Aaron Perlut, who has preferred to be called Dr. Perlut since bestowing upon himself a Ph.D. in nuclear mustachology, has been a mustache advocate for several years now.
American Mustache Institute Chairman Aaron Perlut
It is not an easy task.
As chairman of the American Mustache Institute, a group he founded in 2006, Perlut campaigns against anti-mustache discrimination across the land--he's saved jobs from threatening employers and high school careers from anti-mustache deans--and generally tries to revive the 'stache as a prominent element of American male fashion. He seems willing to go to any length to preserve and advance what he calls the Mustached American lifestyle.
Find below an interview with Perlut, 39--who runs a public relations and social media firm in St. Louis when he's not actively campaigning for mustaches--about trends, styles, possibilities, and the State of the American Mustache.
Why do you like mustaches so much?
Honestly, I think that's the first time anyone's ever asked me that, in that way.
As a young man I grew up surrounded by mustaches in my family, but I was always intimidated to grow them, even though I could from a very young age, because of the public pressures against it--because they weren't cool, they weren't hip. There was a certain stigma attached to people with mustaches, that you weren't professional or intelligent, and I committed myself to working for an organization that battled against that.
What does your group hope to achieve?
Very simply, an equal playing field for people of Mustached American heritage. I got off the phone earlier today with a gentleman who told me he was told that he could have a job that he wanted, if he shaved his mustache.
Yeah. We recently saved the job of a young man who was a college student working at a restaurant, whose employers told him that he would either shave his mustache or lose his job that he was using to pay his tuition at the University of Georgia in Athens. There is a pattern of discrimination against people who are different from whatever the norm might be at the time in this country, and facial hair is no exception.
Have you done that many times, where you make a call and talk to an employer or save someone's job?
Yeah. Most often we use social media tools, quite frankly. Sometimes we lobby directly. There was an interesting case ... a young man named Sebastian Pham, who was 16 at the time and grew a mustache and was removed from his high school class because of a policy against mustaches, and we lobbied on his behalf and were able to ultimately have the policy changed within the school district. It's called the Royse City school district in Royse City, Texas, right outside of Dallas. But ultimately we were able to have the policy overturned, and he became kind of a cult hero among his classmates.
What percent of your followers, would you say, take this seriously, lightly, or both at the same time?
I would say that probably about 30 percent of our followers take it seriously, and the rest simply enjoy the show. We purposefully try to use a great sense of humor in promoting the mustache, because ultimately our goal is to bring the mustache further back into popular culture, and if humor is the vehicle that we use to get there and it's ultimately successful, then we are still pleased. We've still accomplished our goal.
Can you tell me a little bit about the 'Stache Bash?
Really kind of a circus, an annual celebration of the Mustached American people and lifestyle, where we try to have a tremendous amount of music and fun, and essentially it's a five hour festival, and we also award the Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year honor, which is voted upon on our site.
Are there any early frontrunners or darkhorses for The Goulet in 2010, even though you've just opened up nominations?
Yeah, there's a couple that I can think of. One would be [Minnesota Twins pitcher] Carl Pavano. Carl Pavano grew a mustache this year and has had one of the best seasons of his career after being thought of as washed up and, really, soon to be out of baseball. It's really once again demonstrated that the ultimate performance enhancer is indeed the mustache on the athletic playing field. I would say another would be Dr. John Yeutter, who is a professor at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma. He's a finance professor, in fact he wrote our tax white paper...so those are two. He actually came in second last year to Clay Zevada.
You know, I haven't heard a lot of rumblings about [U.S. Attorney General] Eric Holder again, but I think he's still a very viable candidate, if only because he's the first Mustached American attorney general since 1946--Francis Biddle, I believe.
What are the trends in mustaches these days?
They're definintely going up still. We started to see a slow rise just in the last ten years, whereas in 2000, only about 17 percent of American males wore mustaches. Now we are in the low 30s--33, 32 percent--and a lot of it is fueled by a couple things. One of them is millenials looking for a new way to express themselves instead of a tattoo.
What about style? What mustache styles are popular now?
You see a pretty broad array. The Chevron style, which is often seen on police officers--in fact, 98 percent of all law enforcement agencies issue them along with badges and guns and things like that--but you've seen a lot of times Chevron style, but accentuated by other aspects, like a little bit of chin coverage, so you've seen kind of a broad array of styles. And we're also seeing the Fu Manchu come back a lot.
Are there any regional divergences on mustache style or growth rate?
You definitely see the Chevron style ... more often in the South. And you tend to see more Goatees on the coasts.
Is there a leading country or world region in mustaches?
