elvis is relaxed, unselfconscious, and actually seems to be enjoying himself. And there are moments where he opens his mouth, and “Elvis” comes out: that sweet, handsome, young man with that powerful voice. Where was he hiding all that time?

Elvis wears a custom-made leather suit for these segments. In one of the books I read about him – I wish I could remember which one, and I wish I could remember if the author said this or was quoting someone else – Elvis as described as being “as thin as a rake, and as handsome as ten movie stars.” Truer words were never spoken. He looks healthy and tanned (remember when “tanned” looked healthy?), his weight is just right, he has energy, his skin is clear…he just looks like Perfect Elvis.

Unfortunately, the ’68 special is loaded with several dreadful “production numbers.” There was no escaping that shit in the ‘60s, I guess. The gospel one is the least bad; Presley explains that a lot of his music is rooted in gospel, and then there’s a gospel song and African-American people doing weird modern dance and such. ‘60s TV, particularly variety shows, had a lot of this kind of nonsense, themed song-and-dance segments that were painful to watch. Another one was based around the song “Guitar Man,” where Elvis goes from town to town on a neon road. One town has a nightclub and someone breaks his guitar. There’s one with a lot of pretty girls dancing around him. There’s one where he has to save a pretty girl from a tough guy (some sanitized version of whore and pimp); this one has the redeeming quality of Elvis’ singing a snatch of “Big Boss Man,” though of course it is lip-synced. And there’s a portion where he fights off a bunch of guys who come at him one at a time, Bruce-Lee-style, while he sings. Bad, bad, bad.

Since the special was only an hour, including commercials, the makers of this release added on an end portion with bloopers, and a beginning portion where the director of Elvis ’68 chats awkwardly with Priscilla Presley. Priscilla has had so much work done and/or so much botox that her mouth hardly moves when she speaks.

I wish it were all the jam session. The jam session rocked. But it did provide a lovely glimpse into Elvis, a mature performer who was not yet his own worst enemy.


I know, I know, lots of intro stuff and no reviews yet. Be patient. We’ll get there.

Another issue I’ve thought about is the how-acquired disclosure. Most reviewers get whatever they’re reviewing (CD, book, concert tickets) at no cost. The thinking seems to be that the reviewer will have more skin in the game if s/he pays. I get a lot of free CDs from friends and acquaintances because I used to write professionally (and have recently started again), and they respect my opinion or hope I’ll talk my editor into a review or they just plain like me. But I also buy myself concert tickets, pay for myself in clubs, and buy books and even CDs.

To some extent, it’s true that I would be harder on something I purchased if the something were pricey. If I spent $150 for a concert ticket and the band only played 30 minutes, or the sound was lousy, I’d probably be a lot more unhappy than if the ticket would be free. A $15 book or CD…not so much.

So I will let you know how I came to possess the item under review. I think that’s only fair.


It Begins

This blog has arisen out of three problems, which took place over quite a bit of time.

First, back in the 90s, I proposed review of a show by a single artist and group to the largest (probably the only) folk music magazine in the U.S. This magazine is long gone and I can’t remember the name. Probably something crappy like “The Village Green.” Anyway, they refused my proposal because they felt I was “too close” to the artists.  Interestingly, a review of the same show was published by the largest folk music magazine in the UK (called “Folk Roots” at the time; now surviving nicely as “Froots”).

The “too close” thing is still somewhat baffling. As best as I can tell, the editor felt I was biased because I knew or liked the musicians too well. This can be a very thin dividing line. Of course there will be bands I enjoy and see repeatedly, and I may interview or chat with one or more of the personnel. Maybe I even get to like him or her. Maybe we become, in some way, friends, or at least friendly. Does this mean that if I review his or her or their show, I won’t call it a shitty show, even if it is a shitty show, because I like this person or people? Will I write a powderpuff review because I want to promote my friends? I like to think I will write honestly regardless of whether I have a relationship with the artist. And this blog will be a place where I can do it, and even add a proviso that the artist in question is a friend, or someone I’ve known for many years, or someone I schtup on a semi-regular basis.

