31 May 2015

dj kali @ bazaar of the bizarre

it feels sort of wrong to dj while it's light out. i mean, inside katacombes surrounded by an awesome posse of artisan vendors making jewelry, prints, perfumes, clothing and wondrous strange trinkets, it was the same as it always is, unless you stood right next to the door to the patio and observed the weak light filtering through the cloud cover. but it still felt odd to leave and have a daytime sky around me. it's like i'd become old enough to be doing the early bird special for weird music dj's.

originally, i'd thought of doing something much different- darker and scarier and noisier- than what i'd done with the caustic lounge nights, but then it occurred to me that playing things to clear the room would be incredibly selfish. so this is pretty much vintage dj kali.

minimal man :: ascension
maska genetik :: haut
deutsch nepal :: rapist park junction
klangstabil :: anti-communication
violetshaped :: a skull in the cellar
coil :: nasa arab
scorn :: falling
cut hands :: festival of the dead
annie anxiety :: third gear
death in june :: only europa knows
screamin' jay hawkins :: i hear voices
scum :: ocean of white
novy svet :: chappaqua
le syndicat electronique :: on strike
leo anibaldi :: nothing has changed

that looks shorter than it was, since several of the tracks are longer ones, but it still did fly by. it was nice to be back on the wheels of plastic, especially since i hadn't had the chance to inflict music on people in a while.

just an observation: i am finding it weird that my habit of dj'ing from cds seems to be hung permanently in a world of uncool between those who normally dj exclusively from vinyl and those who work from laptops. those have become the acceptable options, whereas showing up with binders full of little silver discs immediately shows that you're not serious enough to commit to vinyl and at the same time not "with it" enough to have installed software so that you arrive plug-and-play ready.

nonetheless, i will continue to bring my trademark uncool whenever i can. i do hope that i get an opportunity to do something scary and noisy. preferably at someone's office party or bar mitzvah.

29 May 2015

support the short!

read my shorts!
may is apparently short story month, which is awesome because short stories deserve more recognition than they get. and also because, for years, they've been my writing format of choice. i'm not sure if it's because i can't focus for that long, because i'm making a statement in favour of short things since i am one, or that i'm impatient to get things finished [any of those is a possibility], but that's who i am and i'm glad to know that someone decided that short stories deserve a long month.

so why not celebrate with your very own copy of interference, a collection of my short stories. you can purchase it in traditional or e-book form. it'll give you chills during the hot summer nights, which will make you much happier. all i want is to make you happier.

the book can ship anywhere in the world and you can enjoy it in small, convenient slices, at your leisure.


[big thanks to all of you who have purchased either of my books. you make me feel like a superhero, assuming that the world needed a superhero whose power was writing fiction.]

28 May 2015

armchair centre back :: the sting

i'm technically one "world wide wednesdays" post in arrears, but come on. how could i not post something about the fifa clusterf**k that unfolded yesterday? [and continues to generate aftershocks in its wake: as i'm typing this sentence, i just saw a news bulletin from the bbc that blot evil overlord blot on humanity fifa president sepp blatter has said that he cannot be held responsible for the current scandal. the buck stops somewhere else, apparently.] the whole thing feels like a sport-themed remake of goodfellas, but it's actually happening. and there's a lot more money involved.

like most fans of the sport of soccer, i'm no fan of fifa's. last year, i selected them as my "biggest loser" of the world cup and with good reason: despite the tournament having been a success on many fronts, it exposed the organising body for the corrupt kleptocracy that it is. i'm a firm believer that the attention given to the ugliness of much of the preparations- forced evictions, brutal police crackdowns, squandering of public money- helped speed up the investigation whose first results we saw yesterday. so like most fans, this is a pretty happy event, tinged with the cartoonish weirdness that always seems to linger around the world's most popular sport.

what weirdness, you ask? [or maybe you didn't, but i'm going to tell you anyway.] well, for starters, there's the idea that america is doing this. aren't they the one country in the world that doesn't even like soccer?



and, just to make ornery progressives like me even more uncomfortable, it turns out that america's jurisdiction in this matter may stem from provisions of the u.s.a.p.a.t.r.i.o.t. act [i've only today discover is an acronym: united and strengthening america by providing adequate tools required to intercept and obstruct terrorism act]. the act is better known for its controversial sections allowing warrantless surveillance, but other sections of it strengthened government's ability to collect information from financial institutions [and put a greater onus on banks to scrutinize transactions] and gave them greater powers to act against groups when any portion of an illegal financial transaction took place within the united states. so it doesn't matter that fifa operates largely outside the u.s. if they any part of the malfeasance took place in america, america reserves the right to bring charges. [and in a nice little cold war flashback moment, vladimir putin has accused the united states of meddling in affairs that don't concern it in an effort to penalize russia.]  

then, of course, there's the "goodfellas" aspect of the story, which is that the current arrests are brought to you in part by one of the gang members rolling over on the others. american chuck blazer, known for being a fifa bigwig and for pocketing almost literally tonnes of money from his work with them, got into a spot of tax trouble with the internal revenue service and, in order to avoid going to jail himself, apparently decided to cooperate with the authorities à la henry hill. [except that henry hill never got chased down fifth avenue while riding a mobility scooter.]

the spectacle of of fifa officials being escorted from their ritzy hotel in zurich [hey! i stayed just a few blocks from there when i visited switzerland!] would have been strange enough, but it seems outright surreal when you have people rushing to keep the arrested hidden with bed sheets. it's not like we don't know who they are.

strangest of all may be fifa's insistence on carrying on as if absolutely nothing has happened. they're proceeding with their annual general meeting, and one assumes that there will just be an awkward pause when it comes to the point in the agenda when someone can't do their presentation because they haven't been bailed out yet. indeed, sepp blatter seems determined to go ahead with the election of the organization's president, although that's possibly because up until tuesday, no one thought there was much of a chance that he could lose that election, but now he figures that his odds are only going to get worse the longer the vote is delayed. no, wait, i've reconsidered. the strangest part is probably that the person most likely to rescue the organization from the control of corrupt de facto royalty...

... is an actual royal. prince ali bin al-hussein of jordan may have lived a life of extreme privilege, but he has already made a name for himself as a reformer within the sport. he became vice president of fifa after the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 world cups to russia and qatar respectively and pushed for the publication of a supposedly damning report on the selection process. he has expressed a desire to increase the profile of women's soccer [the fifa women's world cup is happening next month in canada, but you probably haven't heard a lot about it] and that of asian nations.

up until yesterday, his bid for president looked doomed to failure, and this would likely have seen him bounced from fifa altogether; the asian football federation's president is the much more conservative sheikh salman bin ibrahim al khalifa [a nice gentleman who's been accused of having some of his national players tortured after they participated in pro-democracy rallies], who promptly rescinded the federation's support for prince ali as their representative. in order to maintain his position, the prince would have to be confirmed by the blatter-led executive of fifa and, since a lot of them aren't especially welcoming to ali's reformist ways, that can be added to the universal list of things that ain't gonna happen.

