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Gilgamesh: An Assyrian Opera — John Craton

     The Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh has been the subject of operas by Bohuslav Martinu, Franco Battiato, Rudolf Brucci, Rosella Simonari, and John Craton, whose version is a work in progress. The only version that is also sung in Aramaic, the language of the Assyrians, is Craton's, based on the translation of the epic by Addai Alkhas. The Assyrian Aid Society of America (AAS-A) commissioned the opera. 

Assyryt Suite: Paulos Khofri/orch. Michel Bosc

     In his illustrious career, Rabi Paulus Khofri (1923-2000) composed a vast amount of vocal and instrumental music that frames the character and the spirit of the Assyrians. "Whatever reaches one's ears," he wrote, "reflects all tides of life this nation has undergone in the past, present and will experience in the future."

The Innocent Strop

     For some men, the mere mention of the word "strop" draws an acerbic chucke along with the signature hand-rubbing of their rump. Oh, yes, they remember the "strap," the same "strop," that canvas and leather wonder revered by straight razor shavers and used before each shave. I have come across scores of men who draw vivid images of their father or grandfather wielding the strop for a whacking on the tokhus, while others paint little smiles filled sweet nuggests of nostalgia.

To My Infant Grandson

May you blossom into a gentleman with a keen intellect and a kind heart;

and know profound love;

and accept people for what they are without passing judgement on them;

and read good books and listen to good music;

and write good sentences;

and love good food and good wine — and an occasional cognac and cigar.

Someday, a long time from now, my straight razors will be yours. Treat them as friend, and with respect. Take time to master the art of straight razor shaving.

And before I forget, may yours be a light beard and grow in one direction.

Your loving grandfather,

Check Your Straight Razor Moves

     Bad habits have a way of creeping into straight razor moves like annyoing verbal ticks. Suddenly they are there, out of nowhere, and knocking on the door like univited dinner guests. After shaving with a straight razor for a while, many of our razor moves become second nature. Occasionally the razor gets lost on a detour and ends up at the wrong address. How and why of it are questions that I think can be eliminated if the shaver periodically evalutes his shaving style and razor technique.

Locker Room Chat: Like Going to the Opera

During the week, after my workout at the gym, I shave in the locker room. Since I shave with a straight razor, the only person in the entire gym who does, I often arouse curiosity. This has led to many questions and conversations regarding the world of straight razor shaving. The following is one of many such conversations, and I record it here as best as I can remember the dialogue:

"Traditional shaving is a lot like going to the opera. It takes preparation."

"What do you mean?"

Well, the best way to enjoy an opera is to prepare for it."

"Prepare for it?"

Agua Lavanda Puig Cologne

I have used Agua Lavanda Puig cologne at various times throughout the years and always found it pleasing. The cologne, produced by the Spanish house of Puig, has the refreshing fragrance of lavender with notes of clean and delightful soap and powder. It is quite masculine. Apparently Agua Lavanda Puig cologne was one of Frank Sinatra's favorites. A lighter version of Agua Lavanda Puig comes in a big plastic bottle and is used as an after bath body splash. That, too, is quite pleasant and refreshing.

 

Semogue 620 Boar Brush

I had a good feeling about the Semogue 620 Boar Brush even before buying it from the Vintage Scents, an online vendor of wet shaving products based in Portugal. The photo and the short description of the Portugese-made brush reaffirmed my feeling that it would be a good brush. It is in every way I thought a boar brush should be.

 

Stretching and Blade Angle

Sometimes facial hair grows in such a jumble of confused paths and detours that shaving with a straight razor feels like driving zigzag in rush hour traffic.

Since any attempt to reason with the unruly stubble is like trying to serve a bloody prime rib to a vegetarian, shaving it off requires an arsenal of well-tested manoeuvres in skin stretching and razor angle. In recent weeks, I have improvised a number of such moves to finally defeat the patches of revolutionary fuzz that have plagued me since I shaved with Louis XIV.

Shaving Videos That Have Influenced Me

Scores of instructional videos have fed me invaluable information through the years on the art and the craft of wet shaving with the straight razor. Since I will always consider myself a straight razor pilgrim, these videos also continue to serve as refreshers for me in this distinct form of wet shaving.

The big number of videos I have seen and studied range from gems to clunkers out of gas, with a fair number falling somewhere in between. I have learned some things from all of them. Even those one might consider a waste of time have served as lessons for me — in what not to do.

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