26 May 2015

making faces :: foundational issues

i need a good foundation to fix all these problems
it might be the colours that catch the attention, but if there's one cosmetic product that everyone- and i mean everyone because i think it applies equally to men and women- could use, it's a decent foundation. a lot of people don't bother with it, because it really isn't that exciting. i haven't generally bothered writing about them, because, even for someone as interested in the world of aesthetics as i, it's not particularly interesting to talk about them either. they're skin coloured. you put them on your face. you sort of blend them so that they look smooth and cover everything. wearing bright blue eye shadow is definitely more noticeable, but if you want to reach for something that will trick people into thinking you're just a little bit more perfect than you are, it's a complexion product that you want.

leaving aside the fact that they aren't that exciting to write about [or to read about, since perceiving differences from one to another isn't easy, unless one of them is horribly wrong], the other reason i don't write much about foundations is that they're completely fucking infuriating. ahem. i mean, once you've started down the road of trying to find something that will give your complexion that extra hit of awesome, you'll soon discover that it's more complicated than filing taxes in eight countries simultaneously. lots of things offer a little improvement, which is why most people try one thing and, if it doesn't make their face fall off, they stick with it. but for some of us, we'll try something and be fine with it, but then we start to wonder if it couldn't be just a little more perfect [which i maintain is a weird expression, because if something can be "more perfect", i think that means it wasn't perfect to begin with, but i digress].

you could say that cosmetic companies are just coming up with new imperfections to make us feel insecure enough to buy a new and more expensive solution to our skin problems. and you're right, because that's how people sell anything: by creating a need for something we hadn't previously considered. but take a moment to pity the poor foundation-makers: matching colour, providing different levels of coverage, accounting for skin's moisture or lack thereof, accounting for the presence or absence of oil, accounting for complexions that may be oily in some spots and dry in others, accommodating for differences in skin from all ages, and for undertones, which can make skin of the same basic colour appear quite different... skin is a complex negotiation of genetics, environment, history and chemistry, so coming up with a great product for skin is like trying to pass all your high school science finals at once. oh, and you also have to account for the particular tastes of all your teachers, because everyone likes a slightly different look.



now that we've pitied them, we can immediately go back to complaining about how nothing works unless you're willing to make compromises. i'm all right with that concept in a lot of areas, but i really hate having to part with a hefty chunk of my sangria and sushi money to get something that turns out to be unsatisfying.

of course, part of the problem is that i am a very difficult woman to satisfy. that's true in many ways, but when it comes to foundations, my list of impossible to fulfill conditions includes:

  • something that doesn't emphasize dry patches on my skin, particularly around my nose, which is the only place i usually get dry patches now
  • something that lasts throughout the day, meaning at least a standard business day including commute time, say 10 hours
  • something that can be touched up without changing colour or appearing heavy if, say, i have plans after the end of the business day and don't want to [or don't have time to] start from scratch
  • something that will not start to appear shiny, especially on my nose
  • something that looks like normal, healthy skin: not "glowing", which usually means "greasy", nor "matte" which usually means "i dusted baby talc on my face"
  • something that disguises the pores on my cheeks and nose
  • something that doesn't collect in the fine lines around my eyes, or in any other lines that are in the vicinity
  • something that can give me light-to-medium coverage, because i've come to realise that i don't actually need more than that; basically something that can reasonably effectively cover the freckles on my nose
  • something close enough to the colour of my skin that i don't need to worry about having to cover every other millimetre of exposed flesh to hide the mismatch
  • something that doesn't make me aware of its presence

reviewing that list, i realise that it's a tall order. i also realise that it might be easier for me to find something to meet my criteria if i removed my nose, but then i'd be left complaining about the fact that i couldn't wear sunglasses to protect my eyes.

but the fact is that i want to keep my nose and find something that meets my stringent criteria because i believe that a great base truly does make a huge difference in a finished look.

three foundations, three absolutely and completely different looks

most recently, i've been trying the new nars luminous, weightless foundation. it's a new formula, the first high-coverage one from nars, that makes the following claims [taken from the sephora web site]:

Achieve full-coverage, lightweight foundation that leaves a natural finish. Highly pigmented and perfectly balanced, this breakthrough, full-coverage formula builds and blends effortlessly. Its Even Tone Technology instantly neutralizes redness and dullness, while it works to reduce discoloration for more even, uniform skin. Perfect for all skin types, it features Weightless Long-wear Technology, an exclusive blend from NARS with flexible polymers and treated pigments that move with the skin while providing 16 hours of staying power. 

i'm quoting here because it's just way easier than copying everything over.

now, one thing you clever folk might have noticed is that it says it's full coverage, whereas i specifically said that i liked light-to-medium coverage. yeah, you got me. i was really eager to try a new nars foundation and so i figured that this was something on which i could compromise. and, yes, it is definitely full coverage with even a small amount of product [believe me, you do not want to use more than a small amount of this]. if you look at yourself up close in a mirror, you can definitely see that you're wearing makeup. you can buff it with a dense brush to reduce the makeup-y look but it's never going to be invisible. the trade-off is that it does an excellent job of disguising redness, pores [double bonus points for this] and any unevenness in colour [in my case, freckles]. 

nars has nailed the weightless thing better than nasa. it's extremely lightweight and at no point do you have that icky "something sticky be sittin on mah face" feeling. i think that's to do with its oil-free nature, since lightness has been a hallmark of each of the oil-free formulas i've tried to date. but oil-free doesn't equate to "dry", which means that it doesn't emphasize the dry side-nose patches, nor does it crimp into the lines that happen when i feel forced to smile.

what more can a girl ask?
  
i've found myself drawn to oil-free foundations because the greatest problem area i've found is my shiny nose-beacon. no matter what i do, by a few hours into my day, i have a shiny freakin' nose. i don't want a shiny nose. i have no use for shininess on my nose. in fact, i get quite irritated by said shininess. so i have dedicated myself to the hunt for something that will win the struggle with the texas oil reserves that apparently populate my proboscis. hence the willingness to go for something slightly higher coverage.

when i first applied the all day luminous, weightless foundation, it definitely gave a nice, not-quite-matte-but-not-at-all-shiny look that made me confident i could go about my life without the risk of ships offshore mistaking the sunlight bouncing from my nose for a lighthouse. sadly, after a few hours [let's say between three and four, although it varies a little depending on temperature, humidity and how active i am, which is never all that much, but anyway...], el noso brilliante has emerged victorious and i'm back to blotting myself and feeling irked.

that would be me

i've been using this foundation for a couple of months now and i will say that there's a definite difference in wear in cooler versus warmer weather, but i'd expect that. the point is that, even in ideal circumstances- cool, dry weather and with me in a less active phase- i don't find that it maintains its semi-matte finish for more than four hours. [of note: it seems to perform a little better outdoors than in, as long as it's not steaming hot outside, in which case nothing survives.]

in terms of overall wear, it never comes close to achieving the 16 hours claimed by the brand. i'm generally fine with having to touch up within a 16 hour period, so that doesn't infuriate me, but i seriously wish that brands would get off these ridiculous claims. if i pass out in a ditch somewhere, i'm expecting that my makeup won't be perfect when i wake up. it's cool. that said, my light freckling was considerably more obvious in six to seven hours after application, regardless of whether i used the foundation on its own, used a primer and/ or set with powder. that's not enough, in my book.

because it's a higher-coverage product, i was a little concerned that touching up would leave me looking like i was wearing a cosmetic mask, but that's not the case. in fact, it's really easy to dab a little more on some critical areas [nose nose nose] and blend it in with a finger and it won't look caked on. that helps mitigate some of the disappointment with the wear time.

nars certainly ranks alongside mac as one of the brands with the broadest range of foundation colours. like mac and, more recently, urban decay, they pay attention not just to colour but tone, differentiating between those who run cooler and warmer within the same colour range. everyone needs to do this. i'd previously been matched to nars "mont blanc" in their "sheer glow" formula, which is their shade for pale people with pinkish undertones. with that in mind, and because i am immensely stupid, i went ahead and ordered "mont blanc" without testing it on my skin first.