of course, despite the arrests, there's certainly no guarantee that blatter is going to be defeated. fifa has 209 member nations- more than the u.n.- and every single one of them has a vote. so the european football federation, uefa, can say that they are backing prince ali [which they are and which is hardly surprising given that they didn't even back blatter last time, when he ran unopposed], but that doesn't mean that they're delivering the votes of all their members. [russia, for instance, are opposed to the idea of having the 2018 bidding process investigated and possibly reopened.] the huge number of asian votes will likely be split, with some supporting the prince, but with conservatives like sheik salman supporting blatter. [the asian football federation has officially pledged support to blatter.] vote-rich africa is a blatter stronghold, although there's a possibility that hussein could pick up a couple of stray votes from countries who are not necessarily unhappy with blatter, but with his senior vice president and right hand, african confederacy chairman issy hayatou. [specifically morocco, who were angry that they were stripped of the africa cup of nations earlier this year, having asked for it to be postponed until the ebola epidemic had been brought under control, and togo, who were furious that they were suspended for two continental competitions, due to their decision to withdraw from the 2010 africa cup of nations after the team was the victim of a terrorist attack in angola.] the americas will be... weird. blatter was assuming that theirs were safe votes, but all of those arrested are among his staunchest backers [and all are from the americas], so it becomes a little unclear what will happen.

one of prince ali's most vocal supporters and one of blatter's most impassioned detractors is argentinian football demigod diego maradona. maradona isn't a member of fifa, so his opinion carries no official weight, but it absolutely holds resonance with fans. likewise, brazilian president dilma rousseff claimed she was happy to hear of the arrest of josé maria marin, the former head of the brazilian football federation and a supporter of brazil's former military dictatorship [who had had rousseff tortured]. a poll of soccer fans found that 80% of them did not even want blatter to run for another term, including 99% of those surveyed in chile, a possible indication that south american delegates may seek to distance themselves from him. [again, as i'm typing this, the brazilian delegate to fifa's convention has apparently left switzerland. no word on why, but brazil is apparently looking into the possibility that some of what the u.s. investigation has turned up could be used to lay criminal charges in brazil as well.]

compounding things is the fact that a two-thirds majority is required to win the presidency outright. if that's not achieved, then there will be a run-off election, where a simple majority will suffice. those who support prince ali [notably uefa] have said that the vote should be postponed [since any delay will allow the realities of the criminal charges to sink in and more details of malfeasance to come out, which would increase support for the challenger], whereas those who support sepp blatter [including the asian, african and north and central american federations] want the vote to happen tomorrow as scheduled. assuming that it does go ahead, there's a very good chance that between africa, asia and the americas, blatter could coast right through. on the other hand, if he falls significantly short of the two-thirds vote on the first ballot, it's game on. if it looks like the reformers are making serious headway, a lot of nations are going to flinch at the thought of being on the wrong side of sporting history [lest it be counted against them in the future] and could likely be persuaded to switch sides.

my sense is that regardless of what happens with the election tomorrow, blatter is toast. whether he's voted out tomorrow or pushed out in a couple of years as the u.s. investigation broadens and catches people closer to him in its net, his days are numbered. all that remains to be determined now is if he can hang in long enough to be able to choose his own successor. if he's re-elected, there's a very real chance that uefa will pull its support from the 2018 world cup. that doesn't oblige european teams to leave [after all, it's a uefa country, russia, that will be hosting], but it makes it likely that a number of them will. and it opens the door for players to take a stance, which is likely to work against the powers that be: argentina might send a national team, but lionel messi, sergio aguero and gonzalo higuain might choose individually not to participate. [note: i'm not saying any of them would, i'm just using them as examples.]

ultimately, money talks and sponsors will have a great deal of say in how fifa conducts its business going forward. this is another reason why i think blatter is not long for the soccer world. already, visa and coca-cola, basically the two largest sponsors of anything are making noises that they're unhappy with how things are being handled. neither of those organisations is exactly progressive, but they are extremely conscious of having their brand tarnished by association. they aren't going to have a lot of patience with fifa on this, especially if they think that consumers in europe, asia, north and south america hold a negative opinion of soccer's governing body.

so what's my opinion [if you're interested]? i think that it may well be worth your while to take a nap right now and wake up before voting starts at 3:30am eastern time [9:30 local time in switzerland] so that you can watch things unfold. i guarantee you that prince ali's backers [uefa president michael platini chief among them] are on the phone every second, trying to convince delegates who have been on the outside that support for the candidate of change will ensure that they face the future from a position of strength, whereas blatter will be reminding them that they have already benefited from fifa's largesse. he's not wrong there, either: under his guidance, fifa has poured legitimate money into conferences outside of europe. i do think that prince ali has one crown jewel to offer, that will be difficult for any lover of the sport to reject without serious thought: he wants to expand the number of teams playing at the world cup. while that might allow those who have, in the past, narrowly missed out on competition to gain access, or it might allow smaller confederations to guarantee more places at the finals. the world cup is the most popular event of any kind in the whole world. having a greater chance of being represented at the final tournament is a very, very big carrot.

i also think that, one way or another, qatar is losing their world cup. the deaths of migrant workers and the de facto slavery in which those workers are held, the necessity of changing the tournament from summer to winter, which will disrupt all the major professional leagues, the fact that even sepp blatter apparently wasn't crazy about the idea of having fifa's grand prize bestowed there... i'm sorry qatar, but it's not happening. i hope that it happens sooner rather than later, since it will mean fewer people die, but either it's being relocated to spain/ portugal [if you asked a lot of soccer fans, i think they'd be ok with it being moved there semi-permanently] or possibly to the u.s. and canada.

finally, my guess is that if blatter doesn't win outright on the first ballot and doesn't come within close-striking distance [let's say over 60% of the total votes cast], he'll drop out. i can't imagine him actually hanging on to see if he can prevail in a tight battle, especially since the tide would appear to be going against him. but i don't know that he'll fall short on the first ballot. i'd like to believe that the fairytale prince has arrived to save the day, but i'm a born cynic and worry that he's likely to just slice open his lip on the glass coffin.

i do, however think that the american investigation, combined with the continued controversy surrounding fifa that there is an appetite for change, which is more than i would have said a year ago. that has to be a good thing.

26 May 2015

making faces :: foundational issues

i need a good foundation to fix all these problems
it might be the colours that catch the attention, but if there's one cosmetic product that everyone- and i mean everyone because i think it applies equally to men and women- could use, it's a decent foundation. a lot of people don't bother with it, because it really isn't that exciting. i haven't generally bothered writing about them, because, even for someone as interested in the world of aesthetics as i, it's not particularly interesting to talk about them either. they're skin coloured. you put them on your face. you sort of blend them so that they look smooth and cover everything. wearing bright blue eye shadow is definitely more noticeable, but if you want to reach for something that will trick people into thinking you're just a little bit more perfect than you are, it's a complexion product that you want.

leaving aside the fact that they aren't that exciting to write about [or to read about, since perceiving differences from one to another isn't easy, unless one of them is horribly wrong], the other reason i don't write much about foundations is that they're completely fucking infuriating. ahem. i mean, once you've started down the road of trying to find something that will give your complexion that extra hit of awesome, you'll soon discover that it's more complicated than filing taxes in eight countries simultaneously. lots of things offer a little improvement, which is why most people try one thing and, if it doesn't make their face fall off, they stick with it. but for some of us, we'll try something and be fine with it, but then we start to wonder if it couldn't be just a little more perfect [which i maintain is a weird expression, because if something can be "more perfect", i think that means it wasn't perfect to begin with, but i digress].

