Magic

The Magpie Spirit: Collecting Experiences and Speaking Truth

Children are completely genuine. They live entirely by feeling, experiencing each second as something new and precious. There’s nothing calculated or controlled, nothing born out of expectation or fear. Anxieties and insecurities haven’t infected them yet; those are parasites we pick up along the way to adulthood, passed along as we touch the dead dreams and aspirations of those who came before us.
I have always been sensitive to the world around me. My empathy was never dulled by experience, I simply grew better at hiding it. Unfortunately, this also means I collected fears and worries, plucking them from other people as I learned what was acceptable, what was not. We all want to be talented, capable, beautiful, loved, and we pursue those adjectives with dogged determination, comparing ourselves to everyone else vying for the title. We all want to measure up.
But it’s a draining hunt for validation, and we lose the emotional energy it takes to be any one of those things. Worse yet, we lose sight of what and who we really are.
I have not spoken my truth. My adult life has been defined by ideals, standards I’ve set for myself, models posed by other people. In the last few weeks, I’ve been forced to confront the fact that I’ve been horribly dishonest with myself. There are a lot of things I am not, and will never be, and have tried so hard for so long to become.
I am not quiet, I am not complacent. I am not insincere, I am not calculated.
But there are a lot of things I am and have not embraced. There are so many things inherent in our natures that we push aside as we’re told they’re not conducive to the adult world. We live according to the fears and failings of those before us. And it exhausts me.
I am sensitive. I feel everything. I cry for people I’ve never met and animals I haven’t seen because they don’t understand the cruelty they face. My throat gets tight when I meet elderly couples who have lived their lives side by side, and I tear up reading about couples in love. I believe there’s a reason in everything but still lament the hard lessons learned. With every move I make, I feel the magnetic pull of the universe around me, the hum and buzz of frenetic energy, the overwhelming collective emotion and experience that unites us. I believe in magic, the push and pull of energy that shapes our fates, brings us closer, drives us apart.
I see beauty in dark places. I understand the awesome attraction of the sublime, the terrifying nature of ecstasy. I know that life is a cycle, that history repeats if we do not learn the lessons it offers. I see few absolutes in the world, and opposites are rarely incompatible.
I rarely carry an umbrella because I believe we’re meant to feel the rain. I’m not a good dancer but I can’t help being moved by music, physically and emotionally. I want to dance in the street and laugh until my lungs can’t take it and kiss the words from another person’s mouth and lose myself in the words it takes to appreciate a moment. I relish the freedom of interstate driving at night and the spontaneity of 24-hour diners. I think the strongest communications take place without names, that we connect at a soul level without a need to identify. I believe we are given only what we can handle, but feel that we manifest much of our lives according to our fears and desires.
I do not want to continue to manifest fear. I will not be ruled by anxiety and panic. I am learning that I am enough, that everything I need is all ready inside of me, and that can be shared but never stolen. Energy is infectious, and I want to transmit strength and optimism.
We are born with infinite potential, the ability to bend and shape ourselves into anything we want. We have wings to spread and soar, or shade and shelter–but we also clip those feathers, condemn ourselves to a flightless existence. But the thing with feathers is they can grow back. We’ve merely cut them, trimmed them into uselessness, decoration. They still exist under our skin, ready to pin through out pores, to grow back full and fantastic. With each budding plume, we regrow potential. As we leave them to unfurl, we reclaim some of the power we relinquished when we were told it wasn’t ours to have. But we are not owned by anyone, and we were born to break free. I’m beginning to allow my feathers to grow back, resisting the urge to pluck them out as they pin, trying to ignore the pain as they burst through the skin. Pain is a necessary part of growth, and I’m learning that it’s okay to reach out to others when it feels unbearable: chances are, they’ve experienced it too. But the remarkable part of the budding feathers we grow is that other’s see them. Others are inspired by our struggles and triumphs and begin to grow their feathers, too. Once, we were rare birds, nearly extinct, completely transformed by expectations–but now the world sees more and more of us. We flock, drawn towards the power and freedom of others. Do not be afraid to let yourself plume. Grow your feathers, spread your wings, and make the world colourful with your splendour. Rest assured, I’ll be doing the same thing right here.
 
