29 June 2015

summertime scheduling

i am not here. or there.
greetings and salutations! i expect that many of you are starting to claim those precious days known as summer vacation and will be traveling to faraway and exotic locations, or else retreating to somewhere familiar and comforting in order to recharge your batteries. i am not. i'll be right here, blogging away for the foreseeable future, so please spare me a thought when you're off having the time of your life.

however, with the weather taking a turn for the warmer and with the city offering a wider range of things to do, [as well as work picking up, which is the opposite of what's supposed to happen, but i'm not complaining] i have somewhat less time to blog and less time to research. during a recent battle with the bubonic plague [i won! although i still don't feel back to my normal, healthy self], i had to skimp a bit on content, which i hate doing. however, it did made me think that with my commitments and the various things i want to do, that some temporary changes are in order.

to that end, mental health mondays will be taking a vacation until september. world wide wednesdays will continue to appear and there will continue to be a paranoid theory of the week, which will normally be posted on saturday or sunday. i'm opting to give mhm a vacation because it's the feature that's been running the longest, which means that it has the largest archive of old posts that you can consult if you really, really need to get your crazy on [or off]. so you get to read all this stuff and i get to publish two research-based posts a week while still being able to have a life away from the computer. everybody wins.

please remember that we're also accepting submissions from anyone who wants to share their mental health stories, so if you'd like to contribute, please see this post and get in touch!

i'd also like to take a moment to thank you- yes you in particular!- for stopping by this space. in just over a month, more like space will have been around for a decade. it's changed a lot during that time, as have i, mostly for the better [both of us]. i take some time every day to marvel at how many people from how many different places visit more like space every day. the idea that i'm doing something that connects with readers in germany, russia, malaysia, chile, india, australia, italy, england, the united states, canada and iraq [all of those in the last few days!] is deeply thrilling to me. i've said such things before and i truly mean it: i wish i could meet each of you and have tea or coffee or an alcoholic beverage and chat.

so if you are heading out on vacation, i hope that you have a lovely time. if you aren't, i hope you're having a lovely time anyway. i'll be here, manning the cyber fort over the summer months, just with a slightly less proscriptive schedule.

p.s. :: if there's anything you particularly enjoy seeing, or anything you haven't seen but would like to, please feel free to let us know. 

26 June 2015

making faces :: another fuchsia followed me home

a couple of months back, i reviewed three of the four lipsticks released with the armani "fuchsia maharajah" collection and mentioned that i hadn't seen the fourth at either of my local counters. but my habit of haunting counters until i get what i want served me well and, eventually, one of them did get a few units. another fuchsia-pink rouge ecstasy? you'd better believe that's coming home with me.

the fourth and final lipstick in this collection is called either "pink blush" or "pink bliss". all of the promotional material i saw used the former name, but the packaging of the lipstick uses the latter. it's probably easier to go with calling it "511", which isn't quite as exciting, but is at least consistent from one place to another. as mentioned, it's one of the rouge ecstasy formula lipsticks, which are supposed to be long-wearing and offer skin care benefits to the lips. the colour coverage is said to be full, which it is, although it's never 100% opaque. the fullest coverage in the armani line belongs to the original rouge d'armani lipsticks. [as a side note, i can't help but notice that the colour offering of the rouge d'armani line has been dwindling both at counters and on line. i suspect that something is afoot and i hope that the rda line is being revamped and not just discontinued. there is still absolutely a place for a very full-coverage formula within the brand offering.] as far as the skin care benefits, i don't have a monogamous relationship with any lipstick formula, but this is the only lipstick that i can wear in the depths of winter. so how much of an improvement you get might be a little difficult to discern, but there is something to the claim that they are kind to your kisser.

"pink blush" is a brighter shade than that name would lead you to believe. it's a bold, clear pink that leans cool, right on the border between pink and fuchsia. compared to rouge ecstasy 512, "maharajah", it is a bit muted, a little lighter and definitely less red. it's a little more daytime friendly, although it's still the sort of shade that is going to make a statement.

