31 January 2011

dj kali double-shot

here's a little plug directed to those of you in the montreal area. after a period of some hibernation, i'll be dj'ing at two upcoming events:

what :: kill me now (a night old old-school goth, industrial and related goodies)
when :: 5 february 10-3 (i'm on early for this one, so don't dawdle!)
where :: cabaret playhouse, 5656 ave. du parc (between st. viateur & bernard)

what :: queer post-punk night (pretty much what it says)
when :: 17 february 10-3
where :: cabaret playhouse, 5656 ave. du parc (between st. viateur & bernard)

if you're not sure what to expect, you can see a smattering of my old playlists here.

hope to see you at one or both of these!

28 January 2011

friday favourites 01.28.11

here's a little something that i've decided to start in the hopes of bringing some organisation to the lovable chaos that is this blog. i've never tried doing a regular feature before, but i figure an easy place to start is just with a recap of some of the things that i've been appreciating over the last week, or at least things that have captured my interest.

ricky gervais :: depending on what you believe, gervais either thumbed his nose at the entire assembled hollywood elite or pulled off the greatest publicity stunt in the history of entertainment. the man himself has pointed out that he wasn't exactly revealing any great secrets (robert downey jr. has had drug problems? seriously? i never knew.) and anyone who's seen gervais do stand up knows that he has a reputation for offending just about everyone, but the evening was still a welcome respite from a lifetime of awards shows that are to entertainment what ambien is to energy. it obliterated the fact that the awards themselves were utterly predictable. besides, anyone who has harvey weinstein hiring a posse of guys to take him out has to be doing something right.

(the following clip is probably not safe to play in front of your coworkers, your family, or even yourself if you're easily offended. you have been warned.)

new additions ::
sure, everyone thinks i've lost my damn mind, but there are two new furry faces in my life. one of the most fascinating things about having my own little pride of lions about is that my inner anthropologist gets to observe feline society in the making. there is a developing social hierarchy, as well as a nebulous network of allies based on who is getting along with whom. i'm also wondering whether or not i can use them for strength training, lifting each of them to give myself some weight resistance. i figure i can start with the siamese and work my way up to the maine coon. cuddling as exercise.

leigh-ann white
:: aka, my deep tissue massage therapist. i know what you're thinking- massage is a luxury, not really therapy. i'm guessing that if you are thinking that, you've never had back problems. i've had them for many years and no one has ever been able to do anything useful for me until i met leigh-ann. the difference is that, with her, not only do you get a better sort of massage (filled with good hurt), but you also get someone who knows a lot about anatomy, how things get messed up, and how to undo the ravages of time and neglect. of course, at the moment, my back, neck and shoulders probably hurt more than when i first went to see her. the difference is that i don't feel like my breathing is restricted, i don't have numbness and weird tingling in my arms and i can feel things gradually starting to loosen. if you have back problems, get yourself a good massage therapist. if you live in montreal, get leigh-ann!

fluevogs ::
ok, i always love fluevogs, but this week is special because the first set of designs for 2011 were unleashed upon the public. and sure, i probably have enough shoes to last three lifetimes, but can i help it if he just keeps coming out with such awesome designs? best of all, this is one of those times where one has the choice of what's new and what's affordable, because a lot of outgoing models and colours are on sale. i already have a list of springtime choices picked out and it makes for very good motivation to get myself back in the workforce, pronto.

the rebellion against post-literacy ::
this isn't something new, but since i started following GRAMMARHULK on twitter, i have at least some hope that there are people out there who are trying to resuscitate the english language from the near-death state in which the last years have left it. yes, you can still send text message asking if your friend has arrived at the restaurant before you with whole words, not with : u r in restaurant? (come to think of it, that reads like it might be kind of disgusting.) current opinion holds that, with computers to check our spelling and online resources to provide synonyms, antonyms and translations, the need for individuals to be literate is passe. i hold with the always-wonderful "the oatmeal" that people who use words without knowing what they mean, or who can't spell simple words just look dumb.

so what's making you happy this week? or, if you've had a rough one, what would improve the things that are vexing you? personally, i'm waiting for blogger (hello? hello google overlords?) to come up with an iphone app that will allow me to use this space from wherever my adventures take me. then you'd never shut me up!

what i'll be watching this week :: egypt. sure, we all thought that the first revolution and coup of the internet age was going to happen in iran. remember, we all changed our twitter avatars green for a week or so? you don't remember? well it doesn't matter, because now the first revolution and coup of the internet age is absolutely, positively, without any possibility of doubt (ahem) going to happen in egypt. it's the same sort of story, but the work of internet interlopers wikileaks and the cloud of mystery that still surrounds mubarak's rise to power and the assassination of his predecessor anwar sadat make for a potentially explosive variant.

