21 November 2014

making faces :: a lip for all seasons [winter edition]

it seems oddly canadian to have two posts in a row about winter/ cold/ snow, but they're obviously unrelated. after all, for most people winter is a season, but in colour analysis terms, winter is part of what you are, an effect of the different wavelengths that comprise the physical part of the thing known as "you". this might be getting a little heady for a post about lipstick. moving on...

if you've perused the other entries in this series without finding something that really spoke to you [figuratively- lipsticks shouldn't actually speak to you- get help], you may belong in one of the winter seasons. winter, like summer, is cool in tone; like spring, it is saturated; like autumn, it is dark. that combination of elements creates a colour palette [or three] that reads as very "strong" to most. and on people who aren't part of the winter group, such a palette would look severe. the point of finding a palette that reads "correctly" on you is to find something that you can balance and winter skin can absolutely balance these intense shades. someone who isn't part of the winter club will look like they're being buried under the weight of such colours- they'll look physically smaller and, as a result, give the impression of being diminished.

on the other hand, people who require stronger colours will look a bit ill if they adorn themselves with soft, milky neutrals, pastels or muted tones. yes, there are lighter, less "intimidating" options, but they'll always be more intense than those of other people. i'm mentioning this because, on their own, winter colours can look shocking. they won't when they're placed on the right person. anything less would seem feeble.

if you peruse the "making faces" posts on this blog, you'll notice that i have a marked preference for these sorts of shades, a lot more of them than i've had space to mention here, so please feel free to glance through them at your leisure.

19 November 2014

world wide wednesdays :: you don't know from snow

one hopes they tip the kid who shovels this
buffalo, new york has apparently called in the national guard to deal with their latest snowfall. a lot of times, canadians like to scoff at our southern neighbours and how panicky they get at what we'd call a flurry. that ignores the fact that, if your city doesn't budget for plows, salt, sand, disposal, etc., because it doesn't normally need such things, any amount of snow is a pretty big deal. most cities can't afford to hold tight and wait for the situation to resolve itself. more importantly, it also ignores the fact that the united states is home to a lot of the snowiest places on earth. in fact, when it comes to places that accumulate the white stuff, america kicks our frozen behind, whether you're considering it from the perspective of individual locations with the highest snowfalls or cities with the highest snowfalls. really, there is only one country that should have the right to scoff at the united states and their snowfalls: japan.

more specifically, the people who can scoff are the inhabitants of northern island of hokkaido, because for them, two metres is really more of a starting point. it's not uncommon for western areas of the island facing the sea of japan to see eleven metres of snow a year and while that's different from getting two metres at once, let's just say that such a storm would qualify merely as "annoying".

now, if most canadians were shocked to find out that the united states had more "snow hot spots" than us, we'd be absolutely flabbergasted by the fact that russia doesn't have any. our immediate assumption when it comes to winter is that russia is the only country that can beat us at it. it's likely that if you asked any ten canadians to name places in the world that got the most snow, not more than one or two of them would name a place in japan. but that's because in canada, we lump the two great harbingers of winter, cold and snow, together. mother nature doesn't. if you go back to that list of snowiest cities on earth, you'll see that the canadian cities that did make the cut are located on the sides, whereas the bitterly cold prairies are unrepresented. like the prairies, russian siberia gets plenty freakin' cold, but it's a dry cold. [side note :: a number of canadians would probably guess that the snowiest places in the world are located in the himalayan mountains and i did find some lists that listed nepal as one of the most snowbound regions, but there seems to be a lack of data on specific places. i'd say it's still highly possible that there are a couple of nepalese towns that should be on the list.]

go ahead, tell me about your awesome snow fort
if it helps you feel better, siberia is implicated in the outrageous snowfalls that western hokkaido experiences. every year, frigid winds go whipping across the plains in an easterly direction. as they cross the sea of japan, they pick up moisture from the comparatively warm water. then- bam!- they run headlong into the mountains of hokkaido. remember all that stuff you learned in grade school about how cooling vapours causes them to condense and form either liquid or, if it's colder, solid water droplets? when you cool an amount of humid air the size of a small ocean by forcing it up the side of a mountain, you get eleven metres of snow.

