22 January 2017

making faces :: a red story

red is a colour like no other. as the colour of blood, it is part of all of us, and is implicated in many of our common behaviours- the such of adrenaline that accompanies physical exertion, the flush of the cheek when angry, embarrassed or shy, the tumescence of sexual organs when we're aroused. it is fundamentally linked to life and death: menstruation is the female body's signal of the ability to procreate; the loss of virginity is most often marked by blood; we come into the world covered in our mother's blood; lose too much of it, though, and you'll die. it's no accident that our brains are wired to respond to blood like no other colour: it makes us react faster and become more emotional. when humans first started to devise methods of describing colour, red was the first one they described. when they started to dye materials and fabrics, red was the colour they started with. there are three primary colours, but red is the first among equals, the one that will always occupy a place of prominence.

in the world of cosmetics, of course, red is most linked with the lusciousness of full lips, lips that convey passion, class, danger, and, above all, modern femininity. whatever the strengths of a cosmetic line, you can rest assured that a bold red lipstick will figure among their offerings. so when shiseido announced that they were doing a new line of red-themed lipsticks, you could be forgiven for not thinking that this was particularly groundbreaking.

however, the way that they've done it is interesting: many of the colours are not what we would consider red at all, but other shades that have been changed through the addition of red. so you won't find bubblegum pinks, autumnal oranges or electric purples in here [and yes, i know that technically, there is a measure of red in all those], but what you will find are a range of shades from bold cardinal reds to deep berries, to deepened soft corals. it's all about playing with the range of reds, then seeing how the addition of red works on related shades.

with a bit of time and some dips into my shoppers drug mart optimum points, i've picked up three of the shades, which i think nicely sum up the range of colours available. the formula is mostly consistent [differences noted in the individual shade reviews below]: it's soft and hydrating and gives almost opaque coverage in a single pass, but the lasting time is not great. that's not uncommon for creamy lipsticks, but there are creamy formulas that perform better [guerlain rouge g or urban decay's now defunct revolution lipstick line]. i found that all the colours made my lips look fuller and softened the appearance of lines, which is always nice.

MORE ON THE WAY...


21 January 2017

in my garden

one of the things that they tell you about learning a new language is that you have to seek to immerse yourself in it. there are programs online that allow you to do that by conversing with native speakers [i've heard great things about italki], which is great if you have the means to pay for hourly tutors. since i've taken on a variety of languages, that could add up quickly, and my spare change tends to get taken up by cat treats and lipstick. so what's a person of limited means [or just someone who's unsure about making a serious investment in their language learning at the moment] supposed to do?

i personally like to do things like listen to news [especially international news], watch soccer games and read beauty blogs in other languages when i can. because those things have a pretty strict framework, a regular, repeating vocabulary and a straightforward style. leaping into german by reading heidegger is not something i'd recommend. but really, lots of things can suffice. a [really great, thoughtful] friend of mine recently brought me a set of cutting boards. one of them came from ikea and had european-style packaging in about twelve languages. i don't need instructions on using a cutting board. if you've hit my age without figuring it out, you probably shouldn't be in a kitchen. but i'm still keeping those instructions, because i'm going to read them and compare them to the english and try saying them out loud. again, instructions are meant to be clear and simple [and these ones don't even involve an allen key], which makes them a good way to study basic sentence structures as well as vocabulary. 

one of my favourite places to shop is the eastern european grocery near my house, bucarest. [they spell it that way. who am i to argue?] aside from the fact that they have all manner of tasty food, both packaged and fresh, or that their sour cream has spoiled me for all other products that use that name, their selection is almost entirely imported from europe [and little bits from parts of western asia]. although national and provincial laws require them to have labeling in at least one of canada's official languages, there's still plenty to read, usually in a number of languages. i'm pretty sure the entire staff think i'm completely anal retentive, because every time i'm in there, i spend time reading the labels and ingredients of every item i'm considering purchasing. i can live with that. 

my new obsession, however, came from a post on one of the duolingo forums a couple of weeks back. 

a bit of background: i worked in community radio for years and loved it. but even before that, in my teens, i'd put my headphones on at night and listen to shows from other parts of the country and the world, fascinated at the idea of these voices finding their way through the atmosphere and beyond, relayed by a series of invisible signals, until they arrived at my ears as i was curled up in the darkness of my room. radio always had, and still does have, an element of magic for me. 


this site allows you to hop around the globe, listening to radio stations everywhere. there are big commercial ones, national public ones, community ones and online only ones. bigger cities have a selection. remote towns have single entities speaking to them in the wilderness. but for me, it stirs up the paradoxical sense of distance and connection that i've always felt from radio. and it also helps me learn languages. 


