Middle Earth Mood

My Nana had two VHS tapes at her house that I must have watched every time we visited when I was little, and both gave me a deep love for the worlds they built (and probably sparked my love for world building in general). Those tapes were episodes of the Moomins and the Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings cartoon – and I highly recommend both!

I remember my gradual introduction to the world of Tolkien after watching the cartoon, moving next to the Hobbit (which I also had on audio tape), the Lord of the Rings, and then the Simarillion and beyond. I’m glad I got to live in the world before the movies came out, so I was able to create my own imaginings and visuals – which I enjoyed comparing with what the movies did.

(I have various feelings about some interpretations the movies made, but that is a whole rant for another time. In general, I adore the movies and they are one of my favourite ‘comfort food’ watches – the ride of the Rohirrim is stupendous – and the soundtracks are among my favourite of all time.)

Since mood boards are my go-to activity to de-stress and I’m not really feeling fashion trends right now (c’mon, neon and tiny sunglasses?! Get the fuck outta here with that please) I’ve turned other sources of inspiration.

Númenor

Ah, what folly. Numenor was like the decadence of the early 00’s before the crash (or, in their case, a wave). Don’t listen to pretty lies, for it will end badly.

Gondor

Admittedly, I’m a bit more #TeamRohan when it comes to the world of men but I do like the colours of Gondor a bit more. Despite missing the black wall (stickler for details), I thought the movie representation was brilliant.

Hobbiton

Who wouldn’t want to live in the cosy, comfy Shire? I totally get why Gandalf loved to visit so much and the appeal of a circular front door.

Lothlorien

If I were an Elf, I’d choose Lothlorien over Rivendell or Mirkwood. Not only is it a protected haven, but I bet Galadriel has the best stories from the first two ages.

Mordor

You cannot simply walk into it… unless you’re two Hobbits, I guess. Although I didn’t really picture Sauron quite so literally, I kind of liked the crazy big eye tower. It was certainly an impressive vibe.

Rivendell

The last homely house, where Elrond must be used to (but growing tired of) people just showing up unannounced to stay. If you don’t want uninvited house guests, don’t be super knowledgeable and live somewhere welcoming. I think Elrond secretly likes the company since his sons skipped off to the North.

Rohan Palette

Why Rohan over Gondor? Well, I like their earthier vibe (wood over stone) and you know they’d be more fun at a party. Although I like the colours and flag of Gondor more, I’d probably enjoy living in Rohan more. As if living in any of these places is a possibility… but whatever, it’s easy to get carried away when you wander into making mood boards.

But as we all know, not all those who wander are lost.

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Content Overload

There is just too much content online. As someone who works in producing digital  content, I know I am part of the problem. I’m talking more specifically about the sheer volume of television shows and movies online, and my daunting list of what to watch.

Thanks to Netflix, Hulu, HBOGO, Amazon Prime, and even some ongoing/new shows, I have no shortage of things to watch when the mood strikes. Whether it’s movies or television, there is always something just a tap away from entertaining me. But is anyone else finding it difficult to keep up? My list keeps growing, and I’m now seasons behind on some shows so much that it feels I’ll never catch up. An awards season passes and I’ve only seen a handful of the hyped movies (even though I work in entertainment!), and sometimes a movie can feel like something you should see rather than want to see.

Binging television and movies is not always easy to fit in with a full time job and other non-couch-based activities, and then it’s sometimes hard to be in the right mood to watch something heavy. If I’ve had a long day at work, I’m not really in the mood for a heavy trauma-filled or emotional rollercoaster, but something light. Then something prestige-y can sit on a list for so long, that it feels more like a chore to watch.

I’m finding the video speed plugin a pretty handy tool to get through some shows that I want to see but have a tendency to drag (cough NETFLIX cough) and honestly the only thing that looks a bit funny are fight scenes or sex scenes. You’d be surprised how slowly people must talk in shows, because speeding them up sometimes has very little effect on how their voice sounds. I also will turn back to regular speed during the finale episodes, just to do them justice, and even if I’m usually doing something else (multitasking y’all) when watching the series, I haven’t found things impacted negatively to my recall events or be less emotionally impacted. I’ve not tried it with movies yet, but I’ll let you know if it worth trying there too.

If I didn’t work in entertainment, maybe I’d feel less pressure to get through all these shows. It’s not just important to be up to date when meeting with clients, but for my own reference when brainstorming or if I need to work on a franchise or series.

