31 July 2016

inspiration and insurrection :: fun times with the dnc

and now for something completely different
i think that there should be some sort of rule that says that once both american political parties have had their pre-election conventions, no one is allowed to talk about politics for a week. no one at all. we should all just be forced to sit back, breathe, reflect on what we've seen [if we absolutely must] and then, seven days after the final balloon has been popped, we can once again start speaking and, undoubtedly, arguing, about what we've just seen. i feel like that's the only sane response to the insanity that is the pre-electoral nomination convention of an american political party, because, without that, we might start to think it was acceptable to go around shouting "u!s!a!" every time we felt even slightly good about something. and we should never, ever feel that way.

but until that law is enacted, i'm going to do the same damn thing that everyone else with an interest in politics does and keep right on talking until i run out of oxygen and my fingers fall off.

four days in philly with the democratic party had a decidedly different feel than the republican shindig in cleveland a week earlier. i don't mean just the messages flowing from the podia, either, but just the way that things were organised, or not organised. republican nominee donald trump had said that he normally found conventions boring and that he wanted to make this one a little more wild, to bring a little of that atlantic city glitz to the proceedings. instead, it looked like the parts of atlantic city left holding the proverbial bag after trump declared bankruptcy and ran off in a cloud of other people's money.

by contrast, the democrats put on a show. unlike their conservative counterparts, the dems ran a tight ship, making sure that each night had a clear theme and built to a crescendo at the peak of their primetime programming. where the republicans had scott baio [a living metaphor for the dissolution of reagan-era optimism], the democrats had sarah silverman. the republicans booked third eye blind only to find the band had booked the gig just to mock them, while the democrats confidently booked katy perry.

whatever one's opinion on the politics espoused or the candidate selected, the dmc was a slick production. whereas the rnc got blindsided by melania trump's plagiarised speech and ted cruz's non-endorsement, the democrats waded through days of heckling and fractious infighting, and yet somehow, despite protesters blocking the entrances, or booing the speakers, or wearing tape over their mouths to show how they were being silenced, the headlines the next day were always about the speeches, the speakers and the elements that the behind the scenes wizards wanted you to see. a lot of people would probably argue that that's a result of press bias towards the higher neoliberal echelons of the democratic party, and there's probably something to that. but if a disaster had occurred, it would have been in the news. if anything, outlets like cnn and msnbc were more restrained in their evaluation of the convention than a lot of republicans. i doubt those opinions will mean anything to trump supporters, but they might mean a lot to independent voters.

but the effect on voters is something that we'll have to put off until another time. for now, as i did last week for the republicans, i've put together a little list of winners and losers from the dnc:

losers ::

bernie or busters :: many of us went into the convention proud of what senator sanders had accomplished and eager to see him continue to exert influence over the coming elections and over the democratic party. already, he's affected the party platform [the usefulness of which will be seen in the future], drawn young people into the fold, made financial reform enough of a topic that candidate clinton said in her speech that she would pursue a constitutional amendment if necessary to overturn citizens united. and sanders' supporters have grounds to be pissed off, in the wake of the democratic party email hack. it may not have cost them the election, but it's more than enough to raise suspicions. so the protests and walkout that took place are understandable.

what wasn't understandable was the vitriol directed at everyone, including sanders himself. being disappointed is one thing, throwing a tantrum in a convention where you can't possibly change anything is quite another. sanders was booed. elizabeth warren was booed. leon panetta was booed. but even that might be understandable [although rude]. what was truly risible was the protesters insistence on booing the non-politician speakers, who were undeserving of any of that criticism. shouting anti-war slogans during the speech of a former soldier, a high school track champion, who lost both his legs saving several of his comrades [american and afghani] by tackling a man with a suicide vest isn't brave, it's sick.

rather than accepting the result, retrenching and focusing on down-ballot candidates across the country [which is how you build a grassroots movement to begin with], the hardcore sandernistas spent the week showing everyone that they cared about nothing but the presidency. they've done a lot of damage to their movement.

elizabeth warren :: aside from the fact that the parliamentarian who's done the most to hold big finance responsible for its messes was taunted with chants of "you sold out" and "goldman sachs" for supporting mrs. clinton, the senator had the misfortune to speak right after michelle obama. she isn't tremendously diminished by the whole affair, but she isn't quite the hot ticket she was just a little while back. here's hoping she'll rebound quickly.

donald trump :: there is no doubt that, after a decidedly mixed convention last week [although one that still gave him a little bump in the polls], the republican candidate was hit big time. and while the democrats undoubtedly had worked long and hard at honing their arguments against him, they could never have anticipated receiving a priceless gift from the man himself:

i alone can fix it

i'm not sure if that line in trump's acceptance speech was the product of a misguided speechwriter or a suggestion by the man himself, but it was the cherry on the cake of the democratic case that trump was a little martinet, dreaming of absolute power rather than public service.

the line was incorporated into numerous speeches at the democratic convention, held up as proof positive of trump's autocratic aspirations.

winners ::

michelle obama :: it's not like we didn't know the first lady was a great speaker [insert line about melania trump plagiarism here], but i don't think any of us knew she was that great. hearing her talk about her anxieties moving her young family into the white house and the life that accompanied it humanized not just the first family, but the office of the presidency itself. these are human beings like everyone else, thrown into a situation that could generously be called alien, people who love and fear for their children and each other. it was a personal reflection and it was also an indirect way of praising hillary clinton, who has been in the political spotlight for decades. likewise, her statement that when "they go low, we go high" was something she embodied with her classy, pointed takedowns of trumpism without ever mentioning him by name. but undoubtedly her most pointed line was aimed at those in her party who were embittered that the progressive wing had once again lost out to the establishment: i wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. at those words, i felt like every heart in the room stopped beating with the force of the revelation. in the time of our grandparents' grandparents, people like barack and michelle obama were property and now they are the president and first lady. it is a long, hard, continuous struggle, but sometimes you look away from the fight, if only for a moment, to appreciate how far you've come.

christianity :: american-style christianity has been the property of the republican party for thirty years and they have used it in the ugliest possible way, stoking hate against homosexuals, transsexuals, women, other religions, the poor, the arts, and to rewrite the history of their own, originally agnostic country. however, the pendulum does seem to be shifting back in the other direction [where it had been in the sixties]. the gentle decency of tim kaine, whose faith propelled him to help the poor in honduras, is like the separation of church and state made flesh: he is a devout catholic with a 100% rating from planned parenthood, something that had liberals so confused, they assumed it was a joke.

after the speech of rev. william barber, i lost count of the number of tweets that started "i'm not even religious, but..." i seriously thought people were going to collapse and start speaking in tongues, such is the power of this man's words. his is a very different breed of southern christianity, one that is all about the new testament and not the rules of leviticus, about jesus being love and how religion must be practiced through generosity, kindness and activism. whatever the usual beliefs of the people in that hall or the people watching on television, for a little over ten minutes on thursday night, there were no atheists in the audience.

islam :: i'm deeply uncomfortable with parading out bereaved family members to make a point at a political convention. even though the family members are often happy to speak, and deserve every moment that they are given, there is always something pornographic about it. the raw, howling grief of patricia smith, whose son died in benghazi, made me feel sick to my stomach last week. even though the dnc did a better job of disguising the exploitativeness at work, it still hovered nearby.

but sometimes, you get a moment so incredible, so real and so jarring that it somehow justifies its means. and never in the history of political parties using the stories of victims of their opponents has there ever been a moment that matched the image of khizr khan, standing with his stoic wife, in front of a larger than life image of their late son, strikingly handsome in his military uniform, brandishing a copy of the u.s. constitution and condemning trump with the words "you sacrificed nothing!"

