Thursday, February 21, 2013

dry air in a sea of frozen water

It is so incredibly cold here, which is fine by me, but it's playing havoc with my skin. This is something new to me; since losing over 80 pounds, I now seem to have dry skin issues and comparatively little fat to cushion the blow of subzero windchill and low relative humidity. So what's an itchy girl to do? Hydrate from within, and use some kind of skin oil. And because it's me, I'm here with way TMI on the latter, because maybe you care, or have a similar issue?

Here beginneth the chronicle of this quest. 

Almond oil: great. Smells vaguely like cherries, which makes sense, since the two are from the same family. Absorbs with minimal effort. Not as cheap as some, but way less expensive than others, and applied right out of the shower, it's dandy.

Amla oil: also known as Indian gooseberry oil, which to my mind is not necessarily more explanatory. Smells good. Feels light. Absorbs well. Does nothing for my hands to speak of. Works great on dry hair. Not too heavy, not too light.

Avocado oil: smells strange, looks pretty, sits on top of the skin and feels, um, oily. Which it feels rather petty to gripe about. It's expensive, as salad oil goes. You can skip it.

Babassu oil: smells okay. A bit on the heavy side. Hard to find. You feel like a goof, asking for it.

Castor oil: terrible idea. Don't go there.

Coconut oil: smells like Hawaiian Tropic. A little goes a long way. Solidified at room temperature, but turns liquid right in your hands, like magic. Absorbs fairly quickly. Induces an overwhelming urge to eat popcorn. Perks your hair right up, if you have dry hair, but extremely difficult to wash out. Hint: rub shampoo into hair and scrunge it around in there before getting your hair wet. Then it will come out. Otherwise, you're kind of hosed.

Crisco oil: forget it. Useless. Attempted this in the name of completism.

Huile de Corps from Clarins: pretty good. Has an almost indescribable scent...a little like soybean oil, a little like lotus oil, has an undertone of vanilla, but not the vanilla of a gourmand perfume like Pink Sugar...more that almost burnt-rubber scent you get in the basenotes of Shalimar. Excellent on thin skin, like the neck and the tops of your legs.

Jojoba oil: not bad. Allegedly as close as you can come to your own natural skin oils. Smells a little hinky.

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse: it's fine. More expensive than it needs to be. Smells like Neutrogena soap. Absorbs after 30 or 40 seconds of massage.

Rodin Olio Lusso: good. Spendy. Best in class w/r/t absorbency. Smells like jasmine, as in JASMINE, as in "like you repeatedly got hit in the side of the head with a bunch of jasmine." Those of you who are perfumery geeks like me may recall that this is not necessarily a good thing, since it's a massively indolic scent...which is to say, to those of you who are not, that it bears more than a passing resemblance to mothballs, a little like putrefaction, and is detectable in the odor of feces. Which is not to say that it smells like's more complicated than that. But it is a deep, vaguely rotting, almost beefy scent. Kind of like the scent you sometimes get in a kitchen in a dodgy French apartment: like something's gone off, but you can't quite tell what it is. So. That being said, if you like JASMINE being shouted at you and you have the cash, this is one outstanding oil.

Rosehip oil: a little bit more viscous than I'm happy with. Smells neutral. Doesn't have a lot of slip to it.

Safflower oil: okay. Cheap. Good slip. Takes a while to absorb. No discernable scent.

Santal oil from Clarins: terrific. Smells good, if you like sandalwood. Absorbs immediately, feels good, keeps things from cracking. Findable at TJMaxx if the bargain gods are with you.

Shea butter (liquified): not bad at all. Requires a lot of kneading and working into the skin. Lasts through multiple washes.

Vitamin E: terrible. Sticky. Never absorbs. Creepy, actually...tugs at your skin.

Wintergreen oil: horrible idea. Never do this. You will want to cut your hands off and run screaming into the night because they will burn like mad. Also, you will smell like Pepto-Bismol for a week.

