30 May 2014

eat the cup :: it. is. coming.

olà! it's the thirtieth of may, which means that we're only two short weeks from the beginning of me turning into a rather irritatingly single-minded soccer fan.

if you've been checking out my bloggy bits for a while, you know that i've developed a distinctive way of enjoying the world cup every four years, which is that i use the opportunity to learn as much as i can about the cuisine of participating nations by cooking from the traditional menus of the victorious countries. and this year will be no different. this will actually mark the third time that i've conducted this culinary experiment and it brings with it a slew of new challenges.

first and most importantly, i'm going to have to think more about scheduling. the previous tournaments in germany and south africa allowed me to browse through the day's winners to come up with a dish, or a variety of dishes, that served as an alimentary summary of what had taken place. this year, the cup will take place in brazil, which means that, for the first time in eat the cup history, the games will be happening at night for me. so i'm basically stuck recapping the day before [assuming that i'm on the ball enough to cook a cup-related meal every night, which doesn't happen often].

the change in time zone also means that i have no excuse to implement my rule that you can drink alcohol at any time of day, as long as there's a cup game on. i mean, it still counts. it just can't be used to justify drinking guinness at eight in the morning like it was last time.

the second challenge is that, predictably, there are a lot of countries participating who have been in one or both of the tournaments where i've cooked before. that means that i'm going to have to be careful not to repeat myself in cooking or content through the series of blog posts. that means that i'm going to have to do a review of what i did in 2010 and 2006 and come up with a new spin.

but the nice thing is that i have another couple of weeks to build up my excitement and figure out what i'm going to do during the big event.

if you're not sure what i'm talking about here, please feel free to check out:

eat the cup 2010
eat the cup 2006

thanks to dom for this year's awesome eat the cup logo!

28 May 2014

and that's why everything about me makes sense

i have a pretty extensive family tree going, kind of an endless project that satisfies my ocd curiosity about the past. i pick it up to add to it again every six months or so, in the hopes that someone on the internet has come up with more information than was previously available, especially people who pay for professional services, which i'm too cheap to do. [someone once told me that rick santorum had managed to trace his family history back to the year 90. if that's true, it's just mocking me, because i have to go through life knowing that there is something i enjoy at which rick santorum is better than i'll probably ever be.]

i lucked out this week and added not just a little information but generations worth of names to one branch of the family, all because it suddenly occurred to me that one dead end several-greats-removed grandmother had a famous brother whose history i could track. her brother was famous mostly for being tall and for taking a lot of people with him when he died violently in a losing battle, which is the sort of thing that scots really respect. and my thinking was correct. while no one might have taken much notice of his sister, the famous several-greats-removed uncle does have his lineage available online.

these admirable folk were named macbain [insert simpsons joke here], although it may have also been macbean, or possibly macbeth, because it turns out that people who like to guzzle scotch and dance around swords in wool skirts aren't that careful about spelling their family name. in point of fact, it's unlikely any of them could spell their family name.

the macbains were famous for fighting, but during the brief window when they managed to have land and survive, they came up with the family crest and motto you see above. the picture is indeed a cat with a shield and the motto translates to:

never touch a cat without a shield

i'm guessing that my ancestors, when they weren't fighting, were some of scotland's first cat domesticators and it seems like they learned the hard way that there are things that can wound even the toughest scottish hide.



so rather than get all full of themselves and do a more traditional motto like "we rock" or a vaguely threatening one like "we are coming to smash your bones", the macbains thought that the most important thing that they could give to their heirs was the secret that you might not want to just grab hold of that kitty who lives in the barn, no matter how fluffy and sweet she looks. [and since they were twice forced to fork over their lands to settle their debts, that was the only thing that they gave to their heirs.]

interestingly, before the family took the name "macbain" [or whatever the hell it was], the family had gone by the name "macfail", which does say something about how bad some of those early cat-touching attempts probably were. i'm guessing the sudden name change came about when they figured out the using of the shield bit. you can even see in the crest that they also realised the lure of the multi-coloured string in such work.

so there you have it. i'm descended from a long line of cat-wranglers. genealogy is awesome.

26 May 2014

mental health mondays :: the end of agency?

i'm a little shocked at how much of my social media news feeds in the last two days have been taken up with discussions on whether or not santa barbara mass murderer elliot rodger was mentally ill. this is seriously being debated, like people who aren't mentally ill go out and start shooting up random folks and then themselves for shits and giggles. i'm sorry if that remark seems inappropriate, but it doesn't strike me as any more inappropriate than asking if a young man who writes an angry manifesto and then takes his [legally purchased and registered, but that's another post] gun and goes off to kill strangers has a mental illness. let's put this to rest: yes, someone who does this sort of thing is absolutely sick; their delicate mental balance has been thrown off; their brain is not functioning in the way it should; they are in need of professional assistance.

to that last point, rodger apparently did seek professional assistance, which is a pretty clear indication that he knew something was wrong and that at some point, he wanted to do something to fix it.

if that last sentence makes you think that you should have some sympathy with the poor, awkward boy who clearly had difficulty with women and probably in a lot of other social situations as well, check yourself. many, many people have bouts or long-term battles with mental illness. statistics indicate that about one out of every four americans will suffer from some form of mental disorder during their lifetime and the vast, vast majority of them will not commit any sort of violent crime, let alone something of this magnitude.

among the insults levied at people with mental illness, one of the worst has to be that they have no control over what they are doing. what rubbish. the vast majority of them have a lot of control over what they are doing. they may struggle with it more. those with the most serious conditions can lose a great portion of their ability to control how their mind works and their ability to function in their society, but even in those cases, this is the result of degeneration [often caused by lack of access to mental health resources, but again, that's another post]. people don't spring from the womb ready to commit mass murder. even children who show early signs of sociopathy are most often shaped by early trauma.

there is no evidence that elliot rodger suffered from any delusional psychosis: he was not bipolar [to the extent that he suffered delusions], nor was he schizophrenic, nor did he appear to have a dissociative disorder. he was fully present in his actions and the fact that they were repugnant or warped to most people [i hope] doesn't put them on the same level as the person who believes their neighbours are alien spies sent to poison them slowly by playing specific albums. while he was seeking help, he also immersed himself in the most dangerous sort of community for his mindset- one that reinforced and enabled his worst thoughts and behaviours by allowing him to blame others for his problems. while he sought treatment through traditional medical means [and it's important to note that his family's financial advantages meant that he had access to a level of care that many others would never have], it wasn't working for him.

