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An Ode to the Barber Shop

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Isn’t it amazing just how much of our lives we take for granted? The vast majority of us have never really taken into consideration the organizational effort that goes into running a local library or operating a small business. Like most of us, I have eaten at pubs, borrowed library books, and gotten my haircut without giving a second thought to the little intricacies that make such things possible. Then my barber decided to retire.

If I’m honest, learning that John, my barber of over five years, had decided to retire threw me in a loop. The prospect of finding a decent, skilled barber who could deal with my thick, wavy hair seemed virtually insurmountable. The truth is that the relationship John and I had ran deeper than just mere haircuts. Our friendship was based on a familiarity built over a number of years. John knew my hair and knew how I liked it. And I had the honour of having my hair cut by a man who had been barbering since the mid-sixties, and who was a pillar of his community.

John was one of a dying breed: the traditional barber. They offered men a haircut and, perhaps, a shave (occupational health and safety not withstanding), and little else. These barber shops were usually small and run by only a few men. They had built personal relationships with their clients over a number of years. These barbers knew their customers, knew their backgrounds, and knew how they liked their hair. (Naturally, this was dependent on clients returning to the same barber year after year, month after month).

The traditional barber is a relic of a bygone age. Whenever I think of old-fashioned barber shops, I think of the 1920s to the 1950s, of a world of glamour and sophistication when ladies wore evening dresses and men had neat hair and wore dinner jackets. When I think of old-fashioned barber shops, I think of the Rat Pack and James Bond and the movie stars of the 1930s to the 1950s. For me, the old-fashioned barber shop is synonymous with timeless male style.

Sadly, society no longer believes in style, glamour, and sophistication. The traditional barber shop has given way to a cruder, wannabe variety. These establishments are more masculinised hair dressing salons than proper barber shops. These places think that by offering cheap haircuts in an atmosphere immersed in masculine nostalgia – usually achieved through wood paneling, empty Jack Daniels bottles, and pictures of men doing “manly” things – they can achieve the mantle of the traditional barber shop.

The truth is that they can’t. Gruff looking barbers with arms covered in tattoos are about as far away as one can get from the dapper gentlemen who cut men’s hair in the past. When I walk out of the barber, I want to look and feel like Cary Grant, not like a thug. John made that happen for me. He and his kind are vanishing rapidly. They will be missed.

SORRY PRO-CHOICERS, ABORTION IS OBVIOUSLY WRONG

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In March of 2015, a Coloradan woman, Michelle Wilkins, was lured to a meet-up arranged on Craigslist and brutally attacked.  During the attack, Wilkins, who was seven months pregnant, had her unborn child cut from her body. Wilkins survived the attack but, sadly, her child did not. And, as if to add insult to injury, Wilkin’s unborn child was not recognised as human under Coloradan law.

Legal abortion – which I will define as the state approved murder of an innocent life – is a barbarity no civilised society should tolerate. As the Canadian clinical psychologist and YouTube sensation, Jordan Peterson (1962 – ) commented, “abortion is clearly wrong. You wouldn’t recommend someone you love have one.”

However, this is not to say that abortion isn’t a deeply complex and emotive issue. On the one hand, it is a procedure often used by desperate or easily persuaded women who feel that aborting their unborn child is the only option open to them (which it very rarely is). On the other hand, it is a form of murder cynically exploited by feminist extremists for political purposes.

Pro-choice proponents have several arguments in favour of total and free access to abortion.

The first argument, and the one that carries the greatest degree of credibility, concerns the health of the mother and her ability to safely carry a child to term. The Washington Post, for example, reported a story about an Indian girl who had been repeatedly raped and eventually impregnated by her uncle. An abortion was performed when it was decided she was too young to carry her child to term.

In all honesty, this is a sentiment which I have a great deal of sympathy for. It is very difficult for a woman to be a mother if she is dead, and it would be as wrong to sacrifice the life of the mother for the child as it would be to sacrifice the life of the child for the sake of the mother.

But the argument that abortion is necessary when the health of the mother is in jeopardy does not necessarily translate into the full, absolute, and unquestionable right to abortion. It is merely an argument for the preservation of the life of the mother.

The second argument concerns the health of vitality of the child itself. Often, however, this kind of argument is often used as a disguise for a desire to engage in eugenics. Claiming that a child with down syndrome should be aborted, for example, is the same as saying that people afflicted with certain maladies should not be afforded the same right to life as everybody else.