radio can be a lot less structured than other types of speech. there's a range of formality and casualness and, in many cases, a range of subject matter even within the same station. so i'm comfortable with the fact that i'm unlikely to understand a lot of what i hear. but in those cases, it's also a great way to get a sense of the flow and rhythm of a language spoken by natives. and sometimes, you can be surprised at what you understand. i was listening to an early morning show in bucharest [that's how i was taught to spell it], and i recognised one world immediately: "putin". as i listened, i realised that they were jovially discussing a popular story making the rounds about how the russian president had expressed doubts that donald trump had visited with russian prostitutes while in moscow, but that he was certain his country's prostitutes were the best in the world. 


romanian has been a bit of a struggle for me, so i was surprised that, while missing a lot of the exact wording, i was able to figure out the exact story being referenced [because, let's face it, "putin" and "trump" in the same sentence could be a lot of things right now]. i'm still not certain how i figured it out, because "prostitutes" isn't on the duolingo romanian vocabulary list. but it definitely made me happy. 

other times, it's just fun to find something odd to listen to. i happened across a very dramatic and strange sounding radio play on a public station in vladivostok. i kept shoving an earbud halfway into dom's brain, because i wanted a witness to what sounded like carefully considered speeches punctuated by frequent beatings and screams of the tortured and damned, with the actors occasionally bursting into song. i understood about one out of every ten words, and they were generally things like "this" and "and". didn't make it less fun. 

dom had just about fallen asleep when i happened upon a station playing bulgarian folk music on speed, which made me stab at his poor ear again and demanding he listen. this got a rather puzzled stare because i'm not even learning bulgarian, and the music was instrumental. but the frenzy of it was just so invigorating that it was impossible to resist, or keep to myself. [i have the feeling he is currently trying to stuff his ears with cotton and cat hair, lest i come to bed after finishing this blog post and inflict more aural global village on him. [yes, that's exactly what's going to happen.]

i can't guarantee that the power of radio will move you, but at the very least, there's an almost inconceivable variety of content out there, making its way through the vastness of space, to you, where it can help you learn another language. or just be amazed at how peculiar radio can be. 

p.s. :: although my knowledge of romanian is embryonic, and my first experience trying to speak one of my new languages was a real disaster, but somehow i built up the nerve to respond to the gentleman who rang up my purchases at bucarest with a hearty "mulțumesc", to which he responded with a friendly "bună seara". so there. i can do it. sort of. i did kind of run from the store like i had stuffed my tights with shoplifted candy [i hadn't], because i knew i was on thin ice as far as conversation, but i at least felt a tiny bit redeemed. 

p.p.s. :: this post has nothing to do with the swans track "in my garden". in case you're disappointed by that, here it is for you to listen to, so you can feel like your time wasn't entirely wasted here. 


p.p.p.s. :: was there something else going on in the world earlier today? i decided not to consume any news or media for some reason. 

17 January 2017

you wanna [highland] dance, mr. trump?

there's a story floating around about an inaugural poem written in celebration of donald trump's scottish heritage, which refers to barack obama as a "tyrant". it's a little unclear what's going on; the author is indeed an author, who does indeed write poetry. but it's possible that this is him playing a prank, and there's no indication that the poem was commissioned, or that it will be read at the [sparsely attended] inauguration ceremony.

that said, trump has certainly expressed an affinity with his scottish heritage, which comes from his mother, a macleod born in the hebrides who immigrated to the united states and married the son of german immigrants fred trump in 1936. of course, he doesn't have enough of an affinity with scotland to know anything about it, as evidenced by his tweet talking about how happy everyone there clearly was with the vote on the brexit referendum. [every constituency in scotland voted to remain. if they seemed joyful, it was because they were nationalists who knew the next vote on separation was in the bag.]

as it happens, i'm of scottish heritage myself [something that's pretty clear from my name]. in fact, we even come from the same area of scotland, the western islands, which include the hebrides, as well as the inner islands like islay, mull and skye. we're both descended from the lords of the isles, the norse-gaels [i've talked about them before] who ruled a lot of western scotland for hundreds of years. of course, my family, the clan donald, goes a lot further back than his, having descended from somerled, the first lord of the isles, whereas the name macleod only enters the books hundreds of years later. but that's ok, donald, you can still play. think of me the way you think of those manhattan bluebloods who still chuckle a little when your back is turned. you're admitted, but you're the social runt.

the donald's heritage in scotland is a lot closer than mine. my family emigrated to canada generations ago, although they settled in cape breton, which was almost more scottish than scotland at the time, so it really wasn't like being in canada at all. why was that? why were there all these scots suddenly pouring into canada? it's a sad story.

