31 December 2015

i know what you've been looking at

i just thought that i'd post this to say thank you so much for stopping by this odd little place and that i hope that you'll be back in the new year. i know that i will!

in case you're wondering what you might have missed if you've only just discovered more like space, or if you've forgotten why you ever came here to begin with, i thought that i'd give you a quick rundown of the top posts of the year, which happily do give an idea of the breadth of things that get discussed here.

10. this conversation is going to be awkward :: the fact that this one makes it into the top ten is surprisingly chiefly because i only published it december 6th. i'm kind of taken aback by the fact that all my weird family and genealogy posts have proved quite popular. you're apparently much more comfortable with this bizarre lot than i would have believed possible.

9. r.i.p. flora :: my goodbye to my aunt.

8. paranoid theory of the week :: are islamic state's most infamous videos fake? :: the most popular "paranoid theory" of the year. it bears mentioning, however, that there were three or four others in this category that barely missed being included. let the fear flow through you...

7. making faces :: the brand tour [rouge bunny rouge] :: i'd meant to do more of these type of posts, featuring my collections from different brands, but after doing all the swatches for this one, i felt like maybe i'd also like to have skin. nonetheless, the reaction is encouraging enough that i think i'll give it a go in 2016.

6. not so hot in cleveland :: republican primary debates are comedy gold.

5. making faces :: apple of my eye :: armani posts are always popular and i was lucky enough to get my hands on one of their eye tints early-ish, so this one comes as no surprise. in fact, subsequent reviews of the other eye tints came close to making this list as well.

4. making faces :: my life as a nudist :: very popular on its own, although i think some confused internauts searching for actual nudists may have bumped this one up a couple of places. it's about lipstick.

3. making faces :: fuchsia fever with armani :: what'd i tell you? the most popular beauty post of the year is absolutely no surprise to me, because it covers armani, multiple products and bold lip shades. in fact, the "sequel" to this post, where i finally laid hands on the other rouge ecstasy shade from the collection, was in the top 20 for the year as well.

2. world wide wednesdays :: genocide by numbers :: and in possibly the most jarring transition ever... actually, one of the things that i like about this blog is the fact that there are as many people who like to read about lipstick and world history, even at its ugliest. of course, it's not just the ugliness that fascinates: the second most popular world wide wednesdays post this year was "africa's all-stars", about countries in africa that challenge the western image of the third world.

1. the ouroboros of stupid :: adventures in fascism, feminism and fallacies in the industrial music scene :: 2015 was the year that i got back involved in writing about the music scene and, unsurprisingly, a year in which i became more aware of the opinions surrounding the scene that i cover. this was the first "opinion" piece i'd done on music in a long time- most of the other posts you'll find here are just playlists from dj events- and it turns out it was the most popular by a surprising distance. you people never cease to surprise me.

once again, thanks for stopping by here. i don't know what to promise for the new year, and it's always dicey whether i'm able to keep my blog promises anyway, but i would say that you can expect a different assortment of similar stuff. i'm aware that makes no sense, but does anything really make sense when you have a few drinks and think about it really hard? i'll leave you with that for 2015.

29 December 2015

making faces :: festive face

this is just a quick post to share my highly official christmas face with all of you. as usual, we spent the day itself with dominic's family, which was its usual combination of tasty and fun. i don't do anything spectacular for the occasion [i'm not sure how my in-laws would react if i showed up looking like an extra from cirque du soleil], but i do at least try to mark the day by pulling together a family-event-appropriate look. this year, i went with the time-honoured classic of neutral eyes and red lips, which may not be the most exciting thing in the world, but it's classic for a reason.

the other reason that i wanted to try out tom ford's "something wild" lipstick, a new shade that's been added to the permanent lineup of colours he has available. there are several new colours, several of which were interesting to me, but "something wild" qualified as a must have because it's named after the movie that dom and i watched on our very first date. it's a film by jonathan demme [who also directed stop making sense and the silence of the lambs], a quirky little gem that's only now getting the respect that it deserves. it was given the fancy-schmancy treatment with a dvd/ blu-ray reissue on criterion, arbiters of all things classy in the film world. [at least i'm assuming that this is what the lipstick is named for, and not the 1961 rape-revenge drama with the same title.]

the bottom line is that i wanted an occasion to take "something wild" out for a spin and a holiday dinner with his family seemed like the right one.

the shade is a gorgeous warm coral-red with very delicate gold shimmer in its depths. it doesn't read as a frosted colour, but there is a pearl-like finish thanks to the shimmer content. it's in the red family, but it's definitely muted, so it's appropriate for wear at a conservative office or a family get-together. it reminds me of guerlain rouge g "grenade", which seems like the cool-toned version of this colour. they won't look similar, but both are softer reds with a pearly look that makes lips appear smoother and fuller.

in terms of the formula, i feel like tom ford lipsticks get more hydrating every time i try one. this one was really pleasant to apply and wear and went on perfectly even despite feeling very emollient. the one problem i encountered was that there was feathering after a few hours of wear, so if you're eating or drinking, you'll want to clean your lipstick off entirely and make sure your lips are dry and clear of any residual oil before reapplying. of course, you could also get around this by wearing a lip liner. i can't imagine that there's one around that would be a really good match, but urban decay has a clear one that's good for everything. [urban decay and bite also have lip priming products that can help with feathering.]

i picked out a few favourites to go with the lipstick, so here's the complete look:




the base ::
hourglass mineral veil primer
nars smudgeproof eyeshadow base
urban decay naked skin foundation "1.0"
diorskin nude concealer "01"
guerlain pressed meteorites "clair"

the eyes ::
rouge bunny rouge e/s "rain dove"
rouge bunny rouge e/s "rufous-tailed weaver"
rouge bunny rouge e/s "umber firefinch"
armani eye tint "rose ashes"
nars eye paint "baalbek"
yvs st. laurent effet faux cils baby doll mascara
makeup forever concealer pencil

the cheeks ::
charlotte tilbury filmstar bronze and glow "light/ medium"
armani cheek fabric blush 509 "eccentrico"

the lips ::
tom ford lipstick "something wild"

looking at that list, i realise that i never got around to reviewing nars' eye paints, mostly because i didn't buy any until well after they launched. i honestly use them pretty much exclusively as liners, but i'd consider them worth the investment even if i never get around to trying them as cream shadows. "baalbek" is particularly stunning, a deep, shimmery antique gold kind of colour.

i also never reviewed the guerlain pressed meteorites, which were introduced with their spring collection this year. they are actually my first experience with meteorites at all, since the regular little balls just seem to be tempting fate with the cats around. i like the effect, but i find that it's a very narrow window between "makes no difference" and "i look like something out of the 17th century". i could say that it's a technique that i need to perfect, but i've been playing around with the product for a while and it seems like it shouldn't take me this long to get the hang of it.

that said, this is an example of a successful application, where it gives my skin a nice, healthy finish, but isn't immediately visible.

as many of you have probably noted, i'm a little awkward with the holidays. there are things that i really enjoy [food and cooking, the more traditional or restrained decorations, the emphasis on kindness and giving], but a lot of the louder, more public things [the music, the phony sentiment, the pressure to spend] are unbearable. i'd much rather mark them quietly, with good food and company, by dressing up just a little and taking a bit more care than usual to look good for the occasion.

hope you've all been able to maximize the things that you enjoy about this time of year and to minimize those which cause stress. 

