Later On

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The Incredible Story Of Carl Akeley’s Fight To The Death With A Leopard

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A fascinating entry in the blog Stuff Nobody Cares About:

Anyone who has been to New York’s American Museum of Natural History is no doubt familiar with its amazing African mammal collection. The large hall featuring 28 diorama’s with specimens from Africa is named after preservationist, hunter and explorer Carl E. Akeley (May 19, 1864 – November 17, 1926).

The centerpiece of the hall is a freestanding group of eight elephants, poised as if to charge,

What you see in the  Akeley Hall of African Mammals is an accurate portrait of what Akeley and other explorers saw in Africa from the Belgian Congo to the Serengeti Plain.

In 1923 Akeley wrote In Brightest Africa (Doubleday, Page), an account of his travels in Africa. It remains an exciting read today.

One of the most incredible stories is Akeley’s description of killing a leopard with his bare hands.

Akeley’s account:

The sun was setting, and with little to console us the pony boy and I started for camp. As we came near to the place where I had shot the diseased hyena in the morning, it occurred to me that perhaps there might be another hyena about the carcass, and feeling a bit “sore” at the tribe for stealing my wart hog, I thought I might pay off the score by getting a good specimen of a hyena for the collections. The pony boy led me to the spot, but the dead hyena was nowhere in sight. There was the blood where he had fallen, and in the dusk we could make out a trail in
the sand where he had been dragged away.

Advancing a few steps, a slight sound attracted my attention, and glancing to one side I got a glimpse of  a shadowy form going behind a bush. I then did a very foolish thing. Without a sight of what I was shooting at, I shot hastily into the bush. The snarl of a leopard told me what kind of a customer I was taking chances with. A leopard is a cat and has all the qualities that gave rise to the “nine lives” legend: To kill him you have got to kill him clear to the tip of his tail. Added to that, a leopard, unlike a lion, is vindictive. A wounded leopard will fight to a finish
practically every time, no matter how many chances it has to escape. Once aroused, its determination is fixed on fight, and if a leopard ever gets hold, it claws and bites until its victim is in shreds. All this was in my mind, and I began looking about for the best way out of it, for I had no desire to try conclusions with a possibly wounded leopard when it was so late in the day that I could not see the sights of my rifle.

My intention was to leave it until morning and if it had been wounded, there might then be a chance of finding it, I turned to the left to cross to the opposite bank of a deep, narrow tug and when there I found that I was on an island where the tug forked, and by going along a short distance to the point of the island I would be in position to see behind the bush where
the leopard had stopped. But what I had started the leopard was intent on finishing. While peering about I detected the beast crossing the tug about twenty yards above me. I again began shooting, although I could not see to aim. However, I could see where the bullets struck as the sand spurted up beyond the leopard. The first two shots went above her, but the third scored. The leopard stopped and I thought she was killed. The pony boy broke into a song of triumph which was promptly cut short by another song such as only a thoroughly angry leopard is capable of making as it charges. For just a flash I was paralyzed with fear, then came power for action.

I worked the bolt of my rifle and became conscious that the magazine was empty. At the same instant I realized that a solid point cartridge rested in the palm of my left hand, one that I had intended, as I came up to the dead hyena, to replace with a soft nose. If I could but escape the leopard until I could get the cartridge into the chamber!

As she came up the bank on one side of the point of the island, I dropped down the other side and ran about to the point from which she had charged, by which time the cartridge was in place, and I wheeled — to face the leopard in mid-air. The rifle was knocked flying and in its place was eighty pounds of frantic cat. Her intention was to sink her teeth into my throat and with this grip and her forepaws hang to me while with her hind claws she dug out my stomach,
for this pleasant practice is the way of leopards. However, 

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

18 February 2022 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Cats, Daily life, Guns, History

Calvin and Hobbes

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Gabrielle Bellot, a staff writer for Literary Hub whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Paris Review Daily, The Cut, Tin House, The Guardian, Guernica, The Normal School, The Poetry Foundation, Lambda Literary, and many other places, writes in Literary Hub:

“To an editor,” Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, wrote in 2001, “space may be money, but to a cartoonist, space is time. Space provides the tempo and rhythm of the strip.” Watterson was right, perhaps in more ways than he knew. Newspaper comics, he wrote, provide a unique space for many readers before they start their day; we get to pass, briefly, through a door into a calmer, simpler world, where the characters often remain largely the same, even down to their clothing. Not all newspaper comics are like this, of course, particularly the more complex narrative comics of the past like Little Nemo in Slumberland or Terry and the Pirates, and the worst comics—of which there are many—retain that sense of sameness by being formulaic and uninspired. But this, too, is related to space. Space, broadly speaking, is what defines Calvin and Hobbes.

The strip follows Calvin, a blonde six-year-old American that Watterson named after the founder of Calvinism. Calvin’s first appearance was actually in a rejected strip from before Calvin and Hobbes called Critturs, in which he is the younger brother of the main character; the syndicate suggested he focus on this sibling instead, and that led to the creation of his flagship comic. Often, Calvin’s imagination represents a more exciting, more marvelous vision of the world around him; instead of listening in class to Miss Wormwood (herself named for C. S. Lewis’s apprentice devil in The Screwtape Letters), he may be dreaming of fleeing from aliens in other galaxies. An only child, Calvin’s best friend is a tiger named Hobbes, himself named for the author of Leviathan. To everyone but Calvin, Hobbes appears to be a stuffed tiger, while Hobbes is a real, talking tiger to Calvin. In Watterson’s words, Hobbes’s true nature is never fully defined by the strip, which is one of its beauties; Hobbes is a kind of ontological marvel, and yet utterly mundane all the same, for he is whatever he needs to be for whomever is perceiving him.

Calvin and Hobbes feels so inventive because it is: the strips take us to new planets, to parodies of film noir, to the Cretaceous period, to encounters with aliens in American suburbs and bicycles coming to life and reality itself being revised into Cubist art. Calvin and Hobbes ponder whether or not life and art have any meaning—often while careening off the edge of a cliff on a wagon or sled. At times, the strip simply abandons panels or dialogue altogether, using black and white space and wordless narrative in fascinating ways. Like Alice, Calvin shrinks in one sequence, becoming tiny enough to transport himself on a passing house fly; in another, he grows larger than the planet itself. In “Nauseous Nocturne,” a poem in The Essential Calvin and Hobbes that reads faintly like a parody of Poe, Watterson treats us to lovely art and to absurd yet brilliant lines like “Oh, blood-red eyes and tentacles! / Throbbing, pulsing ventricles! Mucus-oozing pores and frightful claws! / Worse, in terms of outright scariness, / Are the suckers multifarious / That grab and force you in its mighty jaws”; the “disgusting aberration” “demonstrates defenestration” at the sight of Hobbes. In one gloriously profane strip, Calvin even becomes an ancient, vengeful god who attempts to sacrifice humanity. Nothing, except perhaps the beauty of imagination, is sacred here. Watterson dissolves the boundaries of highbrow and lowbrow art. The comic’s freedom is confined—it’s not totally random—yet the depths it can go to feel fathomless all the same. Few other strips allow themselves such vastness.

I’ve always loved the way that the best books—including comics—change as we do. The narrator of Borges’s “The Book of Sand” receives an inscrutable book from a bible-seller that literally changes every time he opens it, for it is impossible to find the same page twice; conversely, another of Borges’s protagonists, Funes the Memorious from the story of the same name, cannot forget anything he reads or perceives at all. Reality is somewhere in the middle of these extremes. Some books are palaces or grand multilayered structures like the etchings of Piranesi; we may only find secret doors and halls and rooms in them on our second or fourth reads, and there are some doors one reader may stumble upon that no one else ever will, including the writer of said text. “The days are just packed,” Calvin tells Hobbes in one of Watterson’s strips, in a line that would serve as the title for a collection. And so is the comic itself, which I’ve reread in its entirety many times, and yet I keep finding new little hidden rooms in it.