my family were driven out of scotland during the highland clearances. this was a wave of efforts by the english, and their scottish puppets, to disenfranchise and drive out the scots who resisted english rule, especially in the wake of the jacobite uprising of 1745. my family were tough. they hung on in the isles until well into the nineteenth century, well after they'd been stripped of their lands and reduced to serfs on the property that had been theirs for hundreds of years. but eventually, necessity won out over pride, and they, along with many others, left their ancestral homeland for the new world, choosing as their destination a tiny pocket of promising arable land that bore a striking resemblance to the rolling hills of great britain.

many, many scottish families ended up here. many years ago, a friend of mine was foiled in an attempt to look my number up in the phone book, because he couldn't figure out which of the macdonalds listed on my tiny street was me. and i don't come from the most heavily scottish part of the province. [both my parents do, although only one of them is scottish by heritage.] until very recently, people raised in my corner of the world tended to identify far more with the culture of their progenitors than with canada. we were a territory of castoffs, who were poorly served by confederation, but that's a different story.

that donald trump's scottish family is so recently arrived tells me something about who he came from. the clan macleod, as i mentioned, were later arrivals among the lords of the isles. the "originals" [those who could trace their ancestry to somerled, the original man to bear the title lord of the isles] were the clans macquarie, macdougall and macdonald. by the sixteenth century, the council of the lords had expanded, but the clan donald [which included an offshoot, one of the maclaines/ macleans] were still recognized as the highest "caste" among them. and at that point, there were members of the clan macleod. certain branches of the macleods were given to fighting with other clans, trying to establish themselves as one of the great families, and getting smacked down on a regular basis for their belligerent behaviour.

those quarrelsome branches of the clan macleod, however, did eventually come up with a way of sticking it to the other scottish clans: when the scots united in the jacobite rebellion in 1745, the macleods sided with the english and raised an army to fight alongside them, helping to ensure that the scots were roundly defeated and setting into motion the process that would eventually lead to the highland clearances- the forced displacement and conscious starvation of those who had defied the british. [something that would, by the way, fit the current definition of genocide.]

the macleods who had supported the english, of course, were allowed to stay in scotland, and were even given lands confiscated from the rebels. they were able to stay much longer, because they were not hounded out like some sort of disease. indeed, they profited from the misery of the countrymen they had betrayed.

so there's your little lesson in scottish history, mr. donald trump: your family has close scottish ties because they were traitors to their homeland, and complicit in the genocide of many of their countrymen. now that you've called my attention to that heritage, i feel even more comfortable saying that the rotted apple does not fall far from the family tree.

and in case you haven't read your clan's wikipedia entry, here's something i'd like to call your attention to:

The surname MacLeod means 'son of Leod'. The name Leod is an Anglicization of the Scottish Gaelic name Leòd, which is thought to have been derived from the Old Norse name Ljótr, meaning ugly.

air muir's air tir. per mare per terras, bitch. i know what you are.

15 January 2017

what're you lookin at? [the most popular posts of 2016 on more like space]

i'm a little late getting around to these, but i feel like i needed some time to decompress from 2016. various commitments meant that i had less time for blogging last year. in fact, i had fewer posts than any time since 2010, when i was rebounding from the great ignoring of this blog. [this was largely due to the fact that i was maintaining a private blog on myspace- remember them?]

the thrilling and surprising thing is that 2016 was also the busiest year ever in terms of visits and in terms of diversity [i.e., the number of different locations from which you visited]. is it a case of quality over quantity? i had a dream last night where everyone in my school was telling me that they hated me because i talked too much. so maybe there's something to that.

for the second year running, the most popular post on the blog this year was music related: 'so hip it hurts', my tribute to the tragically hip and their unexpected effect on me wasn't something i expected to write, but i'm glad to know that i was far from along in how i felt. and, for the second year in a row, i'm honoured that people stuck around to read something of that length. in a world where it seems speech and dialogue is more compressed than ever, it's heartening to know that the attention span isn't dead yet.

i'm not quite sure how to interpret the reaction to the second most popular post, 'critical failure', and account of my embarrassing collapse on "game day"- my first opportunity to use some of my newly acquired language skills. and if that weren't bad enough, 'so the world hates me', a post about me losing a blog post, also ranked among the most popular. i guess sometimes your purpose on earth is to make others feel better.

in fact, posts about language learning were much more of a hit than i'd anticipated. i figured they were too self-indulgent to find an audience, but apparently the opposite is true. of the most popular posts of the year, about five of the top ten were on this subject. of those, the most popular were 'tongues, twisted' and 'in peril'.

i was not so surprised to see that posts on the american election were popular, since it seemed like it was all people could talk about for great stretches of time. what did catch me off guard, however, was the fact that the most popular of them [the third most popular post of the year] was my recap of the vice presidential debate, 'shut up'. i put that down to the fact that the title itself likely summed up the mood of the people more than any other statement. in second place among the political posts was 'the art of the feel', which again gave me that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from knowing that people are willing to read a long ranty post.

