Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Product review: Lush 'Experimenter' bath bomb

The Experimenter
Habitual readers of scientific journals – the kind sold in newsagents and marketed at the non-academic, armchair-bound hoi polloi - will occasionally find themselves regaled with fanciful descriptions of distant planets. These florid accounts of alien geography, assembled from bland screeds of data, cribbed from the fuzzy, monochromatic images of intergalactic majesty harvested by isolated space telescopes, and subsequently imparted in the style of a Thomson's holiday brochure, speak in wide-eyed tones of vibrant pink and green skies dappled with clouds of hydrochloric acid the size of continents. They wax lyrical over sparkling, crystal-clear turquoise lakes of liquefied copper sulphate that will strip human flesh from bone within seconds. In these off-trend, far flung worlds, that are seemingly destined never to be troubled by the ruinous bootprint of humankind, anything is garishly possible; the only constant being the corrosive nature of the elements making up the atmosphere and the hydrosphere. If there is a conclusion to be drawn, it is that man was not meant to live anywhere that is too colourful.

In recent years Lush – the bath and shower cosmetics chain, whose high street outposts frequently elicit a barrage of sneezes from olfactorily-sensitive passersby – have carved an idiosyncratic niche for themselves as a producer of bath bombs that mimic a strain of alien geology last seen on the set of the original series of Star Trek.

The Experimenter, in name alone, conjures an alarming mental image of a disturbing sex toy designed to boldly go where no man has gone before. Thankfully it resembles something liberated from the semi-precious minerals exhibit of a natural history museum that exists entirely inside the over-stimulated head-space of a two year old child, whose recent exposure to sugary fruit squash and colourful plastic blocks has conspired to induce an entry-level acid trip. It is in appearance a mottled, brazenly-hued hexagonal polygon, speckled with glittery deposits that catch the light in a pleasing manner.

Described in the accompanying hyperbolic bunf as “your own bathtime motion picture” and by me as “in this regard not as good as Mad Max: Fury Road, but about on par with Jurassic World,” it is also said to comprise “vibrant colour, popping candy and comforting Fair Trade vanilla.”

While the ephemeral snap and crackle of the popping candy is well and truly drowned out by the thunderous sound and fury of the hot tap, the vanilla scent lingers pleasantly on the skin. Whatever your opinion of the Experimenter, you will emerge from it a more fragrant human being than you were beforehand.

Upon introduction to turbid water the bath bomb immediately jettisons its colourful outer layers; an effect reminiscent of a poster paint explosion inside a primary school art supply cupboard. Swirling, iridescent tendrils of pink and yellow infuse the clouded surface with a glittery shimmer as the decomposition of the bomb settles to a gentle ferment.

In stark contrast to the sparkly, two-dimensional cords of rainbow-tinged suds, the water beneath assumes the leaden pall of a rain cloud. Upon immersion into the bath the foam quickly disperses. Whether it is absorbed into the skin or seeks shelter inside one of the bodily orifices I cannot confidently say.

With the initial riot of colour now thoroughly dispelled, one is left marinating in waters reminiscent of the bleak Manchurian skies that inspired the music of bands such as Joy Division. Anyone entering the bathroom at this juncture could be forgiven for assuming that you had spent the previous hours lying underneath an ailing motor vehicle.

Maybe we are being taught a lesson – one that resonates particularly strongly around this time of year, when the initial burst of bright colours that accompany the Christmas period abruptly fade, leaving us to face January poorer in pocket, somewhat unwell, and harbouring the nagging suspicion that we have displaced more bathwater than we would have prior to the festive orgy of over-eating and general self-indulgence.

The Experimenter (final form)

Sunday, 6 December 2015

The story of the Little Drummer Boy doesn't hold water

The Little Drummer Boy, following his fatal overdose at the age of 27.

The Little Drummer Boy was a liar; his claim to have met Jesus an outright fabrication concocted to raise his fading profile as a drummer, and to extend the lifespan of his flagging celebrity moment beyond its allotted 15 minutes.

This brazen opportunist, recognising that the public had grown weary of his monotonous pitter-patter, fastened himself to the coattails of our Lord Jesus Christ - a gifted illusionist and anti-establishment figure, who lived fast and died young in a sexy, rapid-paced era of chariot races and gladiatorial games.

For such a pivotal event in the Christian mythos, the birth of Christ is dispatched with alarming brevity in the scriptures: The nativity as we know it is spliced together from the gospels of Luke and Matthew. Of the pair, St Luke's account is perhaps the more comprehensive, incorporating the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the birth in the manger, and the visit by the shepherds. The book of Matthew introduces the three wise men and is otherwise a smear piece directed against King Herod, who is portrayed as an inveterate baby killer.

The gospel of St Luke contains passing references to characters who have been written out of contemporary retellings of the birth of Jesus: A just and devout man named Simeon, who had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had laid eyes upon the messiah, and Anna - “a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Ase.”

Given the Little Drummer Boy's profession, a Beatles analogy seems apt: Together, Anna and Simeon are the Pete Bests of the nativity; their positions usurped by a ghastly chocolate box confection of questionable ability, but with better hair – the biblical equivalent of an unloved CGI character, inserted by George Lucas into one of the updated versions of the Star Wars trilogy.

In the carol it is strongly implied that the Little Drummer Boy has a chance meeting with the magi who are on their way to the stable in Bethlehem with their “finest gifts.”

Finding himself with nothing to present to the baby Jesus, the young percussionist serenades the saviour of mankind with a drum solo – the curate's egg of live musical performance. This is where the narrative begins to crumble:

The “Parapa pum pum” rhythm of the carol, which is clearly intended to mimic the drumming style of its protagonist, is plodding and ponderous, in a manner that even Noel Gallagher would consider lethargic.

Despite the prosaic, flat performance, the reaction, according to the unreliable narrator, is favourable:

Mary nodded,” confirming her status as an insufferable hipster. Although the song doesn't specifically mention it, I am guessing that she wore a plaid shirt and kept her arms folded throughout the entire set.

Implausibly, “the ox and lamb kept time,” like a fucking Disney cartoon.

However the most damning evidence is the reported reaction of Jesus:

Then he smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.”

Smiling in babies occurs approximately two months after birth. Yet the festival of Epiphany, which celebrates the visit by the magi, falls on the 6th of January, not even two weeks after the arrival of Christ.

Jesus never smiled at the Little Drummer Boy, because he would have been too young to do so, but more pointedly because the Little Drummer Boy was never present at the manger scene. Like one of those people who claim to have witnessed The Sex Pistols' performance at the 100 Club, this shameless self-promoter inserted himself into the nativity at a later date. If he had really been there, then St Luke or St Matthew would have made record of his attendance in their gospels.

The Little Drummer Boy is the Walter Mitty of the New Testament. Nothing that he says can be taken at face value. He did not play in a band with teenage Jesus and they did not have crazy rock star adventures together on the road.

The carol itself is a travesty, even when David Bowie performed it with Bing Crosby.

Despite his manoeuvring the Little Drummer Boy never had another successful song. All that remains of this self-aggrandising one hit wonder is his minor revisionist take on the birth of Jesus, where the messiah is relegated to secondary importance, and the image of his body, dead from a heroin overdose, at the age of 27, in a hotel on L.A.'s Sunset Strip.

The Little Drummer Boy

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.