you could say that cosmetic companies are just coming up with new imperfections to make us feel insecure enough to buy a new and more expensive solution to our skin problems. and you're right, because that's how people sell anything: by creating a need for something we hadn't previously considered. but take a moment to pity the poor foundation-makers: matching colour, providing different levels of coverage, accounting for skin's moisture or lack thereof, accounting for the presence or absence of oil, accounting for complexions that may be oily in some spots and dry in others, accommodating for differences in skin from all ages, and for undertones, which can make skin of the same basic colour appear quite different... skin is a complex negotiation of genetics, environment, history and chemistry, so coming up with a great product for skin is like trying to pass all your high school science finals at once. oh, and you also have to account for the particular tastes of all your teachers, because everyone likes a slightly different look.



now that we've pitied them, we can immediately go back to complaining about how nothing works unless you're willing to make compromises. i'm all right with that concept in a lot of areas, but i really hate having to part with a hefty chunk of my sangria and sushi money to get something that turns out to be unsatisfying.

of course, part of the problem is that i am a very difficult woman to satisfy. that's true in many ways, but when it comes to foundations, my list of impossible to fulfill conditions includes:

  • something that doesn't emphasize dry patches on my skin, particularly around my nose, which is the only place i usually get dry patches now
  • something that lasts throughout the day, meaning at least a standard business day including commute time, say 10 hours
  • something that can be touched up without changing colour or appearing heavy if, say, i have plans after the end of the business day and don't want to [or don't have time to] start from scratch
  • something that will not start to appear shiny, especially on my nose
  • something that looks like normal, healthy skin: not "glowing", which usually means "greasy", nor "matte" which usually means "i dusted baby talc on my face"
  • something that disguises the pores on my cheeks and nose
  • something that doesn't collect in the fine lines around my eyes, or in any other lines that are in the vicinity
  • something that can give me light-to-medium coverage, because i've come to realise that i don't actually need more than that; basically something that can reasonably effectively cover the freckles on my nose
  • something close enough to the colour of my skin that i don't need to worry about having to cover every other millimetre of exposed flesh to hide the mismatch
  • something that doesn't make me aware of its presence

reviewing that list, i realise that it's a tall order. i also realise that it might be easier for me to find something to meet my criteria if i removed my nose, but then i'd be left complaining about the fact that i couldn't wear sunglasses to protect my eyes.

but the fact is that i want to keep my nose and find something that meets my stringent criteria because i believe that a great base truly does make a huge difference in a finished look.

three foundations, three absolutely and completely different looks

most recently, i've been trying the new nars luminous, weightless foundation. it's a new formula, the first high-coverage one from nars, that makes the following claims [taken from the sephora web site]:

Achieve full-coverage, lightweight foundation that leaves a natural finish. Highly pigmented and perfectly balanced, this breakthrough, full-coverage formula builds and blends effortlessly. Its Even Tone Technology instantly neutralizes redness and dullness, while it works to reduce discoloration for more even, uniform skin. Perfect for all skin types, it features Weightless Long-wear Technology, an exclusive blend from NARS with flexible polymers and treated pigments that move with the skin while providing 16 hours of staying power. 

i'm quoting here because it's just way easier than copying everything over.

now, one thing you clever folk might have noticed is that it says it's full coverage, whereas i specifically said that i liked light-to-medium coverage. yeah, you got me. i was really eager to try a new nars foundation and so i figured that this was something on which i could compromise. and, yes, it is definitely full coverage with even a small amount of product [believe me, you do not want to use more than a small amount of this]. if you look at yourself up close in a mirror, you can definitely see that you're wearing makeup. you can buff it with a dense brush to reduce the makeup-y look but it's never going to be invisible. the trade-off is that it does an excellent job of disguising redness, pores [double bonus points for this] and any unevenness in colour [in my case, freckles]. 

nars has nailed the weightless thing better than nasa. it's extremely lightweight and at no point do you have that icky "something sticky be sittin on mah face" feeling. i think that's to do with its oil-free nature, since lightness has been a hallmark of each of the oil-free formulas i've tried to date. but oil-free doesn't equate to "dry", which means that it doesn't emphasize the dry side-nose patches, nor does it crimp into the lines that happen when i feel forced to smile.

what more can a girl ask?
  
i've found myself drawn to oil-free foundations because the greatest problem area i've found is my shiny nose-beacon. no matter what i do, by a few hours into my day, i have a shiny freakin' nose. i don't want a shiny nose. i have no use for shininess on my nose. in fact, i get quite irritated by said shininess. so i have dedicated myself to the hunt for something that will win the struggle with the texas oil reserves that apparently populate my proboscis. hence the willingness to go for something slightly higher coverage.

when i first applied the all day luminous, weightless foundation, it definitely gave a nice, not-quite-matte-but-not-at-all-shiny look that made me confident i could go about my life without the risk of ships offshore mistaking the sunlight bouncing from my nose for a lighthouse. sadly, after a few hours [let's say between three and four, although it varies a little depending on temperature, humidity and how active i am, which is never all that much, but anyway...], el noso brilliante has emerged victorious and i'm back to blotting myself and feeling irked.

that would be me

i've been using this foundation for a couple of months now and i will say that there's a definite difference in wear in cooler versus warmer weather, but i'd expect that. the point is that, even in ideal circumstances- cool, dry weather and with me in a less active phase- i don't find that it maintains its semi-matte finish for more than four hours. [of note: it seems to perform a little better outdoors than in, as long as it's not steaming hot outside, in which case nothing survives.]

in terms of overall wear, it never comes close to achieving the 16 hours claimed by the brand. i'm generally fine with having to touch up within a 16 hour period, so that doesn't infuriate me, but i seriously wish that brands would get off these ridiculous claims. if i pass out in a ditch somewhere, i'm expecting that my makeup won't be perfect when i wake up. it's cool. that said, my light freckling was considerably more obvious in six to seven hours after application, regardless of whether i used the foundation on its own, used a primer and/ or set with powder. that's not enough, in my book.

because it's a higher-coverage product, i was a little concerned that touching up would leave me looking like i was wearing a cosmetic mask, but that's not the case. in fact, it's really easy to dab a little more on some critical areas [nose nose nose] and blend it in with a finger and it won't look caked on. that helps mitigate some of the disappointment with the wear time.

nars certainly ranks alongside mac as one of the brands with the broadest range of foundation colours. like mac and, more recently, urban decay, they pay attention not just to colour but tone, differentiating between those who run cooler and warmer within the same colour range. everyone needs to do this. i'd previously been matched to nars "mont blanc" in their "sheer glow" formula, which is their shade for pale people with pinkish undertones. with that in mind, and because i am immensely stupid, i went ahead and ordered "mont blanc" without testing it on my skin first.

as it turns out, "mont blanc" in the sheer glow formula seems considerably lighter than "mont blanc" in any other formula. compounding that, "mont blanc" in this formula is not so much pink-toned as orange. i tried it a couple of times on its own before realising that i'd made a mistake and deciding to use another colour to lighten it. i picked up samples of the two other options for fair-skinned ladies ["siberia", which is the palest of the pale and neutral in undertone and "gobi", which is pale with yellow undertones] and i've discovered that either is probably a better match for me than "mont blanc". don't take guesses with foundation shades, kids.

to give you an idea of how the different shades compare, here's an image with nars radiant creamy concealer in "vanilla" [which is a nice match to my skin and which i've been using to brighten the foundation], luminous weightless in gobi, mont blanc and siberia, nars radiant tinted moisturizer in "terre neuve" guerlain "baby glow"and dior concealer in "010".

all the colours of the rainbow...

