31 October 2013

marigolds :: a little story for halloween

normally, the biggest problem i have with my short story ideas is trying to contain them and pack them into a short story format. they can get away from me too easily, at which point i get bored- because they're not strong enough to sustain novels- and something else goes unfinished.

but here's something that came to me out of the blue, a compact little nugget in the spirit of the season.

of course, i thought i could make this into a piece of flash fiction, which is a short story of 99 words or less. at 142 words, it's almost half again too long, even after i edited some of my descriptive flourishes out, so i guess it is still an over-long failure in that regard. but i like it and i don't want to reduce it any further.

*

source

Sitting in the garden digging trenches around the marigolds with an old bone. It got stuck in my throat one afternoon and my grandmother had to take me to the hospital. She told me I was lucky they had got it out, or else an animal would have grown inside me and then she handed me my souvenir.

So I planted my throat-bone, thinking to grow myself a friend. I told my mother of my plan and she laughed in that cold, echoing way adults have, that way that mocks you for still being a child. And after that I dug it up, that tricky bone and used it to make moats around these castles of flame and spice.

And as I dig, I see it blinking back at me, regarding me with impotent rage, the eye of my unfinished friend.

29 October 2013

making faces :: fall in, part 5 [a royal flush]

i'm really lucky. dom not only accepts my obsession with all things aesthetic, but he even finds it somewhat interesting. he has opinions on lipstick and eye shadow colours that go beyond "looks nice" and i really appreciate that. but even he has his limits and that limit has a name: blush. he'll say straight up that he doesn't really notice the difference from one to the other.

indeed, it can be difficult to spot the differences, but just because they're subtle doesn't mean you don't notice the effect. i always know when i've found a great blush colour because i'll get a bunch of compliments from people who can't pinpoint why i look good, but i just do. people can identify eye shadow and lipstick, even if it takes them a minute to figure out that that's what they're really responding to, but blush befuddles. there's something that people see is different, but they can't really see it. blush flies under the radar. it's your secret weapon.

in fall, as the light begins to diminish, blushes can really make their mark. in the fall, we can turn to products that shape the face and add colour to the right places to make us look sculpted and perfect and radiant and ethereal and fierce and proud and passionate and... well, you get the idea.

here are a few of my very favourite blushes for the fall season...

nars :: sin

sin
ok, you can't do a list of "best blushes" without including nars, so we'll just get this one out of the way. in fact, nars has a lot of great fall blushes. their spring collection featured an incredible fall blush called "seduction". their previous fall collection had an amazing blush called "outlaw". but if i had to choose just one nars blush to take me through this season, it would be "sin", which is mercifully part of their permanent collection.

the base colour is a plum-pink, on the deep side but not overwhelming. in fact, it works across a wide variety of skin tones because it has a lot of intense light gold shimmer. aye, there's magic in the gold. it's very fine and won't emphasize pores, but it will just make your skin glow, especially in the slant light of autumn. you can build it up, or buff it out so that the effect is quite subtle, but this, to me, is an absolute must have.

mac :: fever

fever
personally, i think that mac blushes are underrated. they aren't the longest lasting formula, but they compare on that front with higher end products and their selection of colours is remarkably broad. "fever" is a forgotten gem from the permanent collection, a deep matte red that looks kinda scary in the pan, but can be applied with a light hand.

i love just putting a little of this in the hollows of my cheeks, because it gives an extremely natural sort of flush, but also shape and definition. it's one of the very few blushes that i've had to repurchase because i ran out and it's actually one of the colours i'm wearing for the bulk of "conversion" [not that you can necessarily distinguish it, but it does help make sure that my face always has some shape to it.

a wonderful way to get a rich autumn flush.

yves st. laurent :: pepper rose

here's a new one that's apparently being added to a permanent collection. i hadn't tried the ysl blushes before but having dipped my toes in the powdery water with their fall collection, i can tell you that i will be making return visits to their shores.

pepper rose
"pepper rose" is a shade that's likely to suit everyone with a light to medium complexion. i actually think that deeper complexions could wear it because it builds very well. it's shocking how little you need to get coverage. that might make the $55cad price tag a little easier to swallow, since that places them above everyone except guerlain, who offer two different shades in a compact for the same price.

of course, you could argue that the 'blush radiance' line also offers two shades, since there are two quarters of the blush that have shimmer and two that are satin, but since the powder is fairly small, you're unlikely to be able to use one or the other, as you are with guerlain. you can, however, opt to move your brush more over the shimmer sections or the satiny sections and you will see a difference in the colour on your skin.

the colour of "pepper rose" is deceptively simple. it's a browned rose pink, very natural but incredibly flattering. on warmer skin tones, i suspect that it will look like a rosy brown. on cooler skin tones, it will look like an earthy pink. regardless, it's a shade that's going to flatter a lot of complexions- pretty much anyone who isn't entirely cool-toned.

even better, the formula is probably the longest-lasting powder blush formula i've ever tried. my cheeks swallow blushers whole. i can leave my house looking like bozo the clown and reach the office with a deathly pallor. but this formula hangs tight throughout the day. [its only close competitor on that front is actually guerlain. everyone else i need to reapply throughout the day.]

permanent? apparently. but exciting enough to warrant getting immediately.

illamasqua :: peaked

peaked
it's a cream! no! it's a powder! no! it's illamasqua's new cream-to-powder velvet blush in 'peaked", a beautiful deep rose-violet shade that dabs on as an intense berry but buffs out to a lovely victorian-era stain. the colour would be flattering for many, although the very warm-toned and very fair probably won't have a lot of use for it. it's slightly muted, so it won't ever look dazzlingly bright, but it's got a lot of colour, so it will have presence.

i find that on my pale skin, dabbing even a little can look like too much. even as i try to smooth it out with my fingers, i wonder if i haven't made a mistake. but when i employ a brush to blend the colour outward, all is immediately forgiven. it's not the most hassle-free cream blush [i don't think you can use your fingers only], but it is relatively long-lasting, as long as most powders on me, which creams almost never are.

this was one of two shades released with illamasqua's fall "sacred hour" collection and it truly does warrant a closer look. [there's a second shade which will be perfect for warmer skins.] it really has a fruity currant tone to it that is too often missing from blush ranges, with a hint of earthiness underneath. it's that earthiness that i think keeps it from seeming too bright.

here's hoping there are more velvet blushers to come!

hourglass :: dim light and luminous light

finally, even though it's fall, a girl might still want to add a little light, in the form of highlights on her skin. never underestimate the power of manipulating light and the way it strikes your features. there are camera crews who toil over getting celebrities' every skin cell lit just so and look at how so many people fawn over them.

l to r :: dim light, luminous light
in the spring and summer, you can call attention to your features by adding elements of bright, clear light, but in the autumn, that can look a little unnatural, a little forced. and that's where hourglass and its army of ambient lighting powders comes in. designed to mimic the effects of various sorts of lighting on the skin, these combination highlighting/ finishing powders do work a little magic when it comes to how people see you.