511 pink blush, or pink bliss... your choice

i found that the formula on this one was just a little below what i've come to expect from the rouge ecstasy line. it was a little difficult to get the colour even [although not to the degree i experienced with "urban nude"] and the wear time was noticeably shorter. neither problem is huge, but it's perplexing. i can't figure out why this one should be even a little less incredible than the others.

for comparisons, the closest shade i have to "pink blush" is a limited mac shade from 2010 called "pink burst". although it's somewhat difficult to see in the photos, "pink burst" is a frost shade, with a lot of silver and white shimmer that makes it look both lighter and cooler, whereas "pink blush" has no shimmer. that means that, while the base colours are indeed similar, they look quite different in use. mac "catharina" is deeper, more saturated and redder.

l to r :: mac pink burst [l.e.], 511, mac catharina

and also for comparison's sake, here's a look at all the shades of lipstick from the "fuchsia maharajah" collection.

l to r :: 511 pink blush, 512 maharajah, 604 garconne fatale, rouge d'armani 513 maharajah

finally, of course, it wouldn't be a "me" post if i didn't share a look that incorporated the product i'm reviewing. so here's a look at "pink blush" along with some of her friends.




products used

the base ::
nars luminous weightless foundation "mont blanc"
nars radiant creamy concealer "vanilla"
mac paint pot "painterly"

the eyes ::
armani eyes to kill e/s "gold hercule" [muted gold with a grey-green cast]*
le metier de beauté e/s "jade" [rich emerald green]
mac e/s "dazzlelight" [shimmery neutral highlight]
illamasqua precision gel e/l [matte black]
dior new look mascara

the cheeks ::
hourglass ambient blush "incandescent electra" [cool peach]

the lips ::

armani rouge ecstasy l/s "pink blush 511" [bright cool pink]

*suggested alternate :: gold hercule = armani eye tint #6 "green iron" [darker] or mac gorgeous gold [brighter, yellower]

all of the fuchsia maharajah collection is limited, but a lot of counters and online retailers still have stock [even if they don't have testers out, it's worth asking]. even though it's not quite the best example of the rouge ecstasy formula, "pink blush" is still a solid choice if you're looking for a cheery summer shade that's bright but not loud.

25 June 2015

world wide wednesdays :: now you know

relax, have a snack, learn some stuff
a somewhat lighter world wide wednesdays this week, but that doesn't mean it has to be light on facts. so this week's post is all about facts that will probably do you no good whatsoever and which will crowd out information like where you put your keys. but you'll be in possession of some truly brilliant nuggets of truth about the world we live in that you can use to fill in awkward gaps in conversation, distract from something inappropriate you just said, or just to make you look like the smart, clever person you probably are anyway.

water, water everywhere. or not. :: 9% of canadian territory is comprised of fresh water. that doesn't sound like a lot until you grab yourself a map and realise [if you hadn't already] that canada is freakin' huge and that a lot of entire countries are less than a tenth our size. another way to look at this fact is that we have three million lakes that make up about 60% of the world's fresh water [another 20% is located in lake baikal in russia]. if the theory that potable water will be the source of the next great war turns out to be true, then that fight is going to be all about canada. that might mean that we have all the power, but it's more likely to mean that we're the ones who are going to get pummeled by everyone else, since that's generally what happens to the one who has something everyone wants. if you want to go somewhere that's less likely to be the subject of a war over water, you should head to saudi arabia, which has no rivers or above-ground flowing water at all. clearly nothing to fight about there.

