"The most beautiful makeup for a woman is passion, but cosmetics are easier to buy."
                                                                                              —Yves Saint Laurent

If you're new to this blog, then read our guides to the basics: Skin (Part I), Skin (Part II), The Supernatural, Color Theory I, Color Theory II, Eyes, and Brushes.

Also, check out the blogsale.

· Culture Notes: Stage Presence
· The Sketchbook: Twenty Answers (Dain)
· The Sketchbook: Twenty Answers (Dorothy)
· The Sketchbook: Twenty Answers (Li Wen)
· The Sketchbook: Twenty Answers (Anne)
· Perfume Notes: Parfum d'Empire Fougère Bengale
· Beauty Notebook: Koh Gen Do
· Bestsellers: Shu Uemura Brushes
· Most Wanted: The Prelude
· Beauty Notes: The Golden Age
· Color Me In: Lindsay
· Bestsellers: Mane 'n Tail Conditioner

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the glamourai
The Non-Blonde
Perfume Shrine
Lisa Eldridge
Garance Doré
Smitten Kitchen
Into The Gloss
Grain de Musc
Res Pulchrae
Drivel About Frivol
The Selfish Seamstress
Killer Colours
Bois de Jasmin
Glossed In Translation
Jak and Jil
Toto Kaelo
Worship at the House of Blues
I Smell Therefore I Am
Food Wishes
The Natural Haven
Messy Wands
1000 Fragrances
Moving Image Source
The Emperor's Old Clothes
M. Guerlain
Colin's Beauty Pages
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Sea of Shoes
London Makeup Girl
Sakecat's Scent Project
Asian Models
Ratzilla Cosme
Smart Skincare
Illustrated Obscurity
A.V. Club
Tom & Lorenzo: Mad Style
Eiderdown Press
Beauty and the Bullshit
La Garçonne
Flame Warriors
Everyday Beauty
Fashion Gone Rogue
Now Smell This
The Cut
A Fevered Dictation
Nathan Branch
101 Cookbooks

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Culture Notes: Stage Presence
by Dain

These lists follow a theme, so if you find them interesting, see also Tear Jerkers, Film Noir, Visual Feast, and Social Commentary. This is the last, for now, focused on the art of performance itself.

Et Dieu... Créa La Femme (1956)
This movie is awful, built on Bardot's star quality alone. Some people have got that elusive quality of charisma, even if they can't act (and Brigitte Bardot is a terrible actress), that makes their presence on the screen absolutely electric: her iconic look of beachy, undone sea appeal has been emulated dozens of times. And lest I sound derogatory, charisma is a rare gift. You've either got it, or you don't. It's something more than physical beauty, something more than talent.

Fred Astaire
With vehicles, it's more useful to speak about celebrity than the virtues of specific films (this clip is from Swing Time). Astaire is so far from Bardot's raw animal magnetism, you might wonder at his success—it certainly took RKO by surprise. Some people get lucky. Bardot did. But an actor like Astaire, a highly disciplined, hard-working perfectionist whose dancing is so effortless he seems to float on the screen, he made his own luck.

Amadeus (1984)
There are innumerable examples of method acting that deserve mention, and I have, somewhat arbitrarily, chosen F. Murray Abraham's portrayal of Antonio Salieri: such bitter, hate-filled envy driven by a heightened sensitivity to beauty. It's hardly close to factual—in truth, Salieri and Mozart were not personally at odds, merely competitors—nevertheless, if the method is about inhabiting the character, then this is as plum a role as you can get. Not only is Salieri a complex, sympathetic villain, there's the added layer of the old man, describing what the repressed, political younger man cannot voice. As Tom Hulce, who played Mozart, describes it, it's the most "dazzling" of Abraham's work.

The Lion in Winter (1968)
Imagine you are Anthony Harvey, and you've got Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn at your disposal. What do you do? Why, keep it simple and unadorned, and leave them alone. They'll rip into the tartly written script without your interference. Eleanor of Aquitaine, played by Hepburn, greets her sons with "Good, good Louis. [her former husband] If I had managed sons for him instead of those little girls, I'd still be stuck with being Queen of France and we should not have known each other. Such, my angels, is the role of sex in history." As Peter O'Toole—there was never a better actor in the classical style, have you ever seen such a powerful expression of heartbreak, as he realizes his sons have all betrayed him?—once explained in an interview, "the theatre... at its fundamental, basic level [is] human speech as an art form."

This is the essence of classical acting, with its close association with the theatre: human speech as an art form. Indeed, all great performances are born from a great script.

The Producers (1968)
A dramatic performance makes an immediate impression; a good role designs to impress, to garner Oscar nods and critical accolades. But comic acting rarely receives the credit it deserves, though in many ways it is more demanding. The comedian needs a quick and insightful wit, vast physical resources, an instinct for timing, and above all, a keen rapport with the audience. Mel Brooks' films can sometimes be too loose and sprawling, but The Producers hits a nice balance between allowing comedians to do their own silly thing and maintaining a narrative tight enough to follow. This particular scene is great, as Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel switch off as the straight man every other line.

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9/29/2011 [0]

The Sketchbook: Twenty Answers (Dain)
by Dain

Since the roster behind Ars Aromatica has had a bit of a change, we thought this might be a neat way to introduce ourselves: myself, Dorothy, Li Wen, and Anne. Feel free to join in.

1. Favorite book?
The definitive collection of the poetry of Wallace Stevens, The Palm at the End of the Mind.

2. Country of origin:
USA, a Puritan from Boston.

3. How many red lipsticks do you own?
Fifteen lipsticks (mostly limited edition), one liner, one gloss, one tinted balm.

4. Most worn, beloved item of clothing in your closet?
It would be a tie between zebra-print Alaïa flats and a cream lace blouse from H&M. They're both in tatters but I can't bear to throw them out.

5. How do you take your coffee?
I opt for caffeine poisoning: three cups of black expresso.

6. Pet peeve:
I won't watch a beauty guru with overplucked, overdrawn brows. To me, it instantly communicates "this is someone who lacks understanding of her own facial structure." That is the most fundamental requirement for applying makeup well, to know your own face. Look at the best models right now: some of them have naturally thin brows, some naturally thick, some naturally arched, some naturally flat, but not a single one is fucking around with her god-given shape, outlandish editorials notwithstanding. Ladies, forced arches are at least two decades out of style.

7. Which product has kept your loyalty for longest?
I've been using L'Oreal Voluminous since high school.

8. Skin type:
It's dry and paper thin, very sensitive. Care is very simple—a mild cleanse followed by multiple layers of moisturizer—but I manage to turn it into a complicated ritual anyway by pursuing endless minutiae. See Desert Island: Skincare for details.

9. What was your undergraduate major?
English literature, specifically 18th-century print culture.

10. Have you ever cut your own hair?
Definitely. Who cares what my bally hair looks like? I never wear it down.

11. What blogs do you check daily?
At left, you'll see my personal bookmarks. : )

12. The five most extravagant things on your wishlist (but still intend to buy some day):
(1) A chocolate-faced Hermes Arceau, (2) matching white Valextra luggage, (3) Lucifer Vir Honestus' organic rose-gold chain, a commitment to (4) Tata Harper's Rejuvenating Serum instead of flirting with so many products (like some kind of skincare magpie), and when I finally land my dream career, though I am so not a bag girl, I think I'll treat myself to a (5) Proenza Schouler PS1, in burgundy. For drinks after work, I can slip in a sleek clutch in an animal skin.