as it turns out, "mont blanc" in the sheer glow formula seems considerably lighter than "mont blanc" in any other formula. compounding that, "mont blanc" in this formula is not so much pink-toned as orange. i tried it a couple of times on its own before realising that i'd made a mistake and deciding to use another colour to lighten it. i picked up samples of the two other options for fair-skinned ladies ["siberia", which is the palest of the pale and neutral in undertone and "gobi", which is pale with yellow undertones] and i've discovered that either is probably a better match for me than "mont blanc". don't take guesses with foundation shades, kids.

to give you an idea of how the different shades compare, here's an image with nars radiant creamy concealer in "vanilla" [which is a nice match to my skin and which i've been using to brighten the foundation], luminous weightless in gobi, mont blanc and siberia, nars radiant tinted moisturizer in "terre neuve" and dior concealer in "010".

all the colours of the rainbow...

yup, as you can see, "mont blanc" is probably the worst match for my skin of the bunch... strangely, though, i find that "siberia", which is the best match, looks more noticeably patchy after several hours wear than the other colours. this is probably because the colour of my freckles is deeper by comparison. "gobi" is definitely yellower than my natural skin tone, but i found that the fading was less apparent than with either "siberia" or "mont blanc". i have no idea why. my brain hurts.

the mistake in colour choice is clearly my own fault, but i will say that the cooler options of the foundation seem too ruddy to work for a truly cool [i.e., pink- or blue-toned] complexion. the warmer shades seem lovely. [in nars' defense, i'll add that this is the case for a lot of brands when it comes to cooler-toned foundations.] also worth noting is that there is some oxidation [i.e., darkening as the product is exposed to air] with the product, so that you'll want to try it for a few minutes and then look to approve the colour match. the oxidation happens quickly and the colour remains consistent after the initial change.

so clearly, my search for the ultimate foundation has not yet ended. i like this formula, because it is so light and because it requires so little to achieve complete coverage. on the drier parts of my skin, it gives a nice, velvety look that i wish held for my entire face [nose nose nose]. the combination of too much shine in certain areas and unsatisfactory wear time make this one fall just a little short for me. will i ever find a perfect match, the dominic of foundations? never give up, i say...

25 May 2015

mental health mondays :: alone time

when i was little, my grandmother frequently used to tell me "don't be a loner". as an only child possessed of a vivid imagination, i was used to spending time by myself and i enjoyed most of it and so i would mock her by saying that i liked being alone. she would warn me that loners were "weird" and no one liked them, but she was never articulate enough to explain to me why that should be so bad and, being a typically precocious late twentieth century child, i would annoy her by pointing out the silliness of her arguments.

of course, my grandmother was right: society as a whole does not like "loners". we automatically perceive a fault in someone who likes their own company. at its very mildest, it's thought of as snobbery- "she thinks she's better than everyone else". at the worst, the loner is a dangerous psychotic, a ticking time bomb because nothing good could come out of wanting to be by oneself so much.

the desire for social interaction is such a given that deprivation from it has been used for centuries as a form of severe punishment. solitary confinement in prison is considered so damaging that there are those who argue it amounts to torture and should never be used. ancient greece, when confronted with a criminal who could not be executed [normally someone of particularly high social standing], opted to banish them, which was considered on par with the death penalty, and not just because shoving someone out into the wilderness to fend for themselves would often be a death sentence.

and, if you do a little internet research on what science has to say, you'll discover that there is research to back up the idea that spending too much time alone is bad for you.

  • this eight-year study of 6,500 subjects indicated that social isolation correlated with an increased chance of dying.
  • a massive meta-study by brigham young university in the united states found the exact same thing: even those who enjoy their "me time" are likely to die younger than their more socially connected peers. 
  • a university of chicago study found that loneliness [not the same as isolation, but often linked] is a physical health hazard, raising the blood pressure at the same rate that healthy eating and exercise decrease it.
  • more university of chicago research raises the possibility that, when isolated, our immune systems become introverted, focusing on fighting bacteria on the inside of the body and neglecting to pay attention to viruses that attack from without.

so, yes, my late grandmother may have been onto something without knowing it. it is actually bad for your health to be a loner.

