Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for October 1st, 2010

NY Times series on drawing

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So far, chronological order:

Getting Back to the Phantom Skill

The Frisbee of Art

Hatching the Pot

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2010 at 12:25 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life

"Nuremberg": A lost war-crimes documentary lives again

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This documentary should be fascinating, especially since the US has a fairly large number of unindicted war criminals, currently being protected by Barack Obama in overt violation of the law (as he launches his program to assassinate Americans without due process or judicial review). Andrew O’Hehir in Salon:

Maybe the title of the documentary "Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today"sounds a little pedantic and old-fashioned. That’s because the "today" in question is not, like, today but 1948, when this film was completed by a United States military team and shown in occupied Germany. A compact and devastating record of the history-making trial — held in the symbolic birthplace of the Nazi Party — that held two dozen leading Nazi officials to account for the crimes of the Holocaust and other World War II atrocities, "Nuremberg" was never shown in U.S. theaters, and the master negative and soundtrack were destroyed, for reasons that remain mysterious. (But which can, I believe, be deduced from the evidence.)

Viewed cynically, the immediate purpose of "Nuremberg" was to convince the defeated German population that the blame for their material privation and collective despair lay not with the victorious Allies but with the deranged criminal regime that had led their nation into war in the first place. But writer-director Stuart Schulberg (an Army sergeant and the brother of famous screenwriter Budd Schulberg) clearly had larger goals in mind. For one thing, the Nuremberg trials presented a startling example of postwar global cooperation, with Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson serving as lead prosecutor alongside a team of British, French and Soviet colleagues. (This release is the result of a lengthy restoration process led by Sandra Schulberg, the director’s daughter, and Josh Waletzky.)

For another, Nuremberg introduced an explosive and controversial principle into international law: the idea that political, military and business leaders could be held personally liable for waging aggressive warfare, for murdering civilians or captured enemies, and for the ambiguous category of "crimes against humanity." It was one thing to apply these new juridical concepts to the universally loathed Nazi regime, but quite another to confront the fact that they applied to everyone else as well. Jackson himself wrote to President Harry Truman that the Allies "have done or are doing some of the very things we are prosecuting the Germans for … We are prosecuting plunder and our Allies are practicing it." Jackson was talking about the Soviet Union, of course — and it is more than a little rich that Stalin’s murderous totalitarian state had the temerity to participate in a war-crimes tribunal — but as the Cold War proceeded, both superpowers became highly uncomfortable with the theory and practice of international criminal law.

You won’t get any sense of the fascinating (and ongoing) legal and philosophical debate surrounding the Nuremberg trials, which have been attacked as a fraudulent exercise in "victors’ justice" and defended as a breakthrough for international human rights. Schulberg paints in broad strokes, creating an intensely riveting  78-minute portrait that tries to capture both the flavor of a dramatic 10-month trial — one of the 20th century’s first and biggest media spectacles — and the horrific history that provoked it. We hear extended snatches of Jackson’s famously eloquent opening and closing statements, witness key moments in the testimony of the odious and unrepentant Hermann Göring — who committed suicide the night before his scheduled execution — and listen to a number of other high-ranking Nazis plead for their lives.

Schulberg intercuts …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2010 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law, Movies & TV

Some people the FBI should fire at once

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Get those broken people out of there! Ed Brayton:

In the last few years the FBI has been caught violating statutory law (FISA and the Patriot Act) and the 4th amendment several times. They’ve filed thousands of illegitimate National Security Letters to obtain information without a warrant, lied to Congress and much more. And no it’s revealed that FBI agents and supervisors routinely cheat on an exam to test their knowledge of the limits of their own authority.

A Justice Department investigation has found that FBI agents, including several supervisors, cheated on an important test covering the bureau’s policies for conducting surveillance on Americans.

Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine said Monday that his limited review of allegations that agents improperly took the open-book test together or had access to an answer sheet has turned up "significant abuses and cheating."