13. Signature scent:
After much equivocation, I had to choose Chamade parfum. This is the only perfume I trouble to find the vintage juice, it's that special to me.

14. Fashion and film—which inspires you most?
I would love every single one of Grace Kelly's ensembles in Rear Window. That eau-de-nil suit with its white silk haltertop with matching fascinator is still the most perfect outfit I've ever seen.

15. When you binge on snacks, do you prefer salt or sweet?
Cape Cod potato chips fried to a crisp in oil... Reduced Fat or Salt & Vinegar!

16. How do you highlight your best feature?
Since my bone structure is mediocre, I rarely deviate from the few techniques that flatter. My makeup style, since I've got a beautiful complexion, is all about enhancing the integrity of the skin. I find that when you begin with the skin, it gives you freedom in your palette, so I play with color rather than shapes. I can live without eyeshadow or mascara, as long as I've got some color: so a bright pink blush, always, to make it bloom, and my lipsticks are chosen for their ability to bring my skin to life. My base, I leave as bare as possible, because that's the best way to flaunt good skin. If there's unevenness, a spot, I leave it alone. Other people don't really notice those things.

17. Where is your favorite place to shop for makeup?
I think the best place was Hyundai Department store in Apgujeong. It was quiet for Seoul, and unlike America, they loaded you with deluxe minis with every purchase, no attitude. It was real service.

18. Dream vacation:
Instead of a wedding (Me & Ro's ring is the only material thing I want out of an engagement), I'd like to reallocate my resources on a honeymoon: starting in Istanbul, wending my way through the Middle East and through North Africa till we end up in Morocco, before hopping over to Spain by boat.

19. Worst habit:
I often skip sunscreen. I am not at risk, the sunlight is watery in New England, I spend most of my time indoors. Sunscreen, for that reason, is more a vanity product. And I guess I'm not paranoid. Even with a dedicated Anthélios habit, when I'm 40, I will look 40.

20. The beauty maxim you live by: Makeup should either be seamlessly naturalistic or unapologetically bold. Here are two conversations with my sister, as illustrative points.
    She was rooting through my collection the other day. She attempted false lashes, but quickly gave up in disgust. "It's an acquired skill," I told her. "Yes, but even so, they don't look good," she said. "For photographic work it's useful," I told her. "But, you see, my lashes suck, because I'm Asian," returned my sister, "but at least they are proportional to my eyes. These lashes look bigger, but they don't fit my face."

    "Why do you always wear my red lipsticks?" I asked her once. "If you're going to wear a lipstick," she calmly replied, "it should be the prettiest of colors—and that's red."
I swear, she's not echoing me. I don't talk about makeup much with people I know in real life. When you lather on mascara to the point that all you see is product, you don't look good, your mascara looks good. On the other hand, if you're going for serious pigment, why not embrace it? Taupe eyeshadow looks like eyeshadow, after all. There has to be judgement in these things.


9/26/2011 [13]

The Sketchbook: Twenty Answers (Dorothy)
by Dorothy

1. Favorite book?
Howards End. It's not a perfect book -- it's a bit sentimental, a bit didactic, and one of the central plot points is highly implausible. But it follows Austen -- whom Forster greatly admired -- in being full of recognizable people, with recognizable ways of being silly, touching or cruel.

Or Wuthering Heights, the greatest hate story ever written. It's a toss-up.

2. Country of origin:
Canada, specifically Upper Canada.

3. How many red lipsticks do you own?
15-20, depending on how strictly you define "red".

4. Most worn, beloved item of clothing in your closet?

It's a toss-up between my much-abused black Repetto BB flats and a pair of lightweight, wide-legged jeans from Paige. I dread the day when these give up the ghost.

5. How do you take your coffee?
I have a Bialetti moka pot and Nespresso milk foamer at home -- the latter being a mildly absurd item that I use daily, while more practical items like spatulas languish in the drawer. At home, I make lattes with skim milk, a little cinnamon and a teaspoon or two of sugar. When I just need a caffeine boost at work, it's Java Blend dark roast with 18% cream.

6. Pet peeve, just beauty:
Unblended eyeshadow, especially when it's dark. It invariably looks uneven and awful, as if you scribbled on your eyelids with a Sharpie. Actually, stretch that to any dramatic makeup that's ineptly put on.

7. Which product has kept your loyalty for longest?
The Body Shop's cocoa butter lip balm has been my favourite for a long time.

8. Skin type:
Normal/combination: a bit oily in the T-zone, a bit dry elsewhere, and not at all sensitive.

9. What was your undergraduate major?
I started out in English, then switched to history. I'm not sure that was actually a good idea -- I adore litcrit -- but there's nothing quite so bad as a bad English class.

10. Have you ever cut your own hair?

Many times. I can't say I was ever particularly skilled at it, but my hair is long and wavy, hence forgiving.

11. What blogs do you check daily?
The Last Psychiatrist, The A.V. Club's TV section, The Non-Blonde.

Photobucket12. The five most extravagant things on your wishlist:
- A lustrous Italian leather briefcase, in dark brown, that isn't monogrammed with anyone else's initials.
- A decent pantsuit: I don't aspire to the highest quality at this point in my life, but even J. Crew will set you back some.
- I've developed a crush on Le Metier de Beauté's lipsticks. The one I ordered from Neiman Marcus (Ken Downing's coral, btw) came broken and I still love it (and I am too lazy to complain to NM, though I really should.) I've decided that $32 USD is a stupid price to pay for a lipstick, but I still want more. Alas.
- Really lovely underwear. I spend my actual life in Liz Lemon-style T-shirt bras and pyjamas from Joe Fresh: everything else shows through clothes or is too costly and high-maintenance. But someday.
- And all right: I love the Hermès Kelly. It doesn't matter how many trashy celebrities carry it; I love it. It is highly unlikely that I will ever be able to afford a new one, and that's okay, but maybe, just maybe, there will come a day when I can splurge on one secondhand.

13. Signature scent:
I don't think I really have one because my job requires me to spend a fair amount of time in "scent free" buildings. Applying perfume is no longer part of my daily routine. But: Mitsouko. I treasure my bottle of the discontinued PDT.

14. Fashion and film---which inspires you most?

The Fred & Ginger movies, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Graduate. (Mrs. Robinson is hot.)

15. When you binge on snacks, do you prefer salt or sweet?
Usually sweets. I like to chew on Gummi Bears and Twizzlers when I'm studying for an exam.

16. How do you highlight your best feature?
I like eyeliner and mascara, a lot, and I think my fondness for red lipstick has a lot to do with the way it contrasts with green eyes.

17. Where is your favorite place to shop for makeup?
Online, definitely online. Canadian prices are jacked up from American ones -- not to the obscene extent Australians experience, certainly, but enough that it's often cheaper to order from elsewhere and pay shipping than to pay the markup here. And I live in a small city where a lot of brands are unavailable in the brick-and-mortar stores.

18. Dream vacation:
Oh god. There's almost nowhere I don't want to go, but I really, really want to visit France again.

19. Worst habit:
In a beauty context...I touch my hair way too much. I twist it, run my fingers through it, otherwise expose it to unnecessary friction, and then I'm grossed out when I get split ends.

20. The beauty maxim you live by:
Sunscreen. Always sunscreen.

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9/26/2011 [3]

The Sketchbook: Twenty Answers (Li Wen)
by Li Wen

Godard Breathless

Jean Seberg wears Jean-Paul Belmondo’s hat in a scene from “Breathless,” by Godard.

