31 December 2016

not all bad

just a quick post to wish you all a very happy new year and to say thank you for each and every time you've read, liked, shared or commented on a post here. 2016 marked the ten year anniversary of more like space in all its hydra-headed glory and my one wish is that i'm still able to have a space like this to inflict myself on the world in another ten years.

i don't have to tell you all the things that went wrong in 2016, but i do think it's worth considering that not everything was an exploding septic tank in the world. here are a few examples:

1. giant pandas, sea turtles and humpback whales all came off the endangered list.

2. viola desmond, a civil rights activist and basically the rosa parks of canada, was announced as the new face of our $10 bill.

3. the hole in the ozone layer has shrunk to the point where it could conceivably repair itself by 2050.

4. tiny kittens had their busiest and most kitty-savingest year ever, dispelling some longstanding myths about feral cats, especially about their ability to adapt to domestic life.

5. a vaccine for ebola was developed.

7. there is a ceasefire in aleppo, however tenuous it may be.

6. jobama memes. no, it doesn't make up for the election results, and it really just underlines what the world is losing, but damn they felt good.

stay strong and stay safe and see you next year!

30 December 2016

making faces :: meant for me

kate on kate
i don't have a lot to say about this, because, when it comes to the subject of nars audacious lipsticks, i've already said a lot. but in this case, i have to say something, because, despite the fact that i've collected several more of these little lovelies since i last wrote of them, there are a couple of things that need to be said:

1. this fall, they released the first new additions to the lineup since its launch in 2014.

2. one of the shades is called "kate".

now, my first inclination was to think that francois nars was simply continuing to name the lipsticks of this collection after stars of the silver screen, and that "kate" in this case referred to katharine hepburn, who was informally referred to as kate. [the spelling clearly indicates that it could not be referring to cate blanchett, who coincidentally won her first oscar for playing katharine hepburn.] but the names of the new shades don't actually line up as well with iconic actresses as the first round: shirley could refer to temple or maclaine, but stefania? mona? apoline? those don't line up so well.

so, i'm choosing to believe that this round of audacious lipsticks was inspired by lipstick-obsessed fans who've gleefully followed mr. nars' evolution [tossing money at him all the way] and that "kate" is, in fact, named after me.

i mean, it's called kate and it's purple. and everyone who reads the beauty portions of this blog knows that i have a bit of a thing for purple to begin with. it's not one of those "calls itself purple but is really just a berry/ pink shade with a bit more blue added in" purples, either. no, this is the real deal, a full-bodied, regal purple that's basically everything i could have asked for in a lipstick that would bear my name.

kate

kate

like a lot of the nars audacious line, this is a shade that looks like it should be fairly easy to match to an existing shade, but it really isn't. and this is coming from someone who has a not inconsiderable stash of purples at her disposal. behold my best effort:

l to r :: mac up the amp, kate, mac heroine, bite beauty taro
the first thing i couldn't get over was how red "up the amp" looked next to "kate". just a few years ago, that was one of the cooler-toned purples on the market. that's how the market has changed.

mac "heroine" is brighter and bluer. i find that "kate" looks a bit more sophisticated, while "heroine" is more of a fun shade. "heroine" has an almost candy-like quality to it when you see it next to muted shades [which all the others pictured are].

i initially thought that bite beauty "taro" would be a closer match, because "kate" looks quite cool seen next to other shades in a display, and it does have just a bit of grey in the undertone, but they're not similar at all, beyond the general purpleness.

beyond the considerations of colour, "kate" ticks all the boxes on the list of "things i have grown to expect from a nars audacious lipstick": it's a very smooth, lightweight formula that's a satiny matte on my lips [more of a satin-cream on others]; it's not moisturising, but it does feel quite nice on the lips and seems to make them look smoother; the lasting time is good.

of course, all this is for nought if "kate" the lipstick doesn't work for kate the person.




me likey.

as someone who does best in fully saturated, bold colours, anything with a hint of grey in it is moving into risky territory. shades that look fresh and lively on others make me look like i haven't slept in a week. but purples are more forgiving than a lot of shades, which i'm going to ascribe to the fact that both bright winter and bright spring people have a healthy amount of yellow hidden in their complexions, creating a nice counter balance. in this case, the fact that the colour is just a little tamped down would make it appropriate for an office or a business meeting. it's also enough that i think that people whose colouring leans cooler could get away with this, although on those whose complexion is also muted, it's going to look brighter than it does here.

i apologise for the fact that i'm not super-sure what else i'm wearing in those photos. the main shade on my lids is armani's eye tint in "rose ashes", paired with rouge bunny rouge "solstice halcyon" in the crease, and the liner is nars "baalbek". i believe the cheeks are a combination of mac "next to skin" [used to contour] and mac "vibrant grape". this is what happens when i think that i'm going to post something within twenty-four hours, so i don't need to bother writing anything down.

so is "kate" my lipstick soulmate? well, i don't believe in lipstick monogamy, so i wouldn't go so far. but i do feel like we share something pretty special.