25 January 2011

if it's customer abuse, it's gotta be bell

ooh, i can barely contain my giggles. i have finally settled (somewhat) my year and a half long battle with bell canada over the fact that they left my previous phone line connected for three months after i moved, tried to strong-arm me into paying for their mistake, accused me of breaching a contract when i left for another provider and insisted that the onus had been on me to request a copy of said contract, although they had never informed me of its existence. i can't get back the hours of my life i wasted on the phone being subject to verbal abuse while i tried to get this cleared up. it is some minor comfort to know that at least i am not alone. witness this tale of horror from someone who merely tried to contact bell with a billing question.

of course, if you've followed news in canada lately, you'll be aware that i'm not alone at all. in fact, it looks like this sort of behaviour is actually part of bell's customer service strategy, at least if you take the word of the 10,000 people who've complained about their telemarketing practices. you'll note in the article that the crtc- probably third behind bell canada and wal-mart on the list of organisations i'd like to see blasted into outer space- basically dispensed with the complaints by giving bell a slap on the wrist compared to the fines it's doled out for lesser offenses to smaller companies. (although it claims to be driven purely by the volume and content of complaints, the crtc has a history of establishing precedent by hammering on the little guys who can't afford to fight back. but that's another story.) apparently, the crtc don't take it very seriously that the principal abuser of the country's "do not call" list is the corporation they entrusted to maintain it in the first place.

through all this, i continue to get the most melancholy, heartfelt form letters signed in the name of vice-president steve bickley, mourning our long-standing past relationship and promising me, as abusers often do, that everything will be well again if i just come back. and, while i haven't been cursed at by any of them, i do receive calls from telemarkters on a somewhat frequent basis (although it does seem that their efforts are flagging), attempting to woo me on bell's behalf. honestly, the whole nightmare has grown so bizarre that i actually look forward to these calls, these opportunities to explain calmly that not only am i never returning to bell, but i am encouraging everyone i know to leave them for greener pastures. i get a sadistic sort of amusement from the fact that bell has provided no script or tips whatsoever to their telemarketers to deal with customers who left not for financial reasons, but because they were just so aggravated by bell's miserable customer service that anything looked good by comparison. with at least 10,000 complaints on the books, one would hope that mr. bickley has his little elves working on a cheat sheet for that.

personally, i think that if bell wants to impress people with its customer service and responsible actions, it should start by not calling people who don't want to be called, not wasting paper by sending out form letters and by keeping track of those who have left out of anger and frustration, rather than because they were offered a better deal somewhere else. i also think that, given bell's increasingly dodgy record on all counts, that the crtc should be keeping them on a lot shorter leash than what we've seen.

rather get trapped in the horror of addressing the crtc directly, you can request that bell be subject to higher scrutiny by reaching out to industry minister tony clement. his contact information is pretty comprehensive (no cell number, though). you might want to remind him that his government is already dragging their feet on long-promised telecommunications reform and that letting bell operate at a lower standard than smaller competitors is a step in the wrong direction.

if any of you are in the same boat as me, getting unrequited love notes from steve bickley and you're ready to let him know that it's never going to happen between you, you could always try contacting him directly:

phone: 416-446-3234
e-mail: steven.bickley@bell.ca

whatever part of this seamy corporate thuggery you object to, the one thing that i encourage you to do is object loudly, consistently, articulately and politely. bell has been able to get away with a lot of things because they are big compared to you, the individual. but when stories of thousands of irate customers (and would-be customers) start surfacing, the time has come to call their bluff.

[note :: the graphic that accompanies this piece was something i found originally in an article from the montreal gazette. the article, which is itself an interesting piece on bell canada and includes (in the comments) reactions from current and former bell customers.]

24 January 2011

ew, canada

i remember when it started. i had to pick up a bottle of wine for dinner, i was standing in the nova scotia liquor commission and i realised that the only thing that i knew about wine was that there was the distinct possibility that someone who had no idea what they were doing could end up with something really awful.

it was fortunate that i ran into a friend of mine who imparted to me two key pieces of information:

with french or italian wines, you generally get what you pay for

chilean and australian wines are good deals for the price you pay

this was a long time ago- wines from previously unheralded regions of france now offer a less expensive option to those from bordeaux or burgundy and it's been years since anyone uttered the words "australian wine" and "good deal" in the same sentence without also including the phrase "used to". but what those two little pieces of advice did was spark my curiosity. it was at that moment that i realised that you did not have to be a wealthy snob or an anachronism to know about wine. someone in my peer group could do it. someone just like me.

