Beard Paw: Brand Profile

A sachet of Beard Paw wipes
   Modern masculinity has reached something of a paradox.

   Whilst male grooming (at least in its current widespread iteration) is something of a recent phenomenon, it is also one of the fastest growing industries in the world. High-street stores, ones which once stocked only the most perfunctory and basic of shaving equipment, have expanded their shelves to include multiple ranges of face creams, gels, moisturizers and hair treatments. Pampering one's self, and looking after one's appearance, is easier than it's ever been.

   Simultaneously, however, mainstream men's style has largely taken a turn to the hyper-rugged - no longer are lengthy beards, hirsute displays of testosterone, the sole preserve of lumberjacks and out-door labourers. Such facial hair is now favoured by everyone from Fabian Nordstrom to the barrister who serves your Starbucks whilst inviting you to his latest anti-folk night.

   Bridging this divide, then, are the Brooklyn-based Beard Paw. Understanding the dual desire of modern man to signpost their virility with lengthy facial hair whilst, also, taking pride in their appearance, the brand have created a unique item aimed at a male audience. Their slogan, "Refreshingly Rugged", encapsulates this perfectly.

   Although, as noted, its not at all difficult to come across scores and scores of male skin and hair products, one item which appears much rarer in the grooming market is, potentially, an equally vital one. Beard Paw's innovative pitch, then, is a wipe for one's facial foliage - the product is, according to the brand themselves, "the perfect companion for the man who wants to stay fresh without compromising his schedule or lifestyle." I was eager to find out how these wipes could differ from a traditional handkerchief or wipe - could they really exceed the efficacy of a standard napkin? What could Beard Paw offer that I hadn't already experienced?

   Pleasingly, before even opening a pack of Beard Paw, I was taken aback by the crisp graphic design which is to be found on the brand's products. The first bite, they say, is with the eye and I was hugely impressed with the clear, concise logo - a great sign and one which filled me with confidence from an early stage. Yet, without a quality of product to back up the design, Beard Paw's success would be a solely superficial one. Thankfully, though, this wasn't to be the case.

Wiping my Beard with Beard Paw

   Each wipe, made from 100% cotton and entirely alcohol-free (ideal for sensitive skin), comes in its own individual sachet - they're easily stored in one's pocket or wallet and ideal to be on hand for a post-meal wipe-down. To the touch, Beard Paw don't feel at all dissimilar to a standard wipe but, importantly, what makes the product stand out is the manner in which it is manufactured. They're strong, sturdy and yet, equally, rather soft when run across one's beard. When it comes to removing debris from one's face foliage - froth and crumbs being the most obvious offenders - the wipes are just about perfect.

   What makes the product stand-out, and will make certain that a simple handkerchief will always be considered second best from here on out, however, is the manner in which Beard Paw provide a revitalising freshness to one's face when used. Rather than simply just removing unwanted specks and flecks from our facial hair, the product combines both cleansing and aromatic ingredients so as to maximise the benefits of a wipe-down. Cedar and Eucalyptus grant the wipe user a pleasing earthy fragrance whilst a mild soap teamed with the conditioning properties of Grapeseend and Aloe oils allow our shaggy beards to look, feel and smell luxurious rather than simply untreated.

   Retailing at very reasonable rates (a starter pack of 12 is available for just $9 whilst a "Bear Cub" box of 64 will set you back just $32.50), I'd suggest that Beard Paw are a brand that each of my bearded brethren familiarise themselves with.

   You can find out more about Beard Paw at their US store by clicking here and their Global store (based in Sweden) by clicking here.

A Look at Makato Shinkai's Your Name

Mitsuha and Taki stand under asteroid sky
   When we watch films, it is to enter new worlds and to experiences lives often far removed from our own. Movies exist to show us universes and ideas we've never dreamt of before; to imbibe us in the thoughts and feelings of others. A trip to the cinema subsumes us, allowing us to visit strange new places and to enter mind-frames detached from ours. As we cheer on our heroes - whether their quest is romantic, political or even military - cinema gifts us the tools of empathy so as to emotionally invest us in their journey.