So...there you go. Saved you a little time and a lot of heartache. Go with the almond for cheaps and the Olio Lusso for extravagance, and the Clarins Santal to split the difference. I wish you all smooth, undisastrously cracked sides of fingers, and a good night.

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A Microscopic Cog in a Catastrophic Plan by Laura Lorson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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Saturday, November 6, 2010

makeup for the cosmetically challenged

So I'm sitting here in my house, not particularly compelled to a)clean b)cook c)knit d)read e)watch football, so I have belatedly recalled that yes, I do have a blog...and no, I haven't written for it in something like a year, so I'm combining this chore with another: the annual winnowing-out of the appalling amount of makeup I collect. Thought I'd write some reviews, in case you are remotely like me, and strangely compelled to purchase such things without the faintest idea if they work. So allow me to edify you, allow me to save you some money, and allow me to tell you that there are, in fact, some things you can't live without. Men: you, too should pay some attention here. I have seen some pretty grim looks on people of the XY persuasion on TV recently. Like it would kill you guys to use some bronzer once in a while? Anyway, here we go.

Primers: These are, without a doubt, the greatest advance in makeup technology in the last 20 years. But there are a zillion of them, and every single one...if you are to read the the best. There actually are some differences and uses for some and not others. Basically, they are silicone-based goop that you put on prior to makeup application that makes the makeup stay put.
Category I: face primers. Best whole-face primer: Spackle, by Laura Geller cosmetics. This stuff is great. Smooths out the lines, fills in the creases, makes your foundation stay put, kills shine dead. Now, people are pretty much evangelical about Smashbox PhotoFinish primer, but I think it's too thin and too silicone-y. The Laura Mercier primer is kind of meh, and overpriced. Spackle ain't cheap, but it lasts forever and it comes in a nifty pump. And it works. I kid you not. I tend to only use this, though, for when I need to do a full-metal-jacket whole-face TV-oriented or "big deal evening out" makeup. It's sort of overkill for every day.

Category II: trouble spot primers. Best in class: Primed and Poreless by Too Faced cosmetics. Lightly tinted, sucks up oil, looks natural if you don't want to wear a full-scale, buffed-out foundation+powder over it. Also, it's fairly cheap for what you get. You only need about a pea-sized amount to do what you need to. No, seriously, you'll be tempted to use more because it's awesome, but if you use too much it will clump up and look kind of...well, like you have some sort of communicable disease. Runner-up: Jemma Kidd mannequin skin complexion enhancer. Kind of pearlized, but not too much. Stays put, mattifies, and is available at Target. A little pricey for what you get. But it's pretty good. Second runner-up: "that gal" brightening face primer by Benefit. Does what it is supposed to do, is a pale pink, looks okay but is better for people who are 1)vampire pale and 2) under 40. You look a little goofy trying to be all dewy-skinned and such when you are toting 40-ish years of disappointments, hangovers and sundry unfortunate incidents under your belt.

Category III: eyelid primers. Make your eye shadow stay on and render it crease-proof. Laura's choice: not a primer at all, actually, but gets the job done: MAC Paint Pot eyeshadow in the shade "Painterly." Put it on first, smooth it out, brightens up the eye, eyeshadow sticks to it like nobody's business and you never get creases. You can just put it on by itself and instantly look like you have had about 5 hours more sleep than you got. Now, I need to throw in here that my sister Amy, whose experience with eye makeup makes me look like a rank amateur, is all about Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion. I tried it once and it made my eyelids itch...which is about par for the course with me. I have insanely sensitive eyes. But she swears by the UDEPP, and really, you'll have to take my word for this, she knows what she's talking about. So if you don't have super-sensitive eyes, this stuff is very good, according to someone who knows. My runner up in this category is Shadow Insurance from Too Faced, which I like but seems to run out of gas after about 6 hours. On the other hand, it does not make my eyelids itch, so there's that.

