01 May 2016

the history lesson trump never got

"what's the worst that could happen?"
dear america,

hi, it's me again. the one who likes to criticize and mock a lot but still feels like you have some pretty awesome potential. i've been as guilty as anyone in wallowing in the horrorfest that is your federal election, but, as the candidates have tumbled, the debates have passed and even the primaries have failed to yield much excitement, one thing has become apparent: your shit is fucked up.

as i watch the likelihood of a donald trump presidency become ever greater, i feel like i need to call your attention to a couple of things. now, saying that you might elect donald trump president is like wearing your underpants on top of your clothes with an extra pair on your head as a statement of your ability to make decisions and take care of yourselves, so you'll forgive me if this missive is a little more patronizing than usual.

there are lots of reasons why trump would be a terrible president. here are seven of them. here's another five from a more right-wing perspective. or if you'd prefer, this right-wing site came up with forty of them. or you could listen to the words of this angelic-looking ten year old hillary clinton supporter, who came up with three of her own. [seriously, her first reason is the most perfectly worded put-down of trump that has been made in the campaign thus far.]

for my part, i'm going to stick to his big performance this week, playing "man who has a workable foreign policy for america". i'm certainly not the first to criticize his plans. the guardian seized on an unsettling number of inconsistencies for the length of the speech he gave. and cnn's underused fareed zakaria used his weekly show to break down some of those same points, as well as to put the donald's policy in some historical perspective. [spoiler alert: andrew jackson is having a terrible week in the press.]



i'm not as informed as either of those sources, but i do feel like i can add a little to the discussion by filling in what was covered in history class on those days that trump played hooky.

america's allies aren't contributing more to nato because they don't want to, and, if pushed, they'd walk away from nato rather than invest more. zakaria alludes to this in his editorial, but i figure it warrants a little more detail. i should clarify when talking about nato, trump doesn't mean all its members. he's referring to a handful of western european states [and canada, probably] who have wealth and a well-equipped military. nato serves those countries fine, as long as it maintains a buffer between them and russia, them and terrorists, or them and basically anyone they want to avoid. however, even america's strongest allies have hesitated to back plans like expansion into the ukraine and georgia feeling [correctly] that it would antagonise russia and bring no meaningful advantage. the instant that western european countries feel like participation in nato is exposing them to greater risks, costing too much money, or making them vulnerable to their own populations by forcing them to defend policies that are deeply unpopular at home, the jig is up. and that would leave america with a lot of small partners, newly established partners and impoverished partners, but no heavy hitters.

i feel for both america and [a little] for trump in this regard, because as much as it's easy to criticize the u.s. for taking on the role of the world's policeman, their ascendancy to the role did not take place in a vacuum. but now that it's done, the u.s. needs to find a way of scaling back their commitments and a way to accept that relinquishing the role they've embraced for so long will mean admitting that they cannot control the rest of the world and will need to hash things out with others as equals.

the u.s. military is pointlessly large. this is linked to one of the inconsistencies identified by both the guardian and zakaria [that trump wants to expand the military while also saving money], but it goes beyond that. america's military is huge and equipped with the best weapons on the planet, the product of a spending glut that has continued unabated for decades. but i didn't just say it was large, i said it was pointlessly large, and that's really the most important point. there is no empire in history that has been able to stave off its own decline through military strength. the greeks, the romans, the mongol khanate, were renown for their military strength and tactics. but eventually, you're a minority trying to plug holes in a dozen different hotspots and the more you start focusing on one, the more your enemies take advantage in another. nor does military strength automatically bring military victory. you'd think that the lessons of vietnam would still be pretty resonant, but then again, trump sat that one out.

and here's the kicker: being as large and equipped as it is, the american military has massive financial commitments that will continue to cost billions per year, even if new expenditures were slashed down to the bone. salaries and benefits for armed service members, as well as their health care costs, are a large one, but consider also that there are many pieces of equipment [like, say, anything with the word "nuclear" attached to it] that needs to be maintained in perpetuity, lest it turn on its creators. and none of that can guarantee anyone's safety.

