31 January 2017

there's an amendment for that

for many years, people like me have felt that nausea that accompanies every mass shooting in the united states; the bodies are still warm when wayne lapierre or one of his meat puppets is on television insisting that the solution to gun violence is to increase the number of guns in circulation. guns for teachers. guns for hospital staff. guns for flight attendants (what could possibly go wrong?), guns for every family member, as many as they can feasibly carry while still being able to stand (their ground). any mention of even a single rule about gun ownership being tightened is met with the hysterical response that someone in government is coming for your guns.

the national rifle association and other affiliated advocacy groups trace their intransigence on this issue to the second amendment to the u.s. constitution, which guarantees all americans the right to bare arms. they hold that amendment to be quasi-religious doctrine, true for all times and in all situations, despite the fact that the men who wrote it would likely drop a load in their pantaloons even hearing about the kind of weaponry available on the open market today.

these people are as ubiquitous as they are insufferable. despite the fact that numerous polls suggest that the majority of americans actually would like to see some sort of reform to gun laws, especially when it comes to high-power assault-style weapons, theirs are virtually the only voices heard in the aftermath of a tragedy. the founding fathers meant, they assure us, for every american to arm themselves out of a sense of patriotism and pride, with the best arsenal known to mankind.

there are lots of reasons to suspect that their arguments are spurious, because they are spurious, but all that aside, i've been wondering what's happened to those people lately. there haven't been any high profile mass shootings, but there have been a lot of high profile government incursions on civil rights, with signs that there are more to come. so why aren't the gun rights advocates crawling out of the woodwork to do a victory lap?

after all, the seizure of power by an autocratic government is literally the exact fucking reason the second amendment was created. the founding fathers weren't concerned about the right to hunt or the right to do some target practice at your local gun club; they were worried that bad people were going to try to storm in a crush their democratic project while it was still in the chrysalis. they wanted to block the government from impeding the people's acquisition of firearms for the specific purpose that those firearms would be available for use against said government should the need arise.

gun guys, this is it. you've won. despite the likes of me telling you that you were being ridiculous with your militia theories, you finally have a case in point: someone has taken over your government and is putting in place measures that will leave you in all manner of danger. this is the goddamned moment you've been warning us about and you're missing it.

to be clear, i am not calling for any sort of armed insurrection, not st all. but since so many of you have been quick to remind us of the importance of the second amendment as we've watched rivers of tears commingle with blood, it seems outright bizarre that you're nowhere to be found now. no one is saying you need to spring into paramilitary action, but for the love of god, the least you could do is stick your heads above ground and say something like "aren't you glad we blocked all those gun law reforms now that there's a chance we're dealing with an actual dictator? do your whole hippie protest thing, but if it comes down to it, as promised and as is constitutionally required, we got this."

your conspicuous absence is enough to make this northern neighbour wonder if you even meant what you said about the second amendment. because right now, it looks like you either only wanted to be able to collect cool things that go boom, or you wanted a personal arsenal you could point at anyone  you just plain don't like. i'm not a scholar on the subject, but i am well certain that neither of those things was what your founding fathers had in mind when they wrote the amendment that keeps your rights sacred, even as thousands of people die as a side effect.

so speak up, gun people. for once, mushy-brained liberals like me may be forced to nod in agreement as you remind us that the threat of armed rebellion might be all that stands between a dictator and america. because if you don't say something soon, it seems pretty clear that you should maintain your silence on a permanent basis.

26 January 2017

the black hole of rationality

live action shot of immigrant violence in nyc
i should probably make this one an ongoing series, possibly sponsored by some popular headache remedies, because i have a feeling that i'm going to have a lot of these moments.

i've had a busy few days, but that doesn't mean that i haven't been paying attention to what's going on in the world around me. of course, there are moments when i've wished i hadn't paid attention to the world around me, like when i saw that donald trump is apparently planning to publish a weekly list of crimes committed by immigrants in the united states. although it's only part of a much larger executive order, the crime sheet requirement is remarkable not just for its offensiveness, but for what it betrays of the civic knowledge of the people [it wasn't just trump] who wrote it.

now, i know i shouldn't go trying to attach things like logic to the current u.s. administration, but i really love logic and thought and all those awesome things our brains can do.

first of all, there is the shocking ambivalence of the statement itself: "a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens". "aliens" does not mean or even imply people who are there illegally. "aliens" just means people who come from another place. so, there's a very good possibility that the trump-republican list will include crimes committed by legal immigrants, foreign students and people who are in the country on federally sanctioned work visas. all of those people meet the definition of "aliens".

to that, the donald's supporters would respond that the "illegal" bit is clearly implied, since the order expressly seeks to increase awareness of so-called "sanctuary cities", where illegal immigrants have been given safe-ish haven. i don't know about you, but when i hear "sanctuary city", i think of those encampments near calais where thousands of people have been herded into temporary housing while governments pretend to be coming up with a solution to their problems. however, that's not the case. another word for sanctuary cities is... cities. all the term means is that there are cities in the united states where local law enforcement has declined to act on federal warrants for the arrest and deportation of illegal aliens.