26 December 2015

eight horrible things my family has done

the holidays are supposed to be all about family and, since i've been exploring my own genealogy lately, i've discovered lots of things about my family that we haven't really discussed at any get-togethers. of course, chances are that i'm the only one who knows a lot of these things and even if i'm not, they're probably the last thing that anyone wants to talk about. then again, as you'll see, my family is weird, so who knows what they want to talk about deep within the recesses of their genetically programmed brain. i mean, they come from some pretty screwed up people.

so here's a short list of the pretty screwed up things that they've done to themselves and to each other. and these are just the ones from whom i'm directly descended- no idea what the distant cousins got up to.

1. got freaked out his child and took off down the street 
i think there's a tendency for people to assume that, back in the good old days, a family stuck together, not like these kids today. au contraire. my great-grandfather took one look at his beautiful young family and said "screw this". the story was that he'd packed his bags and moved back to the town in england he came from. the truth, however, was that he moved a few doors away and everyone continued on as if he didn't have a wife and daughter. my great-grandmother eventually moved to another city entirely, possibly because it was getting awkward to explain to her daughter why she bore such a striking resemblance to the nice gentleman who always crossed the street to avoid her.

2. secretly changed the family's religion
most people would argue that a great marriage is built on communication, understanding and willingness to compromise at crucial points. my great-grandmother [not the same one] felt like it was based on nodding and smiling and doing things behind your husband's back. she had been raised a protestant, but she chose to marry a ship's master who was a catholic. at the time, that was probably the greatest transgression a person could make. seriously, if she'd brought home a black man from the wilds of africa who had converted to protestantism, her family likely would have taken it better. but apparently, she was really fond of him, even if she thought his religion was a load of hooey.

so she waited until he went out to sea for a long spell of work and, while he was gone, she stopped taking their kids to the catholic church and made them protestants instead. i'm sure that made for a lovely welcome home party for the captain. "honey, i condemned the kids to hell".

but apparently the captain took it pretty well, because he and my great-grandmother stuck it out and, when the kids had left the home, they sailed the world together. they both lived to a ripe old age and died within two years of each other.

so, fuck communication. a successful marriage is built on a solid base of religious intolerance and subterfuge.

3. married their cousins
we already established that my mother and father are distant cousins, but if you go back further, it turns out that lots of people in my family married their cousins. there are sections of the family tree where i can now see the same two names repeating in nice columns below each other. must have made christmas gift-buying easier when the kids only had to shop for two grandparents. seriously, it's a miracle i even have fingers. the tradition of cousin-marrying is a pretty big deal in my family, including at least one happy couple who had to travel to see the pope to get special dispensation, because they were so closely related that their marriage was too close to be permitted by church law. i don't know whether to be more disturbed about the fact that they traveled hundreds of miles to make the case for keeping family within the family, or that the pope was impressed enough that they made the trip that he told them to go ahead.

4. got excommunicated
not all my forefathers were on such great terms with the church. one of them was tossed out of the catholic church, not for marrying a cousin, but for kidnapping the wife of a rival duke. that seems like a shockingly un-religious thing for which to get excommunicated, but in the event, it didn't last, because my great-something-grandfather said sorry and was welcomed back into the fold. of course that might have been because...

5. moved the mistress into the house while the wife was out of town
that kidnapping i mentioned? yeah, it turns out that wasn't so much a kidnapping, because the kidnapee was pretty willing. turns out that, while my great-something-grandfather was suking it out [yukyukyuk] on the field, he was also getting it on with his rival's bride. when it came time to pack up and head home, the lovers weren't too eager to be parted. so she assembled her luggage [always a key sign that you haven't been kidnapped] and took off back to her paramour's castle.

now, that was probably a serious blow to the ego of her husband, who had a perfectly serviceable castle of his own, but it was even more of a blow to my great-something-grandmother, who had been off on a religious pilgrimage while her husband was supposed to be at war. she returned home from said voyage a few months after her husband got home [vacations were longer back then] and discovered that there was another woman living in her home, schtupping her husband.

that is all i know of that story, which makes me think that whoever recorded it was a lousy storyteller, because that, if anything, was the climax of the goddamned story. but that's it. there does seem to be some evidence that my great-something-grandmother left the home to go do other things when it became clear that her rival was staying. however, none of the marriages involved ever seem to have been officially dissolved.

the takeaway from points 4 and 5 seems to be that, as far as the church is concerned, politically motivated kidnappings are forbidden, but moving your married mistress into your matrimonial bed while your wife is off praying is cool beans.

6. locked people inside burning buildings
it turns out that this is even more of a tradition than marrying cousins. i have what could be called a disturbing number of direct ancestors who have locked people in buildings and set them on fire. [i realise the grammar of that last sentence makes it unclear whether they set the buildings or the people on fire, but the result is pretty much the same. but for clarity's sake, my family set the buildings on fire and the buildings set the people on fire.]

most of you won't be surprised to learn that this practice started with ancestors from sweden, because something about locking people in a burning building just screams "viking". however, it's a tradition that they seem to have passed down to what eventually became the scottish branch of the family, who distinguished decided to up the ante by locking a rival clan inside their church and setting it alight.

i feel like there's a lot of pressure on me to carry on my family's work.

if it makes you feel any better. several of my ancestors were also killed when they were locked in burning buildings, including one who abandoned his pregnant wife to go hit on another woman [meaning he did literally get burned by lust] and one guy who was burned in his home over a failed crop, à la wicker man.

7. had someone tortured as entertainment at a wedding
apparently, that was just the sort of thing he liked to do. quit ripping off my family, george r. r. martin.

8. invaded england
clearly, this is a ways back, but it turns out that i'm a direct descendant of several of the people who accompanied william the conqueror from normandy to the little island across the water. there are fifteen men who are considered confirmed members of william's posse and i'm descended from three of them, plus the conqueror himself. for english people, that's not especially surprising. most of us are descended from those fifteen [plus william], which means i'm not the only one who likely has a lot of consanguination [cousin-marryin'!] in my past.

but yes, several of my great-something-grandfathers headed over to the land of the angles and saxons and took it over. so the next time i see some guy waving a confederate flag and saying that it's his heritage, i'm invading and conquering his goddamned trailer.

so that's a look at my family's accomplishments. you should take a moment to appreciate the fact that i'm an only child and never had children myself, so this cesspool of genetic bad ideas ends with me. you're welcome.

happy holidays to you all as you honour your family and their traditions in whatever way you see fit.


21 December 2015

mental health mondays :: your holiday primer- reminder

i actually posted this last year, but given the way that music, greetings, decorations and everything else seems to repeat around this time of year, i don't see any reason why i shouldn't be able to double-dip.

happy holidays, or happy "the holidays will be over soon", whichever is your preference.

*

most of us have heard that there's a bump in the number of suicides every year, as the good cheer of others makes depressed people sink even further. it's not actually true, but it does sound pretty believable, doesn't it? after all, things are rough enough when you're dealing with mental health issues, let alone when the entire world seems to be trying to force you to smile and be "merry". it's easy to believe that the added pressure and the projected happiness of others is enough to nudge someone over the edge.

but the fact is, even if people aren't throwing themselves off bridges like a bunch of lemmings [also a myth, by the way], the holidays can be a pretty stressful time. for my american readers, that stress started a few weeks ago, with thanksgiving, but for the rest of us, it's just starting to hit fever pitch now. i may not be able to help you with your last minute shopping, but i have come up with a list of tips that might help keep you from losing your cool and contributing to the annual holiday rise in crime, which is real.

