Saturday, April 18, 2020

Top 10 Podcasts (COVID Edition)

Now I've been staying at home a lot more, I've been relying on podcasts to stay sane. Though I haven't made a blog post in almost a year, and this isn't beauty content, I thought I'd share some of my favourites. I'm mainly into "culture" podcasts with a dash of current affairs and psychology.

Slate's Culture Gabfest
My #1, forever and always. I don't know how else to describe Culture Gabfest except is it truly one of the highlights of my life. I never want to stop hearing what Steve, Dana and Julia have to say. It's almost unbelievable that week in, week out, they produce one hour of perfect, wonderful listening. And it's free!

Keep It
So entertaining. So relevant to my pop culture interests. Louis's witty, keen observations and Ira's bursts of mellifluous, flowing laughter in every podcast are a balm to my soul. Aida is settling nicely into the mix and I much (MUCH) prefer her to the previous female co-host who was just a little too prone to ranting and unrelenting negativity.

Still Processing
A relatively shorter podcast, but very well conceived and produced. There's a genuine rapport between Jenna and Wesley, two empathetic, urban, politically/socially engaged individuals, as they discuss and mentally unpack the topic at hand. (By the way, they both have such pleasant-sounding, perfectly calibrated voices.) The level of analysis and critique is a cut above the rest.

Armchair Expert
If you're into podcasts, I doubt you need any introduction to this one. The best thing about Armchair Expert is the loving, playful, close-as-close-can-be friendship between Monica and Dax. Like, truly #goals. It's the backbone of the show and makes it what it is. I love how Monica has slowly been coming into her own and sharing more of her personality and life with the listeners, including her podcast Monica & Jess Love Boys (also GREAT). Dax is honest, curious, open, self-deprecating, warm, and a great interviewer.

Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend
It was this podcast that finally made me a bona fide Conan fan. I paid $150 to see him at the State Theatre in Sydney last year and I was there because I love Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend. It's hilarious, he has the best guests, and Sona is a breath of fresh air and the perfect foil to Conan. There was an extended comedic bit that Conan did at the end of one of the episodes which had me bowled over, crying in laughter. The part with Wanda Sykes imitating a 911 call reporting a murder and the caller feigning innocence is something I had to go back and find just to listen to again and laugh and laugh and laugh. But it's not all just fun and games. The episode with Stephen Colbert is truly wonderful as they share stories about their Catholic upbringing. Despite acting like an arrogant, self-obsessed overlord and denigrating Sona and Matt constantly, you always know deep down inside, Conan radiates thoughtfulness and humanity.

Slate's Spoiler Specials
Sometimes listening to Spoiler Specials is better than the experience of the actual movie. I listen to this podcast when I have no intention to watch the movie they're spoiling, when I'm too chicken to watch it and need the whole plot uncovered and explained first (Hereditary), or right after I've watched a movie or TV show and want to hear the thoughts of the hosts. I love Dana and the guests that she has on are always so articulate and engaging.

Blank Check
Yes, sometimes it's just a touch too self-indulgently meandering, and it really is some "nerdy shit", but there's an undeniable charm to Blank Check's unedited, shooting-the-shit-with-friends vibe. After a while, you like the fact you can understand the in-jokes, despite how close they dance to tedium (but perhaps that's the point?). Griffin's knowledge of the box office is actually ridiculous and scarily impressive. Both David and Griffin just know SO much and love movies and are the best of buddies, and that is a joy. Also, from this podcast I've discovered Griffin's sister Romilly, and umm ... is a 22 year old allowed to be this cool?

Making Sense with Sam Harris
Not every episode is something I jump to listen to, but this is a good option for a dose of even-keeled, largely academic discourse. I know this podcast is a favourite of Dax and Monica's (along with Malcolm Gladwell's Revisionist History), and the few episodes I have listened to have definitely been worthwhile, including two recent ones dedicated to COVID-19.

Off Camera with Sam Jones
For the sheer detail and depth that the featured actors go into about their careers, successes and disappointments, processes and methods, and how they face their fears, Off Camera is in a league of its own. I can imagine how inspiring it is to anyone wanting to 'make it' in the film industry. Memorable episodes include Emily Mortimer, Javier Bardem and D'Arcy Caden.