i have never become what you'd call an expert. i probably know more than the average person on the street, but that's as far as i'll go. over the years, i've picked up favourite varietals and favourite regions, but i know nothing about what area had good years when, or which house produces the finest of each wine. i figure knowing about the very best wines is sort of pointless to me, since i can't afford them anyway (if that changes, i'm sure it'll mean that i have lots of free time to catch up). i'd really rather know what $10 isn't going to make me think i've just imbibed a glass of balsamic. and that's just a matter of trial and error.

in the course of my trialing and erroring, i've tried to sample wines, red and white, from as many different countries as i could, even ones that i'd never known to produce a single grape. sure, these countries might not have the grand history and established wineries, but what they produce is well cheaper and, if you consult a map, you'll notice, for instance, that croatia is just across the adriatic sea from italy.

what i noticed rather shamefacedly a few years ago was that i'd never actually tried the wines being produced in my own country. perhaps it was that natural canadian sense of humility and self-deprecation, but i'd always kind of assumed that canadian wines were simply a plot to make us all feel guilty and buy domestic and probably tasted like mineral oil with alcohol added. but, especially after i moved to ontario in 2002, it became evident that there were a lot of people who disagreed with me. canadian wines of various sorts were getting stellar reviews from publications and bloggers around the world. i started to feel like i'd messed up.

to be honest, i had tried one wine from ontario, but it was an ice wine, which is an entirely different beast. no one had to explain to me why canadian winemakers would have an advantage in producing the ice variety, but at about a hundred bucks a bottle, it's not the kind of thing you're going to be grabbing on the way to a casual dinner with friends.

before plunging in, i decided to give canadian wines the best shot they were going to get. at the time, that meant going ontario, since they were (and still are, although the grip has loosened) the centre of canadian wine production and the ones with the greatest amount of experience. i read up a little on the varietals available and what had received positive comments. i went with a red for no other reason than i tend to prefer reds. nothing i could find expressed a strong opinion on whether niagara region whites or reds were superior, so i figured i wasn't doing anything wrong.

unfortunately, despite all my careful preparation, i ended up with something that tasted vaguely like what i remember communion wine tasting like- wine in name only. there are good wines and bad wines. the sheer glut of information available on winemaking means that you're unlikely to get anything too horrible, just bland, but this brought bland to a whole new level.

needless to say, i didn't rush back in for seconds, but a few months later, i got a bottle of wine as a christmas present through a work colleague and i decided that i might have simply picked wrong on my first try. if memory serves, after a valiant effort, that bottle ended its life in a stew and even the stew was kind of bland. 0 for 2.

a friend who knows a lot more about wine than i do suggested that i should be giving consideration to the climate of the niagara region. rather than just taking the vintners' word for it, i should think about what other areas of the world have similar climates and work from there. her suggestion was that i should try wines similar to those from northeastern france and germany, since these were areas that had similarly chilly winters and cool, wet springs. the key here is that i should have been sticking to white wines (as those regions do) and specific types of grape like riesling and gewurztraminer. so, with some trepidation, i gave it a shot.

i should add that this experimentation comes at a price. that is not a metaphor for anything. canadian wines, even on their home ground, are surprisingly expensive. one of the reasons that i took so long between attempts to like my native grog is that i was constantly faced with the question of whether to take a chance on the home team or to grab a perfectly serviceable bottle of plonk at half the price from chile, spain or my new darling, argentina .

sadly, i didn't find that the whites fared any better than their red cousins. i had one slightly-better-than-mediocre experience with some wine served at a company function, but the most i can say is that it didn't make me want to spit up in my glass. i wasn't rushing to take it home. other bottles i received, always as business-related christmas gifts (i swear they give out deals on bulk purchases at this time), ended up in my pots and pans rather than my glasses.

last summer, i was looking to grab a bottle of viognier, my absolute favourite type of white wine. finding these can be a dicey affair at the best of times, since there aren't all that many to begin with and not every location has them even when they are available. when i went to my liquor shop, i was sad to find that they were not apparently in the offing that week. (all this is government-run in canada, which i won't get into now, but it means that, other than for basics, you're forced to shop in government-run shops for your potables.) one of the store's helpful staff suggested a viognier/ chardonnay blend to me (NOT the same thing, even when done well), a product of ontario. i wanted to say no, but i also really felt like a nice viognier, so i decided i might as well give it a shot. wouldn't it be ironic, i thought, if the one varietal my countrymen could do well happened to be the one i love the most? yeah, that would have been ironic, if it had turned out to be true. mark down another one for some pasta vongole.

it's a sad situation, really. here i am a canadian who genuinely likes the range of flavours in a good wine and the only country whose wines i make a point of avoiding is my own. i wonder if people in france or italy or even australia feel this way. actually, i'm pretty sure that you lose your citizenship in europe if you don't like the homegrown.