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Magic

Glamour for Personal Power: Charmed Lipstick Spell for Manifestation

Charmed Lipstick
I parked my car in the far reaches of the mall lot because I could no longer see through the tears to drive. It was 2012 and my life was a very different place—everything and everyone around me seemed to be falling apart. My family was experiencing the loss of my grandfather, my mother had been away dealing with the situation, my relationship was at a serious crossroads, and my career was painfully unfulfilling. In the course of six months, my life had turned upside-down and I couldn’t understand why. I was stuck in the fog, blinded by what I could only see as misfortune, and I felt completely powerless.
But I always believed in magic, and like so many others, I fell back on my faith to get myself through the crisis. I balled up the sleeve of my sweater, swiped the mascara tears off my face, and got out of the car.
When I was little, I had gruesome night terrors. Most of the time, I was too afraid to even sleep, cowering under the blankets until I saw the light break through the blinds. Once the light began to grow, I could safely run down the hall, jump into bed with my parents and sleep comfortably. One night, my mother brought in a set of white-and-pink polka dot printed sheets and began to make up the bed. “These,” she told me very seriously, “are magic sheets. As long as they’re on the bed, you can only have good dreams. Nothing can hurt you, nothing scary can see you, and you can sleep without worrying about monsters.” And I believed her—it worked. Whether my mother charmed the sheets themselves or simply knew that setting the intention would be enough for five-year-old me to work the magic on my own, I don’t know, but in 2012 I felt it was time for another enchantment to propel me forward.
  Urban Decay Vice Lipstick in Junkie
I marched into Sephora, purchased the most outrageous lipstick I could find, and took it home to work some magic. I anointed it with oil, set it on my altar while I burned candles, ran it through the smoke of incense, surrounded it with crystals, all the while telling the Universe (and consequently myself) that as long as I wore that lipstick, I would never have a bad day. The next day, when I pulled it off the altar and applied it generously, I had the best day I’d had in a very long time. Every day afterwards, as long as I wore that lipstick, the tensions and traumas I’d experienced grew farther and farther away. I moved forward.
Since then, I’ve charmed a number of objects for assorted reasons. I performed a similar ritual with a bottle of perfume to secure a job I desperately wanted, and after wearing it to the interview received a call back less than three days after. This summer, I found myself at another impasse. I charmed another lipstick, even more outrageous than the last, and wore it near daily. That lipstick stained glasses across the country, kissed tombs and shrines in New Orleans, and smeared on handkerchiefs while I worked through the emotions and searched for the magic that would put my life back together. And before the summer was over, things turned around.
I’m not saying that lipstick can fix a life. Lipstick can’t bring back the dead or win the lottery. But lipstick can be a bold reminder of our personal power. It can become a signature, a personal power object that we use to remind ourselves of our inner and outer beauty, our natural magnetism. We can use it like a lightning rod to amplify our energy, or project an image of the person we’re trying to embody. Lipstick can be a compelling glamour

Below is an outline of the ritual I use to charm objects like this. Feel free to adapt it to your needs, use the tools you feel speak to your purpose, do as much or as little as you feel you should. Unlike “High” Ritual Magic, witchcraft is rarely by the book. For me, spell craft has always been like prayer—everyone does it differently, for different purposes, to different ends.

Charmed Lipstick Ritual Supplies

Materials:

For this ritual, I recommend using a candle in a color that corresponds with your intention, a selection of crystals to raise energy, essential oils or blends for attraction, offertory incense, and a blend of herbs or flowers specific to your intention. You can focus simply on attracting positive energy and events, building towards your purpose, or specify that you want to enhance your sexual attraction or draw prosperity. Additionally, I recommend the absolute most outrageous lipstick you can tolerate—this summer, I used Urban Decay’s Junkie, a sparkling reptilian green. I’m sure this would work with a more demure daily-wear shade but I can guarantee you there’s nothing like a few swipes of rainbow-colored lipstick to make you feel like a totally badass witch, ready to conquer the world.