I’ve gotten more into comics as I’ve grown older, but Calvin and Hobbes is the one that has stayed with me from childhood to adulthood. Though focused on suburban American characters, it crossed cultural borders for me in Dominica because so much of it seemed universal. I lived at the edge of a mountain village, and on the days when the wind had stopped blowing and everything felt still and stricken with the melancholy of a too-short Sunday I enjoyed retreating into a room and disappearing into the world of a book collection of Calvin and Hobbes. (I had . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2021 at 7:19 pm

Posted in Art, Books, Cats, Daily life, Humor

Text message from The Eldest

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Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2021 at 6:51 pm

Posted in Cats, Daily life

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Guilt? or just say, “What?”

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Hearing a noise from the other room, The Wife investigated. She writes, “Molly was digging in the bag of food to find something she likes better than what’s on her plate.” This is the look Molly gave her.

Written by Leisureguy

27 November 2020 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Cats, Daily life, Molly

John Gray: ‘What can we learn from cats? Don’t live in an imagined future’

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Tim Adams interviews John Gray in the Guardian:

What’s it like to be a cat? John Gray has spent a lifetime half-wondering. The philosopher – to his many fans the intellectual cat’s pyjamas, to his critics the least palatable of furballs – has had feline companions at home since he was a boy in South Shields. In adult life – he now lives in Bath with his wife Mieko, a dealer in Japanese antiquities – this has principally been two pairs of cats: “Two Burmese sisters, Sophie and Sarah, and two Birman brothers, Jamie and Julian.” The last of them, Julian, died earlier this year, aged 23. Gray, currently catless, is by no means a sentimental writer, but his new book, Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life, is written in memory of their shared wisdom.

Other philosophers have been enthralled by cats over the years. There was Schrödinger and his box, of course. And Michel de Montaigne, who famously asked: “When I am playing with my cat, how do I know she is not playing with me?” The rationalist René Descartes, Gray notes, once “hurled a cat out of the window in order to demonstrate the absence of conscious awareness in non-human animals; its terrified screams were mechanical reactions, he concluded.”

One impulse for this book was a conversation with a fellow philosopher, who assured Gray that he “had taught his cat to be vegan”. (Gray had only one question: “Did the cat ever go out?” It did.) When he informed another philosopher that he was writing about what we can learn from cats, that man replied: “But cats have no history.” “And,” Gray wondered, “is that necessarily a disadvantage?”

Elsewhere, Gray has written how Ludwig Wittgenstein once observed “if lions could talk we would not understand”, to which the zookeeper John Aspinall responded: “He hasn’t spent long enough with lions.” If cats could talk, I ask Gray, do you think we would understand?

“Well, the book is in some ways an experiment in that respect,” he says. “Of course, it’s not a scientific inquiry. But if you live with a cat very closely for a long time – and it takes a long time, because they’re slow to trust, slow to really enter into communication with you – then you can probably imagine how they might philosophise.”

Gray believes that humans turned to philosophy principally out of anxiety, looking for some tranquillity in a chaotic and frightening world, telling themselves stories that might provide the illusion of calm. Cats, he suggests, wouldn’t recognise that need because they naturally revert to equilibrium whenever they’re not hungry or threatened. If cats were to give advice, it would be for their own amusement.

Readers of Gray will recognise this book as a postscript or coda to Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals, the 2002 bestseller in which he elegantly dismantled the history of western philosophy – with its illusory faith in our species living somehow “above” evolving life and outside the constraints of nature. That book aimed its fire particularly at the prevailing belief of our time: that of the inevitably steady forward progress of humankind brought about by liberal democracy. When the book came out, as George W Bush was demanding “regime change” in Iraq, it struck a particular nerve. In the two decades since, its argument that the advance of rational enlightened thought might not offer any kind of lasting protection against baser tribal instincts or environmental destruction or human folly has felt like prophecy.