25 December 2016

what's easy?

as the year draws to a close, i can reflect on the fact that, in a year that is going to be puzzled over by historians and mystics who try to decipher how everything was sucked into the shitter at once, i made a new year's resolution and stuck with it for the only time in my life. [and judging from how 2016 turned out, it might be in all our interests if i never make/ keep a resolution again.] of course, as i pointed out in my original post on the subject, i was cheating a little, because i actually started studying one language [german] before the new year, so the resolution was more or less to just continue doing what i was doing. nonetheless, i have continued doing just that, and have turned the practicality of learning a third language into a bit of an obsession with learning every language.

nonetheless, i am kind of proud of what i've learned, and excited to keep going. i've completed three language "trees" on duolingo, although it's really more like two and a half, since one of them was french. it still helped me brush up on my second language, though. and i've got what i'd consider to be a solid base in spanish and german as well. one of my goals for the coming year is to do a language course using french as the base language.

a few friends/ acquaintances/ random passersby on the internet have asked me which language has been the easiest to learn, which does seem to be one of the most popular language learning questions. i have to admit that i'm a little puzzled by it, because it's not like there's some list out there that says which languages are easier or harder than others.

oh wait, there is.

that list, put together by the foreign service institute, is pretty much the bible of how easy or hard a language is to learn. the fsi is one of the few places that has been able to see unilingual anglophones taking all the language courses the institute offers [although by no means all languages, or even all major languages, which is one of the list's principal drawbacks]. therefore, they have a lot of insight into how long it takes the average learner to master each language, plus, they have an understanding of what makes each language different.

their logic is pretty unassailable: english speakers will find it easiest to learn a language that has both grammatical and lexical similarities to english. that means that dutch and close-cousin afrikaans should be very easy, as well as the three major scandinavian languages- swedish, norwegian and danish. and, since about one third of english words are of french origin, and there is a certain latin influence as well, it's also fairly easy to grasp romance languages like french, spanish, italian, portuguese and romanian.

but logic doesn't always translate terribly well to reality [president donald j. trump]. for me, i'd say that, while i agree that the groupings in the fsi list are more or less a guide as to what's easiest, a lot is going to depend on the individual. so here's a few questions i'd recommend asking yourself before choosing a language mate:

1. what's your ultimate goal? most people who learn languages do so because they want to give themselves a leg up in the job market, in which case you want to select something that's widely spoken and becoming increasingly important in international business or diplomacy. the downside of that goal for an english speaker is that the languages for which there is likely to be the highest demand in the coming years- chinese, japanese, arabic- are all among the hardest for an english speaker to learn. if you're looking for something that's in demand, but that you can learn faster, my advice would be to go with spanish.

2. how good are you at memorising vocabulary? if you really hate it, or just can't commit a lot of different words to memory, you'll probably want to stick to a language where the words are pretty similar to english to begin with. dutch is probably your best bet, since a lot of the most commonly used words are virtually the same. 'vad is dat?' means exactly what you think it does. french has a  lot of common vocabulary as well, but the commonalities tend to be with words that aren't used as often in everyday speech.

3. a. how comfortable are you with grammar? when you're learning a language, grammar gets pushed front and centre. the good news is that most languages are a lot more regular than english. the bad news is that most of us know a lot less about english grammar than we'd like to admit, so the comparative ease of other languages might not be that much of an advantage. languages like hungarian and turkish often trip people up because the verb goes at the end of the sentence: i the ball threw. as a writer, i find that sort of fascinating, because it means that your sentences are kind of suspenseful, with the action not revealed until the end [most of the time]. but a lot of people are going to find it confusing.

if you want something that's very regular and that's not going to take you to places you don't feel comfortable, the 'scandic triad' of swedish, danish and norwegian are pretty easy to take. word placement is pretty regular [verb comes second], there's no verb conjugation, and sentences are formed a lot like english. on the other hand, if your answer to question two was that you didn't much care if you had to learn a lot of vocabulary, you might want to look into indonesian, which has incredibly regular, simple grammatical structure, so that learning it is more a matter of learning the vocabulary and dropping the words in the right place.

3. b. verbs: do cases, moods and tenses scare you? i think that cases scare english speakers in general because we're not quite sure what they are. here, go check wikipedia. as they mention, english has shed most of its cases, so using them can feel kind of foreign. [hardy har har.] a grammatical case is basically just a change made to a word to reflect its role in the sentence. we do retain cases for pronouns- i becomes me when it's the object rather than the subject, my or mine when it's possessive, etc.- but other languages change the form of regular nouns as well, which forces us to think about the role of the word we're saying. that doesn't come naturally to an english speaker. the reason that german is considered harder than languages like dutch or swedish is because it has a lot of case endings that take some getting used to. and german has nothing on languages like finnish or basque.

english speakers also struggle a little when it comes to verb tenses [e.g., past, future] and moods [e.g., conditional], since we're used to using auxiliaries- additional little words- to express a lot of them. other languages tend to change the verb itself. for instance, in english, you would say 'i will eat', whereas in french, it's 'je mangerai'. the verb 'manger' ['to eat'- again english uses an auxiliary, even to form an infinitive] changes its ending to indicate that the event will happen in the future.

moods express things like conditionality [i will do something if, i would have done something except], commands [do this!], opinion, desire... again, wikipedia can help. these also require special verb forms in some other languages and, romance languages in particular are stuffed with them. spanish seems really easy until you're trying to remember when you're supposed to use the subjunctive mood.

of course, you can't avoid these entirely. something is going to be different and it's just going to come down to your personal preferences as to which of these things will cause you the most trouble. in general, cases tend to trip people up the most, because they can affect a lot of words in a sentence.

the germanic languages- swedish, danish, norwegian, dutch and german- are the easiest in terms of verb mastery, since their cases, moods and tenses look a lot like ours. however, french is pretty anglo-friendly as well.