a lot of america's big cities have declined those orders for different reasons, but a lot of it comes down to the fact that large cities have a more diverse population, and many in those cities [not just immigrants] believe that there should be more exceptions to the rules. the feds don't agree with that, which is fine, they have their priorities, but all a 'sanctuary city' is is a district where the federal and local authorities are in disagreement about the enforcement of immigration law. that's far from the only area where federal, state and local law enforcement have disagreements, but most of the time, they don't need to come up with a zippy term to describe the geography of the disagreement.

so, 'sanctuary cities' aren't linked to illegal immigrants more than 'flyover states' are; both of those things are just condescending terms for areas devised by people who felt forced to pay more attention to them than they wanted to.

but the possibility that trump and his backup singers are planning on attacking all foreign-borns, not just the illegal ones, is not the only thing that should be offensive about this. because this list? the information is already out there. it's already freely and legally accessible to americans and everyone else. he just wants to pay someone to select and arrange some of what's there in a way that pleases him and his puppetmasters.

for instance: all the information about sanctuary cities and how many warrants are declined and and where they're declined? immigration and customs enforcement has all the numbers in their annual report. and the "declined detainer outcome report" that the executive order says should be used as the source for this list? yeah, that's online too.

the "nasty immigrants weekly" listing would presumably be made up not of crimes committed that week, but of criminals found guilty that week. you can't go around randomly saying that someone committed a crime until they've plead or been found guilty; that's criminal libel. alternately, the government could put together a list of names of people who'd been charged, or who were being sought in connection with a crime. that would allow it to be a little more timely, but does that mean that the federal government would put its weight behind local law enforcement only when they are looking for aliens?

i'll bet that, as you read that last paragraph, you recalled seeing some sort of bulletin on the news, or on local television, with a drawing or blurry security camera footage of someone the police were looking for in connection with a crime. you know why you did that? because all that information is already fucking public. start to finish, the discovery, investigation, and prosecution of a crime are all a matter of public record. no, you can't access the police files, but the facts of who police suspect, of who has been charged, arraigned, who is going to trial, everything about the entire process is a matter of public record by law. any asshole who knows how to do a google search can come up with the information on their own. give them the brain cells to operate a phone, so that they can speak to someone responsible for record-keeping and the possibilities are almost limitless.

if a person wanted to know how many crimes were being committed in their city, or in any city, there is an ocean of data in which they can swim. but there's the catch: when people access the information, they aren't obliged to see it through the trump- bannon filter. access the weekly crime statistics, or local crime reports, or anything on the subject, and what you'll get is a list of everything that's happened.

now, if the new republican administration wanted to make it easy for people to find information exclusively on brown people stabbers, there is a way they could do it that would, no word of a lie, be helpful. that would be by making all this publicly owned information easier to find and search. it's fine for me to say that it's easy to get stuff online: i'm obsessive, withdrawn and driven by the sort of pettiness born of more than a thousand years of scottish heritage. we don't need a nation of people like me, ever. we need a system that people who are better adjusted than me can use, so that they're able to suss out the facts [no alternates] for themselves.

but the current administration doesn't want to do that either. because, if someone had access to the facts, they wouldn't be forced to view them through the trump- bannon lens. they could look up crime rates in "sanctuary cities" and they'd see all the ones that were committed by aliens. at the same time, they'd see the much larger number of crimes committed by people who weren't aliens of any sort. that's not what this gang wants, because that wouldn't guarantee people would stay on their side. they'd rather take public money to hire an additional set of bureaucrats to look at the same publicly available information and arrange it as they would like, so that it could be made publicly available to you, which it really already was.

weird times, my friends. weird and dangerous times. 

22 January 2017

making faces :: a red story

red is a colour like no other. as the colour of blood, it is part of all of us, and is implicated in many of our common behaviours- the such of adrenaline that accompanies physical exertion, the flush of the cheek when angry, embarrassed or shy, the tumescence of sexual organs when we're aroused. it is fundamentally linked to life and death: menstruation is the female body's signal of the ability to procreate; the loss of virginity is most often marked by blood; we come into the world covered in our mother's blood; lose too much of it, though, and you'll die. it's no accident that our brains are wired to respond to blood like no other colour: it makes us react faster and become more emotional. when humans first started to devise methods of describing colour, red was the first one they described. when they started to dye materials and fabrics, red was the colour they started with. there are three primary colours, but red is the first among equals, the one that will always occupy a place of prominence.

in the world of cosmetics, of course, red is most linked with the lusciousness of full lips, lips that convey passion, class, danger, and, above all, modern femininity. whatever the strengths of a cosmetic line, you can rest assured that a bold red lipstick will figure among their offerings. so when shiseido announced that they were doing a new line of red-themed lipsticks, you could be forgiven for not thinking that this was particularly groundbreaking.

however, the way that they've done it is interesting: many of the colours are not what we would consider red at all, but other shades that have been changed through the addition of red. so you won't find bubblegum pinks, autumnal oranges or electric purples in here [and yes, i know that technically, there is a measure of red in all those], but what you will find are a range of shades from bold cardinal reds to deep berries, to deepened soft corals. it's all about playing with the range of reds, then seeing how the addition of red works on related shades.

with a bit of time and some dips into my shoppers drug mart optimum points, i've picked up three of the shades, which i think nicely sum up the range of colours available. the formula is mostly consistent [differences noted in the individual shade reviews below]: it's soft and hydrating and gives almost opaque coverage in a single pass, but the lasting time is not great. that's not uncommon for creamy lipsticks, but there are creamy formulas that perform better [guerlain rouge g or urban decay's now defunct revolution lipstick line]. i found that all the colours made my lips look fuller and softened the appearance of lines, which is always nice.