   Very few movies, however, are actually about empathy. It is rare that, in the text projected onto the big screen, we are asked to consider the machinations of cross-person understanding or how the emotion actually works. Makato Shinkai, the Japanese animator, has bucked this trend with his latest, deliriously romantic new feature Your Name.

Mitsuah and Taki stand in rural and urban Japan

   The film introduces us to a pair of high schoolers; Mitsuha and Taki. The duo are total strangers, each living separate lives - she in an almost obscenely gorgeous mountain-rage and he in bustling, metropolitan Tokyo. On one night, the couple suddenly (and with no obvious explanation) switch places. Mitsuha wakes up to what she presumes is a bizarre dream; a body swap means that she now finds herself in Taki's body, and he in hers.

Mitsuha studies hard

   The switches, which grow in frequency and last on each occasion for the entirety of a waking day, see the pair struggle to act out each other's life appropriately. Long shifts at work, familial dedication and assigned societal roles, cause our protagonists to stumble and fail. Ingeniously, though, they each tutor the other by leaving notes and tips in each others' phones and in notebooks to guide one another through their tricky teen existence. As their connection becomes greater, their brings entwined, Mitsuha and Taki desire to finally meet each other. A comet, hurtling towards earth, brings their plan into peril - will our duo ever come face to face? Has fate interjected itself to bring them together? Or to keep them forever apart?

   On paper, the body-swap genre provides the perfect framework to investigate the idea of "walking a mile in someone else's shoes". Yet, for the most part, any attempt to really investigate the notion of empathy naturally found within these tale's premise has been eschewed in favour of broad comedy of slap-stick and misunderstanding. In either version of Freaky Friday, for example, any attempts at understanding the lives of another are shallow and superficial.

Taki stand under meteor shower

      Your Name, however, is a film which presents to us a growing and ecstatic empathy found in the hearts of two lovestruck teens - in doing so, it fills the audience with the same emotions, too. The intimate manner in which Shinkai presents to the audience the struggles of his heroes - both the mundane, every day troubles and the expansive, star-struck romantic malaise found inside them - presents us with a rare opporutinity; Your Name doesn't just allow us to watch a love story, one borne of intense empathy and hope, but to actively experience it. As we see Mitsuha understand the world through Taki's eyes, we observe her life through her soul whilst we engage with Taki's hopes and dreams too.

   Boasting some of the most astonishing, finely detailed animation ever created (I defy you to find any landscapes and depictions of natural beauty which rival this), Shinkai has further embellished his reputation as the man to watch in Japanese cinema. This love story, one which is closer in tone to the animations Brave and Brother Bear than the live action movies we associate with the body swap genre, represents one of the high points in film of 2016. Its a movie which radiates over you, fills you with glee, and reminds you of why you love cinema in the first place. This is special.

Man'Stuff Christmas Bundle Giveaway

   We're all, each of us in the capitalist West, severely panicking right about now aren't we?

   It's the same every year - Christmas arrives and none of us know what to do. As snow hits the roads, cars grind to a standstill as everyone seems to forget how best to maneuver vehicles - a collective automobile insanity descends on society. Our elderly, the folks who spend 364 days per year refusing to leave the house, attempt to brave the weather and, inevitably, fall on icy pathways and shatter their pelvis. Kids across the land turn themselves into supergrasses on Santa's behalf as they look for reasons to get their siblings on the naughty list. They're like mini-Stasi officials but with much higher stakes.

   Worst of all, and this is inevitable, none of us are anywhere near the end of our Christmas shopping lists. To add to the anarchical chaos around us, we each realise that getting gifts for others is a never ending nightmare. Jingle All The Way isn't simply a light-hearted family comedy - its a neo-realist depiction of the hell our lives have become. At this time of year there certainly is something in the air - its dread, panic and stress. (Combined with an essence of friendliness and kinship, of course, lest anyone think I am some type of Scrooge).

   Thankfully, there's always good Sammaritans who understand the true nature of Christmas is the spirit of giving. The Totality, then, counts itself amongst this number as we have another competition on-site we hope can allay the concerns of at least one of our readers.