however, when i was reviewing the literature on this subject, something stood out. no matter what combination of terms i used to search the relative benefits and drawbacks of solitude and sociability, i seemed to end up in the same place: a lot of studies that show that isolation and loneliness are very bad for you, mixed with a handful of feel-good articles about how taking a little time alone can be healthy. i characterize them as "feel-good articles" because of their reassuring tone that we should not feel badly about taking time for ourselves [as if the default position is that we should], but offering absolutely no quantitative results to show that it could be beneficial. here's an example of such an article. here's another. there are lots more like them and they make very reasonable-sounding points. but it made me wonder, why wasn't there any science?

the studies above tend to focus on people who are very isolated, or who felt extremely isolated and longed not to be. but there is a paucity of information on what amount of time alone should be considered healthy. [the only study i found that even tangentially addressed the issue was done on adolescents and determined that a certain amount of time alone, even if it was imposed rather than chosen, was helpful.] the scientific information that we have indicates that being isolated is bad. fine. if i sit down and eat a half a kilo of dark chocolate, that would be bad as well. but there's also research that says i would be better off eating a small amount of dark chocolate than i would be having no dark chocolate at all. that's what's missing here.

it could be that such research would prove that even short periods of being alone had unhealthy side effects. [deprived of sensory input, our brains start going batshit within minutes as we try to fill in the blank slate that we're incapable of processing.] but in this case, no one's even asking the questions: can too much interaction with others have adverse effects? is there a point beyond which social interaction starts to be detrimental? can a lack of time spent alone actually be damaging? we're very eager to know whether there are good reasons to avoid becoming a "loner", but it seems like we're a little timid to know that there might be good reasons to spend some time alone.

truthfully, the idea that we should expect to spend some time alone is a fairly recent one: medieval homes were usually structured around one big, open room where everyone lived and slept. when the lord and lady of the manor wanted to get busy, they would do so in a bedroom they shared with all their household servants. from birth to death, a person could expect to be surrounded by others, and being alone was unsafe. there were those who lived in solitude for religious reasons, but this was perceived as both an extreme and a sacrifice, not a choice made out of the desire for some "me time". so it shouldn't be all that surprising that the idea still seems a little odd. but that it's still so stigmatized that no one even wants to investigate it seems to come close to a full-on phobia. [even the romanticized idea of the loner- a frontier cowboy, an artist, a passionate leader- carries the taint of the tragic.]

i envisioned today's post being a discussion, informed by scientific research, of how to achieve a healthy balance of social and private time. i was surprised to find out how difficult that was. i'm also a little miffed because, while i found out that i can be very social once i'm around people with whom i share interests, i still do feel the need to have my own space. i'd like to think that's not going to kill me. research suggests that i have reason to be worried, but the questions researchers are asking are pretty slanted.

it's like my grandmother is controlling the world of psychological research from beyond the grave.

i hope for all our sakes that's not true. but until we have more information, it seems like you might want to make a point of seeing your friends and family more often, unless you want to die.

24 May 2015

paranoid theory of the week :: are natural disasters being caused by advanced weapons?

you don't know haarp
when it comes to things that most people acknowledge they can't control, the weather and natural disasters have to be near the top of the list. yes, there are natural disasters like hurricane katrina in 2005, which were made far worse than they might have been from government ineptitude and inaction; yes, there is certainly a consensus that humans have an effect on climate change, which in turns effects the weather and natural disasters on a large scale; but most of us are pretty certain that there aren't any individuals who can just fire up a generator and cause a catastrophic earthquake. most of us.

in fact, there's a fair sized community who think that there are people who absolutely can do just that and that they want to use their powers for evil. [although, really, i can't think of how you could use the power to cause a massive landslide for good. i mean, even if you killed hitler 2.0, chances are you'd take thousands of innocent people, which might arguably make you the next hitler and defeat your supposedly noble purpose.] so this week's paranoid theory investigates: might these people be onto something? or is this strictly for the tinfoil hat set?

the theory ::

world governments, in particular the american government, have developed the technology to control the weather and to cause "natural" disasters, as well as some diseases and they are using it in soem pretty high profile ways.

the origin ::

have you heard of a rain dance? the plague of locusts? the hammer of thor? humans have clung to the belief that they had some measure of control of the weather since the dawn of time, and those who felt left out have been suspicious of those who seemed to have luck on their side.