.tv nation :: the tiny pacific nation of tuvalu quickly realised that they'd won the internet lottery when the international organisation for standardisation awarded them ".tv" as their national domain identifier. they made a deal for $50 million dollars with a california company to allow the television industry to use their domain for themselves, with the understanding that much more would follow. unfortunately, things haven't quite worked out, and tuvalu now find themselves in a budget crisis, with a lot less of that internet money than they'd counted on. and if that wasn't bad enough, they're also in danger of being swallowed by the ocean.

le big one :: despite their massive eurasian sprawl, russia is not the country that covers the greatest number of time zones. that honour falls to france, whose territories cover twelve time zones to russia's nine. i'm sure vladimir would say that that's cheating, because france has all these overseas holdings that aren't part of the country in any meaningful way, and he wouldn't be entirely wrong, but technically, france is bigger than russia. [and if you really want to be mean, you could point out that, when you include overseas territories, the united states comes second, being spread over eleven time zones, while russia is left to claim the bronze.] in related and surprising news, china decided to deal with the difficulties of managing a country with multiple time zones by living in denial. the entire nation has one time zone, no matter where you are. which is super-simple, except that the time zone is known by different names [beijing standard time, hong kong time, china standard time, etc.].

vive le france everywhere

if you think your life is sad, consider the world's most isolated tree :: the tree of ténéré lived hundreds of miles from any other foliage in niger's sahara desert. it became an icon, as well as the only reference point in the region, living for three lonely centuries among the dunes. then one night in 1973 a drunk driver slammed into it- which is quite a feat when you consider it was the only thing to run into for hundreds of miles in any direction- and killed it.

if you stare at a target, you will subconsciously drive towards it

eat it, four corners :: the pacfic island nation of kirabati is the only country to exist in all four hemispheres, sitting right at the point where the equator intersects the international date line.

nothing to see here, look away... :: the official flag of the isle of man is an image of a triskelion made up of three human legs joined at the thigh. although the flag only dates from the early 1930s, the manx triskelion has a history of several hundred years and was apparently stamped on coins of the area. no one is sure how exactly the island managed to come up with a symbol made up of three severed human legs stitched together, although there are theories that link it to earlier triskelions in sicily. also, no one seems to want to talk about the frankenstein-esque emblem, aside from mentioning that triskelions crop up all over the place in history [although they're not generally made from human limbs]. the motto of the isle of man translates roughly from latin is "whichever way you throw it, it will stand." someone has a pretty dark sense of humour.

in no way creepy at all

and a manly sport it is :: ireland's first olympic medal was won by jack butler yeats at the 1924 summer olympics in paris. [that's the olympics in chariots of fire.] jack is not as well remembered today as his glory-hogging poet brother william, but at the time, he was the glory of the new republic when he brought home the silver medal in... painting. yup, that happened. it was part of a larger arts and culture competition at the games, which included medals for architecture, sculpture, literature and music, although no one actually won anything for that last category. for some reason, the international olympic committee seems to want to deny this competition ever existed and, sadly, jack butler yeats never found his way onto the front of a box of wheaties.  

eat it, isle of man :: most armies capture trophies when they invade another country, but some armies are apparently a little scarier than others. in 1983, a vault was discovered [by someone who has probably never left the house since] with relics of a sixteenth century japanese invasion of korea: 20,000 pickled noses. figuring they'd held onto them for long enough, the japanese thoughtfully returned the noses to korea, japan has retained possession of approximately 75,000 pickled korean ears. the normal practice at the time was to take heads as trophies, however heads are heavy, which may explain why the samurai resorted to just ears and noses. they were given a token amount of money for every victim they killed, which makes these vaults of pickled horror a little like the bottles you give your kids so that they can go and collect the deposit.

in this place, the walls really do have ears
grudge match :: for most countries, world war ii ended in 1945. however for some, it went on just a little longer. as in, is still going on. russia and japan have never come to an agreement about ownership of the kuril islands, an archipelago between japan's northernmost island of honshu and russia's kamchatka peninsula. that means that, technically, they are still at war with each other. i wonder if russia knows about the noses?

it's a positive negative :: the tiny principality of liechtenstein may be the only country ever to experience negative casualties during war time. they sent 80 soldiers into the austro-prussian conflict of 1866 and when they returned, there were 81 of them. figuring they should quit while they were ahead, the military was disbanded in 1868.  

can't visit, clown'll eat me :: the city of bern in switzerland has a statue of a large man/ monster eating children. well, he's just eating one child, really, but there are other children around, so you know that he's just being diet-conscious by only having one at a time. no one really knows why there's a statue of a man/ monster eating children, although there are many theories. personally, this just makes me sad that i never made it to bern when i visited switzerland, but it certainly gives me incentive to go back. bucket list that one for sure. [and yes, that is an image of said statue at the top of this post.]

