Sunday, March 30, 2014

In which Diana goes to Rwanda...

Dear reader:

I'm going to tell you a story. 

One of the worst days of my life was the day Luvine Martin Wiener died.  Though it's been over a decade, I can still remember every terrible moment of the day I put my grandmother in that soggy, tar choked earth.  It was early July.  I remember because I had my first starring role in a musical opening the week of the Fourth and she was going to come see me.  

Then she wasn't.  

So it was July, early July, high summer in Texas. I had to drive a long way to get to the graveside service, which was held in Batson Prairie. Batson Prairie has got to be the most godawful boring places in the world. Part of the reason is, much like the contested land between Israel and Palestine, Batson Prairie is a place that doesn't exist, really.  The closest you can even get in terms of geographic acknowledgement is Batson. 

Batson, Texas is an unincorporated community located on State Highway 105 in southwestern Hardin County. The entire sum total of Batson's history can be found on Wikipedia in no more than four lines: 
This community was originally settled by the Batson family sometime before 1840. In October 1903, an oilfield was discovered to the north of the town, and soon after the population would boom to about 10,000 residents. The oil production would decrease by the mid-1920s, resulting in the population decline to about 600. In March 1935, another oil discovery would boost the population slightly, but over the next several decades, would decline again.
This is a place that only ever existed for the exclusive purpose of pulling crude out of the ground.  Even in the best of times, it was a hard scramble place, one where, in the good years, kids got a pair of shoes for Christmas, and in the bad ones, a single piece of fruit.  I know, because my grandmother told me once, how they got oranges in her stocking one year and how special it was.

This is where my grandmother is buried.

She grew up in the neighboring town of Saratoga, Texas. Once known as New Sour Lake, the town was renamed in a failed attempt to draw tourists to the hot springs of East Texas by echoing the name of the famous New York resort.  Saratoga, was -- if you can even imagine it -- even smaller than Batson, where the population fluctuated from 1000 in 1925 down to 350 in the early 1950s.  

This is a notable period because my grandmother was born in 1927 and lived there until 1945. In a world of small town girls, she was a tall strikingly beautiful girl in a town made for Thumbelina's smaller sisters.  Then she moved to Houston, married my grandfather, and before too long found herself living in Guam while my grandfather was stationed there during Korea. She flew on planes. She sailed on military ships. She lived on a tropical island and worked in the secretarial pool.  For a woman from no where, this must have been quite an adventure.

I've been thinking about her a lot lately, about how it must have been to go to Guam and live there on the base with my grandfather.  I think about how strange and exotic it must have seemed, both to her and the people back home she sent postcards to.  I've been thinking about how much she must have seen in comparison to the kids she grew up with, how her life must have taken her farther than she'd imagined as a girl, to places more remote and strange than she couldn't have envisioned.

I've been thinking about this because in nineteen days, I am getting on a plane to Africa. 

Through the generosity of a close friend, I have been given an almost free trip (airfare, housing) to Kigali, Rwanda.  This trip will include a volcano safari to see the gorillas in the mist.

I will get there flying through Amsterdam, where I have a few days to spend on my way home with a coworker to see a little bit of The Netherlands.  I will be gone for almost a month, some of it as a working vacation.  Thanks to my terrific employer, I have the ability to leave for this incredibly long amount of time and still keep my job.  Not only are they allowing me to go, they're excited for me, which is a testament to the wonderful people I work with and how much my life has improved with my new circumstance.  

Until now, my travel abroad experience has consisted of a single day spent in Victoria, British Columbia.  As it stands today, I don't even have a stamp in my passport.

But in a few short weeks, all of that will change.  I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous, but I'm more excited than anything else.  All my life, I've wanted adventure.  If this doesn't qualify, I don't know what does.

So if I'm a little absentee over the next few weeks, dear reader, I apologize.  I have a lot of ducks to get in a row before I leave, but I promise, there will be updates aplenty, and some of them will even be perfume related.  Because this is part working vacation, you can even expect some updates from Kigali in May.  