"dim light" is a slightly peachy champagne that adds a hint of warmth and an understated glow to skin. it's not shimmery and it isn't bright like a traditional highlighter. instead, it has the effect of softening one's overall appearance and diminishing the look of lines and pores in favour of a face that looks like it's perpetually in an autumn sunset. i consider this probably the most universal of the ambient lighting powders, because it's the most neutral. it has an effect without being very noticeable.

"luminous light" purports to mimic the effect of candlelight and, lo and behold, it does just that. this is one of the most shimmery of the ambient lighting powders and you will definitely see a glow where it's applied. but it won't be disco ball. it will be candlelight dancing on perfect skin.

unlike a lot of shimmery highlighters, "luminous light" doesn't emphasize pores. it helps mask them.

colour-wise, it can look close to "dim light", but when seen in person, it's lighter and yellower rather than beige. it's a cross between "diffused light" and "dim light" with some extra shimmer added.

these are the two shades i've been reaching for almost daily as i venture into autumn's shadowy arms. i feel like they'll keep me looking fresh and radiant through the darkest hours of the season, until i'm ready to return to the brighter, more sun-kissed embrace of spring.

28 October 2013

mental health mondays :: you are getting sadder and sadder

if you're reading this from anywhere from the southern united states down to australia, you can just ignore this post. i have nothing for you. you're probably happy right now and there are millions of people who would like to gouge your eyes out for no reason other than the fact that you are happy and we are not. even if our lives are fine. even if nothing much has changed to make things worse than they were a couple of months ago. because we live in a place that makes us miserable by denying us some of the basic elements we need to be happy.

like light and the ability to step outdoors without wanting to die.

ah yes, it's the time of year when we in the north start to develop symptoms of the much-referenced but little understood seasonal affective disorder. long understood to be a distinct type of mood disorder, it will be reclassified with the imminent [always imminent] publication of the dsm-v as a variant of major depressive disorder. that may not mean much on the surface, but it is at least an indication that psychiatrists are realizing that depression is more or less one syndrome with many variants and that a seasonal pattern may be just one. it's also a way of acknowledging that people who exhibit signs of seasonal affective disorder should be treated as being at risk for depression of any kind. the going theory seems to be that depriving someone of light may push them into depression, but only if their brains were wired with the potential to become depressed anyway.

there are lots of theories as to why people might develop seasonal affective disorder and, despite what you may have heard, they are all just theories. no one has produced any concrete proof that the disorder stems from problems with light deprivation, or a lack of vitamin d or any of the other things that we think might cause s.a.d. it manifests itself with much the same way that depression of any sort does: with pronounced low mood, lack of energy, fatigue and an overwhelming desire to eat until you burst.

the condition may be our brain's way of telling us that we're just not supposed to be running around when the world is dark and cold, because that's an excellent way of ensuring an early death. our ancestors didn't spend their time going from home cave to work cave during the winters, because they likely wouldn't have survived the round trip. so our ancient brains are simply warning us against activities that it perceives as threatening. there are examples in nature of animals who have developed methods of dealing with these threats, mostly through hibernation. [doesn't that sound like a great plan? you eat all the fatty foods you can stuff in your face and then sleep for a couple of months. you wake up well-rested and thin. how did we not pick this one up?]

HOW TO DEAL...

26 October 2013

making faces :: fall in, part 4 [neutral eyes]

yes, when it comes to fall colours, we normally look to the trees for our inspiration, but let's face facts: the flaming shades of fall and the season's more intense lip colours [see part two of this series "the vamp stamp"] don't make a happy pairing. yes, it's the season of halloween, but it's not a great idea to look like you're ready for the big event on a daily basis. to balance the power of a dark lip, you're going to want to go with something more subtle and fortunately there are as many options as there are stars in the sky. [not literally -ed.] here are a few of my current favourites...

hourglass "suede"

yes, it's beyond high time that hourglass made some additions to their line-up of visionnaire eye shadow duos, but in the meantime, we can appreciate what they have to offer. i'll be honest: this subtle cream and beige-taupe combination is actually my favourite of the three that i own. the shades aren't matte- the cream has a satiny sheen to it and the taupe has a soft golden shimmer- but they're much less frosted than some of the other shadows. they sculpt and shape the eye perfectly, last like a dream, but remain in the background so that they don't compete with more dramatic elements. if you're going to go with a bright or dark lip, this is the perfect anchor to have in your corner.
suede

although both shades lean a little warm, i think that all but the coolest skin tones could wear it. being very soft, light colours, they're probably best suited to fair complexions, though.

the shades can kick up a little dust in application, but that absolutely does not translate into fall-out or powdery residue on the eye. in fact, i'd say that this is one of the best performing items in my shadow collection. and my collection is not small.

mac "tailor grey" and "camel coat"

mac and i have gone in different directions lately. specifically, i've gotten older and pickier and mac has oriented itself towards a younger clientele eager to try out new colours and finishes. but some things they just continue to do well and their cream shadow paint pots are one of them. released with a new collection of long-wearing paint pots [i don't actually find them any longer-wearing than the originals, but those had excellent wear], these two soft neutrals are perfect as a base for a neutral or lighter smoky eye, but they also look great on their own.

l to r :: camel coat, tailor grey
both have a significant amount of grey in them ["tailer grey" is deeper while "camel coat is lighter and a bit pinker and not camel at all], which makes them very appropriate for cooler-toned lasses. don't underestimate that, either. the vast majority of neutrals lean warm.