4. do you want to speak, read, or write? the answer here is probably all three, but think about which you're going to want to do the most. reading is almost always easierst since you can get the gist of things with even a basic knowledge of a language. writing will always be hardest, since any mistakes will be very visible. but what about speaking?

while it's highly unlikely that you'll ever speak a foreign language without an accent, most of us would like to be able to communicate without sounding like the english version of inspector clouseau. therefore, you'll want to choose something that you can pronounce with relative ease. this is where the fsi list starts to break down for me.

see, dutch and swedish are definitely friendly in terms of grammar and vocabulary, but i find the accents- especially the dutch one- nearly impossible to replicate. my inability to get the sounds right distracts me from what i'm learning, which tends to slow the learning process down. romanian, which is also included among the 'easiest' group of languages by the fsi, has me totally stumped.

spanish is extremely regular in its spelling and pronunciation patterns, which means that, for me, it was a lot easier to learn. likewise german, while grammatically more difficult, is phonetically easier than dutch or swedish. notoriously difficult hungarian is a cinch to pronounce, once you've practiced the sounds that aren't found in english, because every letter sounds the same every time. [this channel has a pronunciation guide that worked really well for me.] for my money, though, the easiest accent to master is italian. all those ridiculous movie stereotypes might be useful for something after all.

asian languages not only present a challenge in terms of pronunciation, but in terms of tone. word meanings shift depending on the "shape" of how you say them [voice rising towards the end or in the middle, voice flat, voice falling, etc.], and adding that extra layer of "stuff i have to think about' can be a deal breaker for many. that said, if you want to add a language that will add money to your bank account...

5. how do you feel about the alphabet? most other languages at least add a few characters with diacritics [accents/ marks] to account for different sounds, while many use completely different systems. you haven't felt like a complete idiot until you've tried your handwriting in another script as far as i'm concerned, but technological advances mean it's a snap to switch your keyboard and type. [what's not such a snap is remembering where the different keys are, especially using cyrillic.]

if you want to keep things as close to english as possible, dutch is your best bet. if you'd like to try a different script, but are still a bit nervous, consider greek; you're used to seeing the letters anyway, the sounds are fairly easy to master and even figuring out the positioning on the keyboard is a snap.

for a different perspective, here's what canadian ex-pat polyglot paul jorgensen [langfocus], who gets asked this question a lot more than i ever will, has to say on the subject:




and, just to confuse things more, here are a few other points you might want to factor into your decision:

consider whether or not you might want to learn more than one other language. they come in nice little groups, after all. a lot of people will tell you that, if you know french or spanish, other romance languages will be a breeze. i don't necessarily agree, or at least, i don't think it's as easy as making the connection between some other groups. swedish, norwegian and danish are so close that people have debated whether they even are separate languages, or simply dialects. but for me, if you want linguistic bang for your buck, learn russian.

the slavic languages branched off from each other much later than other european groups, meaning that there's a far higher rate of mutual intelligibility among all of them. it also means that the words are often similar from one language to another. the advantage with russian is that it's also just polluted with borrowings from english, so you'll have a head start.

when you're done, you'll be skilled in a language that is in high demand in business and diplomacy, plus you'll likely be able to pick up almost a dozen others [belarusian, ukrainian, serbian/ croatian/ bosnian, slovenian, bulgarian, macedonian, czech, slovak, and polish]. not bad.

and finally, don't be put off by what other people say about the difficulty of learning a language. hungarian is frequently touted as being one of the most difficult languages to learn, but for me, polish is a lot harder and a friend of mine who has lived and worked in both gdansk and budapest had the same experience. likewise, i've found dutch to be harder than french, spanish or italian.

tl;dr

i want to learn a language that's as close to english as possible: dutch
i want to learn a language that will help me get a better job, but nothing too hard: spanish
i want to learn one language now that will let me learn other languages faster: russian
i want to learn a language that seems exotic, but is actually easy: indonesian
i want to learn a language with a different alphabet, but i'm nervous: greek
i want to learn a language and sound like i know what i'm talking about when i speak it: italian

so, if you've ever wanted to add some linguistic skills to your repertoire, maybe that helps you choose one, or at least one to start.


20 December 2016

mental health mondays :: the curse of coping

i know a lot of people who've had this experience: you go to see a psychiatrist in the hopes of getting some help- not just medication, but an actual plan to help you overcome the feelings and behaviours that are crippling you- and you explain everything that you know is wrong as calmly and cogently as you can. the doctor takes one look at you, determines that you haven't put your underwear on your head and that you've washed some time this month and determines that there's not really anything wrong with you.

not every psychiatrist is like that, but it happens often enough that we should be alarmed. it's a problem, because, as one author and speaker on the subject put it, high-functioning people die just as dead as everyone else. it's also pretty bloody cruel to tell people that they have to be in more pain, or in pain for a much longer period of time, in order to have their condition taken seriously.

if that doesn't concern you, because you don't know people who suffer from these disorders, let me put it another way: people who are high-functioning are time bombs just as likely to hurt themselves as those with more obvious problems. some are prone to outbursts of anger, which is a danger both to themselves and those around them.

or, if you want a purely selfish reason, leaving treatment until it reaches a crisis point [usually resulting in a hospital stay or a period of confinement] is a lot more expensive than spotting symptoms early and working to relieve them. [others have argued that this isn't true, but the response has been that they their argument casts too broad a net.] so, if someone is showing symptoms of mental illness, like any other illness, it's better to address it early rather than wait.

the term that's used for people who are able to dress themselves and make it to work on at least a semi-regular basis is "high-functioning". health activist website the mighty posted a video that pretty much sums up how it feels to be a person with anxiety in such circumstances. other conditions where high functioning is most common are depression and bipolar disorder. the things that link these are that behaviours that result from them can show on the surface as positives: people who feel acutely afraid and stressed, people with abysmal self-image and people in the grips of a manic phase can be amazingly productive; they can get great marks in school, win prizes, they will work themselves into the grave for an employer and demand little in return, or they'll be the first to take on more work in volunteer organisations because they desperately need to fill their brains with anything that isn't their inner voice telling them that they're worthless.



