Thursday, October 11, 2012

October 2012 Birchbox

One of my favorite things about the first part of the month is getting my Birchbox. While I've had varying degrees of luck with the products, I'm always excited to get my hot pink package in the mail. This month, some subscribers could opt into a box done in conjunction with, a lifestyle website by Gwyneth Paltrow. While I'm indifferent to Paltrow, I figured that opting into the goop box would at least get me some high-end products (seriously, there's nothing on that site that isn't ridiculously overpriced).

I received my box earlier this week, and (with one big exception) the products are okay but don't inspire great love or hatred in me. In fact, my reaction to the box is similar to the reaction I have to Gwyneth herself. They are okay, but they seem expensive and overrated.

The box contained four products and one lifestyle extra:
  • A beautyblender, which is an egg-shaped, hot pink sponge that is supposed to apply foundation or tinted moisturizer in a way that mimics an airbrushed application. (a pack of two - $25.95)
  • Chantecaille Brilliant Gloss is a pretty coral/peach color. (full size - $33.00)
  • DDF Wrinkle Resist Plus Pore Minimizer, which is a serum that supposedly "fills in pores and wrinkles for instantly smoother skin. (full size - $85.00)
  • Marie Veronique Organics Anti-Aging Oil, which is supposed to fight wrinkles and improve skin tone. (full size - $80.00)
  • Luna LemonZest bar (my lifestyle extra)
First off, I'm stoked about the beautyblender! Earlier this year, some Birchboxes had the beautyblender, and I was green with envy when I saw this (and I didn't receive one). This is by far the best product in this month's box, and I plan on using it quite a bit. The only concern I have is that, after one or two days of use, I'm starting to see some wear on the sponge. To use the beautyblender, I am supposed to soak it in water and squeeze out the excess so that the sponge is damp. I'm a little worried that all of this squeezing will result in the beautyblender getting worn out before its time.

I've also tried all of the other products, and I like the gloss well enough. However, as someone who would much rather receive makeup products than skincare, I'm disappointed that I received TWO skincare products (and anti-aging products at that!).

All that said, I'm still excited about the beautyblender, and the inclusion of that product makes me feel like the box was worth the $10 price.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Literary Halloween Costumes: 2012 Edition

Fall is in the air, and the forecast on Saturday even mentioned the possibility of a snowflake or two in my neck of the woods. In other words, autumn is here in full force, and Halloween will be here before we know it. I'm actually not much for Halloween or dressing up, but if I were to get a costume, I'd want it to have a literary theme (I'm that much of a nerd). Without any further ado, here are some suggestions:

Ebeneezer Scrooge: Yes, he's really a Christmas character, but he is also a very recognizable figure outside of the Yuletide holiday. Just get yourself a top hat, a suit (or, better yet, a coat with tails), a cane, and a sour disposition. Go around and say "Bah, humbug" all night. Or, if you want to go out with a partner, you could dress up in Scrooge's nighttime getup (nightdress or pajamas, a robe, slippers, and nightcap) and have your partner dress up like one of the ghosts that visit Scrooge. Depending on your partner's whims and physical appearance, you might go with Jacob Marley (dusty, old-fashioned clothes and chains), the Ghost of Christmas Past (depictions vary, but one could just go with a traditional ghost costume or ethereal white clothing), the Ghost of Christmas Present (jolly and large, this ghost always seems to wear green and gold velvet robes and sport an impressive beard), or the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (get a Death costume and call it a day).

Antony & Cleopatra: If you and your significant other need some last-minute costumes for a party, Antony and Cleopatra might serve your needs. For a spur-of-the-moment costume, he could get away with a toga (made from a plain white bedsheet - no prints or, god forbid, pastels) and sandals, and she could wear a long white or gold dress, gold necklaces, a gold headband (or headpiece), and sandals. However, with a little planning and foresight, you could get some proper armor for him and a proper gown and wig for her at a costume shop. Depending on your mood, Cleopatra could carry around a fake snake to serve as her asp.

Anna Karenina: If an elegant masquerade is on your Halloween to-do list and you want to go the glamorous (as opposed to gory) route this Halloween, you might consider this beautiful but doomed heroine. While her clothing might not be that easy to find (think fur hats and capes, jewels, and fancy gowns), you'd look glorious and you'd be warm. Additionally, with the new film adaptation coming out this year, you'll be able to glean lots of ideas  from the pictures of Keira Knightly looking tragically beautiful (or perhaps that is beautifully tragic). Just stay away from trains on Halloween - there's no need to follow the story to the letter.

The Snow Queen: Hans Christian Anderson's Snow Queen is another elegant, if more recognizable, option.  White clothing is a must here, but the look might range from a white fur coat (if you have one handy) to a long white dress and gloves. Make your hair white (either by using temporary spray or by covering your hair with baby powder and then spraying hairspray on it to keep it in place) and your features as pale as possible. For an added effect, you might add some silver glitter to your hair, face, and body. Just don't go crazy - you want the glitter to suggest iciness, not "got too crazy with the testers at Claire's."

Need more suggestions? Just check out my previous Halloween-themed posts to get ideas for literary-themed Halloween parties and more costumes.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Why Save PBS? A Site Helps Us Count the Ways...

I'm getting back on the PBS soapbox today to post an excellent infographic from the insightful (and provocatively named) F*ck Yeah PBS. While PBS is not to everyone's tastes, it does provide a necessary and important service. Furthermore, I like to think that PBS and NPR both address an idea that is fundamentally American, which is that arts, education, and culture should be available to everyone. Anyway, the site had this wonderful infographic that explains why PBS is so important:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Why PBS is Important

I opted not to watch the first presidential debate this week for three reasons:
  1. It wasn't going to change my mind at all
  2. I needed to grade papers and wanted to stay in a relatively good mood for the experience (otherwise, I knew my students would suffer the consequences)
  3. It would make me angry
Although I didn't watch any of the debate, I certainly heard a lot about them. Besides being pleasantly surprised by my students (who not only watched the debate but asked me questions about it and brought up points made by the candidates on education), I also heard about Mitt Romney's ridiculous idea to cut federal funding for PBS because of some misguided notion that the subsidy PBS receives is what is causing the nation's fiscal problems. 

At first, I thought this claim was a joke. For months, conservatives have talked up Romney's business sense. However, if he thinks that the money that PBS gets is really pushing the U.S. economy down the path of no return, then he can't be any good with finance, money, or budget.

Time, among other sites and news outlets, has noted Romney's bizarre (and likely ill-advised) decision to go after Big Bird by name in the debate. Romney has also sparked outrage from people ranging from the head of PBS to a (supposed) eight-year-old girl who wrote a letter voicing her displeasure. LeVar Burton, the former host of Reading Rainbow, has also criticized the move and called it "an attack on children" during an interview with Soledad O'Brien. Burton makes some excellent points on the issue:

However, my favorite defense of PBS comes from Mr. Rogers. In 1969, President Nixon wanted to cut the funding for PBS in half. In order to prevent this from happening, Mr. Rogers appeared before Congress. In a scene that would do Frank Capra proud, he uses his kindness, sincerity, and good sense to disarm the head of the committee and save PBS's funding.