James Bond Suits Movie Clothiers

OBLIGATORY FILLER MATERIAL – Just take a hard left at Daeseong-dong…10

Continuing…
“Well, if that doesn’t throw the damper on things.” Dax remarks on our trip back down to the ground floor.
“Yeah. How rude. Up and deceasing your own self without bothering to tell anyone beforehand.” I noted.
“This is going to be a bloody balls-up. Trust me. This is going to be inordinately messy. A bog-standard botch job. A total dog’s dinner, just wait and see.” Cliffs adds.
“First, we have to contact IUPGS. Then what? Does Bulgaria have a consulate or embassy here? I wouldn’t think so…Then what?” I grieved. For once, I was rather low; both emotionally and on ideas.
“Let’s go back to the conference room and let everyone know. We’ll pull a brain session together. We should be able to sort out what needs to be done. The hotel already knows, so the state security forces also do as well. Be prepared for lengthy interrogation sessions, Gentlemen”, Cliff advised.
Back in the conference room, we relayed the sad information. All were taken aback and there were general notes of commiseration. However, since no one knew Iskren too well personally, it was more detached professionalism rather than overt weeping and wailing.
“Let us toast to our fallen comrade!” was accepted as both entirely appropriate and a damn good idea.
I got on the conference room phone and ordered up some more sandwiches, mixers, and bottles of booze. The moment was obviously structured that way, I reasoned.
We made our toasts to our fallen comrade and we had half a chalkboard filled with suggestions of what to do next.
The main consensus was: “Nothing.”
As in there was not much we could do. We were foreign nationals in a strangely foreign land. Our comrade was the sole member of his country, that is, Bulgaria, and the closest geographically we had aboard was Dr. Academician Ivan. No one wanted to loose Ivan on the DPRK security forces and have to deal with all that international fallout.
After some number of hours, after I suggested we all remain in the conference room as we’d (A.) be together, as in unity there is strength, (2.) we’d have each other’s backs when and if it came to interrogations, and, (iii.) this is where the free booze was.
Then there was a polite knock on the door.
I, as the den mother of this special education class, slowly got up and answered the knock.
It was a cadre of DPRK internal security forces, kitted out in their spiffy, tailor-made, and actually, quite smart-looking uniforms. Shoes and buttons polished to mirror-finishes, pants creases that could cut flesh, and enough polished brass to construct a spittoon.
“Hello? Yes?” I said through the semi-opened door.
“May we please come in? If the time is convenient.”, the head military type, very treacly asked.
“Of course”, I replied, “Please, do come in.”
Four of them entered as one. They did a quick-step, tight-march formation together and went to the head of the conference table.
“Good day, gentlemen. I am Colonel Hwangbo Dong-Hyeon of Internal State Security. First, we must offer condolences on the loss of your comrade. It must have come as a shock.” He intones.
There are mutters of “Thanks.” and “Damn right it was.”
“I have been entrusted to update you on the, ah, ‘situation’. First, Dr. Iskren Dragomirov Dinev, recently deceased, has been examined by the best medical practitioners in the country. He was obviously a foreign national and state guest, and we do not wish this to be a cause of suspicion or mistrust, especially during this auspicious Festival season.” He asserted.
We listened with rapt attention.
“I am authorized to tell you that it does not appear that the late Dr. Dinev expired of any untoward circumstances; or ‘foul play’, I believe is the western term. It has been ascertained that he expired due to wholly natural causes; namely massive myocardial infarction. Given his age, apparent health, and, ah, mass, this does seem a most reasonable explanation. This has been verified by no less than three DPRK medical professionals; one of which is the Emeritus teaching professor of Cardiology at Pyongyang Medical University. Again, you have our deepest condolences on the loss of your comrade.” He continued.
“I do remember Iskren complaining of gas pains the other night at the bar,” Joon agreed. “Thought nothing of it, given the change in all our diets.”
Colonel Hwangbo studied Joon like an entomologist examining a particularly fascinating new species of beetle.
“Which has been fine! Just rather rich compared to our usual food!” Joon hastily added.
Satisfied that Joon wasn’t making light of the ‘fine’ North Korean cuisine, Colonel Hwangbo continued, “As such, the Bulgarian Embassy here in Pyongyang has been contacted and apprised of the situation. They have taken over the case, as well as recovered the mortal remains and possessions of Dr. Dinev; all of which were conserved and authenticated by his Bulgarian national counterparts.”
“Ah, that’s good”, I said, “I’m pleased that there actually is a Bulgarian embassy here.”
“Ah. So.”, Col. Hwangbo continued, “Yes. They have already taken possession of Dr. Dinev’s mortal remains and possessions as I had noted, and will handle their repatriation to his country and family. As you can see, we have acted in the best of faith and with the utmost respect for your lately departed. Again, our condolences.”
There were some “Harrumphs”, and “Yeah, rights”, from the crowd, but since I was the team leader, it fell to me to handle this situation from here on out.
“Yes, indeed”, I replied, “We see that and do so deeply appreciate your efficiency and your keeping open the lines of communication. We have absolutely no room to complain. You, your team, your country, and your services have acted to the highest degree of professionalism and decorum. Let me extend, for the team, our heartiest appreciations in this most unfortunate matter.”
That seemed to please the Korean security forces. So much so they didn’t see the rolling eyes and smirks of grudging compliance from the crowd. I gave the evil-eye to several who were twittering quietly at my delivery of a load of over-the-top twaddle in the name of international goodwill.
“Thank you, Doctor…? Doctor…?”, he asked.
“Doctor Rocknocker.” I replied, “It’s spelled just as it sounds,”, I chuckled a knowing chuckle.
Colonel Hwangbo cracked a small smile for the first time since we met.
“As long as our orders of business are concluded, “ I inquired, “Might we offer you and your men a drink or sandwich or…”
“Cigar?” he suddenly brightened.
I smiled the sly, smirking smile of one of those used to the old duplicitous game of international diplomacy.
“Why”, I replied smilingly, “Of course.”
Col Hwangbo gratefully accepted a brace of fine Oscuro cigars. Probably more tobacco he’s seen in one place at one time since the last he rousted a snozzeled Western journalist or hammered European tourist with an overage of custom’s tobacco allowances.
His team eschewed cigars, but gladly accepted a pack each of pastel-colored Sobranie cocktail cigarettes.
It still slays me to see these battle-hardened, armed-to-the-teeth, unsmiling servants of the great state of Best Korea mincing about the courtyard smoking avocado, baby-blue, and peach-colored pastel cigarettes.
The Colonel and his team left after a couple of quick smokes, sandwiches, and surreptitious beers. I even enticed the Colonel into a couple of convivial vodka toasts when his team was otherwise occupied.
“Well, gang”, I said, closing the door, “Looks like that situation has been handled, most appropriately at that. We’ll miss ol’ Iskren, but at least he went fast and hopefully painlessly.”
I knew that last one was but a load of old dingo’s kidneys as I’ve had run-ins with cardiac disorders in the past and they are anything but painless. In any case, that was, as I noted, in the past. What was done is done. It was as it was. It is as it is.
“So, gentlemen”, I say, “Let us get back to work. Reality calls. Now, we’ve given you landlubbers the lowdown on our seismic pleasure cruise. Now we’d like to hear what you who had stayed onshore have come up with.”
Erlan, Graco, and Viv fill us in on the regional geology of Best Korea and lay out a plan to examine the sedimentary piles closest to the few paved roads in the north and east of the country.
We’ll be traveling by bus, as my request for four or five off-road vehicles was denied due to timing and lack of availability.
Yeah. Right. What a massive pile of bovine biogenic colluvium. A country with a military as huge as Best Korea’s and they can’t spare a few jeeps or Hummer reproductions?
Truth be told, they still don’t trust us and don’t want to let us out of their sight.
However, we did manage to snag some internal publications from the Central Geological Survey of Mineral Resources, which we figured as a major coup. Never before were Westerners allowed to even know of the existence of these materials, much less be able to research (read: slyly copy) them.
That ‘personal shaver’ I carried was actually a sneaky personal copier, a Vupoint ST470 Magic Wand Portable Scanner with all the external stickers peeled off, and any serial numbers abraded away.
Hey, they photograph us from every angle on the sly, listen in on our conversations, record our phone calls…hell, turnabout isn’t just fair play, it’s almost expected.
It’d be rude to refuse to play along.
Anyways, we learned that The Korean Peninsula (KP) occupies a junction area of three large tectonic domains that are the Paleo-Central Asian Orogenic Belt, Paleo-Tethyan Orogenic Belt, and the Western Pacific Orogenic Belt.
Tectono-fascinating.
To summarize:
  1. The Archean Rangrim massif is divided into the Rangrim and Kwanmo submassifs, high-grade region and greenstone belt, respectively.
  2. Early Paleoproterozoic rocks underwent metamorphism up to granulite facies, which may be correlated to the Jiao-Liao-Ji mobile belt in the North China Craton (NCC).
  3. Proterozoic rift sequences in North Korea are similar to those in the NCC with rare late Paleoproterozoic strata and more Neoproterozoic strata.
  4. Mesozoic igneous rocks are extensively distributed in the KP.
  5. The main Paleozoic basin, the Phyongnam basin in NK, have a similar Paleozoic tectono-stratigraphy to the NCC.
Of most interest is item #5. The Phyongnam basin is the only sedimentary and depositional basin of mention in the north of the Korean peninsula; and therefore the center of our attention as it pertains to oil and gas.
The potential source rocks, and possible reservoirs, include the Paleozoic Late Ordovician Miru Series was identified as the Koksan Series and subsequently renamed. The 170-meter thick limestone and siltstone centered around the P'yongnam Basin have extensive crinoid, coral, and gastropod fossils. Paleogeography researchers have suggested that corals formed in the Miru Sea-a branch of the South Yangtze Sea. At the base of the Taedong Synthem is the P'yong'an Supergroup, which lies disconformably atop older Paleozoic rocks.
In the Pyongyang Coalfield it is divided into the 650-meter sandstone, shale, and conglomerate of the Nogam Formation, the 500-meter Kobangsan Formation, 350-meter coal-bearing Sadong Formation and 250-meter chert-bearing Hongjom Formation, all typically assigned to an Upper Permian shallow marine environment.
In the Mesozoic, north of Pyongyang, Precambrian basement rocks are unconformably overlain by a Jurassic limestone conglomerate ascending to layers of siltstone and mudstone. The Upper Jurassic Shinuiju Formation northwest of Shinuiju has sandstone, conglomerate, and mudstone up to two kilometers thick.
Offshore drilling in the West Korea Bay Basin indicates these rocks are the onshore extension of offshore units. It is subdivided into fluvial rocks and Upper Jurassic black shale, limestone, conglomerate and sandstone formed in a lake environment.