yes, it may have been planned and choreographed [i'm not sure to what extent], but that doesn't make it fake. khizr khan is as real as it gets and everyone watching him knew it. i felt thrilled to have watched it unfold.

obama/ biden :: yes, i'm combining two, but this list is getting long and i think it's fitting to pair these two, because they have been paired for eight years and because they have made such an uncannily good pair. obama is enigmatic, inspiring, intellectual, while biden is earthy, emotional and relatable. even their speeches struck a perfect balance in taking down president-aspirant trump. biden was all feelings and passion and blaring the sort of patriotism that normally makes my toes curl in embarrassment, but damned if he doesn't pull it off. [and far better than former new york mayor and current crazy old man rudy giuliani.]

biden's words get into your heart, even though you know you're listening to a career politician who's very aware of how these things work. perhaps because it's that his own life has been shaped by losses that would have flattened a lesser person. or perhaps his habit of, as he puts it, meaning everything he says, but sometimes ill-advisedly saying everything he means, allays our fears that what he says is a put-on. running off-script, the vice president leaned on the podium, and asked the audience to really think about what it meant that donald trump enjoys telling people "you're fired", what it meant to take pleasure in delivering devastating news to others, even in the context of a television show. he didn't even need to complete the thought, because everyone listening felt the answer in their guts: you would have to be some kind of monster.

obama doesn't elicit a response from the gut that way. his appeal is in the way he can take words that others use every day and make them into magic. during his speech, i felt like i was developing a weird sort of headache, like the back of my head was just opening up a vent because what i was watching/ hearing was too good. there were too many high points and i felt like i couldn't catch my breath, i couldn't process what i'd heard because there was just more and more and more coming at me.

dovetailing nicely with his wife's speech at the beginning of the convention, obama, in his own humble way, reminded everyone of the progress that has been made and of the threat to even that small amount of progress posed by someone as ungainly and mean-spirited as donald trump. is that fear-mongering? well, yes. but more often than not, obama and others used candidate trump's own words to stoke that fear.

obama also latched on to something that i've been waiting for someone to say for weeks if not longer. everyone is calling him a dictator-in-waiting, but no one has made the obvious point that goes along with that: dictators are antithetical to the idea that americans have of their country. the creation of america as an independent nation can be boiled down to one simple notion: autocratic rulers are bad. americans pride themselves in being fundamentally ungovernable and it should be a travesty for them to consider ceding their treasured independence to a man so clearly bent on restricting freedoms. this is the rhetorical equivalent of calling someone lazy: it generally has the effect of making them desperate to prove you wrong.

hillary clinton :: a bit obvious, sure, but the convention was just four days of win for the woman of the moment. up until now, the democrats have played a dangerous game of responding to donald trump's attacks on clinton's work and her character. but at the convention, a new narrative emerged: that of an extraordinarily hardworking public servant whose greatest accomplishments were unknown, despite her having been in the public eye for three decades. her husband's speech was the apogee of this, when he talked about so many of the things that she had done, while being a full-time political wife and mother. nearly everyone was a little slack-jawed at the litany of accomplishments, and the changes she had inspired on a federal level, back when she was an attorney in little rock. the tragic story of her incredible mother's upbringing, the "undercover" work she took on personally to expose unequal treatment in arkansas schools, even her fight to compensate 9/11 first responders. it should be an issue that, after so many years of seeing her in politics, the public had never heard these stories, but at least they've heard them now. and thus is the narrative of hillary established: no, she is not the natural politician that her husband is, or the inspirational leader that obama is. but she is a worker and she gets things done. she instigates change when it needs to happen.

already, in the two bloody days it's taken me to bang out this post, there have been developments. trump's response to khizr khan may have done him more damage than the speech itself. and now he seems to be trying to back out of debates that were scheduled by an independent body [as they always are] a year ago. the initial polls conducted just after the debate show clinton with a significant bounce among voters in virtually every demographic. there's plenty of time yet, but let's just say that the republicans have more work to do at this point. aside from needing their polling numbers up, they need to strategically flip several states without losing any they currently hold, in order to offset the fact that the democrats hold a huge advantage in the most populous areas of the country.

the prologue has ended. on with the show.

27 July 2016

trump pot and clinton kettle

if you've been in contact with any media in the last couple of months, you know that presidential candidate donald trump's pet name for his electoral rival [or puppet-master, if you believe some rumours] hillary clinton is "crooked hillary". the nickname reflects a general perception that mrs. clinton is untrustworthy because of the scandal related to her use of a private email server to conduct state business, rather than a government server, where the public could be guaranteed that all her communication on their behalf would be properly scrutinized and archived. [he has also resurrected the story that hillary was implicated in the death of deputy white house counsel vince foster, a rumour that has been investigated and dismissed six different times, including by monice lewinski blow job prosecutor kenneth starr. the story is often included in tales of the so-called "clinton body count", which has also been dismissed.]

what likely galls her supporters the most is that the donald isn't entirely wrong about his opponent's email server and missing messages being a problem. she can claim all she wants that the thirty thousand messages she deleted were of a personal and non-business nature, but we have to take her word on that. and being asked to take a politician's word on something is a really hard pill to swallow. [some of us would argue that you don't have to delve into the hypothetical to raise concerns about hillary clinton as a leader. her advocacy of regime change in iraq and libya and her championing of corporate-driven trade deals like the bush-drafted and bill clinton-approved nafta, as well as her tendency to shift position on issues from one campaign to another, should really be enough.]

but accusations of crookedness sound a little rich coming from donald trump. earlier today, he encouraged russian hackers- believed to be responsible for breaking into the server of the democratic national congress and releasing their findings to wikileaks- to find the 3thirty thousand emails mrs. clinton had deleted from her infamous email server. that request in itself might constitute a crime and at the very least, it gives another twist in the bromantic saga of donald trump and vladimir putin. but it's hardly the only criminal activity to which trump has been linked, and not even the first involving the former soviet union.

for starters, there's trump campaign manager paul manafort. for almost a decade, manafort was the head of the election team for ukrainian president viktor yanukovych for nearly a decade, over the course of three elections and a popular uprising. yanukovych is currently in hiding in russia, the subject of warrants from both the ukraine [who allege that he committed treason by supporting russia's annexation of the ukraine] and interpol [who allege that he helped himself to the contents of the ukraine's treasury before riding off into the sunset. or sunrise, since he headed east...] now, the long time connections to yanukovych aren't illegal, because, honestly, who among us doesn't have at least one authoritarian foreign dictator among our friends and former employers, but the fact that he never registered his work in ukraine with the foreign agents registration act may well be. it is at least a breach of his industry regulations, and a threat to security, since manafort's employment could have put him in contact with sensitive government information. [but why would anyone just go sharing government information with paul manafort? well, possibly that he had been an employee of the republican party for year earlier, marshalling the forces for gerald ford and against ronald reagan in 1976.]

and if that's not seedy enough for you, manafort has a number of financial links to ukrainian petrol magnate dmytro firtash, who wanted by the fbi on allegations of bribery. former ukrainian prime minister yulia timoshenko alleges that manafort allowed firtash to disguise millions of purloined dollars through u.s. real estate investments, a process that's otherwise known as money laundering. none of that proves criminal wrongdoing on manafort's part, in exactly the way that deleting thirty thousand emails doesn't prove that hillary clinton has something to hide.

i wouldn't wait for the democrats to try to drag this to the surface, though, since their own organisation has plenty of links to yanukovych as well. but in theory, that's why we have the media. to make us aware of things that politicians don't want us to know, so that we don't have to go hunting them down on random blogs.

but you don't need to focus on paul manafort to find the smoke of criminal behaviour in donald trump's past. because the man himself is just fragrant with it, and in the most salacious way. hm... in what possible way could a businessman in the construction industry in new york be linked to criminality? yes, it's the obvious one. trump has some pretty suspicious mob ties. again, there are such things as innocent links to mafia-owned businesses. and one could argue that being in the construction industry in new york and new jersey, those links are nearly impossible to completely avoid. but if you read the linked article, you'll see that the established links between trump and convicted mafia members are a little uncomfortably close. and you'll also see that the investigations into those links has been rather less thorough than the investigations into, say, former secretary of state clinton's use of an email server.

so, mr. trump, if you're going to shake your fist righteously at your opponent and claim criminal wrongdoing, you might want to make sure you don't dislodge any nasty stories from your own past as you do.

and mainstream media- why aren't you talking about this? because if people are getting the news from this blog, that's a problem. 

