28 July 2014

enter the urinarium

a little while ago, i decided to make myself go through the process of reading every piece of writing that i had on my computer, because i was convinced that there must be a few bits and pieces i'd forgotten among the piles of stuff that i've accumulated and, in some cases, published. turns out that was quite true. in fact, i found an outline for my unfinished-but-will-be-finished-at-some-point serial "a definable moment in time" that predates me thinking of the most of the events and characters of that story. this is a little concerning, because the plot outline is pretty detailed and while i knew that i had had a few of the ideas rattling around in my brain for a long time, when i started to write a.d.m.i.t., i had no recollection whatsoever of having written out a parallel story involving the same plot twists but with completely different characters. 

i also found a file entitled "urinarium", which sounds like a word that i made up, except that spellcheck accepts it, so it has to be ok, right? [note: spellcheck only recently started accepting "spellcheck" as a word, which seems like it should be the subject of some philosophical inquiry. it's also telling me that one of the instances of the word "spellcheck" in that last sentence is incorrect, but it's fine with the others.] i actually thought it might have been a draft of this blog post, since i have on occasion written up ideas in draft form to give myself a chance to think of whether or not i really want to publish them. you should see the reject pile. [no, you shouldn't. that's the point of it. -ed.]

in fact, it was a very short story along the same lines, which just goes to show that one of the things i've forgotten is how preoccupied with urine i can be. i'm not actually sure which came first, the blog post or the story, although i'm guessing they both were done around the same time. so if my writing ever becomes famous and studied in universities, some professor is going to have to talk to students with a straight face about the author's urine period. i can live with that. 

anyway, here's the story that i discovered. it is tiny but i'm not sure it needs very much more. 

[p.s.: i wanted to restart "mental health mondays" today, after its world cup holiday, however i am suffering more than usual from the effects of sleep deprivation and can't be critical or clever. however, since sleep deprivation can technically be classified as a mental disorder, just reading my senseless rambling may qualify as a study in poor mental hygiene. get your sleep, people, or you too will end up finding stories about urine on your computers.]

RIGHT AFTER THE BREAK

27 July 2014

this week in evil

i'm running out of words to describe my continued outrage at the government that has been [temporarily] tasked with the maintenance of my country. it's fun to make fun of the southern neighbours, of course, but up here, there just seems to be an undeniable predilection for malice and outright evil that dominates our federal politics.

for instance, witness this article that a friend of mine posted on facebook earlier today. the short version of this story is that stephen harper decided to get rid of an award for volunteer work named after a pioneering canadian feminist and champion of voting rights. the award has been replaced with a "prime minister's award" in the field. since the award was removed, its image was also taken off our currency, along with images of the "famous five" women who petitioned the supreme court to determine if women were to be considered persons under the constitution. because who the hell wants to remember a bunch of women who probably didn't shave their armpits?

the thought process behind the decision to make these changes is unclear, unless you embrace the notion that harper and his cronies are cartoonishly evil and want to spend the rest of their time in power doing things to prove this, things that make people angry while conveying no benefit whatsoever. the prime minister commissioned a report about changing the name of this award and was told by his own people that it was an extremely unpopular decision. but he went ahead with it anyway, so we can just add the $50k that was spent on that commission to the pile of things that should be making us angry.

also this week, the canadian government told oxfam, a well-respected charity, that they had to change their mission statement to remove the prevention of poverty from its aims. the government says that it's fine to want to help people once they're already poor and desperate, but not to try to stop them from tumbling into dire need in the first place. to be clear, oxfam works in the poorest areas of the world, helping people whose most basic needs- food, clothing, shelter, water- are not being met. as part of their work, they would like to help keep more people from slipping to that level. but the government seems more concerned that they'll be handing out fistfuls of cash to people who are complaining that they can't afford to upgrade the solar panels on their summer home. yeah. those somalian pirates have boats and you're trying to pretend the people there need our help, oxfam?