more recently, a lot of attention has been directed towards the american project known as haarp: the high-frequency active aurora research project. started in 1993 and based in alaska, the research project's stated goal was to investigate the possibility that poking the earth's ionosphere with a laser pole could allow us to figure out when the sun was going to get all dyspeptic and belch in our general direction, because sun belches [or "solar flares" if you want to be all hoity-toity] have a tendency to disrupt our communications systems and cause a sort of instability our brains are programmed to fear.

although haarp was shut down in 2014, largely because no one wanted to bother to refit the facilities in order to meet standards imposed by the clean air act, rumours continue to swirl about its "real" purpose and how "shut down" it really is.

the believers ::

lots of them. venezuelan president hugo chavez linked it to the devastating 2013 earthquake in haïti. despite the fact that the money for the project was earmarked by alaska senator ted hughes [the guy who once described the internet as a series of tubes] in order to bring home the research bacon, the alaska state legislature wasn't sold on the story of what the project was doing and held their own hearings about it. former minnesota governor jesse ventura theorised that the project was actually a front for research into both weather and mind control [and was denied entry to the facility when he showed up to try to prove his point]. and award-winning physicist bernard eastlund claimed that haarp used technology he developed that was capable of modulating weather. nick begich jr., the son of a former united states congressman and the brother of a united states senator and a scientist himself, wrote a book, angels don't play this haarp, which is pretty much the bible of haarp-ist conspiracy.

[it also has some quasi-believers in both the european parliament and the russian military, who believe that researchers hadn't done sufficient research to assure them that untold evil wouldn't rain down in the wake of giving the atmosphere a giant laser enema. even the cbc and the history channel have done documentaries about the project that raise some questions.]

one of those believers is a little more interesting than the others, by the way, and i'll bet you can figure out which one it is.

the bad guys ::

the united states government- democrats and republicans. the military-industrial complex, in particular a massive defense contractor called raytheon, which has gradually gobbled up all the patents supposedly associated with the haarp project, and brought thousands of its own to the table. raytheon's motto is "customer success is our mission", which sounds like the usual load of corporate hooey, until you think a little harder about what it means to have a manufacturer of weapons and military infrastructure focused entirely on their customers' "success".

the evidence ::

remember how i said that one of "the believers" was a little more interesting than the others? did you guess it was the physicist, bernard eastlund?

dr. eastlund died in 2007, but his passion for physics burned strong until the end of his life. he claimed, in an npr panel discussion about building weapons for weather control, that three of his patents had been used in the development of haarp. no one in the government has verified or denied this, so we'll have to just call it "plausible" at the moment.

a little more unsettling is the final patent that he filed, shortly before his death, which contains a passage [viewable on his wikipedia page] that specifically mentions both weather modification and haarp.

while eastlund never came out and said that haarp was conducting research into weather control, or that the technology to do so had been developed, the presence of that patent is a pretty powerful indicator that there's something to the haarp rumours.

some have analysed haarp's activity in the times surrounding specific natural events [like hurricane katrina and the 2008 chinese earthquake] in an attempt to link haarp's activity to those events, but [as the author of the linked comparison readily admits], the density of the physics involved makes it impossible for the average person to work out if a correlation is possible.

there is documented proof that governments have previously attempted to build weapons that unleashed the awesome power of the earth and the elements upon their foes, so it's not like the theory itself is out to lunch.

the question of why a government would want to do this might even be answered in a u.s. department of defense press release from 2000 that emphasized their aim of "full spectrum dominance" in the military arena. and natural disasters have, sadly, been excellent financial opportunities for american contractors. those are two powerful sources of incentive.

but the fact is that the trail of crumbs doesn't lead anywhere. the cookie at the end is missing. the "full spectrum dominance" mission statement probably came off the table the second the two towers went down the following year, and eventually replaced with "we're not sure why anyone thought this was a good idea and we'd like to not get killed today".

the correlation between haarp activity and hurricanes or earthquakes isn't much more persuasive than my theory that i caused hurricane katrina by purchasing a map at the wrong time. it's very tempting to mistake coincidence with causality, but dangerous. there are lots of times when things appear to be related and are. and there are lots where they appear to be related and aren't.