The third argument concerns instances where pregnancy has been instigated through an act of rape or incest. Whether or not rape should be sufficient grounds for an abortion is a tricky one to grapple with. On the one hand, the mother did not choose to be placed in the situation she has found herself in. And, by extension, birthing, and most probably raising, a child borne of rape may prove to be an insurmountable emotional turmoil for the mother. On the other hand, however, the child did not choose to be conceived through rape, and it is immoral to punish an innocent person for the crimes of another.

In reality, however, the rape justification for abortion is merely a red herring. It is a backdoor method for justifying the total, absolute, and unquestionable access to abortion.

The fourth argument concerns the idea that a woman has the right to abort her unborn child because she has the absolute right to bodily autonomy. In Texas last year, Judge Earl Leroy Yeakel III (1945 – ) overturned Senate Bill Eight which prevented doctors from performing evacuation and dilation abortions by mandating that a child’s heart must stop beating before the procedure can be performed. Yeakel claimed that the decision to abort a child outside the womb is “solely and exclusively the woman’s decision.”

This is the easiest argument to refute. An abortion does not only affect a woman’s body, it also destroys the life of a separate, innocent human being. Furthermore, the right to choose when to have a family is one shared by all people up to a point. A man has the right to wear a condom, he can have a vasectomy, and so forth. Likewise, a woman has every right to use contraceptive birth control, a diaphragm, a female condom, a cervical cap, an intrauterine device, and more. Couples can even refrain from having sex. But the right to family planning ends the moment a child has been conceived.

The fifth argument, and the one that is the most egregious, is the argument that an unborn child does not count as a human life. Much of this is the result of language. We use Latin words like “foetus” and “embryo” to fool ourselves into believing an unborn child is not a human being.

Therein lies the rub. People have always justified evil and immorality by altering the parameters of their morals to suit themselves. People have always justified murder by claiming that the person they are killing is not human. They may argue, for example, that murder is wrong, but that they are justified in aborting their unborn child because they do not see that child as human.

And the biological and physiological question of whether the unborn child is a human being is, without any shadow of a doubt, yes.

This is the case right down to the genetic level. Virtually every cell in our bodies contains thirty thousand or more different genes that are spread out on long strands of DNA known as chromosomes. Now DNA is very special. It is the chemical building block that makes us who we are. It determines whether or not we will go bald, what our eye and hair colour will be, how tall we will be, and much more besides.

If there is anything that DNA is good at it’s replicating itself. This can occur in two ways. At the most basic level, DNA replicates itself through cloning. At the most complex, one set of DNA merges with another set of DNA through sexual intercourse. And in doing so it creates an entirely unique individual.

But how can it do this safely? The answer lies in a process known as meiosis. When the human body makes sex gametes – sperm and ovum – it does so by making a copy of a previous cell. When it does this it keeps itself attached at one point and then condenses to make an ‘X’ shape. The four chromosomes then embrace and transfer some of their genetic material to each other. Finally, the cell split twice to create new sperm or ovum that carries a unique genetic package.

In other words, every sperm cell and every ovum carry a set of chromosomes that has never existed before and will never exist again.

Human beings have a grand total of forty-six chromosomes or twenty-three pairs. The moment a child has been conceived a full set of these chromosomes, known as a diploid, is established. It will receive twenty-three chromosomes from its father and twenty-three chromosomes from its mother.

The average pregnancy lasts between thirty-seven and forty-two weeks. During this time the child growing inside a woman’s body will go through all kinds of wonderful and miraculous changes. At three weeks, it’s brain, heart, gastrointestinal tract, and spinal cord have begun to form. By the fourth and fifth weeks, the heart is pumping rudimentary blood through the child’s veins with a steady rhythm. By the sixth week, the child’s fingers and toes have begun to form, and the child’s heartbeat can now be detected. By the end of the second month, all the child’s essential organs have begun to form.

And there’s still another seven months to go! By the fourteenth to sixteenth weeks, the child will begin to move around, its liver and pancreas will have begun to secrete fluid, and its fingerprints will begin to form. By the seventeenth to the twentieth week, the mother will be able to feel her child moving around inside her, it’s heartbeat will be detectable via a stethoscope, and its fingernails, toenails, eyebrows, and eyelashes will have started to grow.

By the twenty-fourth through to the twenty-sixth week, the child’s brain will be rapidly developing, the nervous system will be developed to a sufficient enough degree to give the child some control, albeit minutely, over its own movements, it will have developed a startle reflex, and its sleeping cycles will be perceptible to the mother. A child born at this stage can survive outside the womb with the assistance of modern medical technology. By the thirty-third to thirty-sixth week, the child will shift into the birthing position and will rapidly put on weight. Within weeks, a fully formed human being will be born.