MORE ON THE WAY...


21 January 2017

in my garden

one of the things that they tell you about learning a new language is that you have to seek to immerse yourself in it. there are programs online that allow you to do that by conversing with native speakers [i've heard great things about italki], which is great if you have the means to pay for hourly tutors. since i've taken on a variety of languages, that could add up quickly, and my spare change tends to get taken up by cat treats and lipstick. so what's a person of limited means [or just someone who's unsure about making a serious investment in their language learning at the moment] supposed to do?

i personally like to do things like listen to news [especially international news], watch soccer games and read beauty blogs in other languages when i can. because those things have a pretty strict framework, a regular, repeating vocabulary and a straightforward style. leaping into german by reading heidegger is not something i'd recommend. but really, lots of things can suffice. a [really great, thoughtful] friend of mine recently brought me a set of cutting boards. one of them came from ikea and had european-style packaging in about twelve languages. i don't need instructions on using a cutting board. if you've hit my age without figuring it out, you probably shouldn't be in a kitchen. but i'm still keeping those instructions, because i'm going to read them and compare them to the english and try saying them out loud. again, instructions are meant to be clear and simple [and these ones don't even involve an allen key], which makes them a good way to study basic sentence structures as well as vocabulary. 

one of my favourite places to shop is the eastern european grocery near my house, bucarest. [they spell it that way. who am i to argue?] aside from the fact that they have all manner of tasty food, both packaged and fresh, or that their sour cream has spoiled me for all other products that use that name, their selection is almost entirely imported from europe [and little bits from parts of western asia]. although national and provincial laws require them to have labeling in at least one of canada's official languages, there's still plenty to read, usually in a number of languages. i'm pretty sure the entire staff think i'm completely anal retentive, because every time i'm in there, i spend time reading the labels and ingredients of every item i'm considering purchasing. i can live with that. 

my new obsession, however, came from a post on one of the duolingo forums a couple of weeks back. 

a bit of background: i worked in community radio for years and loved it. but even before that, in my teens, i'd put my headphones on at night and listen to shows from other parts of the country and the world, fascinated at the idea of these voices finding their way through the atmosphere and beyond, relayed by a series of invisible signals, until they arrived at my ears as i was curled up in the darkness of my room. radio always had, and still does have, an element of magic for me. 


this site allows you to hop around the globe, listening to radio stations everywhere. there are big commercial ones, national public ones, community ones and online only ones. bigger cities have a selection. remote towns have single entities speaking to them in the wilderness. but for me, it stirs up the paradoxical sense of distance and connection that i've always felt from radio. and it also helps me learn languages. 


radio can be a lot less structured than other types of speech. there's a range of formality and casualness and, in many cases, a range of subject matter even within the same station. so i'm comfortable with the fact that i'm unlikely to understand a lot of what i hear. but in those cases, it's also a great way to get a sense of the flow and rhythm of a language spoken by natives. and sometimes, you can be surprised at what you understand. i was listening to an early morning show in bucharest [that's how i was taught to spell it], and i recognised one world immediately: "putin". as i listened, i realised that they were jovially discussing a popular story making the rounds about how the russian president had expressed doubts that donald trump had visited with russian prostitutes while in moscow, but that he was certain his country's prostitutes were the best in the world. 


romanian has been a bit of a struggle for me, so i was surprised that, while missing a lot of the exact wording, i was able to figure out the exact story being referenced [because, let's face it, "putin" and "trump" in the same sentence could be a lot of things right now]. i'm still not certain how i figured it out, because "prostitutes" isn't on the duolingo romanian vocabulary list. but it definitely made me happy. 

other times, it's just fun to find something odd to listen to. i happened across a very dramatic and strange sounding radio play on a public station in vladivostok. i kept shoving an earbud halfway into dom's brain, because i wanted a witness to what sounded like carefully considered speeches punctuated by frequent beatings and screams of the tortured and damned, with the actors occasionally bursting into song. i understood about one out of every ten words, and they were generally things like "this" and "and". didn't make it less fun. 

dom had just about fallen asleep when i happened upon a station playing bulgarian folk music on speed, which made me stab at his poor ear again and demanding he listen. this got a rather puzzled stare because i'm not even learning bulgarian, and the music was instrumental. but the frenzy of it was just so invigorating that it was impossible to resist, or keep to myself. [i have the feeling he is currently trying to stuff his ears with cotton and cat hair, lest i come to bed after finishing this blog post and inflict more aural global village on him. [yes, that's exactly what's going to happen.]

i can't guarantee that the power of radio will move you, but at the very least, there's an almost inconceivable variety of content out there, making its way through the vastness of space, to you, where it can help you learn another language. or just be amazed at how peculiar radio can be. 

p.s. :: although my knowledge of romanian is embryonic, and my first experience trying to speak one of my new languages was a real disaster, but somehow i built up the nerve to respond to the gentleman who rang up my purchases at bucarest with a hearty "mulțumesc", to which he responded with a friendly "bună seara". so there. i can do it. sort of. i did kind of run from the store like i had stuffed my tights with shoplifted candy [i hadn't], because i knew i was on thin ice as far as conversation, but i at least felt a tiny bit redeemed. 

p.p.s. :: this post has nothing to do with the swans track "in my garden". in case you're disappointed by that, here it is for you to listen to, so you can feel like your time wasn't entirely wasted here. 


p.p.p.s. :: was there something else going on in the world earlier today? i decided not to consume any news or media for some reason. 