i can see why. going through therapy, whether as an alternative to or in conjunction with medication, is a long, dry process of introspection. there aren't shortcuts and if you're not willing to partner in the work with your therapist/ psychologist then it isn't going to be of any use. you have to be completely honest with yourself and willing to recognise behaviour and thought patterns that have been crippling you and you have to spend the time learning how to break them down and/ or reverse them. it's slow at the best of times, which is assuming that you've found a therapist whose methodology works for you. many people i've known have spent years even getting to that point, which is really the starting line.

elliot rodger may not have liked doing that work, but he had the opportunity to do it. he had family members who wanted to see him get better, family members who could afford to support him through a long recovery process and who could make sure that his basic needs were met so that he could have focused on solving his mental problems. he was young enough that damaging thought patterns were likely less engrained; most mental illness presents around puberty and, like a lot of diseases, it's easier to deal with when it's caught early. he had no one depending on him to provide or care for them, again clearing the way for him to focus on getting and feeling better. he could have succeeded.

that he failed to rehabilitate himself is not a consequence of his mental illness, it is a consequence of his choices. he chose to listen to the online noise that told him he was a victim of women and a society that supposedly caters to feminism [it doesn't, i promise]. he chose to act out his frustrations in the most horrifying way. he could have chosen to empower himself by fighting his demons, but instead he gave into them. that's on him, not his illness.

so let's stop talking about whether or not elliot rodger was mentally ill. let's talk about why that doesn't excuse him.

25 May 2014

making faces :: stop and smell and wear the roses

a rose by any other name...
i'm very happy to see that canadian upstarts bite beauty are getting more and more great press as their releases have been increasing. they are focused on the lips, on your lips and on making them healthier, softer and prettier. i've already fallen for their luminous creme lipsticks and i'm fond of their light, sheer glosses. i've actually missed a few of their other products, like their cult favourite matte lip pencils and their new lip mask, which is garnering rave reviews, but recently i found something that i just couldn't resist.

bite has created four new lipsticks in a new formula called "deconstructed rose". along with a coffret of lip glosses bearing the same name, the collection is supposed to highlight the rose in all its varieties. the glosses run the gamut from very sheer to quite saturated, but the lipsticks are all pigment powerhouses. i was drawn to one [the deepest one, unsurprisingly] called "crimson", because i was on the hunt for a deep pink shade that didn't pull fuchsia. you'd be surprised how difficult that is to find.

first up, as you may have guessed from that description, "crimson" isn't crimson, or anything like what i'd associate with that description. crimson is a vibrant red, usually cooler-toned, but something altogether brighter than what we have here. it's described on the sephora web site as "muted dark  purple", which is completely wrong. "crimson" the lipstick is a deep, wild rose pink. it definitely has some berry tones to it, without pulling purple, the way cooler berry shades often do. although it's bright, it lacks the high wattage impact of colours that lean more towards fuchsia, without moving too much into plum red territory.

crimson
crimson
there are shades which are similar and how much the distinctions mean to you will probably be dictated by how much you love and wear this kind of shade. i'm a huge fan, so the subtle differences mean a lot to me. rouge d'armani #402 is the closest in my collection, but on me it is noticeably redder and brighter, something which i find more noticeable on the lips than swatched on my hand. [you can be the judge. there's a look here with #402.] guerlain "gigolo" is darker, more berry. guerlain "madame batifole", which i initially thought would be closest, is not so close after all. it's lighter and pinker by quite a bit.

l to r :: rouge d'armani 402, crimson, guerlain gigolo, guerlain madame batifole [l.e.]
the deconstructed rose lipsticks cost $4cad more than regular bite lipsticks and boast and even more luxurious formula. it still uses the food grade ingredients and has the added benefits of rose otto essential oil. rose oils of all sorts are tremendous for softening and toning the skin. the question is: does the formula differ significantly from the regular luminous creme lipsticks? the answer: yes, although not greatly.


24 May 2014

more like space greatest hits :: i'll say it if no one else will

i kind of hate myself for posting this again. it smacks too much of rubbing "i told you so" brand salt in some pretty devastating wounds. however, the fact is that there is no shortage of information on the deadliness of guns in america. i awoke early today and scanned my twitter stream, as i usually do, to see what was up with the world. by 8:30, i had already read about three deadly gun "incidents" in the united states last night and early this morning. the santa barbara mass murder was only one of them. there is something deeply wrong where a person can read about three separate gun murders by 8:30 in the morning in a country that isn't experiencing a civil war.

america is not the only country in the world to have a culture of gun ownership, as the nra is eager to point out. one of their favourite examples is switzerland, which is why i did some searching and found this excellent piece from the bbc about what gun ownership is really like in that country.

if the policy a minimally regulated gun trade is predicated on the belief that guns will keep people safe, said policy is an utter, abject failure by every measure. the united states does not have the highest rate of gun violence in the world, but the argument that things would be even worse in america if so many people didn't have guns is completely spurious. countries with greater gun violence face deep-rooted social problems that america does not. countries with high gun ownership rates and low crime rates have a carefully regulated gun trade.

but the gun debate isn't about the ability of guns to provide a service or not. it's about the right to own guns. and if you believe that the right to gun/ weapon ownership outweighs the dangers of having freely available guns and weapons, then you believe that mass murders like those in santa barbara, aurora, sandy hook, oakland, seal beach, tuscon, fort hood... you are saying that these are an acceptable price to pay for that right.

you can have that opinion. i can't stop you and neither can anyone else. but at least have the guts to stand up and say it and make your case. we're waiting.