paint pots are one of the few cream shadows i can wear, since most irritate my eyes. i use "painterly" as my eye shadow base, because it does such a fantastic job of smoothing my lids, correcting their uneven colour and giving shadows something to fix onto. these two are no different, except that i've been using them as shadows, not as a base. it's a fantastic solution when you're in a hurry, but they also blend very well if you'd like to play around a bit.

marc jacobs "the ingenue"

in my original review of products from the marc jacobs line, i mentioned that i felt like the eye shadows were the stars. so it shouldn't come as a surprise that i went back for seconds. what might come as a surprise is that instead of one of the flashier colour combinations, i picked out this trio of soft, understated shades. but this was definitely the one i had my eye on after picking up "the punk".

the ingenue
for starters, i really love the largest central neutral shade. it's a pale cream satin that brightens my eyes without adding a lot of heavier colour. the other two shades have more shimmer to them, particularly the pale copper that's included. it really sparkles and tends to add dimension. the third shade is a gorgeous soft pewter, a dirty grey with a frosted finish that's not overwhelming. [the frost contingent is really represented by the copper colour here.]

the formula on this trio was as pleasing as on "the punk". everything last well, didn't fade or crease and showed up nicely against my skin. because of the particular selection of shades, i think that you'd need a fair to medium complexion and have at least some noticeable warmth to make this look at its best. darker skin tones might want to look at another trio, "the glam" for a nude look.

because of the shimmer content, this ingenue can actually make the transition from day to night quite well, upping the glamour nicely with the addition of more of the copper and pewter shades.

yes, i'm definitely planning on still more of these palettes and i suspect that that will eventually include a back up of this one, which is currently seeing a lot of use.

chanel "hasard"

hasard
this is part of chanel's fall collection, a soft matte shade that i think of as "heather"- a mix of soft purple-mauve and grey. although it's not an intense colour, it does have a great payoff and is ideal for sculpting the eye socket to bring dimension to the area; even if you're going for subtle, you still want to play with the shadows [both kinds] to create the best effect. i also think you could use it for a very subtle smoky effect on the eyes.

there's enough colour that i think that pale or medium-to-deep complexions could benefit from this. certainly, it would look gorgeous against olive skin.

although i don't care for chanel's baked formula eye shadows [how they offer their quad palettes in canada and europe], their single and duo shadows are divine. they're smooth and even and feel luxurious being applied, which is nice given that the price point is luxurious as well. i've heard that this shade will be made permanent and it's definitely going to be a permanent staple for me.

inglot "351" and "352"

i honestly have no idea what i'd do without these workhorses in my collection. these are the basis for so many looks i would venture i guess that other than foundation or concealer, they are the most used items in my vanity. both are matte- and inglot does excellent, affordable matte shades- with slightly but crucially different undertones.

l to r :: 352, 351
"351" is a bright ivory, a little yellowed but still light enough to work as a highlighter on me. it also looks fetching applied on the lids, since it tends to brighten the area and make me look wider awake than i generally am.

"352" is slightly deeper and has a peachy undertone, making it more natural for pink-toned complexions. i find that this one is a little tricky as a highlight shade for me, because it's just a bit too dark, but anyone from a light-medium to dark complexion could certainly use it as such. since it's just a hair darker than my skin, i really like it for an almost completely natural [but better!] kind of look.

these two are my bread and butter. i can build anything around them and not worry, because i know that i'm starting from a solid base. my advice? find a neutral inglot shade you love and go with it. because of the breadth of their offering, it's impossible that you won't find something that appeals to you and that works for your particular skin tone. if you want to start building a collection, this is definitely the place to begin experimenting.

two neutral shades that i didn't include here, but which really need to be are rouge bunny rouge "bashful flamingo" and "gracious arasari". in my rush to review things that i hadn't yet, i neglected to think of the shades that i have reviewed and which have become indispensable.

25 October 2013

making faces :: fall in, part 3 [the vamp stamp]

this post is almost a repeat, since i did a post including three favourite vampy lipsticks a while back, but even then, one of them [mac "tribalist"] was no longer available and in the interim tom ford has seen fit to discontinue "black orchid". that's a shame and i suspect that we'll see a mad rush on these on ebay, with buyers demanding ridiculous prices. i'm glad that i still have plenty left on mine.

but for those of you who are still searching for that perfect dark lipstick to set your halloween-loving heart a-flutter, i'm here to help. and by help, i mean recommend places where you can spend your money.

first, a word about what i mean by "vampy". there are lots of dark lipsticks. every company has darker shades. but truly vamp shades, the kind that channel silver screen icons like theda bara [ok, you only ever got to see her in black and white, but the term "vamp" was coined for her, so she's my go-to example], are a particular breed.

they are exceptionally deep, for starters. chanel "fatale" is a great fall red, but it's not a vamp colour. it's too bright.

but as dark as they are, they're not black. black is cold and sharp and modern. to me, there's something antiqued about a true vamp shade. 

by my definition [and it's my blog, so i get to impose these], there is no such thing as a purely cool vampy lipstick. ultra-dark cool purples are also too modern, just like black. a vampy purple will have a hint of red.

to that end, vamp shades are somewhat difficult to define in terms of colour, because they tend to be a mix of dark red, dark brown and dark purple. they may lean towards one, but the best ones contain elements of all three.

so given those points, here are a few of my very favourites that you can buy now and for the foreseeable future.

609, sorry for the finger smudge
armani :: rouge d'armani 609

this was initially released as a limited shade with a small collection called "downtown". the collection was just half a dozen lipstick shades, but i'm assuming that it was successful, despite a ridiculously low profile, because every single one of the shades has migrated into the permanent collection, including this one, which may be the be-all, end-all of vampy lipsticks.

it has the strange distinction of appearing somewhat sheer when swatched, but on lips it's completely opaque. for those who mourn the loss of "black orchid", this is the closest thing you're going to find. it's a bit browner, but they're very, very close. also, i prefer the rouge d'armani formula, which technically means that this one, in my books, is an improvement.

armani at its finest is a wonder to behold. pure class.