Category IV: eyelash primers. For years, I wondered what the heck was up with me and my strange, impermeable and apparently Teflon-coated eyelashes. I couldn't make any mascara stay put. Waterproof mascara was no match for my eyes. The mascaras that you put on and they turn into little tubes of goo on your lashes? Nope. Slid right off. So I was not much of a mascara-wearer, until I got this TV gig and I had to tell the makeup people that this mascara business? wasn't gonna work on me. And they said, "oh, that happens to everyone. Here, use this." And they gave me some eyelash primer. And the rest, as they say, is history. Best in class: Blinc Lash Primer. You can get it at Beauty Brands or Sephora or Ulta. Big beauty stores tend to have it. Cheap, works great, cute packaging. Done deal. Runner-up: Lorac lash primer. Harder to find, slightly more expensive. Still works great. Forget anything you find in CVS of Walgreens claiming to be a lash primer. Never works. Never.

Well, I could go on like this all day, but I'll cut to the chase, basically letting you know what I'm keeping, out of this mountain of products, because it works. Everything else? Buh-bye. I don't want to end up on an episode of "Hoarders," having collapsed under a mountain of old cosmetics.

Best undereye moisturizer: La Prairie cellular contour eye cream. Upside: actually works to make your wrinkles less crepey and firms up the skin under your eyes. This, I find, makes LPCCEC unique amongst eye creams. Lasts 2 or 3 months, as a little goes a very long way. Downside: costs as much as a good king-size down comforter. Doesn't come in a pump, which is more sanitary and all. Second choice: Avalon Organics Coenzyme Q10 Cellular Renewing Wrinkle Defense. Upside: works okay, moisturizes well, though it's no LPCCEC. Comes in a pump, doesn't make my horribly sensitive eyes sting at all, smells like lavender, is under 20 bucks (!) and you can get it at either your co-op or an grocery store with a good health-foods section. Downside: is not LPCECC. Not particularly good at reducing wrinkles, but at least you're making an effort.
Undereye moisturizers that sting my eyes and/or do not appear to either reduce wrinkles or moisturize? Olay Pro-X. Garnier Nutritioniste. ROC Retinol Undereye Cream. Neutrogena Wrinkle Defense. Clarins Eye Serum. Lancome Eye Serum. Elizabeth Arden Eye Serum. La Mer. Clinique Repairwear Undereye. Estee Lauder Eye Serum. Aveda Tourmaline Eye Cream. Lumene Undereye Cream. Seriously, you get the picture. I've tried about every drugstore cream and a lot of dept. store brands. If you have a question about one, call me -- I've probably tried it at some point. The two I recommended are the only two that ever didn't make my try to claw my eyes out or induce horrible red puffiness (or, for those of you new to cosmetics: "do the diametric opposite of what undereye cream is supposed to do").
Best expensive foundation: Chanel. People go on and on about the Laura Mercier but I am not a fan...I think it's too sticky and never really sets well. If you have 50 bucks to blow on foundation, go with the Chanel Teinte Illumineé.
Best midrange foundation: MakeUp For Ever Mat Velvet. Looks great. Stays put. Good range of colors...I think if you are male and have been asked to appear on TV, you should consider getting some of this stuff. Really blends well.
Best drugstore foundation: The late, lamented Revlon Skinlights. It was discontinued. Revlon PhotoFinish is pretty good, as is Sally Hansen Inspired by Carmindy liquid foundation. I'm really pale, and they both have pale enough shades that don't turn out yellow on my skin. Most other drugstore foundations' palest shades are too dark for me.
Best loose translucent powder: Laura Mercier.
Concealer: Amazing Cosmetics Amazing Concealer. Best I've ever used, by a mile. Expensive, but lasts forever. 2nd-best: Benefit's Erase Paste in shade No.1. Under no circumstances should you ever use CoverGirl or Almay concealers. They do not, in a word, conceal. Plus, they have that dopey doe's-foot applicator. Don't use it. Put on the concealer and then repeatedly tap it into your skin, don't smear. It won't stay put very well, but if you're in a bind (i.e., on your way to the prom, need something right now for under five bucks, and you happen to be at Wal-Mart), it will do for an hour or so.
Best pressed powder: Chantecaille, in Very Light. Hard to find, but is great.
Best bronzer: Trish McEvoy. Go with Bronze #1. If you don't like this, try the St. Tropez Mousse Bronzer in the lightest shade. Bonus: has SPF 15 in it.
Best powder blush: Trish McEvoy in Barely There.
Best creme blush: Dream Mousse by Maybelline in Soft Plum. Stays put all day!
Best lip stain: BeneTint original (don't be suckered into the PosieTint! It is way too pale -- I gave it to a friend for her daughters to play with. )
Best lip balm: well, this is embarrassing but I make it myself. It's a shea-butter lip balm. If you want some, ask me. I don't like commercial lip balms at all.
Best lipstick: True Red - Chanel's Star Red, with MAC Russian Red getting an honorable mention. Pink - MAC Petals and Peacocks (English rose pink), MAC Girl About Town (magenta-ish) or American Beauty Very Pink (true pink, blue undertone). Coral-pink: La Prairie Rose Bronze (beware! $$$$) or Maybelline Sweet Nectar (like, about 300% cheaper, looks about the same). Mauve: Aveda Nourish-Mint Lipstick in Sugar Apple.
Best eyeliner: Bobbi Brown gel eyeliner in Cobalt or Plum.
Best drugstore eyeliner: LÓreal Telescopic in Waterproof Ultra-Black.
Best mascara: Maybelline Lash Discovery. Here's the thing about mascara -- you really ought to throw it away every 3 months or so, so it makes no sense to buy expensive mascara. If you use primer, any kind really will get the job done. Runner up: Physician's Formula Lash Enhancer.
Totally useless? Neutrogena Lashtint. Totally overrated? Great Lash. That stuff looks horrible on me and is gloppy and goes all over the place. But if you love it, good on ya. Let me know, 'cause I keep buying it and then throwing it away, and I might as well give it to you.
Best expensive mascara that I will use if I win the lottery? Fresh Cosmetics Firebird Mascara in Charcoal Grey. Best free sample mascara ever? Fresh Cosmetics Supernova Mascara in Jet Black. They frequently will give you samples of this at Macy's. Just sayin'.