*

i can't count the number of times that i've been told by american friends that i just don't get the importance of their second amendment. they're right. i'm canadian and my perspective on gun control is shaped by my cultural background. i don't have a problem with certain items being restricted because the potential for them to cause harm far outweighs their potential to do good. my country was not founded in the wake of a violent revolution, but through a protracted process of increasing distance from our colonial parent. there have been a lot of problems in that process, but no one ever felt that it was crucially important that the populace be ready to defend their existence against the british or anyone else. so yes, i agree, i don't get the importance of the second amendment.

i do get the importance of keeping the government out of your personal decisions. they're there to manage things that need to be done as a group and for the group as a whole and their imposition on personal liberties needs to be limited. but there are all sorts of things that are controlled and regulated because of their negative "side effects"- drugs being the most obvious. drugs have a tiered system of availability based [theoretically] on how much their potential benefits is countered by their potential dangers. and yes, i understand that the constitution doesn't enshrine a person's right to drugs, but i'm tempted to believe that that's because the american founding fathers never imagined a world with the sort of restrictions we currently have on substances. so let's just put it this way: as an outsider, i'm unclear as to why guns don't fall under the same rules as drugs: certain ones are pretty much safe for anyone to have, whereas the more powerful ones require more scrutiny.

any politician who said what i just said would be lucky to escape a national campaign [and a lot of regional campaigns] alive, let alone with a victory. the powerful gun lobby in the united states has become so rigid in their stance that questioning the innate right of the population to own any type of firearm is decried hysterically as unpatriotic. to an outsider, the unwavering, complete commitment to the second amendment appears as dangerously fanatical zeal, but to many in america, it is an sign of reverence to their country's unique emphasis on the primacy of the individual citizen over the power of the state.

as i've made clear above, i have my doubts, but it's not my decision to make, because i'm not american and i don't get it.

what i do get, which many seem to have missed, is that for every liberty, there is a corresponding responsibility and when that responsibility is not honoured, there are consequences. massacres like what we saw in colorado last thursday night are not isolated incidents. they are a predictable outcome of the free availability of powerful weapons to the vast majority of the population and it's time to stop pretending like the two things aren't related. that doesn't mean that some people won't find ways to carry out mass murder. some of them probably will. but there is clearly a correlation between gun violence and gun availability.

rather than try to obfuscate, i think it's time that the nra owned up to that and tell people the truth: unintended deaths are a consequence of the freedom to own guns. if you believe in the second amendment, if you really believe in it, you have to be willing to accept that these sorts of things would happen. that doesn't mean they're not tragic and it doesn't mean that steps shouldn't be taken to avoid them, but it needs to be acknowledged that there will be those who pay for the national right to gun ownership with their lives.

from that point follows the true debate: where does the right to gun ownership for all come in the priorities of most americans and what consequences are they willing to accept to keep it? after all, when that amendment was added, the founding fathers didn't anticipate that gun ownership would be painless. they believed that the american people would have to serve as an army and that a certain number of them would die in the name of defending their newly established state. whether they anticipated that this would also mean a greater number of citizen deaths in general is beside the point- it was always understood that the right to bear arms comprised a toll paid in blood.

so, nra, i think it's time you really had to make your case: the right to own guns is obviously very important to americans and it comes at a price. using those terms, make the case why the price is worth paying.

dj kali and mr. dna bring you... the dancing dead

it had been a while since mr. dna and i had gotten to do a more "club-style" night. because i was nervous, i did something i almost never do: i made a playlist. the upshot of this for me was that i spent a a lot of time in the surprisingly roomy dj booth worrying that i couldn't think of what to be worried about. i'm like that. 

mr. dna, who does normally make well-ordered playlists for himself went more freeform with his approach, bringing lots of stuff and using a few specific tracks to inspire his flow, which is what i usually do. 

so essentially, we reversed dj identities last night. [strange note: the other dj'ing couple we know also have one member who carefully prepares playlists and another who prefers to keep things more open, connecting the dots between a few chosen tracks. is this a thing?]

here's what you heard, or here's what you missed, depending on where you were:



dj kali
kapo :: only europa knows
hula :: at the heart
danielle dax :: bed caves
killing joke :: unspeakable
wire :: should've known better
joy division :: shadowplay
pop 1280 :: bodies in the dunes
chrome :: anorexic sacrifice

mr. dna
david bowie :: boys keep swinging
disappointed a few people :: dead in love
my dog popper :: i lost my job to a guy named gino
flipper :: ha ha ha
the adicts :: easy way out
gang of four :: not great men
swell maps :: let's build a car
the fall :: rowche rumble
iggy & the stooges :: raw power
bikini kill :: rebel girl

dj kali
die form :: analogic
portion control :: chew ya to bits
skinny puppy :: assimilate
the human league :: empire state human
fad gadget :: ricky's hand
john foxx :: underpass
factory floor :: lying
ultravox :: the thin wall
test department :: compulsion
generentola :: la gata
cosmetics :: black leather gloves
crystal castles :: empathy
clock dva :: the hacker

mr. dna
public image ltd. :: the order of death
add n to (x) :: metal fingers in my body
lfo :: freak
crash course in science :: it cost's to be austere
synapscape :: who painted my cat black?
frank alpine :: no exit
ministry :: over the shoulder 12"
front 242 :: masterhit (parts 1&2)
meat beat manifesto :: dogstar man/ helter skelter

dj kali 
the cure :: one hundred years
neon judgment :: chinese black
tuxedomoon :: no tears
six finger satellite :: baby's got the rabies
devo :: signal ready
the gun club :: sex beat
holger hiller :: jonny
my life with the thrill kill kult :: days of swine and roses
shriekback :: nemesis
dead kennedys :: moon over marin
siouxsie and the banshees :: hong kong garden
perverse teens :: la baboute
coil :: heartworms

20 May 2014

making faces :: inspired by giallo

i'm going to start off by saying that the title of this is a little misleading, because my real inspiration is european cult cinema in general, of which films termed 'giallo' are only a part. for me, they've always flowed together, since i learned about them more or less at the same time, from more or less the same people.

my introduction to the cult of european horror/ exploitation films came the first summer that i was living in montreal. i was perusing the program of the fantasia film festival with a friend and we came across a writeup for a film that included the description: "an essential part of the italian jungle cannibal subgenre".

what. the actual. hell.

once you've seen a phrase like that, you can't unsee it. you're aware that there are people out there who are aficionados in the world of italian jungle cannibal films and, if you're like me, that means that you need to know more.