a couple of weeks ago, i was in my local liquor store, searching for a nice bottle of wine to have with a nice dinner. "nice" in this case means that i was willing to go a little bit higher than my normal budget. there was one bottle i was looking at that had a delicious-sounding description and an impressive set of press clippings pinned next to its display. even with my extended budget, it was a bit more than i wanted to pay for something that was going to be devoured that night, but at the same time, i didn't just want to fall back on one of my usual choices. tonight i dared to be different.

as i was contemplating how much i was willing to pay for a new adventure, i took a better look at the bottle and groaned. "product of british columbia". i was disappointed, but also surprised, because the description didn't sound like anything even close to what i'd tasted from canada. at the same moment, one of the store employees noticed what i was doing and said "oh you have to get that one". huh? "it's amazing." really? i'd never heard anyone, even employees who were told to push the national product, describe a canadian wine as amazing.

of course, i remembered that this was the same store that made the dodgy chardonnay- viognier recommendation, so i was a little hesitant, but what won out was that the employee who said the wine was amazing was really cute and i'm convinced that everyone, even those like me who are in a happy relationship, is more inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to someone who's easy on the eyes.

and thus did i make my first foray into the world of british columbian wines. unlike ontario, there is a sort of geographical logic to winemaking in b.c. after all, it is adjacent to well-known american winemaking regions in the pacific northwest. but i guess i'd been living with the impression that there was something north of the 49th parallel that made the wine bad. but now i can say that, in at least one case, i was wrong. this wine was delicious. incredibly so. both of us agreed that it was one of the better bottles we'd had in months. and, although it was pricier than a standard bottle of dinner wine, i have to admit, the flavour was comparable with wines that sell for a lot more. so perhaps, in my traiterous, wine-soaked heart, i may yet nurse the spark of national pride.

you can see the bottle that won me over here (french only) or see the scant information available on the winery (call for a tour!) here.

20 January 2011

the lexicon of lipstick :: mac

i'll start off this post with a bit of an apology. when i ordered all the men from the room in my last post, i was being unfair to my own sweetie, who's very patient going shopping with me and, in fact, has an uncanny eye for spotting colours that work on me (better than my own sometimes). i guess there are some guys who figure that, if they're going to be looking at your lips a lot, there are certain things they'd like to see when they're looking. so if there are gentlemen who are interested in the subject, you are welcome here. but this is another lipstick post, so consider yourself warned.

in my post about some of my favourite (when i can afford them) lip treats, i did say that i'd left out the one brand that i have sworn by for years. everyone who knows me well knows that for me, mac is to makeup what fluevog is to shoes. i've been a loyal customer for years and, in that time, i've amassed a fair amount of knowledge about their admittedly complicated product range. in fact, i think it's because i've been a customer so long that i've been able to keep track of a lot of their developments. one of the benefits of being around when new products come out.

every company has different sorts of lipsticks- ones that are frosty or creamy or sheer- and those types are generally fairly easy to understand. but mac takes this to a sort of extreme that requires a lot of studying. it may seem like this is just a marketing device, but the fact is that each type has its own characteristics and those will determine whether you like what you get or not. the differentiating factors are colour intensity, moisture, finish and opacity.

so here is dr. kate's descriptions of everything that mac has to offer your lips. (well, there are a bunch of glosses too, that are probably even more complicated, but i really don't have that kind of energy.) all mac lipsticks are $17.50 regularly, although some in special packaging or limited collections can be more expensive. the finish names are given on the label on the bottom of the tube, along with the shade name.

matte :: i usually think of these as sort of old-fashioned, like the kind of lipsticks women would wear in films from the 40s, when the object was just to get colour as intense as you possibly could. these are about the best colour payoff you'll get and they stay put for hours, which is nice. the finish, as the name suggests, is completely flat, no shine at all, which i also think of as the way "original" lipstick probably looked.

the downside of these is that they're dry. dry like a desert. dry like dying of thirst. if your lips are a little dry, the colour will tend to pill like an old sweater. it will come peeling off your lips, which will then start to look patchy. you can try reapplying, but it'll still look uneven and for the rest of the day you will look less 1940s glam queen and more 2010s homeless crazy person.

if you're lips are very dry, wearing one of these is going to be like someone torturing you. these will get into every crack and cut, they will suck out any remaining moisture and, because they are so strongly pigmented and long-wearing, at the end of the day, you'll basically have to sandpaper your lips to get the colour off.

some are better than others. they range from almost creamy to ones so dry it's difficult even to get a proper swatch on your hand. basic rule: if it feels really dry, it is.

recommendation? great colour, especially if you want to look like you walked off the screen of a film noir. but since films noir usually take place in foggy, rain-soaked locals anyway, do yourself a favour and wait for the rainy season to incorporate these in a regular rotation.

