August 31st, 2016

Video from Burst at Pages Unbound

Back in May, I did a reading with a group of wonderous folks including Suzanne Alyssa Andrew who so kindly invited and presented me. There is now video evidence online, and despite my horror of ever seeing myself on film, I kind of like it. If you like, you can watch it too. Enjoy!

April 20th, 2015

Current obsessions: makeup and watching videos about makeup

This one is unexpected, no? But it’s true–I love to watch endless videos about the many variations on “the smokey eye” (so many!) and follow various pretty ladies on YouTube as they make themselves slightly prettier over and over again. You’ll note my tone is not entirely serious, because I’m not really sure this obsession (unlike the Fitbit, which is fun and healthy, and Tig Notaro, who is fascinating and inspiring) is doing me any good. I spend a lot of time critiquing these videos, and very rarely actually use the tips they offer. But I can’t stop watching and sometimes I actually learn something useful.

I am actually wearing a good bit more makeup than I used to, too, which is where the video obsession came from. It all started last summer when my friend Wren (whose old blog had apparently disappeared when I tried to link to it just now) asked me to stand up in her wedding. I was very honoured and happy to do whatever she asked, which was originally slated to include doing my own makeup…with smokey eyes! I bought a bunch of stuff and started ardently trying to wear it, mainly to work (oh my lucky lucky colleagues). I was really surprised by how much I like wearing makeup. I don’t have a strong visual sense or very steady hands, so as with every art class I’ve taken, drawing on my face is hard for me. I also don’t have a flawless face, which is what most of the gurus on YouTube use as a basis for makeup art. If you don’t have really clear smooth skin, enormous eyes, and regular features, it seems like it’s really hard to have a successful YouTube makeup channel, completely missing the point that most of us want to wear makeup to fake having those above things we lack.

Why do I wear makeup? Well, that’s an interesting question. For one thing, it’s a fun thing to acquire–I can spend $15 and have a nice little treat. It last a long time, does me no harm, has no calories, and keeps me busy. Friends have commented that I’m sort of over-thrifty–I don’t buy a lot of stuff just cuz. Which is actually a good thing of course, but within reason. It’s nice to have treats, and a makeup habit is actually a lot thriftier than a shoe habit.

What else? Looking better is actually somewhere near the bottom of the list of makeup perks, though of course it’s pleasant when it works out. Anyone who has seen me with much make up on (oh, the poor Mighty J–she’s witnessed some alarming experiments) knows it doesn’t always improve matters. I have yet to master the smokey eye (someone else wound up doing my makeup at that lovely wedding) and thus when I wear eyeshadow it tends to be just a wodge of one colour. All this “creating depth” stuff was obviously covered in a class after I dropped art and joined band, but I am trying. It’s fun to change my appearance, even if not obviously for the better. It’s fun to make my eyes look wider or my lips look…crooked, or bigger, or whatever. I like that makeup makes me more mutable than I thought I was.

Another big bonus about getting into makeup is girl-bonding. I suppose I’m not a typical girly-girl, but I like being friends with all of the girly-girls, so you’ll often find me doing what they’re doing. Oh, the woebegone crafts I’ve made for a similar cause. But there was a whole world of girlfriend-intimacy that was not open to me since university (when doing each other’s makeup was a regular thing) and that was makeup-bonding. As soon as I started asking about eyeliner, I got a bit tighter with a whole set of females I already like.

Let’s get this straight–even the smartest people have goof-off hobbies, so if someone’s is makeup that’s doesn’t make them any shallower or sillier than someone really into video games or archery or whatever. I find the world pretty judgy about lady interests, so I don’t make the distinction that anything is more useless than anything else based on the target gender.

But still, a number of these videos have some unfortunate cultural vibes when you get into these things. The makeup ladies in the videos–as opposed to friends of mine who wear makeup–are really deep down the appearance-alteration rabbit hole. They see 365-day-a-year spray-tan, hair extensions, and eyelash perms as totally normal and often joke about their crippingly long nails or blinding fake eyelashes. Sometimes they still look great, so all the fakery is working, but other times the three inches of dark roots (is this is a thing now in LA?) and orangey spray tan just look…sad. And they’ve spent so much time and money on it, either way–could it possibly be worth it, no matter how nice you look? Who knows.