one of the most interesting phenomena was that my cosmetics-focused posts 'making faces' drew a significant number of views, but each of them was about the same in terms of popularity. the most popular were my first ever post about perfume, 'making scents', and my review of urban decay's new lipstick line 'meet the vice squad'. but neither of those got significantly more views than others. the difference? no armani reviews. last year, those were extremely popular, but this year, there were just so many things launching that i never got around to armani's less spectacular [and often very pricey] offerings. although i only did one last year, colour analysis posts remain extremely popular. note to self: do more colour analysis posts in 2017.

to that end, i'm making a few blog resolutions: i'm fully aware that i haven't kept up with mental health mondays in recent weeks and, in the interests of keeping away from the rut of pop psychology, i'm considering reducing the frequency of those posts. i don't want to eliminate them, because i know that they have a following, but, given the number of subjects already addressed, i'd like to focus on providing something that's well researched and meaningful. mental health monthly? we shall see.

second, as i mentioned above, more on colour analysis. no, i'm not a professional, but not everyone can afford a professional, and even those who can don't always have the opportunity to see them. in general, i'd like to shift the beauty posts towards topics other than just reviews of new products. there are far better reviewers, with far more experience than i, and who are able to receive or purchase products on a much more timely basis. and i'm much happier talking about what inspires the different faces i put on, and about the ways that colour and makeup can be used. yes, there will be reviews, but i want to make them a bit different. [fyi, this is my favourite beauty post that i've ever done. it was written in the midst of a bunch of holiday posts about red lipstick.]

third, i want to keep a sharp eye on politics and talk about it. i'm the first person to criticise others for only being interested and active in the runup to an election, and then i do the same goddamn thing on my blog. no, i will not look up from my microscope [except occasionally to learn languages]. i will stay focused and talk about things that i think are important in canada, the united states, and everywhere else.

despite the fact that posts on music have been the most popular on the blog two years running, i'm hesitant to say i'll write more on the subject. for starters, i write a lot about music on other sites. then, there's the fact that my tastes in music are very far from anything popular, so i always wonder how many people can really relate. we shall see.

beyond that... it'll likely be more of the same and possibly some things that i can't predict [because i never know when my next obsession is coming]. 2016 marked the tenth anniversary of this blog, which has always been an outlet for what goes on in my head. i'm too stubborn to change and do all the things that i'm supposed to do in order to have a really good blog. i can live with that and i hope that you can too.

i am so grateful to all of you who've stopped by here. every time you comment, share, mention on another site, hell, every time i see a new visitor, it's a positive experience for me. it's been a rather difficult year on the personal front. i don't share these things too often on the blog [honestly, i don't talk about them too much in person either], but this is my outlet. this is where i come to just be me and to share things that i find interesting, in the hopes that there are others who will enjoy them too. so thank you, always, for making me feel that connection.

welcome, 2017. i'm not sure how good a year you will be, and let's face it, that january 20th bump is going to make things difficult. but we're all pulling for you to make some good out of the crappy situation you've been left. godspeed you, little year. 

11 January 2017

making faces :: falling hard for viseart

viseart is a brand that went from one i'd never heard of to one that i couldn't stop hearing of in record time. it's been a couple of years that i've seen their pricey but generous palettes on the sephora website, on beauty blogs and on instagram, but it wasn't until the last few months [and some help from the gift certificate fairies] that i decided to wade into their refined waters.

the brand is clearly oriented towards professionals, which explains why all their products are in palettes- eyeshadows, colour correctors, blush, lip colour. i'm not a professional, just an enthusiastic amateur, so i initially started with their new [this year] six shade eyeshadow palettes, which are intended to be used without including other items. [whereas their larger, twelve shade palettes are built around a theme, finish or colour family, like bridal makeup or neutral mattes.] there are three of the smaller 'theory' palettes, one cool, one neutral and one warm. the cool and neutral options both look like good everyday palettes, although the cooler one also presents some great options for a smoky eye. i felt like the neutral palette was the more original of the two, despite the fact that i have a glut of neutral palettes in my house. the warm option is bolder than the other two and not quite such an everyday kind of assortment, and i found it irresistible.

the first [neutral] theory palette is 'cashmere', is a combination of softer, slightly burnished tones that occupy the space between gold and grey. as with all the theories, it has three matte and three shimmer shades, which makes it easy to wear for those who like a bit of variety and for those of us whose eyelids aren't quite as youthful as they once were. [actually, i'm fibbing. my eyelids have always had a creped texture, dating back to when i was in my early twenties, which was one of the reasons that i eschewed eye makeup, other than mascara and occasionally liner, until much later, and why i've stuck with higher end brands, which tend to be more forgiving.]

I'M PLACING A BREAK HERE BECAUSE IT GETS REALLY PICTURE-Y FROM THIS POINT

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