Well, that's all I have the energy for at the moment. More cosmetic trivia anon, plus a discussion of perfume. In the meantime, happy November. Talk to you soon.

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A Microscopic Cog in a Catastrophic Plan by Laura Lorson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

the military-industrial-entertainment complex

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hey there, hi there, ho there -- I just realized that I have been HORRIBLY lax about updating this, so here's the short version.

The store moved.
Kelly broke some bones by falling off a ladder.
I had a terrible case of poison ivy.
I broke a toe.
There was one day where Finnegan would not stop barfing. The solution, according to a vet, was to feed him some cough medicine. This led to Finnegan not stopping barfing, and now barfing in a vivid, Technicolor red. We are still working on getting the carpets back to normal.
My sister had a baby. It is a girl. Her name is Emerson.
I am going to enter the Pillsbury Bake-Off.
I got the flu. I think it was H1N1, but that may just be wishful thinking, because it seems more daring.
I recovered from the flu.
I made apple butter, pumpkin butter, elderberry tincture, and Danish. (These were not all part of the same recipe.)
People were apparently tortured during the Bush Administration by being forced to listen to music including Metallica, Britney Spears and the BeeGees. In short -- the Bush Administration would have apparently saved money and time by locking their detainees at my house. There would have been no waterboarding, and I could have tried out my Pillsbury BakeOff recipes on them.
I continue to be mystified by pretty much everything.