23 July 2016

oh cleveland, what have ye wrought?

four days. i watched it every day for four straight days. i even watched most of the opening acts, although i'll admit that i dodged out to watch commentary some of the time, because i started to feel like i was in some fact-proof box and needed to know that there were other people who were just a bit more like me in the world. but i think i probably watched more of the republican national convention than most people who are members of the republican party, and that includes some of the people at the convention, who were apparently just in town for some hot, forbidden gay sex.

i delayed a day in posting my reaction to see if allowing what i'd seen to sink in would result in it making any more sense, to no avail. from the wussiest rebellion in history at the very opening of the convention [technically before the opening] to the pornographic exploitation of a mother's grief at her son's death in benghazi to melania trump's speech plagiarized from michelle obama of all people to donald trump junior's much-praised speech to ben carson linking hillary clinton to lucifer to mike pence's dull but grounded acceptance to ivanka trump's glowing, delusional introduction to the man himself reading a prepared speech that had been leaked hours earlier... it was special in so many ways.

my hands are aching from trying to tweet all the snide quips that crossed my mind, because for cynical bitches like me, this was four days of gold. even the many debates that we've had didn't have quite that level of "wtf" happening. there's really not a lot in the way of comprehensive analysis i can provide, because the event itself was nearly incomprehensible. in that way, it is much like the candidate himself- bluster and anger and talking points without a real narrative or any important details. throughout his shocking campaign, trump has existed solely in the moment, a continuous present tense where he seems confused when people care about statements he's made in the past. never was that more evident than in the pre-convention interview that trump and his newly minted running mate mike pence gave to 60 minutes. for every point that leslie stahl was able to bring up where pence's views [and there are a lot] differed from trump's. trump talked around the differences, told pence he was "allowed" to have different views or flat out said "i don't care", with an expression that seemed bewildered as to why stahl would even think it could be important.

so, unable to pull any thread of sense from the lint ball that was the convention, i thought i'd just take a quick look at the winners and losers coming out of the convention, those who go forward with a spring in their step and those whose next steps are likely to be pretty painful.

winners ::

john kasich :: the man who was a model of class throughout the hard-fought republican campaign and the unlikely last man standing against donald trump, declined to even attend the convention in his home state, much less endorse the candidate. where almost all others folded to pressure and came on board, kasich simply said that he wasn't interested, despite being a republican and opposed to hillary clinton. most touching of all was his assertion that he simply could not have explained to his daughters how he could back a man who has said such horrid things about women. rumour has it that he was offered the v.p. spot on trump's ticket, with the promise that he'd be the most powerful vice president in history, but the man who consistently polled best against clinton both nationwide and in key swing states told the campaign he wasn't interested. there is no reason to think kasich won't be back and when that moment comes, he's likely to poll even better among "soft" democrats.

invanka trump :: although everyone was falling all over themselves to praise her brother donald jr's speech two days before, the eldest trump daughter really stole the show with her natural flow, poise and political but not political demeanour. yes, it could be and was said that she sounded like she'd wandered into the wrong convention, or that she'd had a stroke during her recent childbirth that left her with amnesia, but, while the amazing person she spoke about was clearly nowhere to be found, ivanka herself was flawless. not even her father's inappropriately roaming hands could rattle her composure. the donald floated the idea that she could be his running mate or even the president one day. all of a sudden, that doesn't seem like a half-bad idea.

donald trump :: despite the media's attempts to play up the insurrection, the "stop trump" movement fizzled before things even got properly started. for all the weirdness and flubs and cringeworthy moments, the convention was pure trump. you felt like there was a trap door under every speaker, and that trump could simply clap his hands and the person on stage would be dropped into a pool of sharks. more importantly, trump managed to paper over some of the most controversial aspects of the party's official policies, especially its retrenched opposition to lgbtq rights. in the most spontaneous and human moment of his big speech, trump thanked the audience and expressed his gratification when they applauded his statements in favour of the community. for lack of a better expression, trump trumped his own party.

ted cruz :: in the future, when pundits reflect on this convention, one of the most perplexing questions will be how the podium so effectively hid ted cruz's giant balls. forget those who make much of his being booed off the stage, or that he and his family basically had to retreat under armed guard from the premises. the media are short-sighted when they see his gamble as a career-killer, because they are falling into the trump trap of evaluating things only in the moment. the focus on the fury that cruz unleashed by refusing to endorse trump misses the fact that it was possibly the best speech of the entire convention, and many republicans are going to regret the fact that they have no one of his oratory skill to take on the road in the upcoming campaign. [even more so since hillary clinton has chosen a catholic, spanish-speaking running mate, who could play well in the southwest and force the gop to spend more resources shoring up arizona, nevada and new mexico.] in a convention that saw a parade of police officers disparaging the black lives matter movement, cruz praised the family of alton sterling for calling for peace. hate him all you want, but it took a lot of guts to do what cruz did. the trump experiment will implode at some point, even if the man wins the election in november, and when it does, cruz and kasich are going to look like the second coming of gop christ. conservative columnist and former advisor and speechwriter to george w. bush, david frum put it best when he tweeted, "ten years from now, everyone who was at this convention who is still alive will claim that they applauded ted cruz".

losers ::

hillary clinton :: if it weren't for donald trump, the former first lady and secretary of state would have the highest unfavourability ratings of any presidential candidate in history. and boy, do republicans ever know that. it's very possible that clinton's name was mentioned more often than trump's over the course of the convention, so often that it sometimes felt like the election was a referendum on her rather than a battle of party ideas. yes, the criticisms were wildly exaggerated, outright wrong, or just crazy [looking at you, dr. carson], but there's no question that, with that much repetition, people are going to remember these things and some of that shit will stick.

melania trump :: the woman deserved better. even if she said that she really admired michelle obama's sentiments and speeches, there was no reason for the speechwriters to copy the first lady's words so obviously other than sheer spite. written off as a bimbo trophy bride, melania has been with the donald for nearly twenty years, and he is not a man to tarry if he has lost interest, so it seems like she must have something on the ball. she did not sign on for this and, with all the adult trump children more than capable on their feet, it's arguable that the introverted melania didn't need to give the customary "first lady in waiting" speech. trump's campaign has been about doing things differently, after all. instead, her speech became an embarrassment, a sad distraction and fodder for scornful liberal onlookers like me.

tiffany trump :: the youngest trump to speak, tiffany clearly didn't have the gravitas of her older siblings, but she did have a sort of sweetness and innocence that comes from a life of privilege and complete shelter. she seemed like a very nice person who just hasn't quite realised that life isn't so wonderful for everyone. but mostly, she seemed like a young woman desperate for her father's love and attention. her wistful memories of how well he treated her rested on things like his being the first person to call her when a close member of her family died. she didn't even seem to be aware of the line she'd drawn between her father and her family. all of her anecdotes were similar: the incredible parenting skills of the nearly completely absent father, who hadn't even bothered to stay for her speech. at the end of the convention, trump thanked and praised all his family except her for their participation. poor little rich girl.