This isn’t even considering how I feel I lag behind on staying up to date with podcasts, music or reading books too. I like turning things off and silence, which isn’t conducive to the always-on lifestyle that is important to churning through all this info, so reading isn’t too difficult to slot in although listening is easier to do at work.

Sometimes I feel like I’m doing the shows or myself a disservice with this hurried approach, but I don’t know any alternative given the pressing need. Despite the list, I also sometimes feel the need to rewatch an old favourite (do you have comfort-watches too?) because not only is it guaranteed to be great but you can notice things you might have missed before or you benefit from an older perspective. I suppose there is naught else to do but continue to plug away at the list and hope my rate of watching is faster than the rate the new shows debut.

Movie Reboots + Remakes

It’s Comic Con weekend and the news, trailers, and releases are coming thick and fast. This isn’t exactly a new or hot take, but damn are there a lot of reboots and remakes swarming around. Would you call a belated sequel a form of reboot too? I’m not here to say all remakes/reboots are bad, but quite a few are and it’s beginning to feel rather lazy and pandering.

I understand why it’s attractive for a movie studio to reboot or remake: established audience, lots of guaranteed press, repositioning a movie to be more ‘woke’ to win PR points. It’s all bankable nostalgia cashing in. I don’t know about you, but I’m more psyched for a movie that’s telling a wholly original story. Something unique for the time we live in (not forcibly updated) and with a tale to tell that we don’t know already.

Sometimes the themes and message of a movie from the 80s should exist in its own time capsule, and doesn’t work if you shoehorn it into the society and messaging of 2018. I don’t mind ‘inspired by’ movies or some of the belated sequels, as these can add to the world built in the first movie but still allow them both to stand alone.

I understand that the movie business is eager for franchises – for the financial security – but if a one shot movie is a huge success out of nowhere, rushing a sequel is rarely a good idea. TV too is not immune to this, as we saw with the rushed follow up to True Detective. I’d much rather either no sequel happened, or the film makers and writers were given as much time as they need to make one that feels true to the story instead of a cash grab.

I feel this annoyance most keenly when watching a documentary or a show like Drunk History, which has these amazing true stories of past events or people that would totally make an awesome movie. Why isn’t there a good (drama, serious) Rasputin movie? What about the deviously magical Alastair Crowley? War heroes like Daniel Inouye? Eleanor of Aquitaine? Ir’s not just historical dramas I’m looking for, but original stories. (Maybe they need to buy scripts from women, people of colour, differently abled and discover a whole new trove of stories!)

I think the box office is reflecting that original stories are resonating, from indie movies like The Big Sick and Lady Bird to bigger movies like LA LA Land and Moonlight.

It’s not a coincidence that these original movies did well at the awards, but even movies that were never going to be Oscar nominated can perform exceptionally financially (eg. The VVitch) despite not being part of a franchise or remake. I hope that that entertainment industry is brave enough to remember the one-shot movies from the 70s/80s/90s that were allowed to do really well and not get a sequel. There is definitely a place for big franchises, but not every movie should be shoehorned into one. 

 

 

 

Expat Existence: Accent Ownership

Although it’s been almost ten years since I moved to America, I still get regular reminders that I’m not from here. Most overtly, it’s my accent and my feelings towards its ‘difference’ has been somewhat of a rollercoaster.

It didn’t take long after moving here to discover some situations are made easier or less hassle to adopt an American accent to avoid comments, attracting attention/questions, or when you’re just not in the mood to humour the inevitable exchange. Sometimes its just helpful to do so as, for some reason, some people found my accent hard to understand sometimes. It’s accommodating and self-minimizing, probably only a habit of female expats as it’s more ingrained in us to adjust ourselves to the needs of others.

However, this accommodation and consideration evolves into a defiant ‘why should I change myself fuck that’ feeling and I swing back into my real accent and stop bothering to translate into ‘American’ terms like using Fahrenheit because it’s not my nature yet. At best, people find this charming but at worst, people get offended and confused. Although I sympathize with the confusion and then adjust myself  to ‘oh, when in Rome I guess’ and use the terms of the land I live in, if someone gets rude then I’m less likely to respond in English at all.

Because honestly, if I say “over the street” instead of “across the street” and you can’t use your fucking intelligence to work out the context then you deserve people to get annoyed at you. Many non-Americans have managed to navigate through context so stop being lazy and try to get out of your own head for once.