Monday, August 3, 2009

the quiet summer symphony of cicadas and tree frogs

It's hot here in Jefferson County, which is actually a phrase that any number of people in pretty much any state in the union could be writing right now. I've been feeling kind of beaten-down by life lately, and keep hanging on to the idea that come autumn, things will be better. I'm not much of a fan of summer. I have never liked the humid heat, which is unfortunate, given that I have never lived anywhere that the two don't go hand-in-hand. Still, I get a little nostalgic for my childhood when the temperatures rise and I find myself in a room that's just a little too hot to be comfortable. When I was a kid, I would sit in my (generally sweltering) room and read, or listen to the radio, and convince myself that if I could just lay as still as possible, the heat wouldn't be so bad. Another thing that conjures up "heat" for me is hearing any song by Little Willie John, or anything from the series of records called "Oldies But Goodies," of which my father had about 10. So in short, anything on Ace or Roulette or Chess, old rock and roll of the Huey "Piano" Smith school -- all of this conjures up maddening, stifling heat and the orange-gold light of early-evening, the kind that cinematographers wait for all day and is flattering to everyone, even when you're caked with sweat and grime and one more day's failures to be brilliant, world-altering, and compassionate.
I've been playing with the dogs this evening, who are also not summertime fans, and this makes me feel better. It makes me think that it is not the fault of the hyper-critical, rational mindset I have always had that makes me hate the weather. I made some peach tea, and took a book outside to read, where it's just this side of stifling, listening to the sun set. Autumn will come soon enough, I suppose, and then winter, then spring. These things that seem awful now will eventually become stories filled with asides about my own intemperance and foible, and I will forget that it was as bad as it currently seems. When I come inside, I can hear the tree frogs singing in four-part counterpoint, and I forget that just minutes ago, I was outside and couldn't hear them at all over the noise of my own brain. Distance and time are gifts.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

enough already with the confessing! freundlaven!

Unquestionably, this will mean more to those of you who were fans of Animaniacs. "Commence with the screaming and running and the hair-pulling and the freundlaven!" being the signature of the Animaniacs' Jerry Lewis auteur-like feller. "Freundlaven! Flamiel! HOYL! How'd you...with the were there...but here are...for me to'd you do..."

Anyway, seriously, Mark Sanford? You were just kind of sadly, weirdly pathetic the other day (what with the hubris and the talking and the schlockiness ...freundlaven!) but now you are squicking me out. Enough with the Argentina and the mistress and the Harlequin Romance-inspired monologues. HOYL! You make me want to put my fingers in my ears and chant "lalalalalalalala"until you go. Away.

Not romantic. Gross. If I were that Jenny Sanford (re: Mark Sanford:"I'm going to try to fall back in love with my wife"), I'd say, "wow, that's really big of you, but please don't put yourself out. You derivative, soap-opera watchin', two-timin', tango-dancin' self-consciously self-serving piecea poo."

Thursday, June 25, 2009

you've got to get it right while you've got the time

Tonight, the world's all agog with the news about Michael Jackson, and I myself am not sure how to feel about it. I think this is a watershed moment, actually, kind of like when Elvis died. A hinge moment, I think they call it. A tipping point. I mean, Elvis was about the dawn of a new kind of youth culture, an engineered kind of celebrity, a tale of promise gone to success gone to seed. He started out as a marginally talented kid who got rounded up by some hucksters who realized that the time was ripe for something new, something different, a little bit dangerous and ultimately all about sex...and the denial of its power, even as it was being flaunted in this sort of creepy, underage way. Elvis and his crack team of handlers went about it by merging black and white music, and that was also the genius of Quincy Jones and MJ, successfully emasculating and white-ifying funk on the dance floor...though I will unkindly point out that while Elvis was about a figurative merger of black and white, MJ took things a little farther than people were comfortable with, given the whole "gradually becoming white"/"maybe it's vitiligo"/ "plastic surgery addiction" thing.