   The latest giveaway here is the perfect prize for any of our readers who have a brother, cousin, male significant other, father or otherwise who they just don't know what to get for. The two item Man'Stuff bundle is exactly as it sounds - a gift set suitable for men!

   One lucky winner (details on how to enter are below) can find themselves the recipient of a Man'Stuff by Technic shaving set (featuring a brush and cream) and an aptly named "Man Can" too. The latter consists of a hair and body wash, soap, nail brush, face cloth and a bottle opener also. Its an ideal stocking filler for any man to wake up to on December 25th!

  To enter the competition to win this bundle of Man'Stuff products, simply log-in to the Rafflecopter form below with your name and email address - we promise not to share, or pass on, this data to any third parties but will use this information to contact you if your entry is successful. 

   Once logged in, you can enter the competition in up to three ways: 

   The first way to do this is to follow my Twitter account at @KCBFD. You can do this through straight through the Rafflecopter form. 

   A second way to enter is to click on the "Tweet about the competition" option on the Rafflecopter form to enter via a tweeted message.

   Alternatively, or as an addition, please leave the name of what present you'd most like Santa to bring you in the comments. Whether its world peace, a Channing Tatum DVD box-set or anything else, I'd love to hear your answer.. 

   Once you've done this, you can confirm you've left your answer by using the Rafflecopter form (click the "Leave a Blog Post" option and then select the "I commented" box).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  The winners are selected at random through Rafflecopter and will be chosen on December 7th and contacted shortly thereafter.

   The prizes will be sent out upon confirmation of your win. There are no cash alternatives and entries can be disqualified at the judge's discretion. Entrants must be 15 or over and have a UK shipping address to enter. Maximum of three entries per person - one comment, one Twitter follow. one blog comment each.

   Good luck to one and all!

The Wailing (Goksung) Film Review

Following on from the crowd-pleasing Train to Busan, The Wailing's UK release presents to us another chance to indulge in state-of-the-nation South Korean films of demonic possession. Here, however, is where the similarities between the movies end - whilst the former is a rip-roaring and visceral experience, Na Hong-jin's latest is a wildly original, creeping and cerebral production pitched squarely at an art-house audience.

   Set in the remote village of Goksung, a location in which heavy rain seems to perpetually fall, we're introduced to a small community who are in the midst of two simultaneous outbreaks - the locals are, in increasingly greater numbers, succumbing to rashes and boils whilst the intervals between explosions of merciless and fatal acts of violence are shrinking. Animals are found eviscerated and a woman who murdered her family and burned down her house has been found hung. What could be the cause for these unseemly events? Could it be that a batch of toxic mushrooms are responsible? Or could a physical manifestation of ontological evil provide a better explanation?

   Na's slow-burning movie manages to balance an unsettling, continually meandering tale in which the audience are generally baffled as to what may happen next, with a profound look at the nation of South Korea itself. For those familiar with the country's history, the inclusion of Christianity (evidenced from the quote which opens the movie) and Shamanism (a ritual seen here in an attempted exorcism) are obvious inclusions but, more than any other aspect of its modern history, it is the inclusion of Japanese colonialism which provides the film with its allegorical backbone.

   As our protagonist, bumbling detective Jong-gu (Kwak Do-won), attempts to find a source for the sudden and unimaginable brutality visited upon Goksung, his leads repeatedly return him to a Japanese fisherman (Jun Kunimura) who many of the townsfolk are beginning to suspect as being suspicious and perhaps even evil. Jong-gu himself has increasingly fevered nightmares about the loner, his face a malign apparition which haunts the detective's sleep. As Na asks us to ponder whether the Japanese man may be a demonic manifestation, or worse, The Wailing draws metaphorical parallels between unholy possession and that of colonial occupation, of cultural imperialism.

   In the same way the inhabitants of Goksung may have their souls stolen, their identity taken over by unexplainable sources which strip them of their humanity, so to did the Korean people under the Japanese occupation of the country in the early 20th century. The savage attempt to suppress and exterminate the Korean language, culture and religion by Japanese invaders has been a source of hostility ever since. It is no wonder, then, that Japan has provided so many antagonists in Korean cinema throughout the years (in both South and North Korean films). Very few, however, have been presented with the existential dread as seen in Na's movie.