yup, as you can see, "mont blanc" is probably the worst match for my skin of the bunch... strangely, though, i find that "siberia", which is the best match, looks more noticeably patchy after several hours wear than the other colours. this is probably because the colour of my freckles is deeper by comparison. "gobi" is definitely yellower than my natural skin tone, but i found that the fading was less apparent than with either "siberia" or "mont blanc". i have no idea why. my brain hurts.

the mistake in colour choice is clearly my own fault, but i will say that the cooler options of the foundation seem too ruddy to work for a truly cool [i.e., pink- or blue-toned] complexion. the warmer shades seem lovely. [in nars' defense, i'll add that this is the case for a lot of brands when it comes to cooler-toned foundations.] also worth noting is that there is some oxidation [i.e., darkening as the product is exposed to air] with the product, so that you'll want to try it for a few minutes and then look to approve the colour match. the oxidation happens quickly and the colour remains consistent after the initial change.

so clearly, my search for the ultimate foundation has not yet ended. i like this formula, because it is so light and because it requires so little to achieve complete coverage. on the drier parts of my skin, it gives a nice, velvety look that i wish held for my entire face [nose nose nose]. the combination of too much shine in certain areas and unsatisfactory wear time make this one fall just a little short for me. will i ever find a perfect match, the dominic of foundations? never give up, i say...

25 May 2015

mental health mondays :: alone time

when i was little, my grandmother frequently used to tell me "don't be a loner". as an only child possessed of a vivid imagination, i was used to spending time by myself and i enjoyed most of it and so i would mock her by saying that i liked being alone. she would warn me that loners were "weird" and no one liked them, but she was never articulate enough to explain to me why that should be so bad and, being a typically precocious late twentieth century child, i would annoy her by pointing out the silliness of her arguments.

of course, my grandmother was right: society as a whole does not like "loners". we automatically perceive a fault in someone who likes their own company. at its very mildest, it's thought of as snobbery- "she thinks she's better than everyone else". at the worst, the loner is a dangerous psychotic, a ticking time bomb because nothing good could come out of wanting to be by oneself so much.

the desire for social interaction is such a given that deprivation from it has been used for centuries as a form of severe punishment. solitary confinement in prison is considered so damaging that there are those who argue it amounts to torture and should never be used. ancient greece, when confronted with a criminal who could not be executed [normally someone of particularly high social standing], opted to banish them, which was considered on par with the death penalty, and not just because shoving someone out into the wilderness to fend for themselves would often be a death sentence.

and, if you do a little internet research on what science has to say, you'll discover that there is research to back up the idea that spending too much time alone is bad for you.

  • this eight-year study of 6,500 subjects indicated that social isolation correlated with an increased chance of dying.
  • a massive meta-study by brigham young university in the united states found the exact same thing: even those who enjoy their "me time" are likely to die younger than their more socially connected peers. 
  • a university of chicago study found that loneliness [not the same as isolation, but often linked] is a physical health hazard, raising the blood pressure at the same rate that healthy eating and exercise decrease it.
  • more university of chicago research raises the possibility that, when isolated, our immune systems become introverted, focusing on fighting bacteria on the inside of the body and neglecting to pay attention to viruses that attack from without.

so, yes, my late grandmother may have been onto something without knowing it. it is actually bad for your health to be a loner.

however, when i was reviewing the literature on this subject, something stood out. no matter what combination of terms i used to search the relative benefits and drawbacks of solitude and sociability, i seemed to end up in the same place: a lot of studies that show that isolation and loneliness are very bad for you, mixed with a handful of feel-good articles about how taking a little time alone can be healthy. i characterize them as "feel-good articles" because of their reassuring tone that we should not feel badly about taking time for ourselves [as if the default position is that we should], but offering absolutely no quantitative results to show that it could be beneficial. here's an example of such an article. here's another. there are lots more like them and they make very reasonable-sounding points. but it made me wonder, why wasn't there any science?

the studies above tend to focus on people who are very isolated, or who felt extremely isolated and longed not to be. but there is a paucity of information on what amount of time alone should be considered healthy. [the only study i found that even tangentially addressed the issue was done on adolescents and determined that a certain amount of time alone, even if it was imposed rather than chosen, was helpful.] the scientific information that we have indicates that being isolated is bad. fine. if i sit down and eat a half a kilo of dark chocolate, that would be bad as well. but there's also research that says i would be better off eating a small amount of dark chocolate than i would be having no dark chocolate at all. that's what's missing here.

it could be that such research would prove that even short periods of being alone had unhealthy side effects. [deprived of sensory input, our brains start going batshit within minutes as we try to fill in the blank slate that we're incapable of processing.] but in this case, no one's even asking the questions: can too much interaction with others have adverse effects? is there a point beyond which social interaction starts to be detrimental? can a lack of time spent alone actually be damaging? we're very eager to know whether there are good reasons to avoid becoming a "loner", but it seems like we're a little timid to know that there might be good reasons to spend some time alone.

truthfully, the idea that we should expect to spend some time alone is a fairly recent one: medieval homes were usually structured around one big, open room where everyone lived and slept. when the lord and lady of the manor wanted to get busy, they would do so in a bedroom they shared with all their household servants. from birth to death, a person could expect to be surrounded by others, and being alone was unsafe. there were those who lived in solitude for religious reasons, but this was perceived as both an extreme and a sacrifice, not a choice made out of the desire for some "me time". so it shouldn't be all that surprising that the idea still seems a little odd. but that it's still so stigmatized that no one even wants to investigate it seems to come close to a full-on phobia. [even the romanticized idea of the loner- a frontier cowboy, an artist, a passionate leader- carries the taint of the tragic.]

i envisioned today's post being a discussion, informed by scientific research, of how to achieve a healthy balance of social and private time. i was surprised to find out how difficult that was. i'm also a little miffed because, while i found out that i can be very social once i'm around people with whom i share interests, i still do feel the need to have my own space. i'd like to think that's not going to kill me. research suggests that i have reason to be worried, but the questions researchers are asking are pretty slanted.

it's like my grandmother is controlling the world of psychological research from beyond the grave.

i hope for all our sakes that's not true. but until we have more information, it seems like you might want to make a point of seeing your friends and family more often, unless you want to die.

24 May 2015

paranoid theory of the week :: are natural disasters being caused by advanced weapons?

you don't know haarp
when it comes to things that most people acknowledge they can't control, the weather and natural disasters have to be near the top of the list. yes, there are natural disasters like hurricane katrina in 2005, which were made far worse than they might have been from government ineptitude and inaction; yes, there is certainly a consensus that humans have an effect on climate change, which in turns effects the weather and natural disasters on a large scale; but most of us are pretty certain that there aren't any individuals who can just fire up a generator and cause a catastrophic earthquake. most of us.

in fact, there's a fair sized community who think that there are people who absolutely can do just that and that they want to use their powers for evil. [although, really, i can't think of how you could use the power to cause a massive landslide for good. i mean, even if you killed hitler 2.0, chances are you'd take thousands of innocent people, which might arguably make you the next hitler and defeat your supposedly noble purpose.] so this week's paranoid theory investigates: might these people be onto something? or is this strictly for the tinfoil hat set?

the theory ::

world governments, in particular the american government, have developed the technology to control the weather and to cause "natural" disasters, as well as some diseases and they are using it in soem pretty high profile ways.

the origin ::

have you heard of a rain dance? the plague of locusts? the hammer of thor? humans have clung to the belief that they had some measure of control of the weather since the dawn of time, and those who felt left out have been suspicious of those who seemed to have luck on their side.