marco rubio :: the one-time heir to the republican throne clashed openly with trump throughout the nomination process and admitted it was getting hard to continue saying he would support the republican nominee no matter what. oh, how times have changed. now more of an icarus figure, rubio was humiliated by being given the task of introducing ted cruz, the man who, as much as trump, was responsible for his crash back to earth. speaking on screen from what looked like a closet in which he was being held hostage, rubio looked a shadow of his former self, all the optimism and positivity beaten out of him as he surrendered to the inevitability of trump. rubio was once the candidate democrats most feared. now they have to be wondering if they don't have a halfway decent shot of taking his senate seat away.

the republican party :: as he pulled himself together to give the rousing speech the highest-ranking man in the party is supposed to give, former vice presidential candidate paul ryan looked vaguely like he was trying to blink sos signals to the audience. help me. no one understands better than he the troubled relationship that the party has with their chosen candidate, as was evidenced by his own equivocation on endorsement. in the end, ryan barely mentioned the candidate and remained anonymous for the rest of the week, probably downing whiskey and wallowing in self-pity when thinking about the candidate who's leading them into battle. whatever the result of the election, whatever happens during the upcoming months, make no mistake: the republican party has lost and may very well never recover. they've spent eight years of stoking the worst sentiments in their voters, shutting down the government on dubious matters of principle, refusing to compromise in order to get work done, indulging then observer-donald's deranged fantasy of barack obama being foreign-born, parroting the talking points of the national rifle association in opposition to the will of most americans, wasting countless hours on an obsessive campaign to get even the meagre offerings of the affordable care act clawed back from the poor and needy. and now all the poison seeds they sowed have blossomed. the gop has made its bed and now it must sleep in it. with donald trump.

americans :: the greatest harm that a candidate as boorish and shallow as trump does is not to latinos, or women, or refugees, or muslims or any of the groups that he purports to hate, but to political discourse itself. it is already exceedingly difficult to get anything other than talking points about the story of the day during an election, but trump's ignorant bluster dumbs things down a little more. i am glad to see that he is making issues of trade deals like the tpp and the need to scale back u.s. military interventions, but even on those, his position is hard to pin down. he wants to get out of the regime change business, but he wants to build up the military, destroy isis wherever they are and put troops back in iraq. on the trade deals, he says that they are job killers and that they've destroyed american manufacturing. but he's taken advantage of them himself and still says that he will tear up these sweeping deals in favour of one-on-one deals with each country, a plan that will create greater bureaucracy and will make america less desirable as a trading partner or a business base for multinationals, who are really the force behind these trade deals to begin with. but the worst part is that he understands little about these issues, aside from his media lines and has shown no inclination to learn more. americans deserve to have an election with serious debates about foreign military intervention, globalisation versus the domestic economy, how to reduce the vastly unequal distribution of wealth within the country, improving the educational system, the medical system, the welfare system and they never seem to get it. this time, they'll get it even less. trump isn't going to debate anyone based on facts and policies and the media is by and large going to let him get away with that. it's a sad state of affairs.

that's my take, for what it's worth. i could add myself among the losers, because i just lost days of potentially productive time rage-watching something whose outcome was never in doubt. but that's who i am. a mentally masochistic sad sack who wants to believe the best, but giddily embraces the worst. now onward to the democrats...

p.s. :: the photos used here are from the ghetto america blog, a look at the grimier side of the american urban experience. 

20 July 2016

making faces :: one more bite won't kill me

i've always imagined that "one more bite won't kill me" will actually be my last words [or, alternately "what does this button do?"], but i hadn't until recently thought that the direct cause would be lipstick-related. now, when i look at the extent of my collection, i'm forced to acknowledge that there is a very good chance that i'll be unable to resist a new bite beauty amuse bouche and get crushed in a very colourful avalanche as i am trying to put everything away. i don't know how much time i've got left, but given the strength of my addiction and the limitations of space, things are likely to get dangerous soon. and yet, here i am, about to tell you about the next new shade of bite lipstick i brought home.

it wasn't that long ago that my principal issue with bite [and it wasn't a big issue, given the quality of their products] was that their shade range, while broad, tended to be the sorts of shades that lots of other brands had already. their new amuse bouche lipsticks showed some increased signs of originality, but their six-shade "sweet and savoury" collection for summer just smashed right through the wall. ok, not every shade is 100% original [deep brown "whiskey" seems like the sort of thing i've seen before, although i couldn't swear that there's an exact duplicate out there], but it's pretty damn close. having already succumbed to the allure of "kale" and "lavender jam", i couldn't resist going back for seconds.

taro
taro
"taro" is a very greyed purple, definitely muted in tone, but dark enough to give a bit of drama as well. intense and muted? that combination seems like it should be impossible, but clearly, it isn't. it's all about the darkness here: depth is what gives the colour both its intensity and its uniqueness. most muted purple tones are softer looking because they are lighter. and for that matter, most of them are pinker. one of the only permanent shades i have that dabbles in this range is mac's "up the amp", but it just looks like a medium sweetheart pink compared to "taro".

l to r :: taro, mac up the amp
with bright blues and swampy greens and even shades of yellow marching into lipstick collections everywhere this year, a shade of purple doesn't seem all that dramatic, but this is a bold choice for a colour. truly cool, muted tones are incredibly rare. when i did my series on lipsticks to suit all the sci\art seasons, true summer ended up with tamped down shades of cool pink and fuchsia. "taro" is something that's meant for a true summer complexion, especially for those who have darker hair.

in theory, that makes it a very difficult colour for me, since, as a bright [probably] winter, clarity of colour is the most important thing to bring out the best in my complexion. and, as much as i enjoy exploring and am impressed with the results of seasonal colour analysis, i have to say that i'm willing to take the risk for such a unique shade. i adore purples. i have nothing like it. it's saturated enough that it doesn't look insipid on me. i'll accept a less than ideal colour match for a colour this enchanting.

here it is in action...




i wish i could say with certainty what the shades i'm wearing are, but i failed to make proper notes. i reasonably certain it's an assortment of rouge bunny rouge, alongside nars "lhasa" and i'm reasonably sure that the blush is nars "sin", topped with colour pop "stole the show".

since the last review i posted, i notice that the sephora website [sephora being the exclusive distributor for bite beauty] has listed "taro" and "lavender jam" as limited edition, while the other shades from the sweet and savoury summer collection appear to be joining the permanent assortment. so, if you want to prioritize shades, put purple first.

"taro" once again showcases bite at their best. it's getting difficult for me to even look at other brands and let me tell you, that is shocking. and believe me, if i can find unique gems in their collection, healthy, non-addicted folk should have no problem. 

18 July 2016

three things i learned about english by learning other languages

lost in translation :: one spine
in the continuing adventures of kate fulfilling her lifetime wish to learn every language ever more languages than the two i already know, i've found that there is a parallel system by which i am learning a great deal about my mother tongue. [spellcheck just suggested i change that to "my mother's tongue". spellcheck, you are officially creeping me out.]

most of us learn how to speak our native language in the same way: we're taught general rules, but because we're speaking the language all the time, we don't tend to reflect on what those rules are on a regular basis. but when you're force feeding yourself a high-grammar, high-vocabulary diet o, you start to notice things about your linguistic diet up to that point. and here are some of those things that i, as a native english speaker, have noticed.

