26 May 2016

save me from my brain-children

my brain is all backed up. call someone.
i don't have writer's block. i've had writer's block many times. i know what it feels like and this is absolutely not it.

instead, my problem at the moment is that i've had several ideas that i wanted to work on come to me in the last few weeks, or seeds that i'd planted deep in the darkest soil of my brain-garden have suddenly started sprouting like dandelions [which you should not uproot and discard, because they are actually pretty awesome]. that's wonderful, right? i've gone from struggling to get any sort of creative traction and suddenly everything is working.

ok, if you've been struggling with a creative block, you might be a little pissed at me for this, but no, it is not a good thing. i have one computer, one semi-functional brain, two tiny little hands [maybe even smaller than donald trump's!] and a finite amount of time in which i can write and cook and do things to earn money and all the other stuff that takes up my day. so as a result, i've become completely paralyzed. i have a half dozen projects that are competing for my attention and no idea which of them to start first. some of them, i could work on simultaneously, although that would slow progress down on both. some would likely prevent me from working on anything else. some are possibly more lucrative, while others are assuredly less so.

and all of them want to come running out of my brain right now, pushing all the others aside. it's like each of my brain-children needs to be reassured that it is my favourite, or at least my priority, but that's just not the case. i'm fond of all of them and i want each one to see the light of day, at least until i start working on them and decide that i need to send it away somewhere i won't ever have to see it again. [the world is harsh for brain-children.]

i even tried making myself a nice little graph, in the hopes that applying science would eliminate my creative problem. science failed me.

this is what i'm left with:

codename :: saturn
time required :: high
arguments in favour :: although they need to be edited, large chunks of the story and a pretty detailed outline are already done. the bits that are done contain some of my favourite things that i've ever written.
arguments against :: some of the bits that are done require a lot of work themselves, because they're either meandering/ pointless or have continuity errors, so not only is there new work to be done, there's a lot of repairs. it will be a considerable amount of work and my guess is that it will never generate much money. [i'll just say this now, to clear things up: i am not in this for the money. that would be crazy. very few authors can make a living on fiction alone and those who can are generally a little more accessible than the bulk of what i do. but money matters and the less money i can generate from writing, the more time i have to put into things that will bring in the geld.]

codename :: copper
time required :: medium
arguments in favour :: there is a chunk of it done and a fairly detailed outline completed. the style and story are not terribly complex, so while i might not have made as much progress on it as other things, progress will likely be faster. it's something i've never tried before. although there's certainly no guarantee, i would say that this one has a greater chance of generating cat food money than some of its siblings.
arguments against :: it's something i've never tried before, so i'm not convinced i'd be any good at it. but the chief argument against it is that i'm not sure what it's going to turn into; my preferred form has always been the short story. i've honestly never attempted anything that wasn't short, but a few of the things just kept growing and became longer. i'm not really sure where this one would end up. normally, that wouldn't be an issue, but with everything else, i have a good sense of where it would end up, so i feel more comfortable with what my "plan" for it would be.

codename :: tutu
time required :: medium-high
arguments in favour :: i have a very solid outline of this one and it's a style where i know i can work pretty quickly. there isn't a good chance that it would bring me much money, but there is a chance. in fact, if i were able to move it along successfully, it would likely be the best "payback". it's something that arrived in my head more or less fully formed and i always feel i need to respect those ideas. i can't explain why, but having an entire idea for a story handed to you on an imaginary platter feels like means something.
arguments against :: if i'm not able to push it up the ladder of success, it will likely be useless to me, forever. i mean, i'll have it and if i ever manage to get famous, it will be an interesting curio, but that's it. i also think that writing it and trying to get it "out there" is likely to dredge up some past pain that i've learned to live with, but haven't dealt with. so there's the possibility that this is the thing that breaks me for good.

codename :: boathouse
time required :: extremely high
arguments in favour :: it's the thing that has the greatest creative energy around it, something that excites me more than the others at the moment. it's very much in the "seedling" stage, so new "leaves" keep appearing in the form of ideas that just seem to fit perfectly into it. it would likely be the largest project i ever completed, assuming that i did, in fact, complete it.
arguments against :: with the exception of rough notes, everything about this is in my head. this is really picking up something from scratch and it could well end up as a long-term project that ends up going nowhere. before i can even begin it, i have to make a decision about the format it will take, which will have a substantial effect on what i can do with it once it's finished. i think it could possibly bring me some money, but that's a long way off and by no means a guarantee.