Process:

I always begin by cleansing my space. For me, this involves burning sage and wafting the smoke into each corner of the space, and cleaning my instruments with sea salt. You may choose to take a bath with salt and herbs, to dress in something clean that makes you feel powerful. Whatever helps you raise your energy and get into the headspace of manifesting magic.
Charmed Lipstick Ritual
Take your herbs and scatter them around the space. For this ritual, I used rose petals collected from bouquets I’ve been given, but I’ve worked with herbs and flowers purchased specifically from magical suppliers and corner bodegas as well. Take the candle and hold it between your hands. Feel it grow warm as it absorbs your body heat, and understand that it is also absorbing your energy. Focus on your intention. See yourself with whatever you desire: imagine the devastating Instagram snap you’re going to take, envision yourself taking the hand of the partner you’re trying to draw, picture yourself writing that rent check and not worrying about whether it will clear or how you’ll buy groceries afterwards. With this still in your mind’s eye, take your chosen oil and anoint yourself: start with your wrists, drawing lines inwards towards your body, willing what you want to be pulled in towards you. Draw a line up your breastbone, towards your head, touch it to your third eye and see how much more vivid your vision becomes. Then, anoint your candle, holding it with the wick away from your body and drawing the line from wick to base. Tell the Universe that as it burns down, your goal will grow closer and closer towards you.
Place the candle in a central position on the altar and light it, knowing that as the flame burns, your intention solidifies. Begin the place your crystals. I used rose quartz, green aventurine, pink moonstone, and pink tourmaline, all stones sacred to Venus and used to draw luck and love from within and without. Arrange them in a way that feels natural, using your hands to sense the individual vibrations. Once your crystals are in place, light your incense and waft the smoke around the space, focussing on your intention as you inhale the fragrance. Feel the magic growing denser as the air grows thicker around you.
Now, pick up your lipstick. Hold it between your hands like the candle. Feel it grow warm. Feel the energy buzzing around you and pull it into you—breathe it into your lungs and then push it through your chest, down your arms, and into your hands. Allow the lipstick to absorb that energy and know that each time you apply it, you’ll be absorbing it too. Pack in as much energy as you can. Then, take your oil and anoint the lipstick, starting at the top and drawing the line towards you, towards the bottom of the tube. Know that as the tube runs out, you’ve absorbed more and more of that magic. You don’t need to finish it to manifest your goal, but with each application, you grow closer and closer.
Charmed Lipstick Ritual
Place the lipstick on your altar. You may choose to place it on a bed of crystals or sprinkle your herbal blend over it. You might want to meditate on the candle flame or incense smoke, but don’t linger too long. Your intention has been set, your energy has begun to manifest, and now you leave it in the hands of the Universe to bring you closer. Don’t obsess. Walk away. Go to bed, paint your nails, eat cake, or drink some wine. Do something for yourself. In the morning, take the remaining herbs, the candle wax, the dust from the incense, and collect it in one place. You can choose to hold onto the remnants until your manifestation is complete, or dispose of them immediately. I usually bury my materials and trust that as they break down, they release more energy towards my cause.
Obviously, practice caution with your materials. Don’t abandon open flames, and don’t bury, burn, or release into the water any harmful chemicals or poisons that can hurt wild flora or fauna. You’re working in harmony with the Universe.
That’s it. Your lipstick is now fully charged, and possibly one of the most powerful objects in your magical arsenal. Wear it proudly, knowing that each swipe not only brings you one step closer to your goal, but also releases courage to reach for what you want, assurance that you deserve your best life, and understanding that you are so, so much more powerful than you might believe.
Charmed Lipstick
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Writing

Cycles and Growth: the Hidden Blessings of 2016

New Year’s Eve has always held a sort of religious significance for me. Each year is a cycle, beginning with a clean slate on which to project your designs and desires. It will come with its own energies and events, but for those few brief moments at midnight on New Year’s Eve, the universe is full of possibility.
It also brings time to reflect on the year ending, and what we’ve learned along the way. 2016 will not go down as one of my better years. It was far from my worst (hello, 2012!) but it was a pretty spectacular mess. It was replete with drama, tragedy, and disappointment, along with what seemed like an endless string of death and destruction. There were times I wondered how I’d get through it, and times I felt like it would never end.
But through hardship there is growth. It might be an unpopular opinion, but I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason, and 2016 was full of learning opportunities. Whether we took advantage of them or reflected on the messages they sent was up to us—I know there were situations I immediately took as challenges and others that took me months to see the meaning in. But I know that I’m going into 2017 a very different individual than I started.
In 2016, I changed my major and narrowed my focus on what I hope will be a real career. I traveled abroad for the first time, and found that London really was everything I dreamed it would be. I met so many of my heroes and even for a moment, got inside their heads for a glimpse of what makes them so truly brilliant. I finally found my tribe, or maybe they found me (those of you reading know who you are, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am). But most importantly, I learned what really matters to me, and I learned how to fight for it. I found my voice and fought my fears and accomplished things I never really thought would happen–and I know there are more to come.
At the end of 2015, I posted this song. It felt like the perfect expression of optimism and embracing the unknown, and every new year comes with a certain degree of the unknown—we can either fear it, or face it with determination. This year brought us highs and lows. It ended cycles and lives, and gave us new projects, ambitions, and dreams. 2017 will be a new start, the beginning of a cycle. Undoubtedly, it will bring its own trials, its own hardships, but we’ll persevere, and we’ll use our knowledge of the past to propel ourselves into the future. I make a point of cataloging the first song I hear during the New Year, with a certain superstition that it will bring some knowledge of the year to follow. If you’re not at a party, or out with friends, queue up this song and manifest its determination. Think of how far we’ve come, and how to keep going. Keep trying, it’s all gonna be all right—in 2017 we’ll get it right.