when trump says he will build an army so powerful, no one would dare take it on, i think of what happens every time someone is stupid enough to say they've built a system that can't be hacked. america has had an army so powerful that no should dare to attack it for many years. all that sabre-rattling does is make the target nice and clear.

as a supposed financial wiz, trump should be more concerned about how to wean america's economy off the military-industrial teat.

just because someone is your ally doesn't mean they're your friend and trump needs to learn that before he says another word about other countries getting nuclear weapons. his statements on the topic have been fuzzy, in that way that broadcasts that he could be persuaded by a number of different arguments, but doesn't have any solid opinions of his own. [which may be the problem with a lot of his policies.] fdr used to refer to stalin as "uncle joe" when he and churchill wanted to make sure the communist dictator had their back against hitler; didn't mean they had each other's best interests at heart.

when trump starts to wander into the forest of military policy without his gps, he's prone to saying that he's open to the idea of certain countries, like japan, getting nuclear weapons, because they have america's back. i feel a little cruel for disabusing him of this friendly view of the world, but japan has no one's back but their own, which is just how things work among nation states. japan is a solid ally now, but those things change. and that's why it's a bad idea to give nuclear weapons to anybody, even your best friend.

you can't put the geneva convention genie back in its bottle. now that trump has heartily and repeatedly endorsed the use of torture and the use of military force against the families of suspected terrorists and/ or opposition military leaders, he has no possible way of arguing with those who wish to exempt themselves from any sections of the convention. that's not to say that he can't or won't make those arguments if [when] it happens, but it's going to be a short discussion.

the geneva convention is written to legally bind its signatories to a certain standard of behaviour in the same way that legal codes bind citizens. if donald trump wants to make the case- and he has- that the u.s. should be able to use any means to defeat terrorism, including those currently forbidden by international law, he's saying that the world needs to return to a time when every country did whatever it took to take care of their own and that there was no rulebook.

before he embraces the post-war crime world, trump should sit down with someone who knows something about history and world affairs and play a little game called "the hypothetical situation room": turkey, long an american ally, considers kurdish military groups to be terrorists and, indeed, there have been terrorist attacks in turkey even within the last few months. in order to protect their people, turkey therefore feels itself justified in using military force against not only members of the turkish pkk [kurdistan workers party], but their families and friends. however, kurds both inside turkey and in the neighbouring countries of iraq and syria [where the kurds have been fighting isis] argue that this amounts to the turkish beginning a campaign of genocide against all kurds, on the basis their allegiance will always be to their culture over their country. how should that situation be diffused, without invoking laws against war crimes [or against genocide, since there's no reason that shouldn't be on the table as well]?

i like to use the turkish- kurdish conflict as an example in these cases, because it does touch on a lot of problematic areas, but also because the u.s. has an equivocal relationship with both sides. there are plenty of world leaders who are just dying to have their legal shackles removed in these situations. and their removal could shield people like those responsible for the atrocities in rwanda in 1994. i'm not certain that even donald trump would welcome the sort of attention that comes from being the legal precedent in those cases.

someone should [although i haven't seen anyone step up] remind aspiring precedent trump that using the exact same tactics as your enemies means that you're no better than they are. maybe he doesn't want to be, but he does seem to think that chopping off heads is bad, so i don't think that he's completely given up on the whole good-bad dichotomy yet. somebody please buy this man a copy of animal farm.

ultimately, america, it's your choice. trust me, we're all very aware that no one can tell you what to do. but let me put it a different way: you deserve better.

for decades, your foreign policy experts have been awful. that's not because i disagree with them on a lot of things, but because it's just demonstrably true. these people have been wrong about everything and that's cost you money and lives and it's made your lives more dangerous. these people imploded the middle east when they invaded iraq because apparently none of them could be bothered to read a few articles on wikipedia. they got america sucked into a spectacular military defeat in vietnam because they didn't think it was a big deal that the communist insurgents from the north had huge support among the general population in the south. they thought it was a good idea to give arms and support to rebel groups in afghanistan to fight the ussr, because how could giving a lot of weaponry to religious zealots possibly go wrong? these people have been homer simpson incompetent for decades, which would be hilarious if it didn't keep ending up with your kids coming home in boxes.

so please, america, when you're choosing your next commander in chief, choose one who's worthy of you. choose someone who knows a few things about history and the world, or at least choose someone who has the humility to admit they might not have all the answers. we're pulling for you.