codename :: island
time required :: medium-low
arguments in favour :: another project that would take me into an area that i've never tried before and that would be more accessible than my other stuff. there is a good outline established for this one and i even futzed around with writing the first part of it when the idea first came to me a few years ago. has a better shot at some short-term financial success [again, nothing is given] than anything else.
arguments against :: i'm not sure if i can even do this sort of project, because it feels alien to me, more so than anything else. although it could be fun to try, it's different enough that it would be difficult to reconcile with the rest of what i've written. if it doesn't work out, i'll feel more like my time has been wasted than with any other project.

codename :: wheel
time required :: very high
arguments in favour :: it's based on a group of characters i've had bumping around in my head forever. i've seriously written about eight different stories for them and i've never been happy with how they flowed together. more recently, i feel like i've hit on a story that works. i've written sections of this that are still useful, assuming that i can find them, because some of them were actually scribbled out longhand. if i don't do something with this persistent little gang, i'm going to die feeling incomplete.
arguments in favour :: i've never loved this enough to work on it exclusively. i might say now that i have a story that would work, but i've also said that about seven times before and all that's happened is that i've ended up pilfering bits of what i've written and sticking them in other stories. [if you've read tricky, the opening segment, where the heroine margaret reflects on her family history, was originally something i wrote for one of the characters in this story. it was literally copied and pasted into the initial draft of tricky.]  lots of time, lots of work, very high chance that i'll give up again, pretty low odds of a reward.

codename :: lego
time required :: low
arguments in favour :: something i'd be extremely comfortable doing and most of the work is already done. i'm happy with the content that's completed and i think that revisiting some of it could give me ideas that would let me add to it before saying it's "complete". by far the fastest turnaround time to get it finished and out in the world.
arguments against :: if i'm lucky, it will generate enough to take dom out for a nice, but not lavish dinner and maybe a few trinkets besides. the fact that i'm very comfortable with the project is a bit of a double-edged sword, because it also means i wouldn't be pushing my boundaries at all. of the work that remains to be done, i will despise 90% of it.

so now that i've made my handy little pros and cons list, i can say that 1. i'm not really any closer to making a decision; 2. i've just managed to distract myself from doing any work on any of these things by writing a blog post about them. please send help. i've gotten myself in over my head with my own brain.

25 May 2016

united nations of kate

if you follow me on twitter [and you probably shouldn't], you may have seen this tweet earlier:

tree. arbre. arból. baum. medis. kasht. zuhaitz.

the most embarrassing thing about this is not that i felt it necessary to advertise that i talk to myself, but that i'm dead certain that i can say the word "tree" in more than seven languages, but went with the ones that i could remember off the top of my overstuffed head. [seriously, the inside of my skull probably looks like some hoarder nightmare. tonnes of stuff, but there's no way of finding any of it when you need it.]

of course, there are things that i have learned to say besides "tree" in other languages. i've been documenting my adventures in language learning this year, where i've basically been working towards becoming a one-woman united nations meeting. of course, if you've seen some of my social media posts, you'll be aware that my general assembly would appear to be discussing some pretty dubious subjects.

here is the dutch delegation, clearly negotiating the terms of a business deal:

some things are deal breakers

and here is the dutch delegation doing nothing to dispel the idea that their country has a racism problem:

worst red carpet hosts ever

here is the spanish delegation congratulating themselves on their fine sartorial choices:

aren't they always?

and from the sounds of it, their architecture is pretty amazing:

picasso would be proud

the italian contingent has a leader who isn't quite so advanced:

maybe he brought the rhinoceros for the dutch

the outside world is a little confusing for him:

no, but your friends are

the french have some slightly macabre gifts in their designer bags:

you probably don't want to make any more jokes about them losing wars


and the germans just seem a little ashamed of the people they've sent as their representatives:

i hope they washed their hands

i think that some of the parties might need to work a little bit on their public demeanour: 

jesus, germany, go talk to spain about their pants

but some are willing to do their bit to solve the problem:

give them to germany or you don't get any rhinoceros

[my favourite part of that last one is that it uses the formal "you".]

my internal u.n. is currently eurocentric, which i aim to change in the future [once everyone has pants, or at least a sarong]. but more seriously, i hope this helps you all appreciate just how much fun it will be to talk to me in other languages. as it turns out, it's probably going to be a lot like talking to me in english. 