1. Favorite book?
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin and A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. I have an unabashed love of "soft" sci-fi, or what is also called speculative fiction.

2. Country of origin:
Born in the city of Shanghai in China. Lived in Australia since I was 6.

3. How many red lipsticks do you own?
22 or so lipsticks, 2 lipliners and 2 glosses. My current favourites are Cle de Peau Beaute R1 Black Baccara and R3 Leonardis, one a dark burgundy skating the boundary of purple and red, the other a reddish-rose.

4. Most worn, beloved item of clothing in your closet?
Right now, it's probably my beige snakeskin loafers from Milani for David Jones. I have had them for about 9 months, and they are scuffed, dirty, and have already been re-soled. I have a somewhat "out of sight, out of mind" attitude about things, so I am never precious with them. I tend to lose, tear, or otherwise destroy beloved items of clothing - for instance my red and white paisley jacket with faux shearing collar from Nu+Nan (disappeared, probably left on a train somewhere), the dusty pink silk blouse from Saba (bleach stained), or the white blouse with ruffled collar from Cue (cigarette burn).

5. How do you take your coffee?
Soy cappuccino with half a teaspoon of sugar. First thing in the morning, I drink a big mug of watery coffee made with a Robert Timms coffee bag, some raw sugar, and a dash of soy milk.

6. Pet peeve, beauty-related:
People who equate self-proclaimed lack of concern about their appearance - "Oh, what do I care what I wear when there are starving children in Africa!" - with moral superiority. To me, it shows in nearly all cases a blissful lack of awareness of what true monk-like lack of judgement and simplicity is.

7. Which product has kept your loyalty for longest?
Blistex Lip Conditioner with SPF 20. I've been using it continuously since high school.

8. Skin type:
Combination, tending to dryness on the cheeks in Winter.

9. What was your undergraduate major?
I had three: economics, political economy, and philosophy.

10. Have you ever cut your own hair?
No, I have no skills in that department at all, and my hair is too thick and too short to mess around with.

11. What blogs do you check daily?
The Non-Blonde, The Playlist, Red Carpet Fashion Awards, Kottke.org, Tumblr, and my reading list on LiveJournal.

12. The five most extravagant things on your wishlist (but still intend to buy some day):
Loewe Amazona, a classic, structured lady-like bag large enough to hold everything I need; Ormonde Jayne Champaca parfum; Ole Lynggaard sweet drops bracelet in olive or navy; a large framed print of Falls Creek III by Melissa; a bottle of 2001 Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino.

Lynggard Cle de Peau Loewe Amazona ChampacaOle Lynggaard Sweet Drops Bracelet / Cle de Peau Beaute Ultra Rich Lipstick / Ormonde Jayne Champaca / Loewe Bolso Amazona

13. Signature scent:
Serge Lutens Vetiver Oriental, although this year I have also been wearing a lot of Fille en Aiguilles and Azuree.

14. Fashion and film---which inspires you most?
Jean-Luc Godard's À bout de souffle (Breathless) and Jean-Jacques Annaud's L'Amant (The Lover), both of which I saw in my early teens. You can find most of the important elements of my personal style in them: the boyish cool and insouciance of Jean Seberg and Jean-Paul Belmondo's characters, the love of vintage men's brimmed hats, a minimalist aesthetic that pares accessories down to the basics in their unembellished form (shoes, bag, ring, watch). And French chic, always - ironic, nonconformist, and above all, "not aspirational", as Luca Turin defines it - underpinning everything.

15. When you binge on snacks, do you prefer salt or sweet?
I don't normally snack, and usually only on fruit - citrus and stoned fruits in particular. I am, however, very partial to dessert.

16. How do you highlight your best feature?
Objectively, my lips are probably my best feature - full, near-symmetrical and in well-maintained condition - so I wear rich, vibrant lip colours well. Brighter lip colours also help divert attention away from my skin, which lately has been less than perfect.

17. Where is your favorite place to shop for makeup?
Tangs at Orchard, Singapore and Mecca Cosmetica in Myer Sydney. Between them, they stock most of my favourite brands that are available in the Asia-Pacific region, and they get new collections fairly early. I value friendly and unobtrusive service, professional knowledge, and the patience/willingness to let me try products on.

18. Dream vacation:
The route taken by William Dalrymple in "From the Holy Mountain", across the former Byzantine Empire.

19. Worst habit:
Smoking. It's terrible for the skin (among other things), but then it apparently also improves your sense of smell, so I suppose that's some consolation.

20. The beauty maxim you live by:
Never wear something that you don't feel comfortable in.

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9/26/2011 [5]

The Sketchbook: Twenty Answers (Anne)
by Anne

Note (March 2013): The only constant in life is change, they say. A year and a half ago, when I wrote this, I believed I had changed so radically over the past few years that there was nothing left to change. Utterly predictably, I could not have been more wrong. I felt that these answers could do with updating, but rather than bore you with the same old format, I've decided to turn my updated answers to some of these questions into full-fledged posts. (Otherwise put, I'm lazy and can't think of topics for new posts.)

1. Favorite book?
My copy of Vladimir Nabokov's Ada is worn to tatters, and the bindings have long ago fallen apart. There is no way I will ever become erudite enough to understand as much as a third of his references, but I love the way he crafts his writing, weaving the threads of sound and meaning and association behind the canon of words in order to approximate almost tactile sensory impressions. Also The Mill on the Floss, mostly because I recognize a more vulnerable, less worldly version of myself in poor Maggie. I'm a sentimentalist at heart.

2. Country of origin?
Born in Incheon, raised in the U.S.A., I now go to school in Seoul.

3. How many red lipsticks do you own?
I own more pink lipsticks than red, and the one shade I'm currently fixated on Gothika, which has been discontinued anyway, damn NARS.

4. Most worn, beloved item of clothing in your closet?
An A-line coat in dark brown cashmere with just the right suppleness and weight, a pair of sharply creased black bootcut trousers that seem to take off at least 10 lbs, and a silken blouse the color of café au lait with moon and star cutouts on the collar.

5. How do you take your coffee?
I'm quite fond of Dutch coffee when I can get it, or drip coffee. When I'm in one of the big brand cafés, I also like to dilute out the dregs in the glass with cold water: the taste makes plain water a lot more palatable.

6. Pet peeve
When very short women wear very high heels, it looks very much out of proportion: all you see are the shoes, which dwarf the shortness of the legs by comparison.

7. Which product has kept your loyalty for longest?
I grew up with European pharmacy brands (Nivea, Neutrogena) in Korea, where they are much more common than in the States, and even now retain an affectionate affinity for them: my latest favorite Uriage Stick Lèvres, the only lip balm that has managed to keep my loyalty past the initial honeymoon period, only grows better the longer I use it.

8. Skin type
Temperamental, with the main problem being redness and overheating, with congestion, hyperproduction of oil, and peeling flakes as secondary consideration. I've found that layering gentle products, alternating between hydration and emollience, leaves my face the most comfortable: gentle exfoliation with a cloth or salicylic acid, a soothing face spray, hypoallergenic mid-weight emulsions, and face oils.

9. What was your undergraduate major?
I am currently working through my medical degree, hoping to match into psychiatry upon graduation, though I'm open to just about anything at this point.

10. Have you ever cut your own hair?
When I used to have longer hair, I sometimes trimmed my own bangs when I had no time to see the hairdresser, but even then I much preferred professional results: now I really have no choice, as I can't afford to dick around with hair this short and coarse.