611
armani :: rouge d'armani 611

this is a recent release that i've reviewed already, but i can't not include it. you can see how it's redder and more opaque than #609, a little more cabernet to 609's barolo. i've nothing to add to my original review. i hope that this one is being made permanent, because it truly deserves its place in the department store sun. because it's a more opaque shade, i find it's just a little more dramatic than #609, despite being a wee smidgen lighter.

how i love thee.

chanel :: controversy

if you think all glosses are light on pigment, meet controversy. a new [and possibly permanent, i've heard conflicting things] addition to the chanel extrait de gloss line-up, it's a long-wearing, nearly opaque shade that truly meets the definition of vamp. it's not a deep colour done sheer. this is the real deal. yes, this is chanel's "heavy duty" gloss formula, but the fact is that i generally don't find them that close to opaque. but "controversy" is truly an untamed beast.

controversy
dark brown predominates, but there's definitely a healthy dose of purple and just a smidgen of red at work. it's a great colour that doesn't make me look drained, as many dark browns can do.

the greatest thing about this product, though, is the formula. dark glosses are notoriously uneven, which makes them annoying to apply, wear and layer. not "controversy". it goes on smooth, layers evenly and wears extremely well. it fades over a few hours to a stain with remarkable tenacity. so for once, it's a gloss with all the great properties of a lipstick. bravo, chanel. bravo.

[and lest we forget, the last time i did a list like this, i recommended chanel's "ballet russe" rouge coco lipstick. this remains an absolute favourite of mine, a deep plum brown with purple undertones.]

yves st. laurent :: prune avenue

there are a lot of things that yves st. laurent does well, but one thing that they've come to do better than anyone is deep, dramatic lipsticks. they increasingly own the dark end of the colour range like this shade, from their fall collection and possibly an addition to the permanent rouge pur couture range. [again, i've heard conflicting things.]

prune avenue
the purple predominates in this shade, but it has the bloody red-brown undertone that's just autumn perfection. applied, it's smooth and satiny, nearly matte, but not quite. i find it's difficult to overdo the colour, too, because it goes on in lighter layers. it isn't perfectly even on dry lips, but it's still good. maybe make sure that you exfoliate and dab a little balm, or use a lip primer if you believe in them. the formula is neither hydrating nor drying and the lasting time is terrific for something so lightweight.

yves st. laurent have a lot of dark options and, as mentioned above, i think that if you want a quality deep colour, they should be your first stop. [or armani, clearly, although they don't have the number of dark shades available that ysl does.] they all have that easy layering quality, which makes them adjustable to various situations, day and night. other shades to check out would be the deep berry "pourpre carmine" and the icy dark purple "pourpre divin". of course, they also have a fantastic selection of what i'll term the "near darks".

24 October 2013

making faces :: fall in, part two [autumn flames]

yes, fall is generally considered to be about vampy lips and they'll have their own seprate column, but what about those rich, warm shades of red that seem to embody the very essence of autumnal splendour? don't they deserve a post.

clearly, they do.

for a long time i avoided warmer reds and oranges because i assumed they would mesh with my cool-toned skin. in fact, my investigations into colour analysis have revealed that my skin isn't so cool-toned as i'd thought [and may not even be primarily cool] and as a result, warm and cool choices can work equally well. most importantly, the majority of people have skin that contains both warm and cool elements. it's really only people on one extreme or the other who have to worry about staying on one side of the tonal equation. the rest of us can be happily bi when it comes to our choice of reds. here are a few of my favourites from the warmer side...

manic
urban decay :: manic

i reviewed my first pick from urban decay's new line of "revolution" lipsticks a while back and it didn't take me long to accumulate more. my new favourite is this plummy medium red [or is it a reddish medium plum?] called "manic". it's quite muted despite being a fairly dark colour, so it's perfect for daily wear. for those of you who miss mac's "mystic" lipstick, this is probably the best replacement you could ask for. colour-wise, it's not quite as brown and is a little lighter- mac's own "party line" is probably closer to the base colour- but "manic" has that mysterious, luminous sheen that made the original mystic so appealing. plus the revolution formula is truly remarkable- one of the best on the market and a wonderful surprise for the price point. i feel like i can officially call off my search for a new mystic.

hourglass :: siren

siren
here's a real "wow" shade. it looks molten, like a liquid red rust, with a high-shine metallic finish. it's
just one of those things that a cosmetic aficionado is going to want on general principle, but it's also a lovely fall-appropriate colour, especially for warmer-toned lasses. remember when i said that most people could wear a mix of cool and warm tones? that's true, but this is the sort of colour that's going to test those limits, because there isn't a hint of coolness anywhere in it. i really like hourglass lip glosses, although like most glosses the wear time isn't incredible and with an opaque shade like this, the fading will be more noticeably uneven, but even i have to admit that this shade might be beyond the warmth threshold of my skin. it's just so darn wonderful to look at.

guerlain :: gardner

before you curse me out for including a limited edition shade from a couple of years ago, let me reassure you. rouge g #27, "gisela" is almost identical. so really, this is a recommendation for that colour, but since i don't own it [because even i'm not in the habit of duplicating $50 lipsticks in my collection], i figured i'd stick to what i can show you first hand.

gardner
i reviewed this shade when it initially came out and i haven't changed any of my opinions. of course, guerlain make a fine lipstick. virtually every time i do a post [or series of posts] on my favourites within a colour family, there is at least one entry from guerlain. [spoiler alert: there isn't one in my forthcoming list of vampy favourites. i demand a vamp-tastic rouge g.] rouge g is their especially luxurious formula and it really does bring the magic you'd expect for the price.

it's not merely that it's hydrating, rich in pigment, long-lasting or any of the other things that one normally praises lipsticks for being. those are great, but what i really love about rouge g's is that there is a complexity to the shades that differentiates them from any others and that the nuances are visible on the lips. i find that when i wear them, they do catch my eye when i get a look at myself in a mirror [even in the mirror in the vomit green bathroom at work], because the colours are never surface-only.

certainly that's the case with gardner, whose hints of copper and gold glimmer forth from deep red with a bit of brown, just enough to make it seem like a lightly roasted shade, but not enough that it looks dark. i stand by my original evaluation that it reminds me of autumn foods- peppers and hearty tomato-based soups and warm spices. most shades in this range are browner. nars golshan is a few shades cooler [and just barely missed being included in this piece itself.] scrumptious.

