30 September 2014

making faces :: berry picking

leaves are turning! gusts of chill air are arriving! evening is longer than daytime! i get excited just typing those things. it helps that, compared to last year, the first part of autumn as been glorious. the temperature has been slowly creeping downward [although we did have a shocking run of heat last week], making it comfortable to wear light layers during the day and a jacket at night. my toes are getting ready to hibernate in boots and my lips are lusting after delicious berries and plums like at no other time of the year.

i always love a deep lip, from classically sophisticated to outright vamp and i'll wear them pretty much any time i want, but there is something to the pairing of such shades with the golden autumn light, just as bold, juicy shades come into their own on the most brilliant summer days. as a result, when this time of year rolls around, i'm magnetically drawn to try any new lipstick that has "berry" in its name or description, the fuller and richer the coverage the better.

you might recall that earlier this year, i finally got around to trying givenchy's le rouge formula for the first time. i'd passed on the opportunity to try them earlier, because none of the colours seemed unique, but having tried one, i knew i was going to keep my eye out for more. i got lucky in that they added more new shades, including one promisingly named "framboise velours", which translates to "raspberry velvet". that sounds like so many thrilling things- an edwardian gown, a quietly deadly cocktail and, yes, a kick-ass lipstick colour.

29 September 2014

mental health mondays :: all hail the magic beans!

several sources have alerted me to the fact that today is national coffee day. [although really, since it appears to be national coffee day in both the u.s. and canada, i'd say that it's properly international coffee day.] so what better way to mark this glorious day than to have a look at how the best beverage ever in the history of the world connects to our psychological well-being?

you might think that this link is a bit tenuous. after all, coffee drinkers are forever portrayed as tense, angry, tightly would and moody, all of which are pretty seriously bad signs when it comes to mental health. but the fact is that the vast majority of north americans drink coffee and the vast majority are not high strung stereotypes with a throbbing nerve in their neck. in fact, they might be a little better off than the rest of us.

now, as far as i'm concerned, coffee is great for health in general because drinking it probably stops me from going on killing sprees. i don't even try to hide the fact that it is an addiction, not just a charming habit. trust me, caffeine withdrawal happens quickly when you haven't had your fix and it can put you in some serious pain. but as addictions go, it's on the milder side and there's little evidence to suggest that caffeine can cause problems, although it can certainly make existing problems [e.g. high blood pressure] worse.

but now, there is research to suggest that coffee might be beneficial for mental health. it turns out that coffee, unlike a lot of drugs, can cross the blood-brain barrier, which is like your own internal great wall designed to keep certain things out of the command centre. we consume coffee because caffeine inhibits a neurotransmitter in the brain that makes us feel fatigued, but while it's there, caffeine also tinkers with other neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, both of which are understood to affect mood. [note: the linked article says that the serotonin theory of depression has been debunked. i wouldn't go so far, but it is something that has been addressed in a previous mhm instalment.]

of course, coffee isn't a problem free beverage, since caffeine has been recognised in the latest iteration of the big book of crazy [the dsm-v] as causing mental disorders. since it is a drug, and an addictive one at that, it stands to reason that sudden withdrawal will have an affect on the brain. but what we're learning now is that there may be no reason for most people to stop their caffeine intake [or, if you're consuming four cups a day or less, even to reduce it] and there may be benefits to adding one little vice to your life. shall we toast with a lovely mug of jamaican blue mountain?

note: that wonderful image at the top of this post is an actual thing. you can own it for a cheap $10usd! available from the always enchanting think geek. [non-affiliate link.] 

also, we'd like to send out a big mental health mondays happy birthday to arsenal player per mertesacker. the man affectionately nicknamed the "big fucking german" [he stands six foot six] was apparently deeply affected by the suicide of german national teammate robert enke in 2009 and has shown his respects by organising charity events to raise money and awareness for those dealing with depression. mental illness is even more stigmatised in the hypermasculine world of sport than it is in general, so it's great to see a high-profile athlete [part of this year's world cup winning squad!] speaking out.

p.s. :: i also realise that's the second time in a week i've mentioned an arsenal player. i'm not getting paid for that either.

28 September 2014

the user's guide to more like space

since the blog now has its own spiffy facebook page and a number of new followers and because traffic on the blog this month has shown a steady increase, i figured now might be as good a time as any to give a little primer for those who might not be familiar with things here...


to start with, you can look at the about me page, which gives you an idea of what i'm doing, but which is kind of out of date now that i look at it. what you need to know about this blog is that if you like one particular aspect of it, there's a good chance that other parts won't be so interesting. in defiance of logic and popular wisdom, i just write about whatever is on my mind and that means that there isn't really a theme here other than "hey, look at the inside of my brain!"

that said, i do try to be good about tagging posts and when there is a large group of posts that fall under one theme, i usually create a category for it. so here's a little primer on what you can find.

first of all, there are several tabs at the top of the page. those are updated whenever i post something that fits those parameters. for the most part, these permanent pages contain links to my various creative projects. that includes my short stories, attempts at poetry and my photography and video art. there are also links at the right side of the page which go to sites where you can support me and my arty projects by buying books or movies [well, a movie]. since i'm not placing renting out the blog to advertisers, your support is appreciated. [you can also just make a direct donation through this page.]