this charitable david vs governmental goliath tale is the latest in a series of stories about how harper seems to be using the canada revenue agency as a cudgel against those registered charities whose aims are different from his own and who might offer criticisms of things the things he does. several such organisations have mysteriously found themselves the subjects of audits, which forces them to spend money and resources that would otherwise go towards charitable activity. in theory, the government is trying to make sure that these charities aren't engaging in proscribed political activities. however, even if they are found to be conducting themselves properly, the costs of the process may ruin them anyway. and the revenue agency is casting a particularly suspicious eye towards those whose rumoured "political activities" involves having opinions different than harper's. also, organisations that are affiliated with science are especially vulnerable. i can't imagine how horrifying his elementary school teachers must have been to turn a kid so rabidly against a subject, but this man hates science with a passion that's normally reserved for an ex who gave you herpes. you see, he's not just defunding the scientific organisations that we have [he is doing that, of course, including scrapping the organisation that first discovered acid rain]; he is destroying the science that we already paid for. it's so offensive to him that he can't abide its existence, even if that meant giving it to another country to hang onto.

and this isn't censored or conspiracy theory type stuff. this is happening right out in the open and is being reported by canada's largest newspapers and broadcasters. we're all watching it happen in real time and sort of marvelling at the brazenness of it all, while quietly accepting that there's nothing that we can do until we're allowed to vote these people out of office [late next year, mark your calendars].

there are lots of theories as to why harper is so bent on destroying discourse, knowledge and dissent, but i've pretty much come to the conclusion that he is just wallowing in his own crapulence, simply because he can.

24 July 2014

making faces :: guerlain's new dream girl

guerlain, you need to stop doing this to me. you know i adore your lipsticks [well, pretty much everything about you, really], but there will come a time when i'm going to have to say "no more". not yet, of course. but sometime. eventually.

i think that part of the problem right now is that bold, saturated colours i love seem to be having a moment, which means that even the more conservative brands are introducing these sorts of shades to their lineups or featuring limited edition products that almost literally call my name. [<-- i="" note="" said="" that="">almost
literally", because if you hear the lipsticks singing to you, it's time to check yourself in somewhere safe.]
in guerlain's case, there's been a series of breathtaking limited shades lately, but now they've been joined by some great new permanent additions. all were released earlier this summer and i've already raved about "rose grénat", which came home first since it was limited. today, i'm raving about "gladys", which was the second of the new shades to follow me home. its official description is "vibrant fuchsia", which is pretty accurate. i'd say that it's deeper than what i'd normally refer to as "vibrant" [although that's a personal thing]. it's a berry-tinged fuchsia, meaning that it has a healthy amount of red in it, so it's warmer than a lot of other shades described as fuchsia.

"gladys" is a heavy-hitter when it comes to colour, even by guerlain standards. the rouge g formula almost always has fantastic colour payoff, but this one is exceptional. it is intensely, intensely pigmented even with one pass and lasts for hours. you'll probably have to reapply after eating, but even after a fairly oily meal, i had a healthy stain left. about the only things i can think of that compares to "gladys" in terms of colour payoff and lasting power are "madame batfole" and "gigolo". deeper shades tend to last better, but these just put almost all competitors to shame.

the other thing that stands out about "gladys"- and which is typical of rouge g's- is the faint micro-shimmer that helps lips look smoother and plumper, as well as give the colour a nice dimensional look. swatches on the hand don't do this lady justice, so let's just look at the effect she has on the lips, shall we?

gladys
gladys
now, whether or not you want to dish out the cash for "gladys" will likely be determined by how much you wear shades like this [me = a lot]. there are similar colours out there and guerlain themselves have come out with a few. "madame batifole" is similar, but pinker and lighter. they're actually more different than they appear in my swatch, but still definitely in the same ballpark. bite "crimson" is darker, redder and more matte, but again, not tremendously far off. both of those shades are limited, however, so if you've missed out on those, "gladys" is an excellent option.