The final evolution of this thought process is me worrying that I’m starting to lose my accent. While I sound ‘other’ enough in this country for the comments to come every time I talk to a stranger, my family back home tells me that my accent is lessened. So, am I adrift in between the countries? Somewhere in the Atlantic? Is there now no country I can talk in where I sound like a native? How much of my identity is my accent?

Having moved around a lot as a kid, I have spent most of my life with an accent that was ‘other’, even in my own country (because regional accents are a thing) but having a unique accent isn’t as fun as it sounds. I now get assumed to be from random countries I’ve never been to, due to the odd blended I now have, and I’m exhausted from explaining myself. I’ve been explaining and apologizing for my accent for the majority of my life, and now when I’ve reached the point of ‘fuck it’ my accent has been influenced so much by moving that it no longer feels like my own.

 

(July 4th seemed like such a fitting day to share these feelings.)

Guilty Free

Whenever someone says that something is their “guilty pleasure”, I always ask why they feel guilty about it. If someone takes pleasure in killing animals or setting fires, then yes you probably should feel guilty about that, but if you’re talking about a tv show or song then save your guilt for shit that matters.

These guilty pleasures are usually things derided by society en masse, so it’s a “I should know better” kind of vibe. Like reality television or manufactured pop music, someone can acknowledge that it’s not “high concept” or “high art” and still enjoy it – but feels compelled to feel guilty about it. I know I shouldn’t, but I do! Don’t judge me as I would judge you if the roles were reversed. Why do we do this? Is it simply fear of what others might think, or is it because someone is not able to admit it to themselves for it might go against how they perceive themselves?

If a person, for example, loves rock music and defines themselves as a ‘rock music lover’ then they might describe their love for a Britney Spears song as a ‘guilty pleasure’. Is this because they want to downplay a sincere love for something in their peer group as to not lose respect, or is it because they are so narrowly defining themselves as a ‘rock music lover’ that to admit to themselves they like a pop song would mean potential soul searching?

As one of these reasons is external (appearances to others) and the other is internal (definition of self) then it might be worth looking at how the person presents this so-called guilty pleasure to themselves or how emphatically they might defend it. Do they begrudgingly like it against their better judgement, or embrace it as their ‘failing’? If the former, then maybe we need to question how we are judging things and if the latter then what else is counted among their character flaws.

Perhaps it is not as simple as one or the other but a tangled mess of how society is structured, tribalism, and classism. People are reluctant to venture beyond their self- or world- defined groups and express a passion in a vulnerable way for fear of retribution. This sounds like a dramatic reason behind calling “Real Housewives” your favourite show, but stop and think of what you believed the consequences would be if you did. Potentially, depending on your group, there is a risk of social shunning, being perceived as low-class or low-educated, or admitting to yourself that maybe you weren’t the person you thought you were. I’ve found people don’t like tugging on threads that would lead them down a path of self-evaluation, because there is a fear of what might be found.

I am probably only comfortable yanking on these threads because I’ve been unraveled several times during my brutal therapy sessions. There is enough guilt to go around without using it up on what’s on your playlist, and the world can be so horrible we shouldn’t downplay our pleasures. So fucking embrace what you love, love the person you are who loves it, and let yourself be happy.
There will always be something bigger to feel guilty about, so maybe enjoy what you can.

Nodding Blandly

Nostalgia is being peddled as currency, and no generation seems to be immune. Whether it’s the Boomers waxing poetic about a time that wasn’t really that great, or the 90s getting a reboot in the form of movies and fashion – we are all being sold a polished up memory.

As one of the kids born in the 80s, I am part of the generation to graduate into a recession and have Buzzfeed try to lure me with listicles of candy and television shows I should terribly miss. While I certainly share common experiences with those my age, there are some glaringly disjointed experiences I don’t share having grown up poor (by American standards) in another country.

Nodding blandly has become my go-to state when the conversation turns to reminiscing.  It tends to be the case that Americans think if something existed here, it existed everywhere but I can assure you that it is far from true. In all fairness, without having Sky or cable TV as a kid meant I was a little out of the loop in general because of the 4 channels our small TV (that was black and white until I was 6) received, none of them were MTV or Nickelodeon.

Due to the delay in pop culture reaching our shores, I found I had more common touch points with the Americans born 7-10 years before me so I often find myself straddling two generations in a peculiar manner. I don’t resent the American-centric nostalgia I’m sold because this is America and what else would I expect? Generations are generalizations, and I wouldn’t want to be put into a box in any case.

