Archive - December, 2009

The Life Antarctic with Ran Fiennes

Ranulph Fiennes with snowRanulph Fiennes book cover

One of the great joys of facial hair is observing snow sticking to it, thus proving the beard’s insulating powers.  Best of all is when giant carbuncles of ice form, as on Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the British globetrotter thought by many to be the world’s greatest living explorer.  Whether or not that is hyperbole, he certainly competes with Ewan Mcgregor for world’s greatest hair, adventurer category.  (While there appears to have been some photoshoppery involved in the bookcover photo (his jacket appears to have been taken from the photo on the left), Izzy includes it since it show Fiennes’ weather-beaten mane at its most spectacular.)

Even when relaxing in the comfort of his home study, as seen below, the adventurer maintains his devil-may-care approach, with ancient (torn?) desert boots and khakis with frayed hems.  Alas, his plentiful testosterone has exposed his scalp to the elements.

Ranulph Fiennes at home

In the interview accompanying the photo, Fiennes explains:

Everything in my wardrobe is old. I haven’t bought a suit in 10 years, that’s for sure. My dinner jacket must be at least 20 years old. My shoes, which I had in the Army, must be over 30 years old. I don’t like buying clothing.

Asked about his grooming routine, he continues:

For 25 years I have worn Clarins day and night creams. When I was in Antarctica I got seborrhoeic dermatitis, which affected the areas between my eyebrows and next to my nose. I ran out of cortisone cream and discovered that Clarins day and night creams for women do the same job without the side-effects. I’ve continued to use them ever since.

When a man has circumnavigated the earth from pole to pole via land, he may casually admit to wearing women’s cosmetics.

Perhaps Fiennes should have started moisturizing at a younger age.  He was once considered to play the part of James Bond in the movies (Roger Moore was selected instead), but the producer rejected him for having “hands too big and a face like a farmer.”  This, presumably, was before Fiennes cut off the tips of his frostbitten fingers with a Black & Decker power tool.

The Butterfly Effect

OUTSOURCING

Although the recently deceased Nobel-Prize winning economist Paul Samuelson never won a medal for his attire, his bow tie here is one for the record books.  While such neckwear has often been described as resembling a butterfly, Samuelson, probably through carelessness, somehow managed to make it look like it was about to flutter off his chest.

How, one might wonder, could a self-respecting economist justify wearing a self-tie bow tie, which takes so much more effort to don than the pre-fabricated variety? To quote the prodigious professor, “Every good cause is worth some inefficiency.”

Izzy Is not Dead

Izzy apologizes for his long absence. Some months ago, in a foolhardy moment, he answered the following advertisement:

MEN WANTED FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS,
CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS.

To his surprise, rather an a frozen slog across Antarctica–easy enough to endure–the journey was in fact a trip through the benthic regions of the soul.  “When you stare into the Abyss, the Abyss stares into you,” said Nietzsche.  Izzy would like to think that he won a staring contest with the Abyss.  (This, despite the fact that the Abyss, not playing fair, contorted its face into a ridiculous cockeyed grimace.)

Now safely back in the Shallow, Izzy would like to turn your attention to another achievement of Nietzsche’s, his moustache.

Nietzsche's moustache

Long before his signature facial hair reached absurd proportions worthy of a machete, one of his students described the philosopher’s appearance:

I had not expected that the professor would come storming into the room . . .  like Burkhardt.  I also knew well enough that a challenging tone in a writer does not always echo his behavior as a private man.  But I was nonetheless surprised by the modesty, even humility, of Nietzsche’s demeanor when he came in.  In addition he was of small rather than middle stature . . . And the iridescent glasses and deep mustache gave his face that impression of intellectuality which often makes even short men somewhat imposing.

While it is known that Nietzsche devoted great concern to his appearance, the famous photographs of him with with whiskers completely covering his mouth are not indicative of his own taste.  By the time those photos were taken, Nietzsche was living in a sanitorium under the care of his far-more-insane sister, a proto- and later actual Nazi, who made the eccentric grooming choice for him.

Izzy is going to heed the lesson here, and make sure that his living will includes a clause about appropriate facial hair.