Anyway. Elvis dying was an end of an era, and a moment when people about the age I am now stopped for a moment and thought, "oh, I really liked him when I was a kid." It got to be one big mortality-check for people just on the cusp of middle age. But you know, the Elvis death stopped everyone for a moment, and people all rushed to Graceland and started this whole (to my mind) odd thing where you leave candles and teddy bears and flowers and such to rot in front of some random place, as though the places themselves are magical and mystical and somehow imbued with the dearly-departed's spirit. I myself think that there was more of the spirit of Elvis embedded in the walls of Sun Studios. Anyhow, I see this kind of continuum, this kind of arc of the Cult of Celebrity, maybe beginning with Elvis, reaching its apogee with Princess Diana, and then, perhaps, just perhaps, ending here, with the sad news today about this poor kid from Gary who was turned into a moneymaking machine, who never got the chance to really create any kind of self outside what the public decided he was supposed to be. I think the weirdness displayed by MJ in the last 10 years fed on itself -- that was how he got publicity, it was how he stayed in the public eye, and being used to the star-maker machinery of the 70s and 80s, that was all he really knew how to do. The new, faster, frankly more vicious celebrity machine of the here and now was something he didn't know how to cope with, I think.
But maybe this will be the thing that changes the paradigm. I mean, I'm not holding my breath, but you never know. The death of Elvis marked the end of the beginning of the whole created, bought-and-paid-for, mass-marketed celebrity culture. Maybe the death of Michael Jackson will mark some kind of ending of the end. Maybe now is when we've finally reached critical mass, now that the tabloid poster child for The Sickly Fascinating Odd has passed to his great reward, whatever that may be. Maybe now is the time that people quite caring about random pretty people doing random things, being famous for fame's sake. Between Jon & Kate, Spencer & Heidi, Robert & Kristen, LiLo, Paris...maybe now is the time when we're all so sick and tired of ourselves and our apparently limitless voyeurism (and our fellow-travellers' apparently limitless exhibitionism) that we can't stand it any more. Though probably not.

I was reading my friend Doug's observation that he was someplace, as the news about Michael Jackson was unfolding, and everyone was staring down at their communication devices, thumbs flying across the keys. I find this unbearably compelling, and unbearably sad. No one wants to look each other in the eyes any more at a time of startle and shock. We want to look at the screen, which is looking back into us, just like the abyss. Or maybe I'm just reading too much into it. Wouldn't be the first time. We want to know everything, we want to know it now, we're feeding the beast to the point of bursting and we still want more. We are making things worse, just when we thought that *more, more, more information* would make things all better. Someone asked me about an hour before the official death announcement came what was going on, and I went to for the latest news. Then I went to Twitter. What does this say? When did this happen? What's the next step? Who are we becoming?

He was a guy in over his head. He made some good records. Every time he'd go to Japan, I'd think of Don DeLillo's book "Mao II," which opens with the thought that the face of the future is the face of the frenzied mob. Ordinarily rational people started wearing red leather jackets with too many zippers so they could be more like him. He was driven mad by having the world at his feet -- a common enough tale. Like Ozymandias, King of Kings (no, not the Watchmen character). Look upon his works, ye mighty, and despair.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Antoinette Perry, we salute you (with glittery hats and jazz hands)

I love the Tony Awards. I like them much better than the Oscars, which I also watch every year. The Tony Awards actually seem to matter to the theatre community...much more so than the Academy Awards do to Hollywood. Anyway, I have been a regular viewer of the Tonys (Tonies?) since my childhood. I remember

--the year the Tony Awards were broadcast from the point-of-view of Bonnie Franklin
-- learning who Bob Fosse was from the Tony Awards
-- learning who Stephen Sondheim was from the Tony Awards
-- being stunned to learn that Boyd Gaines was actually a Broadway actor more than a bit-part TV actor
--figuring out who Harold Prince is
--seeing Bernadette Peters sing with a voice like a foghorn while skipping around doing a number from "Sunday in the Park with George"
--learning that whatever it was, Broadway was something fundamentally different and more immediate than a movie

and so, for all their faults, I love the Tony Awards, and will faithfully watch, every year, just because I think this is the kind of awards show that actually OUGHT to be televised, if just to see the warmth and good humor of the Broadway community.

That is all.
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A Microscopic Cog in a Catastrophic Plan by Laura Lorson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at