more recently, a lot of attention has been directed towards the american project known as haarp: the high-frequency active aurora research project. started in 1993 and based in alaska, the research project's stated goal was to investigate the possibility that poking the earth's ionosphere with a laser pole could allow us to figure out when the sun was going to get all dyspeptic and belch in our general direction, because sun belches [or "solar flares" if you want to be all hoity-toity] have a tendency to disrupt our communications systems and cause a sort of instability our brains are programmed to fear.

although haarp was shut down in 2014, largely because no one wanted to bother to refit the facilities in order to meet standards imposed by the clean air act, rumours continue to swirl about its "real" purpose and how "shut down" it really is.

the believers ::

lots of them. venezuelan president hugo chavez linked it to the devastating 2013 earthquake in haïti. despite the fact that the money for the project was earmarked by alaska senator ted hughes [the guy who once described the internet as a series of tubes] in order to bring home the research bacon, the alaska state legislature wasn't sold on the story of what the project was doing and held their own hearings about it. former minnesota governor jesse ventura theorised that the project was actually a front for research into both weather and mind control [and was denied entry to the facility when he showed up to try to prove his point]. and award-winning physicist bernard eastlund claimed that haarp used technology he developed that was capable of modulating weather. nick begich jr., the son of a former united states congressman and the brother of a united states senator and a scientist himself, wrote a book, angels don't play this haarp, which is pretty much the bible of haarp-ist conspiracy.

[it also has some quasi-believers in both the european parliament and the russian military, who believe that researchers hadn't done sufficient research to assure them that untold evil wouldn't rain down in the wake of giving the atmosphere a giant laser enema. even the cbc and the history channel have done documentaries about the project that raise some questions.]

one of those believers is a little more interesting than the others, by the way, and i'll bet you can figure out which one it is.

the bad guys ::

the united states government- democrats and republicans. the military-industrial complex, in particular a massive defense contractor called raytheon, which has gradually gobbled up all the patents supposedly associated with the haarp project, and brought thousands of its own to the table. raytheon's motto is "customer success is our mission", which sounds like the usual load of corporate hooey, until you think a little harder about what it means to have a manufacturer of weapons and military infrastructure focused entirely on their customers' "success".

the evidence ::

remember how i said that one of "the believers" was a little more interesting than the others? did you guess it was the physicist, bernard eastlund?

dr. eastlund died in 2007, but his passion for physics burned strong until the end of his life. he claimed, in an npr panel discussion about building weapons for weather control, that three of his patents had been used in the development of haarp. no one in the government has verified or denied this, so we'll have to just call it "plausible" at the moment.

a little more unsettling is the final patent that he filed, shortly before his death, which contains a passage [viewable on his wikipedia page] that specifically mentions both weather modification and haarp.

while eastlund never came out and said that haarp was conducting research into weather control, or that the technology to do so had been developed, the presence of that patent is a pretty powerful indicator that there's something to the haarp rumours.

some have analysed haarp's activity in the times surrounding specific natural events [like hurricane katrina and the 2008 chinese earthquake] in an attempt to link haarp's activity to those events, but [as the author of the linked comparison readily admits], the density of the physics involved makes it impossible for the average person to work out if a correlation is possible.

there is documented proof that governments have previously attempted to build weapons that unleashed the awesome power of the earth and the elements upon their foes, so it's not like the theory itself is out to lunch.

the question of why a government would want to do this might even be answered in a u.s. department of defense press release from 2000 that emphasized their aim of "full spectrum dominance" in the military arena. and natural disasters have, sadly, been excellent financial opportunities for american contractors. those are two powerful sources of incentive.

but the fact is that the trail of crumbs doesn't lead anywhere. the cookie at the end is missing. the "full spectrum dominance" mission statement probably came off the table the second the two towers went down the following year, and eventually replaced with "we're not sure why anyone thought this was a good idea and we'd like to not get killed today".

the correlation between haarp activity and hurricanes or earthquakes isn't much more persuasive than my theory that i caused hurricane katrina by purchasing a map at the wrong time. it's very tempting to mistake coincidence with causality, but dangerous. there are lots of times when things appear to be related and are. and there are lots where they appear to be related and aren't.

even eastlund's patents, definitely the strongest argument in this conspiracy's arsenal, don't prove that the technology was developed, much less used, only that it was most likely investigated. not. the. same. thing. at all.

since it's been linked to all sorts of events, it's hard to avoid the feeling that haarp's "attacks" are perplexingly random. sometimes horrible things do happen to american enemies, but often, they're just disasters that befall some of the poorest areas of the world, like the earthquake in haïti or the tsunami in banda aceh, indonesia. in fact, such disasters can have the effect of destabilizing areas of the world that no one really wants destabilized [as began to happen in indonesia in the wake of the tsunami]. sure, you can argue that the military contractors are benefiting, but national governments [who still control the research] are incurring massive costs at the same time.

the likelihood :: 2/10

is the government looking into developing weather control technology? i'd be surprised if they weren't, at least to some extent. half the u.s. is in a severe drought.

has this technology been investigated as a potential weapon? sure, i'll bite. technology doesn't seem to be of much interest to anyone unless it can be used to prolong life or end life [with the creation of boners being a close third], so it's likely that the government tries to figure out how to use their research to do both.

however, that's a llloooooooooonnnnnngggg way off saying that the technology exists and that it's being used.

the conspiracy seems to become the victim of having reached too far: by blaming haarp or related technologies for earthquakes in china and iran, tornadoes in the united states, tsunamis in southeast asia and more, it's hard to imagine that there is a cohesive plan behind all of it.

the greater problem, of course, is that the vast majority of us can't even talk about this, because even the most basic science of a project like haarp is already over our heads. we could hear anything about this science and, as long as it sounded kind of plausible, we'd be fooled.

this falls into the "grains of truth" category of theory. there are a couple of things that should probably raise eyebrows, but there's not likely anything else. 

23 May 2015

badvertising

as dom and i were weaving through peel metro station yesterday afternoon, my eyes fell on a rather alarming advertisement:


while i applaud diesel for featuring model winnie harlow front and centre in the entire campaign, i was significantly distracted from her because her friend seems to be struggling with some pretty serious "feminine itching". 

yes, on closer inspection, i guess she's just holding her purse at a peculiar angle [seriously, try moving your arm that way and see how natural it feels], but i'm left with the impression that she's really just looking for a way to surreptitiously scratch a little. and those nasty photographers decided to make her one moment of weakness into a central image of their campaign. while the vibe of the ad is playful and carefree, itchy and scratchy girl seems focused on her own little world, which in turn is focused south of the border. now, her modeling c.v. is going to have to include "girl with yeast infection in diesel jeans".

also, i think it's possible that winnie harlow is actually screaming in pain, because if you look at the placement of her legs, something in the left one has clearly been broken.

diesel jeans: a great fit whether you're party, suffering from an infection, or have just had your ilium crushed.