1. we do something awful to the letter 'r'. we will often snicker, or mimic with great exaggeration, the rolled 'r' that we here in spanish, thinking it's a bit weird that so many people find it necessary to do a drumroll with their tongue in the middle of a word. but once you've fumbled your way through pronunciation exercises in a few different languages, you realise the horrible truth: we're the screwed up ones.

first of all, that extended trill that many anglophones ascribe to spanish isn't how they pronounce the letter 'r' most of the time; it's how they pronounce it when there's two of them. nevertheless, there is still a slight flutter of the tongue used when there's a single 'r' and it's used by virtually everyone who isn't english. we know it's there in spanish and italian, but it's also present in slavic languages like polish and baltic languages like lithuanian do it too. our close cousins german and dutch are even in on the game.

english speakers pronounce the 'r' with the lower jaw and the lips. everyone else pronounces it with the lips and tongue. people who've worked hard to develop flawless accents in foreign languages will tell you that nothing betrays anglophone origins our 'r'. so go ahead and smirk at the rolling "barrio" or "corrido". the joke is on us.

2. our vowel system is bizarre. when you're learning english, they teach you that there are five [and a half] vowels: a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y. [fyi, no one ever bothered to specify when 'y' was a vowel when they taught me that. it was just out there that 'y' would sometimes switch sides. over time, i realised that it's a vowel when it's voiced and a consonant when it's not. but i had to figure that out for myself. thanks public school system.] once they've drilled that into our coconuts, they tell us that each vowel can be pronounced as either a short or a long sound: lamb/ hay, set/ evil, fill/ kite, mop/ stove, fuzzy/ yule. seems simple, and it's complete malarkey.

first of all, even our words don't work that way. if they did, we wouldn't have love/ glove/ dove, where the short 'u' sound masquerades in the clothing of a long 'o'. or trying explaining put/ rut.

for most people, short and long vowels are exactly what you'd think they'd be- the same sound held for a shorter or longer period of time. sounds like our long 'a' aren't seen as a single vowel sound at all, but as a combination of vowels. many other languages are constructed based on phonemes: the tiniest units of sound used to form words. vowels are one of those sounds, stripped down to their bare essence. to get more complex sounds, other languages string them together. english does that too, but it's just confusing, because we don't distinguish between a combined vowel sound like in 'bait' and what we call a long 'a', like in 'kate'. [the tendency of english words to use different letters to create the exact same goddamned sound is one of the things that drives learners to distraction. why does 'horror' require 'rr' but 'unrequited' and 'barometer' don't? what purpose is served by that distinction, other than annoy people?]

in order to accommodate the range of vowel sounds a human can make, many languages have adapted by extending the number of vowels. they do that by adding diacritical marks or accents to letters, and sometimes they even add them to consonants to account for common sounds like 'ch' or 'sh' in a single letter. but oh no, we decided that there are only five and a half vowels, and we'll jam every sound into our system, no matter what. failing that, we'll just pretend certain sounds [like the german 'ö'] don't exist. [ notice that i used the word 'accommodate' there. it includes two double letters 'cc' and 'mm', which sound exactly the same as their single versions do in the word 'coma'.]

so in short: our versions of long and short vowels make no sense, because they're not long and short versions of the same sound. we use different letters to create the same sound and the same letters to create different sounds. and when we come across a sound that doesn't fit in our model, we either ignore it [put/ rut] or pretend it doesn't exist.

3. our annunciation game is weak. remember what i said in point #2 about other languages using combinations of vowels to come up with the sounds we think of as "long vowels"? the truth is that we flatten those sounds, like the 'ai' in 'bait' or the 'ei' in 'weigh', so that they come out the same as the vowel sound in 'kate'. as a result, we've lost certain subtleties of pronunciation are difficult for us. the lithuanian words 'sveikas' and 'kaip' [both used in greetings] have a subtle difference in pronunciation, because of the different letters. our ears are sharp enough that we can actually perceive the difference, but we're not used to pronouncing two vowel sounds like that unless we do it really slowly. everything comes out of our mouth sounding like 'hay'.

we've found ways to get around our annunciation troubles like splitting up 'a' words and 'an' words. by any standard, it's a simple rule: one goes before consonants and the other goes before vowels and whichever one you use in front of a word starting with 'h', someone will tell you you're wrong. the reason we invented that isn't just to be confusing, but because it makes certain things easier for us to say: 'a apple' is a lot more awkward for us than 'an apple'. [and in defense of english, we're hardly the only language to do this. italian allows you to use 'ed' instead of 'e' if the word falls between two vowels. french insists you change 'je' to 'j'' to get around the difficulty of saying 'je étais'.]

our limited ability to create sounds would seem hilarious to native speakers of languages as far flung as finnish or hawaiian, where words can be three miles long and you pronounce every single letter. seriously:

hääyöaieuutinen

and we don't even consider the implications of tone. for us, it's all about the meaning of the words. we can shift emphasis through tone [e.g., why are you reading this blog? why are you reading this blog? why are you reading this blog? why are you reading this blog? all mean the same thing, but with clues as to the specific information sought by the questioner], but in languages like mandarin chinese or japanese, the entire meaning of what you're saying can be different. so not only do you have to know spelling and pronunciation, but you get to explore the new language with the knowledge that the wrong tone of voice could be the difference between asking someone what the soup of the day is and asking them the size of their mother's vagina. have fun!

our lazy pronunciation turns language learning into an actual workout: if you want to nail the sound as well as the words, you need to train your mouth to do things it's not used to doing. your jaw muscles and tongue will actually feel like your thighs after leg day. stop thinking those dirty thoughts.

those are a few of the things i've noticed, and since i'm given to being a bit long-winded, i'll let you off with those three. but trust me, i have never learned so much about english as i have learning how to not speak it. 

15 July 2016

hey, hoosier boy, i have some questions

don't get a mental image
since donald trump rather confusedly canceled his press conference to announce indiana governor a list of questions that should be asked of [since confirmed] candidate hillary clinton. i anticipated then that none of them would be asked, and thus far that's proven true. herein lies the problem when you have a candidate like trump in the race: other candidates never get the scrutiny they richly deserve and important issues fall by the wayside.
mike pence as his running mate and then blurted it out on twitter when he realised that pence had to officially withdraw from the gubernatorial race today at noon anyway, and since they've already debuted their campaign imagery and vaguely buttseksy logo, i figured it was as good a time as any to put some questions out there. a few months ago, i came up with

i don't have much confidence that anyone will ask any of these questions of governor pence, but i would say it's just a hair more likely that we might hear some of them crop up at some time. still not holding my breath.

1. you have a long history of opposing rights for the lgbtq community, such as your statement in 2000 that the u.s. congress should resist any effort to extend the protection of anti-discrimination laws to gays and lesbians, your 2009 opposition to the matthew sheppard hate crimes act, your support for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and your state legislation that would have allowed business to refuse service to people on the basis of sexual orientation. however, the majority of americans support equal rights, including the right of same sex couples to marry. do you plan to use your position as vice president to lobby for changes in existing laws or to the constitution in line with the views you have stated? if so, why would you choose to do so, given that it would conflict with the views of the american public?

2. in your time as governor, indiana has seen the poorest growth of any state in the midwest and, while you have lowered unemployment to 5% and have a very healthy workforce participation rate [65%], much of that has been driven by lower-paying jobs. as a result, the steady decline in wages in indiana [which started well before your term as governor] has continued to increase, with workers in the state expected to earn only 86% of what the average american earns per year. what case do you make to the american people that they should trust you to take a major role in running the national economy?