So stick with me while I'm away, will you?  We're about to have a wild ride.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Today is my birthday, and I'm riding high...

Today is, in fact, my birthday as the post title says.

Happy birthday to me.

So far I have watched youtube videos, ordered some makeup, watched the birds ans squirrels fight over the feeders in the backyard, ate a fancy French brunch with el Hubs, and now I'm watching vampire TV (The Vampire Diaries, The Originals) while I write to you.

Three days and counting...
The last couple of weeks have been busy, but next week I get a bit of a break. On Wednesday I'm heading to New Orleans for a five day birthday trip. I'll be meeting up with my best gal pal, the lovely and legendary Kate, whose birthday is a mere six days before mine. When we planned our trip, we both managed to miss the fact that we were planning to hit the Big Easy right in the middle of their St. Patrick's Day festivities, but we've decided to embrace the chaos in the spirit of Laissez les bons temps rouler!

This week was the annual Lewis & Clark Gender Symposium, and yes, I presented again. This year I did a panel with some lovely friends – YA author and alumna Marni Bates, teen library extraordinaire and alumna Lauren Furnish, and YA/NA author Lisa Burstein – on media bias against women – both authors and as a protagonists – in Young Adult literature. Our session wasn't the panel I was most excited about, though. I was most excited for a presentation by Magical Girl Makeup. MGM is a senior at Lewis & Clark and did an interesting presentation related to her senior anthropology thesis, which on make-up culture on youtube.

birthday girl...
I've been getting into make-up and Youtube lately, but only as a spectator. I was looking forward to the presentation because I was excited to hear what a feminist who was not only consuming the media but also creating it would have to say about it. MGM had some interesting things to say about the subversion of the male gaze by creating a space and community where performances are not for the male gaze, but created for the individual YouTuber and their fans, who they imagine to be much like themselves. Through an emphasis on things like “my perfect imperfection” and a willingness to openly discuss bad skin, acne, and other less than desirable physical attributes, these spaces cut against the perfect image that is demanded by the performative nature of the male gaze. Further, the emphasis on using makeup to make oneself feel good seems to be the focus of the videos, rather than making one acceptable to someone else.

On the whole it was a really engaging presentation and something I got a lot out of. I know we're supposed to be talking perfume, but if you're interested in make-up YouTube culture or want to watch a budding MUA feminist talk lipsticks and eye shadows, check out MGM's videos. She's not going for a traditional makeup look, but rather a magical one (e.g. glitter, sparkles, lots of bright colors), which I enjoy.  It's like watching a real live, sometimes slightly vulgar fairy do make-up.

My log does not judge...
A for perfume for my birthday, I rode into my thirty-sixth year wearing Jo Malone Sweet Lime and Cedar. I picked it, I think, because David got me a cedar bird feeder and a lo shaped pillow for my birthday that looks like The Log Lady's log in Twin Peaks, so I was feeling a little woodsy I guess.

I'll be back with a review this week, and maybe a post on hitting up some perfume shops in New Orleans, which is on my list of things to do.

Until then, I guess I'll continue on with my birthday. My roommates got me a birthday pie, and I think I might be able to manage a slice.

Til next time, happy sniffing.

I'm little, but I'm coming for the crown.
I'm little, but I’m coming for you.
(Chase paper, get it)
I'm little but I’m coming for the title
held by everyone who’s up...
All work and no play never made me lose it.
All business all day keeps me up a level.
All work and no play keeps me on the new shit, yeah...
All work and no play; let me count the bruises.
All business all day keeps me up a level.
All work and no play lonely on the new shit, yeah, yeah...
Only bad people live to see their likeness set in stone.
What does that make me?
~ “Still Sane,” Lorde

Monday, February 17, 2014

I'll be a thorn in your side till you die.

Review of Naomi Goodsir Bois d'Ascese

I know, I know. I'm back! Again! Two weeks in a row!

You're so excited.

You just can't hide it.

You're about to… a blog post.  It's a blog post, Diana.  It is not the beginning of a full-tilt musical number, no matter what a lifetime of Grease sing-a-longs and special musical episodes of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Psych might otherwise lead you to believe.