28 April 2016

i am not dead and here is some music

i felt it was incumbent on me to mention that, because you could be forgiven for thinking that i'd died, or suffered amnesia, or got taken away by aliens. and i wish i could tell you that this last ten days- the longest break i've had from the blog in years- was because of something groundbreaking, but it's really just been distractions and bad planning on my part. i failed to make time to post for a couple of days, and while i knew that i'd have a family visitor coming and should have scheduled a few posts, i didn't do that, so all of a sudden i was a few days into a dry streak with nothing prepared for my internet down time. in what little time i had to reflect on what a terrible blogger i was being, it did occur to me to post something, but thinky space was at a premium and i didn't think anyone would be really thrill to see a list of lipsticks i've worn this week, or instructions on how to ask someone if they want a sheep in welsh [dych chi eisiau dafad? you can thank me for that later.]

what i've been doing in the last few days, aside from indulging in some epic not blogging, is pretty much the same things that i always do. i've been doing music writey stuff for heathen harvest, working on languages, trying to write [still just trying, but trying more than i have been, which is less than i should be, but it's still something].

when i've had a few minutes here and there, i have managed to spend a little time on soundcloud and bandcamp, so in the absence of having something substantive, interesting or organised to say, here are some interesting tracks i've discovered in my searches.



considering how long i've been around the industrial/ power electronics/ noisy objectionable stuff scene, i'm surprised at how little i know about iron fist of the sun. there's no reason for that and, considering i write about this stuff, there's not even any excuse. this is a track from an ultra-limited cassette that i'm unlikely to ever get my hands on. so i'm just going to listen to this excerpt and feel sorry for myself.



i know pretty much nothing about this group, although i believe that their forthcoming album on zoharum is their proper debut. i got to use a bit of my pre-kindergarten polish looking for information about these guys, but i still couldn't turn up much beyond the fact that they are a polish duo. that's it. i find this track both hypnotic and unsettling and i just love how the dead can dance-esque vocals are electronically perverted as the song goes along.



this entire album sounds incredible. i feel like ant-zen are on a bit of a tear lately in terms of the quality of their releases, branching out beyond what some have come to expect, and at the same time showing something of their long-standing industrial pedigree



something about this reminds me of crackdown-era cabaret voltaire. it's got that slightly 80s electro-funk tinge [groovy rhythm meets robotic synth], but it's clearly a much more updated take on the idea. apparently these sounds come from dutch artist boris post, about whom i was able to find precious little beyond the fact that he has, in fact, released an album under this name before. also, "eindkrak" is a dutch term for the theoretical "big crunch", which is the flipside of the big bang, wherein we will all be crushed together and the universe will disappear. good times.

regular more like space programming will be resumed shortly. the mental health mondays series on personality disorders will continue next monday. i shall soon have something to say about bite beauty's new amuse bouche lipsticks. perhaps there will even be some new writing posted here at some point.

until then, thank you for not abandoning me entirely in my time of dereliction. 