of course, the problem of being high functioning is that what you're capable of doing is no reflection of what's happening inside. there's no persuasive evidence that people who can get by in the outside world feel any differently than those who can't, even if they have a little more control. and, in the eyes of medical authorities, a little control is all the difference between serious and inconvenient. a few years ago, i had a friend tell me how she'd explained symptoms of ocd she was experiencing to her doctor. she knew that they were irrational and she said so. her doctor's response was "so why don't you stop doing them?"

that's what a high-functioning person faces: a trained professional's immediate reaction is the most elementary mistake in the world when it comes to dealing with mental illness. what's worse, those sorts of elementary mistakes are written into the most basic processes of psychiatry. a standard evaluation asks if the patient believes that things like radio and television are speaking to them, or if they hear voices that no one else can hear, ones that they believe to be real. so what happens if a person hears voices, or thinks they're getting messages, and they know that the idea is ridiculous, but the voices and messages have an effect anyway?

what's worse is that i suspect that there's a more sinister undercurrent at work. remember what i said about high functioning people being productive, being willing to work hard, willing to do anything to silence their inner demons and [in some cases] to win approval? that could be useful to a lot of people. having someone who works harder, demands perfection of themselves, is plagued by feelings of anxiety and worthlessness... those are the sort of people who can make things run a lot more efficiently in a business, in a team, or in any organisation. it doesn't change the fact that the person in question feels miserable and desperate [and often in considerable physical pain, since high levels of anxiety and depression trigger inflammation throughout the body]. so when people say that mental illness can have benefits in this way, they mean benefits for other people.

i don't know how you fight the dual stigma of being mentally ill, but not mentally ill enough. i do know that it's high time that people at least felt comfortable telling their doctor point blank when they feel that they're not being taken seriously. and, while it's perfectly acceptable for you to take pride in your accomplishments, trying to maintain the facade of control for your doctor, when you feel that you're on the brink of collapse, can be flat out dangerous. don't accept being told that you're fine when you know you're not. 

18 December 2016

making faces :: inspired by... hangovers?

facebook ads and suggestions are a curious beast [and one that i've discussed before], because i've found that they're either dead-on accurate or hilariously inappropriate. there's no middle ground. one of the "very appropriate" types of posts they suggest are makeup tutorials, which are helpful to me because, without some kind of visibility on other things that are happening, i tend to fall into a rut. ["you know what would be incredible today? neutral eyes and deep berry-coloured lips! it will be totally different than the last twenty days, because the eyes will be a smidgen more gold and the lips will lean a little less red. awesome!"] of course, my usual practice is to give them a glance, think that a look might be interesting to try and then forget them. but there was one recently that stood out to the point where i quickly saved the link, knowing that i had to try it out.

japan and korea are basically where every new makeup trend comes from, because they're one of the only place that experiments with things like colour placement in a way that's actually wearable. everywhere else just looks at what comes down the runways during fashion weeks and gushes that women in america and europe will absolutely be wearing the lash-to-brow, electric blue eyeshadow they saw in the armani show, or the daring cosmetic bruises and eyebrow bolts that were featured by gareth pugh. [yes, i made those up. no, i wouldn't be surprised if they actually happened.] i have yet to adapt any runway trend for everyday use, because the purpose of runway makeup is to form a uniform base for the presentation of the clothing. it can be nude or striking, but the point of it is that it's supposed to be an accessory, just like a bracelet, sets off the thing you're supposed to be paying attention to.

but i had to say that i scratched my head when i saw this video from mac pop up in my feed, promising to show me how to achieve the latest hot trend in japan. ladies and gentlemen, say hello to the hangover cheek:



the what now?

i don't think i have ever aspired to look hungover, in fact, i'm pretty sure i have used vast amounts of concealer and brightening agents to disguise the fact that i was hungover. it's just a bad look on everyone, right?

apparently not, because the new thing, as you can see, is to imitate that overindulged flush that comes from thinking you'll just stay for one more pint and, ok, one more round of shots, before going home, because you know that you promised your family you'd be ready bright and early for brunch tomorrow and under no circumstances would be wandering home while watching the sun break through the morning clouds. [the model in that video has never been hungover a day in her life, i'll wager, because no one with glowing skin like that would dare risk interfering with its beauty. those of us who aren't thus gifted can feel free to damage ourselves, which is the trade off you get for imperfect skin, i guess.]



the essence of the look is applying a soft colour fairly liberally to the cheeks, blending it well and keeping it high on the cheekbones, followed by adding a slightly brighter colour right over that blush towards the centre, again staying very high, almost closing in on the undereye area. like i said, looks from japan and korea are much more about placement and subtle emphasis.

for my take, since i had the base colour used in the video [mac "dainty"] and love it, it was an easy choice to go with that. however, i don't have the emphasis colour that the artist uses, nor do i have anything like that in a cream. i chose to use another mac product, "alpha girl" beauty powder, which is more coral and less pink than what's used in the video, but still blends well and isn't so bright that it calls attention to itself.

the look is not dissimilar to charlotte tilbury's "swish and pop" technique, which she favours so much that her blush line is designed to do it, but the focus on keeping the colour up high on the face is something that seems particular to looking attractively hungover.

of course, when i wear the hangover look [inadvertently], there's often a stubborn element of "makeup from the night before" that features, so rather than stick with the mostly naked eye seen in the tutorial, i went whole hog and did a messy smoky eye that's more artful than what i can never manage to entirely scrub off my face.