11. What blogs do you check daily?
Cooking blogs
Smitten Kitchen
The Pioneer Woman Cooks!
Style blogs
Style Fish
The Sartorialist
Sewing blogs
The Selfish Seamstress
Male Pattern Boldness
Petit Main Sauvage
The Grand Narrative

12. The five most extravagant things on your wishlist (that you still intend to buy some day)?
1) a full bottle of L'Artisan Iris Pallida, provided it's still available, 2) the forthcoming iPad 3 (rumored to boast a freakishly high screen resolution), 3) a full set of hair / scalp care from Leonor Greyl, 4) a pant or skirt suit in black or charcoal wool, perfectly tailored to my specifications and measurements.
Really though, that's not even half of the list, just the four lemmings I'll most predictably follow through with, and I'm sure to think of the fifth one soon enough. As for more impulsive or frivolous purchases—the Leonor Greyl is a little outlandish, but at least there's a predefined niche for it in my catalogue of wishes—I'll probably burning through my paychecks as soon as I start getting them: I do believe my mother predicted with dead accuracy—when I was four, no less—that I need to study hard, because I have expensive tastes and I'm not one to marry for money.

13. Signature scent?
Vol de Nuit: an assertive perfume with a personality of its own if there ever was one, but it settles on my skin like a live thing, gravitating close like a reassuring hand on my arm.

14. Fashion in film—which inspires you most?
Irène Jacob in La Double Vie de Véronique manages to project grace in the kind of voluminous silhouette we come always to consider as the antithesis of sophistication: not only chunky sweaters and oversized men's bomber jackets worn with slender skirts—short, but not enough to be considered mini—but also demure pleated woollen skirts of the kind your granny wears paired with stubbornly utilitarian winter boots and what seems to be a man's winter overcoat. The setting is always the city—Krakow or Paris—but a different kind of urbanity, where everything is worn to a patina that glows all the more in the golden light that saturates each scene, for a kind of drowsy charm that feels lived-in and comfortable.

15. When you binge on snacks, do you prefer salt or sweet?
I suspect my body does a poor job properly metabolizing sucrose or fructose, because I always feel slightly ill when I've had too much sweet to eat. This is rarely the case with savory snacks: potato chips, string cheese, pretzels drizzled with melted butter, dumplings (mandoo in Korean), leftover fried chicken, cold shredded chicken breast seasoned with a little salt and pepper and sesame oil... hell, I can happily eat sea salt straight.

16. How do you highlight your best feature?
Brows are probably the one thing I will always "do" before I go out, because they instantly lift my face and bring out the symmetry and regularity of my features. Mascara draws more attention to my almond-shaped eyes, while a faint dusting of blush brings out the contour of my cheekbones.

17. Where is your favorite place to shop for makeup?
I've received very good service at AK Plaza in Bundang, and CVSs like Olive Young and Watson's are always fun to browse. I buy a lot of basics at the pharmacy too, where they stock Uriage, Johnson's, and Vichy.

Photography by JSLEE
18. Dream vacation?
A trek across western China, Tibet, and northern India. Krakow, Hokkaido, and Antarctica are other prime destinations.

19. Worst habit?
Biting my nails—down to painful, bleeding nubs that eventually get inflamed—a habit I succeeded in breaking myself of, only to take up again when exam stress got to be too much in medical school.

20. The beauty maxim you live by?
Discreetness is one thing: nothing is more shaming than making it obvious you're trying to hide something—and believe me, the more you try to hide it, the more glaringly obvious it will become.

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9/26/2011 [4]

Perfume Notes: Parfum d'Empire Fougère Bengale
by Dain

James Ensor, The Astonishment of Mask Wouse (1889).

You can always tell a smoker by the way he holds his cigarette. Like a sixth finger it extends from his loosely balled fist. He gesticulates with it, stabbing the air like a punctuation mark in moments of excitement. It flirts with an unruly lighter in high wind. A ruminative drag. To ensure a slow burn, he taps the tobacco down onto its filter. The way the smell of ashes clings to skin and hair, like a dirty pheonix. It just looks like a habit. There is something of a masquerade to all social behaviors. Smoking isn't much more than the inhalation of burning tobacco. And yet, for the smoker, who has snuck outside for a fag break to get away from the tedium of coworkers, the cigarette is an anti-social posture of defiance: why be good when you can be bad? Say what you will about the health hazards of cigarettes, it hardly negates their potency as a social signifier. You are simply a different kind of person when you're a smoker.

For beauty and fashion—and perfume bridges both those two worlds—image, nothing more than a projection of identity, is its raison d'être. There's nothing wrong with its being shallow; that's where the fun comes in. Whether in the bold, galbanum-laced quinolines of Bandit or hyperfeminine Chanel No. 22, the woman herself undergoes no essential transformation. But since self-perception is already such a malleable thing, it's just one way to play around, not too seriously, as if discarding one mask for another.

But for men, either because the standards of masculinity are narrowly defined or maybe because they're apt to stick to a favorite cologne once they find it, variety in perfume is more a series of subtle adjustments in texture. This is largely possible because the structural components of the fougère, the definitive masculine genre, are raw materials so multifaceted that the deft perfumer can twist it to his own designs.

In many ways, Fougère Bengale is an antique. The traditional outlines of lavender, coumarin, and oakmoss in its composition cannot be confused with the spare, clean modernity of Geranium Pour Monsieur. Though Fougère Bengale predates the other by a mere two years, it seems closer to the decadence of the Belle Epoque Jicky than a niche perfume launched in 2007. But unlike the polished mannerisms of the Guerlain, there is enough self-consciousness in the execution of Fougère Bengale to render it unsettling, even unintelligible. Only a niche brand would deliberately obscure the sunny brightness of lavender with a thick, humid blast of immortelle and the licorice taint of tarragon, instead of the more amenable herbal garnishes of sage or thyme. The combination of sweetness and meatiness—of delectation and decay—is at first so pungent that it borders on nauseating. Only when it fades does Fougère Bengale reveal a heart of tobacco, dominating the tonka bean. There's the medicinal vapours of patchouli, to lend the texture of dried leaves, and honey, which in perfumes takes on undertones of urine (ever meet Miel de Bois?). At every turn, Fougère Bengale strives to draw out the ugliest undercurrents out of its characters: the hidden touch of licorice in lavender, also explored in Hermès Brin de Reglisse, the way the honey draws out the animalic quality in oakmoss, or how patchouli emphasizes the toxicity of tobacco smoke.

As a result, Fougère Bengale feels incoherent, mumbled; by the conventions of the fougère, it seems all wrong. But it's not really about the lavender here, nor the coumarin. The formalities of the fougère feel worn and exhausted, at odds with the dominating force in Fougère Bengale, the unexpected perfection of tobacco, cured golden in the sun, with that hint of toxic honey you get from the best cigarettes, before you strike the match. It's so real, nearly raw in its immediacy, you can't take your eyes off it.

Now Smell this
Memory of Scent
The Non-Blonde

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9/23/2011 [2]

Beauty Notebook: Koh Gen Do
by Dain

This is something of a personal quirk, but I don't like foundation.

Like brows or mascara, base falls under the category of unmakeup. Naturalism is its only operative mode*. Ideally, your base should be as undetectable as a magician's sleight of hand, as if you were blessed with beautiful skin. For something that should look like nothing, there are many ways to botch your base: an off match, a masklike application, visible brushstrokes, caked on powder, reverse racoon eyes, glittery "illuminating" bits, product pooling into pores, severe contouring, that sharp demarcation at the jawline. Essentially, the moment it registers as makeup, it's a bad makeup job. This includes, oddly enough, a flawless base. It's all very well for makeup artists—fashion is supposed to draw us into a fantasy world—but it's hardly natural.