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Art

Moving the Man: Sotheby’s Bowie/Collector Preview

Sotheby's Bowie/Collector

“Wouldn’t it be cool if you could buy sprouts and a Jeff Koons in the same place?” Bowie mused during an interview back in 1995, tucked somewhere in an anonymous gallery. With an idle tap of his chin, he adds “—which may not be too far away, judging by his prices.”

Whatever his thoughts on the accessibility of art, the late David Bowie amassed an impressive collection of artwork including paintings, sketches, and sculptures that easily cost more than a metric ton of sprouts. During his lifetime he actively loaned pieces to museums and collections, happy to share the pieces that brought him such happiness, but the public finally got a chance to view his collection in full this fall thanks to Sotheby’s, who displayed the work in multiple cities prior to their sale, titled Bowie/Collector.

Bowie/Collector

On paper, Bowie collected Post-War British Art, but Bowie was never a man to be neatly categorized: his collection contained examples of Contemporary African and American art, Surrealism, and Italian design. In fact, very few pieces seemed to “go” together, let alone fit a theme. Brightly colored large-scale paintings hung beside small sketched studies, bronze sculptures rested on pedestals beside futuristic dayglo furniture. If there’s any common thread between what seem like radically different pieces in Bowie’s eclectic collection, it’s the simple fact that they moved him. Art was a passion, and it’s that passion that holds the collection together.

In this way, Bowie’s collection is much like his career: varied and diverse, at times scattered and downright strange, not always executed with the best technique or foremost skill, but pursued with enthusiasm because of a genuine emotional response. As an artist, Bowie was prolific, writing, performing, and producing music for more than fifty years in addition to pursuits in acting and painting. His work touched millions of people, created a soundtrack for so many memories, became the catalyst for so many emotions. Considering his own power to move, Sotheby’s preview seemed like a rare and precious opportunity to see what moved the man behind the icon.

La Condition Humaine

Standing in front of Méret Oppenheimer’s La Condition Humaine, one of the four hundred pieces being sold at Sotheby’s in London this November, one can’t help but wonder whether the piece appealed to the same frenetic neon desperation that produced “Be My Wife,” or “Always Crashing In The Same Car.” Frank Auerbach’s Head of Gerda Boehm recalls the discordant synthesizers of “Ashes to Ashes,” and again the thought creeps in—did the heaps of paint on canvas evoke the same feeling in Bowie that drove him to write the song?

Head of Gerda Boehm

Sotheby’s did not provide dates of acquisition for any of the pieces, though it would certainly help to give fans a better idea of Bowie’s relationship to the works themselves. Such dates may become available in the exhibition catalog, currently available for preorder to ship some time in October. In the meantime, the only item on which no one needs to speculate is 1966 radio phonograph designed by Pier Giacomo and Achille Castiglione. Set beneath a nearly life-sized still from the 1979 “DJ” music video, Bowie’s well-loved phonograph undoubtedly played countless LPs, inspiring so many evolutions we’ve come to recognize in his own music. But art isn’t the only thing on the gallery walls: listed beside the phonograph are Bowie’s 25 Albums That Could Change Your Life, a list spanning nearly 70 years containing everything from chanson to electronic to comedic novelty. It seems to only further the feeling that in the end, it seemed what mattered most to Bowie was not collecting trends or making tastes, but inspiring passions and evoking emotions.