now, as far as categories are concerned, here's a brief round-up:

making faces :: i have always had a healthy relationship with cosmetics and beauty products and a few years ago, i decided to start writing about that on the blog. at least once a week, you'll find reviews or experiments i've done on my face or other beauty-related ramblings.

mental health mondays :: i've always been fascinated with the mind and the ways in which it can become disordered, so i decided to dedicate a day to talking about those issues. for a while, i'd abandoned this, because i didn't have the time to research it properly, but it's been revived and i am trying to do a post every single week. 

world wide wednesdays :: this is a brand new feature on the blog [seriously, as of this post there's only been one entry], where i take a lighthearted look at various marginal or at least little-known cultures from around the world. i'm looking forward to doing more of these!

dj kali :: i've had an intimate relationship with what might be called "difficult" music for more than twenty years. i've also insisted on inflicting that music on random passersby whenever i can. i've done some podcast enclosures here [and may yet do more] and i'm always careful to post playlists whenever i do a live set. if you're some kind of glutton for punishment, yes i am available for parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs and funerals. you might want to make sure you understand what you're getting yourself into, though.

cuisine :: i'm no chef, but i do like cooking, so i write about that, too. a lot of times, this is more yammering than recipes, so if you're going to check those posts out, you should be prepared for some conversational banter. [also, every four years i do a massive series of posts called "eat the cup", which involves cooking meals with a world cup theme. i've done it for three successive cups, which actually makes it the longest running series of posts on the web site.]

proud fur-mom :: i describe myself as a crazy cat lady and i wear that label with enthusiasm. [i'm also lucky enough to have connected with that rarest of creatures, the crazy cat man.] i don't have flesh-babies, but i do have five wonderful children- three boys and two girls- who are pretty much the centre of my existence. seriously, if you get me alone at a social event, you can start counting down the moments until i pull out my phone and show you pictures of my totally awesome children.

so political :: i have opinions about politics. lots of them. i define myself as a progressive, or as very liberal [in some cases, i use the terms anarchist and libertarian, but those have connotations that i believe make them confusing] and you can be damn sure that anything i write about politics will reflect that. if that's going to offend you, you might want to avoid my political posts. on the other hand, you might want to engage me in a debate which i totally welcome. regardless, you can expect that i'm going to write a lot about politics in the world.

those are some of the major themes, but there's always more to explore and more things that i have in mind for the future. for a long time, i had a running series called friday favourites. i liked doing it, but it was a surprising amount of work and the posts weren't as popular as others on the site, so i finally abandoned it late last year. that said, i've been trying to think of ways in which it could be revived. any suggestions are welcome.

also, while i went through my adolescence thinking that sports were for the kind of people who liked to beat me and my friends up, i do have to admit that i [and my long-suffering partner] are huge "real" football [or soccer as you may know it] fans and, since the world cup posts have been extremely popular, i'm thinking of ways in which i could incorporate that. as with most things, i'm not adept enough to offer informed commentary, but when has that ever stopped me?

of course, at least half the posts on the blog don't fall into any of those categories, which is where i beg you for patience/ indulgence. maybe you visited here for one thing, but got snared by another. that's awesome. welcome.

i really love getting feedback and try to respond to it whenever i do receive some. if you have suggestions for regular features, feel free to contact me. i'm extremely open-minded.

but most of all, thank you for taking a few minutes from your hectic life to look at these pages. i am humbled by your interest and i hope that i can earn more of it. i may have started this blog for me, but it's no fun without you.

p.s. :: the image above is an illustration of me with the various elements of the blog, including my feline army of the night and neville, who is my insomnia and who is thus responsible for a lot of what you see here.  

p.p.s :: i'm surprised that this blog doesn't yet have a "greenland" tag. i'm strangely obsessed with greenland.

now with facebook realness!

i've heard that all the kids are down with this "facebook page" thing and so, after dithering over it for about a hundred years [i look pretty damn good for my age], i have taken the plunge and set up a facebook fan page for more like space. it'll let you keep track of whatever is happening here without having to leave the comfort of facebook and, even better, it'll allow you to do so without having to send a friend request to me personally, which would involve subjecting yourself to all the things i say that i don't feel should go on a public blog.

everybody wins.

you can trot on over to like more like space by clicking here. you cannot click on the "meh" button yet, no matter how much you might want to.

26 September 2014

making faces :: the chronos quintet

à propos of nothing in particular, i thought i would let you know that a spilled liquid accident has left me temporarily without my usual keyboard and mouse. i'm hoping that they'll actually recover, but for the time being, i'm using my old plug in models, which feel strangely steampunk-like; antiques hooked up with modern technology. i'm currently realising how far we've come in making keyboards more responsive, since typing this is giving me a bit of a workout. gah.

and moving on...

last month, rouge bunny rouge released their first ever eyeshadow palette, chronos. [i'm a little confused with the naming, but i believe that the name 'raw garden' applies to their pre-made palettes in general, which would imply that there are more to come, and that this particular one is called "chronos".] i actually ordered it the very first day it was available [august 28th], but i wanted to play around with it a bit before reviewing it here. although "chronos" is limited, it is still available from rbr and their distributors. it's $59usd, which is a pretty sweet deal for five full-sized shadows [2g each, which is the same as regular rbr refills].