Germany tends to be very strong. Europe is much stronger. The Handlebar Club is based there. But Americans have really come back in facial hair in recent years. The U.S. beard and mustache team has done extraordinarily well in some of the world beard and mustache games, but I think Europe has generally been much stronger. You also tend to see them in the Middle East. To a man, if you look at a picture of Middle Eastern men, generally 90 percent of them have mustaches.
Are we talking mustaches or beards?
Generally mustaches. If you look--especially Iraqis. Look at Saddam Hussein's Cabinet before he was taken out of office.
You brought up Germany.
Hitler had a mustache.
Was that almost the end of mustaches?
Not mustaches, but it was interesting how it coincided with a change in American culture as well, because in the early part of the 20th century, up until World War II, mustaches were very popular in the U.S., but World War II was, unlike some wars, a very popular war, because it wasn't a war of aggression ... we were defending ourselves after being attacked. So when soldiers came back from the war, very clean cut obviously because they had been as soldiers, in the '40s and '50s that kind of became part of the cultural norm, where American men had short, trimmed-cut hair with very little facial hair.
Now, as we started getting into the hippie movement of the '60s, that slowly started to change, but the way that it happened to coincide with Adolf Hitler's infamous mustache and soldiers coming back from the war, and generally being clean cut, has always been rather interesting and a transitional period for facial hair in the U.S.
The voicemail message of the American Mustache Institute references the sexually adventurous lifestyle of the Mustached American. Is there a one-to-one correlation between mustaches and sexual adventurism?
There is a sexual dynamic between people who have entered the Mustached American lifestyle and the pleasure that they are able to provide to their partners, that only the Mustached American is capable of, and those that are not capable of living a Mustached American lifestyle, or are unwilling for some reason, can never quite understand that dynamic, but again it goes beyond our sexual proclivities and more to a full, broad lifestlye.
What is your personal favorite mustache of all time?
I would say that I believe the most influential mustache of all time to be Walter Cronkite, because he influenced a decade of mustache fashion in America, and when he left, the mustache essentially was on life support in this country. I also have great admiration for Dr. Martin Luther King, who really inspired black America to be very consistent with its support of a Mustached American lifestyle to this day, dating back to when he was a civil rights leader, as well as someone like Burt Reynolds, who has really been a stalwart in our community.
Do you have a personal favorite mustache aesthetically, apart from historical significance?
I have always been a big fan of former major league pitcher Al Hrabosky. Al, when he was playing, wore a Fu Manchu mustache that was so intense that it could strip paint, lead paint, off a windowsill, and he had a personality to match it, and I have always been kind of taken by old photos of Al's mustache. I would also say Robert Goulet is also a personal favorite, which is one of the reasons we named the Robert Goulet Mustached American of the year award after him.
Have you noticed that one of your Mustaches that Changed History, Ron Burgundy, was basically Will Ferell's impression of Robert Goulet? He did it on Saturday Night Live, and he basically rolled that impression over into Ron Burgundy in the same way that he rolled over his George W. Bush impression into Talladega Nights.
It was kind of an amalgamation of Robert Goulet and some of the old school newsmen of the '70s, and as a former journalism student, I was very aware of what he was trying to accomplish and achieve in that role, so I was always very taken by it and very impressed by it.
Do you think that a mustache would improve President Obama's approval rating?
I think so. I think that it would really help bridge the gap with some of the more moderate Republicans, and even some of the Tea Party Republicans, in that they would understand the intensity of his resolve to come a little bit further to the right to find that middle ground that right now our political system is so sorely in need of.
What needs to happen for the mustache to make its emergence or reemergence into mainstream fashion, and when do you think that will happen?
I think we've seen inklings of it when celebrities, sadly, have donned mustaches. People like Brad Pitt and George Clooney, because we tend to be a very celebrity-driven culture, and when celebrities take on an aspect of fashion, we tend to follow it in great numbers. I think millenials were already kind of flocking to the Mustached American lifestyle, and then you had people like Daniel Day Lewis, who became the first mustached Best Actor award winner in 11 years when he won for Daniel Plainview [in "There Will Be Blood"] in 2007, immediately followed by George Clooney and Brad Pitt wearing mustaches.
Then we had some political mustaches enter the fray with David Axelrod and Eric Holder, so I think we had leaders and celebrities who had adopted a mustached lifestyle that were very much in the forefront of the media, and I think it began a very strong movement along with organizations like ours and Movember [see here] that encouraged mustache growth or mustache growth for philanthopy, so I think organizationally and from a celebrity perspective we've started to see that sea change coming, but we're not there yet.