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Writing

Staring at the Ceiling: the Importance of Downtime

Two days before my first international flight, I broke my foot. Remarkably, it wasn’t the wild dancing in my five inch stilettos, it wasn’t from my dogged determination to channel my inner Cherry Pie on the club’s pole—I broke my foot when I kicked the door frame playing hide-and-seek with my cat. They say when you break a bone, you’ll know it, but this one took me a while. Once I got over the embarrassment and peeled myself off the floor, I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and went to bed. Sure it hurt, but I’d sleep it off. When I realized eight hours of sleep hadn’t given me back the ability to walk like someone who’s practiced the art for 20+ years, I thought maybe it was time to hit the doctor. Turns out, I’d split my second middle phalanx clean in half. I left the country with my foot precariously taped together and hobbled through England on a series of crutches and canes.
Four weeks later, I’d ditched the cane and stubbornly limped up and down the stairs of my third-floor walk-up like nothing had ever happened. In fact, my recheck was a formality: I never anticipated my podiatrist would tell me I should have had the break casted from the beginning, much less that I had damaged another bone from compensating for the better part of a month. Thus began my slow descent into madness as I found myself a club-footed prisoner in my family’s suburban home. When you live in the most notoriously bustling city on the planet, walk several miles daily, and enjoy the freedom of popping out to get whatever you want, whenever you want it, medical orders to stay off your feet in Suburbia, USA is a death sentence of boredom. Worse yet, my parents’ house is a Poké-Wasteland, nary a zubat or ratatta in sight. How was I going to hatch my 10k egg when I couldn’t even walk downstairs to check the mail?
Warstone Cemetery, Birmingham
Over the next few weeks, I plowed through a multitude of books, filled entire notebooks with journalistic psychobabble, and killed more than a couple bottles of wine. I colored my hair and called friends. I played cards and compiled playlists. In a time when other crises would have seen me running around town in an endless parade of distraction, my own physical helplessness had me trapped in far too small a space with my own thoughts. I spent far too much time sobbing into pillows and sleeplessly staring at ceilings. But it wasn’t all a desperate attempt to kill time—I signed up for some classes and meditations at the spiritual center my mother attends, returning sometimes several times a week for courses on crystal healing, astral projection, chromotherapy, mystical-feminine empowerment. In the process, I met several Channels who all had profound messages to pass to me. I’ve been working with tarot cards for over twenty years, but it’s been only recently that I’ve realized my cards have no power of their own—each card I pull means nothing on its own, but instead serves as a meditative tool to focus my attention and direct my intuition. The tarot is a comfortable system for me to work with, but given the practice and confidence, I could just as easily use anything to receive and deliver messages to my clients. With this knowledge behind me as I heard what each of these Channels had to tell me, I decided to explore the practice myself.
What I found was remarkable. It all made sense, and I realized I’d been using bits of the practice in my own life for some time. But most amazing of all was a passage written in one particular book about the importance of downtime. Downtime is imperative to clear the mind, relax the body, and allow ourselves to be open and ready to receive, whether we’re receiving divine wisdom, messages from the other side, or love from ourselves or others. As a Type-A Sagittarius with a streak of Overachieving Virgo Ascendent, my version of downtime is a lunch date with friends, window-shopping before school, outlining new essays, or painting something for a friend. But there’s nothing “down” about any of that. Even commonly-accepted modes of relaxation like Netflix marathons, devouring a novel, or catching up on YouTube subscriptions aren’t really downtime. Many of us haven’t experience true downtime since we were kids—laying in the grass and staring at the sky until we lost track of time, contemplating exactly nothing until we realize we’ve been sitting on the sofa in roughly the same spot for the last three hours. True downtime is literally taking the time to do nothing at all, and our minds and bodies need that.
So much of our self-worth is wrapped up in our productivity and our ability to be of service to others—if you can accomplish more than your coworkers, your friends, your family, then you become more valuable to the collective. But a constant stream of productivity dulls us like scissors: if our mind and body are out of synch, cutting at different speeds and intensities, we no longer function as we should. Everything is just off, whether or not it affects our lives noticeably. Downtime allows us to reset, to realign, making us feel more comfortable within ourselves and leaving us more room to connect to the people and things that matter most to us. It seems counterintuitive to spend those spare moments quietly alone when we want to be closer to the people we care about, but when we use that time to clear away the mental static and emotional haze within ourselves, it leaves more room for healthy, productive relationships.
This realization hit me like the Broadway local at rush hour—all these years, I’ve been struggling to fill every last second of my life with activity. Hustling is a full time job these days, and everyone seems to have at least three major games to play to set them ahead. Competition is a way of life. But there’s a reason we still hear about Aesop’s tortoise and his long-eared running mate: when you take time out to yourself, to contemplate your place in the world around you and simply exist for a few moments in time, you come out ahead, especially when your competition is racing along without the slightest idea of what they’re fulfilling…and what they’re not.
Two days after this flooded my mind, forcing me to spend the better part of an evening laying on the floor, visualizing these lessons like projections on the white space of the ceiling, the doctor cut off my cast and told me I was a free woman. I’m still supposed to take it easy, to avoid walking so many miles in a day or wearing my favourite heels for some weeks to come, but I can get back to the life I’ve built for myself. It was like everything—my broken foot, my damaged bone, my extended stay in suburbia—was a direct hit with the Universal baseball bat telling me to slow down, if not by choice, then by any means necessary. Being forced to a stop was the only way for me to learn this all important lesson. And like any lesson learned, once I passed the test, I was allowed to move on. My life won’t be like it was before all of this occurred, and I don’t expect it to be, but I’ll be implementing my newly acquired knowledge as I rebuild. Opportunities for downtime will be built into my schedule to keep things on track, even if it means forcing myself into group meditations or blocking off hours in the park. Personal growth should always be a priority—if you aren’t moving forward, you’re standing still.
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Magic