They cheated on an open book test.

Fine called on the bureau to discipline the agents, throw out the results and come up with a new test to see if FBI agents understand new rules allowing them to conduct surveillance and open files on Americans without evidence of criminal wrongdoing…

In the inquiry into the exam, the inspector general looked only at four FBI field offices and found enough troubling information to warrant a comprehensive review by the FBI.

In one FBI field office, four agents exploited a computer software flaw "to reveal the answers to the questions as they were taking the exam," Fine said.

Other test-takers used or circulated materials that essentially provided the test answers, he said.

Fine said that almost all of those who cheated "falsely certified" that they did the work themselves, without the help of others.

They cheated and they lied to cover up that fact. Fire them. Every one of them. They cannot be counted on to follow the rules, including the 4th amendment’s protections.

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2010 at 12:14 pm

The Bad Obama

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Ed Brayton:

In an interview with Rolling Stone, President Obama offered a transparently lame justification for his administration’s constant use of the state secrets privilege:

People will say, "I don’t know — you’ve got your Justice Department out there that’s still using the state-secrets doctrine to defend against some of these previous actions." Well, I gave very specific instructions to the Department of Justice. What I’ve said is that we are not going to use a shroud of secrecy to excuse illegal behavior on our part. On the other hand, there are occasions where I’ve got to protect operatives in the field, their sources and their methods, because if those were revealed in open court, they could be subject to very great danger. There are going to be circumstances in which, yes, I can’t have every operation that we’re engaged in to deal with a very real terrorist threat published in Rolling Stone.

The problem is the straw man in the very first sentence. The problem isn’t that Obama is invoking the state secrets privilege in some of the cases filed against the executive branch for violating statutory law and/or the constitution in its pursuit of the war on terror; the problem is that he is invoking that privilege in every single case ever filed in that area.

That "new policy" put out by the DOJ to govern use of the state secrets privilege was little more than a bad joke. It could have been summarized quite accurately as "trust us, we will only use our powers for good." Which might be a credible claim if there was even a single case that had been filed against Bush or Obama in which they did not invoke the SSP and demand that the case be dismissed.

It might also be more credible if Obama had not publicly said that he thinks the privilege should be more narrow, that judges should be able to hear a case and deal with classified evidence with more narrow means of protecting them. But that is precisely what the judge did in the Jeppesen Dataplan case and Obama appealed it and got that ruling overturned.

This claim that they’re not using the SSP to cover up illegal behavior is clearly a lie. Torture is illegal in this country, yet Obama is invoking the SSP to have every case filed by a victim of torture dismissed. Warrantless wiretaps are illegal in this country, yet Obama is invoking the SSP to have every case filed by anyone who has been the target of that illegal activity dismissed.

Obama is lying. It’s that simple.

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2010 at 12:12 pm

Federal prosecutors who should be prosecuted

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I doubt that anything will be done. Obama’s interest in good government is much less than I expected. But here’s the story by Radley Balko at Reason.com:

Last week, USA Today published the results of a six-month investigation into misconduct by America’s federal prosecutors. The investigation turned up what Pace University law professor Bennett Gershman called a pattern of “serious, glaring misconduct.” Reporters Brad Heath and Kevin McCoy documented 201 cases in which federal prosecutors were chastised by federal judges for serious ethical breaches, ranging from withholding important exculpatory evidence to lying in court to making incriminating but improper remarks in front of juries.

The list is by no means comprehensive, and doesn’t claim to be. I checked the paper’s website for examples of egregious misconduct reported here at Reason: U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan’s politically-charged prosecution of Pennsylvania doctor Bernard Rottschaefer; Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Grayson’s outrageous persecution of the Colomb family in Louisiana; and the bogus Mann Act charges brought against Mississippi heart surgeon, Dr. Roger Wiener. None are among the cases in USA Today’s database. The paper should be lauded for its groundbreaking investigation, but as the reporters themselves acknowledge, they’ve really only scratched the surface. (The investigation also only looked at federal cases, which comprise just a tiny portion of the country’s total criminal prosecutions.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2010 at 12:03 pm

A man unqualified for his position

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The guy, who may still be president of Valdosta State University, clearly is totally unqualified for his job. I hope he gets fired, and soon.