as it turns out, it wasn't that difficult to find out more, because, unbeknownst to me, a lot of my friends were very familiar with this, and were kind of surprised that i didn't know about italian jungle cannibal films. i'm sorry, i missed that on siskel and ebert. i thought i was pushing the edge because i'd seen the romero zombie trilogy, a bunch of hammer films and liquid sky, but i was very, very wrong.

unbeknownst to me, europe and italy in particular had been seething with a cauldron of violence, eroticism, fear and a healthy dose of the supernatural for a long time. cult, or what i think of as "pulp" cinema [because of its similarities with cheap, lurid fiction] emerged as a sordid flipside to the artistic triumphs of postwar europe, the dark twin of fellini or antonioni. beginning in the sixties, it continues on to this day, however its real heyday was the seventies, a time when perversion was apparently the new black.

there were cannibals, sure, but there were also psychopaths, sadists, mutants and battalions of serial killers. this had all been happening under my very nose and yet i had never detected its stench. once i noticed it, however, i had an eager group of friends willing to show me everything i had missed. and i watched all of it, much of it during my infrequent down time while working on my masters degree.

in a way, i kind of miss innocent, uninitiated me, because that person was still capable of being shocked by something seen on film. the me who exists now, exposed to hundreds of hours of stuff that seems like the collective wet dream of the disreputable nut house's serial killer ward leaves me sort of numb to things like, say, the infamous opening scene of saving private ryan. most people were traumatized by that. my reaction? i turned to the person with whom i was watching it and chortled "it's kind of like watching a regular war film on fast forward". i might have even punctuated that flippant remark by eating a handful of popcorn.

at the same time, there has always been something fascinating to me about a cinema built around a fantasy of human depravity and how it produced its own stars, mostly among its directors, but also a number of lusty ladies who flitted around in various states of undress, often meeting a grisly demise, but also serving as the innocent but surprisingly resilient heroines of these dark tales. i was reminded of some of them when a facebook friend posted this listing of the best 24 cult film sirens.

19 May 2014

mental health mondays :: oops

thanks very much to dom for alerting me to this fascinating article from salon/ scientific american. for those of you pressed for time, here's a tl;dr version:

"we may have been wrong about that whole lack of serotonin causing depression thing. oops. love, science"

for many years now, psychiatric medicine has relied on the model of the neurochemical imbalance to understand and treat depression and anxiety disorders. and while this particular article only relates to the insufficiency of serotonin reuptake inhibitors as treatment, it's pretty clear that the same thing would apply to drugs that regulate the amount of norepinephrine and/ or dopamine in the brain as well.

the short, over-simplified version is that while drugs that help delay the reuptake of neurotransmitters associated with pleasure and reward do indeed make depressed people feel better, they aren't actually treating depression, at least not its cause. because it turns out that depleted serotonin in the corridors of your noggin is an effect of the fact that your brain is producing fewer neurons and nerve contacts. and that, my friends, is the real reason you're depressed.

it is not uncommon for medicine to start out treating the symptoms of a disease and to gradually move onward to the cause. in fact, it would be anomalous for it to happen the other way. as we observe a disease for longer and understand its progression better, the drugs developed to combat the disease come closer to the epicentre of the death star. most times, we start out just trying to stop the symptoms we see on the surface.

what is surprising is how long its taken for this research to take place. development of drugs to treat major depression, anxiety and other mental disorders has been more or less at a standstill for decades, with "advances" chiefly comprised of tweaks on previous formulas, especially providing long-release versions of existing drugs. to put that in perspective, aids has been identified, grown to an epidemic, its symptoms treated with a variety of harsh drugs, triggered a massive shift in attitudes towards safe sex, had its spread curtailed in the western world and come to be a manageable condition at various stages, all in the time we've been tinkering with prozac. [note :: i am not saying that all aids victims have access to proper treatment or education, only that the potential to eliminate the virus if caught early enough or mitigate its damage to a great degree exists.]

i'm not claiming to know why this is the case. the brain is an unfathomably complicated piece of machinery, as is evidenced by the fact that we discover entirely new things about it virtually every time we attempt to validate anything we actually think we know. check the prescribing information sheet on any psychiatric drug and you'll find a line that says something like "the mechanism of action is thought to be..." science isn't even trying to convince you that it knows how this thing really works. and while testing out the efficacy of a new sinus medication is likely only to result in a more snot/ less snot check sheet, playing around with the inner workings of your brain requires a little more in the way of due diligence. no one wants this stuff rushed to market.

and you certainly can't argue that there's no money in it. the amount of money in psychiatric drugs is staggering. so unless someone offers some pretty convincing proof that cauliflower cures depression, there is probably more than enough financial incentive to do this sort of work.

i am interested to see how long it takes for this research to spur the development of a newer class of drugs, to see if getting our slacking neuron-producers off their butts represents a great leap forward.

17 May 2014

one night only... the dancing dead

we're back, bitches!
oh dj nights, how i've missed you...

which is why it kicks ass that dom and i will be dj'ing next friday at the cabaret playhouse. i understand that it's been newly renovated since i last worked there, which means that there's more space to dance and that they've removed the stripper pole left over from the bar's previous incarnation. [i say this knowing full well that this is going to be a disappointment for many of you, but i'm told that the mirror wall is still in full effect, so smile.]

it's hard to believe that it's been almost a year since we did our last "caustic lounge" and even harder to believe that that was the last time we were behind the wheels of polymer. to be fair, we haven't actually sought out the opportunity, which is why we're lucky to have friends who lob the occasional softball into our glove.

for those of you who are in montreal, here's the information on how you can join us for this momentous event: 

the dancing dead
dj kali and mr. dna
10pm until... 
pay what you can!
cabaret playhouse 5656 avenue du parc [south of bernard, north of st. viateur]
public transit- the #80 bus [runs every ten minutes or less] stops almost directly in front

this is more of a dance/ beat-oriented event, so if you'd like to have a sense of what's going to get played, you might want to check out some of my past playlists from burning mondays

or to get a general sense of how we work together [in a less dancefloor atmosphere], please check out some of our playlists from the caustic lounge.

indeed, folks, we are thrilled to be back and we intend on making the most of it. however, this is a one-night-only opportunity [hence the title of the blog post? -ed.], so if you want to see and hear what we do, you have to show up on friday. very much looking forward to seeing you there!