Staying In with Emily & Kumail
With just five full episodes so far, Staying In has become a fast new favourite. I mean, first of all, it's topical, being about the couple's experience while quarantined in the time of coronavirus - and hence the most relatable to what we're all going through. It's revolutionary to hear Kumail talk about what made him cry during the week in a way that normalises male expression of emotion that isn't just anger. But most of all, the relationship between Emily and Kumail is truly just so beautiful that it just gives you hope there is such a thing as 'the one', because they seem to be exactly that to each other.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Quickie Satisfaction

I have to admit I've been following the Jaclyn Cosmetics lipstick drama a little too closely (like, watched all the YouTube videos, read all the Twitter and reddit threads, you name it). Whatever your conclusions might be, the whole thing has inspired me to revisit lipsticks. Jaclyn Hill claims lipsticks were her first makeup love and that much I share with her. If you read this blog, you'll know ― I love lipsticks! I've gone off them the past couple of years as my general interest in makeup has waned, but the 80+ tubes I have lying around at home are a testament to my past obsession. My most recent proper lipstick purchase was sometime late last year, when I ordered Colourpop Lux Lipstick in Quickie. The creamy but pigmented formula and the peachy nude shade is what I imagine Jaclyn Cosmetics could be ... though at this rate I most likely will never find out with all the issues with the launch and the exorbitant international shipping cost.

Colourpop is a company that continues to suck me in, though I haven't been thrilled with most of what I've ordered from them. These Lux Lipsticks however, from my experience with Quickie, could be a turning point (or a firm hit among a sea of 'meh' and misses). First, the price point is great, as always. I ordered mine for $6 USD, though I just looked at their website and they're $7.50 now (when did that happen?). That's a 25% price hike ... which while still affordable, seems like a big increase.

Having said that, if I found a colour that I particularly liked and thought would be flattering on me, I'd have no problem paying $7.50 USD for one Lux Lipstick (though I usually order when they have a free international shipping promotion or when I have enough I want to buy to qualify for free shipping). The packaging is absolutely beautiful and the lipstick component feels well made and not cheap or poor quality. I have to admit the first thing I thought of when I saw the rose gold exterior and star motif was Charlotte Tilbury, but hey, even if a blatant rip off, it unquestionably works to make the thing aesthetically pleasing. The formulation is opaque, not too drying, and creamy without being overly thick. It reminds me a bit of MAC Amplified finish. It's a satin finish with decent lasting power so long as you're not eating/drinking constantly. This particular shade does have a tendency to settle into lip lines and look almost too pigmented when freshly applied, but after a while when it wears off slightly, the problem solves itself and the lipstick looks more natural and evenly applied.

The only thing that prevents me from LOVING the lipstick is the colour. It's a touch too light and pastel for my skin tone. It's one of those lipsticks that makes your teeth look more yellow when you smile. It washes my complexion out and is more a nude lipstick to complement a particular makeup look, as opposed to something you slap on without much thought to add a flattering colour to your lips. I would've loved this shade a few years ago when I was crazy about pastels and peach, but I've evolved, learned from my mistakes, and know better. Now, I prefer something a tad darker, with more of a brownish nude/rose slant. Basically, if Colourpop could please dupe NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Abu Dhabi in Lux Lipstick form, my search would be over.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Prime, Glow, Glitter

All right, let's finish up with the last of the recently purchased products.

Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base

Rating: 7/10

The only reason I bought this was because pre-Christmas, Bobbi Brown were having a free full size highlighter with $80 purchase. On top of that, American Express had a $20 cashback offer on purchases of $80 or more on the Bobbi Brown website. So basically, I could get two full size products worth $165 for $65.

I picked the Vitamin Enriched Face Base as I couldn't bring myself to buy more makeup, and reviews online were generally positive. I'd seen it featured in a few YouTube videos as well, but ordinarily would never bring myself to pay $85 for a moisturiser/primer. I do enjoy the citrus scent and the packaging is suitably luxe (though the jar is now plastic rather than glass), but in terms of texture and performance, it leaves me underwhelmed. It's quite thick and while not greasy, sits on the heavier side of creams. I don't notice it doing anything in terms of improving the application or wear of my foundation. I prefer more serum-like/liquid, lighter-textured products for priming, like Eve Lom Flawless Radiance Primer or the Too Faced Hangover Primer, which help meld the foundation and produce a translucent luminosity to the skin. The Vitamin Enriched Face Base reminds me more of a thicker night cream than a daytime moisturiser that doubles as a primer. A little bit does go a long way, so even with regular use, the jar should last a while.

Bobbi Brown Highlighting Powder in Afternoon Glow

Rating: 8/10

This was the free product that I selected with my Vitamin Enriched Face Base. I've always been curious about Bobbi Brown highlighters, but they're so eyewateringly expensive that they never seemed worth the money. Afternoon Glow is a beautiful, ethereal pink highlighter that appears to have a white pearl sheen on the skin. The way it sits on the skin is a testament to its quality, in that you can't detect product sitting on the skin and it doesn't emphasise texture or appear dry and chunky at the end of the day. The texture is similar to MAC Extra Dimension Skinfinish, Anastasia Beverly Hills Amrezy highlighter or Laura Mercier Face Illuminator, in that it's not super creamy or densely pigmented (like Becca Shimmering Skin Perfectors, theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer, ABH Sun Dipped/Sugar Glow Kits), but more on the drier side with no fallout. I have tried it with numerous brushes and I like Real Techniques Setting Brush best for more precise placement, and Real Techniques Blush Brush for a more seamless, all over glow. If using the Blush Brush, I prefer to apply highlighter before blush, so I can blend my blush into my highlighter with less obvious demarcation between the two.