There are very few Cenozoic sediments are known in North Korea, likely as a result of erosion due to uplift of the peninsula. Submarine normal faults along the eastern coastline may have driven crustal tilting. The 350-meter thick Bongsan Coalfield in Hwanghae Province on the west coast preserves and coal-bearing layers dating to the Eocene.
Further to the north, in the West Korea Bay Basin Eocene and Oligocene sedimentary rocks up to three kilometers thick unconformably overlie Mesozoic rocks, formed in lakes and coal swamps during the Paleogene.
What this meant is that we’d need to travel mostly northeast and/or southwest. This was fortuitous as the paved roads in the country were created in structural valleys formed by the primary fault trends in the country. The main trans-tensional set trended NE:SW and the conjugate set trends approximately 900 to the main set at NW:SE.
The topography was heavily dissected by drainages and the terrain consists mostly of hills and mountains separated by deep, narrow valleys. The coastal plains are wide in the west and discontinuous in the east.
The plan was to take the bus north to Sunchon, then hang a right off towards Unsan and Yongha. There were outcrops between the last two towns and they appear to be upper Paleozoic to Lower Mesozoic clastics. Ideal oil and gas hunting grounds.
From there, we’d head north-northeast towards Yangwon. There appeared to be some fair to excellent outcrops of rocks that are as of yet, unidentified as to age. From there, we’d continue to follow the outcrop belts either to their termination at the basin’s edges or at international borders with China or Russia.
But, once we hit the field, time goes into relative warp. Put a bunch of geologists out on some relatively virgin outcrops and just stand back as they spend hour after hour after hour first looking for evidence of the formation’s provenance, it’s age and field relations. Then begin the heartfelt, stalwart, and sometimes vicious, arguments between all concerned about each and every one of those salient points.
We were all looking forward to it and wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s our intellectual and scientific equivalent of meat and potatoes.
We all agreed on a way forward and generated a document to deliver to those in charge of our logistics on this trip. There would be a total of 11 Western geoscientists, four guides, perhaps a couple of national geologists or geophysicists, and whatever cadre the shiny suit squad wanted to include.
There would also be a driver, his relief, and a couple of extra translators. Good thing it was a large bus, as it’s going to be a huge crew.
We needed to allow our handlers a full day to arrange room and board for us while in the field, as we had to be bivouacked somewhere outside our fine hotel. It needed to be secure, pass sanctuary muster, and be ‘controllable’, referring to both Western scientists and nosy locals.
One thing we found odd was the lack of concern for long-term logistics, not to mention the end of our self-ordained indentured servitude. When this trip and all the Western geoscientists were contacted, we were all assured of an opportunity to meet with the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-Un once our trip was completed.
We were to personally deliver one hell of an international photo-op. A ‘hey look how progressive we are’ meeting and our findings in this wonderful and progressive country.
But lately, with what we thought was the fallout of the Festival washing out all the usual propaganda, we’ve heard nothing about Herr Comrade Leader Supremo, K1J1-Un. Nor had we heard one iota about our intended final meeting with him before we left for China.
Since there are “absolutely no” COVID-19 cases in Best Korea, it seemed, well, odd that Beijing was our only possible current exit port of call, and onward to our individual homes.
There were all flavors of rumors flying all throughout the basement bars and casinos of the hotel. One claimed that Kim was now receiving treatment at a villa in the Mount Myohyang resort north of the capital Pyongyang after cardiovascular surgery. That he was near death and that his sister, Kim Yo Jong, is already warming up in the North Korean political bullpen if her brother kacks it.
Others said Kim is believed to be staying at an unspecified location outside of Pyongyang, with some close confidants. It was said that Kim appeared to be normally engaged with state affairs and there has not been any unusual movement or emergency reaction from North Korea's governing party, military, or cabinet.
There was also one other that tries to cover up any conspiracy rumors by shouting over a raspy bullhorn: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”, “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"; but most ignored that little crank.
We all thought that rather odd, but of fairly low concern. In the final analysis, it would have little impact on our studies and their outcome. In other words, it wouldn’t affect our pay one way or the other. We all felt like we’ve given more than what was called for on missions such as this.
And we still haven’t a clue as to when this will all come to an end.
However, we all agreed to the consultation, it would have been fun to meet with him and have our pictures taken with the Supreme Leader. Dr. Academician Ivan Ivanovich Khimik. was especially cheesed that he might miss the opportunity to make finger-vee bunny ears behind the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the DPRK during one of our photo sessions.
We all agree if we do somehow find ourselves in the same room with Ivan and Kim Jong-Un, we’ll form a human shield around the latter. We want to get back home; as we’ve all heard the rumors of the horrors of ‘political realignment’ camps here in Best Korea.
So the meeting breaks up and I’m left with Dax to take the final inventory. Two loads of sandwiches gone, piles of used napkins, ketchup-y table linens, bacon rinds and chicken bones, drippy ends of ice cream cones, prune pits, peach pits, orange peel, gloppy glumps of cold oatmeal, pizza crusts, and withered greens, soggy beans and tangerines, crusts of black burned buttered toast, gristly bits of beefy roasts…
“The hell with this”, I say, I grab the last nearly full bottle of vodka and hand Dax a bottle of Royal Navy dark Rum.
“Tally’s good”, I say, not really giving two tiny shits at this point. “At least, I think it is. Let’s make like horseshit and hit the trail.”
“I’m headed back to our floor and going to zone out in front of some old, looped BBC for the next few hours with a cold drink and hot cigar.” I proclaim.
“Oh, hell”, Dax says, “I agree. It’s been a weird couple of days. Let’s go.”
And so we do.
On the way, I leave the logistics concerns and itinerary for the upcoming field trips with the front desk clerk. I slip her 1000 won as its Festival! and I had a bulgy pocketful of same. She smiled and quietly said there’s be a surprise waiting for me in my room when I got there.
“Rock, you fucking old hound!”, Dax exclaimed as he punched me lightly on the shoulder. “Taking a dip in the hotel secretarial pool?”
“Dax, you surprise me”, I said in my defense, “I have been, and continue to be, happily married for the last 38 years to the most loving, most intelligent, most well-connected, and most accurate snap-shot with a Glock .380 Automatic I know of.”
“Well, me ol’ mucker”, Dax smiles slyly, “If one has been happily married for 38 years, one must have a little something on the side. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge, ‘eh, Squire?”
“Oh, nothing like that”, I replied, while waiting the obligatory 30 minutes for the fucking elevator to arrive. “I couldn't break my word to Esme, and not because I don’t believe in a God that will send me to Hell without an electric fan or because it's not the right thing to do. I simply don't want to. A man is only as good as his word; and if he loses that, he loses too much. I couldn’t function without people thinking that I’m square and on the level. My business would crumble to dust. As would my marriage.”
“Yeah, there is that”, Dax agrees, “You say something is going to happen and God damn, it fucking happens. That’s what makes you honest and honestly scary.”
I stare intently at the annunciator that tells me the fucking elevator is stuck on 4 again.
“You’re not mob, are you?” Dax harshly whispers, snickeringly.
I turn to face Dax and smile wistfully.
Я с уважением отказываюсь отвечать, потому что я искренне верю, что мой ответ может обвинить меня”, I reply quietly.
“What the hell does that mean?” Dax demands.
“I respectfully decline to answer because I honestly believe my answer might tend to incriminate me”, I calmly reply.
“Oh, look. Bloody elevator’s finally here.” I note and stride aboard.
Dax gets caught up in the tsunami of the crowd and is carried bodily inside. It was so remorseless, he almost lost his grip on his bottle of Dark Rum.
Up on ‘our’ floor, I go to key open my room. Dax is just down the hall and looking around to see what special surprise might show up. I was too tired to wait so I just push in, and see all my field clothes fully laundered, pressed, and either folded or hanging.
Someone broke into my room during the day and committed a compound neatness.
“POUND! Pound! POUND!” Hmm, appears to be someone at my door.
“Yes, Dax?” I said.
“You too?” he fumed, “Everything, cleaned to within an inch if its life. They even polished my bloody field boots.”
“Oh, fuck”, I said and ran to find mine re-pristinized.
“FUCK! FUCK! FUCKITYFUCKFUCK!” I swore. They had polished my field boots and removed the fine years-of-work-to-acquire near-subsurface of the leather’s oil layer. They polished the water-proofing and conditioning out of the leather of our boots.
“OK. OK.”, I said, “Minor emergency. Cool out. I have the solution.”
I toss Dax a small can. It was brown, oily, and claimed to be “Neatsfoot oil”. It was the SPF- 500 of field leathers.
“Go ahead and oil them up with that”, I told Dax, “I’ve got another can, so don’t worry. Use what you need, don’t be shy, but if there’s any left, let me know. I’ll combine ours and offer it to anyone else in the team who had their boots steam-cleaned.”
So, a bit later, I’m sitting on my hotel room’s floor, on several sheets of newspaper, rubbing Neatsfoot Oil into my ancient, multinational size 16 EEE Vasque™ Tracker field boots.
Then there’s a knock at the door.
“It’s open. Enter carefully”, I say aloud.
It’s a bell clerk with a room service cart. On the cart are a bucket of ice, a bowl of sliced limes, I think, several gimlet glasses, some Best Korean ‘Air Koryo’ carbonated citrus drink, and a fresh bottle of “Kaesong” vodka.
“Compliments of the front desk”, the bellman says.
I stand up, tip him a few thousand won, and set a new record in mixology; a fresh brace of drinks in less than 7.3 seconds.
I offer the bellman the lighter one and he accepts with a wide smile.
I say “건배” (geonbae) literally means 'empty glass', which is similar to the expression 'bottom's up'. For you see, my Korean’s coming along a treat.
We clink glasses and send those drinks to the places that they’ll do the best.
The bellman smiles offloads the cart onto the table in my room, shakes my hand, and departs.
I finish my boots, my drink, and my cigar. After another drink or seven, I crater early. Dax was right; it had been a long, weird day.
The next day, Festival! is still going strong, but still no word on the whereabouts of El Líder Supremo. I find that odd, only slightly interesting, and since it will impact the day’s events zero, I file it away for maybe later use.
I go to the hotel pool around 0530 and there’s no one there. I’m able to get in a good 100 laps, unburdened with either small talk or by yammering kids blocking my lanes. I go early as I don’t wear gloves in the water, obviously. Statistically, there is less chance there will be others, adults and kids included, that would get freaked out by my gnarly left hand. I really don’t feel like recounting the old Russian Rig Accident story again.