16 May 2014

making faces :: what's in a name?

file this under "better late than never", since spring collections have by now ceded their shelf space to summer and, indeed, the weather in montreal just seems to have bypassed spring entirely and shot up to the high twenties centigrade with barely a blink at the mid-to-high teens. but i don't like feeling rushed and mother nature was, up until the last few days, pretty stingy about giving me adequate light for getting good swatches and shots of makeup.

i knew from the beginning of the spring launches in the middle of winter that i wanted at to pick up one nars "kauai" eye shadow duo, but the nice folks at nars decided to make it part of their permanent collection, which meant that i didn't feel the need to rush out and buy it the second it hit counters. i like that, because a lot of times i just can't make rushing out to buy new makeup a priority and i don't think that's a bad thing. so if someone like me, who writes about beauty products on a blog can't make this a priority... well, you see where i'm going for this. bravo to nars for allowing us to take our time, think about a purchase and then inevitably make it anyway because you know it's a sound decision based on swatching the product yourself, hearing others' thoughts about it and looking at what you already have in your collection.

now that i have the duo, i do find myself wondering what took me so long. this is very much a "what you see is what you get" shadow duo. a combination of a coolly tarnished gold and a shadowy orchid purple, it is glam incarnate. seriously, it looks like it was made from the distilled sweat and greasepaint makeup of 70s-era bowie and marc bolan. that's how over-the-top glam this is.

i like the comparison to glam rock, because both of the shades in this duo are full-wattage, unapologetic, sequins and lamé, and at the same time, each has something a little dirty about it. in the most literal sense, i put it down to the fact that each colour has a soupçon of grey in it. it's not enough to really mute the effect [although neither shade is what you'd call bright], just enough to make the colours look like they might have rubbed shoulders with something a little seedy.

14 May 2014

madness in montreal

no, this isn't a post about hockey. there is certainly that sort of madness going on in montreal right now, but i'm writing about something more sinister. [which, for some reason, you've introduced with a hockey joke. -ed.]

like most cities, montreal is a patchwork of communities, each with their own distinct character, while fitting together to form a cohesive whole. i would actually say that montreal's whole is more cohesive than, say, toronto's, where the communities often seem very far apart, in all senses. mostly, that means that montrealers share a conviviality and joie de vivre, something for which they are well-known. [also riots -ed.]

however, sometimes the ways in which neighbourhoods come together is a little bit disturbing. i was reminded of this yesterday, when i traveled to an area of the city i don't often see. i was aware of it, of course, and the area had always been faintly disturbing to me as i drove through it, but walking around a little [it was a lovely day, so i got off the bus earlier than necessary], the disturbing-ness really hit me full-force.

here's what i mean:

this is one view of l'acadie boulevard, facing north. it's a wide street, as you can see, which which connects the north-northwest of the city to highways, but doesn't offer much in the way of atmosphere. the view here is of the eastern side of the boulevard, the edge of a neighbourhood called parc extension, parc ex for locals. this neighbourhood was farmland until the middle of the twentieth century, at which point it was quickly overtaken by the expanding city. "quickly" is the part that's important to understanding the neighbourhood. even some of montreal's poorest neighbourhoods often boast elegant architecture, river views and bucolic parks. parc ex, however, bears all the hallmarks of a hastily conceived suburb for post-war immigrants imported to serve as the working class for the dominant class. worse still, decades of increasing poverty and neglect have resulted in a pervasive ugliness, something which is nearly an affront to montreal's normal state of effortless beauty.

go ahead, say it: fugly
in fact, parc ex remains among the poorest neighbourhoods in montreal, if not the poorest. in fact, it's one of the poorest neighbourhoods in canada. it has never lost its character as a place for cheap housing for immigrants, although the faces of those immigrants has changed: first there was a wave of displaced jews from eastern europe, followed closely by italians; then the neighbourhood was overtaken by new immigrants from greece; currently it is home to a large southeast asian population as well as some people from latin america and the caribbean. on the optimistic side, it's been called an ungentrified paradise for international cuisine, however even that orientalist sort of outlook is really limited to the fringes of the neighbourhood, especially the southern border with hip central mile end.

on the opposite side of acadie boulevard is a verdant wall of flowering bushes that stands above my head. it disguises a chain link fence that runs from acadie's southernmost point to the transcanada highway. snuggled away behind this is the town of mount royal, which is the richest neighbourhood in montreal. it's a strange place, because on all sides, it feels closed off from what's around it. it's difficult to approach on foot from any angle and even in a car it seems confusing. it's structured like a bicycle wheel or spider web- everything connected to everything else, but connected to nothing outside of itself. and i think that the residents of the town of mount royal [tmr for montrealers] like it that way. the can feel connected to montreal without having to deal with it.

a less than welcoming welcome sign
the fence between parc ex and tmr has been derided as a type of apartheid, particularly after the town started locking the gates at night. it was extremely controversial when it was built, however the frequent turnover in parc ex has meant that there aren't many people who remember that time. for the current residents, it is something that has always been there. there's an excellent article here on the history of the fence and its cultural impact.

as i wandered up acadie, however, i noticed that there was actually a fair amount of traffic between the two communities: olive- and dark-skinned women migrating from the tmr to the parc ex side in the late afternoon gloom. that's when it really occurred to me what was going on. parc ex is no longer simply a diverse neighbourhood with a number of problems caused by perennial poverty; it's become a servant's quarters for the wealthy neighbours who otherwise would have nothing to do with them. and to me, that's far more depressing than having the city's poorest residents on the far side of a barrier wall from its richest [as depressing as that is].

as insulting as it may have been for the residents of parc ex to find themselves barricaded from entering the leafy neighbourhood across the street, it seems far worse for the rich to assert control over the lives of the poor by pulling them in to do menial work and then shooing them out the door, at the homeowners discretion. it smacks too much of viewing people as property, to be used at will once you've paid for them.

i don't know if i'll have the opportunity to visit the neighbourhood again any time soon. i rather suspect that i won't and i'm kind of happy about that. however i will think about the great wall and the next time i am there, i've promised myself that i'm going to push one of those gates open and leave it that way, just to see if civilised society crumbles.