A girl can dream, can't she?

Let's talk about things that cause me to dream a little, shall we? This EW cover right here is a dream come true.  I have been a huge fan of Veronica Mars for a very long time and this movie is something I have literally dreamed of. FN1.

The Veronica Mars pre-sale movie tickets go on sale today so get thee to an online vendor and buy yours now!  I would love it if VM ended up having one of the biggest opening weekends at the box office this year so far.  It would not only lend credence to the idea that Networks should listen more to fans and critics when they say a show is too good to cancel, but also will support more fan driven reboots negotiations.  FN2.

You know why I am such a hardcore VM fan?  Yes, it is in part because Veronica Mars might be the most feminist show I've seen on television in the last ten or so years, possibly ever.  It's also in part because it is a terrific neo-noir, which is the modernization of my favorite of all story-telling genres.

But for me a lot of it has to do with the impossible, difficult, somewhat insane romance between our beloved marshmallow Veronica Mars and the deeply damaged obligatory psychopath Logan Echolls.

Their on-again-off-again romance is something you don't see coming until it's happening to them, and to you, the viewer.  They are these terribly angry, terribly hurt, terribly sad people who manage to show each other protection and kindness despite every reason not to, and that kindness is enough to break through.   While I was never like that - never hard or resistant to love, more inclined to race toward the cliff with both arms flung wide like I couldn't possibly hit the ground, no matter how many times I fell -- I love the idea that two people can accidentally fall into each other, through one another's walls, and unexpectedly change each other's lives forever.

Finding a new perfume you love is sometimes like that.  You're going along, ho hum, boring floral here, repetitive aquatic there, and then something comes along that surprises you. That's what happened when I tried Naomi Goodsir Bois d'Ascese.

Naomi Goodsir Bois d'Ascese is described by Luckyscent as: 
A meditative swirl of serene incense, intensified by smoked wood. At first, this brings to mind a stark, secluded chapel and a life of plain and simple pleasures. But as it develops, notes of whiskey, tobacco and cinnamon begin to shimmer through the incense, and you start to think that perhaps these pleasures won’t be quite so plain, after all. If you have ever enjoyed a fine Islay Scotch whiskey, such as Lagavulin or Laphroaig, you are familiar with the way the intricacies of smoke and moss add a complicated and enigmatic appeal – harsh and medicinal one moment, mesmerizing the next. The layers of smoked cade wood, oakmoss and whiskey have a similar effect here, as bracing jolts of smoke morph into the airy tranquility of incense, keeping us endlessly intrigued and hopelessly addicted. A starkly elegant fragrance that puts us in a trance.  
Notes: tobacco, whiskey, cinnamon, amber, cistus labdanum, oakmoss, smoked cade wood, Somalian incense
On my skin Naomi Goodsir Bois d'Ascese brushes on as lemon softness that fades almost immediately into polished woods, aging paper, and a gentle incense blend that reminds me, not of church, but of a grand and incredibly old library.  Not a stuffy library, nothing so drab or dreary, but instead something that holds secrets and magic, untold mystery and journeys beyond imagination, the library at Hogwarts, for example, or perhaps the lost library of Alexandria.  A voluminous room with high ceilings full of softly glowing golden light, a space filled with the hushing sound of turning pages and the smell of aging scrolls, pages yellowing to a thin and fragile thing both brittle and luminescent in it opacity. And last, but certainly not least, that slightly burnt smell of tallow and wax sealed pages and a gentle kind of incense that clings to one's clothes after departure, something that hints at the intrigue held in those great and strange tomes.

I love the smell of it against my skin - the way it is secretive and somehow warm and cool at the same time.  It's a lovely scent, and in my opinion, in no way exclusively masculine, thought it appears intended as such.  I think it's a beautiful scent.  I feel lucky it found its way into my life.

Naomi Goodsir Bois d'Ascèse is available in 50ml for $150.00.