Not that I advocate going without makeup: I firmly believe that concealer is our friend, that even the most beautiful women look better in makeup. It's an objective fact. Nevertheless, the flawless base is too much in the opposite extreme. Even though the illusion of flawlessness is technically a possibility, its very perfection is not credible. So my objection is an aesthetic one: naturalism, by definition, is inherently imperfect. If the purpose of foundation is to create a uniformity of tone, it would serve us well to remember that even the best skin, bereft of makeup, has some native unevenness. Ideally, we want to strike a happy medium of subtle enhancement that stops short of flawless. You can get away with a dab of concealer under the eyes, the kind that brightens more than it conceals, powder that refines the grain of your pores, but unless diluted down to sheerness, real coverage from a foundation is readily detectable to the human eye, more sensitive than the camera. It never looks like the real thing. Foundation, in other words, is always a compromise.

Thus far, I've avoided foundation. Since my skin is so thin, the coverage shows even more conspicuously. It's very easy to overload my skin. Foundations generally mimic skin tones, from beige to brown, but mine is more translucent, almost colorless, so melanin-like pigments go very flat and heavy on me. It also flattens the natural luminosity of the skin; like a light being turned off. It hardly seems worth the compromise. I'm a tough sell when it comes to foundation.

This brings us to Koh Gen Do, a Japanese brand that specializes in impeccable base makeup, as well as luxurious spa skincare. Other medium-coverage foundations may promise a fully naturalistic effect, but consistently fail to deliver according my finicky standards. But, somehow, the Aqua Foundation ($62) disappears into the skin. It blurs imperfections without obliterating them, thereby fulfilling the most critical imperative behind unmakeup—it still looks like your own skin. Thanks to Koh Gen Do's "golden ratio" of 20% pigment, 35% emollients (shea butter, jojoba oil, and squalane), and 45% deep-sea water from the Ohotsuku Sea, the fluidity of the formula ensures that even a tiniest drop blends out thinly and evenly, before settling into a finish that mimics the luster of healthy skin. Ultrafine RBG powders diffuse light away from textural imperfections, even heightening the natural glow of the skin, instead of the flattening effect of less dimensional pigment.

It's these little details that gives you more mileage from its light-to-medium coverage. I like to sheer out tiny amounts at a time on well moisturized skin. Around my nose, where I need a little more, I dab it on like a concealer, then blur out the edges with a fluffy blending brush. Like all foundations, there's a direct relation between coverage and naturalism, so if you slap it on with a heavy hand, it will lose its naturalistic effect.

If more coverage is required, then the Maifanshi Moisture Foundation ($62) might be a better option than the Aqua Foundation, which has been calibrated for lighter coverage. The Maifanshi Moisture Foundation also offers a wider color range. The selection of shades for the Aqua Foundation is cripplingly limited; like most Asian foundations, there are no options for darker or paler skin. The shade I'm wearing, PK-01, the coolest offered by Koh Gen Do, is really closer to neutral, though with a distinct peachy tone that brightens the sallowness around my eyes (there's no concealer). It's a hair too dark for me, not that it registers too much when sheered out like this. The yellow-based OC-1 and OC-2 should do a nice job counteracting any ruddiness.

Just Aqua Foundation and Korres Wild Rose Lip Butter.

As you can see, it doesn't disguise everything. I still have pores, and minor blemishes lurk about. It doesn't look any worse for those imperfections. In fact, I think it looks more convincingly natural, as if I'm not wearing foundation at all. After a few minutes, once the oil-and-water base from its "golden ratio" absorbs, the pigment meld seamlessly into the texture of your own skin, and feel nearly as weightless. There's no fragrance, no irritation on my reactive skin, and it photographs well.

If you like a dewy foundation, the Aqua Foundation has a nicely judged glow. As I prefer a velvety, pore-minimizing finish, it definitely requires some powdering.

Now... I love my loose powders. I often wear a sheer dusting of powder in lieu of foundation. It offers about the level of coverage my skin can tolerate (very little), before it starts to look makeupy. My reflexive favorites, Chanel Poudre Universelle and Caron Poudre Peau Fine, are infused with barely perceptible light reflection to enhance your skin without covering it up—better than highlighters, in my opinion. But for the subtlest polish, you can't beat an invisible setting powder, and the Maifanshi Face Powder ($42) is the loveliest of them all. Unlike a few other "colorless" powders, like Kevyn Aucoin, Clé de Peau, Shu Uemura, and Make Up For Ever, it is truly invisible. No matter how many times I reapply, the microfine, jet-milled powder never looks cakey. It has a touch of moisture, from sodium hyaluronate, that binds it seamlessly into the skin, while talc and silk powders absorb shine. Best of all, whether you apply it over foundation or nothing but moisturizer, it airbrushes the pores nigh unto invisibility. It's a superficial effect, since nothing can physically shrink pores, but nevertheless... awesome.

Maifanshi Face Powder on top of the Aqua Foundation. Korres Wild Rose on the lips.

It provides the most perfect not-quite-matte velvet finish, of all the powders I've tried. While I can't fault Poudre Universelle for solo wear, it has a tendency to grab at moisture from foundation and settle unevenly, so it's not an ideal setting powder. Like a smart powder, the Maifanshi Face Powder glides on ever so smoothly, even over rough areas like flakes or milia around the eyes, without changing any color beneath it. Whether you pat it on with the incredibly plush Koh Gen Do powder puff or go for a sheer dusting with a squirrel face brush, it always looks impeccable. For travelers it's also available in a pressed version ($63)

I've got my eye on the Natural Lighting Powder ($42) now.

* There are exceptions, of course. If your objective falls under the category of a costume, then an obvious base may be required. But a common-sense application of Koh Gen Do does not fall under the category of theatrical makeup.

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9/17/2011 [7]

Bestsellers: Shu Uemura Brushes
by Li Wen

BrushHeads 5R 10 60B 12 600px
BrushHeads 12 11 15 18 600px
Top L-R: 5R Kolinsky, 10 Kolinsky/Sable, 6OB Badger, 12 Synthetic; Bottom L-R: 12 Kolinsky/Sable, 11 Kolinsky, 15 Kolinsky, 18 Goat

More so than with any item of cosmetics - with the possible exception of foundation - quality makeup brushes are best tested in person before purchasing. Unless you are a collector, the most highly rated and exquisitely handcrafted tool is not going to be of much use if it does not perform - if it is unable to conform to the demands of your preferred products, techniques, and your own face. And this can be a difficult judgement to make without having handled the brush, perhaps even taken it for a test drive. If you are going to spend upward of $100 AUD (or $300 AUD in the case of the Kolinsky 15) on a single brush, it would be shame if it went the way of those skis that have been lying in the back of the closet, still-new, for years, or those boots that you bought a size too small because it was on sale, and subsequently have never worn.

...Which, to those of you in North America, probably only compounds the frustration of seeing Shu Uemura pull its counters from your region.

MAC's line of brushes are more popular and extensive, Bobbi Brown's more accessible to laypersons, but the range of natural and synthetic brushes from Shu Uemura - with their slim, black varnished wooden handles - are tough to beat in terms of sheer quality, hardiness, practicality and quiet luxury. Hakuhoko is taking a pretty good stab at it, from all accounts, but I am in no great hurry to leap onto the bandwagon and order some of their brushes online when the ones I already own do all I could want from them, and more. Of those ten or so most frequently used brushes - the ones I carry in my brush roll when I travel overseas*, sometimes for months at a time - fully half are Shu Uemura.