17 January 2017

you wanna [highland] dance, mr. trump?

there's a story floating around about an inaugural poem written in celebration of donald trump's scottish heritage, which refers to barack obama as a "tyrant". it's a little unclear what's going on; the author is indeed an author, who does indeed write poetry. but it's possible that this is him playing a prank, and there's no indication that the poem was commissioned, or that it will be read at the [sparsely attended] inauguration ceremony.

that said, trump has certainly expressed an affinity with his scottish heritage, which comes from his mother, a macleod born in the hebrides who immigrated to the united states and married the son of german immigrants fred trump in 1936. of course, he doesn't have enough of an affinity with scotland to know anything about it, as evidenced by his tweet talking about how happy everyone there clearly was with the vote on the brexit referendum. [every constituency in scotland voted to remain. if they seemed joyful, it was because they were nationalists who knew the next vote on separation was in the bag.]

as it happens, i'm of scottish heritage myself [something that's pretty clear from my name]. in fact, we even come from the same area of scotland, the western islands, which include the hebrides, as well as the inner islands like islay, mull and skye. we're both descended from the lords of the isles, the norse-gaels [i've talked about them before] who ruled a lot of western scotland for hundreds of years. of course, my family, the clan donald, goes a lot further back than his, having descended from somerled, the first lord of the isles, whereas the name macleod only enters the books hundreds of years later. but that's ok, donald, you can still play. think of me the way you think of those manhattan bluebloods who still chuckle a little when your back is turned. you're admitted, but you're the social runt.

the donald's heritage in scotland is a lot closer than mine. my family emigrated to canada generations ago, although they settled in cape breton, which was almost more scottish than scotland at the time, so it really wasn't like being in canada at all. why was that? why were there all these scots suddenly pouring into canada? it's a sad story.

my family were driven out of scotland during the highland clearances. this was a wave of efforts by the english, and their scottish puppets, to disenfranchise and drive out the scots who resisted english rule, especially in the wake of the jacobite uprising of 1745. my family were tough. they hung on in the isles until well into the nineteenth century, well after they'd been stripped of their lands and reduced to serfs on the property that had been theirs for hundreds of years. but eventually, necessity won out over pride, and they, along with many others, left their ancestral homeland for the new world, choosing as their destination a tiny pocket of promising arable land that bore a striking resemblance to the rolling hills of great britain.

many, many scottish families ended up here. many years ago, a friend of mine was foiled in an attempt to look my number up in the phone book, because he couldn't figure out which of the macdonalds listed on my tiny street was me. and i don't come from the most heavily scottish part of the province. [both my parents do, although only one of them is scottish by heritage.] until very recently, people raised in my corner of the world tended to identify far more with the culture of their progenitors than with canada. we were a territory of castoffs, who were poorly served by confederation, but that's a different story.

that donald trump's scottish family is so recently arrived tells me something about who he came from. the clan macleod, as i mentioned, were later arrivals among the lords of the isles. the "originals" [those who could trace their ancestry to somerled, the original man to bear the title lord of the isles] were the clans macquarie, macdougall and macdonald. by the sixteenth century, the council of the lords had expanded, but the clan donald [which included an offshoot, one of the maclaines/ macleans] were still recognized as the highest "caste" among them. and at that point, there were members of the clan macleod. certain branches of the macleods were given to fighting with other clans, trying to establish themselves as one of the great families, and getting smacked down on a regular basis for their belligerent behaviour.

those quarrelsome branches of the clan macleod, however, did eventually come up with a way of sticking it to the other scottish clans: when the scots united in the jacobite rebellion in 1745, the macleods sided with the english and raised an army to fight alongside them, helping to ensure that the scots were roundly defeated and setting into motion the process that would eventually lead to the highland clearances- the forced displacement and conscious starvation of those who had defied the british. [something that would, by the way, fit the current definition of genocide.]

the macleods who had supported the english, of course, were allowed to stay in scotland, and were even given lands confiscated from the rebels. they were able to stay much longer, because they were not hounded out like some sort of disease. indeed, they profited from the misery of the countrymen they had betrayed.

so there's your little lesson in scottish history, mr. donald trump: your family has close scottish ties because they were traitors to their homeland, and complicit in the genocide of many of their countrymen. now that you've called my attention to that heritage, i feel even more comfortable saying that the rotted apple does not fall far from the family tree.

and in case you haven't read your clan's wikipedia entry, here's something i'd like to call your attention to:

The surname MacLeod means 'son of Leod'. The name Leod is an Anglicization of the Scottish Gaelic name Leòd, which is thought to have been derived from the Old Norse name Ljótr, meaning ugly.

air muir's air tir. per mare per terras, bitch. i know what you are.