11 May 2014

making faces :: g-force first attack

a few weeks ago, i did a "sneak peek" of the new guerlain rouge g shades being launched this month at counters everywhere. not content with just a peek, i rushed back to pick up one of the new shades, the inexplicably limited "rose grenat".

being a limited shade, "rose grenat" makes an obvious first pick from the new offerings. it also happened to be my favourite, a gorgeous velvety red-pink shade [i honestly don't know whether i'd say it was more pink or more red] that gives intense colour with even a light coat. you could blot it down to a stain, of course, but this colour just begs to be allowed to go full-force.

the shade is very creamy, although i haven't noticed any bleeding/ feathering during wear. i did find that it faded a little faster than i would have expected from such a bold colour, although this was more obvious on a day where my lips were particularly dry. it won't survive a meal [although there will be a slight stain afterward], but it will look nice throughout the day if you're not eating or drinking frequently. i did find that it was slightly prone to fading in the middle first, which meant that there was a faint "red ring of shame" around the border of my lips [especially after drinking coffee or tea]. however, this meant that it could easily be touched up just by patting a little colour on the centre of the lips. and guerlain rouge g lipsticks have a handy little mirror for such emergencies.



like a lot of rouge g colours, there's an almost imperceptible shimmer that doesn't necessarily affect the colour, but it does tend to make lips look fuller and smoother as it refracts light ever so slightly. this is truly one of my favourite qualities in this formula and one that makes me willing to shell out the money, even when there are similar colours at a lower price point.

08 May 2014

making faces :: experiments in colour contrast, purple and red edition

the field of what colours are seen as going together is constantly shifting. i remember years ago a friend of mine told me with utter certainty that one never wore navy and black together. a few years later, the same friend was caught by surprise to find out that navy and black together was the look for that year. this year, pairing black with dark blue is said to "weigh down" a look too much. so colour combinations are much more about what looks current as opposed to dated and not about timeless maxims. that's one way to keep you on your toes, always looking for something 'modern', although it doesn't take long before you've more or less assembled all you will ever need to create any colour combination imaginable. [that's when they make you start worrying about shapes. -ed.]

what seems to be big right now is analogous colours- shades that sit side by side on the colour wheel. for years, that was one of the biggest no-nos. but now, "blue and green should never be seen" sounds like a piece of advice from grandma and runways abound with cosy combos of colours that rub shoulders on the colour wheel.

one of the ways i like to try these things out is by trying a contrast between makeup and clothing, rather than leaping into a relationship with a brightly coloured skirt or blouse. makeup seems like safe ground for experimentation.

06 May 2014

good deeds

i'm not writing this to toot my own horn, but rather because i hope it inspires others to do the same as i.

many of you may have received calls from organisations claiming to be acting on behalf of microsoft, or claiming to be microsoft. these calls are, of course, a scam, designed to get you to to hand over not only your credit card and banking information, but also to trick you into downloading software that allows the spammers to access your computer and all the information on it. most people aren't going to fall for this crap and just hang up. i have a slightly different view however. i talk.

this isn't a tactic the everyone can employ, i grant you. one of the benefits of being able to manage my time more or less as i see fit is that i can make time for the little things, such as making sure that these creeps spend more time talking to me and less time talking to people who are less experienced, more nervous and more trusting with people when it comes to handling computer problems. most people aren't going to have the time to do this, but if you do, it's something that i would highly encourage.

i'll be honest, though. i'm not doing this just because i think it's a decent thing to do; i'm doing it because i enjoy it. with all the petty frustrations that one is forced to endure every day, a call from a scam artist is like a gift from god. isn't it just a nuisance, you say? absolutely not. every day we are forced to be nice to people who don't deserve it, who treat us with disrespect or outright contempt. our best ideas are dismissed, destroyed or stolen by people who are stupider, lazier and meaner than we have ever been. and every day, part of us dies a little, because there's nothing we can do about it.

then one day, we get a call from someone who offers us a window of opportunity, someone who truly deserves to be treated badly because they're doing a really shitty thing. a really illegal thing. don't fool yourself into thinking that these people are deceived as to the nature of their job- they aren't. start asking questions and you'll be amazed at how quickly they become irate and even insulting. most will try to shout you down to stop you from asking them for more information. but they're trying to sell you, which means they ultimately need your cooperation to do their job. if they can't get your cooperation, they need to get you off the phone as quickly as possible, because they need to keep fishing for victims. if you block them from achieving either of these aims, panic sets in.

i've had some success in this regard. if i can't get one of these guys to yell, really yell in anger, i consider the call a failure. one time i made one break down and cry. i've even had these people call back and leave cursing messages on my answering machine. and the more they hate, the better i feel. the more they show me that their day is ruined and that they will remember me for a long time, the more i am convinced that i am a good person. it's perverse, i know, but life is like that sometimes. cruel to be kind. or something.

here are a few of my favourite tactics:

"i don't understand". keep asking for an explanation, again and again. as long as they think there's a chance you could be conned, they're going to keep trying. try to make them explain how the minutiae of your computer transmission system works so that you can know how it's communicating with them. a variation on this is to relay everything they are saying to another person in the room [real or fictional] and then have the other person be the one asking the questions. this slows things down even more.

"paranoid privacy freak". get super-paranoid about who they are and what they're doing with your computer. demand they tell you who they're working for. tell them you're tracing the call. sound as menacing and nuts as you possibly can. spew whatever violent, non-sequitur thoughts come into your head. [note :: they will eventually hang up on you for this one. they're not entirely stupid.]

"it's not working". pretend to be going along with them, but be unable to find any of the controls they mention. my personal favourite is to pretend not to be able to find the 'start' button, listening to them get angry for a few minutes and then telling them that my operating system is in french. no matter what they tell me to do, i tell them i'm not seeing what i should be seeing. after a few tries, i act like it's working and make them talk me through the next step. when i get bored of doing this, i finally tell them that i don't have a windows computer. or i tell them that i don't have a computer. the moment of anguish this brings is a thing of beauty.

"hang on, let me google that." insist on googling everything they say. ask what microsoft office they're calling from. find it. look it up on google earth and get excited when you see the building [regardless of if you actually do]. ask what virus you have and look it up. [the last call i got named the "sapray virus". this is what you get when you google that term. if they can't even be arsed to give you the name of a real virus, they should be punished.] ask for their employee number. google that. ask them for their name... you get the idea. none of what they tell you will be true, but that's not the point. eventually tell them you googled "cold calls from microsoft" and read them the information that turns up. something like this page will help.