23 June 2015

writing recipes and fictional ingredients

one of the ways that i like to tell myself i'm being creative, even when i don't have a lot of time, is that i'll just scribble down fleeting scenes that occur to me, to see where they go. sometimes, they just sit there like lumps of literary lard, waiting to be incorporated into something a little more sophisticated and tasty.

sometimes, of course, i end up with something that simply refuses to be incorporated. it just sits there sullenly, reminding me of its existence but not much else. occasionally, there are things that seem like they could turn into full meals on their own, but i can't figure out how long to cook them. for an example of what that means, see this post.

other things are a little more complicated. the piece below was something that i wrote ages ago. i wasn't really thinking it was something i could incorporate into a larger piece. i wasn't really thinking about it being anything except a little brain exercise based on a scene that randomly snapped into my head. i like it for what it is, but i always wondered if i could turn it into something more. on the other hand, i was afraid that manipulating it and baking it into something more complex would destroy what i liked about it.

in the end, i've compromised, because you can do that with writing in a way that you can't, say, with a bag of fresh peaches. you cannot make them into a cobbler and enjoy them fresh. although i suppose that if you had a bag of them, you could use some for one purpose and some for another. this metaphor is decidedly half-baked.

what i mean is that, i have preserved this little snippet in a folder with other little snippets that i like, but that don't really fit into anything else. but i also used it as the inspiration for the opening of this project, which has been on hiatus while i deal with the rest of my life. it's one of the many things for which i need to make time, because it's definitely the thing i've worked on that i've liked the most. [and yes, since i've had people ask me, i do have a very definite ending in mind and have since the beginning of the writing process. this isn't the usual story of me giving up because i've run out of gas before the end product is fully cooked. this metaphor gets worse every time i go back to it. and yet i keep returning...]

so here is the original, raw piece of flash fiction, that was then prepared and incorporated into a much larger and fancier dish. tuck in.

*


Hi, it’s me. You may not remember who me is. You might not know me to see me anymore. We had drinks a couple of times. Chatted a bit. I used to visit you when you worked at the record store. We talked about music because that was the first thing we noticed that we had in common. What exactly was it that we had in common, really? Wait, that wasn’t what I meant to ask you. This isn’t how I wanted this message to go.

I wanted to let you know I was still around. I wanted to let you know that I remembered you, that I thought of you occasionally. I don’t know if this is even still your number, because it was a woman’s voice on the phone. Maybe it’s your girlfriend. You always had a girlfriend. I always had a boyfriend. We never talked about them. They never seemed to be one of the things we had in common. Maybe if we had been doing something wrong, we would have considered them more. Perhaps we would have stooped to petty criticisms in order to justify our weakness. We were never talking about anything that involved them. Perhaps it was just that, with everything else we seemed to talk about, we never got around to the subject of other people. There were so many subjects we seemed to graze over, I can’t even remember, except that ours were conversations I enjoyed.

I thought you were attractive.

There, I’ve said it.

Was that reciprocated? Did you notice? Was I pathetic? Was I some sort of fantasy? It bothers me a little that I never knew. I probably remember you more fondly because I never knew.

Thanks for coming to see me when I was working at the bar. Now, if you didn’t know before, you’ll know who I am. You showed up with your friend and we talked while everyone else danced, trying to get others to notice them. Trying to get others to see how deserving of attention they were. I think we talked about philosophy. Your friend was smart. You were smart. You held on too long when we hugged goodbye.

What were you thinking? I wanted to ask. I’m probably happier because I didn’t ask.

I’m just calling to tell you that I’m still alive, that I’m still around, that I happened to be in town, that I was hoping we could get together some time. No, we shouldn’t get together. But isn’t it nice to know we could? Isn’t it nice to know that we could run into each other in the street and smile in recognition and wonder and curiosity? Did you wonder what I was thinking? I believe you did.