l to r :: guerlain madame batifole [l.e.], gladys, bite crimson [l.e.]
with a colour this vibrant, there's little reason to do much else with your makeup, which is one of the reasons that i love them so. nothing is going to outdo your lips [and nothing should compete!], so it's pretty easy to throw on a few neutral products and go. [i've talked about the ease of bright lips before.] here's an example of how i've been wearing it. this looks fairly complicated, but was quite quick, since all the shadows are in the same palette. that said, you could get away with a simple wash of a single colour.




products used

the base
ysl touche teint éclat "beige 10"
nars radiant creamy concealer "vanilla"
mac paint pot "painterly"
mac prep and prime finishing powder "translucent"

the eyes [all shadows from the "naked 3" palette]
urban decay e/s "buzz" [all over moveable lid]
urban decay e/s "nooner [in the crease]
urban decay e/s "strange" [highlight]
urban decay e/s "dust" [patted on centre of lids to brighten]
urban decay e/s "blackheart" [outer v]
urban decay e/l "rockstar" [lightly along the upper lash lines]
ysl effect faux cils mascara "noir radical"

the cheeks
armani blush "509/ eccentrico"

the lips
guerlain rouge g lipstick "gladys"

if this looks like the kind of colour you'd like, i can't recommend it enough. there isn't a single flaw i can find with it. i've already been giving it an inordinate amount of love. [i try to spread out the lipstick love, but sometimes i just develop favourites. i can't help it.] it's a great vibrant colour for summer and it'll be amazing with the deeper tones that are more comfortable in the fall. and then it will look amazing when you're invited to parties over the holidays. a worthy investment indeed.

22 July 2014

well lit :: the paranoid charms of charles palliser

years ago, a friend got me to read the quincunx by charles palliser, a wilkie collins- or charles dickens-esque tale of tangled family history, class and inheritance set in nineteenth century london. i've always been grateful for the recommendation, as it's remained one of my favourite books and one to which i've returned many times over the years. as a novel, it's quite an accomplishment, not just because of its compelling plot [i stayed up until five in the morning on more than one occasion], but because it was so fantastically detailed in its construction. some of the literary devices palliser employs seem almost amateurishly obvious, but repeated readings show much more complex truths hidden behind the main story. it's those subtleties which have made it one of my longtime favourites.

since i fell under the spell of the quincunx, i've read three of palliser's subsequent novels- betrayals, the unburied and now rustication. while none match the singular excitement of the quincunx, there is no doubt that they are entertaining reads. betrayals stands alone as a series of interlinked short stories with different settings and different narrative voices. the unburied and rustication return to the  world of nineteenth century england and, in fact, both are set in and around the fictional southeastern town of thurminster, england. both are single story mysteries, like the quincunx and both are deliciously gothic in atmosphere.

it took me about twenty-four hours to read rustication, which should give you an idea of how compelling it is, but also reveals that it's a fairly straightforward piece. palliser's genius is normally that every single phrase, every detail is important and that, as much as he might lay everything out for the reader, there are still "easter eggs" for them to find. it gives a great sense of accomplishment when you're able to do this, which makes reading his works all the more enjoyable. you have to approach the text with the understanding that nothing is accidental.

that said, i felt like rustication was a bit of a letdown compared to his other books. too much of it seemed too easy, not demanding enough and the explanation of events [when the narrator has finally figured them out] is too comprehensive. i felt like there wasn't enough required of me. that's not to say that it isn't a good story, it is, but therein lies another problem: it's far too similar to the unburied, it just isn't as engaging. i felt like there was a lot of time wasted in the narrator's repetitive sexual fantasies about virtually every woman here encounters that might have been better spent in other ways.

the narrator is a young man, no longer a child but still well short of being an adult, who is sent home from university ["rusticated"] after a scandal involving the death of a friend. his oddly cold reception by his family and the creepy insularity of the small town where they have come to live after the death of his father are the springboards for a violent mystery in which the narrator is implicated. the story of how he came to be rusticated unfolds parallel to the plot and provides a sort of explanation for the narrator's occasionally frustrating naivete; he believes that the apparently simple people around him are incapable of the sort of darkness that he carries with him.