20 May 2015

world wide wednesdays :: the itty bitty nation committee

lesser known richard scarry
some of you may have heard some news from north sudan this week. not the northern part of the country of sudan [although maybe you heard news from there too, it's certainly possible]; i mean north sudan. if you don't know about that nation, you might be seeing its story on the big screen, courtesy of disney. it had people excited at first, until they followed links to the project and discovered that disney's first african princess is going to be a white girl from virginia.

huh?

you see, the kingdom of north sudan is a micronation. that word isn't accepted by spell-check, which is fitting, since micronations aren't accepted by larger, established nations either. but that doesn't stop people from founding them, in the same way it won't stop me from using the word micronations to talk about this peculiar and fascinating movement.

to continue with the brief history of north sudan, it is a kingdom founded by a farmer from virginia and it is indeed located along the border between sudan and egypt. you see, there's a parcel of land 800 square miles that neither country wants. it's been officially terra nullius [fancy talk for literal no man's land] since 1902, which technically means that it's up for grabs. so jeremiah heaton has started the process of grabbing it. thus far, north sudan meets two of the conditions laid down in international law for statehood: they have defined their territory [including planting a flag on that territory] and established a government, in this case a monarchy. they do not yet have the capacity to enter into relations with other states, nor do they have a permanent population, which are the other two criteria. yes, that's right. not only does no one claim this land, but there isn't even anyone living there.

the mainstream media "both sides" challenge

so, yesterday, i posted this article on facebook and i threw down the following challenge:


Ok, I don't know why, but I just hit my BS limit.
Listening to the mainstream media, all I hear is how politics in the U.S. has become extreme on both left and right, but I cannot find any examples of left wing politicians who inhabit these sorts of fringes. So I'm issuing A CHALLENGE: Find the left wing crazies.
The rules:
  • Must be a Democrat
  • Must be an elected official or have stood for election (let's say in the last 15 years)
  • Statements must be verifiable, preferably with embedded audio or video.
Go forth. Find the Democratic crazies and bring them to me, so that we might compare them to their GOP colleagues.

yes, it's true, i write normally, with capitals and everything when i'm not here. 

as of this morning, while i've received a handful of witty responses, no one has been able to find me a suitable democrat. 

since it's clearly impossible that the mainstream media is wrong, i'm astonished that it's taking so long for people to prove that they're every bit as extreme as republicans. so i'm challenging readers of the blog as well. the media says that things are equal. bring me the equivalents.  

[world wide wednesdays is coming up a little later. it's kind of a fun one, if i do say so myself.]




19 May 2015

you asked, i answered... man candy and weirdness

time for a continuing series wherein i look at how many of you folks end up in these parts. welcome to my domain, by the way. i hope [in most cases] you find what you're looking for. please feel free to peruse the content here at your leisure, or whatever parts of it strike your fancy. it never ceases to thrill me when i see how many people and from how many places visit these parts. i'd love to visit every single one of you if it were financially feasible and not completely creepy.

i try to respond to all comments left here, as well as to any that pop up on facebook or through other social media. but once in a blue moon, i also rummage through the list of things that people are searching for when they wash up on these shores and, in case they ever wash back, point them to what they want [which google usually hasn't]. also, i like to frighten myself a little, because it encourages me to stay in the house and write more.

searches in the last little while have fallen into three main categories: searches for makeup swatches and comparisons, which i think work pretty well in terms of linking you to your end goal [please feel free to contact me if there's ever a specific comparison you want to see. if i can do it, i will]; searches related to soccer hotness and man candy; and things i can't, and often don't want to, explain.

first off, we address the issue of body parts. specifically, we address the issue of soccer players and their body parts, because i get a lot of searches for those here. most recently, it's involved requests for hair.

WELL COME ON THEN, LET'S DO THIS THING...

18 May 2015

mental health mondays :: the place to be?

at the beginning of the year, i wrote a post about global mental health statistics. it was a little pastiche of data pr0n, but all that i could really establish after putting all my statistical ducks in a row was that global mental health was probably even more complicated than you would think and that mental health was a huge problem almost everywhere. although i touched on issues of access to resources among the stats, i didn't focus on where treatments were the best and worst. but this week, i came across the results of a study released late last year that dealt with just that, albeit in one area only.

this study, conducted by the economist intelligence unit [an information branch of the group that's probably best known for publishing the economist magazine] and sponsored by a branch of janssen pharmaceutica, is quite a detailed look at europe, including all 28 e.c. members plus norway and switzerland. the methodology of the study is given on the page linked above, but the basic points of evaluation are the environment, access, opportunities [work being done towards the future] and governance. [you can download a very detailed version of the report in ms excel, with all the data arranged into convenient drill-down form, however you have to register with the site. i'll leave that decision to you, your computer and your internet connection.]

so what does europe have to tell us?

first of all let us congratulate the winner of the "best place to be crazy" sweepstakes

germany :: tops in soccer and psychiatry

but more generally...

wealth matters

there's no getting around it. the nations with the best outreach, the best access, the most support and the greatest chance for people with mental disorders to live happy, healthy lives reads a lot like a list of europe's largest economies, from top to bottom. germany, with the largest gdp in europe, ranks #1. bulgaria, with one of the smallest gdps in europe, comes dead last on the list, and a fairly distant last at that.

but it's not the only thing that matters

if only there were a word to describe switzerland's policies
estonia and slovenia, who rank just behind bulgaria in terms of gdp, punch wwwwaaaaaayyyyy above their weight when it comes to the quality of mental health care offered, finishing at 8th and 9th on the list overall. as you might expect, neither fares terribly well on indicators where financial investment is paramount [numbers of psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses, number of facilities and beds], but both have found ways to make their systems work in spite of this. estonia does extremely well in helping the mentally ill find stable employment and better than almost anyone in terms of the structure being laid down for the future. slovenia has a system that's built on accessibility, outpatient care and patient advocacy.

nor is money a guarantee of a better system. switzerland, one of the wealthiest countries in europe, fares terribly, coming an embarrassing 24th out of the 30 countries surveyed. switzerland finishes in the top ten in all the financial measurements and has the highest number of psychiatrists of any european country, but fails on every other front- faring particularly poorly in the areas that allow patients to live independently [areas where slovenia does particularly well].

in other words, the easiest way to maximize investment is to look at what can be done outside hospitals, by keeping patients at home and offering support rather than institutional care.

the best are aiming to stay the best

if you look at the list of who scores highest on the "opportunities" scale, it's more or less just a scrambled version of the existing top ten, with france more or less swapping places with the united kingdom. one would expect that those systems that are already the best would be the ones that had the least need of improvement, which does seem to be the case, but all of the countries that do well now seem to recognize that the work continues. that's an exceptionally important thing for other governments to note when developing their own policies.


rules are important

the countries that have the most legal protections in place- and the united kingdom far outpaces
all of these children are insane: who's going to recover?
everyone else in this regard- are the ones that score the best overall. while it's true that successive governments can overturn laws, such decisions tend to draw a lot of attention and, often, public outcry. giving the mentally ill the protection of the law basically forces governments to make plans that take those laws into consideration.

we need more information

one of the points addressed on the study's web site is that there is what they term a "data chasm". as much data as they've compiled, there are areas that are woefully lacking. in particular, there is a need to get patient feedback and to build that feedback into mental health care systems as a whole. only eight countries of the thirty have even indicated plans to do this [including patient empowerment superheroes slovenia] and none have made it mandatory.

i sincerely hope that this sort of research is expanded to look at other areas of the world, but i have a feeling that the results might be a little frightening. after all, social welfare programs are deeply entrenched in much of europe [even in areas where its adoption has been relatively recent, public healthcare is a priority for most governments]. that means that europe is likely better off than almost anywhere else in the world. the rest of us are just trying to catch up. 