3. related to question #2, your running mate donald trump has said that he believes national employment figures are deeply misleading, because they do not take into account issues like underemployment or the number of people who have given up on finding work [and therefore are not counted in the official numbers]. what is your response to the accusation that indiana's low unemployment rate benefits from this same sort of "trickery"? have you discussed this issue with mr. trump?

4. when mr. trump proposed a ban on all muslims entering the country, you described it as "offensive" and "unconstitutional". however, you have taken action to stop refugees fleeing the civil war in syria from being allowed to settle in indiana. does this mean that you have changed your position on the temporary ban on muslims entering the country? if yes, what was it that made you change your mind, both in terms of its being acceptable and its being constitutional? if not, what is the plan for you and mr. trump- who still strongly supports the ban- to address this issue?

5. likewise, you have supported the trans-pacific partnership [tpp] trade deal, while mr. trump has said that it represents "a continuing rape of our country", especially in states like indiana which have seen a sharp decline in their manufacturing sectors? have you changed your mind about this or any of the other trade deals you supported during your time as governor and in congress? same follow-up questions as above.

6. mr. trump has repeatedly emphasized that he never supported the 2003 invasion of iraq, while secretary of state hillary clinton did. you also supported the invasion and voted in favour of the resolution that authorized it while you were in congress. how do you respond to mr. trump's assertions that the invasion was one of the greatest errors in modern american history?

7. you have supported a number of laws that have increased the penalties for minor drug offenses, including one that you implemented as governor that requires a mandatory minimum sentence for relatively minor offenses [second or third arrests for simple possession rather than possession with intent to sell]. given that there is a significant body of evidence that mass incarceration does not alleviate the issue of drug-related crime, that it tends to create long-term problems within already disadvantaged communities and that the laws are unequally applied between whites and non-whites, why do you support these sorts of measures and what evidence are you relying on in order to justify your decisions? will you push for similar laws to be enacted federally?

these are hardly the only questions that governor pence should face, but i think that they're fair ones. after all, he should be evaluated on the basis of his record, as all politicians should. it's time to cut through the sound bites and campaign crap and give people some real answers about the people they'll be voting for [or not] in the fall. so get off your collective butts, you people in the media. it's time to show the people why you deserve their attention.


13 July 2016

playing doctor

nonetheless, i persist in checking up online when i have a problem, just to see if i have signs of
anything serious. most recently, i found that my body was showing a lot of signs of a sluggish thyroid. and the thing is, that's something that i can attempt to deal with myself, because there are dietary changes and over the counter supplements that i can try without even making an appointment. seems to me that that actually helps the healthcare system, since, at the worst, it delays the time that it takes me to make an appointment and lets me assure my doctor that i've tried some of the basics.

in the interest of those who'd like to try "helping", i've made this little list of hints on how to consult the internet for health advice without incurring the wrath of the medical system.

1. read from good sources :: the reasons that doctors get furious about self-diagnosis is that so many people are getting their information from blogs that offer only anecdotal evidence, if any at all. if you're going to do this, do it right. reliable sites are ones that provide their sources and link to backup like studies or peer reviewed papers. you can be as skeptical as you want about "big pharma", but the fact is that the only way to determine the scientific validity of treatments for any condition is through carefully controlled testing that is reviewed by others in the field to confirm its validity. [and fyi, that also goes for beauty products, which are notorious for their use of unverified, qualitative data.]

2. understand interactions :: many over the counter drugs, including natural supplements, can interact with prescription drugs. before you take anything, make sure that there is no possibility that it can compromise what you're already taking. this sort of information is readily available online, from reliable sources. and remember to always inform your doctor of any supplements you're taking.

3. remember ockham's razor :: if you hear hooves, think horses and not zebras [unless you live in the african savannah, in which case reverse that]. if something is described as a rare condition, it's because it's bloody rare. whatever the most common explanation is for your symptoms is the most likely answer. and while we're discussing symptoms, make sure that you look at a list of all the symptoms of a condition. symptoms tend to happen in clusters, even if you don't put them together. unless you can say without hesitation [i.e., without thinking "well, i kind of feel that sometimes"] that you have a symptom, assume you don't. that said, if you're able to look at a list of symptoms and realise that while they might not have seemed related, they are all things from which you've suffered in the last thirty days or so, take that seriously. when i "diagnosed" myself with a sluggish thyroid, i had experienced about 80% of the symptoms listed on several reliable websites. no other condition even came close to matching up and it actually linked up symptoms that i hadn't thought of as related.

4. prescribing information sheets are your friend :: these are the "cheat sheets" that are prepared by drug companies for doctors and pharmacists. in practice, pharmacists know them really well, while doctors have a general familiarity. if you're thinking about asking your doctor about a specific drug, you're going to want to know what's on that sheet really well. in fact, the best thing you can do is print it out and bring it with you. prescribing information sheets aren't like marketing pieces. by law, the company is required to disclose all the information it's assembled on its drug, including testing that proved its efficacy and incidence of adverse reactions, as well as potential interactions.

5. get copies of your tests :: blood tests? ekg's? you're entitled to a copy of any physical tests that are done on your person. your doctor gets them automatically, and may charge you to get a copy from them. the clinic, lab, or hospital that does the tests should provide them free of charge. [that's in canada.] get them, read them, look up the results online to see what they mean. the threshold for clinical conditions [like hypothyroidism and anemia] are drawn at a specific point. you can be close to that threshold without meeting it and still be feeling symptoms. ask your doctor to talk you through the results and ask them if there are any areas where you should be concerned, without there being a clinical problem yet.

6. be nice :: this is generally good advice in life, but if you want to avoid alienating your doctor, it's necessary. doctors don't mean to be dismissive of your symptoms, but a lot of them are overworked and are moving too fast to put signs and symptoms together. in an ideal world, they would have time to reflect on every patient's history and develop a profile that allowed them to see the larger picture. in the current reality, that doesn't happen and, in a lot of cases, it's not because they don't mean well. dom had the same doctor for years and he never managed to work out that he had multiple sclerosis. that didn't make him a bad doctor. it made him busy. your doctor is probably the same. ask them if it's possible certain symptoms can be related. tell them that you've read about a condition that could explain your symptoms, but that you'd like their expert opinion. if he or she really won't listen, then you should consider finding another doctor. [easier said than done, i know.] it's one thing to disagree with the information you've found. it's another matter entirely not to take it seriously when you've done real research.

those are really the keys that i've found to success. i will say that i find younger doctors to be a lot more open-minded than previous generations about self-diagnosis and the information available on the internet. having been raised and trained with the technology, they know that some of the information can be useful and appreciate when their patients take the time to evaluate the sources and ask pertinent questions. i'm hoping that's not just my experience.

go forth and play doctor, my friends. but don't give up on actual doctors. 

10 July 2016

armchair centre back :: the end is near

hard to believe it's been a month since the euro final tournament kicked off. tomorrow, we have the final showdown between france and portugal. [excuse me, i have to suppress bile every time i say that last bit.] so there's no doubt who i'll be supporting tomorrow. i do find it odd that, after a competition that has seen many, many shocks, the team that was the bookmakers' favourite to win the cup does look likely to do so. as far as dom's picks and mine? we need to sharpen our game a little... here's how we fared:

winner :: tbd

we said :: germany. we both said germany. i did, however, say that germany was vulnerable to their own complacency, and i would say that that was a factor in their final game against france. having beaten them with relative ease in the world cup two years ago, perhaps germany felt they could turn in a solid, but not brilliant performance. and that's what they did. unfortunately for them, france did turn in a brilliant performance.