oh, and in case you didn't think that it was hardcore enough living in one [or several, depending on how you look at it] of the snowiest places on earth, it might interest you to know that much of hokkaido is made from motherf**king volcanoes, a handful of which are still active. this means that along with some of the world's best skiing, you have a number of hot springs [onsen], that offer a variety of different health benefits. chances are you've seen pictures of adorable monkeys using them.

all of this raises the question: who in their right mind would choose to live on a pile of volcanoes with some of the deepest snowdrifts in the world?

if you wanted an answer to that, you'd need to go back in time. way back. because as far as historians and archaeologists have been able to determine, there have been people living in hokkaido for about twenty thousand years. the original settlers appear to have been part of a larger culture that inhabited not just hokkaido, but other areas around the sea of okhotsk: sakhalin island, the kuril islands and possibly the southern part of the kamchatka peninsula. these were highly successful hunter-gatherers who kept largely to themselves and who gradually intermarried with the satsumon, a culture living on the japanese archipelago. the fusion of these two groups produced the ainu culture, which is what is chiefly associated with hokkaido today. [side note: the exact origins of the ainu, as well as the origins of the groups from which they descended, continues to be a subject of debate. although present on hokkaido for millennia, the ainu never codified their language, which means there is no written record of them before they began to interact with the japanese.]

the water is a little hot
the ainu remained more or less indifferent to their southern neighbours until the japanese entered their feudal period. japan's expansion inevitably brought them into contact with the ainu and the japanese level of organization and greater military strength allowed them to dominate the northerners with relative ease. nonetheless, the ainu did not go gently into the feudal night and mounted rebellions against their colonizers. however, as trade ties became stronger between the two, the ainu were forced into a position of increased dependence. these trade ties also resulted in the import of things like smallpox, which caused the ainu population to plummet. this decline in numbers made the ainu easier to subdue and they were often used as de facto slave labour.

with the meiji restoration, a campaign of assimilation began. this worked out about as well for the ainu as assimilation programs did for indigenous groups in north america and australia, although the implementation was slightly different. in 1899, the hokkaido former aborigines act was introduced in order to help the downtrodden ainu adapt to modern agriculture. the government said that their intent was to remove the stigma of being an aboriginal people from the ainu, but "removing the stigma" involved repressing ainu language, culture and religion. the ainu were forced to learn japanese and to change their ainu names to japanese ones. at the same time, just to level the playing field, the government decided that traditional ainu lands would be available to anyone and they conducted a massive campaign to encourage japanese immigration to the island, where all of this free land was suddenly available. the policy was successful, at least if you were japanese. the island was overrun with japanese immigrants and the ainu were permanently disenfranchised. [side note :: at the time, the government made no bones about what they were doing and even referred to it as "colonization". later on, upper class japanese academics realized that sounded icky and began to refer to the process as "reclamation". so the japanese were understood to have reclaimed land they had never inhabited.]

the japanese remained adamant about their policy of assimilating other cultures on the archipelago. it wasn't until 1997 that the former aborigines act was repealed- until then, it was the official policy of the japanese government that there were no ethnic minorities in the country. nineteen-ninety-seven. worse still, it wasn't until 2008 that japan officially recognised the ainu as a indigenous group. however, the policy of assimilation may have accomplished its aims before it was repealed. official estimates are that there are only about 25,000 ainu people left [although some claim there are as many as ten times that] and even that number includes many japanese people who have ainu ancestry; ethnic ainu would often encourage their children to marry into japanese families in order to protect them from racial prejudice. the ainu language, which is unrelated to any other language on earth, is on the verge of extinction: the number of people who speak it fluently is estimated at one hundred at
ainu couple in traditional dress and traditional lip tattoo
the most and possibly as few as a dozen. there have been efforts to increase awareness of the history and distinctiveness of ainu culture, but it's a sad state of affairs for the people who lived 20,000 years under the snow. [side note: the historical presence of the ainu continues to affect modern-day politics. the kuril islands are claimed by both japan and russia because of the traditional presence of ainu people, who are neither japanese, nor russian, but who have long-standing communities in both countries. the kuril archipelago runs from the northern tip of hokkaido to the kamchatka peninsula and all of the islands currently belong to russia. japan, however, claims the four southernmost islands. national dominion over the islands has been an issue between japan and russia for centuries and they have been handed back and forth. after world war ii, japan was forced to relinquish control over all the kurils, however the united states and her allies refused to acknowledge soviet dominion over the islands. since these positions have not been updated since the 1950s, the kuril islands have been de facto part of the soviet union/ russia, but their political status remains a sort of enigma.]