  1. drugs are important :: things can get very busy around the holidays. offices have irregular hours. you may have irregular hours. make sure that you stock up early on whatever medicines you need to get you through to the new year. while pharmacists generally frown on renewing prescriptions early, they're more likely to be understanding around this time of year. this is absolutely not the time to reduce, skip or change your medication. if you're in the process of doing one of these things, talk to your doctor about possibly putting that on hold until things normalize. [if you are looking to reduce or stop your medications, you might want to have a look here for some extra tips.]
  2. do as much and as little as you can :: it might be tempting to crawl in bed and hide for a month, but that's not like you to leave you feeling any better. on the other hand, dealing with large numbers of unfamiliar family members and friends and coworkers and... well, being around lots of people might not be advisable either. so pace yourself. let those close to you know your limitations and why you might not want to participate in every holiday activity. if you don't feel comfortable with coworkers, you can politely back out of the office party. if you want to participate, but think you might feel overwhelmed, have an early exit strategy.
  3. sleep it off :: don't think sleep is a mental health issue? it absolutely is. so make sure that you get the rest you need. even if you can't sleep [and that in itself is a problem you should address], make sure you at least take the time to rest in a place that's dark and quiet and where you're not going to be interrupted.
  4. the big d :: you can find more information in this post, but here's the bottom line: there are lots of good reasons to take vitamin d and while the science on its efficacy against seasonal affective disorder might be inconclusive, there's enough evidence that it might help to make it worth a try. the sun is our major source of vitamin d and there's no getting around the fact that we get precious little of it at this time of year. it will likely do you good on some level and it's not going to harm you. 
  5. and while we're talking about natural highs :: consider adding a good quality omega-3 supplement or increasing your intake of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. you can read more about them here. [note :: omega-3 means omega-3, not 6 and not 9. north americans normally get those in more than sufficient quantities already.]
  6. watch the holiday cheer :: lots of people will tell you that you shouldn't touch alcohol or illicit drugs if you're on any kind of psychiatric medication. i am not one of those people. [i do, however, strongly suggest you read  up on any possible interactions before indulging and making an informed decision.] but the fact is that whether you are or aren't on medication, alcohol is a depressant. if you're already feeling depressed, alcohol will only pull you further down.
  7. plan for the last minute :: if you've already completed all your shopping, you have one less thing to stress about. however, if you've somehow managed, like many, many others to leave it until next week, you can still reduce your anxiety and your time fighting the throngs. take a few quiet moments to think of things you've heard people close to you mention that they planned to get, or that they admired when other people got them... you get the idea. then go online and find out where to get them. if you can order them in time, great, but if not, find out what local stores sell what you need. call and confirm they're in stock and find out the best map that will allow you to get everything you need in the fastest, most efficient way possible.
  8. be nontraditional :: sometimes, family traditions that have formed around the holidays are a comfort for people with mental disorders. they provide a sense of calmness and security that can relieve stress. for others... not so much. if there are traditions that your family practices that are unduly stressful for you, talk to them about it in advance. see if there's some change that could be made to the plan [keeping in mind that others have a right to enjoy their holidays too]. it's all well and good to have established traditions, but it's also fun to find new ones. you might also want to have a think about why certain holiday activities are so stressful for you and see if you can link it to other things that cause you stress. even better, talk to your therapist or doctor about it. it's good to avoid causes of stress when you can, but it's even better to be able to stop them from causing stress at all.
i don't pretend that this is a comprehensive list, but i think it's a starting point. the idea that we make ourselves suffer through something that is meant to give us a break from the stresses of the rest of the year and remind us of how lucky we are to have our loved ones in our life is quite sad. and none of us needs anything to make us more sad at this time of year.

sit back, relax, feel the world slow down around you. no lives are at stake. take a few moments to think about what you need and what you can offer. happy holidays need not be an irritating, chipper slogan. it can be a statement of fact.

p.s. :: if you have a friend or family member who is suffering from mental illness, or if you think you might face [well-meaning but possibly infuriating] questions from your loved ones about your own struggles, you might want to look at this handy list of what to say and what not to say to people with mental disorders.

p.p.s. :: à propos of the image above and as an inveterate hater of christmas movies, i do in all seriousness recommend watching grumpy cat's "worst christmas ever".  its total self-awareness makes it charming where it should be corny. for the season, i also recommend "die hard" [i'm a purist and go only for the original, but dom also likes the second one], "blackadder's christmas carol" and the "holy" episode of bottom. i've also been known to watch old religious epics [ceci b. demille is the man] and add audience participation à la "rocky horror picture show", but your enjoyment of this will depend on your own spiritual outlook and your comfort level with going to hell if it turns out you guessed wrong.

18 December 2015

making faces :: un-palette-able

oh how time slips away. can it possibly be true that 2015 is over in two weeks' time? yes, evidently it can. and, evidently, i can still be behind in posting reviews of seasonal items. i mean, at this point, no one is thinking of buying anything for themselves, right? they've all moved on to buying for other people and would never think of purchasing something "just for me". haha. well, just in case there are a couple of readers who may want to stuff their own christmas stockings, i have a couple of reviews of items i picked up from sephora in recent weeks.

now, these are items in palettes and the last time i checked the sephora canada web site, the palettes themselves are both sold out. but i'm not doing this to torture you. the fact is that every single item contained in the palettes is available separately. they are more expensive when purchased that way, but it gives you the opportunity to choose which things you really like and you get them in a bigger size.

the first item is the makeup forever fifteen shadow palette that was introduced for the holidays. i hadn't yet tried the brand's reformulated eye shadows, although i'd read lots of rave reviews. it wasn't so much that i wasn't curious [although my experiences with the brand over the years have been mixed], but that i felt a little overwhelmed at the vast selection of shades- more than two hundred of them. i do like the fact that, when you buy two or three shades, you can add a palette to keep them in for free, so it's easy to come up with combinations of your own. and the brand has organised their holiday palette in sets of three shades each and includes a guide book on how to create a look with each triad. that's actually a really nice idea, since this would be a great palette for someone just getting into makeup. if it were still available. [it has to be for sale somewhere, right?]

since the brand has organised things in trios, i figure that i'll review them in the same way.

for those wondering about the codes, those with "i" have an iridescent [frost] finish, those with "s" have a satin finish, those with "d" have a diamond [glitter] finish and those with "m" have a matte finish and those with "me" have a metallic [frostier than frost] finish. [note: there aren't actually any matte shades in the palette, which is a shame.]

our first trio is a set of soft neutrals. they might lean a little warm, but not too much. i actually think that they'd be less suited to a purely warm complexion than to a purely cool one [at least, i think they'd be better on a summer-cool complexion], because each of them have a slightly muted, greyed quality.]

l to r :: olive gray, pinky nude, pearl

i-550/ olive gray is a beautiful warm taupe-beige with a finish that's between a very shiny satin and a frost. it has amazing colour payoff, is smooth and long lasting and, honestly, is probably my favourite shade in the entire palette. it is just gorgeous and while i don't believe in colours that are universally flattering, i'd have to say that this comes close.