"alternate" winner :: tbd

dom said :: spain. and but for a really lopsided draw that placed almost all the big teams playing each other early on in the knockout rounds, it wasn't a bad guess. still, spain got dropped by italy in the round of 16 and went home early.

i said :: france. so hey, i've still got a shot.

dark horse [team who would do better than expected] :: not an exact science, but the obvious candidates would be wales and iceland

dom said :: england. moving on...

i said :: i'd like to quote myself exactly here: "i desperately want to say wales. so desperately. but as a sleeper candidate, i'd say poland." the moral of this story? go with your heart.

underperformer :: spain didn't advance as far as people thought they would, and belgium, as the world's most expensive team, were certainly humbled by wales, but truly, there was only one team who went home with their three lion tails between their legs. oh britannia...

we said :: portugal. sigh. we were wrong. to be fair, portugal just barely managed to stick it out in a path that saw them face no team ranked in the top 25 in the world. their only convincing win was against wales [damn them to hell]. i also said that i thought belgium could be a disappointment, and while they showed some moments of brilliance, they were wildly inconsistent. so maybe i get a half-point for that.

best man candy :: take your pick!

there was a plethora of beauties to pick from, but here are some of the loveliest we've lost...

mario gomez [so happy to see you back at your best after missing the world cup two years ago]



jason denayer [new on my radar, but i hope that manchester city brings him back from loan, so that i can see his pretty face in premier league games]



mats hummels [the most popular search term leading to the blog this week has been "mats hummels nude". we all want that... this is the best i can do in the meantime. 




not that he doesn't look great with clothes...
graziano pellè [there have been rumours that his time in the premier league is coming to an end. heaven forbid!]




and here are a couple we'll get to see one last time tomorrow...

from portugal... cedric soares [actually a teammate of pellè's at southampton when he's not playing for his country. and yes, i do totally think he's preferable to that other portuguese guy.]


it takes some serious cuteness to pull off a bandage... he kinda does
and from france... morgan schneiderlin [was also with southampton up until last year, when he was traded to manchester united and seemed just so thrilled to be there. now faced with the prospect of having to work under jose mourinho, he has to be feeling even lower. so here's hoping adorable morgan has a great day tomorrow and gets traded to a team he actually likes.]

dreaming of being somewhere other than manchester

allez les bleus! after the tough times france has had recently, you absolutely deserve it.

08 July 2016

making faces :: easy ombré

i love staring at photos of very intricate makeup on instagram and pinterest. it really is an art, whether you're creating remarkable trompe d'œils, or simply showing an ingenious use of colour, there is a remarkable amount of inventiveness that is used in decorating the human canvas. unfortunately, it's not something i can really put to a lot of use. i may love a peacock inspired eye with iridescent shades of blue, green and purple, but i'm not exactly going throw it on to run to the drug store. and in professional situations, i'd prefer that when people look at me, they see me and not mimi from the drew carey show

although the most intricate artwork is focused on the eyes, there are some lip trends that show up, most notable the lip ombré. this involves multiple colours, well blended to make a transition from one colour on the outer edge of the lip to another colour at the centre. in "editorial" looks [beauty code for "stuff you're just not going to bother with every day"] this is a delicate and time consuming process that often ends up yielding something beautiful and useless for day to day life. i'm consistently struck by the dual reaction "that is just exquisite" and "image having to reapply it after dinner or drinks". of course, those looks aren't meant to be worn by mortals. they are paintings done with cosmetics, a show of the artist's skill.

that said, the ombré lip can be adapted to use on earth. since using every lipstick in my collection on a regular basis would require me to grow two or three extra heads, i figured that anything that allowed me to use multiple products on the same day was one step towards justifying the [too] many lipsticks i've accumulated over the years. [i know i'm not supposed to do this, let alone admit to it, but unless it smells like crayons, i never throw lipstick out. that's just the sort of heinous person i am.]

my basis for this experiment was to create ombré lips that could be worn in regular situations and that didn't require a lot of skill to apply. first of all, i don't have any skill for applying makeup. i'm clumsy beyond redemption. i once sprained my ankle walking barefoot on a hardwood floor. i've just barely learned to paint my nails without getting colour all over my fingers and splashed onto my clothes or into my hair. but i also wanted to create looks that could be done in the normal space of time a woman would have to do makeup. it's not as simple as swiping on a single lipstick, but it doesn't require detail work with three different-sized brushes either.

so here are a few things that i came up with...



this one is super-soft, so that you can barely see the shift in colour. as with all these looks, it's easier to see the effect on the full face photo. i have mac "goddess of the sea" around the edges of my lips, with "sweetie" at the centre. the softness comes from the fact that both of these are somewhat sheer, so there's not as much pigment involved to begin with. in order to keep them a little more separated, i patted them in place rather than swiping, which tends to just mix everything up.



i had wanted to do a transition from cool to warm, but the colours ended up getting a little too mixed. the cooler shade, around the outside, is armani lip maestro "ruby nude", a name that i'm still trying to figure out. in the centre, you have guerlain "gipsy". these colours should have been enough to present more of a contrast, being a cooler red and a warm orange, but the golden shimmer in both seemed to want to hold hands and even things out more. also, the addition of the guerlain shade softened up the lip maestro enough that it started to feather. i thought about using a lip liner with this one, because i could see that problem coming from the moment i started, but that would have been antithetical to my "this is supposed to be easy" rule. ah well.




now here we can see a bit more of the ombré effect. actually, when i first applied it, the contrast was a little too much, so i had that nineties dark outline + light inside = complete "what were people thinking??" horror. that's when i figured out my "patting not swiping" trick, because it made all the difference. the darker purple is rouge d'armani 610 and the lighter shade is mac "saint germain". the latter is one of those colours that looks terrible on me, but for some reason, i can't bring myself to part with it. it is an extremely original colour, but it's too cool and too opaque for all but the most wintery of complexions and has a white base, which can be dicey on anyone. used as a highlight as it is here, though, i find it very wearable. it makes my lips look fuller and plumper and not weird in a bad way.



i'm a little peeved that the photos don't capture the effect of this one in all its glory, because this worked really well. i wanted to create a kind of glowing combination that wasn't all red, but was kind of red. if you look at the close up shot, you can see the "slide" of cool red [bite beauty "cranberry"] to electric pink coral [mac "fusion pink"] a little better. this looked outstanding in person, because the slightly shimmer quality of "fusion pink" added a glow that made my lips look healthy and plump, while "cranberry" kept it a little more conservative than the coral on its own. this is the sort of colour combination that's only going to work on complexions that can support a lot of colour, but if that's something you can do, i highly recommend it. i also found that using a pencil lipstick for the outside- bite and nars have excellent ones- makes doing this sort of lip a breeze. in this case, you don't have to pat the outer colour, just trace the outside of the lip. then pat the inner colour on.

although i'm not one to layer gloss over lipstick- i find it feels heavy and the gloss colour never seems to come through- i can see myself making use of this technique again. it's a great opportunity to find new ways to use old products and to incorporate things that never look quite right on their own. and it's much easier than growing two or three extra heads.