   In blending aspects of the police procedural and religious horror genres, the Korean director has followed up his previous acclaimed features (The Chaser and The Yellow Sea) with an assured release which is certain to cement his status in world cinema as an equally celebrated peer of Kim Ji-woon, Im Sang-soo, Hong Sang-soo et al. The Wailing is a movie of exceptional cinematography, dense metaphor and metonym, and rich rewards for those who stick with its often leisurely pacing. Its a particularly recommended watch for fans of Korean cinema and those who like their thrillers askew and unpredictable.

 In cinemas and VOD from Friday 25th Nov. 2016 

A Prague Tourist's Drinking Guide

A pint of Czech beer
   In recent years, there's been something of a backlash against package holidays and traditional tourism.

   Simple vacations have been replaced by the more grandiloquent notion of "travelling" - to truly experience our destinations we must, it is said, look for "authenticity". How well can you genuinely know a city without venturing onto roads less-traveled? Or by avoiding the locals, their customs and culture which give these foreign lands their individuality?

   Such attitudes miss the point entirely as to why many of us save up so much of our hard-earned cash to go abroad. Working 40 or 50 hour weeks leaves us tired and worn. We seek not, for the most part, to immerse ourselves in life-enhancing new sub-cultures or art scenes but, simply, to recharge our batteries with a break and maybe, just maybe, enjoy something novel or out of the ordinary regardless of its authenticity.

   As such, even though there will be thoe who note that I've excluded entirely the (admittedly cheaper) establishments found in the hipster district of Zizkov, the guide I present in this post will focus entirely on city-centre drinking in Prague. This is a piece for those who, like me, love to soak up the unique and the unusual, the weird and the wonderful bars across the world, regardless of how "authentic" they are.

   This, in short, is for a post for those looking to holiday for escapism rather than something more profound - for those weary souls who want nothing more than a relaxing brew or a beverage in an unconventional setting.

   Where better to begin, then, than in a a Guy Fawkes themed cocktail lounge?

Anonymous Bar

Interesting cocktail in Prague
   I never knew that one thing I wanted in my life, perhaps above all others, was a cocktail bar themed loosely on the Alan Moore graphic novel V For Vendetta and the real-life events of a 5th of November many, many moons ago. Having visited Anonymous Bar, located in the heart of Prague, I've now realised the folly of my ways. This is a venue I've been searching my entire adulthood for.

Entrance to Anonymous Bar in Prague

   Greeted by a masked figure on the way in, the bar is as unusual as the theme would suggest. Anonymous is subtly ornate on the inside yet, simultaneously, the dimmed lighting and convivial service gives the place an intimate feel in which to drink cocktails (chosen from a more-puzzling-than expected menu. There's hidden combinations to find for the more challenge-minded who are able to unlock the secrets of the list).

A view of the inside of Anonymous Bar Prague

A glass of candle-lit Czech cocktail

      As with all good bar-men, there's a degree of performative showmanship which comes with the service here - never before have I ever been served, with understated nonchalance, a flame engulfed beverage by a man in a Guy Fawkes mask.

   Overall, this is probably the "coolest" of the locations on this list - a chilled out ambience combined with winning novelty probably make this the most "hipster" too.

   You can visit their website here:

Stredoveka Krcma

The outside of a Czech beer tavern

    Prague's medieval history is one of the key selling points of the city's tourism industry. Nowhere is this more apparent, however, than at the Stredoveka Krcma.

   This candle-lit stone tavern is unlike any drinking experience you may have previously found yourself at. Whilst you sip on their beer and dine from their extensive menus, a troupe of performers arrive at your table to entertain you. Jugglers, belly dancers, sword fighters, musicians and fire eaters each stop by and, like this writer, if you get called up to interact with them, their chicken wings may not be the hottest thing you'll put in your mouth that night. (I can now put on my CV that I've eaten fire in a medieval Czech pub - how awesome is that?!)

A man juggle with illuminous balls
   Of all the places to visit on the list, this is the one I'd recommend the most highly for spending an entire evening in. For a city centre location the food and drink prices are more than reasonable and the array, and number, of dazzling and humorous performances will keep you glued to your seats.