After a brisk shower and double shower-scotch back in my room, I dress casually and wander down to the casino and bar level. It’s essentially breakfast time, but with the revelers not giving two hoots to AM vs. PM, it’s surprisingly busy. I find a perch up on Mahogany Ridge and order a classical breakfast cocktail of one liter of beer and 100 milliliters of chilled vodka.
I see Mr. Ho is manning the bar. I ask him to ring the massage parlor down the hall and see if Ms. Nang Bo-Hee is free sometime this morning.
He does and reports that she has an open hour and a half at 0900. Would I like it or any portion of that time?
“I’ll take the lot”, I said. “Tell them I’ll be there spot on 0900.”
“That’s great.”, Mr. Ho says, hanging up the phone, “Doctor Rock, they tell me that with the Festival discount and you taking the full 90 minutes, they can cut you a very special deal.”
“I’ll bet”, I replied, “Like what?”
“Oh, I cannot say for they did not tell me”, he smiled, “They will tell you when you arrive.”
“Marvelous”, I exhaled tiredly. “Another, Mr. Ho; make it a double, if you would please.”
The massage center here is run by a group not employed directly by the hotel. It’s a separate entity altogether. They run specials and have different discount programs that are not only not controlled nor advertised by the hotel, but they’re also not in any way beholden to the hotel, except for rent, I suppose and run it like their own little fiefdom.
Ms. Nang, my preferred masseuse, is a little, tiny Korean lassie about 5 feet tall and probably all of 90 pounds soaking wet. However, she is amazingly well trained and could probably put me in the hospital for a lengthy visit with her wiles and methods of flesh, bone, and muscle manipulation.
She offers a whole suite of different massage genres: Swedish, hot stone, aromatherapy, deep tissue, sport, trigger point, reflexology, shiatsu, Thai, and Rolfing.
Oh, fuck. I know Rolfing. I tried that nonsense back in grad school with an old east Indian lady that could have linebackered for the Minnesota Vikings. That shit fucking hurt. Today, it’d incapacitate me permanently. That’s a definite no-go.
I decide that it’s going to be the Hot Stone-treatment today. A geological-manipulation inquiry.
At 0900 I’m the only client at the massage ‘store’. It’s early, day two of the festival, and people are either sleeping off the previous night’s festivities or too wobbly to even think of partaking in a massage.
I’ve had several major back surgeries over the years, including one bilateral laminectomy about seven years ago that removed 7.5 kilos of overgrown bone and muscle from my lumbar region, so I’ve been very cautious about soliciting a massage. The masseuse has to know that area is strictly verboten and will do everything to avoid annoying that particular piece of bodily real-estate.
I’ve walked or limped out of massages before where the practitioner said they understood my reticence, but went ahead and kneaded and provoked that land of keloids and deep-body scar tissue.
However, based on past experience, Ms. Nang knows full well my reluctance as well as my desires. That’s the reason I’m returning. She’s very, very good; a consummate professional and has a never-ending series of jokes and observations while she’s pummeling you into submission.
Today, we retire to a private cubicle and she hands me a small robe or napkin, not sure which, of Korean manufacture.
She tells me to get au natural and to wear the robe while she prepares the tools of her trade.
OK, I’m not a small person; not by a long shot. This robe, however, is made for a sprite, not even for a small person.
She returns to our massage cubicle as I’m sitting there, at the end of the massage table, sipping my drink clad only in my dapper red-and-white checkered boxers.
“You need to be unclothed, Doctor. Use the robe. OK, sir Rock?” she says.
“Ms. Nang,”, I said, shaking my head, “It’s one or the other.” I show her how laughable the robe is as I can’t even get it over my upper arm. It’s not even as a tea towel when it comes to covering my expansive acres of exposed epidermis.
“I can close door.”, she says, “I’m used to it. I am professional. Does not bother me if it does not bother you.”
I lost all forms of bashfulness, timidity, or prudery long, long ago. After years and years of Russian banya, Swedish massage, Turkish baths, and surgery; well, if it don’t bother you, it don’t bother me.
“OK”, I say, using the robe as a small two-dimensional breechcloth. She tells me to ‘hop’ up on the massage table and lie down, facing the floor.
After chuckling about the fact that I haven’t hopped for decades, I wander over to the nicely padded and extremely clean massage table and lie down. She rearranges the ‘robe’ to cover my backside and tells me to relax. She’ll be right back with the stones.
I’ve never tried this type of massage before, but as a geologist, I must; if for nothing else, progress in the name of science.
Ms. Nang returns with a large parcel consisting of many sizes of steamed stones. They were river-washed and tumbled basalt from the looks of them, all wrapped in a large fuzzy towel.
Now she finds the large towels…
She selects them one by one and places them in ‘special, strategic’ spots on my exposed back. From the lower 2/3rds of the nape of the neck, down the spine, over the fundus mountains, and down the back of each leg.
It’s a warm, almost hot in some places, but not an uncomfortable feeling. She returns to adjust them, grind them in a bit in places, and flip them to extract all that igneous lithological thermal goodness.
I have to admit, at that point, it was feeling quite delightful. Relaxed; I had my drink and was being kneaded My dorsal musculature was being de-lithified by the application of hot rocks and expert point massage.
All was going quite well as Ms. Nang was building a huge tip in her ‘job well done’ bank.
Then the rocks had all attained room temperature. She excused herself to reload with another minor outcrop’s-worth and told me to flip over for round two of the process.
“In for a dime, in for a dollar”, I said, as I flipped over and use the robe as a laughable forward-facing breechcloth.
Ms. Nang mentioned that she was always fascinated by Westerners and their surplus of bodily fuzz. With my long, shoulder-length silver hair, full Grizzly Adams beard that drooped down to my sternum, and torso that picked up where my beard left off; she was quite unprepared to see the beached silver-gray panda that awaited upon her return.
“Dr. Rock!’, she exclaimed, “You are as a bear! So much hair. And silver color!”
“Yeah, sorry”, I replied, “Just the hand genetics dealt me. I guess it’s an adaptation for ethanol-fueled organisms that never feel cold.”
“I will soon return.” She titters excitedly and almost runs out of the room.
“Hmmm. I wonder what that’s all about?” I muse as I lie largely undraped in the massage cubicle.
Suddenly, the door bursts open and every female massage practitioner there herded into the room. They simply had to see the specimen upon which the delightful Ms. Nang was working.
OK, truth be told, I was a bit taken aback. Here I am lying on an elevated, and heavily padded, massage table. I’m ‘wearing’ only a crooked, worried grin and a sheet of a cotton washcloth that measures about 12x12 inches.
They Oohed! and Ahhhed!
I did feel like some form of an alien animal suddenly thrust out into public view. It was a bit disconcerting, but as usual, I just tried to deflect any unease with jokes and idiot remarks. At my age, not much is going to bother me, and this I found all the more laughable than troubling.
Suddenly, I was fielding their barrage of questions:
“You are American? All American men so…hairy?”
“Yes and no”, I replied. I also mentioned I hadn’t undertaken a study in that particular subject.
“Why you so big?” one tiny lass asked, eyes as big as dinner plates.
“Genetics”. I replied. “Just a corn-fed Baja Canadian doofus. We grow ‘em big back home.”
“Can we touch?” one particularly brave little lass asks.
“Touch what?” I asked. Look, I might be over 6 decades old, but there are still some areas reserved for my one and only betrothed.
I did tell Esme of this whole event later that evening during our nightly call. She laughed herself silly.
“Your beard! Oriental men never have such beard. We touch maybe?” she implored.
I was going to say “Go nuts”, but I decided that a simple “Sure” would be more fitting.
So they did. They were enthralled. They had never before, from what I was told, seen such a large silver-gray ZZ Top-style beard, especially here at the hotel. That part was weird enough, but when they started in on working their way south toward the equator, I had to say something to dissuade them.
“Where were you girls 45 years ago?” I laughed.
I don’t think they got the joke. They became somewhat bolder in their austral exploratory activities.
“OK! Time out! Ms. Nang! We have an appointment to keep”, I said as I shooed the rest of the lassies away, “We need to finish what we started.”
By the time that the third syllable of that last sentence came into being, I knew it wasn’t the right thing to say.
They all laughed and tittered as Ms. Nang ushered them out of the room. I could have sworn I heard the door lock behind them.
Ms. Nang reprieved her earlier stone placement therapy, with a couple of strategic detours.
She wasn’t that type of masseuse, and I wasn’t looking for that type of massage. She did, however, knead and pummel me mercilessly.
I’ve been bruised less from barroom brawls.
Finally, she announces that she’s finished. She’ll leave while I shower, as she used essential aromatic oils, and would await me out in the lobby.
After showering, I felt like a large bowl of pummeled Jello. I felt relaxed, and for the first time in weeks, my back was silent. My head was clear as a spring Sunday morn in Reykjavik.
The full 90 minutes, plus sideshow, was 4,500 won.
I paid the owner the required sum and handed Ms. Nang an additional 15,000 for a job well done. And for another anecdote that goes into the hopper.
I left the massage parlor feeling quite fine, thank you. I wandered over to the bar to see if I could augment and prolong this feeling of harmony with the universe. The mental picture even now of all those cooing Korean lassies in the massage room never fails to elicit a laugh and head shake.
A few hours later, I’m back in my room, tidying up my field notes and making certain all my paperwork was heavily encoded and up to date. It was, so I placed a number of expensive overseas calls to catch up with everyone on the outside.
I’m thinking of calling room service to have my mini-bar repaired when my room phone rings.
“Now who would be calling me at this hour?” I wondered.
It was the tour group leader. He informed me that the itinerary had been worked out and we’d be leaving tomorrow for the field at 0600. We were to arrive with all our luggage and be prepared to check out. We would spend at least a week in the field, if not two, depending on our results, and be bivouacking in different places in the interior of the country.
I thanked him for the information and said I’d inform the rest of the team. He told me that wouldn’t be necessary as they would come up to or floor, deliver the notice verbally, or by note if they were out of their rooms. If I wanted to later call each participant and ensure they were apprised of the situation, that would be most appreciated.
I assured him I would do so and that we’d be ready, to a man, at 0600 the next day.
I whip up 10 Post-it™ notes and stick one on each member’s door.
“Leaving for the field. Check out 0530. Wheels up 0600. Bring all luggage. Road trip!”
To be continued…
submitted by Rocknocker to Rocknocker [link] [comments]