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2010 at 11:59 am

Posted in Education, Government, Law

See the world

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Four people make a strong argument for going abroad. All my kids went abroad early and often, but I was the laggard. It took my wife to push me into my first trip, but then I discovered, "Yes. Good idea."

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2010 at 11:56 am

Posted in Daily life

Scrivener for Windows is coming

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James Fallows loves Scrivener, and now it’s coming to Windows.

Here’s more info on the program.

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2010 at 11:54 am

101 Free Alternatives to Commonly Used Paid Software

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Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2010 at 11:51 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Back from library

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English history is a good field in which to become interested because there’s a TON of material—in English—to read. I got an armful: Vol 1 of Winston Churchill’s A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Fraser’s The Wives of Henry VIII, and some others. Not all will go on the trip. I may go for Churchill’s History on the Kindle. I checked the first volume, which seems to be pure text.

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2010 at 11:49 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

More on Israel’s summary execution of flotilla activists

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Greenwald:

Last week, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights released a comprehensive report detailing its findings regarding the May, 2010, Israeli attack on the six-ship flotilla attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to Israel-blockaded Gaza.  The report has been largely ignored in the American media despite the fact (or, more accurately:  because) it found that much of the Israeli force used "was unnecessary, disproportionate, excessive and inappropriate and resulted in the wholly avoidable killing and maiming of a large number of civilian passengers"; that "at least six of the killings can be characterized as extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions"; and that Israel violated numerous international human rights conventions, including the Fourth Geneva Conventions (see p. 38, para. 172).

Even more striking in terms of U.S. media and government silence on this report is the fact that one of the victims of the worst Israeli violations was a 19-year-old American citizen.  As Gareth Porter documents in an excellent article at The Huffington Post, the report "shows conclusively, for the first time, that US citizen Furkan Dogan and five Turkish citizens were murdered execution-style by Israeli commandos."  In particular:

The report reveals that Dogan, the 19-year-old US citizen of Turkish descent, was filming with a small video camera on the top deck of the Mavi Marmara when he was shot twice in the head, once in the back and in the left leg and foot and that he was shot in the face at point blank range while lying on the ground.

The report says Dogan had apparently been "lying on the deck in a conscious or semi-conscious, state for some time" before being shot in his face.

The forensic evidence that establishes that fact is "tattooing around the wound in his face," indicating that the shot was "delivered at point blank range." The report describes the forensic evidence as showing that "the trajectory of the wound, from bottom to top, together with a vital abrasion to the left shoulder that could be consistent with the bullet exit point, is compatible with the shot being received while he was lying on the ground on his back."

Needless to say, the Israeli Government — as it virtually always does when confronted with well-documented, official findings of its severe human rights violations — attacked the source, accusing the report of being "biased and distorted."  The U.N. investigators interviewed 112 witnesses and consulted with numerous forensic and medical experts, while Israel refused to speak with its investigators (though Israeli officials are cooperating with a separate group investigating the attack).  There’s no reason to take the findings of this report as Gospel:   like everything, it’s subject to reasonable dispute, but it’s clearly well-documented, consistent with documentary evidence and overwhelming witness testimony, and is entitled to be taken seriously.

To this day, I’m still amazed by how the American media and U.S. Government responded to this incident, given the fact that it was painfully obvious from the start that the Israelis’ conduct was the behavior of a guilty party.  The Israelis immediately seized all documentary evidence from the passengers showing what actually happened, blocked all media access to witnesses by detaining everyone on board (including journalists) for days, and then quickly released its own highly edited video — spliced to begin well into the middle of the Israeli attack — that was dutifully and unquestioningly shown over and over by the U.S. media to make it appear that the flotilla passengers were the first to become violent.  That was a lie from the start, and it was an obvious lie.