   If, also like me, you've enjoyed the night here with multiple beverages you can also engage in something far more daunting than swallowing flames - having accepted the invitation to join the in-house belly dancer for a choreographed routine it was only when the alcohol wore off the following day I realised that I'm not perhaps quite the mover that I believed I was a few libations into the night before. That said, the whole night was good, daft fun.

I have flames put in my mouth. Ow.

   Their website can be found here:

James Joyce

The James Joyce
  One staple of mine, regardless of where I head in the world, is to locate the best Irish bar in every city I visit - regardless of whether I am in South Korea, Tunisia, Belgium or elsewhere, a Celtic brew is high on my agenda. Where finer to stop off in Prague, then, than the spot where the first ever pint of Guinness was poured in the Czech Republic?

Roaring Fireplace in Irish Pub

   The James Joyce, taking its name from one of Ireland's finest writers, represents everything you'd ever want from a drinking establishments paying tribute to the Emerald Isle. From the selection of drinks on tap through to the roaring fire, this is the type of pub which takes no time at all to feel truly at home inside.

   One of the truly great aspects about this bar was the atmosphere inside which made it feel not just like a "local", the type of friendly pub in which everyone knows each others name, but, more specifically (and in spite of my relatively short stay), it felt like my local. Or rather, our local - anybody who visits is sure to feel a similar sense of kinship.

   You can visit their website here:

Bernard Beer Spa

   Of the few things in life that rival a decent beer, I would rate massages and spa baths highly - what greater indulgences could a man ask for to relax, unwind and, in the words of Tom Haverford, "Treat yo'self"? In Prague, however, I found an answer to a question I didn't even know I should have been asking: Why not combine each of these three into one all-encompassing experience?

   Bernard, a Czech brand who specialise in beer which is not pasteurised, have brought this ingenious flight of fancy to life with their remarkable Beer Spa facility. The keg-style tub is filled with revitalising hops, bubbles relaxingly whilst one bathes and, most importantly, boasts an adorning tap from which to pour one's own pint whilst immersed in the hop-filled waters. (Hops, I learnt, are not only an essential part of a good beer but can also be used as part of a skin-care routine - what a marvelous flower!)

   If this wasn't enough to sell you on a trip to the Pivni Lazne, it should be noted that the treatment session even includes a thorough back massage to help you unwind from your luxuriating bath. This is truly a wonderful indulgence!

   Unfortunately, due the steam rising within the room, my camera lens became rather clouded which made capturing the true wonder of the room rather difficult. Try as I may, I was never able to perfectly snap any satisfactory images of the cellar room (as noted before, the location is over 1'000 years old) and words fail to express entirely, too, how this was easily the most serene place I've ever had the pleasure of imbibing myself with any form of alcohol.

   You can check out their website here:

The Dubliner

   You may well have noticed but this is the second Irish-themed bar on a short list of places to drink at. What can I say? Like the English-man who pines for his Full English Breakfast whilst holidaying on the Mediterranean, in the Southern hemisphere, or wherever his heart takes him, my Celtic heart too yearns for an indulgence from the Motherland.

Like all good Irish-themed pubs, The Dubliner is a great venue to spend one's evenings watching sport at (featuring a number of screens down the side of the corridor-shaped venue), but also a place to visit for an early morning libation or two also. What better pick-me-up can one suggest than an Irish coffee at eleven in the morning in an appropriately themed establishment? That drinking goes on until three a.m. from Thursday-Saturday makes the venue equally appealing as a "last pub of the night" spot too.

  There was something of a joy at the sheer cliche of being greeted by Bono's voice as I walked into the bar (I should stress here that he was on the jukebox rather than frequenting as a patron),  and the mixture of table-service food and live music is always a winning combination too. There's a lively feel here at all hours of the day too (although it should be noted that excessive noise, including singing, is rather wonderfully forbidden by law in Prague too - be careful not to become so intoxicated as to risk incarceration for crooning tuneless versions of the latest Bieber anthem). Worth swinging by regardless of whether you're after a pick-me-up, a relaxed afternoon pint, some evening food or a late night pint or two.

   You can visit their website here:

Share This

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...