I  did get away with the “too close” thing for a while in the 90s. I wrote for a national blues magazine, but wanted very much to try to promote local NYC artists as much as possible. The first time I did it, the particular artist was about to release his first CD, and the publisher loved it, so I pretty much got carte blanche to do this sort of thing. And I called songs weak when they were weak, side-players dull when they were insufficient, covers done-to-death when they were…you get it.

But there was one local player with whom I suppose I was “too close.” My actual thinking at the time was that he was not getting the recognition he deserved, and I was trying to get him a little more. It was also true that I went to most of his shows and enjoyed them immensely; is this wrong for a reviewer? Is it too partial, too close? Did  I overlook something that was not quite good, not up to snuff, not changed enough from the original? I wrote three pieces on this musician and had another author write one, back in the day when I had my own small local music magazine. I recently re-read what the other reviewer rote, and it was just as glowing as my pieces. So perhaps I was biased toward this player…but also wrote honestly about him.

Number two (if you’re hopelessly lost, this is the second reason I started this blog): I write very occasionally for a national music magazine which recently gave me a book to review; I was asked to do 750-800 words. The cover of the book touted it as a “biography,” but the author’s name was not on the cover, nor was it on the back. When I finally located it, it was on the spine, and it was the name of the subject of the book. There’s a good word for a book of this type: “autobiography.” And it got worse.

It was abundantly clear that the author, a minor Chicago bluesman, had typed it up, run it through spell-checker (so the common words, though not proper names, were spelled correctly), and sent it to the self-publisher. (There was no publisher’s name on the book, not even a made-up one.) The book had never visited a editor, nor even some dope with a B.A. in English. Proper names were misspelled; Howlin’ Wolf’s name was not only spelled “Howlin’ Wolf,” but also “Howlin Wolf” and “Howling Wolf.” A chapter on Maxwell Street was entitled “Jew Town” and began with two paragraphs (“I guess this wouldn’t be politically correct today”) on how the area was called “Jew Town,” due to the many Jewish-run businesses at a time prior to the author’s arrival. The rest of the chapter focused on the buy-sell-trade nature of the area when the author arrived, referring to it throughout as “Maxwell Street.” So the “Jew Town” business was needed why?

As I read the book to prepare my review, I not only inserted my usual bookmarks, but also found myself circling grammatical mistakes, underlying unnecessary inclusions and inserting multiple question marks – as if I were the non-existent editor. It was nigh impossible not to do so. Once I had gone through half of the book, I was reluctant to slog through the rest, and emailed my editor to confirm the deadline, mentioning how truly awful the book was. His response was that I should cut the review length in half, and mention that the book would mostly be of interest to people from the Chicago blues scene in the 70s. (This necessitated a quick reread and underlining the names of musicians mentioned, then looking them up in a blues reference book to see if they were local or national – another major failing of the book and author).

So – I was basically told not to trash the book, which truly merited a good trashing. Whether the author was expected to advertise in the magazine, I can’t say. Maybe. The magazine does make a lot of money by advertising CDs and such, many of which are reviewed in the magazine. Partial? Too close?

Third reason: I don’t have enough outlets to write reviews, and I like writing reviews. Magazine X no longer pays its writers (and in fact still owes me $60 from 2003). This blog gives me the freedom to review more than blues books and CDs, and in fact more than blues, and in fact more than music.

I recently found myself writing shortish reviews on social media, mostly about concerts and small shows I’d seen, all of which ended with the warning, “Your mileage may vary.” (Does anyone even use that expression any more? Well, I do, meaning “you may have a different experience than mine.”) And I thought, what a fine name for a blog of opinionated reviews!  Of course, the “o” and the “u” in the word “Your” would have run me an additional $2,800, so let’s hope you can all remember that “Yr” means “Your.”

Eventually, this blog will include some relevant links for monetization (e.g., a link to Amazon to buy the book or CD I’m reviewing), and an address to send books or CDs for review (no promises, though). But for now, I’m just hoping this comes out looking right, and someone decides to read it. Hopefully, someone partial or close to me.