MFA Spring/Summer Starter Pack 2015: UK Edition Part II

PT I.
It was a pleasant surprise to receive such a positive response to the first part of this write-up. This follow up is meant to provide some options for those who are looking for more top of the range choices. I've tried to emphasise British, and to a lesser extent European, brands but there are a few items from around the world. I did face a few difficulties with this section because of the wide range of styles and prices once you start considering a higher price range, as well as being hindered by my relative inexperience with these items. Nevertheless, I did a fair bit of reading so hopefully this is a good starter for anyone who is looking for some British summer (as oxymoronic as it may be) inspiration!

Shirts & Tops

Acne Standard O Tee (£75) - Good construction and my favourite collar cut as it's at the perfect spot between a scoop and a regular crew.
Sunspel Crew Neck (£55) - Sunspel make some great t-shirts and could easily replace the previous Acne recommendation. Their henleys and polos (the Riviera was designed for Daniel Craig in Casino Royale) are also worth checking out.
Oliver Spencer Breton Tee Navy (£65) - There's nothing like a Breton-stripe to announce that summer's arrived! Really like the collar stripes here.
Slim Fit Lacoste Polo (£100) - The classic Polo brand in a modern fit. There's also a regular and ultra slim fit but I feel this one will cater to the widest audience.
Engineered Garments Layfette Shirt (£179) - Daiki has beautiful prints and the penny collar is a nice contrast to regular shirts.
Our Legacy Six Shirt (£165) - All silk and a very subtle print. From Joff_Mengum: The OL Six Shirt is lovely but the material is actually surprisingly insulating so bear that in mind on hot days. I have another of their shirts in the same fabric with no print and it can easily fill the role of a light jacket on cooler days when worn over a tee or another shirt if you roll that way.
S.E.H Kelly Stripe Linen Shirt (£140) - I'd describe this as being a very neutral cut as it's neither slim nor loose, just somewhere inbetween. The horn buttons and the collar roll, though it may not be everyone's thing, are really eye-catching.
Percival Short Sleeve Blue Dot Shirt (£115) - A really cool small dot print, and comes with turned up sleeves which are pretty popular during summer here.
Oliver Spencer Eton Collar Shirt Greystoke Cream (£99) - A cotton-linen blend with an eton collar and a slubby marled texture. A really interesting way to bring in texture into summer outfits which I feel, aside from denim, tend to lack any heavy textures.

Trousers & Shorts

Saint Laurent Slim Fit Ripped Jeans (£350) - Hedi's pretty widely regarded as being among the best when it comes to making slim/skinny denim and these are the perfect pair for summer.
Nudie Lean Dean Shoreline (£115) - Alternatively if you're looking for a non-distressed pair, Nudie have some really nice lightweight cuts of stonewashed denim.
Folk Sand Counter Trousers (£160) - A slim, lightweight chino.
S.E.H Kelly Navy Linen Trousers (£155) - I've heard very highly about S.E.H Kelly and the quality of their constructions. These trousers would be good in a looser summer fit.
Private White V.C. Goodwood Worksuit Shorts (£125) - Private White take some heavy military inspiration and offer a very durable option in Egyptian cotton.
Percival Camouflage Grey Shorts (£95) - A dark camo print can definitely throw a curveball into what may otherwise be a simple fit and because these are turned up these are of a shorter length that the previous suggestion.