so this winter, as you're stuck on the road, or shovelling yourself out, or falling in a snowbank, or experiencing any of the other unpleasantries that go along with living in a climate where winter is something to be respected and feared, spare a moment to think that things could be much, much worse. unless you're living in hokkaido, in which case you should just pat yourself on the back and take pride in being such a tough s.o.b., then head off to enjoy some time admiring the towers of snow that could not defeat you, while soaking in volcanic hot spring. 

making faces :: a lip for all seasons [fall edition]

after the brightness of spring and the coolness of summer, we come upon autumn, a season of warmth, lower saturation and relative darkness. saturation actually increases as fall moves towards winter, just as it decreased when spring moved towards summer. generally, though, autumn shades are rich, warm, with a golden amber core, as opposed to spring's bright daffodil yellow. i tend to associate spring colours with fruit and candy, whereas fall colours are those of the vegetable garden and the spice market. [i'm not sure if that will make sense to anyone else, but i'm just putting it out there.]

as you might expect, the fiery tones of autumn foliage all live here- flame reds, burnt oranges, ochre yellows. blue options are limited, but instead of spring turquoise, autumn leans towards teal.it encompasses a wide range of colours, all of which, i find, speak of the comforts of the season, ranging from lighter shades with the softened finish of brushed cotton to the delicious richness of stews and preserves to the sumptuous glints of gold and copper, like the waning sun reflecting from a metal surface.

when i started delving into the world of seasonal colour analysis, i already knew that i wasn't an autumn. i tried to remain open-minded, but those colours have just never worked for me. i know that my complexion doesn't look great with either a tan or bronzer, which is something that an autumn almost always would. [i'm leaving that as "almost" to account for very fair soft autumns or very cool dark autumns who might not look as good, but in my case, it is really difficult to find a bronzer that doesn't look like dirt on me.] looking at the various palettes, however, did give me more of an appreciation for how all of these colours can work together. it's not just shades of earth and rust.

that said, because i knew i wasn't an autumn, i haven't ever made a point of collecting autumn-friendly shades, so these suggestions, while i think they're all appropriate, don't necessarily showcase the range that's available to these complexions.


17 November 2014

mental health mondays :: doubt and dissociation

a friend of mine posted a link last week about the controversies surrounding dissociative disorders and how they are treated. i've posted in mhm before about the phenomenon of dissociative identity disorder, or multiple personality disorder, but there are actually a number of different types of dissociative disorder. multiple personalities is just the most extreme and the rarest of them. there are other forms of dissociation, which basically means a break with reality of some sort. some are extremely mild [and not considered signs of a disorder] and others are more serious. one thing that they share is that they are controversial and the more serious the dissociative episodes, the more controversial they become.

one of the reasons for the controversy is that they are difficult to prove. most dissociative conditions aren't a full-time thing. the symptoms can wax and wane, there is no true diagnostic test [although that's true for most mental disorders] and there is always great speculation that people are faking or imagining the condition, especially when it comes to offering a legal defense. many dramatisations have portrayed characters who mimic the symptoms of dissociative disorder in order to escape criminal charges. [face lift, an early episode of csi and the film primal fear are the first examples that spring to mind.] this may create the impression that the defense is raised fairly frequently in order to obtain a not guilty verdict, but in fact, it is attempted in less than 0.1% of felony cases and is successful in only a small fraction of those. [nor does that mean that the symptoms were false. courts have often ruled that the presence of multiple identities is immaterial to criminal guilt.]

in fact, a huge majority of people will experience some sort of dissociative episode in their lives. have you ever realised that you had no memory of several minutes of your life? or had a moment where you felt disconnected from your body? or even a sense of déjà vu? those are all very minor, fleeting forms of dissociation. they're certainly not enough to qualify as a disorder, but it might help you understand the situation of someone who suffers from a full-on condition.