the concept behind "chronos" is that it offers possibilities for new takes on the smoky eye, replacing traditional greys and blacks with hints of colour and shimmer. of course, since i do smoky eyes in a variety of colours, i didn't think of it as being exclusively for that purpose, but if you want something that delivers a softer, more nuanced smoky look, you could certainly do a lot worse.

the textures of these shadows are noticeably different than those of regular rouge bunny rouge shadows. indeed, there is a new finish introduced that has a luxe sparkle effect, without a lot of glittery fallout. if you've used rouge bunny rouge loose pigments before, these aren't entirely dissimilar. the heavy sparkle gives these powder shadows an almost dewy effect; there's something molten about them.

true to rbr standards, the shades are muted, earthy and eminently wearable. the first two shades show more of the sparkle, while the other three are a little more satin, but still with some shimmer. this is not a palette for addicts of matte shadows, but it's worth mentioning that rbr frosts are not like older shadows- they go on smoothly and won't emphasize the texture of skin. despite the metallic lustre of these colours, they don't look heavy on the eyes, which is kind of remarkable.

I'LL BREAK IT DOWN FOR YOU...

24 September 2014

world wide wednesdays :: euskadi

this is a new thing i'm trying on the blog, based on a fascination i have with various underrepresented, marginalised or misunderstood cultures around the world. i tend to spend a lot of my late night bouts of "i have insomnia and i need something to think about so that i don't shoot myself and anyone who tries to stop me" reading up on these subjects. since this blog has always been a repository for the stuff that clogs up my brain [as well as a place where i can curse at things and channel the discussions with the voices in my head], i figured i might as well share some of what i've learned.

i'm not even going to pretend that these are exhaustive, journalistic or academic in any way. i just think that there's a lot of interesting shit in the world ["interesting shit in the world" being my alternate choice for "world wide wednesdays"] and the more people who post about it, the more people will be spurred to investigate.

so, as a first salvo in the war on "i've never heard of those people", i've decided to tackle the basques. not literally, because i'm pretty sure any one of them could take me. but as a subject.

a lot of people have heard of the basques. myself, i grew up in an area of the world near an entirely anglophone town with the name port-aux-basques, without ever giving much thought to what the name meant. there are also delicious pastries and delicious-looking lingerie that bear the name, but long before any of that, the basques were a european people. there is something undeniably fascinating about the basques, something that tantalizes historians and anthropologists, both professional and amateur.

it starts with the basque language itself: euskara. it immediately presents a conundrum because it is related to no other language in the world. for many years, linguists have been positing links to the celts, to languages from the caucasus, to languages now extinct [or which may never have existed to begin with]; the fact remains that basque has no links to any living language. to an outsider, the language looks a little like it's messing with you a little, with words containing an unsettling number of k's, x's and z's. basque scrabble must be incredibly frustrating. [side note: there is no term for a basque person in their native other than someone who speaks the language. that seems to be the only requirement for inclusion.]

what makes this particularly interesting is not merely the fact that it is isolated from all other languages- both japanese and korean are isolate languages spoken by far greater numbers of people. what is so intriguing about basque is that it is an isolate language surrounded by other languages that are very obviously related and whose historical development is well understood. we know that at some time in the distant past, people we now call indo-european spread over great swathes of the world and gave us a the largest linguistic group on earth, encompassing everything from english to latin to russian to sanskrit. but the basques aren't part of that story: they are the sole remnant of the mysterious people who were there before, a connection to europe's most distant past. it's hard not to be drawn in.

it's unclear how exactly the basques survived the otherwise obliterating advance of the indo-europeans. there is evidence to suggest that people related to the modern-day basques may have inhabited parts of the iberian peninsula for thirty millennia, but the axis of their culture seems to have always been the area in the northeast of spain and southwest of france, which was clearly surrounded by the linguistic invaders. but somehow, the basques persevered and even thrived. [side note: basque culture is sometimes mistakenly identified as matriarchal. this is not strictly true, however women in basque society did enjoy greater property rights than in many areas of europe and women were allowed to hold offices which were in other areas the sole purview of men.]

for many years, anthropologists believed that basques could be useful in studying the history of european genetics, since they were believed to be "living fossils", genetically different than other europeans. however, dna testing has indicated that this belief was mistaken. whatever their original genetic composition, modern basques are much closer to modern spaniards than to neolithic era tribes.

nonetheless, there are some distinctive basque traits. for instance, basques have the highest rate of rh negative blood anywhere in the world. [side note: this itself may have placed a limit on the size of the basque population. women with rh- blood generally have no problems conceiving, but when the fetus is rh+, their immune systems sometimes mistakenly identify the fetus as a pathogen and attack it.] type o blood is quite common, while type b blood is almost unknown. more subjectively, scholars refer to a set of typical basque features: long straight noses, thick eyebrows, prominent, squared chins and long earlobes. i'm certainly no expert, but i have to admit that those self-identified as basque did have those features [i couldn't swear to the ears]. i don't know... i feel like there might be something to this. let's have a look, shall we?

here's agnès souret, a french basque who became the first ever miss france in 1920:



and here's fashion designer cristobal balenciaga, a spanish basque:

 

and finally here's spanish basque soccer player mikel arteta:



[side note: arteta plays for arsenal in the british premier league, but athletico bilbao, the spanish la liga team based in the basque homeland has a policy of hiring only basque players, in spite of the considerable limits this places upon them. there is a basque national team as well, but since they are not affiliated with any professional league, they're ineligible for international competitions like the world cup.]

while modern basques are spread widely throughout the globe, with huge populations in certain parts of america and canada and even larger ones in south america [especially chile, where they made up almost half of immigrants in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries], they are identified principally with the area of northern spain where they have traditionally lived. basques on the french side of the border are treated simply as french citizens, but in spain, the basque territories have a considerable degree of autonomy in their home provinces of navarre, alava, biscay and gipuzkoa. historically, the basque homeland has had a tempestuous relationship with spain, resisting attempts at centralization and fighting to maintain their autonomy. things grew especially tense under franco's regime, which gave rise to the euskadi ta askatasuna separatist movement, or eta. much like the irish republican army, eta employed both political and violent means to achieve their aims. in 2011, eta announced a permanent ceasefire and has morphed into an entirely political organisation.

[side note: when the 2004 madrid train bombings occurred, there was initially some question as to whether they had been perpetrated by middle eastern terrorists identifying with al-qaeda or by eta. i asked a friend of mine from madrid what he thought and he immediately responded "eta would never do that". i should add that this was someone who absolutely opposed eta and their aims, but still, the bond between the basques and the spanish went deep enough that it bordered on insulting that i'd even imply that eta was behind the attacks. that's always stuck with me.]

being a relatively small and isolated culture for so long, basques have been able to retain many of their traditions [even as their genetics have shifted], including their distinctive cuisine, infamous cattle marathon, and lesser known custom of scaring the living hell out of bloggers who research them in the middle of the night. that said, most basques identify as much with spain as with the basque country and while there are certainly efforts to support the basque language, it remains defined as a right within the territory, whereas education and service in spanish is a constitutional necessity.

i'm interested to see whether recent events in scotland will reignite the basques' national fire. longtime cultural considerations aside, the basque region of spain has resisted the central government's austerity measures and has greatly outpaced the economic performance of the rest of the country. per capita income is higher in the basque territories than anywhere else in spain and unemployment is considerably lower. those factors alone might provide motivation for a reinvigorated separatist movement. [spain has said that they will never agree to an independence referendum, which probably says a lot about how they think the result would go.]

so there you have it, the first instalment of "world wide wednesdays". please feel free to leave feedback or ask questions [keeping in mind that i'm not an expert in any of the things that i blather about] or make suggestions for future editions.

23 September 2014

go drunk facebook, you're home

a lot of my friends can't believe that i haven't just blocked ads from my facebook feed. personally, i can't imagine why anyone would block ads from their facebook feed, because they're such an endless source of inspiration.

i've already talked about how facebook's targeting software seems to be a little like a pubescent boy, unable to process anything about female users other than "b00b$!!!" but i have to at least give the horny little hamsters credit for throwing an ad for skin care into my feed. you could at least make the argument that i have posted things [through this blog] that could lead someone to believe that i might be interested in skin care. but then, i looked at the ad:






facebook, you need to fire yourselves now. stop attacking people who want their private lives private and just show yourselves a red card. someone in your organisation has placed ads for skin care from a company called james' tire shop.


because when i want good advice about my skin, i like to go to the autobody and ask guys who work with steel and solvents. i'm sure they all moonlight for mary kay.

since i was writing a blog post on the subject, i figured that i'd at least google the name to make sure that i wasn't about to find out it was some hipster outfit and i was just hopelessly behind the times. well, i am hopelessly behind the times, but that's beside the point here. this is what you get when you google "james tire shop". and incidentally, this is what you get when you search facebook for james tire shop.

in the hopes of finding the punchline to the joke, i read the ad and noticed the following:





so this was your thirtieth high school reunion and you and your classmate are both in your fifties. let's say you're both fifty-one, ok? that means that you graduated high school when you were twenty-one years old.

i'm going to assume that anyone who graduated high school before they were twenty-one has figured out the problem with this statement.

i could leave it there, but i can't turn down the opportunity to comment on the image that the advertiser has chosen to go with the text, because it looks like a microwaved jellyfish. you know what i think when i see something that reminds me of a microwaved jellyfish? "get that shit away from me, pronto."

and i don't think i'm alone in that. i think that there are a lot of people who would scroll past a few posts they were actually interested in looking at in order to get that nastiness off their screen. i'm willing to bet a lot of you are trying to avoid looking at that image right now.

i'm not going to claim to be omniscient when it comes to advertising, but there are a couple of tidbits i'd like to pass on:

1. a shocking image will catch people's attention, it's true.

2. catching people's attention by showing them gross images in advertising is like waving your junk at a cute girl and then asking her if she wants to go to dinner. you've made your first impression and you're going to have to live with it.

last night, i had a dream that i was building a marketing campaign for a client that involved kidnapping children for a couple of days, feeding them a healthy meal and then returning them home wearing a t-shirt for the brand i was representing. i can almost guarantee you that after the fourth or fifth kid turned up, people would be talking about the brand. the problem is that what they would be saying probably wouldn't boost sales.

when i woke up, i found all of this very funny. i also knew that it was one of the most batshit insane things my brain had ever come up with, which is why i'm not actually going to suggest it as a guerilla marketing tactic. sometimes the most important part of creativity is knowing when to stop: don't kidnap children as a public relations stunt, don't buy your skin care from a mechanic [no matter how good a mechanic s/he is] and don't buy ads for your company on facebook.