15 January 2017

what're you lookin at? [the most popular posts of 2016 on more like space]

i'm a little late getting around to these, but i feel like i needed some time to decompress from 2016. various commitments meant that i had less time for blogging last year. in fact, i had fewer posts than any time since 2010, when i was rebounding from the great ignoring of this blog. [this was largely due to the fact that i was maintaining a private blog on myspace- remember them?]

the thrilling and surprising thing is that 2016 was also the busiest year ever in terms of visits and in terms of diversity [i.e., the number of different locations from which you visited]. is it a case of quality over quantity? i had a dream last night where everyone in my school was telling me that they hated me because i talked too much. so maybe there's something to that.

for the second year running, the most popular post on the blog this year was music related: 'so hip it hurts', my tribute to the tragically hip and their unexpected effect on me wasn't something i expected to write, but i'm glad to know that i was far from along in how i felt. and, for the second year in a row, i'm honoured that people stuck around to read something of that length. in a world where it seems speech and dialogue is more compressed than ever, it's heartening to know that the attention span isn't dead yet.

i'm not quite sure how to interpret the reaction to the second most popular post, 'critical failure', and account of my embarrassing collapse on "game day"- my first opportunity to use some of my newly acquired language skills. and if that weren't bad enough, 'so the world hates me', a post about me losing a blog post, also ranked among the most popular. i guess sometimes your purpose on earth is to make others feel better.

in fact, posts about language learning were much more of a hit than i'd anticipated. i figured they were too self-indulgent to find an audience, but apparently the opposite is true. of the most popular posts of the year, about five of the top ten were on this subject. of those, the most popular were 'tongues, twisted' and 'in peril'.

i was not so surprised to see that posts on the american election were popular, since it seemed like it was all people could talk about for great stretches of time. what did catch me off guard, however, was the fact that the most popular of them [the third most popular post of the year] was my recap of the vice presidential debate, 'shut up'. i put that down to the fact that the title itself likely summed up the mood of the people more than any other statement. in second place among the political posts was 'the art of the feel', which again gave me that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from knowing that people are willing to read a long ranty post.

one of the most interesting phenomena was that my cosmetics-focused posts 'making faces' drew a significant number of views, but each of them was about the same in terms of popularity. the most popular were my first ever post about perfume, 'making scents', and my review of urban decay's new lipstick line 'meet the vice squad'. but neither of those got significantly more views than others. the difference? no armani reviews. last year, those were extremely popular, but this year, there were just so many things launching that i never got around to armani's less spectacular [and often very pricey] offerings. although i only did one last year, colour analysis posts remain extremely popular. note to self: do more colour analysis posts in 2017.

to that end, i'm making a few blog resolutions: i'm fully aware that i haven't kept up with mental health mondays in recent weeks and, in the interests of keeping away from the rut of pop psychology, i'm considering reducing the frequency of those posts. i don't want to eliminate them, because i know that they have a following, but, given the number of subjects already addressed, i'd like to focus on providing something that's well researched and meaningful. mental health monthly? we shall see.

second, as i mentioned above, more on colour analysis. no, i'm not a professional, but not everyone can afford a professional, and even those who can don't always have the opportunity to see them. in general, i'd like to shift the beauty posts towards topics other than just reviews of new products. there are far better reviewers, with far more experience than i, and who are able to receive or purchase products on a much more timely basis. and i'm much happier talking about what inspires the different faces i put on, and about the ways that colour and makeup can be used. yes, there will be reviews, but i want to make them a bit different. [fyi, this is my favourite beauty post that i've ever done. it was written in the midst of a bunch of holiday posts about red lipstick.]

third, i want to keep a sharp eye on politics and talk about it. i'm the first person to criticise others for only being interested and active in the runup to an election, and then i do the same goddamn thing on my blog. no, i will not look up from my microscope [except occasionally to learn languages]. i will stay focused and talk about things that i think are important in canada, the united states, and everywhere else.

despite the fact that posts on music have been the most popular on the blog two years running, i'm hesitant to say i'll write more on the subject. for starters, i write a lot about music on other sites. then, there's the fact that my tastes in music are very far from anything popular, so i always wonder how many people can really relate. we shall see.

beyond that... it'll likely be more of the same and possibly some things that i can't predict [because i never know when my next obsession is coming]. 2016 marked the tenth anniversary of this blog, which has always been an outlet for what goes on in my head. i'm too stubborn to change and do all the things that i'm supposed to do in order to have a really good blog. i can live with that and i hope that you can too.

i am so grateful to all of you who've stopped by here. every time you comment, share, mention on another site, hell, every time i see a new visitor, it's a positive experience for me. it's been a rather difficult year on the personal front. i don't share these things too often on the blog [honestly, i don't talk about them too much in person either], but this is my outlet. this is where i come to just be me and to share things that i find interesting, in the hopes that there are others who will enjoy them too. so thank you, always, for making me feel that connection.

welcome, 2017. i'm not sure how good a year you will be, and let's face it, that january 20th bump is going to make things difficult. but we're all pulling for you to make some good out of the crappy situation you've been left. godspeed you, little year. 