nars :: autumn leaves

autumn leaves
ok, you got me. this isn't red. it's orange. and it's not even a red-orange, but a brown-tinged orange, so in theory it has no place here. but i would be remiss if i didn't include it in a list of autumnal shades not just because of its name, but because no shade does quite a good a job in my book of capturing that tone of the last leaves of the year as this one. [basically, between nars and guerlain, i made myself choose one shade each. in reds, i opted for "gardner" over the slightly brighter "golshan" and in oranges, i chose the more muted "autumn leaves" over the pumpkin shade "gypsy" from guerlain. although all four are great choices.]

this is another one i reviewed when it first came out, but it's important to remember that it's still around, because it's a shade that was indeed made for fall. it's much more muted than the zingy tangerines and warm corals of spring. it's pigmented but not saturated, a hallmark of autumn colours in general. they're warmed by gold, not bright yellow. it's a lovely everyday shade, although again, decidedly warm. i do think that the orange tones complement cooler eyes, which helps redress differences with the tone of the skin.

nars has a lot of great shades for autumn. i'd venture as far as to say that they might have more than any other brand, since slightly muted colours are really a forte for them. autumn leaves is probably the most original among them, but i could also have included browned berries like vendanges and fast ride, or jewel-toned reds like transeurope express or scarlet empress. my advice is that if you want to start a fall lip wardrobe, the nars counter should be your first stop.

22 October 2013

mental health mondays :: the psychology of sleeplessness

why, you might ask, am i writing mental health mondays on a tuesday? you might just have assumed that i was being lazy yesterday and often that's exactly the reason, but this week, i have an excuse. sunday night, after a nice relaxing break from work, i had one of the worst cases of insomnia i've had in months. not that many months, mind you, because i've been blindsided by a few bouts of completely inexplicable insomnia several times in the last six months or so, where for no discernible reason, i just can't get to sleep.


sunday was bad because i actually got no sleep whatsoever. not even a nap. not even that foggy near-sleep state. around 7:30 in the morning, i started to feel like i could sleep, but nothing before then. i wasn't especially stressed about any one thing, wasn't preoccupied with a creative project, wasn't suffering the effects of medication or indigestion or experiencing rebound wakefulness after an earlier nap. in fact, i'd had a nice walk earlier in the day, i'd eaten at a reasonable hour and i gave myself time to rest in bed before turning off the lights and deciding it was time for sleep. but within about ten minutes of the lights going off, i had a horrible premonition. this isn't working it said. i could feel that i was immediately, comfortably awake. not agitated, not hyper, but awake.

insomnia is an infrequent inconvenience for most people, a somewhat more regular guest for others, but science is increasingly sounding the alarm that lack of sleep is not just something that leaves you feeling grouchy and out of sorts. it can be flat-out dangerous in both the long and short term to our psychological well-being.

you might feel that being sleep deprived makes you stupid[er]. and you'd be wrong. but it does effect your cognitive abilities, which means that while you might not know less, you're less capable of discerning how to use what you know.

although it's unlikely to happen to you, sleep deprivation has been known to trigger psychosis in people with absolutely no history of mental illness.

however, there is disturbing evidence that the chicken and egg debate about whether psychological disorders precede sleep disorders or vice versa.

there is plenty of medical evidence, of course, that sleep deprivation has a close link to mood disorders like depression and anxiety, since proper sleep allows the regulation and production of monoamines [serotonin, norepinephrine and histamine], which are in turn responsible for proper mood balance. all of the antidepressants you've ever heard of modify these particular substances [plus dopamine, but that's a different column].

so the fact is that i didn't get around to writing "mental health mondays" on monday because i was mental. so there.

17 October 2013

making faces :: fall in, part 1 :: make like a tree

since i did an in-depth look earlier at shades that typified spring, i thought it was high time that i looked at my very favourite season, autumn. to that end, i figured i'd do a series of posts of shades that are perfect for autumn looks of various types. unlike for spring, that involves splitting some of them up in different ways, since there's some different ways of looking at fall... but i'll get into that later. it's also an opportunity for me to plough through several reviews that i've been meaning to do in the name of the season...

let's start off with the eyes, though, shall we? let's start off with the fact that shades we use on the eyes can so delightfully mirror those that we see in the foliage around us at this time of year. the rich reds, the deep greens, the burnt golds... it's a colour-lovers paradise and, thanks to companies who have expanded the range of shades available, a cosmetic-lovers' paradise. here are a few of my favourites from the season.

nars :: blade runner

if you want to do any kind of fall-foliage inspired look, you need this eye shadow duo. nothing, i repeat nothing, is as perfect an accompaniment. it has the deep, rich green of the last leaves of fall- not a light spring green and not a blackened green, but the rich shade that's the last we see on maple trees before they succumb to the call of fall. paired with that is a mahogany red-brown that's a perfect combination of depth and residual warmth. both shades are intensely beautiful and, for a fall look, beautiful together, although you might want to add another colour for a highlight...

nars blade runner
mac :: one to watch

is it just me or do some of mac's very best releases fly below the radar? a couple of years back, they released their first round of prolongwear eye shadows and they were excellent. i'll admit that i don't need longer wear from their shadows- i get plenty- but those shades were excellent and, in a few cases, quite original. take this one, which is a perfect orange-brown-gold, just like the shade of the leaves outside my window right now. it's warm and rich without being ostentatious. i love how it can be combined with either neutral looks or as the anchor in something more daring. deserving of far more attention than it's gotten.

mac one to watch
ellis faas :: e303

i've reviewed this one before, but it wouldn't be fall if i couldn't turn to my holy grail of golden bronze. this is the bomb when it comes to intense, rich, metallic eye shades. nothing can compare to its molten beauty.

ellis faas e303
le metier de beaute :: fire lily

although the shade isn't quite as smooth as what i've come to expect from le metier, it is indeed a beauty. halfway between copper and pink, it doesn't cheat to either side and as a result, it's appropriate for either warm or cool-toned looks. it will look great with plums or with golds and greens. the choices are perhaps not endless, but very broad. it has enough warmth that it won't look pink against your eyes, but enough coolness that it won't look oppressively warm. it is, perhaps, the perfect coppery tone for fall, able to give a hint of colour when applied lightly, or able to assume the starring role.