22 September 2014

mental health mondays :: a nut house divided

although the history of schizophrenia is not particularly long, it has already become exceedingly complex. in the late 1800s, german physician emil kraepelin invented the term "dementia praecox" to refer to cases of mental illness that occurred in younger people- those too young to be suffering from age-related dementia. in 1911, the term "schizophrenia" was coined by swiss psychiatrist eugen bleuler, in order to distinguish the disorder from proper dementia, which involved a deterioration of mental faculties. his work was crucial in determining the characteristics of what we now call schizophrenia, including the identification of both positive symptoms [things that schizophrenics do that the rest of us don't] and negative symptoms [things schizophrenics don't do that the rest of us do].

unfortunately, while various drugs to control schizophrenia have been developed and many, many studies done, the progress on understanding the disorder has been remarkably slow. various subtypes were added underneath the larger umbrella of schizophrenia, but with the publication of the dsm-v, field professionals decided that those had become cumbersome without being especially useful. so all of the subtypes were removed in 2013 and schizophrenia became just one very large restaurant with a large variety of crazy treats on the menu.

more recently, however, the results of a study of thousands of schizophrenia patients may have proved that schizophrenia, as we've conceived of it thus far, may not even exist. rather, what we call schizophrenia is actually a series of eight separate disorders which can be identified genetically and, to a great extent, predicted based on the presence or absence of certain other genes.

the fact that schizophrenia has hung around this long as a diagnostic term may be related to our own unwillingness to deal with mental illness. we don't assume that every symptom related to the lungs is lung cancer, because we know that the lungs can be affected by many different things. but there was a tendency among doctors to simply lump psychiatric symptoms together as equalling "schizophrenia". this new study indicates that different psychiatric symptoms- like hallucinations or disordered speech- are indicative of different disorders and that they are caused by different combinations of genes. so rather than being a disease on its own, schizophrenia is better understood as being a category, like "autoimmune disorder" or "heart disease".

the good news, of course, is that a better understanding should allow for the development of better treatments. medicine can move beyond using one type of approach for what is actually a lot of different diseases and instead focus on what will actually reduce the impact of the disorder on people's lives.

the bad news is that the study raises the possibility that genetics is a lot more important than we might have believed in the development of mental illness. that doesn't mean simply that schizophrenic disorders will run in families [although it may well], but that your own propensity to such a disorder is determined largely by which specific gene clusters you have. indeed, the study indicates that by looking at specific gene clusters, doctors can predict with a high degree of accuracy who will develop a schizophrenic condition at some point. and if you have those gene clusters, there is basically a little time bomb in your head that will someday explode and fuck everything up. [although hopefully not until after some new treatments exist.]

doctors have been arguing for years that schizophrenia has become a catch all term, encompassing too much to be meaningful. and indeed, this study seems to lend scientific credence to that; schizophrenia has developed multiple personalities.

20 September 2014

i need to be happy with the man i am

as i previously posted, i found out on the internet that i'm apparently a man. this came as a bit of a surprise to me and dominic still doesn't seem to accept it, but dozens of ukrainian ladies can't be wrong, right? i continue to get emails from lots of them saying that they never approach men on the internet, but that they felt that i was different. [they're not wrong about that. -ed.]

this week, fair adriana [whose parents clearly intended that she would be either a die hard goth princess or a porn star], emailed me several times with this message:


i thought that the first question was some sort of survey like "how do you happen to become or feel sexy?" until i realised that her excitement about contacting me was such that she'd omitted a comma. hey, at least she got "you're" right.

of course, i don't remember her from facebook, probably because we've never encountered each other on facebook or anywhere else. how do i know this? because she seems really excited about the prospect of giving me a blow job and even a quick glance at me would be enough to let her know that that plan just wasn't going to work.

but immediately after i started receiving her messages, i got this one:






so maybe the problem is that i haven't noticed that i'm a man because i haven't taken these pills? is it possible that adriana and her ukrainian friends know something that i don't? am i just a man with exceptionally little to brag about? to be fair, the increase would have to be amazing for me to pass as male and there are still a couple of things that i'd have to explain, but hey...these sorts of things have to be regulated, i'm certain...

then i realised that i'd feel a little more comfortable about the whole thing if that name didn't look suspiciously like something from an ikea catalogue.




i don't think i ever got the right number of screws with my bënno cabinets and there are certain places where an allen key just shouldn't go.

so whatever the promise of those pills, i'm afraid that everyone will just have to take me as i am. and they'll have to explain what that is to me, because by now even the basic stuff has got me confused. 