"let me tell you a story." this one requires a little more work, but it can be really funny. interrupt everything they say by speaking inanely about something from your experience [without telling them anything true about yourself, obviously]. make shit up. make lots of shit up. it can be improbable, although the more improbable, the more likely they'll just hang up. as a variation of this, i like pretending to be drunk or high and responding to them rrreeeaaaallllllllyyyyy sssssllloooooowwwlllllyyyy and in the most verbose way possible.

feel free to add your own suggestions, or, if you try any of these out, feel free to share how they've worked. together we can ruin the lives of evil spammers.

04 May 2014

making faces :: inspired by mori

i've always found that my tastes run a little too eclectic to settle on one particular style of dress. yes, i used to wear a lot of black and listen to antisocial music, but at the same time, i always felt energised by seeing blocks of colour. i'd go through phases of looking prim and businesslike, but after a little while, it would start to feel restrictive.

my way of dealing with this, as i creep inexorably towards middle age, is to try to patch together looks that incorporate all of the things that i like, or to take inspiration from various sorts of things i come across on line [to the pinterest!!] and make them my own. it's a way to stave off making clothing decisions by grabbing stuff that doesn't look/ smell too bad off the top of the laundry hamper. or the floor.

i can't remember how i ended up finding out about the japanese trend of "mori girls", but i loved the imagery that i found associated with it. somehow, it seemed appropriate to the endless grey days and damp weather we've been experiencing this "spring". like most self-conscious "styles", it is really the territory of young women. however, it's one that i find easily adapts to those of us who aren't going to get asked for i.d. at the liquor store.

the term "mori" is japanese for "forest" and the look of the mori girl is that of the forest inhabitant. it's part faerie and part artist. in japan, the inspiration for the look comes largely from the character of hagu, the shy, artistic heroine [well, one of the heroines] of the manga "honey and clover". in a broader sense, the fashion is linked to girls and women who enjoy nature, the arts and solitude. in "honey and clover", hagu chooses to pursue her drawing rather than settle down with one of her suitors from art school, so the style of mori girls is very much that of the independent-minded young woman, in contrast with urban girls out to snare a husband.

hagu from honey and clover
i  would describe the look as victorian england filtered through a japanese lens. much as steampunk draws from the early industrial era and combines it with science fiction, mori style takes elements of refined victoriana and combines it with a modern liberated attitude. there's a predominant strain of anglophilia and fascination with celtic history in mori. there is nothing obviously sexy about the look, but it is extremely feminine. it actually reminds me a great deal of some of the fashions of the early nineties- baby doll dresses combined with doc martens, thrift store cotton nighties worn over loose-fitting jeans, etc.

at my age, wearing a nightie over pants is likely to make people think that my brain has started to go and that they need to put me in a home, so i need something a little less conspicuous.

SEE MY TAKE ON MORI AFTER THE BREAK...

03 May 2014

culinating :: berry interesting

a few weeks ago, i was mulling over the plight of the strawberry in our cooking culture. there are very few berries i've met and not liked in my time. i'm not fond of currants and i'm sure that someone will tell me that there's a species called stinkberries that smell like the contents of my litter pans, but as a general rule, i like berries. fresh berries are delicious on their own, of course and when it comes to desserts, i will generally opt for a fruit pie or cobbler over perennial favourite chocolate, but i also love finding ways to incorporate berries into savoury dishes, everything from adding them to a salad to using them in a sauce or glaze. pretty much every holiday dinner i prepare has some form of fruit [mostly berry] sauce involved. or at least some sort of chutney-like preparation to bring that happy berry taste to the table.

when i thought about strawberries, i realised that despite their immense popularity, they are consumed almost exclusively as a sweet: dipped in chocolate, added to ice cream, baked into cakes or pies. and i began to wonder why that was. after all, strawberries are just as good as any other kind of berry. and i've had them in salads before, but i think i've had pretty much everything in salad at one time or another. adding something to a salad doesn't qualify as incorporating it into a savoury dish in my books. incorporating something into a dish means that you're doing something to it in order to make it blend, making a new relationship out of the previously separate elements. putting things together in a salad is like gathering people in a waiting room; they're just linked by proximity. no one's coming out with a marriage proposal.

01 May 2014

save toronto

toronto's adorably arty gladstone hotel
there were at least four other things that i had planned to post, but in the interests of human decency, this has been bumped to the top of the list.

i lived in toronto for six years before returning to montreal and while the city and i had an uneasy relationship, i would never say that i disliked the place. it has its problems, of course, every city does. what made it difficult for me to live there was that so much of the city was tethered to the interests of its far-flung surburban bedroom communities. the sort of places that value cars over public transit, that prioritize major league sporting events over arts and culture and that follows the interests of business and plutocrats rather than those of its citizens. [the toronto suburbs dealt a crushing defeat to an initiative that would have introduced a measure of proportional representation to municipal politics.]

a cuban oasis
that said, there are lots of things to love about the city. and i mean a lot. a place as geographically sprawling as toronto has a lot of room to stash local gems. it would take weeks, if not months, to explore them all [and you'd need a car, since the public transit system is woefully inadequate]. here are just a few of the things that i remember with a wistful soul when i think of my time in canada's most excoriated city:

restaurants :: i believe that it is the best-kept secret in canada that toronto has evolved into a foodie paradise. some of the higher end locations get press, but what's astonishing is just how much quality there is at virtually every price level and scattered all over the city. everyone's tastes are different, but if you can't find something that tickles your fancy, then you're not trying very hard. here are a few of the culinary high points from my perspective...