I just want to let other expats and foreign-born America-dwellers to know you are not alone. When a song comes on at a 80s/90s night and you have no idea what it is because despite the whoops around you, it had no success beyond the US: you are not alone. I’ve been there and I know how awkward as fuck it feels. Nod blandly unless you want to hear “oh my god don’t you know this?!” or “but this was such a big hit here!” or “come on, are you sure?”. When the talk turns to actors who were on that totally popular kids show, nod blandly because trust me you don’t really care and the explanation will just open a can of worms to more things you don’t need to know about.

Sometimes it’s worth asking about, because it can explain how and why things are the way they are. However, most of the time it is best to nod blandly and just look it up on the internet later. Nostalgia is a big emotional trigger and it is often easier to look it up without invoking a passionately intense explanation from someone which can sometimes leave you feeling stupid or vaguely unwelcome for asking.

Nod blandly now. Internet later.

Oh, make me over

Browse any drugstore and you will find several eyeshadow palettes that are curated specifically for an eye colour. This one will make your blue eyes pop! This one will bring out the rich tones in your brown eyes! You get the gist.

As someone who likes to take all the help she can get with makeup, I would always give these a once over and search for a palette dedicated to making my grey eyes… be the best grey they can be. However, never have I ever found one. I’ve seen several ones for green eyes which I thought were rarer than grey eyes, and the ones for blue eyes do not translate to grey. Are grey eyes not as common as I thought? Is there a secret vendetta against those of us with cloud-hued peepers? What do you want grey eyes to do in terms of popping or enriching?

Since the jury is still out on that secret vendetta, I decided to do some research and put together some colors that are either scientifically sound via a colour wheel, or are shades that I – a person with grey eyes – have had success with. Grey has so many shades, it was hard to try and encompass them all, so get ready for some trial and error. For what it’s worth, the shade of my eyes is dark grey but they do have the grey-specific ability to look different shades when I wear certain colors or during diverse weather.

gray eyes

The general consensus and advice from beauty and design blogs was as follows:

  1. Purples, blues and greens will bring out the blue tint to your grey eyes.
  2. Warm browns and peaches will highlight any flecks of hazel if you have any (I don’t, sadly. That sounds like a lovely combination!)
  3. Greys and smokey hues are also a winner so go and get that smokey eye! In my experience if you use a grey hue similar to your eye shade, it helps to have a bold eyeliner look to divide them up a bit.
  4. If you want a neutral shadow, but still want to emphasize a tint then use colored eyeliner. I love how just doing your bottom waterline with a tight green line can work wonders on grey eyes.
  5. If you have paler grey eyes, avoid red or pinks.
  6. Your ability to pull off bright shades is not affected by your eye colour but rather your skin tone. I shall leave you to discover what works there!

Of course, this all is nothing compared to needing foundation and skin makeup to be inclusive so I am happy to wait. Especially since I can create my own now! If only foundation shades were so easy and readily available!

“Just hair”

I’m not sure where my hair is in that supposed 7-year cycle, but I can only hope the next 7 bring better luck. Did I break a mirror or maybe piss of the Follicle Gods? I am sure most people have a ‘grass is always greener’ relationship with their hair. Wishing it were thicker, longer, darker, lighter, straighter, curlier, whatever, from what they already have. As with many of our other insecurities, it’s very probable that our hair worries are just not noticed by other people (who are also respectively fretting about their hair). Oh, it’s “just hair”! Just a silly thing only women preoccupy themselves with, right?

Maybe it’s more than that tho.

Society tells us that the ideal is that thick, shiny hair that can be pulled into a big messy bun, preferably blonde but immaculate highlights will do. If spending hours of time and money on your hair is something you want to do, then I will support you, but I can’t get on board with a society practically forcing women into treatments, bleaching, relaxing, and the nagging feeling the hair we were born with isn’t good enough. Is this us overly worrying about our ‘do’ or multimillion dollar industry dedicated to controlling the bodies of women?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the changes I want for my hair are decisions made by me or the culture I live in. Do I want thicker hair because I feel my fine hair is inadequate, or because I personally want more volume?
Yes, I would make my hair naturally thicker and longer if I could. I would give a wave to my strands that hang as straight as if I use a straightener. I freely admit to having emotional breakdowns when my hair just refuses to cooperate with what I want to do.