19 September 2014

exactly how far do you want to take this, zuckerberg?

as many of you may have heard, facebook is clamping down on people who aren't using their real, or rather legal names on the social network. much of the attention has been directed towards drag queens, who want a personal profile under their performance name rather than their legal name, but the fact is that facebook's terms of service require everyone to use their legal name for their personal profiles. drag queens are just a very obvious example and also the main group who have spoken up.

drag queens, of course, might want to connect with friends and fans in the scene, apart from establishing a fan page [to say nothing of the fact that it's easier for privacy-minded users to hide their friends than it is to hide the fan pages they like] and the best way for them to do that is to use the name by which they would be recognised. being forced to use their legal name risks exposing them to ridicule or worse from close-minded employers, family or community members. but, of course, that's hardly the only issue.

as spokespeople who tried to convince facebook to back off from their sudden crackdown noted, this also threatens women and children who have suffered spousal abuse and who want to hide their whereabouts and, indeed, anything about their lives, from their former abusers. and it's unclear how the policy would accommodate transgendered persons who are in the process of transition, or even people who change their name after marriage, divorce or for any number of perfectly legitimate reasons.

most of the people who i know who have opted to use a name other than the one that appears on their birth certificate, however, have had one main reason for doing so: to keep their private life separate from their work life. if coworkers and bosses find them harder to trace, it means that they are afforded a certain level of protection. that doesn't just mean that they have the freedom to mouth off about their employers [which isn't a great idea even if you are flying below the radar], but if they wish to keep their personal details private, using another name means that they are free to do this. employers, particularly in the united states, have become increasingly insistent on being able to access social media information about prospective employees and facebook appears to be siding with them. yes, a user can set his or her profile to "private", but that blocks people with whom they want to connect from finding them as well.

facebook seems to have targeted the drag queens first, deactivating a number of accounts under professional names in one sweep [although some have since been restored], however, it remains to be seen exactly how far they will take this. what about authors who use pen names? one of my perennial favourites, jon stewart, was born jonathan stewart liebowitz. david bowie was born david jones. long before any legal change, do you seriously think either of those men weren't referred to by their stage names by friends and colleagues?

and it can get even dumber: a legal name is the name on your birth certificate or other government documentation. that technically means my name is in contravention of facebook policies, even though it's the name i've gone by every day of my life since i was born. it's true. there exists not one legal document on me that contains the name "kate", but no one who actually knows me [the people with whom i'm supposed to be connecting through facebook] would look for me as anything other than "kate". it's a strange little distinction that stems from the fact that the first name on my birth certificate is different than the one i use, but since it's always easier to get official documents based on other official documents, it's just easier to come back to the birth certificate for those purposes. so does that mean i have to change my name, facebook?

this touches on the issue of what constitutes a "real" name. if i choose a name when i present myself to the public, is that not "more real" than one that someone else put on my birth certificate? if most people know me by one name, how does opting for a lesser-known legal one increase transparency?

ultimately, facebook is a private company, no matter how ubiquitous it is and therefore zuckerberg and his board are free to enforce this regulation to the letter if they so choose. however, there are precedents for placing limits on the powers of private companies, particularly when they provide an important public service and hold a disproportionately large market share. facebook may still look like a fad to some, but the fact is that many jobs require a familiarity with social media and networking is an important part of doing business, which means that having a facebook account is less optional than it might seem, at least for the moment. furthermore, it is specifically a facebook account that's important. no one is going to judge you for being absent from twitter, but it constitutes a sort of statement at this point to stay off facebook; think of the people who have steadfastly refused to get an answering machine or voice mail as a comparison. so if it's expected that you'll be on facebook, or if your life will be made a lot easier if you are on facebook, it becomes a service that's not exactly essential, but still a little more than voluntary.

my guess is that facebook has no intention of fully enforcing this rule [although that would be the only fair solution, they've already bent to the will of famous people like lady gaga]. i'd like to believe that they are cracking down in an effort to stop internet bullies from hiding behind fake names or using the names of others on fake accounts, but the fact that they chose drag queens as their first target group tells a very different story. when you choose to make and example of a group in such a way that you expose them to harm, you don't get to claim that you're acting in the interests of safety, facebook.

[the image at the top of this post is, of course, rupaul, who is always just rupaul.]

it certainly doesn't cover everything wrong with the rule, but if you'd like to let facebook know that they should be allowing performers, all performers to use their stage names, you can sign this petition

17 September 2014

making faces :: think outside the palette

remember back when i was talking about summer collections and i got a little frustrated because i couldn't get nars' "tropical princess" eyeshadow duo to work the way that i wanted? no? it's ok, you can read about it here.

we've moved headlong into fall collections [even though i continue to support some kind of law that stops cosmetic companies from selling seasonal collections until that season actually starts, or at least until the month when the season actually starts, because it's like being able to go to the future to buy makeup and do absolutely nothing else, which would be lame, although since we're somehow in mid-september i have to admit that it's probably ok to talk about fall and should get back to what i was doing], but before i rush into the latest that nars has to offer [and i will], i wanted to work a little harder to get something going with this beauty that just never seemed to come together for me.

after my previous experiments and some reflecting on my journey through seasonal colour analysis, it occurred to me that part of the problem was that, while the colours have an iciness to them that i should be able to support, there isn't a huge level of contrast. on a lot of people, that wouldn't be a problem, but wasn't one of the things that i discovered that my particular complexion seems to demand an exceptionally high contrast level? [spoiler: yes, it totally was.]

so with that in mind, i thought i'd try to introduce a little more "zing" to the whole look by combining "tropical princess" with some other shades i have at my disposal. and the results?