le metier de beaute fire lily
what? no browns? well, i thought about it and i realised that there are just so many browns available that it was difficult to limit my selection. a few personal favourites of mine are:

for a liner... stila lionfish, a rich, warm brown with golden shimmer
for adding depth... nars mekong, a dark, bitter chocolate brown with gold shimmer [again!]
for adding warmth... mac sable or twinks, both plummy browns, both gorgeous

in the interests of keeping things simple, i've only included shades that are part of permanent collections, but who knows how long that'll last...

full of win

i didn't mention it in my "friday favourites", but i really should have:

canadian author alice munro won the nobel prize for literature last week.

this is monumental for me in a number of ways:

canadian

female

known as a master of the short story

what greater validation could a female canadian author whose preferred form is the short story ask for?

well, perhaps this.

my short story "spook house" won a contest this week sponsored by writer's carnival and 69 flavours of paranoia. it was completely unexpected, but incredibly fulfilling.

so yes, there are people who want to hear your stories. whoever you are and whatever form they take, there are people out there who will value them.

this story was actually inspired by a dream that i had and is really nothing more than my attempt to convey something of what was going on in my mind, without making it too literal [which can so often corrupt dreams in the retelling].

whatever you're writing, there is an audience for it. and when you find it, that feels wonderful.

i'll have more details on this later, but for now, i can't keep it to myself. for those of you who've offered support and feedback and help, thank you. i am eternally in your debt. metaphorically speaking. i might buy you a drink some time, but it's not like i'm made of money.

16 October 2013

making faces :: diorable

source
i feel like dior are having a heck of a year. their colour collections have been exciting both for those
who love saturated shades and for those who like something a little softer, but their new and relaunched products are really catching my somewhat fatigued cosmetic eye. i'm always a sucker for trying a new formula, but lately i've been trying to temper that with ensuring that i'm also buying things that don't correspond to colours that i already have in my collection. and dior has very considerately produced things that meet both criteria.

thanks for making it difficult for me to pay my rent, dior.

i feel like there is more of a disconnect between dior the storied fashion house and dior cosmetics than with a lot of other lines. armani does seem to exude a sort of sophisticated sleekness that i see in their clothes. likewise chanel also seems to embody luxurious femininity. dior on the runway is decadent elegance. there isn't quite the wild abandon that you see in newer fashion houses, but there's always an element of the risque. it helps that john galliano was their creative director until he was fired after staining a legacy of beauty with some truly ugly antisemitism. but those edgier elements didn't die at his departure.

by contrast, dior cosmetics have tended to be beautiful but safe. perhaps its the sort of makeup you'd wear with a really stunning dior dress, something that complemented but didn't compete. but i don't walk around in dior dresses all the time. i wear a lot of things that could handle a little competition. so dior and i have remained a bit of a remove. i'm appreciative but not rapt. until this year.

for fall, alongside a beautiful colour collection that's been one of their biggest successes to date [if the number of sold-out shades are anything to go by], dior have refreshed their rouge dior lipsticks and introduced new dior blushes and the new colours definitely have sharper teeth than their predecessors.

the lipsticks are the most opaque of dior's lipstick offerings, the least shiny. they're satiny, not matte, but there's a lot less shine and slip than either the dior addict [semi-sheer] or sior addict extreme [semi-opaque] varieties. the new versions are $36cad, which is up a bit from the previous ones, but there are some promises made as to improved wear time and hydration. that also keeps them in the space they've carved out for themselves price-wise: higher than nars, bite beauty, hourglass [barely], but lower than other prestige brands chanel, armani and yves st. laurent. in fact, their most direct competitor price-wise is lvmh's newly introduced marc jacobs beauty, which in itself must have been incentive for dior to get a little more creative with the colours.

i picked up one of the new dior shades, montmartre, the first day i saw it in store, but i've been waiting to review it to give myself time to try it out in different situations. i've put this shade through its paces and the verdict is clear: magnificent.

15 October 2013

may the scorpion of bad karma find its way into your back passage

EDIT :: apparently dom got this email twice today as well. so we have our own battle of the bulge going on...

it's been a while since i received any noteworthy spam, but this morning, something made it through all my filters and landed front and centre in my inbox, so as i was sipping my morning coffee and enjoying a hard-earned day off, i was confronted with the subject line no person ever wants to see:

"Being overweight is a terrible thing. We can help you!"

well thanks for that notice. being overweight does actually have a lot of undesirable side effects and can cause long-term health damage if you don't get it under control. but i don't know who the hell you are and i'm pretty sure i've never met you, so it's a little bit douche-y of you to just go into a conversation with your mind made up that i'm overweight. sure, i've been trying to shed a few pounds. but that's my thing. i don't need commentary from the peanut gallery.

nonetheless, since i was spam-starved, i decided to check out what "FixMyBody Daily" had to say to me. i mean, even douche-nozzles can sometimes help you, right?

"Another pants get too tight to wear and you suffer from the very thought of going to the shop in search of gigantic clothes to cover your overweight body."

ok, the grammatical disaster that starts things out is just not something i can deal with before i'm fully caffeinated. if you're going to speak to me early in the morning, your subject-verb agreement needs to be up to snuff. but once i got beyond that, i the full force of the insults started to hit me. you suffer from the very thought of going to the shop in search of gigantic clothes to cover your overweight body? seriously? exactly how big do these people think i am? 


admittedly a good bright season outfit
i have a waist people. 

and what marketing genius thought that heaping shame upon the target market was such an ace strategy. "hey, stay-puft, why don't you take a couple more antidepressants so you can stand yourself long enough to finish reading this email?"

and yet somehow i found the fortitude to continue...


"It is not your personal problem. Hundreds of obese people hate to see their looks in the mirror but they are not able to get back to normal with a traditional "gym-and-diet" approach."


so i'm no longer overweight. in the space of nine words, i've become obese

i'm gaining weight every second i'm wasting reading this email. 


why bother with clothes at all?
but there's more! 