Gray never bought the idea that his book was a handbook for despair. His subject was humility; his target any ideology that believed it possessed anything more than doubtful and piecemeal answers to vast and changing questions. The cat book is written in that spirit. If like me you read with a pencil to hand, you will be underlining constantly with a mix of purring enjoyment and frequent exclamation marks. “Consciousness has been overrated,” Gray will write, coolly. Or “the flaw in rationalism is the belief that human beings can live by applying a theory”. Or “human beings quickly lose their humanity but cats never stop being cats”. He concludes with a 10-point list of how cats might give their anxious, unhappy, self-conscious human companions hints “to live less awkwardly”. These range from “never try to persuade human beings to be reasonable”, to “do not look for meaning in your suffering” to “sleep for the joy of sleeping”.

Does he see that 10-point plan, offered half in earnest (“as a cat would offer it”) as an answer to those people who criticised Straw Dogs for offering little in place of what it debunked? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 October 2020 at 4:01 pm

Miss Molly comes to visit

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Fumigators at The Wife’s apartment today, so Miss Molly is spending a day with me. After a certain amount of obligatory sniffing around the apartment, she found a sunny spot on a comfortable chair and settled down for a nap. (She’s now snoozing.)

Written by Leisureguy

9 September 2020 at 9:12 am

Posted in Cats, Molly

Molly on TV again — the trick explained

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12 April 2020 at 10:38 am

Posted in Cats, Molly

Molly on TV

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Just this morning:

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11 April 2020 at 11:09 am

Posted in Cats, Molly

I like it when cats show up in movies

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This was just a quick 3-second shot, but I like the kitty:

Written by Leisureguy

21 December 2019 at 9:02 am

Posted in Cats, Movies & TV

Which Xmas ornament doesn’t belong?

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The ornament is the face of my grand-cat Wheezy, whose mom is The Eldest. The other cat, Harry, is too mature for such shenanigans.

Written by Leisureguy

19 December 2019 at 3:17 pm

Posted in Cats, Daily life

How to distract an Egyptian god

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Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2019 at 10:19 am

Posted in Cats, Daily life, Religion

Walk flowers

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The top of the photo is severely cropped because I wanted to remove the close-up of my finger. To make up for that, here’s a photo of Molly resting.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2019 at 1:50 pm

Posted in Cats, Daily life, Molly

Another wooden-tub shaving soap, with Baby Smooth and Blenheim Bouquet

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This is a fine vintage (now) shaving soap, which I believe was made by Truefitt & Hill pre-out-sourcing. It was a private-label soap sold by a vendor who’s now retired, the business name sold to a disreputable dealer (alas). But the soap: the soap is wonderful, and my Rooney Style 1 Size 1 created a superb lather.

The Baby Smooth is a great favorite and I love the shave I get with it. Speaking of favorites, Mantic59 wanted to know which of these razors is my favorite. The problem is that (as the article plainly states), they’re all my favorites: those are my favorite razors, as the title states. But he’s working on something and needed to know The One, and I found I couldn’t do it. I went in and stared into the razor drawer and finally came up with a Favorite Five, but at another time I would probably have a different Favorite Five.

I ended the shave with a good splash of Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet on a totally smooth face. A fine way to start the day.

Yesterday afternoon was not hot, just pleasantly warm with a light breeze, and Miss Molly took a nap on the sofa:

The tummy is irresistible, and she doesn’t mind at all if you pat it gently, just lies limp and seems to enjoy it.

Written by Leisureguy

25 July 2019 at 8:50 am

Posted in Cats, Molly, Shaving

Nancy Boy, meet Blenheim Bouquet

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Nancy Boy is a great shaving cream, highly recommended, and this is a tub of their Signature shaving cream: lavender, rosemary, and peppermint, as I recall. The little Maggard travel brush did a terrific job, and my Fendrihan Mk II Stainless Steel razor once again proved its mettle: 3 passes to a perfect result.