15 September 2014

mental health mondays :: marketing insanity

and you should feel lucky for a warm place to stay
a few days ago, local employment service grenier aux emplois posted a link to this article, detailing the excuses that unproductive employees use to justify their behaviour. as i read it, i was trying to control myself from screaming out loud at the computer. i rushed to their comment thread to show my ire and was gratified to see that at least a half dozen others before me- most of them small business owners or managers- had had much the same reaction. score one for conscientious employers in quebec.

but what i find fascinating is that someone at praxis- who are ostensibly trying to provide some sort of training for young entrepreneurs- wrote this up, got cutesy graphics to go with it and published it on line without realising what a complete piece of tripe it was. people proofread this. people greenlit this. and it's about the best example of how workplace psychosis functions that you could find outside of a large-scale study.

i've already written about the widespread phenomenon of burnout and its costs to society in general, so maybe i'm approaching this backwards. because the real issue may not be burnout at all, but the depraved way in which employers are encouraged to adopt increasingly sociopathic tendencies. think i'm exaggerating? let's look at some of the "unproductive excuses" targeted by the agency wanting to train the leaders of tomorrow.

points 1, 4 and 9 all demand that the employee's needs be subjugated to those of the corporation. the employer is entitled to receive more than what they are paying for [point #1- stated clearly]; benefits to the employee are not as important as those to the corporation [certainly arguable, since the whole must function well in order for everyone to benefit, but there is no distinction made between refusing to work towards the benefit of everyone and reluctance to work at something that will benefit only those at the upper echelons- even questioning that is grounds for dismissal]; and finally, the employee should never be allowed to feel that they have earned something- money, respect, benefits- everything is to be deemed a courtesy that needs to be justified by the employee through their hard work. and who judges when the work has justified the investment? why the investors, of course. any sense on the part of the employee that they are deserving of something is to be deemed "unproductive" and therefore dangerous.

one of the hallmarks of the sociopath is their inability to feel empathy for others and a sense of entitlement. the points above are all about entitlement- to an employee's loyalty, hard work in excess of the reward offered, to the employee's very sense of dignity. it's not important how these people feel about being exploited, what's important is that they always believe that they are at fault, that they are undeserving. thus does the sociopath get what he or she wants from others- by pretending [constant dishonesty is another hallmark of sociopaths] that they will some day be able to rise to the level of the deserving underling.

SO MUCH MORE TO EVISCERATE...

14 September 2014

won't someone please think of the drunks?

in just a few short days [all days are the same length -ed.], scotland, country of at least some of my ancestors, will decide whether or not it wants to end over three centuries of union with england and become a fully independent country. pundits from around the world have weighed in on the subject, especially since the gap between "yes" and "no" support has fallen to nigh on nothing.

source
as you can see, the unionist cause has been in the process of destroying their comfortable lead for several months, with the two latest polls indicating either an eight-point lead for the separatists or an eight-point lead for the federalists. those are strange results, given that both polls are about the same size and both results are outside the margin of error. i think that the biggest takeaway is probably that scots like to fuck with people and that no one has any idea what's going to happen on thursday, possibly not even the scots themselves.

despite the dire warnings emanating from "no" side proponents, including all three parliamentary leaders of the [for now] united kingdom and corporate heavyweights british petroleum, who took time out from their busy schedule of gross negligence to warn that the oil revenues so crucial to the nationalist financial plan are a short-term boon, the nationalist cause appears not just tenacious, but burgeoning. and just today, the predictors of financial doom and gloom were dealt a serious blow when international bookmakers standard and poor determined that an independent scotland's financial prospects were actually pretty good.

the "no" campaign has been heavily criticized for its scare tactics in the lead-up to the referendum and i can only guess that no one among them ever bothered to look at how such tactics have worked for others. as a "survivor" of such a campaign, my advice to david cameron et al would be to invest in some diapers for the big night, because you are likely to spend several hours shitting your pants while the results trickle in. not only has the "yes" cause shown themselves to be more practical in their financial planning than the quebec nationalists who came within a sigh of winning their battle, but now they have similarly been able to co-opt the spirit of positivity that has been shown across nations to be a powerful motivator at the polls.

my own personal concern is that no one is taking into account the needs of my particular demographic: the international consumer of scotch whiskey. i don't know if scottish first minister alex salmond is taking this as seriously as he should. scotch is, after all, the country's second biggest export and ties into other industries like tourism from people who dream of a land where hot and cold single malt run from the taps. [reality check: they don't -ed.] we are all great appreciators of your independent spirit[s], but when representatives of the industry start going on about possibly crippling increases in manufacturing costs and delays in access to some foreign markets [which ones, mr. salmond- which ones?????], we get edgy. and no one seems to be taking our needs terribly seriously. it's all well and good to say that things should be fine, but i'm far from convinced and if someone like me who grew up hearing about how the evil english basically drove my family from their idyllic homeland, is skeptical of your argument, well, others are going to be in a panic. and international supporters of scottish independence aren't reassuring us.