I like to think I’m a savvy enough cultural consumer that I can avoid internalizing the YOU MUST BE PRETTIER THAN YOU ARE message, but I do sometimes do the thing where I stand two inches from the mirror and tug on my skin until a certain wrinkle or wrinkles pull flat. But then I put on some copper eyeliner (crooked) and my favourite blazing pink lipstick and I feel better. So this is a slightly conflicted post and far too long to say, basically, I like makeup and videos about makeup. Here are some of my faves in the latter category, if you care…

Lisa Eldridge is the real deal–an actual makeup artist instead of someone who likes makeup…not that there’s anything wrong with that, but her technique is a bit more professional and her style more varied than someone who just has to make herself look pretty. Her explanations and tutorials are nice and simple and she is careful to include some reasonably priced product options even though she clearly prefers the high-end stuff. She’s also the Global Creative Director of Lancome Makeup, which means her principal income does not come from her videos, and is thus not so dependent YouTube subscribers and likes as some of the other video makers (it can get a bit depressing when they ask you to subscribe/thumbs up/comment several times in a video).

Kathleen Lights is more typical of the makeup video-istas than Eldridge. A very young, stunningly gorgeous American girl, she simply loves makeup, buys a lot of it, and loves doing her own face up many different ways. What makes Lights stand out is her euphoria–she’s in her early twenties but talks like a jubilant teenager, almost always pretty ecstatic to be alive. She LOVES makeup and her joy is contagious, though all but the simplest of her look tutorials leave me cold–she explains well, but I simply wouldn’t want to look like that. One of her datenight videos featured coal-black eyelids. But it works for her, and she’s fun to watch.

Chrisspy is the only makeup-video person I’ve encountered that is even slightly funny (on purpose funny, that is). She can be a little sarcastic and silly and has also created my all-time favourite makeup video (which will teach you nothing), Little Brother Does My Makeup. So charming! She has also said on-screen that when people tell her that her often heavy and dramatic makeup is not appealing to men, she tells them she doesn’t do it for men, but for herself (her actual response was less g-rated, but you get the idea). I love it, especially since most of these channels are filled with “makeup he’ll love” ideas.

Christen Dominique is a bit less exceptional than the other three. She does very nice, easy to follow tutorials for makeup looks that are a bit too complex for me at the moment but feel achievable enough that I might get there someday. She has a doll-like persona and is clearly trying hard, but in an endearing way. Sometimes her young son appears in her videos, which is sweet, but otherwise she’s not very different from lots of video-makers out there. But she makes the list of faves for her habit of waving with both hands and the fact that, if you watch her recent videos on YouTube you will see her carefully constructed set backdrop contains a copy of Canadian short-story talent’s Spencer Gordon’s collection Cosmo. It’s a great collection by a cool author, but it makes no sense in that context and that is why I love to see it there. A little hint of my main interest while exploring a sideline.

So in short, this is how I rest my brain and beautiful my face when I need to. What silly stuff do you get up to when you just can’t think anymore?

June 21st, 2012

Best under 35 (just barely) in the Windsor Review

Next spring, when I am of the approximate age 34 and eleven-twelths, of story of mine called “First Afternoon” will be included in an issue of the *Windsor Review* cataloguing some of the best writers under 35 according to them. I’m honoured to be included, though feeling a little self-conscious of my squeaker age status. Nevertheless, twill be neat to be in such good company. Who is the company? Glad you asked–so many awesomes. This video trailer for the issue, the first that I’ve ever seen for a journal issue, explains it all. Note me, looking strangely gaunt and bug-eyed, in the second half (in split screen!)

June 4th, 2012

At the Eh-List Reading Series, S. Walter Stewart Library–Tomorrow!!

Good news–I’m on the “Eh” list and will be reading tomorrow evening to prove it, at the S. Walter Stewart Library, at 7pm. Yes, yes, it’s the east end, but trust me, it’s exactly equally as cool east of Yonge Street as it is west–maybe even cooler because we’re not so worried about it. Plus the reading is at a branch of our beloved TPL–it’s never a bad time to support our libraries. And finally, I don’t exactly know when my next public reading in Toronto might be–perhaps not for a while. So if you’ve been hoping to see me read, this might be your shot!

But, ok, if for some reason you really can’t make it…you could listen to this wonderful podcast of Laura Boudreau reading my story “How to Keep Your Day Job.” She does a wonderful job, and there’s an interview with RMSYL wizard Steve in the mix too.

Other things you could do to fill the void if you really really can’t make it tomorrow night include reading this lovely review of *The Big Dream* on the Stuff I’m Reading blog and/or watching this adorable video that I made of an angry cat.