Outerwear

Suit Supply Jort Blue Plain (£399) - Works very well with summer formal and prep fits.
Universal Works Suit Jacket (£140) - In contrast to the previous blazer this one's unstructured and has more appeal in casual fits.
Norse Projects Olive Bomber (£215) - Beautiful colour and has the clean design that we've come to know and love Norse Projects for.
Engineered Garments Aviator Jacket (£329) - An incredibly bold print and a personal grail that I hope to pick up some day. Definitely more difficult to work into a fit that more minimal aviators and bombers, but unabashedly EG.
Oliver Spencer Navigator Jacket Oxon Tan (£289) - Oliver Spencer is one of the better known British brands and the tan colour alongside the coconut buttons work very well here.
Percival Hooded Rain Mac (£225) - I've seen Percival compared to being a better constructed version of ASOS as they offer slimmemodern versions of some classic pieces and this mac is exactly that. Comes in a yellow that is eye-catching without being overpowering.
Arpenteur Mayenne Jacket (£195) - A denim chore coat may be flirting with French farmer-core but, jokes aside, I think it'd be a really nice replacement for regular denim jackets and interesting in looser fits.
A.P.C. Japanese Denim Jacket (£205) - Alternatively if you're after a regular denim jacket, you can't go wrong with A.P.C.

Shoes

Common Projects Original Achilles Low (£259) - There is not much I can add when it comes to discussing CPs. There are countless alternatives but these are the classics.
Maison Margiela 22 Classic Replica Sneaker (£269) - Really nice interpretation of the historical GAT.
Y-3 Qasa Low (£249) - There have been so many interesting releases from Nike and Adidas ranging from the million different flyknits to the tubulars that it's impossible to cover them all so I decided to just throw in a Qasa from the current season but there is a huge field of options if you want to get sneakers.
Asics GT-II 'Easter' (£79) - If you're after a more traditional style of sneaker Asics and New Balance should have you covered.
Mark McNairy Contrast Sole Suede Derbys (£230) - A derby is arguably the most summer-appropriate casual leather shoe and these McNairys come in a beautiful colourway.
Visvim Americana Boat Shoes (£440) - I'm personally quite a big fan of Hiroki's work but the heel and the branding may not be to everyone's tastes.
I am not going to even attempt to add these together into a total price (as a student of maths my addition is, as you may expect, incredibly poor). Browsing through END, Oi Polloi, and Mr. Porter will show you that there's an absolutely massive range of brands and fashion houses at this price level so I would definitely encourage anyone interested in any of the pieces here to look up the brands and see the alternatives. I'd love feedback for any of the items I've mentioned here or any other suggestions!
submitted by aamukherjee to malefashionadvice [link] [comments]

Understanding the Different Types of Cruiseslines

Hello all,
I work with Expedia Cruiseshipcenters as a Cruise Consultant. I thought I'd make this list to help those thinking of booking a first cruise. Feel free to ask me any questions about individual lines.
Types of Cruiselines
Mainstream - Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Costa (Italian line), MSC (Italian line but has North American presence), Fred Olsen (British line), Pullmantur (Spanish line), AIDA (German line)
Mainstream lines cater to a wide variety of price conscious individuals, couples and families. These ships tend to run the gamut in terms of facilities that offer something for everyone. Water slides, silly pool games, Vegas style evening shows, huge casinos, sports activities ranging from bowling to miningolf. You name it they've got it. Perfect cruiselines for families with children but also great for couples just looking for a fun time.
Expect lots of extra fees ranging from alcohol to specialty restaurants, to specialty coffee. Most of these ships are literally designed to filter passengers into monetization areas such as the casino, shops, spa, bars etc. Complaints of "Nickle and diming" are frequent.
Different mainstream lines offer a different flavor of experience. Carnival offers a VERY price conscious product. Norwegian is famous for dining options and freestyle (i.e. Relaxed clothing) cruises. MSC let's kids under age 12 sail free and feels very European/Italian when on board. RCCL has some of the biggest ships at sea and is huge on sports activities. Costa sails mostly European itineraries.
The majority of new builds are HUGE. 4000 plus passengers or worse (or better depending on your perspective)
Service ratios operate at approx 3:1 - three passengers for every one crew member.
Typically cabins can be snagged at incredible rates. These cruiselines offer great value on the dollar. Mainstream cruise lines also offer some of the most lavish suites at sea if money is no object.
Premium - Celebrity, Princess, Holland America, P & O (British line)
Premium cruiselines tend to attract a slightly more older and affluent crowd. Relaxation is the name of the game, think country club casual but one targeting a still price conscious customer. You won't find water slides and rock climbing walls on these cruise lines but you will find upscale dining options (even in the complimentary dining areas), and activities that tend to be more sedate (wine tastings, trivia, bingo, high tea, bridge, lectures). While traditionally these cruises attracted an older crowd, the times are a changing. One may even argue that the line between premium and mainstream are blurring in the last few years. Children club offerings are expanding on these lines and it's common nowadays to see families on shorter 7 day Caribbean sailings. Pricing on these lines used to come at a premium but nowadays you can find comparable rates on some of the mainstream lines offerings. Premium cruise lines also suffer from the nickel and diming complaints heard on mainstream lines ... monetization is a big thing on these ships just like mainstream lines. Also like the mainstream lines these ships (the newest ones) are huge with upwards of 4000 passengers on the largest. The majority of these fleets do have decent mid sized options.
Service ratios run at around 2:1 - two passenger per every crew member
Premium Plus/Deluxe - Oceania, Azamara, Viking
These cruiselines offer a truly upscale experience. Smaller ships ranging from 100 - 700 passengers max with usually at least a 1:2 passenger to crew ratio -- one passenger for every two crew.
Gourmet food, all included, usually even the Specialty restaurants as well. Expect ships to feel practically empty ... the passenger space ratios are almost double mainstream and premium cruise lines. Cabins are nice but comparable to mainstream lines. Different premium plus cruise lines offer different inclusions. One might offer wine with dinner, another might offer free airfare, yet another might throw in a free excursion. Most of these ships offer long day in port far longer than mainstream lines.
Service levels on these lines are intense and expect itineraries that have ports massive mainstream cruise lines cannot get to.
Edit: Viking really is a category of its own somewhere between Premium Plus and Luxury.
Luxury - Seabourn, Silverseas, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, Sea Dream, Ponant (French line), Hapag-Lloyd (German line)
$$$$$$$$. Big bucks. All inclusive (except for Hapag-Lloyd which you need to be rich to sail on). Offer the most inclusions of all cruiselines. All alcoholic beverages. Often all excursions. Transport to town from port. Butler service. Some include air. Gourmet food that is unbelievable. Most ships only offer suites (the class above balcony).
These ships offer an intimate experience where staff cater to whims and desires you didn't even realize you had. Most ships are small passenger wise 300 - 700 passengers but often are as large space wise as mid sized mainstream cruise ships that would have triple the passengers.
Service ratios as high as 1:2 - one passenger for every two crew.
Ship in a Ship - MSC The Yacht Club, Norwegian Cruise Line The Haven
These restricted enclaves offer a luxury cruise experience on mainstream cruise lines. Essentially parts of a mainstream cruise ship are restricted to passengers via key card access who have paid a (much) higher fare for access. Top of the line cabins with premium linens and toiletries, private restaurant with gourmet food offerings, private pool, private sundeck, butler service and other inclusions such as Thermal Suite access (MSC), free newspaper of choice, complimentary alcohol (MSC) etc. Much higher crew to passenger ratios, heightened service.
Why choose ship in a ship versus premium plus or luxury? Mainstream ships tend to offer far better facilities for families and activities for kids/teenagers. Going the ship in a ship route allows parents to get a luxury experience while still keeping their children happy. Even for those without kids, mainstream cruise ships are often huge with lots of action that premium plus and luxury lines cannot match. Ship in a ship offers the best of both worlds.
Specialty - Cunard (Transatlantic), Disney, Windstar, Club Med, Paul Gauginon, Voyages to Antiquity
Cunard is the only "dedicated" Transatlantic passenger line and the QM2 the only passenger "liner" (not a cruise ship in terms of ship design). Very formal culture. Expect to dress up (bring a few suits). Has class system on board .. but even the lowest class offers a spectacular cruise.
Disney - I feel Disney is a different experience from the other lines due to the character tie ins. If I was to rank service I'd say Disney is a blend between premium and premium plus. Still mega ships like mainstream and premium lines but service ratios are VERY VERY good. Lots of kids (obviously). Expect to pay a lot for the Disney name ... but a Disney cruise does offer a lot to families.
Windstar is all about small ship cruising. Ships carry 100 - 300 passengers on their motorized sailboat yachts and up to 200 on their yachts. Typically will spend a week hitting ports in one country (British Virgin Islands for example). Long port days (7 am - 11 pm for example). All food is made from local port ingredients. A very unique experience.
Paul Gauguin is a specialty line that focuses on Tahiti and South Pacific cruises. This cruise line's ship has been specially built to be able to get into places normal cruise ships can't reach. In terms of service, closer to the premium plus category.
Club Med offers that Club Med experience on the Club Med 2. Same type of motorized sailboat Yacht as Windstar.
Voyages to Antiquity offers a Mediterranean or Asian cruise that has a huge focus on cultural excursions. Premium plus level service.
submitted by Bamelin to Cruise [link] [comments]