I moved on. I moved away. I moved to nothing, to a sort of emptiness, a loneliness I would never have believed existed if it didn’t surround me all the time, even when I was in a crowd. Even when I am with the people who I say are close to me. It gets to you after a while, this isolation, this refusal of the fog that blocks your vision to burn and rise and let in the light. I’ll sit at  dinner with friends and I won’t hear a word they’re saying and it doesn’t matter, because I won’t be able to distinguish that conversation from a dozen other conversations that sound exactly the same. Conversations that have to do with other people’s jobs, with their car payments, with their lawns. Conversations that happen around me while I nod and wonder what happened to the things I felt connected to, the people. Like you.

I remember every time you and I talked. I remember what it felt like in my chest when our eyes met. And it wasn’t like I was in love with you, that’s the weird thing. I just remember how it felt. Isn’t that strange? Or would you know? Are you still with the same girlfriend? Is she still so ethereally beautiful? The two of you were this exquisite artwork of a couple. I always knew I wouldn’t be pretty enough for you, even if we had been thinking of each other that way.

I’m at a phone booth now and I’m near the water. I can hear, but not see, seagulls moving and crying from within the soupy fog. The sky is all slate blue and grey, even though it’s late, because it’s illuminated by the yellow aureoles of light around the street lamps. There’s no one around me. For all I can see or hear, I’m out here alone.

Are you alone?

Are you shocked to find yourself awake in the middle of the night, a smear of sweat on your forehead and your lip, heart thrashing as if you’d been running, running from a monster that’s been set on you, out for your head? Are you confused by the familiarity of the body next to you that seems so alien, so disconnected? Do you always know if you are awake or dreaming, or are there moments when you’re by yourself when you hover, unsure, bracing to see if you wake with a start, in a panic?

This isn’t what I planned to say. This is more than I planned to say. This isn’t how I meant for this to come out, even the parts I did mean to come out. It’s all screwed up and now I can’t take it back because somewhere, out there, is a recording device that’s spooling my voice while I flail like a shark victim.

What I meant to say was that I remember you. And that occasionally, when I hear the right song, or when the mood hits me, I think about you.

What I meant to say was that I think we had some good, brief times and I’m happy to have the memories that I do of you, that they’re perfect the way they are.

What I meant to say was that some day, I hope we see each other again and that we’re both happy and that we both know each other. I want you to know that I’ll always be happy to see you again.

What I meant to say was that I’m here. I’m still here.

Bye. 

22 June 2015

mental health mondays :: i want to make this about the pickles

it seemed likely that this week's mental health mondays would be about racism, charleston, and the rush to declare mass shooter dylann storm roof mentally ill. but it would be tremendously depressing to do that, because 1. i just wrote about him yesterday; and 2. even i'm getting sick of seeing the post where i write about how the mentally ill are maligned and labeled as violent freaks whenever there is a mass shooting in the united states, usually because it's easier than talking about the more important factors involved. if you're new here and aren't yet sick of reading about this topic, here's a bit of it:

on assuming that mental illness is an explanation in itself for violent crimes
on being fed up at the media's obsession with mental illness as a negative trait
on ignoring other key factors behind violent crime
on the abuse of the term "crazy"
on blurring the boundaries between mental illness and psychopathy

even thinking about writing another piece about another killing where i'm basically screeching at the media and people in general to stop using mental illness as an excuse for every mass murderer, knowing i'll be back writing the same thing in a few months' time, even though i'm not the only one saying this sort of thing is becoming tortuous. because whenever there's a mass murder, it's always about the crazy.

and that's why i've decided to make today about the pickles.

specifically, there's this interesting article about how students who ate fermented foods like pickles [also yogurt, sauerkraut, or that new trendy thing, kombucha] were less anxious than those who didn't and the ones who were the most anxious previously were the ones who seemed to see the most benefit. as you'll see in the article, this is thought to be because fermented foods work on the gut bacteria and allow specific neurotransmitters to flow in the same way as drugs like benzodiazepines do, but they aren't addictive [as far as we know] and they don't tax your liver. in fact, they're doing all sorts of other good while they're in there.