favourite shades? russian red, a bright "statement" red that suits almost everyone (it's consistently one of mac's best-selling colours); charred red, a deep slightly warm red that makes perfect vampy lips

satin :: to me, this finish is defined by not being anything else. they're a little bit creamier than mattes and can have a little bit of a sheen (which is more than nothing but less than a shine). there aren't tons of these left and there don't seem to be a lot more coming out. maybe they feel they're not unique enough within the product offering. a bunch are being discontinued, but a couple of limited ones were released in the last few months. maybe they're just kind of nuts, i don't know.

i do know that, back when i started buying from mac, i liked these a lot more. now, they're sort of like less problematic matte lipsticks. they have the same drawbacks, but to a lesser degree. (of course, they also don't last as long, so it really depends what you're willing to sacrifice it.) i don't know whether the formula has changed or my lips got older, but i find i notice their flaws a lot more than i once did.

recommendation? most of the colours left are duplicated in other finishes, but they're probably going the way of the dinosaur, so why not buy a couple and in a couple of years you can show everyone your collection of antique lipsticks?

favourite shades? mystic, a slightly shimmery plum red colour that's being discontinued; toxic tale, a super-bright electric coral colour for when you feel shocking

amplified creme :: yes, that's how they spell it. it's sort of a hybrid of english and french, where they use the french spelling but the english characters (i.e., no accents). these are really gorgeous and they compete with brands that are twice the price. the formula is rich and creamy and deposits loads of colour. the effect is not subtle, but it's great if you want your lips to stand out. (and why wouldn't you?) the colours are solid rather than dimensional, although some have a bit of a coloured pearl for added depth.

being creamy, they don't last quite as long as drier formulas, but the good news is that reapplication is easy enough. also, despite being moist, they don't have a tendency to start feathering around the edges. plus they have that nice shine that tends to make lips look a little fuller and healthier. (how something completely unnatural like shiny lips looks healthy, i don't know, but trust me on this one.)

the one drawback, other than the lack of subtlety (if you consider that a drawback), is that i always feel just a little like i'm wearing one of those old pairs of wax lips. they're heavy enough that i'm constantly aware that i have lipstick on, which is not what i want. i guess that once i'm not aware of it any more, i know it's time to reapply, but the sense of there being a film on the lips is a little discomfiting. (i should add that i've noticed this with some shades more than others, without being able to establish a pattern.)

recommendation? gorgeous. loads of colour, loads of impact and a great (and always expanding) range of colours.

favourite shades? where do i start? tribalist, a limited edition blackish berry colour that looks like the skin of a dark plum; blankety, a rich neutral; fusion pink, a warm hot pink with a gorgeous pearly sheen to it; up the amp, a rich lavender purple... the list goes on...

cremesheen :: again with the creme... these are a newer finish and i was unsure about it for a long time. in theory, they're a combination of medium to high pigmentation with a softer feel. these ones aren't as colour-intense as the amplified cremes, or as shiny (remember the difference between "sheen" and "shine"?), although that can vary a bit between colours. they do have a really nice, soft feel and they don't tend to move around a lot, which other moist lipsticks do, so that's a definite plus.

lots of people seem to like these, because they're a nice hybrid between heavier and lighter. the one complaint i've heard is that some, ironically enough, find the formula drying. i haven't experienced that personally, but what does bug me a little is that these have a tendency to bleed and feather, so you start to look smudgy rather than sexy.

the colour is rich on almost all of them and solid, so you get a nice amount of impact for something that doesn't feel heavy or thick.

recommendation? mac made a big deal of these when they launched and i imagine they're going to continue as a staple of the line. the colour range is still a bit limited, but it's likely going to expand fairly quickly. if your tastes are similar to mine, there are a couple of awesome reds/ berry colours at the moment.

favourite shades? hang up, another one of my beloved dark purple-red shades; creme d'nude, which really looks like rich creme on the lips (looks awesome with dark eye makeup); kittenish, a warm red wine colour; go for it, a bluish purple... more coming all the time.

frost :: this is a finish that's been around forever. it's super-pearly, almost sparkly and for years i associated it with girls working in tim horton's or dairy queen next to truck stops in the middle of nowhere. that frosty pale pink that symbolised the abandonment of all hope of escape.

of course, a lot of things have changed. for instance, frost finishes now come in a lot of colours and they aren't nearly as drying as they once were (nor are they made using fish scales, as they once were). they do still have a tendency to settle into any lines on the lips and make them look like canyons, which is why more people seem to have a hate on for this finish than for any other. i'm lucky enough for that not to be too much of a problem at the moment (it'll happen), but i do find that, because any lines become more visible, there is a tendency for lips to look more compressed- thinner and smaller. if you have thin and lined lips, a frost lipstick is going to make your mouth look like a zipper.