18 April 2016

mental health mondays :: puttin on the schizo

for part two of the mental health mondays look at personality disorders [whaddya mean you didn't read part one?!?!?!?!?], i've decided to take on probably the most frustrating post first. today, we're going to look at the various schizo- disorders and trust me, if your brain doesn't feel addled yet, by the end of this post, it definitely will.

now, there is one important exclusion to be made here, which is that schizophrenia is not one of the aforementioned disorders. what? no, my friends, while there are a host of personality disorders that start with the same letters, schizophrenia isn't included because it's a psychotic disorder. what's the difference? sigh. i was hoping that wouldn't come up. anyway, i'll defer to expert opinion, so here is the definition of schizophrenia given by the mayo clinic:

Schizophrenia is a severe brain disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. Schizophrenia may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behavior.
Contrary to popular belief, schizophrenia isn't a split personality or multiple personality. The word "schizophrenia" does mean "split mind," but it refers to a disruption of the usual balance of emotions and thinking.
Schizophrenia is a chronic condition, requiring lifelong treatment.

well that seems fairly specific now, doesn't it. schizophrenia is characterised by hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking and by the abnormal interpretation of reality. i mean, one could debate the exact parameters of abnormality and reality, but let's just set that aside for the moment.

so now, let's look at the mayo clinic's definition of personality disorders:

A personality disorder is a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving. A person with a personality disorder has trouble perceiving and relating to situations and to people. This causes significant problems and limitations in relationships, social encounters, work and school.
In some cases, you may not realize that you have a personality disorder because your way of thinking and behaving seems natural to you. And you may blame others for the challenges you face.
Personality disorders usually begin in the teenage years or early adulthood. There are many types of personality disorders. Some types may become less obvious throughout middle age.

ok, so a personality disorder is related mostly to patterns of thinking and behaviour, in particular when it comes to interactions with others. there seems to be something almost sinister about being told that you might not realise that you have a disorder and that you blame others for your challenges, because it is just possible that you're surrounded by dickheads. but leaving that aside, the distinctions seem clear enough, considering that we're dealing with something as complex as the brain. [except the bits about the age of onset of the disorder. schizophrenia is thought to be lifelong most of the time once you have it, but it doesn't usually present until the teenage years or early adulthood. so, exactly like a personality disorder. i know that because it's on the mayo clinic page about schizophrenia symptoms, which comes right after the page with the definition i've quoted above. but it's not like they could have gotten anything else confused, of course.]

prior to 2013 and the publication of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, version 5, psychiatric disorders of all kinds were split into different axes, with personality disorders occupying a separate quadrant of crazy than things like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. now, everything is treated as one giant screwed up swimming pool, with more general guidelines about who's in the deep or shallow end.

however, personality disorders as a group still exist within that swimming pool, and within those groups are the schizo-based disorders. i have to admit that this might be a record for how long it's taken me to get to the point.

there are officially two [but kind of three] of these personality disorders: schizoid personality disorder and schizotypal personality disorder. i say "kind of three", because there's also schizoaffective disorder, which is where one has symptoms of both schizophrenia and a mood disorder [either bipolar or depression], but doesn't meet the full criteria for either one individually. in addition, there's also something called schizophreniform disorder, which is when symptoms of schizophrenia manifest for at least one, but less than six months. [at six months, you've crossed the border into actual schizophrenia.] schizophreniform disorder is almost more of a holding pen before you find out whether you'll be treated for a limited duration psychotic episode or full-blown schizophrenia. but it's not a personality disorder, so we'll move on.

schizotypal personality disorder is characterised by suspiciousness with regards to other people, unconventional beliefs or perceptions, odd or eccentric dress style, peculiar patterns of speech, and/ or emotional reactions inappropriate to the situation. in teenagers, the mayo clinic adds that the schizotypal child "may be an underperformer in school or appear socially out of step with peers, and as a result is often bullied or teased".

schizoid personality disorder, on the other hand, is linked to social withdrawal and disinterest or anxiety with regards to other people. people with schizoid personality disorder generally have few friends and aren't very socially adept, often struggling to form deep or long-lasting relationships. they are perceived as independent, or as loners and often have a rich interior life to which they prefer to retreat. schizoid individuals tend to do very well in creative pursuits and in general do better when they are allowed to work alone. many find it difficult to experience pleasure in the "real" world. there is a subgroup of the schizoid set who are referred to as "secret schizoids": these are people who appear to function with more ease in public, but still have the other symptoms of the disorder.