21 May 2016

making faces :: bite me

i was sort of shocked to find out, earlier this year, that bite beauty was discontinuing their original "luminous creme" lipstick formula and launching another called "amuse bouche". [side note: an "amuse bouche" is a sort of pre-appetizer, generally served in a bite-size portion, meant to excite the palate and whet the appetite.] unlike a lot of cosmetic fans, i'm a bit neophobic, particularly when it comes to tinkering with my favourite lipstick formulas. i haven't forgiven chanel for messing around with my beloved rouge cocos. that said, as much as i loved the luminous creme formula for being kind to my lips, there were a couple of areas where i felt it could be improved. first and foremost was that the colour faded rather quickly on most shades and often in an uneven, unattractive way. second, i felt like they could have been more original in their colours, since a lot of the permanent items seemed easier than not to match. but i really loved their commitment to natural, food grade ingredients and their clever names that reminded one that each lipstick contained all the resveratrol goodness of five glasses of red wine.

the new "amuse bouche" lipsticks continue with the natural and food-grade part of the equation, but they seem to have done away with resveratrol in favour of a number of other things that promise to care for lips without skimping on pigment or longevity. there are 34 shades, almost all of them new, although there are some that approximate the favourites from the luminous creme range, so we don't have to feel totally bereft. there are also some that are close to previously released, limited shades in different formulas, which will be a sweet relief to those who missed out on some of them.

being a little nervous about all this newness, i limited myself to buying one shade on the first go-around. i didn't want to grab everything that looked vaguely appealing, only to find out on first application that my lips hated them. i did, however, lay my hands on a sample size of one of the shades that was being offered by sephora in conjunction with the launch [back in february, because i am really, really late getting to this]. so i have two shades to show you.

first up, we have "beetroot", which is the shade i actually purchased. i've always longed for a lipstick the colour of stewed beets. it's a deep magenta that just leaps out from the natural world. it doesn't hurt that i absolutely love beets, although, since dom really doesn't, i rarely get to eat them. it's described as a "bold berry", but it's called beetroot, so i mean it pretty much has to look something like beets, right?

beetroot

beetroot

well, it does... sort of. it's definitely redder than beets, the colour of which tends to run cooler. it definitely has that eye-catching combination of brightness and depth that makes the colour of beets so breathtaking. "bold berry" could mean a lot of things and while it's an accurate enough description, i think it would be even more accurate to say "deep but but berry-beet". maybe not quite as succinct. even if it's not quite my perfect beet-shade, it is something that i'm going to be reaching for a lot.

"radish" doesn't look exactly like the skin of a radish either, but it does compare to beetroot in much the same way as the colour of a radish compares to the colour of a beet. it's lighter, brighter and pinker, although not exactly in a different universe than beetroot. bite describes it as "deep magenta", but since beetroot is noticeably darker, i feel like the naming gnomes could do a little better on differentiating bold and deep.

radish
radish

this is the shade that i received as a points perk from sephora and i'd say that you only really need both beetroot and radish if you adore these sorts of colours. as i do. the amuse bouche lipsticks have more shades that seem harder to match, but they're still don't have the subtle undertones of a truly remarkable colour. [in all honesty, with the trend towards unidimensional mattes in the last few years, it's gotten harder to find shades that have those sorts of nuances.]

i made some comparisons from my collection, which might be heavier on these sorts of colours than the average person's.

l to r :: rouge d'armani 513, beetroot, radish, rouge d'armani 402 [d.c.], nars vera
rouge d'armani 513, maharajah, is cooler than radish and has a fine shimmer. the discontinued rouge d'armani shade 402 [i think it's discontinued; the rouge d'armani line is kind of in chaos right now] is pretty close to beetroot- definitely the closest that i have- but is darker and more muted. i honestly expected/ worried that nars audacious lipstick in vera would be an even closer match, but it's darker, softer, a bit greyer.

the bottom line is that the colours are beautiful, but not necessarily unique. some of the more neutral shades look like they'd be harder to match.

but what about the formula? isn't that what's really the issue here? well let me assure you: the formula is killer. the lasting power is as good as i've seen from any bite product, and while it isn't quite as soft going on as the luminous creme formula, it still does feel like a treat to wear. the longevity does not cause dryness or flaking, and when the colour does wear down, it does so much more evenly than before.