the colour payoff tends to be pretty good and the nice thing about frosts is that, no matter how drunk you are when you apply them (so i'm told), they always look even. plus, since there are generally at least two colours- the base colour and the colour of the "frosting"- the end shade has a lot of dimension. so, after years of being put off by the truck-stop associations, even i've taken the plunge.

recommendation? this finish is going to be around as long as people insist on painting their faces. with all the options that there are available and more coming all the time, it's certain that you'll be able to find something to tickle your fancy.

favourite shades? o, the colour that won me over to frosts and one of the most amazing lip colours you'll ever see, is a red-purple base with a lot of gold shimmer and turns a different colour virtually every time you see it (if you've seen stills or the trailer for conversion, it's the lipstick i'm wearing for most of the film); victorian, a bright pink base with a gold shimmer that looks like no other colour i've seen (i'm wearing it in the avatar picture on this page)

lustre :: isn't it nice to see a canadian company so successful that they're able to foist canadian spelling on the world?

ahem, back to topic. this is probably the most popular of mac's lipstick finishes and with good reason. the texture is soft and moisturising- it competes with even very high end items- and the colour range is fantastic (and the more successful it becomes, the more colours are available). the real plus here is that the colour can be built up for more of an effect, so they're an easy solution for a variety of settings. they're shiny and make lips look like ripe, delicious fruit, plump with juice. many of the darker shades also fade to a very nice stained effect, which, even if it's different than how it looks in the tube, can be nice.

for all their positives, there are a few negatives. some of the lighter colours are so delicate they become invisible, or require a lot of application to become visible. some also have a tendency to apply unevenly, which is really obvious when a colour is a bit sheer. some shades also have a tendency to bleed badly, which can leave you looking like you ate too many popsicles. and of course, as with most moist formulas, they don't last that long. even within the range, there can be a lot of differences from one colour to another in terms of slipperiness, pigmentation and durability.

come to think of it, that's quite a few negatives. it's just really hard to resist the appeal of something that can look and feel so nice.

recommendation? if you find one that works for you, and with the number of shades available, it would be almost impossible not to, you'll probably want to wear it every day for the rest of your life. there's one that i've been purchasing for years, because i feel incomplete without it.

favourite shades? new ones all the time, but my current favourites are viva glam v, a light beige pink (and part of mac's extraordinary aids campaign); desire, a dark purple- berry shade again that can be sheered out nicely; naked paris, a really rich, sparkly brown-pink colour that makes neutral lips just so much more interesting to look at.

glaze :: this is mac's lightest finish and it pretty much lives up to its name. it leaves a sheer layer of colour on the lips with a little bit of a sugary sheen, much like the glaze on a doughnut. there are very few permanent shades in this finish, because i think most people dismiss it as lustre's feeble cousin. personally, though, i disagree.

in fact, while many of the colours are light and you'll never have the kind of pigmentation that looks totally vampy, these can have quite a bit of impact. the rest weightlessly on the lips like a sort of stain and can actually add quite a bit of colour. more than with other finishes, they work in combination with the natural colour of the lips, so they tend to look a lot different from one person to the next. every cosmetics fan in the entire world seems to disagree with me, but i think these are vastly underrated. i was happy to see that mac had a handful of new ones as part of their 2010 collections.

recommendation? the trick here is going to be finding a colour that works for you. with so few available, the options are very limited. but i highly encourage everyone to keep trying, because i think these babies deserve more credit than they get.

favourite shades? bubbles, a limited warm white colour, the kind of thing that would likely never work if it were more opaque; riveting, a distinctive plum- taupe shade that was unfortunately limited

rumour has it that mac may be simplifying the line that it offers to the public, because for some reason, people find its product offering confusing. they'll still have the full range available at their "pro" locations (anyone can shop there). until such time as the list becomes simpler, though, now maybe what's on the label will make more sense. the bottom line is just keep swatching things on your hand until you find something you like. that's part of the fun.

perfect kiss

important note: all boys are to leave now. this is a girly post. you have nothing to gain from reading this.

ok ladies... we're going to talk lipstick. why? because i happen to be a huge cosmetics fan. does that make me less of a feminist, less of a contemporary woman? well, during a time when i was working at a community radio station, i was called a bad feminist. i was called a bad feminist by someone who subsequently moved to another place, with no job and no immediate job prospects, because her boyfriend had gotten a job in that required him to move. she called me a bad feminist because i wore dresses and make-up. i've supported myself independently since i was 19 years old, through two university degrees, a number of jobs and three inter-city moves. i'll just let you decide who the stronger feminist is.