i've already posted about the possible links between guy bacteria and mental health, which turns traditional wisdom about mental illness on its head. or off its head. as we work our way towards the root of brain malfunction, it becomes necessary to look outside the brain.

imbalances in gut bacteria may be the most important health issue of our time, because [i'm tempted to say "trigger warning"], we are more bacteria than human, by a ratio of ten cells to one. everything that we are depends on the bacterial load we carry with us every day, so it makes sense that some of it affects our brains.

[but does that mean that there could be some rogue bacteria that makes us do really horrible things for really stupid reasons? and if there were such a thing, what would happen if we killed it? would we just stop being terrible and ignorant or would our fingers fall off as we aged? because bacteria have a tendency to do good things as well as bad. h. pylori, the little bastard that causes gastritis, ulcers and certain forms of cancer may also protect against gastro-esophegal reflux disease and keep children from developing asthma. and we can't even be super-sure that eradicating it would solve the ulcer problem, because twenty years ago, we thought everything was down to acid and stress and we encouraged people to pour milk, which is loaded with lactic acid, on the problem. some scientists think we should go for the nuclear option against the bacteria. but maybe the larger problem is that the current western diet leans heavily towards foods that acidify the gut, which is just an invitation to all sorts of horrible things. maybe, rather than just trying to blame a bacteria whose effects have only been studied within the lifetime of most people reading this post, maybe we should look at the basics of our lives and think how we've gotten away from balance and rationality. the fact is that a western diet is tilted heavily towards the acidic side, creating an environment that's not so friendly to some bacteria, friendlier to others, or that just lets the proportions get totally out of control. that's why fermented foods which pull the balance back towards alkaline, seem so miraculous. but push the meter too far in the other direction and it's basically the same problem.]

i like to do mental health mondays posts about things like the pickle study because they make me feel hopeful. like we don't have to wait for scientists to come up with the next great drug, because there are ways to nudge our brains in the right direction that are easily accessible to a lot of people. chances are that coming up with a dietary plan that would stave off the development of major mental disorders isn't possible- it would need to be tweaked to suit literally every person on earth- but i like to think that there are ways to manage the symptoms while we try to figure out exactly what it is that makes so many of us so sick.

and i also like the idea of the simple solution. like if i just eat enough pickles and sauerkraut and miso and yogurt [i really can't handle the kombucha, i'm sorry], my brain will be healed and i won't need to worry about taking medications that may eventually start to break down my body, or that don't always work. and i won't have to worry about becoming paralysed when i'm in public for no reason, or getting scared because i'm convinced that what's happening around me isn't real, and i won't be surprised and embarrassed when weird combinations of words just come tumbling out of my mouth in public, or that people will think i'm a snotty bitch because sometimes other people just make me paranoid and hostile, so i either glare at them or pick fights.

i realise, though, that it isn't so simple. because what's making me - and possibly you- sick may have its root in a chemical, or an enzyme, or in billions of bacteria, but chances are that that is only a small part of a much larger problem. whatever imbalance may have triggered a mental illness, the greater part of that illness becomes the learned behaviours we've all developed to cope with it, like teaching ourselves to walk on a broken leg. those are things that have to be broken down and understood, things that we need to unlearn in order to get to that mythical land, "wellness". it isn't going to fix anything to focus on the microscopic if we're ignoring the larger problem.

i really want this to be about the pickles, but it isn't. i want to think that everyone who struggles with mental illness can make a few dietary corrections and be better. but it doesn't work that way. the vast majority of us have lived our whole lives in a state of fundamental imbalance, piling complications on the problem until the problem is made up more of the complications [like us and the bacteria]. so sure, we could eradicate a bad strain of bacteria and just hope that we don't need it for other things. or we could make the changes that we need to in order to restore balance to our base. but it's a lot more work after that. the pickles are just the beginning.
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