to accomplish this, i used charlotte tilbury's cream shadow in "veruschka", something i've been meaning to pull out since watching blow up a few weeks ago. [and, yes, the shadow does a good job of mimicking the smudgy halo around her eyes both in the movie and in her iconic magazine cover photo shoots.] i decided to keep the whole thing a bit dark and muted, so i skipped the highlight shade i'd normally apply along my brows, opting instead for rouge bunny rouge "papyrus canary", a parchment shade that's a bit deeper and yellower than my skin tone. i used mac "arena" to soften the transition between "veruschka" and "papyrus canary", and tarina tarantino's dream hyperliner in "sparkling ammunition" around the upper and lower water lines [heavier on the lower] for some definition.

i took up the video's suggestion that this look was best completed with a shimmery colour applied from the inner corner along the lower lash line, because shimmery colour that worked its way down from my lids is a frequent component of that "i went out last night" look for me. i used rouge bunny rouge "alabaster starling" on the inner corner and the inner portion of the lower lid, then the first shade from rbr's "chronos" eyeshadow palette on the outer part of the lid. to add just a bit of light to the upper lid, i pressed a tiny bit of the "chronos" colour over "veruschka", around the centre, leaning slightly towards the inside.




to round things off, i wore mac "plink!", a soft seashell pink shade that's a little paler than my lip colour. because when i've had one [at least] too many the night before, my morning lips do tend to look a little drained.

ok, here are a couple of "normal" photos, so you can see how the look reads overall.



i'm kind of impressed, because the cheek really does give a rather sweet character to my face, and draws just a little focus to the plumpest part of my cheeks. [at my age, plump cheeks are a luxury that one wants to advertise.]

so the next time i'm questioning my activities from the previous night [both why i did them and what they were], i think i'll opt to hide in plain sight: i'm not hungover, i've made myself up to look hungover, because that's the look du jour. now, hand me the french fries and no one gets hurt. 

17 December 2016

slump.

that feeling when you know you should write something on your blog, and you really want to write something on your blog, but your writer's block is so profound that you can't even think of a short piece to fill space. so you put up a few lines of self-pitying text.

also, winter's barely started and i've already had my first tumble. feet went right out from under me on a fairly busy street. i have some aches, and a gash that's going to leave a nice little scar on my knee, but nothing too serious. nonetheless, being as clumsy as i am, it doesn't bode well for the next few months that i went arse over tea kettle the first time i let myself walk on the white stuff.

so maybe i'll just say that i got a concussion when i fell [although i didn't]. or i'll say that this spot of writing malaise is my tribute to swansea city, who have been finding new and exciting was to look pretty uninspiring this premier league season. or i'm still trying to come to terms with life in the trump-led world.

if you've read this whole thing, i'm sorry. this isn't a clever intro to an interesting topic. it's a rather whiny post with no other purpose than to make me feel less guilty about getting nothing done here this week, despite really, really wanting to.

ok, i'll stop now.

i can't even be bothered to post a picture with this. 

13 December 2016

mental health mondays :: all the monsters are here

i had meant to post about this project much earlier, since it was done during october, but i still think it's very much worth a look. artist shawn coss drew a "portrait" of a mental disorder for every day of october [mental health month], something that tries to convey what the feeling of having that disease is. his work reminds me a little of ralph steadman's iconic hunter s. thompson covers, and especially gerald scarfe's animations for pink floyd's the wall. his figures are somewhere between spectral humans and insectoid aliens, all ravenous appetite and primal destructiveness.

i chose a few favourites to share, but i highly encourage you, if you like what you see, to pre-order the book he's publishing with all the drawings. [you can also get 11x17 prints of individual images.]

autism spectrum disorder

as coss notes himself, asd is not a disorder, per se, but he included it since it's still listed in the dsm-v. autism does very much affect the mind, and i love the artist's interpretation of its effects. the figure has all the right parts, but they're not arranged properly, and he can't communicate the way that others can.



generalised anxiety disorder

i like that he has this figure posed like an animal being backed into a corner, because that is very much the feeling of generalized anxiety. there are dark, malevolent things coming to get you and all you can do is try to stand against them.




attention deficit disorder

this is a disorder that gets a bad rep because of its application to unruly children. in adults, while a nervous or hyperactive disposition can be part of it, it's more just about being able to prioritize all of the information you're receiving. most of us are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling things all the time. we're orienting ourselves in physical spaces, we're making micro-decisions all the time about what we're going to do, what we need to remember, what direction we're going to look in, what words we're going to type [yes, i am totally cataloguing what i'm doing as i write this post]. we get through our lives because our brains filter that information and arrange it for us. i can smell the hand cream that i just applied. i can hear the fan in the background [yes, in december, it's a whole other thing]. but my brain knows i want to focus on writing a  blog post, so that's what i do. for someone who has add, the brain isn't doing that the way it should. instead, it's like you have hundreds of sources of sensory and abstract input coming at you all the time, and you feel like you have to react to all of it. for most of us, it would be like being forced to live with superfluous heads, constantly sending conflicting signals about what needs our attention.


depersonalisation disorder

this is something i've actually suffered from, on and off, for many years. unsurprisingly, it tends to manifest when i'm very stressed, especially if my sleep patterns have been disturbed. i described it to dom, the only non-doctor with whom i've discussed it in any great detail, as an "out of body experience". the thing about any kind of dissociative disorders is that they're an extremely personal thing, so it can be hard to find even a basic set of terms to fit the experience. but the second i saw this, i felt my heart speed up with excitement. yes. that is exactly it. you're standing somewhere, everything is normal, and then all of a sudden, part of you just isn't there anymore. and the "you" made up by your mind is in both places, wondering what the hell is going on. 