even eastlund's patents, definitely the strongest argument in this conspiracy's arsenal, don't prove that the technology was developed, much less used, only that it was most likely investigated. not. the. same. thing. at all.

since it's been linked to all sorts of events, it's hard to avoid the feeling that haarp's "attacks" are perplexingly random. sometimes horrible things do happen to american enemies, but often, they're just disasters that befall some of the poorest areas of the world, like the earthquake in haïti or the tsunami in banda aceh, indonesia. in fact, such disasters can have the effect of destabilizing areas of the world that no one really wants destabilized [as began to happen in indonesia in the wake of the tsunami]. sure, you can argue that the military contractors are benefiting, but national governments [who still control the research] are incurring massive costs at the same time.

the likelihood :: 2/10

is the government looking into developing weather control technology? i'd be surprised if they weren't, at least to some extent. half the u.s. is in a severe drought.

has this technology been investigated as a potential weapon? sure, i'll bite. technology doesn't seem to be of much interest to anyone unless it can be used to prolong life or end life [with the creation of boners being a close third], so it's likely that the government tries to figure out how to use their research to do both.

however, that's a llloooooooooonnnnnngggg way off saying that the technology exists and that it's being used.

the conspiracy seems to become the victim of having reached too far: by blaming haarp or related technologies for earthquakes in china and iran, tornadoes in the united states, tsunamis in southeast asia and more, it's hard to imagine that there is a cohesive plan behind all of it.

the greater problem, of course, is that the vast majority of us can't even talk about this, because even the most basic science of a project like haarp is already over our heads. we could hear anything about this science and, as long as it sounded kind of plausible, we'd be fooled.

this falls into the "grains of truth" category of theory. there are a couple of things that should probably raise eyebrows, but there's not likely anything else. 

23 May 2015

badvertising

as dom and i were weaving through peel metro station yesterday afternoon, my eyes fell on a rather alarming advertisement:


while i applaud diesel for featuring model winnie harlow front and centre in the entire campaign, i was significantly distracted from her because her friend seems to be struggling with some pretty serious "feminine itching". 

yes, on closer inspection, i guess she's just holding her purse at a peculiar angle [seriously, try moving your arm that way and see how natural it feels], but i'm left with the impression that she's really just looking for a way to surreptitiously scratch a little. and those nasty photographers decided to make her one moment of weakness into a central image of their campaign. while the vibe of the ad is playful and carefree, itchy and scratchy girl seems focused on her own little world, which in turn is focused south of the border. now, her modeling c.v. is going to have to include "girl with yeast infection in diesel jeans".

also, i think it's possible that winnie harlow is actually screaming in pain, because if you look at the placement of her legs, something in the left one has clearly been broken.

diesel jeans: a great fit whether you're party, suffering from an infection, or have just had your ilium crushed.

20 May 2015

world wide wednesdays :: the itty bitty nation committee

lesser known richard scarry
some of you may have heard some news from north sudan this week. not the northern part of the country of sudan [although maybe you heard news from there too, it's certainly possible]; i mean north sudan. if you don't know about that nation, you might be seeing its story on the big screen, courtesy of disney. it had people excited at first, until they followed links to the project and discovered that disney's first african princess is going to be a white girl from virginia.

huh?

you see, the kingdom of north sudan is a micronation. that word isn't accepted by spell-check, which is fitting, since micronations aren't accepted by larger, established nations either. but that doesn't stop people from founding them, in the same way it won't stop me from using the word micronations to talk about this peculiar and fascinating movement.

to continue with the brief history of north sudan, it is a kingdom founded by a farmer from virginia and it is indeed located along the border between sudan and egypt. you see, there's a parcel of land 800 square miles that neither country wants. it's been officially terra nullius [fancy talk for literal no man's land] since 1902, which technically means that it's up for grabs. so jeremiah heaton has started the process of grabbing it. thus far, north sudan meets two of the conditions laid down in international law for statehood: they have defined their territory [including planting a flag on that territory] and established a government, in this case a monarchy. they do not yet have the capacity to enter into relations with other states, nor do they have a permanent population, which are the other two criteria. yes, that's right. not only does no one claim this land, but there isn't even anyone living there.

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