Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Movember — The Bushiest Month of the Year

Mo Money, Less Problems

My eight year-old son is convinced he is growing a moustache, despite a rather obvious lack of evidence in the form of actual facial hair. But even at this tender age, he knows that a sign of manliness is a whiskery face — and that he can’t wait to be a man. He also proudly asks me to feel his muscles, flexing his tiny biceps while straining his face, because men have muscular arms, and he constantly wants to be measured against the wall that records the last two years of his growth in penciled lines and dates, because men are also tall.

My son showing his appreciation for one of the best 'stache wearers of all time: his Grandpa Mikey 

But what he doesn’t know is that the very thing that will make him a man — his hormones — will put into play other parts of his body he doesn’t even know exist. Like his prostate gland, for example. Nice when it works; not so nice when it doesn’t. He knows his Mommy had breast cancer and got really sick, but he doesn’t know that men can get really sick from prostate cancer — and I hope he never does.

That is why I support the Movember organization — the folks who are slowly but surely turning the month we have always known as “November” into “Movember” by sponsoring a man you know and love (or even one who is a total stranger) to grow themselves a fabulous moustache. It’s easy to do: you simply stop shaving it off every morning. Meanwhile, your friends encourage your efforts by donating to your page. At the end of the month, if you don’t like the way your new moustache looks or feels, you can get rid of it. Or you can keep it: whatever.

My brother Jay Jay Burridge got involved last year — and this year has partnered with Movember through his company Lucky Seven, to produce a range of very stylish hats you can design yourself. Half the proceeds go to their charity which raises money for men’s health issues — such as prostate cancer. Stylish no matter what time of year it is.

Jay Jay Burridge's Movember Page can be found HERE

Mr. Oliver sporting a Lucky Seven hat and paper 'stache

The Lucky Seven Team's Movember Page can be found HERE

It’s easy to get involved: all you have to do is sign up and grow a ‘stache — or you can donate to a chap who’s growing one instead of you. Or, if you’re a female woman, you can register as a Mo Sista and raise awareness. It’s a sexy way of keeping your men sexy. If you want to continue to support testicular cancer research, but no longer feel comfortable donating to Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation, then this is a great place to re-direct your giving.

Major General Ambrose Burnside. From whom we get "sideburns." Rather obviously.  
Do YOU have the balls to grow a glorious moustache? 'Course you do. Sign up now.

Movember USA:

Sunday, October 14, 2012


Atta Boy

The word supersonic — beyond hearing — was coined in 1919 and described sound waves which were beyond the range of normal human hearing. A dog whistle is supersonic. In 1919, the idea of aircraft capable of breaking the sound barrier was still a long way off.

But this is the 20th century we’re talking about, so not that far off. By 1934, supersonic meant exceeding the speed of sound. At sea level, this happens at 768 mph, and is known as Mach 1.

Chuck Yeager

The first supersonic flight was made on October 14th, 1947 by Chuck Yeager, and ushered in the space age. He achieved this feat in an experimental aircraft with two freshly broken ribs.

Today, exactly 65 years later, Brigadier General Chuck Yeager re-created his history-making flight in the same spot above the Mojave desert. He’s 89 years old. Think about that. 

Also Chuck Yeager

Today, by chance, another man sought to break the sound barrier not far away in Roswell, New Mexico. Felix Baumgartner leapt out of a balloon-borne capsule 24 miles above the earth and succeeded in making a running landing as if he’d jumped off his porch. On his way down, he achieved a speed of 833 mph, or Mach 1.24.

Both men pushed barriers beyond sound: they pushed past what was thought possible for human beings to accomplish or endure. As such, they reached for the symbolic, as opposed to the literal stars and became gods for a little while.

Icarus tried to fly and his ambition raised him too close to the sun, which melted the wax that held his wings together, and he came crashing down.

Icarus. Without wings or a spacesuit. 

He probably could not have imagined a man would say that “Flying is flying. You can’t add a lot to it.” But this is what the humble Chuck Yeager said about his achievement. Baumgartner was similarly circumspect when it came to describing his experience: travelling faster than the speed of sound “is hard to describe because you don’t feel it,” he said.

Yeager flew with the aid of a supersonic engine in a jet plane. Baumgartner did it with nothing but a spacesuit and a parachute. Neither actually flew — but that’s not the point.

Our imaginations did.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Sun Also Rises Over Manhattan

Hemingway’s Mad Men

If you feel yourself getting a little drunk while watching Mad Men, it’s because you’re mostly watching people drinking. It’s hard to believe that America was gripped by Prohibition just 30-odd years before Don Draper et al operated, seemingly successfully, amid a haze of cigarette smoke and alcohol fumes.

The good folks at Slackstory have put together a fine little film featuring every drink consumed by a character on Mad Men — and even with mind-bogglingly rapid cuts it runs to five minutes long. It’s the sort of meme project you’d expect to be made from Mad Men — not just because the constant drinking is a nostalgic glimpse into a world most of us never inhabited (or would have survived), but because the writers have dipped into Hemingway’s bag of narrative tricks.

Read a Hemingway story and see how much he tells us about the setting, the mood, and the character’s internal lives by the way they handle drinks. They’re either ordering one, or cupping one, or sipping one, or swigging one or contemplating one. A drink is a perfect prop to cut to when two characters are interacting because it’s a way to take a look at their hands. In “Hills Like White Elephants,” the couple wait for a train and have a subdued spat while drinking. They talk about drinking. They kill time by drinking some more. Who knows? Maybe they’re still sitting on that platform cracking open beers to this day.

One could, if one were being a smarty-pants, argue that Mad Men is a version of The Sun Also Rises, in which every man is a facet of Jake Barnes and every woman a version of Brett Ashley. Sure, we can imagine Jake Barnes looks like Don Draper — but he also has Bert Cooper’s balls (that is to say, none). Betty Draper looks as much like Brett as you could imagine an irresistible, neurotic blonde could be — but she also has Joan’s sexual confidence and Peggy’s grit. The dashing matador Pedro Romero is Henry Francis, sweeping Betty / Brett off her feet, but whom she is only superficially infatuated with. Roger plays the role of sidekick, a combination of Bill Gorton and Mike Campbell — a wealthy, charming, funny, drunk war veteran type who feeds Don / Jake his best lines. Pete Campbell, with his ambition and insecurity, is Robert Cohn, always on the verge of being punched in the face until he really is punched in the face. Manhattan is one big fiesta, Wall Street provides the bulls. The matadors are the admen in general, creating and dodging drama for the crowd, selling them adventure. Alcohol is a driving force in the novel’s narrative, with the characters moving from one drinking occasion to another. Eventually, the drinking catches up with them, and violence ensues — much as it does in Mad Men. It has to: alcohol is both a facilitator and a show-stopper.

Take a look at the film. Imagine you’re in a Hemingway novel. Easy, right?