Any discussion about abortion must begin with the scientific truth that an unborn child is a human life. Only after that truth has been acknowledged can factors like the health of the mother, the vitality of the child, cases of rape and incest, and bodily autonomy can be considered. The preservation of innocent life is the most important responsibility for every person living in a free society. The way we respond to this issue will define us for decades to come.

NAPOLEON SYNDROME

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Shorter men who attempt to assert or defend themselves are frequently met with the harrowing accusation that they are suffering from ‘Napoleon complex’, otherwise known as ‘short man syndrome.’ While there is some evidence – based both on research and common experience – that this may be the case, the root causes of the issue reveal a problem that is more complex and entrenched than the general public would like to believe.

The term ‘Napoleon complex’ was first coined by Alfred Adler (1870 – 1937)  in 1912. Remarkably, however, Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821), the man for whom ‘Napoleon syndrome’ is named, was not actually short. Napoleon’s personal physician, Francesco Antommarchi (1780 – 1838), recorded the deposed Emperor’s height as being five pieds, two pouces, or five-feet, six-and-a-half inches. This was a half-inch taller than the average Englishman of the time, and a full two inches taller than the average Frenchman. The myth of Napoleon’s short stature comes from two places. First is the fact that Napoleon frequently surrounded himself with men taller than himself. Height requirements specified that the Grenadiers in the Elite Imperial Guard be 5’10 or over, whilst members of the Mounted Chasseurs had to be 5’7. To any casual observer, Napoleon would have looked noticeably smaller by comparison. And second, there is the anti-Napoleonic propaganda that frequently depicted the Emperor as small.

Like many physical characteristics, height can have a profound effect on a person’s self-perception. The shorter man’s poor self-perception begins in childhood when smaller children are often the targets of taunts and ridicule. As adults, shorter men are more likely to be overly-aggressive, domineering, and have an increased proclivity for resorting to extreme measures in order to prove themselves. Unfortunately, research shows that shorter men may, in extreme cases, resort to violence as a means of disguising their insecurities. The Journal of Injury Prevention found that men who struggled with their height and masculinity were three times more likely to commit violent assaults using a weapon. This study, which involved six-hundred American men aged between eighteen and fifty, asked participants to answer two sets of questions. The first asked about their self-image, drug use, and violent behaviour. The second set of questions asked the participants about their beliefs on gender roles, how they felt women and their friends perceived them, how they perceived their own masculinity, and how much they’d like to be a “macho man.”

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Taller men are far more likely to succeed in positions of authority and power than shorter men. An early study of height and occupation reveals bishops to be taller than parish priests, sales managers to be taller than salesmen, and university presidents to be taller than the presidents of more modest higher-education facilities. In US Presidential elections, it is typically the taller of the two Presidential candidates that end up winning: John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963) was six-feet tall compared to Richard Nixon (1913 – 1994) who was five-foot-eleven, Ronald Reagan (1911 – 2004) was six-foot-one compared to Jimmy Carter (1924 – ) who was five-foot-ten, and Barack Obama (1961 – ) was six-foot-one compared to John McCain’s (1936 – ) who was five-foot-nine.

And, as if that isn’t bad enough, merely finding employment can be a struggle for many shorter men. A 2001 study by Nicolo Persico, Andrew Postlewaite, and Dan Silverman of the University of Pennsylvania, found that shorter teenagers had a harder time finding employment than their taller counterparts. Persico, Postlewaite, and Silverman chalked this up to the attitudes and worldview of the shorter teenager. “Those who were relatively short when young”, they explained, “were less likely to participate in social activities associated with the accumulation of productive skills and attributes, and report lower self-esteem.”.

Things don’t get much better once they are employed, either. Shorter men are less likely to be afforded promotions and pay-rises than their taller peers. A study by Leland Deck of the University of Pittsburgh found that men who are 6’2 or taller earn 12.4% more than men who are below six feet.

Then there is the challenge of forming intimate relationships. Men are considered attractive when they are tall, broad-shouldered, and well-toned. An analysis of personal ads found that most women prefer dating men who are six-foot-tall and over, especially when it comes to casual sex.  A study published in the March 2016 edition of Personality and Individual Differences journal found that while women did not particularly care about hair, weight, or penis size, they did care about a man’s height. It is believed that the primary reason for this preference is that height is a sign of high testosterone – and men with higher testosterone tend to be better protectors and lovers.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that height is a source of great insecurity for many men. The shorter man’s sense of insecurity and resentment is almost certainly borne out of poor experiences associated with their stature. Smaller children are more likely to be the victims of taunts and ridicule. As adults, shorter men find it more difficult to form intimate relationships, find employment, and achieve positions of authority and status. Perhaps people ought to remember that Napoleon Complex is more complicated and entrenched than they like to believe.