if those definitions seem problematic, it's because they are. even if you start from the belief that these are three points on the same spectrum, it's troubling to associate the eccentric artist who prefers her own thoughts and company with a person in the grips of full-blown psychosis. and, indeed, these definitions, particularly that of schizoid disorder, have been criticized for being laden with cultural bias. most discussions of schizoid personality disorder note that many people who "suffer" from it are completely unaware, because they are high functioning and don't seem troubled by their disordered thought.

schizotypal disorder is hampered by being vague: is it really a good idea to lump eccentric dress style in with occasionally believing that the television is talking to you directly? well, a psychiatrist would say that it's the cumulative effect that's important: no, an offbeat sense of fashion doesn't mean that you have a problem. but walking around downtown in an evening dress in the middle of winter might be a sign of something a little more worrying.

either way, it's a scary thing to be told that you're suffering with something that's in the same ballpark as schizophrenia. what's worse, people with schizotypal disorder are considered to be in danger of developing schizophrenia if their condition is left untreated, which puts a greater pressure on them to seek help.

but wait, it gets worse...

if you're too confused about the differences between schizoid and schizotypal disorder, don't worry, you can have both at once. if you primarily suffer from schizoid disorder, there is a form of it called depersonalised schizoid personality disorder, which includes "schizotypal features". that's where the isolation and alienation of the principal disorder actually starts to make you feel fundamentally detached from the world, as if you were not participating in it at all. but if that's too confusing, the two conditions can be comorbid, which means you get all the fun of both disorders, and all of the confusion about when it's time to call a doctor. [which you might not do, since you might just think you're lovably eccentric, or you might just be lovably eccentric and not need any help and it's the definitions that are wrong.]

schizotypal personality disorder can also shack up with paranoid, avoidant and borderline personality disorders pretty well, and with mood disorders like depression, social anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. oh, and if you have it in combination with that last one, it tends to make treating the ocd a lot harder. sorry.

if you haven't yet slammed your head into your desk so hard that you've suffered permanent brain damage, congratulations. i firmly believe that the schizoid/ schizotypal/ schizoaffective/ schizophreniform axis of evil [can an axis have four points? or is that just part of my fantasy world?] is the root of many people's problems with psychiatry. while it may be a given that people who do not conform in certain ways to societal norms are going to face a distinct set of problems dealing with the rest of the world, it is a big leap to say that this means they are broken and need to be psychologically fixed. furthermore, the undeniably vagaries of the associated definitions seem like an attempt to keep any sense of comfort or understanding out of the hands of people who are suffering.

of course, one of the problems with these disorders is that having a "schizophrenia spectrum" is predicated on a solid understanding of schizophrenia, which most psychiatrists will admit they don't have. unlike in economics, the confusion over schizophrenia trickles down throughout its loosely associated family of disorders, until the spectrum seems to go from treating the most critically ill to forcing people to conform to a societal stereotype.

and no, this does not mean i'm trying to say that schizotypal or schizoid or any other schiz- disorders don't exist. i don't have anything like the qualifications to do that and what seems like doublespeak to a non-professional [me] reflects necessary differences in categorization to someone in the field. what i would say is that we all need to be open about the fact that, when it comes to the entire schizophrenia spectrum, we're on extremely tenuous ground. proceed with caution.

p.s. :: the images used here are all poster art created for the 1976 british horror film schizo, which is actually about dissociative identity disorder in which the mind becomes split- into different personalities, or realities, etc. it's a completely unrelated condition, however. it's a mystery how people keep getting these things confused.

p.p.s. :: in case you were curious, the prefix "schizo" comes from the greek "schízein" meaning "to part or split".  