borderline personality disorder

ah, the "crazy ex girlfriend disorder". there are some significant issues about the way in which borderline personality disorder is diagnosed [and likewise, how narcissistic personality disorder has been diagnosed], which serve to compound what is already a very challenging condition. people with bpd are haunted by a sense of emptiness, a fear of abandonment that just devours them when they feel under stress. derided as controlling or manipulative, they are people who need calm and careful effort to make them feel even a little safe, because, when they are threatened, their anxieties will start to see enemies everywhere. 

in this illustration alone, coss has drawn a figure that is beautiful and overtly sexual, because a complex and often damaging relationship with sexuality is a hallmark of the condition. her head is dark, the life and beauty drained out of it by the demons that are circling around her. 


you can see more of shawn coss's art on his website and on his tumblr [including a new series on the seven deadly sins, that will appeal to those who like the inktober series, i'm sure]. 

08 December 2016

an interesting concept

this just seems awkward for everybody...
happy immaculate conception day!

in argentina, austria, chile, colombia, italy, malta, portugal and spain, as well as in many parts of switzerland, today is a holiday dedicated to the celebration of the virgin mary and her place in christian mythology. as you can tell from the places where this day is celebrated, mary is a much bigger deal for catholics, who are a lot more polytheistic than you would think, than for protestants.

you could also be forgiven for thinking that december 8th is a weird day to be celebrating the immaculate conception, since the end product of the immaculate conception is supposed to have been born less than three weeks later, on the 25th. either the baby jesus really didn't want to come out, or grew at a rate only seen in that thing from spawn.

but it turns out that this is the celebration of mary's conception to her mother, saint anne, and father joachim, a previously barren couple who were told by an angel that, when they did give birth to a child, she would change the whole world. moved by the experience, anne offered her newborn daughter to god's service. you probably don't want to think too hard about how that could have been interpreted.

[side note :: if she were conceived on the 8th of december, that means that mary would have been born in early to mid-september of the following year. astrologically speaking, that would make her a virgo.]

anne and joachim don't actually appear in the bible, which explains why the purist protestants don't pay them any mind. they are mentioned in a few early christian texts which catholics, like jews and muslims about their holy books, consider important to the overall understanding of the bible. there isn't a lot of history about jesus' maternal grandparents, but it does establish that there was a tradition in the family of angelically delivered pregnancy test results, which might explain why mary's whole "god made me pregnant" didn't seem so weird.

the holiday wasn't celebrated by christians until about the eighth century, which is just as well for poor mary, who probably wouldn't have enjoyed it. after all mary wasn't conceived immaculately, so every year she would have been forced to watch a growing number of people celebrate her parents getting it on.

the 'immaculate' in this sense refers to a unique gift bestowed on mary by god, and one that proved controversial: mary is the only human being since adam and eve to be born absolved of original sin. if you're a devout catholic, that's a huge thing. original sin taints every single human. we have a ritual wherein we wash away the sin through baptism and literally every person who was never baptised, including all the good people who lived before anyone knew they were supposed to be baptised, goes to hell. the claim was controversial enough that the heads of the catholic church were arguing until 1854 about whether or not it was going too far to say that it was true. [eventually, pope pius ix, a big mary fan and the only verified person to hold the office longer than john paul ii, said that he believed it, which seems like a rather anticlimactic way to end a thousand-year debate, but that's the catholic church for you.]

i personally like knowing about these so-called 'days of obligation' [you're supposed to go to church], because it reminds me of how very odd our dominant religions have been throughout their history. so i take a moment to think upon mary who, if you believe the theologists, is sitting with her parents in heaven, watching a whole lot of people honour "hail mary your parents boned today" day.

p.s. :: mary might have just chosen to distract herself from the details of how she was conceived by ducking out to a party for the prophet muhammed. his birthday- december is a big month for religious leaders, apparently- is also celebrated today, but only in kuwait. everywhere else in the islamic world celebrates it on the 11th/ 12th depending on the lunar calendar, meaning that, this year at least, he gets a whole long weekend of birthday. lucky boy.

p.p.s. :: in the byzantine church, joachim and anne get their own day on the 25th of july, which has nothing to do with them getting busy. 

04 December 2016

making faces :: becca makes me blush

dom is extremely understanding about my makeup addiction interest. he not only knows that a colourful treat can pick me up when i'm feeling ground down, but he even appreciates different colours, textures and looks and is great at making suggestions. i'm a lucky lady. where he draws the line, though, is with blush. by his own admission, he can't ever tell one from the other and i imagine that's true for many people: unless it's applied really heavily, it's always just a few tones from your natural skin colour, and if it is applied really heavily, chances are you look crazy.

but i can always tell when i get blushes and highlighters just right. i'll catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and there will be a difference that's visible even if the view is fleeting; i find i'll look healthy or, and i've never quite figured out why this should be the case, happy. having a perfectly complementary colour seems to bring a positive energy to my face. but not just one complementary colour, of course. the fun is in finding different ways to achieve different effects.

and since i'd already had my interest piqued by becca with their highlighter palette last year, i was excited when they launched both a new blush line and a series of duos [as part of their collaboration with makeup artist jaclyn hill] that featured both a blush [in their previously existing, matte mineral formula] plus one of the two highlighters developed for the hill line.