04 July 2016

does anyone know how we got here?

today marks my 183rd consecutive day using duolingo, the language-learning site/ app that's helping me fulfill my sort-of new year's resolution to learn more languages. [i've actually been using duolingo for thirty or forty days more than that, but i skipped a day and lost my streak.] 183 days is exactly half a year, on a leap year, which makes this by far the most successful new year's resolution i've ever made, especially since i can't actually remember making any new year's resolutions. i think once i resolved to stop being depressed and anxious and i don't think i made it until lunch on the 1st before that one was done. maybe next year, i'll resolve to be a much more successful writer.

pausing to reflect on the half-cycle 'round the sun i've done since i started this project, there is one question that keeps coming back into my mind: how exactly did the indo-europeans end up taking over so much of the world? colonialist expansion meant that languages within that group came to dominate among the number of speakers, but that pales in comparison to their geographical spread. when it comes to languages, most groups were fairly content to sit tight and expand slowly from a central base. for instance, behold the spread of the second-most widespread language family, sino-tibetan:

behold the sino-tibetan rainbow, from wikipedia

pretty widespread, huh? the vast majority of china and down south through myanmar and thailand. that's a lot of space.

or how about the niger-congo group:

i met the tongues down in africa...
we underestimate the size of africa, so i'll just repeat it: that is a flippin' huge swath of land.

but now look at how the indo-european languages spread:

they're like cockroaches!!!!
if you have to tilt the globe to let people see the full spread of something, you can be pretty sure that something is unstoppable. if that were a map of the spread of a new disease, we'd all be dead by tuesday.

indo-european languages spread from the north pole [or as close to it as people live] to sri lanka, which is not too far north of the equator. [it's roughly parallel to the horn of africa, if you want to compare its position to the area covered by the niger-congo languages, and further south than the southern extent of sino-tibetan languages.] the greenwich meridian passes through it in the west and the international date line scoots around it in the east. nearly one quadrant of the earth speaks indo-european languages, before you start factoring in colonial expansion. [and if that wasn't enough for you, the displacement of indo-european languages in turkey and the near east is a more recent phenomenon. those areas were indo-european too.]

so how does one group take over a quarter of the earth, while others sit and expand, bit by bit? who were these remarkable people?

it's ironic that the people from whom we derive our language never got around to writing theirs down, but it's possible to figure out something about them by looking at what words are common among their modern descendants. the more languages have words that are similar, the more likely it is that it can be traced to the original "proto-indo-european", which linguists call "pie". never go to a dinner party with linguists.


  • they were mostly farmers of grains, but they also kept some domesticated animals like cows and sheep, as well as dogs. 
  • they were from an area that had a plenty of forest, but didn't border on the ocean. 
  • the place where they lived was cold
  • there were wolves and bears around
  • they knew about copper, but not a lot about any other metals
  • probably most important: they tamed and kept horses. 


that last part is crucial to understanding why things unfolded the way they did. unlike other cultures, whose armies and settlers had to march from place to place, the indo-europeans road horses and built chariots, which allowed them to cover very long distances at comparative lightning speed.

through analysis of the nicely organised graves the proto-indo-europeans ["pie"] left in their wake like a trail of human breadcrumbs, scientists traced their origins to an area of eastern europe that overlaps several contemporary countries including russia, ukraine and moldova. although there was lots of fertile ground for farming, life could be kind of unpleasant with the bears and the wolves and the freezing to death. and there were doubtless a lot of people who, seeing all this horsepower at their disposal, wanted to take those babies for a run. vroom vroom vroom.

so then this happened:

madly off in all directions
so why didn't they just pick one direction and go with it? well, this didn't all happen in the course of an afternoon. and before the pie ventured out, they had already ventured far enough away from each other that they weren't the homogenous group they once were. so people probably had different ideas about where to go. or they didn't want to follow their annoying neighbour, so they deliberately went in the opposite direction. there were already different types of pie.

and why did they go so damn far? well, the easy answer is that they could. eurasia is not replete with natural barriers, and as they pushed onward, they had to start to wonder "how far does this thing go?" when they hit a barrier, they stopped, or they adjusted trajectory and kept going. they veered southward into iran and then india rather than risk crossing the mountains. the mediterranean stopped them dead in their tracks.

but why did their languages come to dominate everywhere? were the places they headed just empty? absolutely not. there were lots of people around. we have artefacts throughout the areas where indo-european languages [and culture] came to dominate that predate the pie arrival by thousands of years. entire cultures had risen and fallen before the indo-europeans came galloping across the horizon. but for the most part, we don't know much about them, because the indo-europeans swallowed them whole.

the woman who developed what is still the most widely accepted theory of the indo-european migrations, marija gimbutas, had some specific ideas about how that came to be. she believed that the patrilineal, masculine pie culture rampaged across the land, laying waste to all they encountered and decimating the old european culture, which was matrilineal and focused on peaceful mother-goddess worship and the production of lentil soup for all. ok, she didn't say anything about lentil soup. but that's only because she didn't think of it first. from her linguistic hypothesis in the fifties, she expounded on her feminist-themed theory of migrations, which met with an eager audience in the sixties. the problem is that, whereas her migratory theory has a lot of science behind it, her theory of the displacement of an older, gentler culture by an angry, warlike one is almost pure conjecture.

for instance, as far as science have been able to determine, the pie people were predominantly dark-haired and dark-eyed, with skin that was light, but still a few shades darker than the europeans they encountered. so the fact that fair hair and blue eyes remain a relatively common phenomenon in europe would indicate that the pre-pie europeans continued to play a pretty active genetic role.

it's possible that, when they saw the pie people come thundering in, the existing europeans were intimidated enough that they didn't really want to put up a fight and just withdrew to whatever little corners they could find, until they were gradually squished out of existence. [almost. the sole surviving remnant of the pre-pie expansion over the european continent is the basque language, limited to a pocket of territory in france and spain. how they survived when no one else did is as much of a mystery as what happened to everyone else. but if you're ever looking for a place to hide, the pyrenees is apparently very effective.]

another theory would be that the pie people arrived with horses and different weapons and chariots and all sorts of cool stuff and a lot of the people they encountered just straight up decided that they wanted to play on their team. i'm pretty certain that's what i would have done.

the thing is, as much as we know about which languages belong to the indo-european family and as much as we've learned about where they started and how they expanded, we are no closer to knowing why they were so successful at spreading themselves around and becoming the dominant culture literally everywhere they settled. that seems like a fairly large chunk of history to be missing. but even when they started writing things down and talking about how things came to be, they seemed to skip that whole subject. they avoided it so successfully that it wasn't until the last century that we even figured out where they came from. whatever the pie people did when they left their homeland, they never, ever discussed the homeland or the journey from it. it's like there was some sort of collective trauma about the whole thing. [you could argue that most cultures do not address how they came to be where they were in their mythology, but to that, i refer you back to where we started: most cultures moved so slowly and covered so little ground that, as far as anyone living knew, they had always been in the same place. not so with the indo-europeans, whose language- necessary for the passing on of myths- was well established before they went anywhere.]

we know so much about how we communicate, about the way in which language circumscribes our culture, about how it links us and how it separates us, but we still have almost no idea why the largest linguistic takeover on the planet was able to take root. yay us.

here's a video with someone speaking proto-indo-european, which we've managed to reconstruct, even if we haven't figured out why it became so popular:





while latin, sanskrit and ancient greek are the models used for retracing how pie would have sounded, it's thought that the closest language in existence to it is... lithuanian. although it is once again completely unclear why this happened, the baltic languages, and lithuanian in particular, seem to have changed the least. the baltic group is most closely related to sanskrit and latin and, weirdly enough, completely unrelated to estonian, spoken in an adjacent country.

some day, i swear i'm going to figure these mysteries out. until then, i'll just keep learning my verb tenses and noun declensions and waiting for everything to fall into place.

farewell! au revoir! auf wiedersehen! adíos! arrivederci! do widzenia! tot ziens! farväl! hwyl! sudie! pa! mirupafshim! nasvidenje!

p.s. :: yes, every single one of those is in an indo-european language. and i'm limited to the ones that use latin script. and that still isn't close to exhaustive, but have fun guessing...
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