for those who've stuck with me, there is a certain magic in finding the perfect lipstick. that particular formula and shade is a really great feeling. myself, there are a lot of different looks that i like and, hence, a lot of different colours, but i have a particular weakness for deep, dark, rich colours, reds and purples mostly, and yes, i can tell the difference between all of them. much like the proverbial amateur home decorator, i can tell the difference between various shades of white. i'm told that this is actually a genetic holdover from a time when women were the gatherers in early, semi-nomadic societies. in those times, knowing the difference between the dark warm red berry that would nourish you and the dark blue-red berry that would kill you was a really important thing. but whether you feel you need a few colours from different parts of the spectrum, or a selection from each area that you like (or an entire spectrum to yourself), there are a lot of lipstick choices for you.

i've decided to post this to de-mystify a few of those choices.

i'll state first of all that i tend to have fairly high end tastes in my choices of lip colour. part of that is because i prefer to buy products that are not tested on animals and most higher-end brands are based in europe, where there has been a ban on animal testing since 1998. i still recommend checking out various lists of companies that do and don't test (and who ultimately owns them) to determine where you are comfortable drawing the line, but what's included here are products that meet my criteria.

i don't cover mass market brands here, but if you do want them, i suggest revelon (animal-testing free for many years) and wet 'n' wild (also free of animal testing). both have decent shade ranges, the former has a variety of formulas and the latter is responsible for a colour i bought in university that remains one of my all-time favourites (called "blackest red"). the following would qualify as a "treat". however, since i'm writing this in canada, i'd like to call attention to a potential escape hatch: most of these brands are carried by shoppers drug mart/ pharmaprix/ murale, who have an excellent customer loyalty program called optimum. under this program, you build up points (fairly quickly, if you keep an eye on specials like 20x the points), which allow you a certain number of dollars worth of free purchases. so if you like, you can use your bonus money for a little extra you wouldn't normally be able to afford. (aside from that, i seriously recommend that all shoppers get one of these cards. the program pays off in spades.)

so here are some of my thoughts on mid- to high-end lipsticks that are available on the market:

brand :: bobbi brown
product :: lip colour
price :: $25- $30 CAD
evaluation :: beautiful colours, but tends to be pretty conservative. if you want something a little richer and racier, look for colours with the word "black" before them (black raspberry, black maple). they won't be as dramatic as they look in the tube, but they are very nice nonetheless. the formula is incredibly moisturising, which is nice if you live in a climate where it's cold and dry a lot of the year, or if you're reaching an age where your lips tend to dry out naturally. on the other hand, these feather like a son of a bitch, so be conscious that you might have to use a lip liner. they also require reapplication throughout the day and the more you have to reapply, the worse the feathering is.

brand :: bobbi brown
product :: creamy lip colour
price :: $25- $30 CAD
evaluation :: other than the fact that they come in different packaging and the available shades are different, i'll be buggered if i can figure out the difference between these ones and the regular bb lip colour (see above).

brand :: chanel
product :: rouge coco
price :: $30- $35 CAD
evaluation :: very nice shade range, but i find the formula a little drying. it glides on nicely, but starts to feel a little dry on lips after about an hour. the nice part is that, if you aren't bothered by the slightly dry feeling, the colour lasts a long time, even when you eat and drink. the shade range is pretty good. colour payoff is excellent- you don't have to do lots of back and forth to get it to match the colour in the tube.

brand :: chanel
product :: rouge lacque
price :: $35 - $40 CAD
evaluation :: i love these to death, seriously. "dragon" is the best red lip ever, but the real magic isn't in the colour, it's on how these actually work. they're a liquid lipstick. they apply like a gloss, with an in credible sheen, but they settle into a lovely, satin-finish lipstick that lasts for hours. the colour is incredible and they feel wonderful against the lips. of course, they're expensive, and the range of shades available is incredibly limited, but if you want to treat yourself to something, i couldn't recommend anything nicer.

brand :: dior
product :: rouge dior
price :: $34- $36 CAD
evaluation :: stunning. creamy and luscious and high-impact and long-lasting. in fact, even after smudging or eating, they leave a really beautiful stain-type finish. if you're going to spoil yourself with something, i really couldn't suggest another formula. on the other hand, the shade range is limited to pinks and reds, mostly, so people looking for a really beautiful, vampy colour might be, as they say, SOL. still, if you can find something that catches your fancy... grab it.

brand :: guerlain
product :: rouge g
price :: $50 CAD
evaluation :: wait, it costs how much??? therein lies the downfall of this product, yes, it comes in a nice space-age package with a built-in mirror, but personally, i don't need a mirror to apply lipstick, because i know where my lips are. yes, the colours are incredibly nuanced and nearly impossible to truly duplicate, but for christ's sake, for the amount that it costs, i'll take a slightly lesser product. yes, this is probably one of the nicest formulas on the market, but i recommend it only if you can find a way to circumvent the pricing.