11 January 2017

making faces :: falling hard for viseart

viseart is a brand that went from one i'd never heard of to one that i couldn't stop hearing of in record time. it's been a couple of years that i've seen their pricey but generous palettes on the sephora website, on beauty blogs and on instagram, but it wasn't until the last few months [and some help from the gift certificate fairies] that i decided to wade into their refined waters.

the brand is clearly oriented towards professionals, which explains why all their products are in palettes- eyeshadows, colour correctors, blush, lip colour. i'm not a professional, just an enthusiastic amateur, so i initially started with their new [this year] six shade eyeshadow palettes, which are intended to be used without including other items. [whereas their larger, twelve shade palettes are built around a theme, finish or colour family, like bridal makeup or neutral mattes.] there are three of the smaller 'theory' palettes, one cool, one neutral and one warm. the cool and neutral options both look like good everyday palettes, although the cooler one also presents some great options for a smoky eye. i felt like the neutral palette was the more original of the two, despite the fact that i have a glut of neutral palettes in my house. the warm option is bolder than the other two and not quite such an everyday kind of assortment, and i found it irresistible.

the first [neutral] theory palette is 'cashmere', is a combination of softer, slightly burnished tones that occupy the space between gold and grey. as with all the theories, it has three matte and three shimmer shades, which makes it easy to wear for those who like a bit of variety and for those of us whose eyelids aren't quite as youthful as they once were. [actually, i'm fibbing. my eyelids have always had a creped texture, dating back to when i was in my early twenties, which was one of the reasons that i eschewed eye makeup, other than mascara and occasionally liner, until much later, and why i've stuck with higher end brands, which tend to be more forgiving.]

I'M PLACING A BREAK HERE BECAUSE IT GETS REALLY PICTURE-Y FROM THIS POINT

09 January 2017

mental health mondays :: the big lies

the phrase "the big lie" was coined by adolf hitler to describe an untruth on such a grand scale, one that could seem as all-encompassing and passionately communicated that it overcame its self-evident falseness and became accepted. the idea behind it is that the idea would be so ridiculous that no one would believe that a thinking person could make it up. he was onto something there, because there are plenty of examples of people believing ridiculous things. i remember being told in all sincerity that if you dreamt that you died, you actually would die. the question of how people actually evaluated that got skipped right over, because damn, it sounds just crazy enough to work.

is adolf had been born a hundred years after he was, he would likely have made an excellent purveyor of "fake news", something which has come to the public's attention since some have proposed that its omnipresence may have helped tilt the outcome of the american election in favour of eventual winner donald trump. people would see stories repeated on social media- often reading only the associated headlines, which are always written to be as sensationalistic as possible- and assume that the frequency with which they were repeated was evidence of their veracity. in their desperate pursuit of bigger audiences, the mainstream media, those who have built [possibly undeserved] reputations for diligent fact-checking and research, have occasionally been fooled by 'big lies' circulated on social media. the new iphone will have a hologram feature? you couldn't make that up! [except, of course, that someone did.]

but people don't depend on mainstream media to validate what they see, by and large. in fact, many believe that the media shows a liberal bias, a corporatist bias, or a conservative bias, whereby new ideas are ridiculed simply for being new. and those people get their news from sites that validate the things that they feel are true, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. and, in the election, trump's big lies about illegal immigrants being murderers and rapists, the real unemployment rate being 42%, or climate change being a hoax perpetrated by the chinese, had relatively little effect compared to clinton's much more banal half-truths about her hawkish record on military interventions, her shift in position on marriage equality, or her former support for the for-profit prison industry. [in fact, former secretary clinton has a pretty solid record on politifact, not that it helped.]

but what does this have to do with mental health? well, it turns out that there is some psychology behind the appeal of fake news. when it comes to politics, there is the presence of confirmation bias, whereby we seek out information that supports views that we already have, down to the way we phrase questions or terms when searching for information, making it more likely that we will turn up sources that reflect our point of view. the basis of confirmation bias is irrational, which sounds unexceptional enough- people believe irrational things all the time, right? except that belief in irrational or disproved ideas is one of the criteria for mental illness. and aren't we inundated with media images of people who are defined as crazy because of their belief in alien takeovers of the planet or massive government plots to do with placing fluoride in water? and don't such people feed their beliefs by placing an inordinate weight on the opinions of others who share their views?

there hasn't been enough work done on determining the point at which confirmation bias tips into the waters of pathology, but i suspect that the next four years are going to see that continuum tested from different points on the political spectrum.

however, confirmation bias only explains why we fall for fake news that we already agree with. the fact is that there are plenty of cases where we believe stories [like the one about dreaming of your death resulting in your actual death] that don't relate to our other views at all.

well, it turns out that we aren't just biased towards those who share our views, but towards those we normally turn to for information. despite the importance of tracing a story to its original source as a way of evaluating its credibility, one professor conducted a study that revealed people were likely to believe a story they saw on a site they turned to regularly for news, and did not generally bother to check the sources on stories from those sites. so, once we've made a decision to place our trust in a certain source, we stop questioning that source.

in addition, there is the bias i mentioned earlier, that simply seeing something repeated is tantamount to credibility in our minds, unless we make it a habit of questioning everything. in the age of the information glut, trust seems like a luxury we can't afford, and yet paranoia is still considered a sign of mental illness. again, the phrase "that's what they want you to believe" is a trope of the portrayal of mental disorders.

and even if you do have an inquisitive, critical mindset, the repetition of fake news is likely to have an effect anyway, just because your mind starts to accept what it sees all the time as reliable information, even if it's something they would have questioned at first. it's a known psychological phenomenon called the 'continuous influence effect'. it's like our brains' tendency to fight to establish credibility in media finally becomes exhausted and just lets the tidal wave of bullshit wash over us. it's not that we accept the specifics of fake reports, but we tune out and just seeing the words repeated starts to create associations.

the more fake news sites proliferate, of course, and the greater their influence, the more this comes close to being a public health issue. after all, if none of us are able to see the difference between good research and no research, facts become a quaint relic of a previous era, and we're all that guy with the tinfoil hat talking about how the sun is an illuminati plot.

i'm personally a fan of making media literacy a required course in schools and flagging sites that are known to have poor ratings from sites like politifact and snopes. [and for those of you who are thinking that you've heard of them making mistakes in the past, i say: those are just examples, and they're still better than nothing.] but those views are just pipe dreams. you know, crazy.

p.s. :: you will not die if you dream about your own death, i promise. 