17 April 2016

and sometimes i do filmy stuff

there's no question that dom is the videoking in our household. you can check out the many things he's done, with many different artists here on his vimeo page. [he actually has two new videos premiering this week, because he works harder than i.] words are always going to be my principal form of expression, as if you couldn't tell, but i do occasionally do more visual work, if for no other reason than i get inspired by those closest to me to push my own boundaries.

i've done both found footage pieces and things assembled from bits i've shot live. this isn't a frequent thing for me, but i do sometimes get inspired. the projects are always accessible from the "film & photography" tab above, but i thought i'd repost my itty bitty œuvre here for you:

a sense of longing [oblvious] :: i got the idea of doing this while i was out for a walk trying to clear my head and come up with some writing ideas. i started following a few random people and filming them and was kind of amazed at how close i could get without getting noticed. i fully expected this day to end with me getting my face pummeled into the pavement by someone who didn't appreciate my attempts at artistic expression, but i guess luck was on my side that day. i finished up the shots over the next day or two.

holding the phone upright helped disguise what i was doing, but i also like the "boxed in" look that it gives, even though it's not something you're supposed to do.

and yes, that is me singing at the end. you've been warned.


a sense of longing [oblivious] from Kate MacDonald on Vimeo.

coming storm :: my "political" video. when i was young my parents were fans of older [even for their generation] folk music, so i got to hear a lot of songs by pete seeger and the like. it gave me an appreciation for that raw, down-to-earth, and undeniably american sound, particularly as it was used for protest songs among the rural and working-class left wing of the time.

i got inspired to do this after seeing footage of the 2013 tornado that ripped through oklahoma. a friend suggested that dom should use it for a video, but dom seemed less interested, since he was working on other things. i tried for some time to persuade him, before deciding that i'd do my own damn tornado video. except that i didn't end up using the footage from the oklahoma twister, because it looked too modern juxtaposed with the older film, and the tornado parts aren't even a prominent feature in the final film. oh well.


coming storm from Kate MacDonald on Vimeo.

guilty. guilty. guilty. :: the only film in which i've used actual people who exist in my life [other than myself]. i wanted to film people i knew while they talked about guilt and their experience of it. the filming of it was a fascinating experience, because it is a subject that makes people uncomfortable. i think you can get a sense of that in the body language. nonetheless, i feel like this is the most flawed thing that i've done. the sound on one of the video sessions was inordinately low, because it turns out that a lot of people don't want to shout the things that make them feel guilty to the world.

someday, i'd like to do a sequel to this one, but for now, it is what it is.


guilty. guilty. guilty. from Kate MacDonald on Vimeo.

they were dancers in their dreams :: i was playing around on the found footage amusement park that is archive.org, trying to find a very specific video. it's an obscure trailer for a film that doesn't exist, and i'd used bits of it for a video that i made and then lost before i could publish it, because god hates me. i didn't find that video, or anything like it, but while i was on the site, i got distracted, which is often what happens when i'm looking for things. if i could think straight, i wouldn't be nearly as creative.

i've always been fascinated by the world of dreams, which is where the "backbone" of this film comes from. dreams can be very frightening [i get night terrors, so i get that more than a lot of people], but they can also be very gentle and soothing. the thing that unites them, for me, is this sense that they're all quite fragile, that the world they exist in could shatter at any time, so this was my attempt to recreate that.

trying to recreate the atmosphere of a dream is like trying to explain to someone what an orgasm feels like. it's not possible and you're just doomed to failure. nonetheless, i like this. it might be my personal favourite of the few that i've done.


They Were Dancers in Their Dreams from Kate MacDonald on Vimeo.

do i have plans to do more of these short films? no. but i didn't have any plans to do these four either. what i plan to do and what i end up doing are almost always very different things. i dig these out every now and again to remind myself that there are times where i haven't felt especially creative, but somehow a fissure has opened and something creative has snuck through and manifested itself in an unexpected way. so if nothing else, i hope that they can do the same for any of you who might be stuck in a creative slump.

p.s. :: i asked as many people as i could about using their tracks for these films, but sometimes i just don't know how to find them. so thank you to everyone i didn't contact for not forcing vimeo and youtube to take these down. i use your music because i love you dearly. 