17 May 2015

making faces :: get some colour up in here

this week montreal went from buds to leaves in rapid succession as warm weather descended on us with the force of a thousand suns. [ok, not literally, but it has gone from about 12 celsius to 24 celsius in short order. also, i've suddenly been beset with every sort of allergy, which just blows.]

as much as i might embrace my fallback "kate face" [neutral eye, flushed cheek, berry lip] on a regular basis, having more sunlight does tempt me to incorporate a larger palette, something that reflects the burst of colour that accompanies spring. there are blossoms everywhere, great swathes of that golden spring green, clear azure skies... why am i telling you this? you've seen spring before.

although there are still some gloomy, rainy days [actually, most of this week], the presence of more light in general means that it's easier to get away with bigger and brighter statements on your face. unless you're a very skilled makeup artist [i'm not], bold colours in winter tend to look heavy and aging. with more light around, though, they morph into playful and engaging.

some will tell you that, over a certain age [usually around thirty], you should just cede the use of bold colour and let yourself fade into neutral wonderland. i will tell you that those people deserve to be drop-kicked off a wharf over freezing cold waters. yes, i adore subtle neutrals and they'll always make up the bulk of my eye shadow collection at least. but no woman should ever feel like she can't go out in turquoise eye shadow just because someone decided a hundred years ago that it wasn't appropriate. [they didn't have turquoise eye shadow a hundred years ago -ed.] [shut up, editor -kate]

so here are some colourful looks i've worn lately to give you some inspiration, to give you an idea of what they might look like on you [if we have similar colouring], or to serve as a warning if colours are not your thing.

16 May 2015

paranoid theory of the week :: is the west helping neo-nazis take over the ukraine?

maybe the azov battalion soldiers are just big death in june fans
back in ye olden days of my youth, we had something called the cold war. it was a battle between the beatific united states and the evil empire of the soviet union for the souls of everyone in the goddamned world and it was fought on every front, on every continent. [although both sides were careful to keep actual violent conflicts at a safe distance from their doorstep.] then, in the late eighties and early nineties, the soviet union collapsed under its own weight [no, it wasn't reagan, so deal with it] and all their former allies and imperialist holdings drifted away to form their own nations and everything was wonderful and there was no political strife ever again. the end.

just kidding. like star wars, things really got kicked off with "a new beginning", which was what happened after soviet-style communism had been wiped from the map. in the wake of authoritarian collapse, tensions that had been held in check by brute force, notably in the former states of yugoslavia, quite literally started exploding. the united states and nato elbowed their way in and tried to pick up as many of the spoils as possible to serve as their allies and as new stations for their military, while russia was busy solving her own host of problems. in recent years, however, russia has taken on greater and greater prominence in world affairs, largely because they have been critical of perceived u.s. expansionism. they've served as a rallying point for those who wish to resist the american influence and now, all of a sudden, it feels like the cold war never went away.

one of the most bitterly fought battles has been over the future of the ukraine. we already touched on this in a world wide wednesdays post that looked at the issues in the current ukrainian conflict. but this week, i came across an article that alleged there was an angle that i might have missed in my analysis: something that really does sound like it came straight from the cold war playbook...

the theory ::

western [nato] powers are providing weapons and training to a fascist group in the ukraine in order to instal a fascist dictatorship

svoboda leader oleh tyahnybok, looking not at all fascist
the story ::

during the cold war, the u.s. and the soviet union fought largely through proxy states, where they exerted undue control over the local government, who would then receive extensive military aid to maintain order and quell dissent. the argument now is that the u.s. is hellbent on installing a pro-western government in kiev, even if it means getting in bed with another in a long line of repressive dictatorships. as a result, the u.s. has trained and armed a fascist group within the ukrainian military and backed their affiliated politicians, whose views should be anathema to a country that purports to believe in freedom. the end game is to have a puppet regime in place that is answerable to the united states and, more dangerously, to the central intelligence agency.

the originator ::

would you believe the mainstream media? stories about the troubling views of some of the pro-nationalist rebels in the ukraine have been vetted by aired in many of the most respected news sources in the world. where there is room for the debate is in the interpretation of the aforementioned end game: is the united states trying to establish a client state with a neo-fascist government? are they legitimately naive about the beliefs of their allies? do they think that the ukrainian far right are too marginal to occupy any position of real power?

the believers ::

depends on how far you take the theory. those who allege that there is a full-on conspiracy afoot include sources that tend to embrace conspiracies in general, such as 21st century wire, who have collected a large number of articles in their ukraine archive. also, pro-russian sites, or russia-positive sites like russia insider have evinced a suspicion about western motives. much of the russian administration, including president vladimir putin, seem to be on board, which is hardly surprising.

however, many more moderate people and news organisations agree that at least some of the story is true.

john mccain and tyahnybok, on good terms
the bad guys ::

the united states government and the central intelligence agency

the evidence ::

there is plentiful evidence in plain sight that the united states has made some dubious choices about who to support in the battle for the eastern ukraine. the associated press [reprinted by the washington post] nonchalantly reported that the united states would help train the ukrainian national guard, including the ultra-right azov battalion. britain's the guardian had a piece that showed that this group were planning for a fascist dictatorship in the wake of an imminent government collapse. salon magazine detailed some uncomfortably friendly relations between high-profile american political figures and the racist/ nationalist svoboda party. and amnesty international has called on the ukrainian government to crack down on the ukrainian radical democratic party and its leader, who are accused of kidnapping and torturing political opponents. [nothing has come of that, and considering that the ukrainian government has been known to honour nazi collaborators as war heroes, it doesn't seem likely that anything will.]

where the theory breaks down is in connecting the united states, or any western power, with a plot to instal a government made up of the fascist parties and their military allies. given all that has been documented, we're asked to take a leap of faith that this is evidence of a greater plan. and hey, that's not the craziest thing you're going to hear this weekend. because history tells us that the united states has done this nearly countless times before. [i highly recommend william blum's insightful, infuriating and superbly well-researched book killing hope, which is the bible of american intervention.] if you knew that your spouse had cheated in all their previous relationships and you saw that he or she was suddenly spending lots of time away from home with unconvincing explanations of where they were, would you find it difficult to believe that he or she was being unfaithful to you?

a friendly chat with the ukrainian radical democratic party
but that's not proof.

what's worth considering if you're leaning towards the takeover plot end of things is that the ultra-right in the ukraine would make terrible allies for the united states, because they're opposed to pan-europeanism [much like other right-wing parties], which the neo-liberal u.s. supports. they're also deeply anti-semitic, which would be a major issue between america and her staunchest ally, israel. the views of the most controversial ukrainian players are well-known and it would be nigh on impossible for the u.s. to back them up as a government.

the likelihood :: 7/10

the majority of the claims put forward are demonstrably true- practically undisputed, although those who support arming and training ukrainian nationalists tend to downplay the influence of the right wing. and it's not a great stretch, based on past behaviour patterns, to think that america would seek to influence future elections, even if it stops short of backing a fascist takeover.    

more likely is the idea that the united states is offering money, arms and assistance in the hopes that it simply stymies the russians, with the understanding that things will just sort themselves out in the long run. it's the same sort of plan they followed when they worked alongside anti-soviet rebels in afghanistan. because that worked out so well for everybody.

it's the app's fault!

eek! i've been utterly derelict in my duties this week, for certain. i missed world wide wednesdays entirely and i'm on the late side of late in getting our paranoid theory of the week up. [it's coming, i promise.]

part of that is because i've been marginally more social this week and because i've had writing work to do that isn't part of the blog, but a lot of it has been because of my phone. in particular, it's because i've discovered an app called " novel idea" that i've been exploring.