brand :: lancome
product :: colour design matte lipstick
price :: $26 CAD
evaluation :: some people just do not want a juicy, shiny look to their lips, but the fact is that a lot of matte lipsticks feel like applying chalk and look super-creased and cracked an hour after you put them on. these are different. they feel absolutely amazing. they're creamy, rich, intensely coloured and they're not drying at all. hallelujah. there's not a tremendous number of shades available, but they do cover a lot of the "classic" shades- reds, corals and plums that hearken back to the film-noir era of enticing lips that drew men in like a spider's web.

brand :: yves st. laurent
product :: rouge volupte
price :: $35- $40 CAD
evaluation :: lovely and creamy with a lot of shine, but there's a very limited range of shades available. for the price, i would expect more dimension or originality to the colours, but there are really only a few that can't be duplicated by cheaper alternatives. they do feel wonderful on the lips, particularly during dry weather and their colour is really rich, but for the price, there are better options available and, for the colours, there are cheaper options available.

people who know me will have noticed that i've not addressed my absolute favourite, canadian-born mac costmetics. that' sbecause i think that they require their own post, since navigating through their finishes and colour spectrum can be challenging. i'll get around to that, hopefully tomorrow.

this isn't by any means an exhaustive list of brands or formulas available on the market. it's just a list of opinions based on my personal experience. those who enjoy having a pop of colour on their lips can take it as the advice of a long-time lip colour lover. those who don't enjoy colour can take it as information that will be of little use to them. personally, despite the fact that both men and women (according to a recent poll by in style magazine) prefer the emphasis to be on the eyes, i still enjoy finding that perfect look that just draws the eye to my lips. at the very least, it helps people focus on what i'm talking about.

ok, it's now safe to let the men back into the room. next week i'll do a post about hockey or soccer (yeah, i know it's really football) or something. just to be fair.

11 January 2011

My milllion-dollar book ideas

i struggle along with my fiction writing, with scribbling out poetry when i can and occasionally with writing screenplays. strangely, something i've never "tried" to write, considering the format in which you're reading this, is nonfiction. it's seriously never occurred to me to try to write something that read just like this blog, me being me, giving my thoughts on some subject i like to think i knew about.

what strikes me as particularly strange is that it seems, with a few exceptions, that it's much easier to attain financial success writing nonfiction than writing fiction. seriously, for every j.k. rowling or dan whatshisname who wrote the thing about davinci (i can't remember and i can't be bothered to look it up), there are a dozen people who make a healthy amount of money publishing a how-to book about what you need to have in your pantry because people want to trust the words of experts. even if the claim to expertise is that they did something on their own and figured out how to make it work.

really, it only makes sense that publishing companies would rather pump out nonfiction titles because, and i say this as someone who's worked in marketing for more than a decade, it's way easier to identify and cater to a target market when a book has an identifiable subject. by contrast, have a look at the back cover blurb from "interference", the short story collection by yours truly:

A man wakes up to a nightmarish scene with no idea of how he arrived there. An aging doctor makes a midnight house call in the midst of a potentially career-ending crisis. A lonely woman writes to her fiancé while waiting for him to join her in a new city. A bored student abandons his life for a fateful road trip in the mountains. A paramedic reflects on his eerily linked experiences with death. A government spy fights a dangerous obsession with his prey. A young woman prepares to say goodbye to her alcoholic father. These characters are the human faces of the seven stories that make up Interference. Separated by time, age and space, they are united by their persistent and sometimes desperate movement onward.

who the hell is that supposed to appeal to?

whereas "how to build your own bathroom on a budget" has a more specific appeal.

the catch, of course, is that in order to be able to pitch a successful nonfiction book, you have to be able to posit a theory and at the same time, demonstrate your expertise in the field. the good part is that many of us are experts, or at least experienced, in something that other people would like to know about. so here are my suggestions for nonfiction titles i think i could write with some authority:

the crazy cat lady handbook: how to manage the multiple cat household
macro-movies, micro-budgets: how to make a film with (virtually) no money
girly woman: loving makeup, clothes, shoes and living independently
happy pop musik: an anthology of things you aren't listening to

these are all in tandem with my idea to start selling first paragraphs of stories on ebay to help writers who are having trouble getting started.

yeah, i'm just full of ideas. i think that's what's meant when people tell me i'm full of it, at least.

04 January 2011

dear diary...

for those of you who haven't heard me yapping about it already, i've been publishing a shooting diary from the time spent filming conversion in 2009. as we're finally nearing the stage where we can call the film "complete", i thought it might be fun/ therapeutic to remember everything that happened as we gradually got the scenes captured.

the first three entries are up and updates are coming frequently. see how we got it done with no professional guidance and no funding. benefit from our experience and learn from our fails.

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