In no other situation would a party to a conflict who steals all of the evidence, withholds it from the world, and then selectively releases its own blatantly distorted, edited version of a fraction of the evidence be trusted.  The opposite is true:  that party would immediately be assumed to be guilty precisely because of that very behavior of obfuscation; that behavior is the behavior of a guilty party.  But with Israel, the opposite happens (at least in the U.S.).  The IDF video was shown over and over to propagandize Americans into believing that the passengers were the first to engage in aggression, even though the video — and the Israelis’ withholding of all the rest of the evidence — begged the glaringly obvious question:  what happened before the commandos descended onto the ship?  Based on smuggled video and forensic evidence, this new report documents what countless flotilla witnesses tried to tell the world once they were finally released:  "live ammunition was used from the helicopter onto the top deck prior to the descent of the soldiers" (p. 26; para. 114 — emphasis added).

Last Wednesday night, I spoke at Brooklyn Law School on this event, and with me on the panel were Columbia University Professor Rashid Khalidi and Iranian-American lawyer Fatima Mohammadi, who was on the Mavi Marmara.  I’m trying very hard to obtain the video of that event because Mohammadi’s narration of what happened — all documented by smuggled video from passengers’ cell phones — leaves little doubt as to who the guilty aggressors were here.  I would really like as many people as possible to hear what she has to say and view the video evidence and make their own assessments as to her credibility and persuasiveness.  Suffice to say, there is no doubt that the Israelis used force against the passengers long before the commandos descended onto the ship — which is precisely why Israel prevented the world from seeing any evidence showing what happened before the events in the IDF video, and why the U.N. Report so conclusively found Israel at fault.  I’d be willing to venture that a tiny percentage of the American public, whose perceptions were shaped by American media coverage, have any clue that this is the case.

The fact that a 19-year-old American citizen was one of the dead — among those whom the report concluded was "summarily executed" by the Israelis — makes the U.S. Government’s silence here all the more appalling.  One of the prime duties of a government is to safeguard the welfare of its own citizens.  It’s inconceivable for most governments in the world to remain silent in the face of formal findings that a foreign nation "summarily executed" one of its own citizens.  One of the reasons Turkey was so emphatic in its condemnation of Israel was because the dead were Turkish citizens; that’s what governments do when a foreign nation kills its own citizens.  Yet not only does the U.S. Government sit silently, but its prior statements defending Israel were disgustingly cavalier.  Virtually the entire world — literally — vehemently condemned Israel for what it did here, yet the U.S. refused and continues to refuse to do so, notwithstanding these findings that one of its own citizens was essentially murdered.

Perhaps most illustrative of all is …

Continue reading. The US government has, of course, now established a program that allows it to summarily execute American citizens (without a trial or any due process) at will. This is due purely to Obama.

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2010 at 10:37 am

Interesting contrast

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US exceptionalism views the US as a uniquely virtuous country, above standards applied to other countries, when in the fact the US is just as prone to dirty dealing and shameful practices, the very reason citizens must keep a sharp eye on the government: it is no more prone than businesses to operate ethically, though the government’s actions are not distorted by the drive to increase profits.

Here’s the first item: Dinesh D’Souza caught in a lie and falsifying his sources. Andrew Sullivan:

I was struck by this sentence in D’Souza’s Forbes piece because it seemed, well, not very Tocquevillian to me:

A half-century [after the Founders] Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of America as creating "a distinct species of mankind." This is known as American exceptionalism.