s-522/ pinky nude is a pretty, peachy shade that could probably work as a highlighter on darker skin, but that works better as a lid colour on my pale skin. it's somewhat similar [although smoother] to the limited edition mac shade "nanogold". it does indeed have a satiny finish that has a bit of a sheen, but not too much.

i-528/ pearl is a pearly white, which means that it's warmer and slightly dirtier than a true white. i like this sort of highlight shade, because true white looks a little too stark on me. this shade can get a bit frosty-looking, but blends out well if that's an issue for you. [highlights that are very frosted tend to look heavy on my eyes.]

the second trio of shades are perfect for what mufe calls a "bronze" look and what i'd call a "sunset eye". i would say that this is the trio combination that works best together out of the five.

l to r :: pinky beige, fig, amber brown
i-524/ pinky beige is a light peachy colour with a lot of pink mixed in. it's a very nice lid shade, for those who feel like they can pull off something pink. the slightly orange/ peach tone makes it easier to wear without giving yourself the "rabbit eye" effect.

d-826/ fig is a warmed cranberry colour. although the finish is supposed to be the very sparkly "diamond" one, i didn't find this to have a lot more luster than the iridescent shades. i did notice just a little fallout over time, but it generally adhered well. it does not have the crumbly sparkle of mac's luster shadows, nor the "wet" look of charlotte tilbury's glitter shades. the colour payoff was very good on this one, but i found that it blended out a little too easily, so that it took on the characteristics of whatever colors were around it.

i-662/ amber brown is a golden bronze. it has fantastic colour payoff and lasts very well with minimal fading. for some reason, this range of shades [everything from copper to khaki in the bronze/ brown range] seem to be easier to do really well. [as opposed to purple shades, which tend to fade more or be more difficult to apply.] it isn't quite as vibrant in use as it looks in the pan, so it can be good for something understated.

16 December 2015

maybe it should have stayed in vegas

celebrate those we still have. remember those we have lost.
the idea of the candidates for the republican presidential nomination talking about national security seemed like a big ol' christmas present for yours truly. not that they haven't discussed "national security" [read: muslim terrorists] before, but this was going to be their opportunity to hold forth in all their violent and racist glory. and on that front, they didn't disappoint, although, after five hours of listening to that much crazy, it all starts to run together in a foul-smelling river of "why am i doing this to myself?"

but watch and listen i did. it's possible i even learned, although the only thing i can think of that i learned are that these people are way more heedless in their thirst for violence that i might have believed and that, in between moments of making fun of them, i am legitimately scared to think that any of them could find themselves with any real power.

overall, cnn ran the sort of debate that cnn normally runs: flat, professional, acquiescent to the people on the stage. wolf blitzer kept his usual stern expression all night and did a better job of keeping everyone in line than other moderators have managed, without actually being tough on them at all. in this age of immediate access to information, there is no reason why debates shouldn't have fact checkers on the spot, working in real time and calling back candidates to earlier false statements.

so let's get to the hyper-macho meat of the matter, shall we?

the kids' table debate

lindsey graham :: the coverage of this debate should have just been the camera on him. he did a nice job of schooling the other kids on why shutting down the government was bad, which makes him stand out as the only person who may know how to play nicely with other people and also as possibly the only decent human being on stage all night. but the true gold was watching his expressions while the others were talking, which ranged from confounded disbelief to pronounced disinterest. still dead in the water, but i hope he stays around forever.

mike huckabee :: reacted to a question about bashar al-assad by saying he was a bad guy who killed lots of people, but "at least he wasn't killing americans". the single most honest moment in any republican debate, ever and no one noticed except on twitter. also said that if young people wanted free university, they should have to serve in the military, which of course would happily exclude kids whose families can afford to pay for university. yes, mike, the problem with young folks today is that they're not dead enough.

george pataki :: wants to punch putin in the face, which turned into a bit of a theme for the night. other than that, i can't remember a thing he said and neither can anyone else.

rick santorum :: seemed so tightly wound at the beginning, i was worried that someone had slipped him some uppers. stood up for the rights of people on terrorist watch lists to buy guns without even blinking. demonstrated his deep knowledge of religion by saying that islam wasn't one, but rather it was a political system, with laws built into its religious texts. evidently, he's never read the bible he's so fond of quoting. psst, santo, look at the bit near the front.

the main event 

given that this was in las vegas, i really thought that this debate lacked pizzazz. would it have been so difficult to incorporate cirque du soleil somehow? i mean, there wasn't even a hint of glitter on the costumes. your game is weak, republicans.

jeb! bush :: another improvement from the man who voters forgot. of course, it did seem like he was getting questions that were just a little bit softer than everyone else, but he managed to match wits a little with the donald, which he never has before. he should have stopped short of trying to act tough, though, because it immediately made all of us of a certain vintage recall when his father got called a wimp and invaded iraq to disprove it.

showed off his foreign policy chops by conflating the arab world and islam, which won't make a difference to the republican crowd, but hillary clinton or bernie sanders will skin him alive for it.

his media bite moment seems to have been when he told donald trump that he couldn't insult his way to the presidency. probably true, jeb, but he may be able to insult his way to the republican nomination.

ben carson :: both his most articulate and his most insane debate. his assertion that one doesn't have to be loud or threatening to be strong was so extraordinary for a republican that carly fiorina didn't even wait until after the debate to copy it. then he started going on about how bombing syria was like removing a brain tumour from a child, where they hate and fear you before but come to love your afterward. then he started to say that sometimes bombing was the merciful thing to do. that's the logic used by charles cullen, the former nurse who is the most prolific serial killer in new jersey, and possibly american, history.

but don't worry about ben, because no one will remember any of that. what they'll remember is that he called republican national committee chairman reince priebus "reince pubis". way to throw up a distraction there, benji. now seriously, has anyone done any research about the patients ben carson wasn't able to save?

chris christie :: once again back is the incredible... no. not gonna disrespect the song. the "cut to the chase guy" routine worked well for him before, so he figured he'd pull it out again when ted cruz and marco rubio got too deep into a conversation about immigration bills. however, this time he seemed less like the adult in the room and more like the dumber-down in chief. who knows, with the crowd he's playing to, that might not be a bad thing.

his insatiable lust for war everywhere is the sort of thing only possible in someone who has never had to be in an armed conflict. so before we let christie have another microphone so that he can tell us about how everyone, everywhere is trying to kill all of us, all the time, and that we need to kill them first, i say we send him to northern iraq and let him get some firsthand experience.

had his own carson moment when he was talking about fort dix, but everyone in the world heard "four dicks".

ted cruz :: sure, everyone may still be talking about trump, but cnn clearly knows where things are heading. long stretches of the debate, including the most comprehensive discussions about immigration policy and foreign involvement, were taken up exclusively with cruz and rubio going mano-a-mano. however, neither was able to land a knock-out blow. i felt like cruz came off a little the worse, but not so much that he sustained any real damage.

questioned about his policy of carpet bombing the middle east until the sand glows in the dark, cruz clarified that he meant a sort of precision carpet bombing. area rug bombing, if you will. but he made it clear that he doesn't want anything to do with the whole cleaning up the mess he left in the wake of his carnage. i can only imagine the godawful things his mother had to deal with when trying to get him to put away his toys.