i snoozed and lost with the large blush and highlighter jaclyn hill palette earlier this year, but since i already had one of the highlighters, 'champagne pop' from last year's palette, and not all of the blushes looked like a good match for my colouring, it was actually a bit of a relief when the blush i most wanted and the second highlighter were made available as a duo only. less money, and i get just what i want.

the duo in question is 'pamplemousse' mineral blush and 'prosecco pop' highlighter. 'pamplemousse' is french for grapefruit, and, indeed, the shade does look like a very bright red pink, much like the inside of the fruit when it's been sliced in half. it's a lot less like the colour of pink grapefruit juice, or sliced grapefruit, which is lighter and softer. this is a bold colour, although it fortunately can be applied lightly and diffused to keep the effect from looking too dramatic on light skin.

pamplemousse

i was a little surprised that this shade wasn't closer to others in my collection, because, when i first laid eyes on it, i thought it would be. mac 'salsarose' is pinker and deeper. armani '509' is considerably deeper and looks almost magenta by comparison, which shows that 'pamplemousse' has more warmth in it than is immediately apparent. for colour analysis purposes, it's a shade that will flatter both bright seasons- winter and spring- immensely, having a lot of pigment and a warm-under-cool kind of tone that can be hard to find. it's also available as a single shade, which may be important to you, as i'll explain shortly.

l to r :: mac salsarose, pamplemousse, blush d'armani 509

the texture of the blush felt a little stiff and it wasn't the easiest to blend out, but it also didn't just blend away. given the two options, i'd rather blend more and apply less. on the skin, the finish is beautiful. it's very smooth, doesn't emphasize pores and it gives an especially healthy glow if you buff it with a soft brush. it is a mostly matte finish, but buffing gives it some sheen, if that's your preference. i'd say the wear time was about average on me, which for a mineral blush is not great, but it's one of the better mineral formulas i've tried for longevity.

'prosecco pop' like all of becca's shimmering skin perfector highlighters, is for those whose highlighting tastes are more vegas than paris. their luminous skin perfectors are very consistent, with a shine that's nearly metallic. you will glow like a spotlight, even with a relatively light application, which, combined with the fact that the high-shine finish can emphasize pores, makes them most appropriate to nighttime wear.

the colour looks like a bright, clear, yellowy gold in the pan and you'd better believe that's how it looks on skin. there's a warmer, slightly orange undertone i could see, which i think is the effect of the gold layered over the pink tones in my cheeks. this is absolutely a warm-toned product, best suited, i think, to warm spring complexions, although probably some autumn ones as well. [the strong yellow tones could make it look a little too hard on an autumn face.]

prosecco pop

i don't have a highlighter that looks much like this at all. both hourglass 'luminous light' and becca's own 'champagne pop' look quite peachy by comparison, and those are the most yellow-toned highlighters i own.

l to r :: hourglass luminous light, prosecco pop, becca champagne pop

the highlighter, lovely though it is, is too warm for my skin, so i have to be careful how much i apply and wear. yes, i can make it work, because getting some effect takes very little product, and layering it over something cooler creates a balance, but it's not the easiest match with my skin.

if it is a great match for yours, and if you like the metal gleam that becca offers, this is a really nice and original highlight. most gold tones are either whitened, which makes them much cooler, or browned, which makes them more muted. this is warm and saturated. the blush has enough warmth that it could work with the typical true spring complexion, i think, especially when it's layered with the highlight. bright spring would be the next best match.

next up, we have 'camelia', which is one of the new shimmering skin perfector blushes that were launched in the early summer. these are meant to combine the colour of a regular blush with the shimmery finish of their highlighters. i chose 'camelia' because i was shocked to discover that i was remarkably short on plain pink blushes, ones that didn't pull too lavender or peach, not too light or dark, and i had nothing in the entire family that was even a little shimmery. clearly, we were meant to be.

the coverage on this is described as "buildable", which is usually code for "starts off kind of light and sheer". i cannot imagine what complexion would need to build up this colour. unless your face is an astrological anomaly that absorbs colour and light, multiple passes are not going to be necessary. which is to say that the formula is very pigmented. it's described as a "ballerina pink", which is a reasonably accurate description of the base colour [i remember my ballet slippers being somewhat lighter, but it's been a very long time]. but what really steals the show here is the infusion of smooth, light gold shimmer. the effect isn't quite as high-wattage as the plain highlighters, but it is pretty dazzling. it's more of a combination blush and highlighter than one or the other.

camelia [one swipe]

as i mentioned, i don't have a lot of blushes in this range, but here's a comparison with the closest one i could find, mac mineralize blush in 'dainty'. as you can see, 'camelia' is deeper, pinker and cooler.

l to r :: camelia, mac dainty

the downside of this is that the colour can emphasise pores, and the more you blend, the more emphasis you're going to get. my advice is to take a very fluffy brush [i like the mac 188] and tap it in place, then diffuse around the edges. of course, if you want to amp up the highlighter effect, blend away!

although it's not quite what was promised, i have no problem with the full-colour application, particularly since the formula is so soft and blendable. the colour really is a gorgeous pink that will suit a lot of complexions. any kind of spring mix, from bright winter to light summer is likely to find this fits right in, and will just need to get the level of colour they want.

here's a look at these beauties in action [and a sneak preview of some other products i'll be reviewing in the near future], starting with the combination of 'prosecco pop' and 'pamplemousse'. this is what the two of them look like layered- blush on bottom, highlighter on top, although if you want to reduce the effect on your pores, you could do it the other way around.

this is a pretty bright application, which i thought suited the summery colours of the rest of my makeup. [i've been sitting on this review for rather a long time.]