More specifically, I do think it's going to take one of those cross-generational personalities--who somehow has touched both grandfathers, fathers, and college students--to adopt a Mustached American lifestyle that's really going to start to push us more fully in what we would consider to be the right direction.
What are the biggest geopolitical factors affecting mustaches right now?
There is still the perception that leaders cannot have mustaches. At least in the U.S., there are less than 30 members of Congress that wear mustaches, and unfortunately some of the people that have been deemed by Americans to be tyrants or evil, such as Saddam Hussein, have been heavily mustached. So I think that there is a perception still that Mustached Americans are incapable of leading, are incapable of being role models, are incapable of living a just life by certain sectors of our culture.
A challenge based on four words of the law amounts to little more than politics dressed up as a legal argument.
The Supreme Court is about to decide another blockbuster case arising under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The specific issue is whether federal-tax subsidies are available to people who purchase health insurance from exchanges operated by the federal government or instead whether such subsidies are available only from exchanges established by the states. A decision in favor of the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell would most likely cripple the ACA in over thirty states and deprive millions of people of health insurance.
That the Supreme Court even agreed to hear the case is the result of an improbable conjunction of events. Two committed opponents of the ACA seized upon four words of the law out of almost 1000 pages, and through their persistent and energetic work, created a powerful soundbite that appealed to die-hard opponents of the ACA. They then took that sound bite and dressed it up in highly technical arguments about statutory interpretation that might well change how healthcare is paid for in the United States. But the soundbite is inaccurate, and the technical window dressing shouldn’t obscure the fact that the argument is based on a faulty reading of the text of the entire law as well as a misleading account of how and why the law was passed. At bottom, King v. Burwell is a political challenge to the ACA dressed up in legal garb.
Some spoiler-y speculation on the final three episodes
With only three episodes left to go, Game of Thrones looks as though it once again has a lot of ground to cover before wrapping up a season. And so, for the curious and impatient among you, I’ll do my best to offer some quasi-informed speculation about what we might reasonably expect in these final weeks.
Note: I haven’t seen any of the remaining episodes, but I have read the books. The first five items below are spoiler-y, but the predictions in them do not derive from the George R. R. Martin novels. Rather, they’re guesswork based on what’s already happened on the show and on tidbits scattered across the web: a behind-the-scenes photo here, a close-read of a trailer there. (They could all, of course, turn out to be completely wrong.) The last four items, however, are based at least in part on events that take place in A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, so non-book-readers may want to skip them. And obviously anyone, book-reader or not, who’d prefer to go into these final episodes without preconceptions—who doesn’t want to know at least some of what will (probably) happen—should stop reading now.
People look to Amy Schumer and her fellow jokers not just to make fun of the world, but to make sense of it. And maybe even to help fix it.
This week, in a much-anticipated sketch on her Comedy Central show, Amy Schumer staged a trial of Bill Cosby in “the court of public opinion.” Schumer—her character, at any rate—played the role of the defense. “Let’s remind ourselves what’s at stake here,” she argued to the jury. “If convicted, the next time you put on a rerun of The Cosby Show you may wince a little. Might feel a little pang. And none of us deserve that. We don’t deserve to feel that pang.”
Her conclusion? “We deserve to dance like no one’s watching, and watch like no one’s raping.”
Ooof. This is the kind of thing that gets Inside Amy Schumer referred to as “the most feminist show on television,” and her act in general called, in a phrase that reveals as much about her craft as about Schumer herself, “comedy with a message.” But while Schumer’s work is operating at the vanguard of popular comedy, it’s also in line with the work being done by her fellow performers: jokes that tend to treat humor not just as an end in itself, but as a vehicle for making a point. Watch like no one’s raping.
We're all going to die and we all know it. This can be both a burden and a blessing.
In the heart of every parent lives the tightly coiled nightmare that his child will die. It might spring at logical times—when a toddler runs into the street, say—or it might sneak up in quieter moments. The fear is a helpful evolutionary motivation for parents to protect their children, but it's haunting nonetheless.
The ancient Stoic philosopher Epictetus advised parents to indulge that fear. “What harm is it, just when you are kissing your little child, to say: Tomorrow you will die?”he wrote in his Discourses.
Some might say Epictetus was an asshole. William Irvine thinks he was on to something.
“The Stoics had the insight that the prospect of death can actually make our lives much happier than they would otherwise be,” he says. “You’re supposed to allow yourself to have a flickering thought that someday you’re going to die, and someday the people you love are going to die. I’ve tried it, and it’s incredibly powerful. Well, I am a 21st-century practicing Stoic.”
To be far from home in a major, diverse metropolis such as New York or Los Angeles is one thing. But those who have landed in small cities across the Midwest face a whole other sort of isolation.