for someone who has risen steadily in the polls, to the point where he is tied with trump [or even leading] in iowa, cruz is attracting very little criticism from his peers. in fact, he seems to be bringing them [trump especially] on side, isolating rubio as he does so. ted cruz, i think you are a very shrewd man and i mean that both in the sense that you are running a smart campaign and that you look like a shrew.

carly fiorina :: had to fight to get a word in edgewise, and, without donald trump criticizing her for doing so, came off as being petulant, just like kasich in the last debate and jim webb for the democrats. did her usual spiel of factoids that normally make her sound knowledgeable, but it didn't seem to hit home as well, possibly because people have dedicated a lot of time to exposing how wrong she has it on just about everything. she made a lot of her private sector experience and how that would fix everything. i think she's planning to defeat isis by sending them a whole lot of hp printers. not the worst idea i've heard from this bunch.

john kasich :: congratulations on being the only person to mention the paris climate change agreement. of course, you said that you couldn't believe that leaders were meeting about that and not about terrorism, but at least you know it happened, which no one else, including blitzer et al seemed to. i have to be honest, though: i found that out on twitter, because i think i zoned out for those few moments when you actually spoke. to me, you were just the guy who wore the blue tie instead of a red one.

rand paul :: kudos to his supporters for making sure that they were positioned right next to the microphones, so they sounded louder and more numerous. unfortunately, while paul made some of the night's more cogent arguments [not setting the bar that high], he came off chiefly as ted cruz's wing man, the guy who could talk more intelligently than anyone about the dangers of becoming overly involved in foreign conflicts. he was the only person who even hinted that there was more to terrorism than just "bad people with guns", albeit in his closing remarks. it doesn't matter. he's so far behind the pack that donald trump didn't even bother to make fun of him.

marco rubio :: finally had to talk about immigration and his points didn't completely bomb with the crowd [we'll see how voters judge him in the next few days, when more polls start to roll in]. he seems to have become the candidate of moderate republicans, which would sound crazy, except that it's hard for anything to sound crazy in this race anymore. still reads as sincere, passionate and articulate, but also as boring. really boring. tell some jokes, dude. learn to juggle. you see what jeb! bush looks like on that stage? is that what you want to turn into? he's probably the best debater among the group, but we've seen that now, time to change things up a little.

donald trump :: whose house? trump's house! no candidate is more at home in las vegas than the donald. and no candidate is less comfortable in a debate. he lobbed a few insults, made the requisite funny faces, got cutesy with carson and cruz [see, marco rubio? learn from that shit] gave some shit to the moderators [fun fact: he's 100% right about it being ridiculous that the early debate asked questions about things he'd said when he wasn't even there] and he even introduced a new level of weird: chewing out the audience.

he showed a lack of knowledge about the internet and communications unseen since the days of ted "series of tubes" stevens, and was predictably out of his depth on most policy issues, but that might make him seem closer to his odious base. he stood by his policy of banning all muslims from entering the country, at least temporarily, which should surprise no one. nor should it be a surprise that that statement cast a shadow over everything, and forced the other candidates to either lean towards or away from him. if the conspiracy theories are correct and this is some sort of plot to undermine the whole party, this may be his most cunning move yet. of course, if it is a plot, i think he might be a little creeped out at how popular his obnoxiousness has become. if he is, as he keeps insisting, the real deal, then the rest of us need to be creeped out, because i'm way more scared of president trump than i am of terrorists.

truthfully, this was trump's best debate performance, but who cares? these aren't his thing. he knows it, we know it and the polls tell the story: republicans could not give a shit if donald trump ever turns in a decent debate performance as long as he keeps saying the ignorant, racist things they want to hear. [hey, wasn't he demanding cnn pay him to show up for this thing? and didn't he and ben carson team up to force the media to limit the debate time to two hours including commercial breaks?]

so there you have it. the last debate before the iowa caucus, the caucus that gave us the rick santorum juggernaut last cycle. imagine what could happen this time around. or don't, because you might want to sleep again.

i'm not certain of the origin of the image above, but i scraped it from pax on both houses.

12 December 2015

armchair centre back :: things fall apart

two pals meeting in the dole queue
what the hell happened?

about the only good thing about being a swansea city fc fan this season would be that, were you also a masochist, you would have been able to save good money by watching games instead of paying to have someone inflict pain on you. unfortunately it seems clear that no one established a safe word.

after their best finish ever in 2014-15 [highest number of points, highest position, most games won], the world was swansea's oyster. coming into the new season, new signing andre ayew was a serious 'get'. and the players responsible for last year's great ride had stuck around. normally, when a mid-level team does well, those with more money come to collect the spoils. [southampton have endured having their prize feathers plucked two years in a row.]

and indeed, this year seemed to start very well. they held satan's footsoldiers chelsea to a tie on opening day. [at that point, chelsea were still the team that won the league by a country mile a few months earlier and not the laughing stock whose smug manager now feels the need to reassure the faithful that they won't be relegated to the championship next year.] they beat louis van gaal's half-billion dollar manchester united for the third time in a row. every week gomis and ayew were matching each other for goals and assists- one would set up the other, then they'd switch for the next goal.

i'm as excited as you are, gus
and then the good times just stopped. we were hearty and healthy and in the prime of life and then suddenly we were lying on the ground turning grey and wondering what the light was at the end of that long tunnel, while manager garry monk tried desperately to perform cpr.

so this week, garry got his walking papers, after more than a decade as player and then manager, and the swans started their first monk-less game in the premier league. that's become the thing you do when your team is in freefall, which is a big risk if you ask me, which no one did, not that i would have expected them to do so. after all, there were a lot of signs that monk was a pretty brilliant manager emerging from the chrysalis and it might have been worth riding out the storm.

misgivings, i has them.

i feel like we might just have treated symptoms of a heart attack by amputating a foot, which is a significant handicap if you're playing football. looking around the internet, it's pretty clear that i'm not alone: the range of opinions goes from "i hate it, but it had to be done" to "this is a terrible decision". huw jenkins, the chairman who had to do the firing, looked like eeyore on downers as he sat by himself watching the team lose a heartbreaker to manchester city today. [seriously joe hart, y u no stop goals like that 4 england?]

there are theories as to what happened. [here are seven of them, for starters. here are a whole bunch more, with the caveat that the article has been described as sounding "like it was written by garry monk's mother."] when monk stepped in to replace former manager michael laudrup after a similar slide, it seemed kind of obvious that there was a major problem between the manager and certain factions of the players. [it seemed even more obvious when monk loaded all of laudrup's favourites onto dinghies at the end of the season and pushed them into the ocean.]

this goes back to my earlier metaphor about curing the symptoms of a heart attack by amputating a foot: if it's not clear what's going on, maybe we shouldn't be rushing into surgery just yet.

i really want someone to give mourinho this look
in our case, the symptoms are that our key players have just stopped performing [although gylfi sigurdsson and bafétimbi gomis were better today], so we clearly need someone who is capable of motivating the demotivated. that's easy to say and probably the most difficult thing to accomplish. "here, bring these guys back from the dead, will you?" sure, no problem. oh, and as an extra challenge, we're now just barely clear of the dreaded "drop zone", where we risk being pushed back a division if we don't shape up, so whoever takes over needs to have a skill for uphill battles. so it's more like "here, bring these guys back from the dead, will you? and do it in this car that we've just pushed into a lake. ta."