04 January 2017

thanks for the memories?

i've spent much of the new year angry at myself, because i had a dream on the 1st [i believe], a section of which i remember thinking would make a great short story. i kept reminding myself that i should write it down, in case i forgot it. then i'd forget to write it down for the rest of the day. then i forgot what it was.

[many sighs.]

the people to whom i've spoken about this have been quick to reassure me that, if the idea were really important and really good, i would have remembered it, and that's the advice i'd give to someone in my position as well. but that doesn't stop me from fretting, because all i can remember about it was that it seemed like it was a good idea.

however, the experience did remind me that there are a couple of things that have been running around in my head for years that i've never committed to writing. the reason for that is that, as vivid as they are in my mind, they aren't anything in particular; they're little snippets that, at best, connect with other little snippets in my mind. they're not part of any grand story. so, if i spend the time writing them down, i'm essentially taking writing time away from something i could finish fairly easily, except that i keep forgetting to make time to do that too.

so last night, i spent several hours writing out a scene that seemed like it would take me a lot less time and a lot fewer words than it did, and didn't work on anything that i had any hope of finishing.

and now i think i understand why i'm always reluctant to let myself do this kind of work. it's because i'm just so very me.

this was a single scene in what i imagined to be a larger story, except that i don't have much of an idea of what happens before and only a spotty knowledge of what happens after. but because it's the first thing i've written that involved these characters, i felt like i was getting to know them, and that they deserved to be a little more rounded, even though what i'm writing for them may never end up connected to anything else.

every time i start to think this way, i know what's coming: i will inevitably spend far too much time researching little details that will never, ever be important to the overall story, because they're barely related to the abbreviated scene i'm writing. because, even though i'm fine with details like the primary setting being vague, i have this tendency to become obsessive over weird little offhand things that get mentioned once.

this leads to a lot of my writing time suddenly being turned into research time, because, for instance, i couldn't possibly live with myself if my central character was drinking a fanta in barbados in 1962 [on the day that her fiancé was eaten by a shark], only to find out the soft drink wasn't available in barbados at that time. [note :: i'm not using that scenario. you can, if you want, but please give me a shoutout. and you'll have to research the fanta situation yourself.]

so, in addition to writing nine pages of story [and, as testimony to the exact mental affliction i'm describing, i was compelled to open the document to confirm the exact number of pages, because i couldn't have lived with either an incorrect number or a more general term], i ended up doing some research on the following:


  • cocktails
  • artisanal jell-o shots [this is a thing]
  • the history of comic books in africa [as in, ones created and published there]
  • translations of several words into swahili


so now, i have nine pages that aren't connected to anything else, and if i ever do connect them to anything else, that something else, it's going to take me years to research, because it will need to be sewn with the seeds of these weird little ideas, because if it isn't, the scene i just wrote will seem like it was hammered into an ill-fitted frame.

i also have a bizarre assortment of facts rattling around in my head, stuff that will probably stick there forever, which is ironic, since the writing of this scene happened because i forgot an entire goddamned storyline. i know i should get over that, because it's gone, but the capriciousness of my memory is rather vexing. oh, and if you think it's frustrating to me as a writer, consider the plight of those close to me, because my memory is like that about everything, all the time.

i'm not sure if this constitutes a good or bad start to my creative year, but i'm willing to entertain the idea that it might be good, since finding the time to write anything is good. indulging these sort of detail-driven flights of fancy, however, might send me into a vortex from which i would never emerge.

now, if you'll excuse me, i've just remembered that there was another story idea that i forgot to write down, so i have to go and either make a note of it or think of some little background element that i can expand into a soliloquy on the culinary uses of radishes. [i haven't decided if i'm using that one yet, so hands' off!]

the image above is a character from the japanese manga/ anime one piece. the character's name is kaku, who has been turned into a kind of giraffe by eating a devil fruit, which is something that confers certain powers, including shape-shifting... he's not really related to what i was working on last night, although in a way he is. but not really. sort of.