2018 Ultimate Playing Card Holiday Gift Guide

2018 Ultimate Playing Card Holiday Gift Guide

NB: I posted an off-site link to this last week, but figured I'd just re-post the entire Gift Guide here. I've edited it slightly, and also included some information about Black Friday specials.
The end-of-year holiday period is just around the corner. And for many of us, holidays means gift-giving and gift-getting. As they say, it is better to give than to receive. But we all know that receiving gifts is great too, especially if it involves playing cards! Playing cards make great gifts, if when carefully selected to suit the tastes and style of the person that you're buying for.
It's always good to plan ahead, and to think about the kinds of playing cards that would make good gifts for others. But we also have to think about the kinds of gifts that others will be buying for us, because we really don't want Uncle Bob or cousin Mary getting us yet another unwanted pair of socks, toiletry set, or ugly t-shirt. So let's be smart about this: a well-timed and careful whisper in the right person's ear can help get things moving so that a lovely deck of custom playing cards ends up heading our way these holidays.
We're in this together, and at the suggestion of the good folks over at PlayingCardDecks.com I have done some hard work for you by putting together this 2018 Ultimate Playing Card Holiday Gift Guide. It's not a comprehensive list, nor is it intended to say that these decks are necessarily the "best" or the only ones out there - so please don't go screaming about decks that aren't on this list. I haven't seen every single deck that's come out in the last year or two, and obviously these are my own choices based on my own personal experience - you might suggest others that are equally as good. But it will give you some great ideas for playing cards you can pick up as gifts. It's also the kind of thing you can post on your social media, or email a link to your family and friends, as a small hint of what they might want to consider getting for you. This is really about showing them love by making their job easier in finding you the perfect gift, right?!
So whether you're a keen playing card enthusiast already, or whether someone in your life sent you a link to this list as a not-so-subtle hint, I'm here to help you out. I'm confident there's something on here for almost everyone. I've especially focused on playing cards that were released in 2018, but haven't limited myself to that entirely, because I want to give you lots of choices.
PS: Don't miss the very bottom of this Gift Guide, where you'll find some great promo codes for the upcoming Black Friday weekend, which will give you up to 25% off the regular price for these decks!

For the Card Gamer

Once in a while, what you're looking for in a deck of playing cards is pure class. Whether it's for playing a game of poker or for a game of traditional cards, it's nice to have a deck that looks classy and sophisticated from the moment that its tuck box makes its first appearance. And when the cards do emerge from the box, the feeling of refinement is only confirmed by the classic beauty and style within. If you are looking for something sophisticated and elegant that is also very functional, with clearly recognizable indices and suits, the decks in this category are for you. These decks are practical, while at the same time making a stylish statement.
Visa Playing Cards (2017) - These lovely decks (available in several colours) have a luxurious look from the tuck box onwards, and the metallic gold and silver used for the card backs and court cards makes them look super stylish and elegant.
Cobra Playing Cards (2018) - The tuck case immediately impresses with blind embossing and gold foil, with serpents decorating both the box and the fronts and backs of the cards, and a graphic design that is just all round classy. Courtesy of Cartamundi's B9 Cardistry Finish, the cards are supremely soft and inviting, while still having a standard look that ensures they are very practical.
Hudson Playing Cards (2018) - This recent release is a tribute to the Hudson Playing Cards that were produced alongside the Hudson River until the factory wound up operations in 1871. While the card faces are fairly standard, the card backs are very stylish, and the tuck box - as to be expected from Theory11 - is super classy, with extensive use of foil accents and embossing.

For the Cardist

Card flourishing has a long history in the magic industry, but in recent years the art cardistry has developed an independent existence, and is gaining legitimacy as an art-form in its own right. For best results, cardistry benefits from a deck of cards that is colourful and has striking patterns, which will enhance the visual aesthetics of card flourishing. These cards need not necessarily be very functional for playing games or card magic - although often they can serve a dual purpose of being used for this as well. But of primary importance in card flourishing is the visual appeal, and having a design and pattern that looks great when the cards are being handled.
Virtuoso FW17 Playing Cards (2017) - When it comes to cardistry, it's hard to look past one of the dominant forces in this growing art-form: The Virts. Based in Singapore, they were the first produce a deck entirely optimized for cardistry, and their Fall/Winter deck is the latest version of their popular and smooth performing series.
School of Cardistry v4 Playing Cards (2018) - Any mention of cardistry is hardly going to be complete without the lively presence of Jaspas Deck, the bubbly personality behind the New Deck Order and the School of Cardistry. This is the fourth edition of their deck, which continues their exploration of what they describe as a new standard for cardistry: non-standard faces that are all identical! Optimized entirely for cardistry, this hypnotic design and energetic purple and orange colours of this deck won't go unnoticed.
NOC Summer v2 Playing Cards (2018) - The NOC decks have been popular with cardists for half a dozen years already, since their minimalist design is ideal for the simplicity and elegance of card flourishing. For the summer of 2018, these snappy decks were released in three great new colours: blue, orange, and a limited edition pink.

For the Collector

There are people who collect decks out of sheer love for their variety and novelty - you may even be one of these people! The decks featured in this category are creative decks that have extra touches that make them particularly appealing to the card collector, such as an individually numbered tuck seal. They often have lavish tuck boxes, other intriguing features that generate interest, and have been produced by well-known designers with a solid reputation of creativity and success.
Top Aces of WWI Playing Cards (2018) - One of the latest decks from popular designer Jody Eklund, noted for his attention to detail and history, comes a deck that is a tribute to the flying dare-devils of the first world war. As always, Jody's artwork is exquisite, and each court card features a notable historical figure from the era. In this Signature Edition each deck comes in an elegant tuck box that is individually numbered.
House of the Rising Spade Playing Cards (2018) - Stockholm17 is a designer from Sweden with a large following, and this deck represents his latest effort to hit the market. A limited edition two deck set, it consists of two different decks: Cartomancer, which is a tribute to the tarot deck; and Faro, which features cards without indices and a one-way design, just like the vintage decks of the 1800s.
Planets: Saturn Playing Cards (2018) - This is the sixth and newest addition that makes up the popular Planets series, representing all the planets in our solar system. The collector will be in love once he sees the luxurious tuck box, which is arguably the best yet, and features gold holographic foil, white foil, interior foiling, and embossing.

For the Connoisseur

At times we might be looking for something stylish and classy that we can use for anything involving playing cards, whether it is card magic or card games. The important thing is that we want to show class and style. Certainly the custom playing card industry has produced some very original and stylish decks, bursting with character and energy, while still having somewhat of a traditional or more serious look. Here are some examples of such classy decks that are on offer.
Green Wheel Playing Cards (2018) - Green and brown are the dominant colours in this elegant deck, which has a lush split-pip design. The bicycle theme and look is inherited from its popular predecessors, the Red Wheel Playing Cards and Blue Wheel Playing Cards, which both have an elegant use of metallic inks, and which I also highly recommend.
Aphelion Luxury Playing Cards (2018) - Created by Italian team Parama Playing Cards, this deck has a box that makes an instant statement of style with its gold foil and embossing, while the metallic gold inks of the court cards ensure that any standard deck placed alongside it looks very ordinary.
Makers Blacksmith Playing Cards (2017) - From publishing house Art of Play comes one of the finest tuck boxes you'll see, with elegant gold and silver foil in intricate lines stamped all over a jet black box. Oh, and the cards are great too - highly detailed characters inhabit the court cards, with a simple black and red colour scheme emphasizing the customized artwork!