so now that we've established the parameters for the job, let's look at the potential new hires, shall we?

brendan rodgers :: the manager who brought swansea into the premier league and then got stolen away by liverpool, until he was sacked earlier this season. the favourite among swansea fans, he's said he's not interested, possibly because he'd like to take over as manager of the england national team. however, some of us think that position belongs to alan pardew, and if brendan wants it so badly, he should have to meet alan in the boxing ring to fight for it. i'd seriously cross the ocean to see that. but no, brendan's moment at swansea is past and he knows it, even if the jack army doesn't.

gus poyet :: the uruguayan just barely kept sunderland in the premier league in 2014 and got fired from his managerial post there when they dropped right back into the relegation zone in 2015. he seems like a good, if slightly temperamental, guy but it is a sad statement on swansea's self-image that a lot of people seem to have resigned themselves to the inevitability of his appointment. i'm going to strike a blow for optimism and say that i believe we can do better.


jorge sampaoli :: the manager of the chilean national team is a popular figure every time a european post opens up, following his team's showing at the last world cup and their win against heavily favoured argentina at the copa america this summer. he's the second favourite behind poyet right now, although that's possibly because there were a flurry of rumours that he'd resigned his post with chile earlier in the week [rumours that he says are untrue]. swansea would have to be brain dead to pass him up. of course, if we have to wait until january for him to make up his mind, which is the timeline he's set, brain death is a possibility.

guess who in this photo wishes he worked somewhere else
ryan giggs :: well if we wanted to have a fresh-out-of-the-starting-block player-turned-manager as a boss, why the hell didn't we just keep the one we had? i kid, i kid. i like giggs and i think you could make a very plausible argument that manchester united wouldn't be any worse off than they are now if they had let him continue as manager after the departure of david moyes. [who was a favourite to take over the swansea job until he said he wasn't interested, which is like hearing that the guy with the uncontrollable flatulence doesn't think you're cool enough to ask to prom.] giggs is welsh, and proudly so, which would be kind of cool. and he basically interned with alex ferguson, which is pretty good on the job training. i'd take that. [did anyone else see giggs' face in the final fifteen minutes of united's woeful performance in bournemouth today? it was like he had somewhere else he had to be. like a job interview.]

unai emery :: lol wut? the former manager of valencia, who took the team to a third place finish in la liga where, unless you're real madrid or barcelona, third place is basically first? the guy who's been manager at sevilla for the last two and a half seasons and has won the europa league twice in a row? yes, he is given the same odds as giggs for becoming the next swansea manager. on the one hand yes, please, but on the other hand is this in any way a realistic possibility? well, some people seem to think so. personally, i think this is the flipside of the poyet-acceptance. i mean, there's confidence and there's that weird sort of confidence that usually leads to someone becoming hitler or stalin. you don't want to be that confident.

chelsea's champions league winning side,
none of whom are still at chelsea
roberto di matteo :: not among the top candidates from odds-makers, but someone whose name has started being tossed around recently. i'm including him because i've got a personal fondness for him and i think he's proven that he functions well when thrust into challenging situations. the man won the damned champions league with chelsea after having the manager's job thrust upon him mid-season. some would argue that he hasn't shown that he excels at managing a team under normal circumstances, but i think that might be because his last two gigs have been managing teams that had expectations of high league position and champions league results. a talented team with more achievable expectations is likely an excellent match. also, he's probably just as motivated to see his former employers at chelsea humiliated as i am. so there's that.

there are, of course, an almost unlimited number of others who can and may take over the helm at liberty stadium. there are a bunch i haven't even touched on in this article. [note: i haven't touched on most of them, because none of them really appeal to me, save andreas villas-boas. considering that his team has just qualified for the knockout phase of the champions league and are in first place domestically, an exit to a team at swansea's level would be just a wee bit surprising.] my only real wish is that swansea hire someone who will make me forget that i thought letting garry monk go was a bad idea.

if, like me, you're still feeling badly for garry, cheer up. he's already been mooted as a possible manager for championship side fulham. alternately, sky bet also has him listed as a 66-1 long shot to replace lucifer jose mourinho, who just got bumped to the top of the list of premier league managers likely to get the axe. 

paranoid theory of the week :: are parts of britain living under de facto sharia law?

it sounds too crazy to be true. or it sounds too crazy to not be true. are there really areas of london, one of the world's great cities, a centre since roman times, origin of the vast majority of white, western culture, where even the duly appointed police are afraid to tread?

this is one of those rumours that has implications beyond being "true" or "false". if true, it is surely an indication that democratically elected governments have skewed so far in the direction of accommodation that they've ceded power to local "warlords", religious extremists bent on exterminating ideas different than theirs, even if those ideas are the prevailing ones in the country at large. if false, it is an ugly example of the most ignorant sort of racism, perpetrated with the informed consent of mass media in britain and elsewhere.

what i'm saying is, there's no way you're going to feel good about the end result, no matter what we discover.

the theory ::
there are areas of london where islamic religious patrols form the de facto police, enforcing sharia law and where actual law enforcement feel unable to perform their duties.

the origin ::
this has been kicking around for a while, especially since september 11, 2001 when... ok, i'm just going to assume that i don't have to explain what happened on that date. my point is that stories about muslim-only enclaves in britain, france, germany and all over western europe started to emerge in the wake of events that day. parties like france's front national and the u.k.'s britain first have made political hay by sharing stories of the dangers of cultural conflict that arise when too many members of a very different racial and cultural group are allowed to immigrate into generally white, western, democratic countries like britain and france. american journalist daniel pipes claims that his articles in 2006 were the first ones to comprehensively deal with "no-go" zones for non-muslims in europe, however, since he's actually gone to those zones, he's backed off on his claims.

but the theory gained a lot more visibility earlier this year when fox news guest steve emerson claimed that there were areas of britain, including the entire city of birmingham, that were operating under sharia law at that very moment.



fox and emerson later backtracked like a videotape being rewound [just ask your parents what that means], but the idea got a phenomenal amount of coverage.

the believers ::
hard to gauge. the daily mail, the right-oriented newspaper who have pushed the story the most in the united kingdom, and fox news, their american television cognate, have big audiences. that's really as specific as i can be. former louisiana governor bobby jindal repeated the fox news claim as fact. the other republican guy, the one with the opinions and the hair, hedged a little, saying that there were areas that were so radical, police feared for their lives.

the bad guys ::
conservative muslims.

the evidence ::
well... how about video of actual people being abused in the whitechapel district of london?



that's not the only video, either. in 2013, a group calling itself "the truth about saturday night" posted multiple videos of men harassing passersby in east london, insulting women for their choice of clothing, knocking drinks out of people's hands and, as you see above, intimidating gay men who crossed their path. it's kind of hard to deny that there are so-called "sharia patrols" happening when the men doing them are posting the evidence themselves.

now, you could try to argue that those videos are faked, which is fine, things like that happen. but that hasn't been the general reaction. members of the london muslim community condemned the videos, saying that such actions were unwelcome and that they would be monitoring the situation to try to prevent anything similar from happening.

in fact, three young men were arrested and convicted with regards to the videos and the "sharia patrols". they patrols themselves appeared to be the work of a group called al-muhajiroun an illegal extremist group led by a man named anjem choudary. they received sentences of between six months and two years in prison for their actions.