16 April 2016

making faces :: tarted up

sometimes i see something and i immediately know that i need it. it's not the usual "i want to get this", more like "i am meant to possess this object". so it was for me the first time i saw some photos of the tarte "rainforest of the sea" eyeshadow palette. yes, to others, it might have looked like just another neutral palette, but there was something about it that just called to me. you can make your own "sirens" joke there, because i'm not quite sharp enough to come up with one right at the moment.

in order to get this, i went to a sephora in a mall i've been to perhaps twice in my life. my regular sephora didn't have it and it sold out quickly online, and since it was limited, i felt that i had to get it wherever i could. of course, it's come back in stock, so i needn't have been so worried, but hey, what's life without a little adventure, as long as your idea of adventure includes going to a semi-suburban mall?

it didn't take me more than a few seconds of swatching to determine that, yes, this palette was all that to use an expression that no one uses anymore. the powder shadows are so smooth, so finely milled and so pigmented that they feel like cream, or perhaps a little like whatever is used to make colourpop super shock shadows. [fairy juice?] however, these are definitely powders. they apply like silk, blend seamlessly and last extremely well. i'm saying that up front, because it's true of every colour in the palette. there were two that gave me a bit of trouble when it came to getting the colour payoff i wanted [see my notes on the individual shades below], but across the board, i could hardly be happier with my purchase.

there are eight shadows included in the palette, which run from quite light to medium dark. you're not going to get a truly high contrast look out of this palette. the urban decay naked palettes all contain shades that run a bit lighter on one end and darker on the other. "rainforest of the sea" is a slightly softer, everyday kind of look. that's not to say that the colours blend together into a "wash". you can do a bit of a contrast if, like me you like that pale lid with defined crease look. it's just never going to be dramatic.

being neutrals, these shades will respond to the undertone of your skin. on some people, people with warmer complexions [see temptalia], some of the gold shades have a bit of a greenish tint- which is honestly what i was expecting from a palette that invokes both the rainforest and the sea. on me, the golds are gold, but the pink tones in my skin bring a sort of rosiness to some shades- especially the deeper browns. here's a breakdown, shade by shade, based on my experience:

l to r :: sand, mermaid, seashell, wave

sand :: the lightest shade in the palette is a satiny ivory that leans ever so slightly peach on me. if you're a medium skin tone or darker, i'm pretty confident that this would look like a highlight shade, but on me it's just a little too deep. it does look nice in the corners of the eyes if you're using the other shades for a bit of a smoky look, since it's noticeably brighter.

mermaid :: a really original shade among neutrals, a golden tan. it's frosted with gold, but not too heavily, so it won't give a dazzling metallic look, but it will definitely catch the light. in the swatch, you're seeing it in indirect light, where it looks less frosted and more softly lustrous. certainly one of my favourites in a palette that offers a lot of great shades.

seashell :: a well-named colour indeed, because it does look like the pink inside a conch shell. this one was one of only two shades that gave me problems. it's lovely and smooth, but it definitely takes some building to get it to look like it does in the pan. even then, i didn't think it showed quite as pink or warm as it looks.

wave :: this is both the coolest-toned and the most frustrated shade in the palette. it's a medium taupe with a strong lilac undertone, something that should complement the slightly pinker shades and contrast with the golds, but despite the fact that it feels just as creamy and smooth as its roommates, it just doesn't give great colour payoff. i don't understand this at all, but after a few tries, i'm satisfied that it wasn't just a one-off thing. i also found this to be the only shade that faded before the seven-hour mark. i has a sad.

l to r :: abyss, reef, starfish, cove

abyss :: the darkest shade in the palette. it's a plummy deep brown that applies and lasts well, not really frosted but more shimmery than a satin shade. it can be patted on for greater intensity, but it also blends exceptionally well, if you're interested in something that gives a bit of structure with just a hint of colour.