"You need something that really works, a formula that will suppress your appetite and give you a real chance to lose at least a dozen of kilograms a month."


so apparently, i'm gaining weight at such an alarming pace that scientifically proven methods of weight reduction are too slow. i need to hook myself up to some kind of shop-vac stomach pump or i'm going to start absorbing the neighbours like the blob. lives are at risk here. 

i need to lose at least a dozen kilograms a month. for those of you who haven't quite made it to the metric system yet, that's close to twenty pounds. 

look, i'm five foot two. to lose twenty pounds in a month, i'd need to amputate a leg. and go on a juice fast. 

but apparently things are more desperate than i thought, because over the course of the day, i received this alarming email three more times. by the time you read this, i'll probably be dead because my obese body in its gigantic clothes has squeezed all the oxygen out of our apartment. 

but on the off chance i've survived, i'd like whoever is responsible for sending those emails to know that i will shove an angry scorpion up their wazoo if i ever get half a chance. 


en garde, bitches.
until then, eat healthy, be as active as you can manage and upgrade your spam filters. 

13 October 2013

i made you a mixed tape

well, i sort of made you a mixed tape. i made you a playlist of things that you can listen to, at least. it's a special, heartfelt playlist that's designed especially for those special people who've bought and read my short story collection "interference". if you haven't, of course, you still can; it's available in both print and ebook format, depending on your preferences and budget. the content is the same either way.

the "soundtrack" isn't just intended to be general background music, either. there are specific tracks i've picked to go along with certain stories. but more about that a little later.

those of you who know me know that i have some "off the beaten path" taste in music, so if you find that sort of thing difficult, i'll just put it out there: this probably won't be your cup of tea. however, i do think that it would heighten the experience of reading the stories, but my tastes certainly aren't everybody's, so your mileage may very. if something creeps you out and makes you hide under the sofa for a week, i'm just going to say that it isn't my fault.

you can download the playlist right here. [i know that the archive.org interface isn't ideal, but the file is too big for soundcloud.] or you can just listen to it without leaving the page:



so now that you've waded through the morass of my mind, how about i show you that playlist? [note: the playlist is one track. i'm just telling you the divisions for the sake of interest.] it runs about two hours and doesn't necessarily reflect everyone's reading speed. pace yourself as you like.

story one :: the tower
coil :: the snow
bohren + der club of gore :: midnight radio 2
suburban knight :: echo location
sardh :: stuur pulse

story two :: on call
m.j. harris + martyn bates :: long lankin

story three :: an honest day
ghent :: jemini
led er est :: agua fuerte
flipper :: sex bomb
blancmange :: holiday camp

story four :: long gone
novy svet :: utopia
novy svet :: traicion
triage :: the stoning
ask denizi :: zehra eren

story five :: ushered
skullflower :: can you feel it?
sigillum s :: ravishing fury in glass puke
brighter death now :: slow death

story six :: end of shift
simple minds :: twist/ run/ repulsion
maska genetik :: quanrantine
derniere volonte :: les yeux fermes
mortuo similis :: her heart's own grave
november novelet :: when the world was white

story seven :: body to body
swans :: the sound

and now it's a little later, which means i'm ready to discuss a few of the things that i mentioned before. ok, i'm not going to make you look, i'm going to talk about the process of selecting these tracks and what they mean. but first, i'd like to give a little warning. what follows after the break is a short essay on why i chose each of the songs and also the role of music in the creation of each of the stories. it's a symbiotic thing. although i try not to create any spoilers, i also didn't want to edit what i had to say because i was worried about ruining the ending for the uninitiated. so yes, there are some bits where i'm just going to talk about what happens and if you haven't read the pieces yet, it's going to take some of the mystery away.

the piece is intended for people who have read the book, or people who don't care. i wrote it because music and creativity are intrinsically linked for me and i wanted to talk about that. you can choose to read this or not, it's a sort of addendum to the book. not reading it will not make the book make any more [or less] sense.

made up your mind what to do? time to decide...


12 October 2013

making faces :: process of elimination

returning for a moment to the world of colour analysis... although i found it easy enough to figure out  [and yes, i've been testing out my theory, which seems to hold], i don't really feel like i've made a lot of progress on my own. i haven't really eliminated more than half the seasons and i don't even feel like i've answered the very first question of colour analysis with any certainty: i don't know if i'm cool or warm toned. when i started this, i was certain i leaned cool. and yet a couple of warmer neutral seasons seem to flatter me with a stubborn tenacity.
dom's season

a few things i have determined:

either of the soft seasons are completely out. both make me look haggard and older than i am.

either of the light seasons make me look washed out and a bit sick. my face needs some serious pigmentation.

although there does seem to be some warmth in my skin, colours from the purely warm palettes seem heavy and artificial on me.

neither of the true cool seasons is terrible and can actually be quite flattering.

the two bright and two dark seasons seem more flattering than any others.

so now it's time to do some eliminating. and to do that, i've enlisted the help of an article i found on truth is beauty. based on this, i decided to give each of the seasonal deal-breakers a try. as she says, this doesn't necessarily point you to one specific season, but it can help rule some out. and that's what i need help doing.

to keep things simple, i did this with no makeup at all and my hair wet, so i could keep it out of my face

so here we go... deal-breakers:

11 October 2013

friday favourites 11.10.13

image of the week
it's been too long since we've done this... last week i was away on business [that part of my life i don't
really talk about much here, because i'd like to protect them] and the week before, i was just distracted and lazy. but now i have much to share...

i had insomnia again last night and it lead me to a rare moment of human empathy. i woke up around two, which is about standard for me and lay in bed, unable to get back to sleep. mostly, this was just because my body has started to do this to me lately, but in part it was because i was distracted by the sound of loud snoring. from the next apartment.

maybe it was a particularly quiet night, so i was more attuned than usual to the sounds going on around me, but i've had insomnia in that bedroom many times over the years and this was pretty special. noise doesn't travel easily through the walls in the building. i can only image what it sounded like on the other side of the wall.

now, the noise was a little irksome, but i honestly think that i would have been awake with or without it. what troubled me more was that snoring like that is problem indicative of some pretty serious issues. at the very least, it would indicate that the gentleman in the next apartment is not getting quality sleep, since he's not getting quality breathing. that has to leave him feeling extremely run down during the days and probably has no idea why. so rather than feeling annoyed at the fact that i could hear him snuffling away [because it's not like that's anyone's fault], i lay there in bed feeling sorry for this guy. genuinely.

although it can get taken to extremes, that does seem sort of healthy to me, engaging the empathetic reflex. i think i'll try doing it more often.

but in the meantime, here comes...