For the Magician

Magicians definitely have their secrets. Admittedly, most magicians prefer to work with a standard deck, and have developed such skills with sleight of hand that you can hand them an ordinary deck of quality playing cards and they can work miracles with it. But once in a while, there's a need to perform miracles of an extraordinary nature, and they're looking for something with that added extra that gives them the means to accomplish the impossible. Here are some specialized decks that will be ideal for anyone interested in serious card magic.
Mechanic Optricks Red Playing Cards (2018) - This brand new release features card backs with hypnotic flip-book animation. Yes, really! But the real draw-card lies in the innovative gaffs that are included, especially the Optibox Gaff (makes your tuck box look empty even when there's a full deck inside), and the Anamorphic Gaff (creates an optical illusion that a card is being seen right through the deck!).
Marked Maiden Back Playing Cards (2017) - Don't tell anyone, because it is top secret, but yes, marked decks are really a thing - but only for card magic, not for cheating! This looks like an ordinary Bicycle deck, but the markings are very easy to read, so you don't have to strain to figure them out or decipher them, and many consider it the best modern marked deck for exactly that reason.
Bicycle Magic Playing Cards (2018) - This deck isn't so much a deck to be used for card magic, as it is a tribute to the art of magic itself. The card backs and faces include mischievous imps, along with various items long associated with magic, like wands, top hats, gloves, and dice, while the court cards feature delightful images depicting different magic acts. The art style/colours have a distinctly vintage feel, making this an ideal collector's piece for a magician to appreciate.

For the Artist

Even if you're not an artist, you can still enjoy something that is artistic. A deck of playing cards is the perfect canvas for showcasing some colourful and artistic designs, whether they have been created by famous artists, or by artists who have just used playing cards as their chosen medium to create something colourful and beautiful.
Mondrian Broadway Playing Cards (2018) - These playing cards pay tribute to famous Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, and the card back design is based on his 1943 work "Broadway Boogie Woogie", which expresses his fascination with New York. Colourful and playful, it is ideally suited to card flourishing.
Untitled Playing Cards (2018) - Along with the sequel Untitled V2 `Reflections' Playing Cards (2018), this vibrant deck was created by noted photographer Adam Borderline. It is a tribute to abstract art, as well as to the creativity and fluid motion that are essential to cardistry.
Masterpieces Playing Cards (2017) - More than a deck of cards, this is a miniature gallery of individual works of art. Created by Bocopo Playing Cards, it was a collaboration that involved 8 artists, 348 hours of work, and 58 illustrations. Each face card has a unique and fresh design that is its own work of art, and tells a different story.

For the Animal Lover

Do you love animals? Or do you have an animal lover in your life? How about a deck featuring dogs, or cats, or else some great artwork of animals from around the world? These beautiful decks are sure to please anyone who appreciates our four legged friends, whether they are family pets or the kinds of animals you'd normally only see at the zoo.
GAIA Playing Cards (2017) - With stunning and realistic artwork by talented young artist Ben Sinclair, these playing cards feature delightful hand-drawn pictures that showcases animals in different ecological habitats and biological communities. Amazing art, and a beautiful deck that is also available in a Moonlight Edition that offers a nocturnal perspective.
The Dog Playing Cards - Friends of canines will love this deck, which features a close-up of a dog on every single card, not just the court cards. And each single card pictures a different dog, making this deck a real treat to look through! ● Sweet Cat Playing Cards - Created to help support abandoned cats, this is a deck that friends of felines will appreciate and enjoy. Much like the Dog deck, it features a gorgeous photo of a different furry friend on each and every card.

For the Children

Children especially like decks that are colourful, and that are lively and fun. Here we have some more light-hearted decks that are sure to amuse kids and adults alike. If you're looking for something playful, and that is designed to keep the inner child happy, then these are decks for you.
Rainbow Unicorn Fun Time Playing Cards (2018) - This deck first started as a joke, but has gone on to become a legend in the card playing world, and has even appeared on TV. When noted cardist De'vo is involved, you know that it's going to be special, and this quality deck offers a whole lot more than rainbows and unicorns, and is fun for all ages!
Chicken Playing Cards (2018) - I've been amazed by how popular this deck has proven with children and teenagers, who find the playful feathered friends pictured on this deck irresistible. A whimsical deck with extensive customization, the highlight has to be the delightful court cards, which feature our fowled friends in all manner of exalted poses.
Sharks Are Wild Playing Cards (2017) - Aimed at preschoolers, this deck isn't just a collection of playing cards, but is also an award winning game, designed to help youngsters learn sequencing (i.e. counting forwards and backwards). It has colourful cards where various sea creatures replace the usual pips.

Novelty decks

I'm a real sucker for decks that look highly unusual, and have a great amount of novelty. Admittedly, not many of these are the kinds of decks that would quickly make it to the table for a card game, although many of them are certainly functional and playable. But the prime appeal of these kinds of playing cards is to the collector who appreciates the unusual elements that decks like these bring to the table. Here are some prime examples.
Music Box Playing Cards (2017) - Novelty doesn't come much bigger than this: the Music Box deck doesn't just have the luxuries of gold foil, a custom numbered gold key, and a cherry wood look. This deck's real claim to fame is that it plays music! It has a unique tuck box design that plays 30 seconds of "Claire de Lune" when opened, and has the genuine sound of an old fashioned music box with a metal comb flicking over metal teeth.
Burger Playing Cards (2017) - Part of the Deliciousness series from Flaminko Playing Cards, this deck celebrates the almighty burger. The design suggests two halves of a bun, complete with sesame seeds, which have a tactile feel courtesy of UV spot printing on the box. Each suit has been individually customized to depict foods that you'll find on an actual hamburger bun, including the patty, lettuce, tomato, and cheese!
$100 Bill Gold Foil Playing Cards - Looking for high bling at a low price? The tuck box and all the cards in this deck are entirely made out of gold or silver foil, depending on which deck you choose. The card backs feature the image of a US $100 bill, and the shiny surface of gold or silver catches the light, and is sure to make an immediate impression of luxury. Yet all this shiny-ness can be yours for under $8!

Pink decks

Are looking for something with softer colours or a more feminine look? Just because they're heavy on pink doesn't mean that these decks are strictly "girlie" decks - guys might like them just as much! So regardless of whether you're male or female, if you're looking for something pretty in pink, you'll find something here for you.
Sakura Spring Playing Cards (2018) - This unique all-pink deck is dedicated to the Japanese cherry blossom. It is entirely done in different shades of pink, with a simplified look that is a true exercise of harmony and beauty.
Hanami Playing Cards (2018) - Another wonderful deck that captures the elegance of cherry blossoms, the Hanami deck features a palette of soft colours and a captivating design that will especially be appreciated and enjoyed by cardists.
Madison Rounders Pink Playing Cards (2018) - Daniel Madison's highly popular series of Madison Rounders finally arrives in a colour that everyone has wanted to see: pink! Thin crush stock ensures that it handles as smoothly and softly as it looks.

In-House decks

Not only does PlayingCardDecks sell playing cards, but over the last couple of years the man at the helm of operations, Will Roya, has also used his expertise and experience in the magic industry and the playing card industry to produce a number of high quality custom decks. Here are several great decks that have been produced under the PlayingCardDecks banner in 2018.
Ancient Warriors Playing Cards (2018) - This is great as a limited edition and matching two-deck set, one in a red/gold colour scheme, and the other in black/silver, with metallic inks. Each suit represents a different culture of ancient warriors (Crusaders, Japanese, Zulus, Aztecs), with gorgeous detail, and aspects of each civilization are also reflected on the Aces and pips.
Strigiformes Owl Playing Cards (2018) - One of my favourite decks from 2018, this deck is full of owls. It has just the right colour combinations to give a true nocturnal feel, and the artwork is incredible, especially on the court cards. Every card has highly customized pips, along with intricate and ornate details, and a terrific graphic design.
Royal Vortex Playing Cards (2018) - Looking for bling? Look no further! This deck was created in honour of PlayingCardDecks' first anniversary. To celebrate, it has a gold and black colour scheme on the card backs with an enormous amount of gold foil. The card backs are also designed to give the impression of a hypnotic and eye-catching optical illusion.

Licensed decks

It's amazing how many different decks have been created that are based on your favourite characters from TV shows, films, comics, books and more. You can check out the entire range of licensed decks, but here are some of my favourites.
Bruce Lee Playing Cards (2018) - This is the second and completely revised edition of a deck that is a beautiful homage to a popular martial artist. The vivid black and yellow will appeal to cardists, and one notable feature of this updated deck is that each card features a different philosophical Bruce Lee quote in easy-to-read white capitals!
Saturday Night Live Playing Cards (2017) - It's a famous TV Show, and now it's a deck of cards! All the customization in this deck is inspired by the show. And because it's a Theory11 deck, you can count on a spectacular tuck box, with lots of foil accents and embossing!
Princess Bride Playing Cards (2014) - This deck is a wonderful tribute to the classic comedy film of the same name. The court cards all feature characters from the film, such as Westley, Princess Buttercup, Inigo Montoya, Vizzini, and the giant Fezzik, and include memorable lines from the film like "Prepare to Die!" and "Inconceivable!" The number cards are also absolutely exquisite, and the entire deck is heavily customized, really captures some of the magic of the film.