reef :: a rusted brown with warm, red undertones, and a shade that absolutely will not work on a very cool-toned person. shades with copper-bronze tones to them seem to be easy to do well and this one is no exception. it's rich and warm and lasts incredibly well without fading. just stunning.

starfish :: a bit of a chameleon, this one. you can see in the swatch that it can lean almost towards a rose gold, but most of the time it's a medium wheat gold that can even pull a little green. the key is that it's complex enough that it will tend to "borrow" from whatever colours are around it. warmer, redder shades [like "abyss"] will give you the effect you see here. put it next to more neutral colours and you'll get more of a true gold. magical.

cove :: the only matte shade in the palette is a workhorse. it swatches terribly, which i don't understand, because its colour payoff is fantastic in use. i had to build this swatch up to make it visible, but i've had to be very delicate using it, because it can be too much. why does this happen? i've no idea. i call this a workhorse shade because it's the sort of thing that's always going to come in handy. for a warmer smoky eye, it's a fantastic base colour. for giving some dimension, it's great to sculpt along the brow bone. it's a warm tan with a hint of apricot orange and, again, it's going to be unfriendly on very cool complexions, but if it suits you, you can expect to be using it a lot.

and there we have it. i'm just as enamoured with the palette as i thought i would be and, though it is another neutral palette, it has some unique shades. "mermaid" and "starfish" are probably the ones that are hardest to match, but even "sand" is a little different than a lot of highlight-type shades, a little deeper and richer. and, as i mentioned above, while the distance from lightest to darkest is less than you might normally get, it's still more than enough to be able to get several different looks. here's a few that i've tried so far:

warm and smoky




this is what i alluded to earlier about cove being a nice base shade. i've applied it all over the lid, then layered reef and abyss in the inner and outer angles. this is also a good example of how blend-friendly abyss is. i wanted more of a gradient look, but i also wanted to emphasize the angles of my eyes, because they can look sort of flat without. i applied abyss, but then used reef to smoke it out and leave more of a hint of the darker shade. i used sand in the inner corners of my eyes, which looks brighter because it's next to the deeper browns.

i have charlotte tilbury "love is the drug" and becca "pearl" on my cheeks. not quite certain on the lipstick...

cool-ish




this is pretty much as cool-toned as you can get with this palette, which is still definitely more neutral than cool. [it looks cooler in these photos because i'm wearing a navy blue eyeliner.]i applied sand all over the lid, then added mermaid to the inner and outer edges. i put wave in the upper crease and along the browbone and yes, it looks nice here, but that's just a few minutes after it's been applied. it didn't stand up to a day's wear as well as its roommates.

i decided to wear the only other tarte product in my collection- their cheek stain in flushed, a lovely berry shade- and hourglass diffused light over the top. the lipstick is armani rouge ecstasy in garconne fatale.

golden




i think this one shows the colours at their best. again, i have sand all over the lid, with starfish and mermaid blended into an arc through the crease. you could wear this look basically anyway, since it's subtle enough for even a conservative office, but has a beautiful gleam [that lasts!] appropriate for a night out or, if you're invited to one, a red carpet.

i'm not quite sure what's going on on my cheeks in this look, but the lipstick is guerlain rouge g in gracy.

the palette is limited [although many of the other rainforest of the sea products- the skin care and the foundation/ concealer] are permanent additions. at this point, i wouldn't hesitate too long before ordering/ buying, because it is sold out in a lot of locations already. if you're even remotely tempted by what you see, i can pretty much guarantee that you won't be disappointed. dive in.

[the top photo is from tarte. the rest are mine.]

p.s. :: there are actual rainforests of the sea! there's an ancient, almost perfectly preserved cypress forest in the gulf of mexico. there are several around the south and east coasts of england, including a giant oak forest just a few hundred yards off the norwich coast. on a less happy note, the warming of the oceans and the thinning of polar ice caps has caused an explosion of phytoplankton growth in antarctica, which nasa scientists have described as being a type of rainforest. 
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