A splash of Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet aftershave finished the job:

Top notes: Lemon, Lime, and Lavender
Heart notes: Blenheim Bouquet has no heart notes
Base notes: Pine, Musk, and Black Pepper

After I posted this, I saw that Mantic59 is also a big Nancy Boy fan. And I think he’s right: Nancy Boy works best with a Plissoft-style synthetic shaving brush.

And this morning I see by the shadow that Molly is in her tree:

Written by Leisureguy

5 March 2019 at 7:49 am

Posted in Cats, Daily life, Molly, Shaving

Molly at rest on my pyjamas

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Written by Leisureguy

21 February 2019 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Cats, Molly

Trump break: Japanese photographer makes hats for his cats from the hair they’ve shed

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Just look at these. And I wonder whether his choice of breeds was influenced by Maru.

Written by Leisureguy

9 January 2019 at 6:28 pm

Posted in Cats

Floris No. 89: A fine fragrance

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A very nice shave today. The Maggard V3A head (here mounted on a UFO handle) is really remarkably good—strongly recommended. Floris No. 89 (their home street number) has a great fragrance and this soap, purchased long before the reformulations, is excellent. (I’m not sure I’d risk the soap today, given the excellence of various artisan soaps, but the aftershave would be good to have.)

Three passes to perfect smoothness, an enjoyable splash of aftershave, and the end of the year draws nigh.

Bonus: Molly enjoying the comfort of her box:

Written by Leisureguy

27 December 2018 at 7:18 am

Posted in Molly, Shaving

The science of cute-aggression

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Amanda Mull writes in the Atlantic:

I have an 11-pound Chihuahua, and I love to smoosh her against my face. I’m not exactly sure what I get out of this ritual, because she doesn’t smell great. Still, I take her up in my hands, bring her toward my head, and make a noise in her side that is like a small scream, but without opening my mouth. Afterward, we look at each other for a moment—she’s suspicious, and I’m slightly embarrassed—before pretending that nothing happened.

I harass my dog in this way constantly. She’s a little loaf of a thing, with big eyes and satellite-dish ears and a teeny snoot, and she is so cute that I have overwhelming urges to, among other things, bite her ears and gently boop her nose. As odd as this all might sound when spelled out—the desire to nibble your pets is usually not discussed in polite company—lots of people share these impulses toward dogs, babies, or other wee things they find excruciatingly adorable. Even if you don’t, you might have experienced secondhand embarrassment for someone who does.

This affliction has a name: “cute aggression.” And for the first time, researchers have begun to map what’s happening in our brains when we decide we want to chomp on a chubby baby leg (in a friendly way!). Their findings, published last week in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, suggest that experiencing cuteness sends many people on a neurochemical roller coaster, with their minds’ attempts to balance themselves resulting in bizarre, intense displays toward tiny, helpless beings. This over-the-top response might serve an important purpose: to ensure that those of us who experience cute aggression don’t spend so much time cooing at a baby or puppy that we forget to take care of it.

When Katherine Stavropoulos, a professor at the University of California at Riverside, first became aware of a 2015 Yale University behavioral studyidentifying the phenomenon of cute aggression, she thought that finding its neurological basis might put scientists on a path toward better understanding the brain’s reward centers. “These are very cute things that you might want to approach. You might want to take care of them. You’re having very positive feelings—in fact, so many feelings that you’re overwhelmed by them,” she says. “To me, that sounds like a very, very active reward system.”

Stavropoulos used EEG caps to test brain activity as participants were shown a series of images of puppies and babies with varying levels of cuteness according to the theory of kinderschema, which are the set of traits, such as big eyes and little noses, that human brains seem to be wired to find adorable. After each set of images, participants were asked to fill out a survey that inquired about, among other things, feelings of caretaking. The results were clear, Stavropoulos says: The brain’s emotion and reward systems are both involved, but cute aggression flared up specifically when the reward center was overwhelmed. The puppy’s tiny paws are just too much, on a chemical level.