two of the men convicted for participating in the london sharia patrols
and it's that last part where the evidence kind of turns on itself. the videos of men conducting a "sharia patrol" exist, but so do the court records of them being detained by police and sentenced by the british court system. it's difficult to argue that these patrols have so much power that the police are afraid to enter their claimed neighbourhoods when the only people known to have engaged in such patrols were captured by the police.

it's a little unclear where the assertion that the police are afraid or unable to enter certain muslim-controlled zones originated. daniel pipes, who points to himself as the source of the claim, now denies that what he said- that there were/ are parts of major european cities over which their national governments had no control- was false. however, earlier this year, nigel farage, leader of the anti-immigration united kingdom independence party said that there were 750 zones in france that are "no-go" for non-muslims.

there is just the teensiest grain of truth there. let's give nigel the benefit of the doubt and say that he's misunderstood the french term "zones urbaines sensibles". literally translated, it means "sensitive urban areas". in practice, it means... well, it means exactly that. there are 750 zones, primarily in poor suburbs, designated as "sensitive" by the french government. that designation means that they are targeted for infrastructure repairs and increased spending on community resources. many of these zones are home to immigrants, not just muslims, but from all over, who aren't able to afford to live anywhere else. it doesn't mean that the police don't go there. it doesn't mean that sharia law has been imposed. all the designation is meant to indicate is that the government is aware that the area needs more attention.

pipes himself visited a number of these zones himself and had to admit that, far from lawless frontiers, the neighbourhoods seemed pretty tame, especially in comparison with the rougher areas around american cities.

the likelihood :: 0/10
the fact that there are men roaming around london on a saturday night recording themselves as they harass women and homosexuals doesn't mean anything other except that sexism and homophobia are still problems. if these individuals hadn't connected with choudary's vitriolic riff on religion, chances are they'd still be out harassing people on the streets of london anyway. all he's given them is a reason to feel like they're bullies for a higher power. [sort of like christian priests claim that those who bomb abortion clinics and murder doctors are doing god's will.]

and i believe that this sort of violence is a problem. i've written here before about my thoughts on outbursts of isis-inspired violence and the people who perpetrate it. but it only makes things worse when you try to make that violence and the anger behind it seem like something it isn't. and it makes things much worse when you try to use that to cast aspersions on a group of people.

if you're not convinced by what i've laid out here, you can also check out the argument from snopes, who likewise found that the claim had no merit.

[for what it's worth, i've been to the whitechapel area of london a few times, like any good acolyte of the jack the ripper murders. i had one of the best meals of my entire life at a bengali restaurant on brick lane and watched the rush as observant men headed into the mosque for afternoon prayer with a pint of beer in my hand. no one tried to assault me, which would have been pretty easy, since i was too full to move.]

09 December 2015

world wide wednesdays :: the "arab world" [a refresher]

this week, we've heard a lot from a certain republican candidate about muslims. and we've heard a lot of people commenting on that candidate's views on muslims. this afternoon, israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu, whose government hasn't exactly covered itself in peace-loving glory, told said candidate that he needs to cool it with the muslim-hating. a man whose government drops bombs on muslims thinks you're hating muslims too much. i'll let that sink in for a moment.

ok, moment's over. i haven't reused a worldwide wednesdays post before, but in this case, i thought it was appropriate, because i'm not convinced that that man, the candidate even knows what he's talking about when he says "muslims" [or at least, i think he's playing to the stereotypical idea of muslims that westerners often have].

none of this deals with the deliberately provocative, race and religion-baiting comments that that guy made. but i think that, if we're going to have to deal with those sorts of arguments, we should do our best to learn what it is that we're talking about.

*

last week, i was discussing events in the middle east with a friend, particularly the emergence of the islamic state group and the threat they posed to the remaining secular governments of the arab world. syria, while it was clearly always a predominantly islamic country [by population], had been one of those and i mentioned turkey as another. my friend immediately responded "i don't mean to be pedantic but turks are not arabs".

i hate that sort of thing. not what he said, of course, but the fact that i know perfectly well that turks are not arabs, and i still made the same sort of lazy geographical association for which i'm forever criticising others. i did make some feeble attempt to re-establish my credentials as someone who had something worthwhile to contribute to a discussion on middle eastern politics, but this is the sort of slip that eats away at my conscience during those long hours of insomnia. my tail hasn't emerged from between my legs since.

however, the exchange and my mistake did lead me to reflect on what we call the "arab world" and i've come to the conclusion that there's something wrong with almost every definition and the things that are wrong with it are very telling indeed. so for today's world wide wednesday feature, i thought it was worth taking a quick look at the various ways in which the term "arab world" is used.

old time religion

whether they want to admit it or not, when most north americans refer to the arab world, they are referring to the parts of the world where islam is the dominant religion. that includes lazy sods like me who know better but do it anyway. this is probably the worst use of the term, because it's so patently, ridiculously wrong.

bahareh hedayat :: not arab
with 1.6 billion followers worldwide and a growth rate that exceeds all other major religions, islam is way too big to be confined to one area of the globe. however, if you want to get picky and say that the arab world is the part of the world that has the most muslims, you'd be talking about southeast asia.

with over 200 million adherents of islam, indonesia is the country with the most muslims, followed by pakistan, india and bangladesh. southeast asia has about three times the number of muslims of any other area of the world.

yes, i hear you say, but there are way more people in southeast asia than there are in other areas of the world, so it makes more sense to look at the countries where the greatest percentage of the population follows islam. that's not an unreasonable argument, i'd say and then i'd point out that you're talking about morocco.

fully 99.9% of the population of morocco is muslim, narrowly edging out tunisia with 99.8%. if it makes you feel any better, afghanistan is also 99.8% muslim and iran is 99.7%. but it shouldn't make you feel better, because you'd be hard-pressed to find an arab in either of those countries. in iran, arabs make up about 2% of the population. afghanistan doesn't even count them as a separate group, so any arabs living there are lumped in with "4% other" and they're probably not even a significant portion of that. iran is majority persian, while afghanistan has a plurality of pashtun and evidence indicates that both of those groups are more closely related to europeans than they are closer relatives of modern-day europeans than ethnic arabs. [side note: some anthropologists believe that the pashtun people may actually be descended from one of the mysterious lost tribes of israel. this was a legend in the oral tradition and it continues to garner some academic support into this century.]

now that we've started to talk about arab ethnicity, it's time we move on to the next way of defining the "arab world".

the amazing race

hamid karzai :: not arab
unpacking what is meant by the arab race is a genealogical nightmare. there are basically two things you learn when you start to look into it:

1. the term "arab" was invented by one group of people to describe another group of people, which is always a terrible way to start thinking about a population. [side note: the term "arab" simply meant the people who lived on the arabian peninsula, who were a startlingly diverse group at the time. when muslims from north africa swooped in between the 17th and 13th century, the largely semitic peoples who had lived there [and were termed arab, at least by others] were displaced and their territory claimed by the invaders, meaning that the modern arab race is descended from people who came after the original arabs, to whom they are genetically unrelated. so-called "pure" arabs still exist. they're called qahtinites and they live mostly in yemen. i hope you're remembering all this.]