of course, that's not true. the people he encounters are machiavellian and vicious almost without exception- it's a challenge of reading palliser that the majority of his characters are generally unlikeable, while those who are at least not objectionable are often irritatingly obtuse. this is where his genius for plotting comes into play: it will keep you reading even if you can't generate any sympathy for the characters involved.

the problem here is that, unlike any of his other books, some of the plot elements seem rushed. [this is one of those areas where i felt the author could have done more work, rather than spending time on the narrator's sexual longings.] it's not quite clear why the narrator is so determined to unlock all the secrets of the town or in solving the central mystery, especially when it's so abundantly clear that stirring the waters is making him a target. it seems like he has enough to worry about on his own.

as i mentioned before, the other weakness of the book is that it just doesn't have enough meat on its bones to be worthy of the master plotter. i'll give it a caveat that i feel like i need to read it again, because there are some elements which i can't quite balance with the explanation of the mystery. palliser is not one to raise red herrings, so if something doesn't jive with the apparent resolution, i'm giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that there's something i've missed.

criticisms aside, i wouldn't have thrown myself into a book with such force if there weren't something to get out of it. the setting of the isolated town in the marshy gloom is expertly rendered and the horror that hangs over the place is as thrilling as anything in the story. likewise, the reliability of the narrator [and therefore his interpretation of events] is always a question, one which is hangs over the story's resolution, however neat and comprehensive his understanding [belatedly] seems. the pacing, although jerky at times, is enough to keep you reading and wanting to know more.

some readers will likely be put off by the violence and sexual content, neither of which are entirely new for palliser, but which he's never rendered so graphically. these elements definitely interrupt the notion of a victorian-era tale, being conspicuously modern inclusions. both elements do serve to emphasise the hypocritical chasm between what is spoken and what is thought, but at the same time, it seems that some of the characters are unrealistically blunt in their descriptions of these elements. this uncharacteristic openness has a tendency to pull one out of the setting- something i've never experienced with any other palliser novel; one of his greatest strengths is that he so meticulously recreates the historical world that even when elements not typical of period writing appear, it doesn't shake the reader's confidence in the setting.

so, as you've probably guessed, i was a little disappointed. i enjoyed reading the book, but i didn't feel that thrill when it ended that i've gotten from all of his other novels. whereas those are full meals [in the case of the quincunx a particularly large one], rustication is more like a meringue: sweet and easy but ultimately not satisfying. it's the sort of book i'd recommend taking on vacation [assuming that you don't mind reading something a little horrifying on vacation], when you aren't looking for too much intellectual stimulation, just a little thrill. it's certainly enough to function in that capacity.

21 July 2014

eat the cup, 2014 :: auf wiedersehen and danke schön

give credit to dom, who said all along that this was germany's year. after england was eliminated, my loyalty basically transferred to germany, who are always such an entertaining team to watch, but i was honestly worried that they would let themselves get rattled, as they have in the last few world cups. i'm kind of glad to be wrong. so once again, a week after the grand occasion, i took to the kitchen to prepare a feast in honour of this year's champions. [i'd actually intended to get to it earlier this time around, but i've had a sort of bizarre health issue, the kind of thing that only happens to me.]

german cuisine is simple and hearty, which makes it fairly easy to prepare, although not necessarily great for summer. i did, however, manage to find a couple of things that were suitable, although this still isn't the lightest meal in the world. [when we're talking european cuisine, it really would be easier if they had these competitions in the winter, although i guess i understand why they don't.]

probably even less fun than it looks
first up, i made german-style potato salad. much of german cooking embraces the humble potato, but this variation is warm-weather friendly. instead of the more standard north american version, german potato salad is made with potatoes, chopped herbs [i used parsley, chives and a tiny bit of tarragon] along with vinegar and sugar. i have to say that this felt strange to me, being used to the creamier version, but the herbs make it much fresher. plus, of course, it's much healthier. it replaces the fatty dairy element, but it also features parsley, which is unfairly relegated to the role of garnish these days. in fact, it is both tasty and incredibly healthy. [it's worth noting that a lot of fresh herbs are quite concentrated in important nutrients. plus they make your food taste better.]