If babies could take care of themselves, it wouldn’t matter so much that adults often experience paralyzing reactions to how adorable they are. Because babies are dependent on us for their well-being, though, it’s important on an evolutionary level that we’re able to snap out of it. That’s where cute aggression seems to come in. The surveys filled out by participants showed that the reaction was also heavily linked to feeling a caretaking urge toward a cute thing. That may indicate cute aggression is our brain’s attempt to balance an overwhelmed neurological response. “A baby can’t survive alone, but if you’re so overwhelmed by how cute it is and how much you love it, then you can’t take care of it, and that baby won’t survive,” she says.

Oriana Aragón, a Clemson University researcher and the author of the 2015 Yale study that first identified the phenomenon, agrees that emotional balance is a potential cause of “dimorphous expression,” which is any emotional response that can present in two distinct ways. “When people express this way, they seem to come down off that intense event,” she says. “Their intensity seems to drop faster than people who aren’t doing cute aggression.” The more quickly a caretaker returns to a state of emotional stability, the better the odds that a small, vulnerable thing won’t experience a significant lapse in having its needs met. If that means I need to smoosh my dog against my face, so be it.

On a behavioral front, Aragón says that there are also some other potential explanations for cute aggression. “The appetitive side of the reward system is about that forward momentum, the antsy feeling, the pursuit, the urge,” she told me. “So it could be that when we see this aggressive expression, it’s an expression of that urge. It’s showing that you want to get to the baby.” The clenched-jaw, clenched-fist look of cute aggression is warning everyone that you intend to squeeze the small, cute thing.

In situations where it might be frowned upon to grab a baby that’s not yours, Aragón and her team found a different kind of dimorphous expression: a cute sadness, of sorts. “The ‘aww’ expression, with a downward-turned mouth and crumpled face, sends a signal to the baby and the other people that you just want to regard the baby, savor the baby, and take that baby in,” she says. The same process happens with other reward stimuli, like a good meal: At first, you anticipate it and you dive into your food, and then you sit back, slow down, and savor.

According to Aragón, cute aggression is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding dimorphous expression, which occurs in a variety of scenarios, such as when someone is awed by the beauty of nature or overwhelmed by the thrill of victory. “Disgust and pain seem to have special properties about pulling away from the stimulus, whereas tears seem to be about stopping to savor, and aggression seems to be about the urge of pursuit,” she says. Research on emotion expression has historically been that of one-to-one correlations, Aragón says, so dimorphous expression represents a new phase in understanding how we socially negotiate our feelings.

Knowing how human brains generate these responses could have therapeutic potential, according to Stavropoulos, whose work frequently centers on people with autism. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 December 2018 at 9:16 am

Posted in Cats, Daily life, Molly, Science

Wee Scot, Asses’s Milk shaving soap, Stealth, Spring-Heeled Jack, and Molly

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When the puck is small, a small brush works well, and my pre-Vulfix Wee Scot is a dynamite brush: it holds loads of lather, and the lather from this soap is quite nice, with a very mild fragrance: “clean” would be my description.

Three passes with the RazoRock Stealth easily produced a totally smooth result. This, for me, really is an excellent slant, and it is part of the Permanent Collection.

A good shake of Spring-Heeled Jack followed by a good splash, and the day begins with energy.

Molly loves her paper, apparently even more than her new box:

Written by Leisureguy

16 May 2018 at 8:54 am

Posted in Cats, Molly, Shaving

Kent Infinity synthetic, Tallow + Steel Grog, and the Merkur 37G

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Tallow + Steel delivered a great lather this morning, but the contributions of the Kent Infinity and the water amount (very little = just right) must be acknowledged. The fragrance of Grog is very pleasant, and the Merkur 37G set to work with a will, easily delivering a perfectly smooth (and unharmed) face for the splash of aftershave.

A short report, so here’s a bonus photo of Molly in her new box from PetSmart. The bottom is end-grain corrugated cardboard, and she scratched the be-jesus out of it as an introductory step—sort of like taking the shrinkwrap off a new product.

Written by Leisureguy

7 May 2018 at 9:11 am

Posted in Molly, Shaving

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