dissociative disorders take several forms: amnesia is a fairly well-known one [although not all amnesia is dissociative- it can be caused by damage to the brain]. there is also the dissociative fugue, which is a temporary "switch" that often results in a person abandoning their home, job and sometimes even their identity for a certain period of time, particularly when they are under acute stress. [mystery writer agatha christie is thought to have experienced and eleven-day dissociative fugue in 1926.] there is also the possibility of depersonalisation/ derealisation, where a person can have an "out of body experience" or feel as if they are constantly dreaming, that nothing around them [or inside them] is real. these states can be transitory, or they can last for years and there isn't a lot of agreement on how they can be treated. therapy is seen as an absolute necessity, but then there is the question of what kind of therapy.

the most common theory on dissociative disorders is that they are linked to trauma [which means that they could be considered an effect of ptsd]. one of the most common examples is that people who are involved in car accidents will often have no recollection of the events immediately preceding and following the event. however, not all trauma will cause dissociation. holocaust survivors remember what happened to them very well. that may indicate that dissociation is more likely in reaction to shock, as opposed to sustained horror, especially in adults.

dissociative disorders are most often the result of early childhood trauma, such as abuse. unlike adults, children cannot understand or cope with what is happening to them [having little or no sense of the world outside their home] and, on a subconscious level, the brain "chooses" to distance itself from what is happening. this results in persistent problems later in life, since it is often not possible to shut this reaction off. dissociative disorders related to early childhood are extraordinarily difficult to treat, because they are usually deeply ingrained by the time they are identified and also because they are the most controversial.

starting in the early 1980s, a wave of stories spread through the american media [and eventually beyond] about children having been subject to horrific physical and sexual abuse. these memories were uncovered through hypnosis when adult patients sought help for a variety of different conditions. none of the people who reported abuse had been consciously aware of it before therapy, but they all exhibited some form of anxiety disorder that couldn't be explained by their current circumstances. the idea that psychologists could retrieve lost or blocked memories in great detail was a revelation. there was only one problem: it was hogwash. these "memories" of violence turned out to be false, an idea planted by the process of therapy itself and then retroactively believed by the patient. [i should note that the theory of recovered memory dates back to freud, it was just in the eighties that it became widely known and a sort of pop culture topic.]

there is no scientific evidence to back the theory of recovered memories. while some children do block instances of abuse, they continue mostly to be aware of what happened, it's just that they're memories aren't clear or continuous. usually, memories will present as snippets, but out of context, associated more with emotions than a connected series of events. nonetheless, the phenomenon of recovered memory made for grisly, prurient news and it was widely covered. as it was debunked, it unfortunately took the reputation of all dissociative disorders with it. since this particular method of addressing dissociation has been discredited, people assume that the whole category of disorders has been discredited as well.

the fact is that the human brain is so complex that we may never understand what causes dissociation and why certain people are affected while others aren't. in the meantime, we fumble to find treatments that help and not to make anymore egregious mistakes along the way.

16 November 2014

making faces :: a lip for all seasons [summer edition]

this may seem like an odd time to think about summer, but not to think about coolness. it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea that summer is considered "cool" in colour analysis terms and, in my opinion, reads as the coolest of the cool, because everything in it is touched with the same chilly grey. winter may have the coldest colours, but its palette is so vivid that it distracts the eye. everything in summer is fresh and misty, like the morning sky before the sun breaks through. in my original post on the season, i compared it to monet's paintings of waterlilies at his garden in giverny and, if i do say so, i think that's an apt characterisation.

finding lip colours touched with summer grey and blue is, as you might expect, kind of tricky. the cosmetic world seems obsessed with bringing warmth, which doesn't recognise that some complexions don't support it well. [also, different complexions support different kinds of warmth, but that's another post.] the search for summer colours is further complicated by the fact that cool colours, when they are available, are much too saturated, which will make a true summer complexion look like someone else's lips are standing on her face. yikes.

bracketing the completely cool true summer season, you have the light summer, which is the cooler analogue to light spring and the soft summer, which blends summer cool with a hint of autumn's warmth. both of these pull away from the pure cool of summer by adding different types of heat. as the spring influence starts to fade, colours begin to lose their saturation, becoming softer and hazier. this reaches an apex as summer and autumn mix, as both are seasons with lower saturation. 

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