* * *

Eight brushes are featured in this article, so let's get some generalities out of the way first. All these brushes are beautifully made - meticulously shaped and put-together, with not a hair out of place or a loose ferrule anywhere. The lettering on the handles does not fade over time, unlike with MAC brushes. All the natural brushes are made from the finest grade of hair (hence the price tag on some of them). While not all of them are what I would consider personal essentials, every Shu Uemura brush I have tried is a well-designed, functional tool. There is no unnecessary bulk around the handle to clutter up my brush roll, and properly cared for, they will last for years. (The 10, 5R and 11 brushes above are more than 4 years old, and look like new.) If I had to stick to one brand of brushes for the rest of my life, it would easily be Shu Uemura.

Before going on to look at each brush individually, a few comments about fakes. All the Shu Uemura brushes reviewed were bought in person at actual counters, either in Shanghai, Sydney, or in airport dutyfree. However, you will find a proliferation of fake Shu Uemura brushes on places like eBay and in less-reputable stores across Asia, at prices that would be a steal, if only they were anywhere as good as the real article. For the sake of comparison, I acquired a couple I suspected were fake. I can attest that, cosmetically, the ones I got are very similar to the genuine Shu Uemura brushes - both have "Made in Japan" stamped on the underside of the handles, and are roughly the same shape, if distinguishable by their difference in length (fakes have shorter handles) and other details (the lettering is smaller, more defined on the genuine brushes).

The biggest and more important differences are in quality: floppy and less densely crafted brush heads, coarser bristles, shortcomings that obviously affect the performance of the brush. To avoid disappointment, my advice is that you buy direct from Shu Uemura, either their website or one of their counters. If you are buying from an intermediate retailer, beware of bargains. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

BrushWhole 18 600px
18 Goat ($42 USD) / Edward Bess Island Rose / Chantecaille Future Skin

Described on the website as a foundation brush, the 18 Goat looks nothing like your traditional synthetic paddle-shaped foundation brush. It is rather unassuming in real life, smaller than you'd expect, and there is a little bit of a learning curve to applying foundation with it (there are tutorials to help you on YouTube). But the porous and fluffy 18 Goat rewards by delivering a "skin-like" finish with cream and stick foundations that I find is nearly impossible to achieve with more conventional brushes or your fingers. The head of the brush is round, a flattened dome shape from the top, made from uncut goat hair. It is a very versatile tool - the perfect size for fitting the contour around the nose and under the eye, to buff in concealer, or to dip lightly into a cream blush to produce a soft, natural flush. It is slower to dry after washing than a synthetic brush, though, so between uses I usually just spot clean with the Shu Uemura's brush cleaner.

My 18 Goat does shed a bristle occasionally, and I have had mine for about 10 months now. It is the only one of my Shu Uemura brushes that experiences this problem, and I would be interested to know if it was common for this particular brush, or if mine just happened to be slightly inferior.

BrushWhole 12 600px
12 Synthetic ($42 USD) / Shiseido Magnolia Shimmering Cream Eye Color

The 10 Synthetic (which I don't have, but which Dain does) and the similarly-shaped but larger 12 Synthetic are concealer and cream shadow brushes - which I don't have much use for, to be honest, preferring to work with my fingers instead. The 12 Synthetic is too large for detail work on my lids, so mainly I use it to smooth on thin veils of cream shadow over the entire area above the eye. It is a flat, paddle-shaped brush, better suited to patting on product that blending it.

BrushWhole 5R 600px
5R Kolinsky ($60 USD) / Stila Perfecting Concealer / NARS Jolie Poupee

When I bother with point concealing, I use the 5R Kolinsky. Circular at the base, coming to a soft point at the tip (not stabby at all), it is a great brush for those with small lids, or who prefer detail work - a touch of highlighter in the inner corner of the eye or the bow of the lip, a hazy rim of strong pigment behind the lashes. Not indispensable, but very nice to have.

BrushWhole 60B 600px
6OB Badger ($29 USD) / NARS Bali

Now we come to the essentials, the brushes I cannot do without. The 6OB Badger, an angled brow brush, is a little smaller and shorter than the MAC 266, the only other brush of this kind I own. It draws a more subtle line than the 266, so the look is more natural, and since acquiring the 6OB, I never use any other brush to define and fill in my brows.

BrushWhole 10 11 12 600px
10 Kolinsky/Sable ($68 USD) / 11 Kolinsky ($140 USD) / 12 Kolinsky/Sable ($123.73 AUD) / Giorgio Armani 02 Nude Gold Maestro Eyeshadow / Shiseido Jungle Luminizing Satin Eye Color Trio

In the toss up between flexible, silky-but-firm kolinsky and whisper-soft squirrel hair, my strong preference is for kolinsky brushes, as they are easier to control and better suited for precision.

Between the pair of them, the 12 Kolinsky/Sable (base) and 10 Kolinsky/Sable (contour, outer corner) are up to almost any eyeshadow task you can throw at them, which is why they go with me everywhere and I have a back-up of each. Fuller and more tapered than the 11 Kolinsky, with the shorter, wavier sable fibres to give the brushes more "fluff", they pick up, deposit and smoothly blend both pressed and cream eyeshadow so quickly and so well, it is nearly impossible to go wrong with them, even if you happen to be doing your makeup in 2 minutes flat (which is the case for me most days). Nothing is real substitute for a practiced hand and a discerning eye, but the right tools will elevate even the work of an amateur.

BrushWhole 15 600px
15 Kolinsky ($280 USD) / Chanel Poudre Universelle Libre

I had the 15 Kolinsky on my wish-list for nearly 3 years before I managed to find one (in Shanghai, last year) and finally worked up the resolve to buy it. Lavish, it most certainly is. As Dain deduced from photographs, it is too large to act as a common eyeshadow brush, as least on medium-sized eyes like mine.

Furthermore, what the photos on the website do not show you is how incredibly dense this brush is. At 10 mm, it is roughly twice as thick, looking from the side, as the 12 Kolinsky/Sable, despite being only about 5 mm longer from base to tip. A back-and-forward blending motion is clearly not what is intended for this brush. So what is it good for?

The reason that the 15 Kolinsky, like all the other brushes is in my travel brush roll, has a special place in my heart is that it does one thing better than any other brush I have, and that one thing, to me, is absolutely essential: the targeted application of powder. Unlike powder puffs, a kolinsky brush will never pick up too much loose powder, thus forcing you to blow (ew) or shake (messy) to remove the excess. To set concealer, I just dip the 15 Kolinsky lightly into my Poudre Universelle, and then press (not sweep!) the brush over the area that I have just concealed, before powdering the whole face diffusely with a conventional powder brush. It is the perfect size to cover my under-eye circles, and both its firmness and rotundness are assets when it comes to going around curves of the nose or the sides of the mouth. Is it extravagant to have a $280 USD brush for that dedicated purpose? Perhaps, but this was a case of "I never knew I needed this brush until I got it", because until I started experimenting with the 15 Kolinsky, I never thought to use my powder in that way, to make my concealer last longer.

Now, I am not by any means recommending this as the best (or even good) way to go about picking brushes to buy, but using this as an example of how, by playing around with something unfamiliar and new, you can make discoveries and establish new routines.