"I'll be a thorn in your side 
for always.
If we sink, 
we lift our love."
~ "We Sink," Chvrches

Want more? Try...
~ a review from Kevin at Now Smell This!
~ a review from Kafkaesque
~ a review from Sorcery of Scent
~ a review from The Scentualist
~ a review from I Smell Therefore I Am
~ a review from Notable Scents

FN1. Also, Jason Dohring, more times than I can admit without embarrassment. He has actually gotten hotter with age. How is that possible? How!?! Look at those arms? And the smolder? I think he has gotten BETTER at the smolder, and I didn't think that was humanly possible.

Now if you'll just excuse me…I think…I think I need a moment. *fans self*

FN2. It will also help lessen my personal sorrow at the low box office numbers for Vampire Academy, which I saw on its Friday opening and thought was terrific. More on that in a separate post, though.

Monday, February 10, 2014

I cannot believe it.

Review of By Kilian Good Girl Gone Bad

I cannot believe how long it has been since I last posted.

Have I stopped loving perfume? No.

Have I stopped wearing perfume? No.

Have I stopped buying perfume? No. I admit I've slowed down some, but I've already made my first purchases of 2014 and we're only a month in.

So why did I stop posting?  Some if it has to do with decreasing free time and increasing work responsibility.  Some of it has to do with feeling like I don't have much to say, which is silliness because actually things are happening all the time. So the answer is, no good reason certainly.  And time to correct it, I think.

One of my coworkers told me around the holidays that I always smell like "Christmas and deliciousness."  That's a pretty nice compliment. (Though I was wearing Jo Malone Bitter Orange & Chocolate at the time, so it was also quite accurate).  Another coworker sent me this NPR piece Friday entitled, "Perfume's Scents Of Subversion? Sweat, Musk And Patchouli" and said, "At first I thought it was you."

So obviously, perfume? Still a huge part of my life.  Right now Portlandia is covered in a crazy ice storm and I am wearing By Kilian Good girl gone Bad while I watch vampire movies and try to entertain my cats.  Part of the "In the Garden of Good and Evil" collection, the scent is described as:

A sensual and unrestrained temptation. The perfume opens on the fresh innocence of the petals of Jasmin Sambac and the Apricot sweetness of Chinese Osmanthus. Letting go of their demure appearances, the flowers toss off their inhibitions and reveal their decadent side! The Rose of May gives off its honeyed heat. The Indian Tuberose nakedly exhibits its milky roundness, while the narcotic sensuality of Egyptian Narcissus surges forth, uncontrollable and deliciously haunting. Notes of Virginia Cedar and Amber open up and try to assert their dominant character.

I have to say, I'm usually a sucker for By Kilian scents, but this one isn't what I expected.  Maybe it's because I have sweat, musk, and patchouli on the brain, but this one just isn't happening for me.

According to LuckyScent, the notes are plenty floral but there seemed like there was enough dirty fleshy bottom notes in the mix I thought I might like it: Jasmin Sambac, osmanthus, rose, tuberose, narcissus, violet accord, plum accord, cedar wood, amber, patchouli, vetiver, musk.

I've tried Good girl twice now, and I have to sadly report that for me? It does not work.  Nope.  It landed on my skin as a hot mess of florals and screechy white musk, overwhelming amber, and fake woods. I do get some peachy stone fruit in the middle, which is nice-ish, but it is just ruined by the almost headache inducing noise of the rest.

I feel both relieved and disappointed. On the one hand, I love a lot of the By Kilian perfumes and they are so expensive that it gives me and my wallet great sadness. So in that sense, I feel like I missed a bullet.  But on the other hand, there are folks out there who really like this one and get a lovely scent I wish I had the chance to experience.  Seriously.  I wish I was getting "slut in a lovely Dior gown" but that is not what is happening for me. Instead, the whole thing feels like a terribly awkward seduction. It's like a preteen with braces trying too hard to be sexy in her middle school frump wear. In fact, it most called to mind that scene when Dawn tries to seduce the lead singer of her older brother's band in Welcome to the Dollhouse. FN2. That is not attractive.