Marc Jacobs See-quins Glam Glitter Eyeshadow in Topaz Flash

Rating: 10/10

I basically never buy single shadows, especially those that cost $36 a pop, but when I saw these featured on Instagram and in YouTube videos, I knew they were something special. I literally have nothing to complain about when it comes to this elegant glittergasm of an eyeshadow. It is simply perfection. The multicoloured glitters are everything, it's so festively sparkly, there is no pesky fallout, it's easy to apply with the fingers, it glimmers all day and all night. Limited edition for the holiday — I would advise checking these out if you haven't already ASAP.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Had to Have Minis

The second last installment, I promise! (Also see parts 1 & 2.)

Stila 3D Dazzle Glitter & Glow Liquid Eye Shadow Set

Rating: 6/10

After missing out on the previous incarnations of this set, I was determined to make this set of three mini Magnificent Metals Glitter & Glow Liquid Eyeshadows mine. This one comes with Golden Girl ("duochrome golden fawn"), Perlina ("duochrome opalescent white, bright blue, pink and purple pearl") and Kitten Karma ("champagne with silver and copper sparkle").

l-r: Perlina, Golden Girl, Kitten Karma

I found these to be a relative disappointment. First, Golden Girl (the shade unique to this set) is really sheer and at the same time, quite similar in colour to Kitten Karma. It's basically a sparser, more watery version of Kitten Karma minus the chunkier silver glitter. Second, while I was strongly drawn to the iridescent glitter in Perlina, and admittedly it's more pigmented than the similar MAC Dazzleshadow Liquid in Not Afraid to Sparkle which I recently purchased on holiday, it has a strong white, pearly base which isn't the most flattering against my yellow skin tone. Kitten Karma is the most reflective and glitter-dense, but I have similar, albeit less intense, cream shadows like Colourpop Super Shock Shadow in Amaze and Australis AC/ME Eyeshadow in Bronzonce.

The main problem with these liquid shadows is when applied over other shadows as a glitter topper, they dissolve what's underneath. When I placed this over a powder eyeshadow and then tried to blend it, a bare patch of eyelid emerged. The only way I've gotten around this is by taking a tiny amount of product onto my fingertip, then gently dabbing it my lid, making sure I don't blend into or rub anything that's already been laid down. If you apply directly with the applicator onto your bare lid, there's less of an issue, but it does set fairly quickly so you'll need to work swiftly to blend out the edges to your satisfaction before it's too late.

The packaging is beautiful and the set is good value for money compared with buying one full size shadow, but I wasn't in love with either the colours or the application. Combined with the two MAC Dazzleshadow Liquid Eyeshadows I purchased, I can safely say I'm done with these glitter topper/liquid shadows. I'm sticking with creams and powders. Way less temperamental.

Bite Beauty Sweet Treats: Holiday Hangover Lip Care Set

Rating: 8/10

Containing 5g of the Agave Lip Mask in Lavender, a mini Agave Lip Balm (2g) and a sample of the Agave Sugar Lip Scrub, this is a bargain at $19. I've always wanted to try the Agave Lip Mask but a tube costs $40 which I simply cannot bring myself to fork out for A LIP BALM. However, this duo of smaller sizes in miniaturised packaging is the perfect introduction at a much more palatable price point. I love the lavender scent of the Agave Lip Mask, though it does impart a tiny bit of a blueish-purplish tint to the lips. Nothing too noticeable, but I would've preferred completely clear. The Agave Lip Mask is comfortably plush and cushiony in texture and more like Lanolips than Kiehl's/Carmex/Blistex/Vaseline. It also tastes sugary, if that's your jam. The mini lip balm has pleasing matte packaging and is adorably tiny, and with such a small amount of product, there's a high likelihood I might actually be able to finish it, unlike the 1091829 other lip balms I have lying around, some dating back to the Dark Ages. It's a bit of a harder texture but does soften upon contact with the lips. I love the scrumptious vanilla scent and I've found it makes an excellent base for matte liquid lipsticks as it's slightly tacky and moisturising but not shiny or greasy. The lip scrub sample was packed with largeish sugar granules and oils, but I didn't find it to be anything transformative on the lips and you can get similar products for much cheaper (e.g. Lush).
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