the eye makeup is a combination of brands and shades, including shiseido 'fire opal', a gorgeous bright orange that's sadly discontinued, and mac 'natural wilderness'. the lip gloss is anastasia 'date night', a bold red-pink with a bit of translucency. the overall look i was going for here was saturated colour, but with a sheen that meant nothing looked flat. it's all supposed to catch the light.

next up, we have a softer, moodier look with 'camelia'. as i said, there's no need for a highlighter with this one, although i am wearing guerlain pressed meteorites as a finishing powder, which tamps down the shimmer just a teensy bit. i think that this shows how camelia can be a natural-looking shade, but still give a healthy dose of colour.




the eye makeup here is made up of mainly one colour: armani's matte eye tint in 'fur smoke', which is the closest i'll get to wearing fur. the lipstick is nars' 'apoline', a recent addition to their audacious collection.

tl;dr i really like both products, but would recommend a light hand to avoid too much colour. both 'prosecco pop' and 'camelia' can do unkind things to large pores, especially when buffed onto the skin. if you're looking for a colour that suits your complexion, these will work best on someone whose complexion has at least some warmth and can handle pretty saturated, clear shades that are neither very light nor very dark.

i keep telling myself that i'll have to eventually try something other than a cheek product from becca, but they're really not making that easy for me.

01 December 2016

sounds good

listening to different languages as often as i do these days, i've noticed that i'm developing certain favourites, simply in terms of the way that they sound. it may seem strange, but i find it relaxing to just listen to someone speak a few lines in a language- any language, even one i don't understand. the catholic church has been aware of the power of a remote language for centuries, sticking to latin long after their faithful had adopted other tongues. it is very much like hearing someone cast a magic spell over you, which, in the case of religion, is pretty much what it is.

these things are, of course, totally subjective, but as it happens there is an annual language world cup, where participants get to vote on their favourite, match by match, over ten weeks, among 64 of the most popular languages in the world. 2016 saw the fifth annual competition and, for the second time, polish came out as the grand victor, edging out italian, while german claimed third prize against spanish. and yes, polish coming out on top is just about as shocking as it would be if poland won the actual world cup, because, if you go with the theory that having a large number of native speakers gives you a leg up, polish started the tournament at a massive disadvantage compared to languages like mandarin, english and spanish.

of course, the top tens, a website dedicated to creating dynamic lists of all sorts through popular voting, has french rated as #1. [french was the 2015 winner of the language world cup, too.] in fact, romance languages occupy every one of the top four positions, while polish doesn't even crack the top twenty [although two other slavic languages, russian and ukrainian, are in the top ten]. that's not entirely surprising, because romance languages have long been praised for their flowing, musical sound. lord byron said that italian sounded "as if it should be writ on satin", a phrase which, ironically, sounds like verbal sex when actually said in italian: "come se dovrebbe essere scritto su raso."

the magic of italian is that its words almost always end in vowels, which means that whatever you're saying is rushing towards the ultimate destination of a sensuously opened mouth, the sound fading from the lips rather than coming to a crashing halt against your teeth or getting shot like an arrow from the tongue. while not all romance languages share this trait, to the ears of someone used to communicating in a west germanic tongue that crackles like crusty bread, they all sound softer and more buttery.

although i'm hardly equipped to offer a comprehensive list- there are seven thousand languages in the world and i have only two ears in which to put them- i thought i'd share some of my favourites with you, my own personal "loveliest and most luscious languages".

xhosa

i don't know nearly enough about african languages to pick favourites, but it is impossible not to love a language that incorporates a variety of clicking sounds. [really, though, the question should be why the rest of us don't.] but the end result is that the language basically comes with its own rhythm section.



polish

what can i say? i think the language world cup might have gotten it right. although those consonant clusters look like someone got their face stuck in a typewriter and like it would sound much the same, polish is a language of incredible lightness and delicacy. the key to getting it right is to just let it flutter out of you. a friend of mine described it as being whispery, which it is thanks to the frequent use of affricates [those sounds you make by pushing them through your teeth]. so it combines the elegance of french [including all those vowel sounds we westerners struggle to reproduce] with a mystery all its own.



greek

if you like the softness of the romance languages, you're going to love greek. they don't even bother with bumpy sounds like 'b', 'd' and the hard 'g', and make great use of 'th' [voiced and unvoiced]. there is definitely an element of serpentine temptation that coils its way through everything in this language.



mongolian

i don't even know how to describe this. it's tempting to think that it's a combination of asian and russian/ slavic, but the fact is that it predates any russian presence in the area. i personally think this jewel of a language was a gift from aliens who came to the siberian wilds centuries ago.



icelandic

this language is a sort of living antique, being closer to the old norse of epic poetry than to its near nordic cousins norwegian, swedish and danish. [it's also apparently fiendishly difficult to learn compared to those languages.] and indeed, it does sound rather like poetry. well, maybe not at this one infamous moment... but normally.



vietnamese

i feel like this is what language would sound like if you fused a human being with a glockenspiel. there's a crisp, bell-like sound to every phoneme and phrase, so that it has that shivery effect like when someone runs their fingers very softly over your skin.



lithuanian

being the closest thing to the original indo-european language, it's fitting that it sounds like everything and like nothing else. its only close relative is neighbouring latvian, but while you can spot similarities with several european tongues, it also has a number of parallels with sanskrit. i haven't yet managed to find a good online course for this beauty, but i'm determined that some day, i'm going to be able to sound like that...



so that is my list of favourites. it's admittedly european-heavy simply because those are the languages to which i've been most frequently exposed. do any of these tickle your eardrums? or are there others that hold you rapt? 
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