Did Tocqueville actually claim that America created "a distinct species of mankind," a new and different "species" of human being, superior to those who had come before? Here is the passage D’Souza is referring to, from Democracy In America:

[Americans] have all a lively faith in the perfectibility of man; they judge that the diffusion of knowledge must necessarily be advantageous, and the consequences of ignorance fatal; they all consider society as a body in a state of improvement, humanity as a changing scene, in which nothing is, or ought to be, permanent; and they admit that what appears to them to-day to be good, may be superseded by something better to-morrow. I do not give all these opinions as true, but as American opinions.

The Anglo-Americans are not only united by these common opinions, but they are separated from all other nations by a feeling of pride. For the last fifty years, no pains have been spared to convince the inhabitants of the United States that they are the only religious, enlightened, and free people. They perceive that, for the present, their own democratic institutions prosper, whilst those of other countries fail; hence they conceive a high opinion of their superiority, and are not very remote from believing themselves to be a distinct species of mankind. Thus, the dangers which threaten the American Union do not originate in diversity of interests or of opinions; but in the various characters and passions of the Americans.

My italics. You will notice that, pace D’Souza, far from Tocqueville asserting that Americans were a "distinct species of mankind", he was saying that Americans

are not very remote from believing themselves to be a distinct species of mankind.

And it is clear that this is, for him, if anything, a moral criticism – the gentle sarcasm of the passage above is unmissable – not an endorsement of a fact.

De Tocqueville was an educated and wise man who deeply admired and was fascinated by many aspects of American culture and democracy. But he was under no illusions that human nature had somehow changed across the Atlantic, and was a critic of what he saw as American democratic cultural mediocrity. He was an aristocrat, and a profound admirer of England, and the English constitution, as any reader of his other masterpiece, The Ancien Regime And The Revolution would understand. Tocqueville also did not see America as uniquely destined for world domination in the nineteenth century:

"There are now two great nations in the world, which starting from different points, seem to be advancing toward the same goal: the Russians and the Anglo-Americans… Each seems called by some secret design of Providence one day to hold in its hands the destinies of half the world."

So D’Souza simply gets de Tocqueville wrong. Providence was not uniquely American. It was Anglo-American … and Russian! And he was above all a French patriot who wanted his own country to prosper by learning from the examples of others.

And this is not a trivial matter. For what the new right has come to assert as empirical fact is that Americans are actually a distinct species of mankind, that America has a divine blessing not bestowed on any other countries, that its inherent specialness means that if Americans torture, for example, it is somehow not torture; that if Americans invade a country, it is never an invasion but always a liberation; that if Americans occupy a foreign country for a decade, it is not an occupation; and so on.

This kind of nationalism is dangerous. It is not patriotism. It is not pride in the exceptional history and constitution of the US, which Obama has expressed and, in many ways, exemplifies. It is a kind of national idolatry in order to justify anything America does, and to demonize anyone, like Tocqueville and Obama and any educated person, who sees the imperfection and flaws of America, as well its immense and enduring and specific virtues.

And to demonstrate that America is as vulnerable to moral failure as any nation—and perhaps more prone, given the number who believe that, if America does it, it cannot be wrong—take a look at Tim Johnson’s report at McClatchy on how the US deliberately infected Guatemalans with syphilis:

Exposing a dark page in its history, the U.S. government acknowledged Friday that its scientists had infected hundreds of Guatemalans with syphilis in experiments conducted from 1946 to 1948 in “appalling violations” of medical ethics.

Under the experiments, U.S. scientists sent prostitutes infected with syphilis into a Guatemalan prison, mental health hospital and army barracks to test possible cures.

“Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a joint statement.

“We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices.”

The statement said current regulations prohibit such “appalling violations” of ethics regarding human medical research and added that the two departments would launch “a thorough investigation” of the 1946-1948 tests in Guatemala.

Clinton called President Alvaro Colom of Guatemala Thursday night “to express her personal outrage, deep regret,” Arturo Valenzuela, the assistant Secretary of State for Western hemisphere affairs, said in a Twitter message.