Vintage decks

Some of the most eye-catching decks are the ones which look the oldest - even though they are made of high quality playing cards that are brand new. Whether it's a result of a vintage or a deliberately distressed look, or whether they are a modern replica of a classic deck from the past, these decks look like they have arrived into the present straight from the past, and yet look and feel fantastic. You'll find more by checking out the full range of vintage decks.
1883 Murphy Varnish Playing Cards - This is a high quality replica of a 19th century deck originally created to promote Murphy Varnish. It is a famous transformation deck, which means that each card features clever artwork that incorporates the pips as part of a larger picture, which in this case is both entertaining and ingenious!
1889 Texan Playing Cards - Want an authentic look straight that's more than a hundred years old? The Texan deck was first printed in 1889, and USPCC has brought it back into circulation, using a yellowed tinting on the cards to give it an authentic antique look, and with court designs that are typical of that period.
Vintage Classic Playing Cards (2017) - This deck is brand new, but looks much older than it really is, courtesy of the faux-aged look and yellowed tones. A black triangle on the edges of the cards creates beautiful fans and spreads that card flourishers will love, while each card has a unique dirty, weathered, and worn out look that will instantly grab attention.

Cardistry decks

Yes, I know we already have a For the Cardist category earlier in this list. But you didn't really think I could get away with having only three cardistry decks in this list, did you? Plus you might just need a cardistry deck for yourself as well as for the cardist in your life! There are lots to choose from, but here are some of the favourites that came out this year and have made it into my own collection.
Off the Wall Playing Cards (2018) - This unconventional deck comes from Art of Play, and has a surf-skate theme that opts for a deliberately styled casual look, yet with a bold choice of energetic and vivid colours include a vibrant blue, orange, and yellow, along with some black. The stylish and borderless card backs are loud and dashing, but isn't that exactly what cardistry is often all about?
Superfly Spitfire Playing Cards (2018) - Inspired by modern streetwear, fashion, and culture, this deck is the third in the Superfly series from Toomas Pintson. It has eye-catching colours with a vibrant teal-green, yellow, and black, plus a unique card back design that reminds me of a finger-print, and of course the distinctive "Superfly" branding on the cards themselves. I love the fact that each card has one pip that picks up the finger-print style design of the card backs.
Casual V2 Playing Cards (2018) - One of the more elegant and sophisticated cardistry decks I've ever seen, the luxurious look and feel of the tuck box already impresses. The card backs have a clean geometrical design consisting of triangles and parallelograms, and use complementing tones of brown, mint green, and gold. The gold uses pantone/metallic inks for a truly elegant look, and also returns in heavy doses on the court cards. Thin crush stock completes the perfect cardistry package.

Gilded decks

Occasionally what you're looking for is something absurdly expensive and over-the-top. Something with lots of bling. Bring on the gold foil, the embossing, the iridescence, the UV spot printing, the exotic tuck case, and whatever other luxury you can think of! And especially: gilded edges. Here's a few examples of such gilded luxury.
Unicorn Rainbow Gilded Playing Cards (2018) - This exclusive deck was created for the Magic Live! 2018 event, and is a limited edition with a tuck box that has embossed glitter, and an iridescent foil. But the best is inside the box: the cards have metallic gilded edges for a stunning and shiny iridescent/rainbow look. Unicorns don't get better than this!
Ombre Edged Playing Cards (2017) - Unlike most gilded decks, the Ombre Edged deck doesn't feature gold or silver edges, but the gilding uses red and blue to match the card backs and courts. These colours are carefully blended together with a gradient look that makes this deck like no other, and the tuck box is cleverly designed to show off the gilding even when the deck is inside the box.
Spirit II Gilded Playing Cards (2018) - These stunning decks have all the bells and whistles collectors love: embossed tuck boxes with foil accents, individually numbered seals, and fully customized artwork on every card, which is inspired by the mystical stained glass windows of ancient cathedrals. Gilded edges in gold and silver just add to the feel of luxury.

Standard decks

While most of us love customization, there are times where we don't want much in the way of customization, but are looking for something more ordinary, with a standard and traditional look. Decks like these will fit the bill perfectly! All of these selections are available in both red and blue backed cards.
Honeybee Elite Playing Cards (2018) - This is a new edition of the popular Honeybee series from Penguin Magic. It has a honey-comb style borderless back design, the super-soft thin-crush stock from USPCC which handles smoothly, and has been receiving raves from card handlers world-wide.
Arrco Playing Cards (2018) - The Arrco decks are an iconic and practical deck, with a signature back design and superb handling that made them popular with everyone who used them in the late 20th century. Now this classic and beloved deck is back in print, with the air-cushion quality and handling from Bicycle.
Copag 310 Playing Cards (2018) - Cartamundi has been making a real splash with their new B9 True Linen finish card stock. It's slightly thicker than a normal Bicycle deck, but is amazingly soft, and handles fantastic straight out of the box. These decks have been receiving rave reviews, and with good reason! As an added bonus, you can also get popular gaff decks (e.g. Svengali deck, Stripper deck, Gaff deck) with the same Copag card-stock and designs.

Cheap decks (under $5)

Fortunately you don't have to spend a huge amount of money to get a top quality deck of playing cards. To keep things in balance after some of the more exotic decks available, it's good to know that there's a solid range of low-cost decks that are under $5, and yet are high quality playing cards. Here's a few fine examples of great decks from this budget price range, that offer something cheap without sacrificing quality. These make the ideal stuffing stocker, and there's a whole lot more available - see a complete list in the under $5 range.
Stargazer Playing Cards (2017) - For this price, this deck can't be beat. Not only do you get a tuck box with shiny silver accents, but the cards have a stunning borderless design that creates amazing fans and spreads. The cards have an inky black background, while the artwork features bursts of light touched with purple and pink, inspired by a classical design transported to a colourful starry night sky.
House Blend Playing Cards (2018) - Need some more caffeine in your life? The House Blend is a play on the classic Bicycle rider-back deck, with alternate coffee-inspired art on the card backs. The tuck box has novelty embossing reminiscent of a coffee filter, while the courts cards and pips have adjusted colours in shades of brown to fit the coffee theme.
Wild West Playing Cards (2017) - At a bargain price, you can travel back in time to the Wild West, where all the familiar names are represented among the court cards, including famous names like Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Jessie James, Belle Starr, and more. This is a fully custom deck with a real wild west feel.

Best-selling decks

If a deck is very popular, it's often a strong indication of quality. After all, there must be something special about it that draws people in, whatever that magnetic quality might be. These decks have proven to be best-sellers in the past year, and it shouldn't be difficult to see why!
Cherry Casino (Tahoe Blue) Playing Cards (2018) - The popular Cherry Casino series has a retro casino feel, and this versatile and practical deck has an immediate touch of style and class courtesy of the bold metallic ink that is used for the signature "tahoe blue" colour on the tuck case. Inspired by the clear colours of Lake Tahoe, this inviting pearlescent blue is also found on the card backs in a metallic ink, while the card faces are standard enough to make them ideal for card games or card magic. Also don't miss the newest addition to the family, Cherry Casino (Reno Red) Playing Cards.
Memento Mori Blue Playing Cards (2018) - Created with the involvement of popular magician and youtuber Chris Ramsay, this best-selling deck has an elegant tuck box with a wrap-around design featuring the shape of Ramsay's own skull. The card backs return to this design, which gives interesting possibilities for card flourishing, and the courts are designed in a similar style. The blue version of this deck was released in 2018 and is like the original, but has a more subdued and cooler colour palette.
Monarchs Blue Playing Cards (2012) - One of the all time most popular decks from Theory11, and even featured in the film Now You See It, this best-selling deck has a stylish navy blue tuck box laced with royal gold foil that exudes class and sophistication. The card backs and faces have a classy design that is not too complicated or distracting, and gold metallic ink emphasizes the regal feel of the court cards.
Happy shopping, and happy holidays!
Promotions for Black Friday weekend at PlayingCardDecks.com as posted by Will Roya: [source] ● Nov 22/23 - Black Friday - promo code: black18 - 25% off entire purchase plus 3 free random decks on all purchases over $100. Nov 22 5:00pm - Nov 23 11:59pm. ● Nov 24 - Small Business Saturday - Starting at 9am, over 100 items will be added to the clearance section for 24 hours only, with savings of up to 50% off. ● Nov 26 - Cyber Monday - promo code: cyber18 - 20% off entire purchase plus 1 free random deck (no minimum purchase required). Promo codes are good for one use per account and not valid on Pip Box Club or gift cards. Promo codes can not be combined with any other codes or offers. All times are in pacific coast time.
Author's note: I first published this article at PlayingCardDecks.com here.
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Casino Royale Walk Thru 2019 - YouTube

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