the feel of the formula actually reminds me of the deconstructed rose lipsticks that came out a couple of years ago and a bit of the nars audacious lipsticks. [yikes! i've fallen behind on reviewing those in the last year... there are more i need to share, even though they're not new anymore.] like those formulas, the amuse bouche lipsticks read as nearly matte on me and quite glossy on everyone else. i've never understood why that is, but look at my photos, then go look at the ones on temptalia or the beauty lookbook. clearly, our skin is made of different stuff.

the one slight problem i had was that i found it tricky to get a really crisp line around the outside of my lips. i would have forgiven this if it had just been the mini, but it was actually worse in the full size product. i suspect that this is because the edges of the bullet are softly tapered, with a precise point only at the top, so if you want a sharp line, you have to be very careful that only the point touches the edge of your lips. and even then, unless your hands are rock-steady, it might be tricky. [you could use a lip liner, of course, but i generally don't because they never look like the right colour, except with shades of red.]

i've worn both of these shades a few times, but a series of misadventures with smudged lenses and poor lighting meant that i have very little that shows these shades as they look in real life. i do have a couple that i was able to salvage of me wearing radish, which give you an idea of what it looks like in the context of a full face.



i'm also wearing shades from the tarte rainforest of the sea palette and on the cheeks is [i believe] a combination of dior pareo and hourglass incandescent ambient strobing powder.

in addition to the 34 permanent shades, bite has just launched 6 limited edition shades for the summer. i haven't purchased one yet [because i can't choose just one, or two, or...], but i can tell you that they represent bite's most unique and daring shades to date.

i will miss the wine-themed names and, clearly, i will have to be sure to drink more wine in order to get my resveratrol, but the amuse bouche lipsticks are a definite step forward, and a very welcome addition to the world of lipstick formulas. 

18 May 2016

scottishnotscottish

as scottish as mjölnir
probably the first thing i ever learned about my ancestry was that i am scottish. the scottish part of my family are way proud of their scotch-ness. they know their particular tartan. they have their family crest displayed in their homes. they've been to the town from which the family first sprouted. they like their bagpipes and burns and gaelic. and indeed, the clan lines in scotland go far back.  [not as far back as the irish strain of the family they won't admit exists, but that's another story.]

but in my continuing genealogy project, wherein i am endeavouring to trace my lineage all the way back to its pre-human form, i've come across a little "hitch": my scottish family, at least the part of them that gave us our clan name and identity, isn't scottish. well, they are. but they're also not. in fact, they were enemies of the scots, even though they were, in a way, scots themselves and related to the scottish royal family. of course, that didn't stop them from pretty much declaring war on the scottish royal family, since, in olden times, being family didn't imply loyalty so much as the right to take all your stuff.

here's how this works:

my family, the macdonalds of keppoch, part of the larger "clan donald" were actually descended from the "lords of the isles". these were the people who lived, as the name might imply, in the islands on the west side of scotland "proper": the hebrides, mull, islay, arran and generally every place where scotch is made. the kingdom of the isles even stretched as far south as the isle of man. although it wasn't always a well-defined entity, the kingdom was distinguished by the fact that it had a turbulent relationship with the scottish crown since the scottish were always a little concerned about have people basically sitting on their shoulder and occasionally trying to murder them.

so what? i hear you say. they were all "scottish" anyway. well, yes and no. the rulers of "the isles" were actually norse-gaels, which is a term that means exactly what it sounds like: a mix of norwegian and scottish gaelic blood. the norse-gaels were partly scottish, but they were mostly just nose-gaelic, and considered themselves their own sweet entity, equally norwegian and scottish, but not either.

the norse-gaels reached the zenith of their power under a figure called somerled, "lord of the isles", in the twelfth century [yes, i know i'm going pretty far back there, but it still counts]. he's revered as a highland hero in scotland, because he supposedly drove the vikings out of the country. however, the truth is that he came from a prominent family of norse-gaels, which meant that he was part viking himself. furthermore, in order to curry favour for his plan of world domination [well, at least scottish domination], he married a daughter of the jarl [earl] of orkney. the orkneys at that time were a colony of norway, and hence closely tied to the royal family of that country [although the orkneys had, over centuries, also evolved into their own separate thing, which would persist for centuries]. and the vikings that somerled expelled from scotland were actually just one ruler, whom he deposed from the throne of the isles in man, and who happened to be his brother in law. so to recap: somerled was a half-norwegian, who married a norwegian, who deposed another half-norwegian from the isle of man and is now credited with saving scotland from the vikings. wish i knew the name of his publicist.