CINCINNATI—When they were deciding where to settle down and raise a family, Lorena Mora-Mowry, a lawyer from Venezuela, and her husband Paul, a mechanical engineer from California, performed extensive research. Based on reports they read in magazines and brochures, they decided that Cincinnati, with its low cost of living, access to arts and the outdoors, and strong schools, would be a good place to live. They moved here in 1995.
It was a difficult transition from (relatively) open-minded, Latino-heavy Southern California to Cincinnati, where just about everybody was either white or black, and where immigrants were a rarity. Mora-Mowry tried to speak to people in stores, but they could never understand her accent, and she hated the long, cold winters.
Caves and tunnels have always been part of human life.
Caves and tunnels have always been part of human life. We've grown more adept at shaping these underground shelters and passages over the millennia, and today we dig for hundreds of reasons. We excavate to find both literal and cultural treasures, digging mines and unearthing archaeological discoveries. We use caverns for stable storage, for entertainment, and for an effective shelter from natural and man-made disasters. And as the planet's surface becomes ever more crowded, and national borders are closed, tunnels provide pathways for our vehicles and for smugglers of every kind. Collected below are more recent subterranean scenes from around the world.
The danger of uploading one’s consciousness to a computer without a suicide switch
Imagine a supercomputer so advanced that it could hold the contents of a human brain. The Google engineer Ray Kurzweil famously believes that this will be possible by 2045. Organized technologists are seeking to transfer human personalities to non-biological carriers, “extending life, including to the point of immortality.” My gut says that they’ll never get there. But say I’m wrong. Were it possible, would you upload the contents of your brain to a computer before death, extending your conscious moments on this earth indefinitely? Or would you die as your ancestors did, passing into nothingness or an unknown beyond human comprehension?
The promise of a radically extended lifespan, or even immortality, would tempt many. But it seems to me that they’d be risking something very much like hell on earth.
The former speaker of the House is charged with lying to federal agents and evading financial reporting requirements in what appears to be a case of blackmail.
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been indicted on charges of lying to FBI agents and evading federal financial-reporting requirements.
Hastert, an Illinois Republican, was speaker from 1999 to 2007. BuzzFeed’s John Stanton, who first reported on the indictment, notes that there were several high-profile congressional scandals in those years. Illinois is also a notorious hotbed for political corruption, as Roland Burris, Rod Blagojevich, George Ryan, and Jesse Jackson Jr. can attest.
But reading between the lines of the indictment against Hastert suggests a darker story than political corruption. In or about 2010, according to the indictment, Hastert—a former high-school teacher and coach—met with an unnamed individual from Yorkville, Hastert’s hometown. They “discussed past misconduct by defendant against Individual A that had occurred years earlier.” In effect, Hastert fell victim to blackmail, the indictment alleges: He “agreed to provide Individual A $3.5 million in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against Individual A.” (Since leaving the House, Hastert has become a highly paid lobbyist.)
Can a political system be democratically legitimate without being democratic?
The flaws in China’s political system are obvious. The government doesn’t even make a pretense of holding national elections and punishes those who openly call for multiparty rule. The press is heavily censored and the Internet is blocked. Top leaders are unconstrained by the rule of law. Even more worrisome, repression has been ramped up since Xi Jinping took power in 2012, suggesting that the regime is increasingly worried about its legitimacy.
Some China experts—most recently David Shambaugh of George Washington University—interpret these ominous signs as evidence that the Chinese political system is on the verge of collapse. But such an outcome is highly unlikely in the near future. The Communist Party is firmly in power, its top leader is popular, and no political alternative currently claims widespread support. And what would happen if the Party’s power did indeed crumble? The most likely result, in my view, would be rule by a populist strongman backed by elements of the country’s security and military forces. The new ruler might seek to buttress his legitimacy by launching military adventures abroad. President Xi would look tame by comparison.
There are two types of people in the world: those with hundreds of unread messages, and those who can’t relax until their inboxes are cleared out.
For some, it’s a spider. For others, it’s an unexpected run-in with an ex. But for me, discomfort is a dot with a number in it: 1,328 unread-message notifications? I just can’t fathom how anyone lives like that.
How is it that some people remain calm as unread messages trickle into their inboxes and then roost there unattended, while others can’t sit still knowing that there are bolded-black emails and red-dotted Slack messages? I may operate toward the extreme end of compulsive notification-eliminators, but surveys suggest I’m not alone: One 2012 study found that 70 percent of work emails were attended to within six seconds of their arrival.
This has led me to a theory that there are two types of emailers in the world: Those who can comfortably ignore unread notifications, and those who feel the need to take action immediately.