Hair is a self-expression, so it’s pretty important to work out why you want the hair you do. Nobody else should have a say in how you do your hair, and we should be free from the hair-related stereotypes (there are quite a lot when you stop to think about it!) to decide too. There is more toxicity surrounding hair than just sulphates, and we should be less quick to buy into past ideas or blindly follow what we’re told are beauty norms.

We should talk more about how pregnancy, illness or addiction can alter your hair forever but that it’s ok. We should talk more about how touching hair that does not belong to you is not ok – and why it’s not bloody ok. Some people will never be able to achieve that shiny, ‘rich girl’ hair but that it’s ok. It should be a generally accepted rule that “is that your own hair?” is always answered with “yes” because it’s either their own hair or hair they own. Instagram and Pinterest are not always real – there is a lot of Photoshop and wigs out there masquerading as hair that is attainable without such aids. If you have to wash your hair every day, then don’t let the blogs make you feel bad about it. If you only have to wash it once every fortnight, then that’s cool too. Some hair does not belong to you, and you need to respect that. The hair style someone has may not have been chosen by them (due to illness or abuse, for example). It is worth saying again: do not ask to touch or touch without asking unless that person is paying you to touch their hair. 

It’s your hair, and whether you’re male or female shouldn’t matter in what you decide to do with it. How it is styled should not affect how people view or treat you. It’s all very well to say these things, but we need to start individually following through. How many times do you make guesses about a person because of their hair? Maybe more than you think.

I can’t change the world, society at large, or the hair industry, but I can change myself. I can question why I hate my hair, and what influences my opinion to your hair. I can try to challenge stereotypes or assumptions when I see them being made. We all have bad hair days, but maybe we will have less of them when we challenge why we think it’s bad.

 

Expat Existence: Sizing Up

There is this perception in America that if something exists here, then it exists everywhere else too. There is a almost always a look of disappointment of their faces when they discover I grew up with biscuits (or “cookies”) that weren’t Oreos (and were IMHO better than Oreos), without Target or Walmart (ASDA was the closest thing?), and most of our kids TV shows were completely different.

But I’m not here to knock on the “if it’s in America, it’s everywhere in the world because America IS THE WORLD!” mentally that is hopefully waning due to the Internet informing them Hershey’s is shite, and WTF is an Olive Garden.

I’m here to explain shopping is tricky when you move here, not just because all the stores are different, but because the US uses an entirely different sizing structure. Hopefully, my explanation and conversions can help anyone else new to the country or even any American heading off to Europe themselves.

First, the shoe sizes are totally different and annoying not consistent. I made a little chart based on my experiences, but there are a few caveats.

shoe sizes(women)

So, I was a size 7 in the UK which always translated nicely to a Euro 40. This meant that I was a size 9 in the US in “mall brands” like Nine West, Steve Madden or Jeffrey Campbell. However, some department stores translated a Euro 40 to a US size 10 (so adjust everything up one notch) which meant shopping online could be a bit of a crapshoot when they just listed the US size.

Sites like Zappos have ‘sizing converters’ like the graphic I made, but it doesn’t take into account that some of the brands they stock do the wacky size down move. The best advice is to get familiar with the brands IRL so you can shop online more easily. Note to the ladies: if you are buying shoes from the mens department then the Euro sizes are the same and the US mens size will correspond to your UK size. So I’m a US 7 when shopping in the mens section (a good place for sneakers!).

Where the shoe sizes wanted to sound bigger in the US compared to the UK, the opposite is true for the clothing. I can not even attempt a size chart for this since no store is consistent (true in both the UK and US!) and even jeans sized with numbers like 25 to denote a measurement aren’t always reliable either. Is it also my imagination, but are more clothes sized using XS, S, M, L these days?

General tips:
1. UK people, size ‘up’ for shoes and size ‘down’ for clothes.
2. Sales tax is added AT THE TILL (cash register) so remember that little addition to the total.
3. Sales associates are way friendlier in the US. I know this feels like they’re getting up in your business, but just tell them you’re browsing if you want to be left alone.
4. As always, if someone was helping you do mention their name to give them the commission. It’s just common courtesy.
5. High end department stores are usually the best for consistent shoe size calculators.
6. Yes, even your bra size is different. I’ve not purchased a bra in the UK for many years so I’m not a good authority. Just try a bunch on, ok?