what's more shocking, at least if you're scottish, is that the lords of the isles were closer to the english and irish royal families, or at least more inclined to make alliances with them, than they were with the scottish royal family. [although they weren't above marrying into the scottish royal family, as somerled's sister was married off to the scottish king malcolm.]

so where does that leave me, almost a millennium later?

well, the clan donald is descended from one of somerled's two sons. so all the macdonalds [as well as several other clans] trace their heritage to him. and that's not just a legend. genetic testing done on members of the clans who claim him as a progenitor found that a huge percentage of them have dna markers indicative of a single common ancestor. it's entirely possible that somerled's extended family numbers in excess of half a million people, which is impressive, but kind of sucks if you're looking for any inheritance you might be due.

that means that the oh-so-scottish macdonalds, the most scottish of all the scottish clans, are just as much norwegian as they are scottish. many common scottish names, both surnames and forenames, are actually english corruptions of gaelic corruptions of norse names like rōgnvald [gaelic ragnhall, english ronald or roland] or Þormóð [gaelic tormod, english norman]. and while we can brag about how our heritage goes back to times bc/ bce, that's really only true of the norwegian [or, alternately, the irish] parts of the family, because the actual scottish parts get pretty foggy, which is par for the course in scotland.

so, in celebration of my scottish family, i would like to wish a very hearty, although slightly belated, national day to my norwegian progenitors. someday i hope to visit your exquisite fjords and experience the true nature of my scottishness.

p.s. :: i would love to close with a salutation in norwegian, but it's not one of the languages i've started learning and i don't want to do the obnoxious thing and say something in swedish under the assumption that all you scandinavians speak the same language, even though, from what i understand, your languages are at least close enough that you'd probably understand me. i'll speak proper norwegian someday.]

p.p.s. :: the photo at the top of the post is taken from this post on the history of the vikings on the isle of man. 

16 May 2016

mental health mondays :: #mentalillnessfeelslike

a few weeks ago, i posted a notice in honour of canadian mental health week. however, i failed to mention that our neighbours to the south dedicate an entire month to mental health awareness. of course, if you take into consideration the difference in population, canada is still dedicating more time per capita, but, you know... it's a whole month. and it's one of the long ones, too.

the theme for this year's campaign, as you might have gathered from the hash-taggery in the title of this post, is "what mental illness feels like". that can encompass a lot of things, because mental illness covers depression, psychosis, dissociative disorders, eating disorders, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, panic disorders... but you know all this already. the idea is to simply get people to talk about mental illness as much as possible, to give a sense of all of the different ways in which it can affect people's lives, the number of people who suffer from it, and also to let people know that others feel the same way that they do.

you can get information on mental health month here. i've already spoken quite a bit about my own experiences with mental health on this blog, so i figured i would share these adorable drawings from british artist gemma correll, created to mark the month.





i've felt all of these things and a lot of people i know have felt them too. 

other observations about how mental illness feels that i've heard from people include things like: 

  • being paralysed :: when panic attacks and anxiety are at their peak, you feel physically as if you can't move- like your brain isn't in control of your body. 
  • painful :: when you're stressed, your body releases inflammatory substances capable of causing real, physical damage to the body. you're not imagining that it hurts and you're not being overly sensitive.
  • being crazy :: one of the saddest things i've ever heard [and it's come from more than one person] is that many people who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder are perfectly aware that their rituals/ ticks/ beliefs are irrational, but that doesn't do anything to reduce their power. 
  • having no idea who to trust :: john nash once said that the voices in his head came to him in the exact same way as his ideas about mathematics, so he couldn't discount them. it's something i've heard from others as well- your own brain is lying to you, often using the same channels that it uses to allow you to do really important things. 
  • not knowing what anything feels like :: this is a little understood problem with dissociative disorders and one that's often used to portray them as unfeeling monsters. dissociative disorders can cause people to "split" from their emotions, so that they can be unaware of what they're feeling, or unable to feel the "appropriate" emotions in certain situations. 


and none of this gets into what mental illness feels like for those close to someone with a mental illness. 

whatever your experience, i encourage you to make your voice heard over the next two weeks. join a conversation, start a conversation. it won't bring about change on its own, but no change can happen without it. 
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