good news :: stuff i can't make up from around the internet

this is patton oswalt's brilliant take on the terrifying food orgy promised in a black angus steakhouse ad. this is what it looks like when someone decides to make every item he mentions in real life for a friend's bachelor party. dude, you are a lunatic and every best man in the future has your example to compete with. 

so now that barilla pasta have decided to add a nice helping of hatetini to their lineup, perhaps we should look at what their competitors [and other critics] have had to say about that.

real fact #__ snapple's "real facts" are largely b.s. you could look it up.

you know how all the decent congressmen and women have given up their salaries during the shutdown in solidarity with their employees? guess what party this whinging biatch who has a problem with that comes from...

musical notes

it's coming up to halloween, which always makes me think of the 80s cassette label nekrophile, who used to release strange and obscure things like lashtal. [i still have the  original cassette.]



something i learned this week

the system works! for the first time, i put on my spring/ fall coat, which earlier this year was still a bit snug around my torso and while it's not exactly baggy [it's a sort of slim cut little number], there is definitely more room inside. hallelujah. my slow and steady diet plan is having the intended effect, slowly but steadily.

all right, that's really not something i learned, because i always knew that following a diet resulted in weight loss, but i learned this week that it has indeed been working for me these last few months. 

goal for the week

get caught up on blogging! there are a bunch of posts i have prepared, i just haven't had the time to type them up. also, i haven't taken the time to do a lot of the necessary swatching. as the days get shorter, my window for swatching becomes increasingly narrow and i need to be more disciplined about this. 

follow-up and shameless self-promotion

one of the things that i do plan on doing for the blog is searching out more halloween-themed images. and this year, if you'd like to send me any to share, i'd be more than happy to do so. for those of you who aren't familiar, i'm obsessive about halloween and every year i venture out into the streets of montreal to photograph the different decorations that festoon houses in the area. it's great exercise and great fun.

kitteh of the week

normally, simon is very composed in photos. but not always...


that's all for this week! thanks very much for reading!

[this week's image of the week is the internet sensation and world-record holder as fluffiest cat colonel meow. like many great folks, he's a libra and his birthday just happens to be today. hail him.]

09 October 2013

making faces :: i want the one[s] i can't have

source
back when i lived in toronto, there was a very nice beauty store near me where i used to shop
occasionally. they had a lot of brands there, including one that a friend persuaded me to try called chantecaille. i was a mac devotee at the time, but i did really like the lipstick that i bought from chantecaille and i still have a  beautiful lip brush from them. since the place near me wasn't very large and the other brands they carried were available fairly easily, i assumed that chatecaille was fairly widely available, it was just that with my mac blinders on, i'd never noticed them.

years later, of course, i know better. the brand is fiendishly difficult to get in canada, despite being widely available at department stores [neiman marcus, saks, barneys] in the united states. in fact, it's only officially available at two stores in the whole country- the holt renfrew counters at the toronto flagship store and in vancouver downtown. and what makes things worse is that it isn't even very accessible on line. although you can easily order other products from neiman marcus to ship to canada, they won't ship any chantecaille products. i'd spoken to zuneta last year and mentioned that they should approach them, only to be told that they had and that chantecaille weren't interested. since holt's has no plans to expand the brand's distribution to their other stores [or make it available for on line purchase], that makes them a sort of grail-like fetish for a lot of canadian consumers. [a couple of on line shops like beauty bay and strawberrynet carry parts of the line, but not nearly the whole assortment.]

so when i went to vancouver earlier this year on business, i did reserve a few minutes to dart into the holt renfrew store and see what i was missing. and, of course, i left with my wallet noticeably lighter. [due in part to the fact that it was also the only opportunity i'd had to visit a burberry counter, who have similarly terrible distribution in this country.]

the brand has evolved a lot since my first experience with them. they have a greater variety of products, including their cult favourite "lip chic" lipsticks, which are renown for their soft, hydrating formula and crowd-pleasing semi-sheer colour. i'm not normally a fan of sheerer colour, but while i was in vancouver, i was really sick [with what turned out to be a rather severe bronchial infection, probably pneumonia], which left my lips absolutely parched, even in the delightfully humid seaside weather. i wanted relief, so i purchased it in the form of a lip chic called "damask", one of the darker colours in the line and hence one of the more pigmented ones.

i still don't find it's incredibly pigmented on my lips-it's certainly not opaque- but it adds a really nice colour. it's a deep, cool berry-rose, the kind of shade i have no business buying, because i already have a lot, but which is the sort of shade that does tend to go exceptionally well on my colouring. because it's not too dark, it's a great day time option, or a great spring/ summer option for this kind of colour, which even i have to admit can look a little heavy when it's opaque in the warmer months. [someday i'll add it to an updated list of spring lips for vampy ladies.]

damask
although i do definitely have some similar colours, i didn't have an exact match, which was a relief. dior "fashion" is lighter and pinker [and even more sheer/ natural]. nars "fast ride" is darker and browner. mac "desire" is more opaque and therefore looks a lot darker. armani sheer "602" is much cooler and purpler. so even though the shade might not look incredibly distinctive, it's not as easy to find a match as you might think.

l to r :: damask, nars fast ride
as far as the formula is concerned, it really did feel nice against my diseased lips for the few days i was in vancouver. it wouldn't last long, but once i got back and tried it out when i was feeling normal [physically], i was pleasantly surprised to find that the formula was longer-lasting than a lot of semi-sheer lipsticks. it outlasts the dior addict formula, equals or outperforms mac's lustres and nars' semi-sheer shades and continues to feel very hydrating throughout.

that last part is really the key; it's one of very few formulas that actually makes my lips feel better. there are a few that can be drying, a lot that are neutral, but it's rare that you get that feeling of a balm in a lipstick. i did feel that here.

07 October 2013

mental health mondays :: can you see through the windows to the soul?

here's a thing to try... an on line quiz that tracks your ability to judge people's emotions just based on their eyes. if you've read the book blink, you know that micro-movements of the muscles in our face are pretty much hard-wired when we experience certain emotions. we make certain motions that betray our thoughts and feelings even when we don't mean to. and so tight is the bond between our feelings and our physical expression of those feelings that even making the faces associated with certain moods or states of mind can be enough to trigger those same states. so try to smile a lot.

i'm going to put a page break here so that i can discuss my results without providing spoilers. feel free to join me after the break when you've done the test.


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