to accompany this, i made a traditional german onion pie. well, almost traditional. dom's reaction was "it's a lot like quiche". yes, in fact it is basically quiche, but quiche is french, so we call this version onion pie. although it requires you to turn on an oven, which is never a great experience in the summer, it is very simple to prepare, so you don't actually have to spend much time in close proximity to the oven. [why would you ever need to stay in close proximity to an oven? -ed.] [shut up, editor -kate]

i used:

1 giant onion, chopped [probably a 1.5-2 lb onion; spanish is good and vidalia would be amazing]
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream [light is acceptable if you want to make it healthier]
1/4 cup smoked herring, crumbled [other smoked fish like mackerel or trout would be acceptable as well
2 x 9" pie shells
butter or oil for frying

i should note that the smoked fish is something that i threw in there and it's not part of any recipe i came across. however, smoked fish of various sorts is common enough in german and eastern european cuisine, just be careful not to add too much, since it's much stronger in flavour than anything else in the dish. you could also add some cheese instead, for a vegetarian version.

preparation is simple: fry the onions over until they are very limp and translucent. have the pan plenty hot when you first add them, but after a minute or so, reduce the heat to the low side of medium. that way, you can basically leave them be while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. you just have to stir them occasionally to prevent them from burning. if you arrange the pieces in a circle around the edge of the pan, it'll help ensure they cook evenly.

while you have the onion frying, mix the eggs, sour cream and herring together. when the onions are done, add them and blend everything together. the smoked fish should add enough salt on its own, but you can throw in some pepper if you like. there should be some liquid from the onion pan. make sure that goes in there too. the final mix should be thick , but still pourable. if it's too thick, add a little milk or water.

put the filling into the pie shells and pop into a 375 degree oven for 30-45 minutes. i find that every oven is different, so the rule of thumb i use is that the quiche pie is done when you can lightly bounce a fork on the top. remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before slicing.

i'm always sad to see the end of the cup, since it means that i won't have the games to entertain me and that i have to go back to thinking up meals with no theme to help me. i considered doing a version of 'eat the cup' for the euro, which will happen in two years, but there really doesn't seem to be enough meaningful variation between a lot of european cuisine to make it a real challenge. dom had suggested a 'drink the cup' version, which sounds awesome, but of course, i wouldn't be preparing anything myself. [nor would you be in any condition to do so, i suspect. -ed.] we shall see what the future brings.

i've seen many comments that this may have been the best world cup ever. i don't know nearly enough about world cup history in order to make that sort of statement, but i will say that it is definitely the most entertaining one i've ever watched. the strength of the teams compared to past teams is subject to debate, but i found that there was an overall balance, so that there were relatively few easy games for anyone. [in fact, the easiest games were more shocking than anything else, since they generally involved the pummelling of a previously strong side.]

in parting, let's not forget to celebrate the beautiful part of the beautiful game by enjoying an assortment of

man candy of the matches

chile's alexis sanchez, who has a great smile, among other assets...

brightens your whole day
brightens your whole week
we like short shorts
hell, we like everything
 and who doesn't appreciate the bad boy charms of mario balotelli?

the intensity... 
the shirtless intensity...
the wet, shirtless intensity... 
whatever kind of intensity this is...
or how about balotelli's teammate, flaxen-haired, azure-eyed ciro immobile?

blue is your colour
so handsome i don't even need to ogle your body
...but i will
molto bene
and finally, we bid a fond farewell to didier drogba, since this is almost definitely the last time he'll be making a world cup appearance. at the ripe old age of 36, he can still put the youngsters to shame.

so long, farewell...
auf wiedersehen, goodnight... 
we hate to go and leave this pretty sight... 
sighs and smiles all around, sir
by the way, if you miss the man candy too much, you can always check out soccer players in underwear, a site i came across during my diligent research. it's exactly what it says it is.
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