Valenzuela said in another posting that he’d spoken with Guatemala’s ambassador to Washington to express a U.S. “commitment to human dignity and respect for the people.

Friday’s acknowledgment shed new light on U.S. medical experiments that included the infamous “Tuskegee” syphilis study in which scientists observed, but didn’t treat, hundreds of African American men with late-stage syphilis in Macon County, Alabama, over a period of decades starting in 1932…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2010 at 10:31 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government, Law

Gene Krupa-Buddy Rich drum battle

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Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2010 at 10:15 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

Blackwing pencils available again!

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Only they’re not the famous Eberhardt-Faber Blackwing 602, now discontinued. Instead, Palomino, a Japanese company, has brought out a tribute pencil, the Palomino Blackwing.

Pencils of all sorts found at Pencils.com.

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2010 at 10:14 am

Posted in Daily life

Gillette explores a cheaper blade

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Still a cartridge, but 11 ¢ instead of $4.25 (the price for ONE of their new multiblade cartridges, the Fusion ProGlide). The key, P&G believes, is to get men to stop using the traditional double-edged blade. Once they’re locked into a cartridge system, the upsell can begin.

Thanks to Greg Kahn for pointing out this Wall Street Journal article by Ellen Byron:

Gillette’s newest shaving system has just one blade, a light plastic handle and a sharply lower price. And it isn’t available in the U.S.

The Gillette Guard, the latest razor from the Procter & Gamble Co. unit, instead will begin hitting stores in India next week.

The move by the maker of five-bladed, battery-powered gizmos reflects P&G’s aggressive push into emerging markets for new customers and growth. That focus is forcing P&G to be more modest on scale and more flexible on price.

Gillette commands about 70% of the world’s razor and blade sales, but it lags behind rivals in India and other developing markets, mainly because those consumers can’t afford to buy its flagship products.

The stripped-down Gillette Guard is designed to be affordable. The razor costs 15 rupees, or 34 cents, and uses blades that cost five rupees, or 11 cents.

By contrast, the Mach 3 blades that Gillette has been selling in India cost about 100 rupees, around $2.24.

"The first job is to bring more consumers into Gillette," says Alberto Carvalho, P&G’s vice president of male grooming in emerging markets. "When they start enjoying a better shave, they’ll be more open to all solutions."

Gillette Guard is aiming to lure users of double-edge razors, about 400 million men in India, according to P&G estimates. In India, a brand called Super-Max holds the lead in double-edge blades, which cost roughly 1.5 to 2 rupees, which is half of the cost of even Gillette Guard.

Winning over low-income consumers in developing markets is crucial to the growth strategy of P&G’s chief executive, Robert McDonald. Over the next five years, Mr. McDonald wants to boost the company’s total customer base for its many products to five billion of the world’s expected population of seven billion. Many of these new consumers will have to come from markets like India, where P&G has a small presence compared to Unilever PLC and some other competitors…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2010 at 10:10 am

Frank shaving brush and Durance L’òme

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See above my new Frank shaving brush. Not frank in the sense that the brush says, “You don’t do a very good job of making lather from soap, do you?”, but Frank shaving brushes in this sense. I read Bruce’s new post on these brushes, and it ignited my desire to own, so I ordered a couple (one for the older grandson). The arrived yesterday, so today I’m exercising one of them.

Very nice knot, and the handle is a different sort of plastic than, say, the Rooney, but certainly polished and solid-feeling. Durance L’òme is not a particularly good-lathering soap, but I had already picked it for today’s shave. The brush did a good but not great job, but: (1) Durance L’òme, and (2) first use. I’ll try it again tomorrow with the Yardley or some other good-lathering soap.

Still: lather was made and shave was done, using the English Gillette Aristocrat Jr. with a used but still sharp Swedish Gillette blade. Three smooth passes, a little bit of the Intesa balm, and I’m ready to go.

Written by Leisureguy

1 October 2010 at 8:21 am

Posted in Shaving

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