  • seven numbers :: impeccable rustic italian fare in a bodega-like atmosphere. [yes, i know bodega's are spanish!] i used to live a ten minute walk from their eglinton location and i'm thrilled to see that they've since opened a second location. i've never had a disappointing experience there in any sense. the food has always been fresh and succulent, the drinks [especially the sangria, which is as spanish as a bodega, but i digress] deceptively powerful and tasty, the staff friendly and attentive without being pushy. their original location [a little further east on eglinton] featured a delightful [and somewhat illegal] terrace, which they sadly couldn't take with them, but everything else is perfection. 
  • julie's cuban :: this is the sort of place that requires the guidance of a local to find. heck, i'd lived in the city three years before i knew anything about it. tucked away on a leafy residential street in parkdale, it's a refreshingly homey and unpretentious place to find what i'll term "honest" cooking from the caribbean capital of controversy. the ceviche is probably the best i've ever had and believe me, i am an ardent consumer of ceviche. 
  • salad king :: i imagine that this is even less of a secret since i moved back to montreal, given that the restaurant made the big move around the corner from their side street location to the yonge just above ryerson. but the fact is that this has always been a favourite of trendy ryerson students and art film aficionados, being located adjacent the ryerson campus and in the midst of the toronto film festival madness. as a person who will cross her legs for two hours rather than stand in line for the bathroom, i want you to appreciate that i have waited upwards of half an hour to sit at a lunchroom-style bench if it meant i could enjoy their sublime thai meals. did you think it was an all-salad restaurant? 
  • gandhi :: forget everything you know about roti. although this ten-seat hole in the wall is identified only by a sign bearing the word "roti", the indian variations you find here have little in common with their caribbean brethren. instead, you get massive portions of rich, delicious indian food wrapped up in a quilt of naan bread. not to be considered for the diet conscious and don't expect to eat for the rest of the day if you're indulging. 
  • buddha's vegetarian :: no, the ceiling isn't going to come crashing down around your ears. occupying a shadowy corner on the southern edge of kensington market, buddha's isn't going to win you over with atmosphere, but it's really, really hard to beat the simple vegetarian fare on offer here. the menu is slim and you won't find any of the usual chinese staples. the food is mild, never spicy, but mouthwatering. each dish is crammed with an assortment of tofu and vegetables, including some of the juiciest and most delicious mushrooms you'll find anywhere. don't give into the temptation to try a few items from the unbelievably cheap menu. you're wasting your time and your food. i've seen one dish successfully feed three hungry people to the brim. 

part of the toronto ravines
there are about eight other places i could add to this list without thinking about it very hard, but that would leave little room to talk about the other stuff toronto has in spades.

in addition to restaurants, of course, toronto has an embarrassment of excellent food shops. yes, there's the world-famous st. lawrence market, which is worth the hype, although it can run a bit pricey depending on what you're looking for. kensington market has some gems, my favourites being coffee and tea emporium moonbean and global cheese, which is what cheese lovers picture heaven looking like. both are ridiculously cheap for the quality.

shabby chic :: toronto has an incredible propensity for turning dull hoods into hip haunts. i don't mean gentrification, although that's often a side effect. i mean that the rundown houses and tacky modern flourishes are simply adopted and somehow made cute. it's easy for places like montreal, with its elegant architecture and victorian townhouses, to convert previously down on their heels corners into the place to be, but the get aware from the patrician architecture and idyllic parks and montreal really has no idea what to do. but toronto isn't blessed with montreal's advantages in this department. a lot of the city reeks of postwar rush, of things thrown up to accommodate growth it wasn't prepared for and not necessarily built to last. nonetheless, the shambling nature of the city is endearing. the greatest example of this is of course kensington market, a bohemian paradise that erupted in a secluded pocket right in the middle of downtown. now, of course, it's the place to be and is fighting a battle to keep walmart out of its self-consciously no-fuss environs. but toronto has a lot of theses places, neighbourhoods that have made the best of what they have and developed a fantastic community feel. [toronto is a tapestry of communities and is best seen that way.]

kensington market
up your alley :: every city has alleys. montreal has plenty, i know, because i wrote and produced a film that made extensive use of a lot of them. however toronto alleys are kind of incredible because they are so extensive. other than the financial district and the harbour front, toronto is criss-crossed with alleys that are often pleasant, green and quiet, even though they make snake behind busy thoroughfares. of course, you won't want for grittier looking ones festooned with urban art, either. in fact, you can go on long walks simply following the alleyways, resurfacing only to enjoy a coffee or cool beverage from time to time. it's a simultaneously relaxing and exhilarating way to experience a large city. [if you'd prefer something a little less "urban", the city also has an extensive network of green paths, known locally as ravines. walk, bike and rollerblade to your heart's content.]

toronto alley art
artsy :: montreal might have the edge in pushing the arts to a primary role in the city's culture, but that doesn't mean toronto is dormant. far from it. there is the art gallery of ontario, which is the location for major shows, plus the royal ontario museum, but those are just the beginning. stretches of queen street both west [starting around ossington and west from there] and east [in the formerly rough enclave of leslieville east towards the beaches] are lousy with tiny independent galleries. one of my favourite things to do on a warm weekend afternoon was to wander in and out of all of them until i reached a place where i could have a drink and a snack and wonder how my feet had sustained me so long.

putting the multi in multiculturalism :: sure, every major city these days has a chinatown. toronto has three. and yes, there's a little italy [at least one], but the fact is that most cultures have staked a claim to some part of toronto. there are portuguese enclaves on either side of little italy. greektown, to the east of the don river, famously has street signs in english and greek, but so does koreatown, situated just west of bathurst on bloor. there's an increasingly visible "little india". jewish culture flourishes in the ritzy neighbourhood of forest hills or, for the more devout and conservative, further north around lawrence and bathurst streets. older immigrants from eastern europe share space with young families in the areas of high park [and westward towards etobicoke]. the annual caribana festival is one of the largest of its kind in the world. put it this way: you're going to run out of patience before i run out of ways to talk about how thrillingly multicultural toronto is.

museum of contemporary canadian art
there's much more, of course, because if toronto is anything, it is a city of plenty. there's plenty of space, plenty of people, plenty of cultures, restaurants, viewpoints, problems, you name it, toronto has a lot of it. the things that i've listed here are just a few of the things that made my experience in the city stand out. these aren't simply things i love about toronto [although they are], but things that i really miss about toronto. each of these things has a unique toronto-ness and is better because of that.

the ongoing misadventures of rob ford may make you think that the city is a hive of scum and villainy, but in the city of plenty, that's only one tiny [albeit loud] insect in the urban ecosystem.

for some excellent, unusual views of toronto [more so than the images i've placed here], i recommend you check out vik pahkwa's toronto photography blog.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...