There Won't Be Blood

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Yesterday was a momentous day--the day my sons started shaving. This was of course a rare opportunity for Dad to impart some ancient tribal wisdom, now that we no longer need to practice bringing down a mastodon with a spear. It was striking how utterly mysterious the whole process was to them. More striking still is how much easier shaving is today than when I got going, back before the invention of soap.

In my day, I said in my best fatherly baritone, men all over the world began each morning by shedding their own blood. Shaving almost always meant cutting yourself. Guys sometimes came to work with bits of toilet paper stuck to their faces. There were styptic pencils.

All that's changed. Electric razors appear to be just as useless as they always were, but the improvement in razors and blades is astounding. I can go weeks without the slightest nick, and those pivot-headed multi-blade systems (so easy to mock in theory) are actually completely wonderful.

There is probably ample fodder here for a disquisition on evolving technologies, social customs, the difficulties of making hedonic adjustments in the measure of inflation etc. I leave that to others; i just want to focus for a minute on how much better the world is in so many ways that we hardly even think about.


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Daniel Akst

Dan Akst is a journalist, essayist and novelist who wrote three books. His novel, The Webster Chronicle, is based on the lives of Cotton and Increase Mather. More

Dan Akst is a journalist, novelist and essayist whose work has appeared frequently in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Wilson Quarterly, and many other publications.
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