And finally, I can’t resist sharing that a story from the new-new book (ie., the one that doesn’t exist yet) has been accepted by PRISM international and I’m just thrilled. There’s editing to do before it can actually get into print, but one of these days my story “The House That Modern Art Built” will actually be in this prestigous journal and on newsstands. Which gives me hope that I might just finish the rest of the book…eventually.

June 8th, 2011

What Else I’ve Been Doing

I guess the reason I’m not writing longer posts is that I’m busy with all this other stuff!

Filling out the Toronto Service Review (link/idea via Scott). I gotta admit, this is a boring survey, constructed with autofill templates (how else would you explain a question asking if homeless shelters should be funded with user fees?) Still, I feel it’s the least I can do to fill it out–our city government is basically asking what it can get away with cutting, and we have to tell them (well, I have to tell them) that I care about things that I don’t even personally benefit from, and a small tax savings isn’t going to comfort me when I see our services rotting because those who need them most are so poor and pointless. Ahem. I think it’s a good thing to fill it out. Even is you don’t agree with me.

Watching online episodes of My Drunk Kitchen (link/recommendation via Shannon). This is a very funny silly show that is a good five minute way to recuperate from doing something not fun, like filling out the above-mentioned survey.

Taking that V.S. Naipaul quiz (link/idea via Mark) to see if I can identify a male or female author by reading a few sentences of his/her prose. I got 6/10, which is slightly better than I would get if I just guessed at random (I think; I’m not a statistician). So no, no I can’t tell.

Reading Carolyn Black’s book The Odious Child, which is really brilliant and deeply weird, an excellent combination. My favourite story is “Games”–what’s yours?

September 24th, 2010

Reasons to live

I went to a pretty tolerant high school. No one was openly gay there, and I’m sure there was homophobia that was very hard on some kids, but it wasn’t rampant. In fact, there were a very few older kids who were not  completely closeted. In fact, there were a few of the very coolest whose mystique was augmented by a little sexual ambiguity. For that time and place, that was progressive.

Apparently, there are places in North America where queer youth are treated so badly–“bullying” doesn’t seem like the right word; more like abuse and assault–that suicide is a clear and present danger for them. Sex columnist and occasional author Dan Savage has started a channel on YouTube to try to talk those kids into *staying alive*: the It gets better project is a series of videos about how rewarding and happy and full of love a gay life can be if you outlast the bullies and survive the abuse and don’t kill yourself in high school.

It’s a horrible place to be coming to in our culture, but Dan and Terry (his partner)’s video, which kicked the project off, is so joyful and sweet. It’s really worth watching even if you’re not gay or not youth or neither; who doesn’t like to be reminded that love and family and fun are excellent reasons to stay alive? I would also maybe suggest that sympathetically minded folks post the link to the project wherever they can. Even as sympathetic as we are, we might not know which of our students or cousins or younger acquaintances are struggling; I think one of the big hurdles with bullying is the shame and secrecy.

I wish no one needed these videos but, failing that, I hope so many people watch them, and that they help.

May 27th, 2010

Some Links

Did you read La Vita Nuova by Allegra Goodman in *The New Yorker* last month? I think you should. I feel like I’ve read 35 versions of the “woman bereft in love struggles to reconnect with her life” story in the past couple years, and this is the best one. It’s simple, short, and specific–no straining for universality or “deep” meaning–when being really sad is examined with enough care and humour, that’s deep enough.

I can’t believe I forgot about Sinead O’Connor’s song The Emperor’s New Clothes, one of the favourites of my youth, for ten or so years. I had never seen the video before I went looking for a link for you guys (why is it you can always find video links and not audio ones?) and it’s actually sort of odd, but the song is brill. I actually didn’t recall what she looked like (I was never a fan–just the one song) before watching the video, and was shocked at how pretty she is! How come no one ever mentions that?

I did one of Alex Boyd’s One Question Interviews over at BoydBlog. The OQI is a really good idea, no?

August 5th, 2009

Sad happy

Tomorrow is the last offical “sighting” post over at Seen Reading, and today is the last sighting by the brilliant SR founder and all-around lovely writer/human Julie Wilson. It’s a lovely post and no doubt there will be much more to read in future from JW, so we need not be too sad. The posts so far this week, from Ami McKay and Saleema Nawaz have been wonderful also, as usual; check back tomorrow for the very final post from Monique Trottier.

Still a little sad? Yeah, me too. Maybe this will cheer you up. It’s pretty outstanding (thanks to Mark for sharing this!)

Find a handsome young maid for you to love

So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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