Victoria did a nice little rant on the name of the scent, which I feel inclined to agree with. I'm not much for slut shaming, and I tend to think she's right that this what the "gone bad" is meant to imply.  You know, in the same way that terrible Robin Thicke song wants to do things with 'a good girl.' FN1. I understand the need to feel subversive, but at the same time, you do kind of question whether playing into the the madonna/whore trope is a good idea.  I think the name would bother me less if the copy cut against the idea, but alas, alack, it doesn't.

In the end, Good girl gone Bad is a pass for me. But maybe you'll get lucky like some of the other reviewers who really liked it.

Want more? Try...
~ A review from The Non-Blonde
~ A review from EauMG
~ A review from That Smell
~ A review from Make Perfume, Not War
~ A review from My Perfume Diaries
~ A review from Ça Fleure Bon
~ A review from Perfume Posse

FN1. Can't believe it took me this long to get around to posting the Feminist Parody, Defined Lines, on this blog.  LOVE.IT.

FN2. If anyone comments on the name similarity,  I will be most displeased.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Halloween Make-Up Fun!: Once Again, With Feeling

My third and final costume, and the one I actually wore for Halloween since my work had our official dress up day and costume contest on Wednesday, October 30, was a last minute idea.  I was actually working from home on Halloween because I was fighting the creeping ear/nose/throat crude. 

Costume Number One: Mystic Falls Vampire

I've always used a vampire as a fallback costume because it requires nothing more than fangs, but since I was on a fancy make-up roll this year, I decided to look at different vampire looks on Pinterest. I was surprised by the varied approaches to doing vampire make-up (though I noticed absolutely no one was covered in sparkly glitter).  One that appealed a lot to me, though, was surprisingly simple when I started looking at how-to videos.

What really appealed to me was the messy wet mouth look, the one that says, "Hi, don't mind all the blood, I was just eating." I would never have thought to get all crazy smear-y before looking through photos, but once I did, my immediate presumption was that it would require some costume make-up.  Given that I was more or less housebound due to unwell feelings, I did not have the inclination to go out to buy anything.

Luckily, it turned out it was a pretty easy look to do with what I had on hand. But first! The face. Once again, I used  MAKE UP FOR EVER HD Microperfecting Primer in Mauve to move my natural paleness even further toward ivory. Then I mixed on my normal base, MAKE UP FOR EVER Mat Velvet + Matifying Foundation in Ivory, with some of my leftover MAKE UP FOR EVER Aquarelle in Pearly White. Thanks to the amazing powers of the BEAUTY BLENDER, possibly the greatest single improvement in make-up application ever, I ended up appropriately and wonderfully pale without feeling coated with make-up even though I was, in face, covered.

For my cheeks, I used URBAN DECAY COSMETICS Naked Flushed to add in shadowing under my cheekbones and some contouring around my hair and jawline.Lastly, I added an extremely light coating of MAKE UP FOR EVER HD Microfinish Powder to set my face.

Now that I was thoroughly and deathly pale, I went to work on my mouth.  It turns out that if you want a crazy, "Don't mind me, I was just feeding on the blood of the innocent" look, it's actually surprisingly cheap and easy to obtain.  

The first thing I did was outline my lips and then fill them in with the bloodiest lip pencil I could find.  I tried a couple but the real winner was the cheap but surprisingly creamy and luxurious MILANI Color Statement Lipliner in True Red. Seriously, this $4.00 lip pencil kicks serious butt. 

Then I applied a healthy layer of WET N WILD GLASSY GLOSS Lip Gel Through the Looking Glass, a clear glossy gloss that cost me a whole $3.00. Next -- and this was the crazy, hilariously easy part that never would have occurred to me if I hadn't seen a how-to video to prove it -- I took the pads of my fingers and dragged them through my freshly done lips, down my chin and even over a little to my cheek. Then I reapplied the lipliner and gel and did it again! Yep. That was the secret.  Fill, cover, drag your hand over your mouth until you reach desired disgustingness.