using an app for writing purposes runs counter to every one of my instincts. [really, spellcheck? "app" is a word now? but spellcheck still isn't? pull yourself together.] i've only recently been able to get myself to start writing a project on my computer: up until the last few years, the first couple of paragraphs generally ended up being copied from handwritten manuscripts. and i have never adopted the habit of planning out a story or making notes on a computer. any time i've tried, i've ended up writing what looks like an essay, with full sentences and paragraphs rather than precise notes, so i end up losing time trying to find out what the hell is supposed to be happening as i scan my book report.

and yet somehow, i've skipped straight from longhand to typing away on my phone without stopping in the middle.

part of the reason is that working on a phone naturally lends itself to note-taking. i'm an extremely fast typist [so i've been told], which means that it's often slower for me to work with formatted notes than just to type paragraphs on a standard keyboard. working on a phone is slow and clunky, which means that i'm never inclined to start writing long descriptions. plus, of course, there's the beauty of apps to help you along.

because i, like a lot of writers, default to word or a text program for writing, organising notes about different aspects of a project is more than a little cumbersome. apps are made with organisation and ease of use in mind. "a novel idea" is set up so that the user can create characters, projects, scenes and "ideas" [because apparently none of those other things count as ideas] and to link them. so you can have characters who appear in different stories, or characters who are somehow related who appear in the same or different stories. scenes get linked to stories, or they can just sit on their own, if you haven't decided where to put them yet. it's nice and it does actually speed things up. plus, it allows me to store random scraps, which often get lost on stray pages, scraps of paper, or in the midst of a notebook filled with too much for me to take in.

there are a few frustrating things, like the fact that i can't manipulate the fields. with the type of writing i do, i have no use for a "species" classification for my characters, but i could definitely use one for "sexual orientation", which doesn't exist. on the other hand, the templates, in particular the character ones, encourage you to think of details that you might not otherwise. [note: if you prefer a more free-form method of developing characters, this might not be your cuppa.]

of course, the other benefit to this is that i can work on the ideas anywhere, which lets me be even lazier than i normally am, because i can do work without even sitting upright. i might have to think a little harder about how much of a benefit that really is.

in light of this success, i've downloaded a few other apps to try, so i can have a sort of race between them to see which one helps me the most. i figure that, aside from allowing me to keep everything well-organised, it will also encourage me to think of different projects that i can try, since there is no way i'm spending my valuable time copying the same [and, in the case of the one i've started, tremendously complex] project into multiple formats. the danger there is that i'm just going to get distracted by playing and planning and endlessly comparing, and the danger of distraction is always a great one for me because... ooh, shiny!

but i do apologise for the fact that i've been ignoring my bloglagations [see? i made a word for you!] this week. things will be getting back on track presently. 

13 May 2015

armchair centre back :: ode to sleeping on the sofa

hey, remember that time i said that dom and i were ok cheering for different premier league teams because we knew not to gloat and then i posted a big picture showing how swansea [my team] had beat arsenal [his team] because i'm kind of a bitch if you scratch the surface a little? yeah. good times...


yup. that's right. we won again. i'm a little conflicted about this, because i'd love to see arsenal finish second, outgunning all but the team of evil, who have already secured the title of premier league champions, because there is no good in heaven or earth. i figured that at least if arsenal, the galahad to chelsea's mordred could finish as runners-up, it would mean that there was still a kernel of hope somewhere, like there is still the faint possibility of a better future, even though we know that there probably isn't.

the swans stopped arsenal's twelve game unbeaten streak, which is all that it takes to turn a lot of arsenal fans from "we are coming for you next year, chelsea bastards" to "we are shit and let's go out and kill the team". perhaps arsenal season tickets need to come with a prescription for lithium or something. [for what those tickets cost, they should come with all the prescriptions you want and a small home in the country for the off-season.]

but conflict aside oh my god swansea beat arsenal and manchester united twice in the same season!!!! those are huge clubs, and not many have achieved such a feat. and by "not many", i mean to say two. one of them [of course] was chelsea, while the other was scrappy little west ham. it's not just a matter of feeling punchy when you're a little team that beats the big boys, either. with the increasing financial disparity between the top three or four teams in the premier league and everybody else, it's remarkable that smaller teams can make a dent at all without resorting to the use of firearms. for one of the little guys to come up winners against two of the best teams in the world not once but twice each in a single season... well, that borders on the miraculous.

a lot of the time- hell, most of the time- watching professional soccer is like staring into the dark capitalist heart of the one percent versus the ninety-nine. the world's best players are snatched up by the same dozen clubs, with the crème de la crème going to an even smaller subset within that group. and that tiny subset win everything. they win their home leagues. they win their domestic cup competitions. the very best, which is to say the very wealthiest, dominate the champions league, which is where the cash dragons compete with one another.

you couldn't afford the sweat off our south american balls!

today saw barcelona, the soccer team with the second highest payroll in the world, qualify for the champions league final, eliminating bayern munich, who come fourth on that list. tomorrow will see whether third-spendiest real madrid will be joining them, when they take on juventus, who come a lowly eighth. that's right. juventus, who have already one the italian league by a country kilometre, one of the most storied and most vaunted teams in the history of the sport, juventus are the plucky underdogs in this race. [in case you're wondering, the largest payroll in the sport is that of manchester city, although they may have been overtaken by local rivals manchester united, depending on who's doing the numbers. neither of those teams is on track to win anything this year. so money isn't the only thing all the time.]

and juventus goalkeeper gianluigi buffon has won everything but the champions league, which makes him sad

so when swansea, with a third of arsenal's budget and a quarter of man united's, win all four matches in a season against those teams... yeah. it's time to strut.

at the moment, swansea are nestled in eighth place in the premier league [with the sixteenth largest budget]. but that's not how i see it. from my point of view, the wealthiest six teams- chelsea, arsenal, the two manchesters, liverpool and tottenham- will forever be dividing the spots among themselves. yes, another team may occasionally flit into their company, and qualify to play in a european league, but they'll quickly be crushed under the burden of having to play twice as many games the following year, because their budgets don't allow them to have world class talent warming their benches. so, in my mind, swansea aren't eighth in the premier league, they're second to southampton in the second tier of the league, with a realistic chance of coming first. of course, that might actually be a curse in disguise, since finishing one place higher than they are now could result in them qualifying for european play next season, which will probably see them stagger under that burden i mentioned earlier. but if they don't qualify for european play, there's a good chance that the lovely swans will end up having their finest feathers plucked by those who do, as happened earlier this year with wilfried bony, who is apparently happier chilling on the sidelines at manchester city than he was as a superhero for swansea. jockeying for league positions for a smaller team is like participating in a dance competition held on a minefield.

granted, those chairs look comfy

this is one of those moments where i wonder why i follow this godforsaken sport.

then i remember that my tiny swans have been giant-slayers four times, including the opening day where they ruined big spender louis van gaal's highly anticipated debut at old trafford, that they have set a record for the most points they've ever accumulated in a season, that they have a good chance of their highest-place finish in the league and that they managed to shackle a team that hadn't been beaten since in twelve games. furthermore, they've done all this with the youngest and least experienced manager in the league, a guy who was a player on the team until the middle of last year, but who, if the team does manage to overtake southampton in the final days of the season, is a very likely candidate to be named the league's manager of the season.

so there.

that's when i start beaming again and strut directly to our living room, where i will be sleeping on the sofa, until dom has forgotten all about this blog post. 
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