If you do not wear concealer very often, the 15 Kolinsky is also a good shape and size for highlighting the tops of the cheekbones. Dain has suggested using it with cream products - and I have in fact tried it with cream eyeshadow (it gives beautiful richness of colour and softly blurred edges) but ultimately balked at the thought of subjecting such an expensive brush to frequent washings.

*Here is the full list of its current contents: MGPin P5 Blue Squirrel (a softer dupe of the Shu Uemura 20 Natural), NARS Yachiyo, 15 Kolinsky, 12 Kolinsky/Sable, 11 Kolinsky, 10 Kolinsky/Sable, MAC 239, Chanel 12, 6OB Badger, MUFE Eyelash Brush.

My thanks to Melissa D. Graf for taking the product photographs.

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9/16/2011 [12]

Most Wanted: The Prelude
by Dain

At some indistinct point in the last century—that is to say, the twentieth—writers stopped believing in fiction. It was decided that it was no longer a fit task for literature to propagate illusions about the human condition: stock characters, sensational plot twists, morals, the topics of life worn threadbare. If it wasn't a love story, it was about growing up, or a confrontation of some adversary both inevitable and metaphysical. It's a reasonable anxiety, if adolescent to the extreme, to demand originality from art. Every writer operates under the influence, and the later he arrives in history, the greater his trepidation amid the cacophony of dead and silent voices. It would be well for them to remember that, for such an intensely solitary act, precipitated in the stillness of the mind, writing is ultimately a form of communication. Whether it's a poem, a book, an essay, a critique, or even a bestseller (in approximate order of literary merit), every work contributes to a vast conversation that sprawls across millennia—the tradition, in academic vernacular. But really, it's just a conversation; only superficially does it qualify as an art form.

Nowhere is this mechanism more evident than in the epic, the most elite of all literary genres. From Homer, it's quite easy to trace a direct lineage, each contribution a meticulous reinvention, whether it's Virgil's reverence for the Roman state or the way the rhetoric of Milton is driven by a fierce Puritanism. So when Wordsworth picked up the thread with The Prelude, as it was posthumously titled, he is aware he should offer "some British theme, some old/ Romantic tale by Milton left unsung" (I.168-169):

Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon;O there is blessing in this gentle breeze,
The world was all before them, where to chooseA visitant that while it fans my cheek
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:Doth seem half-conscious of the joy it brings
They hand in hand with wand'ring steps and slow,From the green fields, and from yon azure sky.
Through Eden took their solitary way.Whate'er its mission, the soft breeze can come
Paradise Lost, XII.645-649.To none more grateful than to me; escaped
From the vast city, where I long had pined
A discontented soujourner: now free,
Free as a bird to settle where I will.
What dwelling shall receive me? in what vale
Shall be my harbour? underneath what grove
Shall I take up my home? and what clear stream
Shall with its murmur lull me into rest?
The earth is all before me. With a heart
Joyous, nor scared at its own liberty,
I look about; and should the chosen guide
Be nothing better than a wandering cloud,
I cannot miss my way.
The Prelude, I.1-18.

In his proem, Wordsworth builds a deliberate echo of the concluding lines of Paradise Lost. "The earth is all before [him] " (Wordsworth 14) as it was before Adam and Eve (Milton 646) to find their way (Milton 649, Wordworth 18) to a "place of rest" (Milton 647, Wordsworth 10-13) through a lifetime of "wand'ring" their (Milton 648, Wordsworth 17). Far from evoking that harshest insult of criticism, "derivative", the redundancy only serves to highlight his individuality. After all, this is conscious design, not a "susurrus of popular repetition" (Eliot, "Tradition and the Individual Talent"). It forces the reader to make comparisons, and in the process, define the amalgamation of cultural mores and individual psychology that makes Wordsworth unique. The composition of The Prelude spanned his lifetime, from its inception at the age of 28 until his death at 80; it was never published under his direction because it was about his own growth as a human being. In this day and age, we are accustomed to literature that celebrates the everyday, commonplace happenings of life. It is sometimes difficult to remember that before the 18th century it was solely populated by the heroic; Shakespeare's aristocrats and Odysseus and Milton's Satan may speak in universal truths, but they are nevertheless elites in the society in which they inhabit. Books, and the necessary literacy, could only be afforded by the upper classes. By contrast, the 19th century constitutes a sea change, opening up literature to the mundane and trivial. The lofty invocation to the Muse has become nothing more than a "blessing [by a] gentle breeze" (Wordsworth 1).

The Prelude is audaciously unheroic—an autobiographical epic. He climbs Mont Blanc, anticipating to be awestruck by splendid vistas, only to discover he had already "crossed the Alps" dumbly unaware (VI.590). At Cambridge, he is haunted by "a strangeness in the mind,/ A feeling that [he] is not for... that place " (III.80-82) of "college labours" (III.64). He discloses his opinion of London, "monstrous ant-hill on the plain/ Of a too busy world!" (VII.149-150); clearly, he is at odds with industrialisation. He has a fascination for the grotesque, populating The Prelude with people marginalized by death or infirmity or poverty. Wordsworth takes on nothing of grand importance.

He even wonders at his self-indulgence: "Why call upon a few weak words to say/ What is already written in the hearts/ Of all that breathe?" (V.184-186). Wordsworth wasn't to know how poetry would become an act of self-therapy, a private cathartic release. It is something of a paradox, but literature derives its relevance its distortions of reality. At times, when it offers us fantasy, it is a mode of escapism. When it strikes at the truth, it is always one of those overly familiar, threadbare topics of the human experience, only its perspective, from an experience completely alien to our own, places it in a light that makes objective recognition possible. True love may not always be possible, but who hasn't judged poorly? Or ruined a relationship with selfishness? Maybe we don't get to fight demons but we've all suffered from ennui. And however frustrating your family may be, really, you're stuck with those crazy people. Without that bitter edge of experience, completely unoriginal though it may be, literature loses all its power. That's not art, but "what is already written in the hearts of all that breathe"; the art is in the fantasy, the distortion, the fiction, the entertainment, the characters and the plot, the storytelling. There is something embarrassing in how a man of genius can pen 7894 lines* on his disappointments, regrets, doubts, and dejections, until one is pulled short by the recollection of how often one obsesses over the trivialities within one's own mundane existence. As far as I know, art is the only thing that can take us out of the prison of our minds, and allows us to share another's experience in this world. Literature is a colloquium. Whenever you read, with your ears fully open, it is act of humility, eroding the selfishness of judgement that destroys us from within and bringing us closer to "those human sentiments that make this earth/ so dear" (II.422-423).

This is the final installment in this ridiculous series on age-appropriate outfits paired with an examination of age-appropriate genres. If you've got the patience to read them, I thank you.

Instead of aping the narcissism of youth, I'd like to put comfort first once I reach a certain age. Rather than the sloppy tee shirt, a buttondown from the boys' department, such as this Cherokee ($6.50) shirt from Target, with its loose-but-not-too-loose fit, is just as easy to throw on and inexpensive enough to abuse.

It's an old trick, but a trim jacket, like Isabel Marant's ($825) modern take on the sometimes dowdy Chanel tweed, adds instant polish to your outfit. And sleek though it is, it still has fully functional pockets.

Loro Piana cashmere might be the more instinctive backdrop for this these Tahitians from Mikimoto ($110,000), each individual pearl meticulously variegated in luster to form an inky rainbow, plus a handful of diamond pavé balls for good measure. But there's something witty about pearls peeking out beneath a buttondown, their decadence a secret pleasure instead of the ultimate in rich-bitch conservative accessorizing.