02 January 2017

armchair centre back :: relationship woes


although i did stick my head out of my gopher hole on new year's eve, the last several days have been occupied with one thing: watching gorgeous men kick a ball around for 90-100 minutes at a time.

with the avalanche of holiday fixtures, we've officially passed the halfway point of the premier league season. i haven't written much about it because... swansea... goddamn... they struggled last year, but that was nothing compared to the sour river of suck we've been treated to lately. i mean, they're painful to even watch right now. it's a hard blow from a team that used to be as silky as the big guns of the league when they were on their game. now, it's like...





that's me on the sofa, by the way.

so, yes, it's been a hard half season for me, although not as hard a season as it has been for the swansea coaching staff, who are shortly to be moving onto their third boss in sixteen weeks. with the team languishing at the very bottom of the bottom three and showing no sign of ambition to do anything else [other than icelandic superman gylfi sigurdsson, who is always a class act and who i'm going to miss terribly when the team gets consigned to the championship at the end of the year], it seemed clear that what was needed was a manager with experience in the premier league and who was something of an expert in pulling a team together to avoid being relegated.

or not.

excuse my skepticism, but every manager they've brought in since firing garry monk has been a different level of terrible, so my hopes aren't particularly high, even if the man does have a pretty impressive resume. of course, this is the year of european imports in england, so maybe i'll end up eating my words. mmmmm... tasty, tasty words that i wouldn't mind eating at all.

amidst all this misery, i have to admit that my eye is once again falling to my first footie love, the one i originally started with, then got angry with because of a certain arrogant, histrionic striker with a big attitude, who was obviously just cutting his teeth in the premier league, while waiting for a move to one of the two exalted clubs in spain. even before he made that transfer, though, i have to admit that i was warming to them again. i remembered loving their fair city, which usually elicits laughs from people who've been there, but, on my very first visit to england, i remember it being friendly and fun and full of cheap liquor. [as a consequence, there are some things about it that i don't remember very well at all.]

it's a happy place

living with an arsenal fan- and having cheered them as well among the top teams- admitting this information is both difficult and dangerous. i'm lucky that dom is a very understanding man. that first game of the season was a little tricky, though.

it just seems to be the way of these things. your current beau starts disappointing you terribly, and, all of a sudden, there are all these feelings about your ex. [and it doesn't hurt that they have seriously upped their man candy quotient, having previously been the buttiest of butt ugly for several years.]

emre can :: not butt ugly


loris karius :: not butt ugly

on top of my increasing defection, dom's in an equally rough situation, with his soccer relationship having once again fallen into something that i'll call the "arsenal rut". some people, or some teams, no matter how brightly they start and how much they promised they've changed, just fall into bad routines. i hope for his sake that they overcome this malaise, because i don't know if he can take more disappointment.

there are still lots of things to love about arsenal

of course, arsenal can take some pride in being one of the only teams to beat mighty chelsea, which is something they hadn't done in many, many years. so that's something. but chelsea could beat arsenal's stretch of 14 consecutive wins in the premier league on wednesday, which sucks. what sucks worse, if you're an arsenal fan, is that the one thing standing in your way is your much-hated rival tottenham.

and some new things to love about arsenal

except that neither dom nor i actually does hate tottenham. i maintain it is physically impossible to hate their cherubic manager, mauricio pochettino, and none of their players are as despicable as they should be. damn that's uncooperative.

both of us have been surprised at how little there is to hate in the premier league this year. it's leaving us feeling a little empty inside. yes, there's jose mourinho, because there's always jose mourinho with his grossly overpriced mancunian army, and i still hope that one of diego costa's teammates sticks a cleated boot in his face [it couldn't make things worse, after all], but that's two people. in a whole league. we're currently trying to build up a healthy hatred of some of the teams we don't care about, except that we can't bring ourselves to care about them enough to hate. a couple of weeks ago, as we watched manchester city take the field, we had this conversation:

dom: there's not one person there that i really dislike.

me: not even raheem sterling?

dom: nah, he's just... raheem sterling. it's like he's too silly to hate.

me: fair enough.

kelechi iheanacho :: not despicable [also 19, so stop staring, pervert.]

sighs all around. it used to be so easy to hate manchester city, with their meretricious flaunting and random collection of egos. i was honestly ready to write off pep guardiola as an arrogant little prick before i even saw him, but as it turns out, he seems kind of humble. he seems to have a serious mutual appreciation society going on with jurgen klopp, and jose mourinho apparently called him the most arrogant manager in the world. those things have to speak well of him.


dom was all prepared to hate antonio conte, since hating anything to do with chelsea is usually a walk in the park, but his bright-eyed psychopathy is actually quite entertaining. plus, he got jose mourinho so worked up by enthusiastically celebrating as his team pounded jose's manchester united into the ground and stomped on their grave, that the portuguese ponce felt it necessary to come over and chew the man out at the end of the game. i so can't wait for their rematch in the second half of the season.

so to all those who are struggling with your love affairs, know that dom and i are with you in spirit. even though our relationship with each other is wonderful, we our hearts are all twisted up [like my back today- ouch!]. and we're only halfway there...

photos in this post were mostly taken from the soccer players in underwear blog, which has been reborn on tumblr, now with the full monty. [absolutely nsfw!] 

be it resolved that

at our annual new year's eve get together last night, we played a game. there were two hats on the table. everyone wrote down the most horrible thing that happened in 2016 and placed it in one hat. in the second hat, they placed a note naming something that could happen in 2017 that could offset it (or at least numb the pain). at midnight, we read them all out, drawing first from the 2016 hat and then from the 2017 hat. the random pairings were good for a chuckle, however, something strange happened and the hat with the horrible things of 2016 had one extra note in it, for which there was no 2017 antidote. this was it:



there is no antidote for apathy. you have to cut it off and get rid of it entirely. resolve not to be apathetic in 2017. 
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