Once I was appropriate covered in smears I outlined by lips one last time, added a light coating of MAKE UP FOR EVER Rouge Artist Intense in Moulin Rouge, and then finished it off with one last coat of the lip gel to complete my wet lip look.

Moving to my eyes, I knew I wanted a dramatic look to match the eyes. I looked at red eyed looks and decided I would do one that was both heavy on the black and the red, because really -- when else does a girl get to rock that look on a random Thursday?  The first thing I did was use a  cheap black liquid liner, MAYBELLINE Eye Studio Master Duo Eyeliner in Black, to put down a heavy black base outlining my eye. I used a smudge brush to diffuse the line.  The I laid a layer of URBAN DECAY Crave over it, covering my lid.

In the crease, I laid down a layer of SEPHORA COLLECTION Colorful Eyeshadow in Cherries On Top, then used a brush to blend it up and outward with both, carrying the colors across the whole of my lid.  I then blended the crave into it, adding more as needed to fill in my crease but maintaining a defused red aura around it.

Next, I added an additional layer of Cherries On Top below my lower lid eyeliner, then used an angled brush to create a streaky veined accent down into my cheek. These reddish veins were a last minute impulse accent, and it wasn't until someone pointed it out to me later that I'd essentially done something similar to the vamp face on The Vampire Diaries that I realized that's where I'd pulled if from.  Subconsciously all I knew was that my eye look didn't seem 'finished' without them. I added a white eyeliner along the inside of my bottom lashes to bring up the contrast, which I think worked out nicely.

Lastly, I added a set of SEPHORA COLLECTION Fringe Benefits Lashes along my top lashes, filled in with a little extra eyeliner, and then swept them up with a lash curler and a healthy coating of BENEFIT COSMETICS They're Real! Mascara.

I added a fake bite on my wrist and neck as final make-up touches.  It was surprisingly easy to make the bites look a little bloody.  I made two heavy dots with BENEFIT COSMETICS Benetint, a rosy lip and cheek stain that I adore, and let the stain run a little, then added a teensy dot of the aforementioned black eyeliner in the center. 

For a costume, I wore a short sleeved, floor length maxi dress, which was very comfortable and a pair of dangly rhinestone earrings to add some bling.  The whole thing was comfortable, easy, and meant that I looked like I'd put a lot of effort into a costume that took me very little effort.

Sadly, we didn't have a single trick-or-treater this year. By the end of the evening, I was feeling a little better, and David took me to the local 24-hour diner to get soup and pie. It wasn't an ideal holiday this year, but it was plenty enough for me.

And thus wraps our Halloween make-up review!

I have to say, one of the great things about this Halloween was how much I got to experiment with make-up.  Growing up today must be so different for girls without mothers. My grandmother was never one much for getting creative with the beauty products, and though my mom was an adept hand with a make-up brush, she was gone by the time I could have really used her help.

Nowadays, there are blogs and articles and even whole YouTube channels where talented amateurs and even professional make-up artists will teach you everything you need to know.  I love that.  I love that this crazy community of people can come together through the silent electric pulses down the wire to provide the kind of guidance I never had on a whole host of topics, including how to do your make-up so you don't end up with a lot of unfortunately teenage photographs.

I love that they will tell you how to do it on the cheap, and which drugstore lipsticks are duplicate colors for the expensive kinds I could never have afforded as a girl. I love that competence in blending in can come a little easier for some girl out there like me.

And, as a feminist, let me say this: I like make-up. I like the art and artistry of it. I don't feel compelled to wear make-up. In truth, since I moved to the Pacific Northwest, I've been made fun of more often for wearing make-up than not.  I wear it because I like it. I like the costume aspects of it. I like the way it allows one to acknowledge the constructed nature of gender.  In that way, perhaps my attitude toward make-up is something akin to that of someone who enjoys drag.

As Ru Paul once eloquently pointed out, “We're born naked, and the rest is drag.” Perhaps one of the nicest things about the how-tos of cosmetics in the digital age is that has never been more apparent how much of what women are being sold is constructed, which not only makes learning to control and vary our own physical appearance easier, but also allows us all to see more clearly just how fake it all was to begin with.