We can't hold onto peachy skin of our twenties forever, but you can always have a great head of hair. A good cut and making a ritual of indulgence out of washing your hair—it is, after all, a tactile, sensuous pleasure. First, I'd steep my hair in a good oil, before emulsifying it with the gentle, fragrant, low-lathering Shampooing Creme Moelle aux Bambou ($41). Ten minutes of bliss in the shower.

In my estimation, maturity has a clear advantage over youth. Instead of taking anything less than perfect happiness as a personal insult out of an overwhelming sense of entitlement, I'd rather learn to take myself less seriously. Anyone can appreciate sublime couture gown. I love better fashion with a sense of humor: quirky purple Illesteva sunglasses ($360).

* I think... I tallied it rather hurriedly.

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9/11/2011 [2]

Beauty Notes: The Golden Age
by Dain

My favorite look this summer has been a cloud of soft gold against fluttery lashes, set against a coral lip.

The base is Koh Gen Do Aqua Foundation PK-01, something new I've been testing. Otherwise, it's the usual Make Up For Ever Lift Concealer and Chanel Poudre Universelle, the brows in Laura Mercier Brow Definer. I gave my skin a subtle warmth with Dior's Aurora bronzer, just on the high points of the face, paired with soft pink Shiseido PK304 Carnation to keep the bronze from going flat.

I think the trick to wearing bold colors well is not to allow it become too stiff. That paint-by-number demarcation can sometimes look too much like a façade built out of makeup. Keep it simple, almost raw. This should feel like... Perhaps the day before I got too much sun, and I happened to choose the soft yellow gold from Shiseido's Opera Trio, almost crystalline in its transparency. Then I threw on Guerlain Chamade, because it is my favorite lipstick this summer. Let's add a spritz of Diorella, too, elegant but not cloying in the humidity. I tend to apply makeup in this very haphazard manner. If I like it, I may repeat the look, tweaking small details: Bobbi Brown grey-coffee Caviar Ink smudged at the lashline, just to give form to the cloud of gold around the eye, but it cannot be a sharp, obvious line that competes with the gold. For subtle volume, a few individual lashes. (I'm not low maintenance.) It's quite colorful makeup, organic in its execution.

Shiseido GD804 Opera Trio / Guerlain Chamade Rouge Automatique / Ardell Duralash Natural
Short Black / Dior Aurora Healthy Glow Summer Powder / Hakuhodo Kokutan T

Keep in mind, I desaturate pigment to the point that soft colors are infinitely more flattering on my skin than neutrals. It is likely that these shades will be more vivid on most people; as you can tell, Chamade is actually a soft coral red but wears like a coral-pink on my lips.

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9/06/2011 [12]

Color Me In: Lindsay
by Li Wen


Light ash brown to dark blonde


Light olive rose brown

Light hazel

Natural as possible, I don't wear makeup all the time

Jojoba oil, any brand (perfectly balances my skin), Thayers Alcohol-Free Unscented Witch Hazel with Organic Aloe Vera, and my most favorite lipstick of all time, Clinique Different Lipstick in Shy.

I would like to find very natural, barely-there shades for day, along with a spot-concealer that can cover my blemishes and another one for my under-eye circles. When I use jojoba oil on a regular basis, my skin doesn't get too oily, so I'm not sure if I should use powder or minerals or liquid foundation. I would like a little more color for evening, something to make my eyes pop.


As Lindsay has already discovered that jojoba oil balances her skin, we would suggest adding a gentle exfoliant to the mix. When you consider that acne is an immune response, it should be classified as a type of sensitivity, instead of being prescribed aggressive cleansers and scrubs. Consequently, we think an alpha-hydroxy solution, like Silk Naturals 8% AHA Toner ($8.95), should help clear the excess skin that leads to congestion without damaging Lindsay's skin. As the mildest of the alpha hydroxies, lactic acid is a good place to start; she can supplement glycolic or salicylic acids if her skin responds well and something stronger feels appropriate. One note of caution: alpha-hydroxies not only increases sensitivity to the sun but also should be left on the skin for twenty minutes at least for full activity. It's best for nighttime use.

Most people require more than one concealer. It would be hard to beat Laura Mercier Secret Concealer ($28) for acne—the customizable match, yellow undertones to counteract ruddiness, and a high-pigment, dry texture that sticks to spots—but a creamy texture and peachy tone is more appropriate for the sallow-mauve discoloration around the eyes. We also think a sheer base, with a hint of yellow to minimize ruddiness, might make a nice addition to Lindsay's routine when she feels like taking an extra step. Mineral makeup won't aggravate her acne, and it's not too fussy, easy to incorporate into her minimalist approach to makeup.

Since "peach tends to skew orange" on her, we've chosen Giorgio Armani Sheer Blush #5 ($43), a dusty rose that won't overwhelm but add a hale and sunkissed glow.

We've no intention of dissuading Lindsay from her favorite lipstick, Clinique Shy, but a richer, intensified variation on this plummy theme might be fun to play around with, the gold-touched raspberry of NARS Gothika Lipgloss ($24) perhaps, or Revlon Blackberry ($8) sheered down to a berry-red stain. A well considered palette of neutrals like the Dior Rosy Tan quint ($59) will reward investment with versatility. They may resemble a million other neutrals, but the exquisite Dior finishes elevate the satiny malt and lustrous taupe (bottom corners) from your everyday browntones. Against feathery lashes, the subtle pink and the sparkle of the cream highlight will create a bright, wide-awake look. And that deep brown, with a hint of plum smoke lurking in its depths, will form a sultry haze against Lindsay's hazel eyes.

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9/03/2011 [3]

Bestsellers: Mane 'n Tail Conditioner
by Dain

It doesn't get more kitsch than Mane 'n Tail Conditioner. The original formula comes to us from the 70s; since then, it has been reformulated.
    INGREDIENTS  water, stearamidopropyl dimethylamine lactate, distearyldimonium chloride, stearyl alcohol, emulsifying wax NF, cetyl alcohol, coconut oil, glycerin, sodium chloride, vegetable oil, fragrance, hydrolyzed protein, lanolin, phenoxyethanol, methylparaben, propylparaben, FD&C yellow #5
Since it predates silicone technology, it does not have the standard dimethicone or cyclopentasiloxane, though Mane 'n Tail's newer formulations are silicone-based. The Original is as basic as they come, though well balanced. It has some light protein, which strengthens damaged hair, coconut oil to moisturize, and lanolin, which coats it. It has excellent slip even without silicones; it detangles my long, slightly wavy hair easily. It has the conventional shampoo fragrance, vaguely like honeydew, but not cloying. Since I go through conditioner like water, I genuinely appreciate a bargain. It doesn't get cheaper than $6 for 32 oz. It's a nice basic conditioner for not a lot of money. My approbations must seem lukewarm; it is hard to get enthused over a product so obviously basic. But if one remembers that all conditioners are basic, from Bumble & Bumble to Pantene, Mane 'n Tail only differs in the degree of pretentiousness.

I am mildly sensitive to protein—I have to be careful around Kérastase—this is not concentrated enough to leave my hair brittle. In fact, my hair feels especially soft after using Mane 'n Tail. However, it seems to coat my hair (the lanolin?), not enough to dull or weigh down my hair, but enough so I can feel a faint residue on my hands should I touch my hair.

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9/01/2011 [2]

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