2. the term really hasn't gotten a lot more useful over time. its polyglot nature is about as useful as identifying people by what continent they live on [like i did earlier by saying "north americans"!]. it's the broadest possible generality.

i would try to explain this further, but it's entirely possible that my brain would explode. there is some logic to grouping arabs as a race- they are related to each other. but that's using a very, very big family tree. functionally, there are hundreds of arab subgroups and, because that's not confusing enough, there are people of many other ethnicities with long roots in the same geographical region. [side note: ethnic arabs have one of the highest rates of genetically transmitted disorders in the world, including ones that appear to affect no other races. there is an organisation in dubai dedicated to study this phenomena.]

but people have kept right on using the term "arab", because it's convenient, and eventually someone just decided to say "fuck it" and started using the term to refer to countries that use arabic languages.

speaking in tongues

the arabic language is part of an umbrella group called the afro-asiatic which, as you clever folk have probably figured out, is something like indo-european in scope. arabic is part of the semitic group of languages, which makes it reasonably closely related to hebrew, syriac and some of the languages of ethiopia and more distantly related to other african languages like somali and egyptian coptic. it's closest relative is... wait for it... maltese.

cenk uygur :: not arab
grouping people by their language isn't the worst idea anyone's ever had. but would it surprise you to know that this case is particularly complicated? i didn't think so.

first of all, for confusion's sake, arabic is the language of the qu'ran, which just adds to the confusion about the whole arab vs muslim distinction. but since we already know they're not the same, we can move on to the other reasons it's complicated.

arabic exists in a state called diglossia, which means that its written and spoken forms are different. there are several languages with the same distinction and in nearly every case, there is a certain level of political tension underlying the split. written arabic is a single entity, but spoken arabic is split into dozens of dialects and many of them are unintelligible to one another. in the interests of political unity, many arabs will tell you they all speak the same language, but there's a decent chance that another group of arabs, from another part of the world, wouldn't know what they were saying. so talking about countries where arabic is the predominant language is like talking about countries that speak romance languages. sure, they're related, but that doesn't make them homogenous. [although the written language thing helps push the argument along.]

as you may have gleaned, though, from that previous paragraph, there is sometimes a sense that arabs want to feel unified by their language, even though that might not be easy. and this brings us to what's possibly the "right" answer, or at least the one that's easiest to live with.

so political

without knowing it, when most people refer to the "arab world" what they mean is really the arab league. the arab league was founded in 1945 in order to foster a sense of unity and offer mutual support between arab-speaking countries. today, it has 21 members, including countries from the middle east [as far east as iraq] and northern and eastern africa. or it has 22. syria was a founding member, but is currently suspended because of acts of government repression during their civil war.

marrakech, morocco :: almost entirely arab
the list of countries who participate in the arab league is largely similar to the list of countries where arabic is the predominant language, although not exact. somalia's population is only about 45% arab speaking, but it is part of the league. djibouti and comoros are both members, but have only tiny arab minorities. oh, and just to fuck with your head, qatar, bahrain and the united arab emirates are all only about half arab by total population because of the massive numbers of foreign workers in those countries [although most non-arabs are not citizens]. oh and venezuela and brazil are official observers.

despite some slightly confusing bits [really, were you expecting any different?] i say that this is closest to a "correct" answer because it's the one way in which arab people have actually defined themselves. the arab league is a pan-national, pan-ethnic group which was founded with the aim of having arab states support each other's economic growth, defend each other militarily if necessary and to foster a sense of unity through cultural events and exchange. in that sense, the league has a role similar to the european union.


that folks, is about as far as i can take you in the examination of what is meant by the "arab world". i'm very aware of the irony that a term that has been around for centuries seems to have acquired a workable definition a little less than seventy years ago, but really, i think that it's just further evidence that it's a term to be used with the utmost caution. and never use it to refer to iran or turkey.

making faces :: wearing the wrong colours, vol. 1

i've talked about doing this for a while, but i thought now was as good a time as any to get started. i've been writing for some time about seasonal colour analysis and specifically the 12-season sci/art model, based on evaluating colour by hue [warm vs cool], value [light vs dark] and chroma [saturated vs muted]. after a lot of playing around, i've narrowed myself down to a bright season [very high chroma], most likely bright winter [cooler and darker], but possibly bright spring [warmer and lighter]. 

in theory, that means that i should avoid colours that are soft [low in saturation], especially those that have an autumnal [brown, gold] heat to them. bright seasons don't have any of that in them, being a combination of cold, jewel-like winter and warm, fruity spring. so does that mean that those sorts of colours are off-limits to me forever? 

if you answered "yes", i'm assuming this is your first visit here. [which is fine. welcome. i love having new friends. look around, please. but you might as well know from the start that i don't respond well to absolute rules.]

today, i wore a look that should be completely wrong on me. the eye makeup is a combination of rouge bunny rouge "periwinkle cardinal" and "papyrus canary" with the pewter and white gold shades from guerlain's limited "liu" palette. more specifically, i used the white gold shade from liu on the inner part of the lid, "periwinkle cardinal" on the outer lid and then used the pewter shade to blend them. i used "papyrus canary" to soften the colours along the crease to the brow bone and added more of the white gold shade under the eyebrow as a highlight. i used a combination of the pewter and "periwinkle cardinal" along the lower lash line. 

for liner, i've used nars "baalbek" eye paint on the upper lash line and mac "i get no kick" along the lower water line. mascara is yves st. laurent effet faux cils baby doll. 

the cheeks are a combination of nars "torrid", a soft apricot, and guerlain "parure de nuit", a delicate white-coral-pink highlighter. 

finally, the lips are nars audacious lipstick "leslie". i've fallen behind in my audacious lipstick reviews, simply because there's so much new stuff to catch up with, but this is a fairly new acquisition and one that conflicts with everything about my colouring. it sits right on the border between brown and red, giving it a deep, sullen, ruddy look. it sits so perfectly on the red-brown boundary that i can't say with certainty which it is. in photos, it looks redder, but in person, it seems browner, especially in the feeble late autumn light we have now. 



i'm sharing this, because i like this look. i like it despite the fact that the elements aren't in line with my colouration. soft sage green and dirty pewter are anathema to a bright winter complexion that demands clarity and saturation above all. the hot clay colour of "leslie" is a poor choice for anyone who doesn't have a significant contribution from autumn in their colouring. nonetheless, i like this look. 

why? well, i think that there is enough contrast between the eyes and the lip to work. the eyeliner is dark enough to give definition, in combination with the black mascara. the blush/ highlighter combination may be a little warm for my skin, but it definitely gives that soft glow that benefits a spring-touched complexion [as opposed to the molten or lustrous metallic sheen that compliments autumnal colouring]. finally, while the lip colour might be too "hot" or muddled for a bright season complexion, it does have enough contrast with my skin to complement the wintery effect underneath. all seasons in winter's reach benefit from sharp contrast and when that is done right, you have a little more leeway on temperature and clarity. 

so what's the point of knowing your "season" if you can just cheat in whatever colours you want? well, i think it's a matter of knowing how to cheat in the colours you want. if i'd worn this with a bronze and cranberry eye combination, or a dirty orange shade of blush, or if i'd gone with a peachy-gold shade of lipstick, i don't think that i would have liked the results at all. which is a complicated way of saying that knowing the most important things about your personal season can be instructive in figuring out how to incorporate elements that wouldn't normally fall within your limitations. 
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