in fact, scotland is in an extremely advantageous position when it comes to plans for separating: it's highly unlikely that they would be denied entry into the european union and the short-term ability of england to restrict scotland's usage of the pound sterling is questionable at best. while it might seem like the country would lose a lot of influence being a tiny fish in the european pool as opposed to a partner in one of its great whales, one of the lynchpins in the nationalist cause is that scottish politics, more progressive and left-leaning, has a lot more in common with that of europe than it does with increasingly conservative england. so they would be trading off a minority role in a union with whom they had profound disagreements for one in a group where they felt more comfortable. do you know what that means to me? europe gets first dibs on the scotch. if the e.u. lets scotland join them [and really, there's no reason for them not to, especially since it would piss england off and none of them really like england to begin with], they will collectively be scotland's best friend plus they're going to want to do everything they can to help scotland's financial prospects just as a way of telling england "haha, we were right and you can kiss our continental butt cheeks". avid scotch consumers on other continents are going to be afterthoughts in this equation and you know what that means? we're screwed.

the referendum in scotland is certainly of interest to other european separatist movements, since it may provide a blueprint for their eventual secession in favour of a larger european "parent"- an affiliation rather than a subjugating nation- but the fact is that none of them has scotch, so their future plans aren't going to impact my life one way or the other.

having an ancestral claim doesn't entitle me to vote in the scottish referendum, because as of yet, they haven't gone the israeli route and invited all their tribes in diaspora to make their way home, so i'm hoping i can count on some member of the clan of keppoch to speak for my interests: as destabilizing as separation could be for all concerned, i suspect from what i've read that it could work and though your current level of independence would be envied by other minority cultures, i understand the pain of being a european state trapped in the current political climate of the uk [most quebec residents do]. all i ask is that you consider the needs of your poor cousins who were exiled from the country for no other reason than that we fought for your fucking independence before it was cool. if you keep the pipeline open [not that north sea shite; you should be looking at renewable energy anyway], we will support your noble cause. interrupt the flow and we will end you with blood and fire.

ahem, i mean, good luck with that decision on thursday. i'd like to think that you'll take into account your international obligations.

11 September 2014

more like space greatest hits :: the other 9/11

this is a post from back in 2007, as the insanity that was the bush era was falling down around our ears and it seemed like the end of the world was surely nigh.

remembrance is important. there's not enough of it. or at least, there's too much of it concentrated in specific areas, which means that some incidents get over-analysed and distorted, while others are forgotten entirely.

so here's a remembrance of a post i wrote about remembering something that wasn't [and still isn't] being remembered properly.

*

i've been making my way, with some lengthy breaks, through noam chomsky's latest, "failed states". it's by no means his strongest work, but it does touch on a number of interesting issues, including events surrounding 9/11.

by 9/11, i mean september 11, 1973, when an american-backed coup overthrew chile's salvador allende and replaced him with general augusto pinochet. because we've heard so much about that later 9/11, i thought it would be interesting to share a few facts on the original:
  • approximately 3,200 people died according to official figures (which are widely viewed to be understated by as much as half).
  • adjusted proportionally to population, that is roughly equivalent to between 50,000 and 100,000 americans being killed at once.
  • there were 30,000 cases of torture in pinochet's chile, according to an official inquiry. (adjusted proportionally to population again, that would be the equivalent of 700,000 americans.)

augusto pinochet remained the darling of both ronald reagan and margaret thatcher throughout his reign of terror, something neither has ever bothered to admit was wrong and a travesty of the ideals they purported to defend.

funny, you never hear about that 9/11 nowadays. i wonder why? no, i don't, really. i know.

10 September 2014

making faces :: novel ideas

years ago, like many aspiring writers, i gave thought to trying to write romance novels for money. after all, it would be a way to get in print and it would provide me with enough income to pursue the writing i really liked. nothing could possibly go wrong. well, except that i'd never actually red a romance novel [unless you count gone with the wind], so i had no f**king clue what i was doing. oh, and my usual writing style is the sort of thing that wilts the blossoms of romance faster than a blow torch. "he stared deeply into her eyes and thought "i'll bet she was a pretty girl before her head was cut off and used as a polo ball"" is much more my style.

and so i never did manage to swing that secret career in romance writing. i couldn't even get started because as soon as i'd start, what i was trying to write [in so far as i understood it] would reduce me to fits of giggles almost immediately.

i thought about that experience when i saw mac's new fall collection, entitled "a novel romance", because the self-consciously lurid imagery and colour offering are at once reminiscent of the feeling of trashy romance, but there's something that doesn't quite seem to connect. not that everything has to relate to a theme, but if you're going to choose one that has such obvious visual reference points and then use those visual reference points in your marketing materials, i think that you do build the expectation that there's a through-line somewhere. it's a tiny quibble and probably one that most people wouldn't have.

the collection is rather huge and rambling, which romance novels [the trashy kind sent up in the visuals] tend not to be; it has a regular colour portion, its own group of nail polishes, a new type of eye liner in several shades and a gaggle of metallic eye shadows in a cream formula. some elements look typically fall-friendly- deep lips, murky neutral eyes, wind-kissed cheeks- all of which are found in the colour collection proper. others seem more general and the cream eye shadows seem almost futuristic.

for the sake of my sanity, i figured i'd focus on the regular colours and picked up one of the three available eye shadow palettes and a single lipstick. i should add that, to my eye, the palettes and lipsticks look like they're by far the most interesting parts of the whole shebang. all three palettes have an interesting assortment of shades that are original [well, except the ones that have been offered previously] both individually and in the way they're grouped together. i was tempted to pick up all three, but rationality prevailed and i stuck to the one that i felt was most different from what i already have, the eponymous "a novel romance".

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