Refresh and Renew: June Tarot CardCast

It’s been retrograde city over the last few months—with a whole pack of planets on the Rx (Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn to name only a few of the big ones), it’s no surprise that things haven’t exactly gone according the plan lately. That includes last month’s tarot forecast. Don’t worry, though: Mercury went direct last weekend and Mars is back on track before this month is out. We still have a while before powerhouse Jupiter gets with the program, but by then our planetary woes should be long behind us!

June CardCast

In the meantime, we’ve got a lot to celebrate—the weather has finally broken, summer is well on its way, and with it come all of the fun-in-the-sun plans we’ve missed for the last eight months. It’s time for block parties, barbecues, and picnics in the park—it’s time to recharge your batteries and detox all those winter worries. Friends might be coming out of the woodwork, but this is a perfect time to spend some quality time with You, especially if you’ve neglected your own base needs in the frantic energy of the last few months. Take yourself on a date. Go for some long walks on the beach, buy yourself a piña colada, reconnect with yourself.

This would also be a great time to have a heart-to-heart with yourself and forgive all the things you’ve been blaming yourself for lately: not everything is your fault. There’s a difference between taking responsibility and berating yourself. If things haven’t worked out, examine the situations as they transpired and really think about what went wrong. Consider them missed opportunities instead of failures: the growth you’ll achieve by learning from this will be more valuable in the long run.

June CardCast

Use this month to really balance your energies—have fun, lighten your load, and go forward with the understanding that you’re only human. You adapt and evolve based on the challenges you’re presented with. Where were you at this time last year? Where were you even six months ago—how long ago does that feel? You may not have always been in control, and you may not have made all the right choices, but look how far you’ve come. Six months from now, you’ll be somewhere entirely new all over again, with new things to celebrate and new challenges to face.

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Aesthetics

I Don’t Feel If You Don’t: Emotion in Art and the Sincerity of the Cure

Art has always been, for myself and so many others, an outlet for so many deeply personal emotions. It has not only been a way of working through the trials and tribulations of human experience, but also a means of communicating these feelings to others without explicitly recounting details. Art gives us a way to articulate emotion while circumventing circumstance: a painting or poem is often a short-cut to the heart, a way of saying, “this is how it feels,” regardless of whether the audience can sympathize with the situation that prompted it. Because human emotion is a complex and varied thing, I may not feel the sadness you experience by falling out with a friend, or the frustration you have at a romantic rejection, but I have no doubt experienced them myself under other circumstances and can recognize their presence in artistic works.

That said, when it comes to light that a piece was not, in fact, composed out of its “proper” emotion, it feels like a sort of betrayal. I recall a number of times when I found out a song I deeply identified with was written from a totally different viewpoint, or exclusively pandered to radio production and popularity. My entire existence seemed to crumble when, at sixteen, I found out Robert Smith had written “Let’s Go to Bed” simply based on what got radio airplay—the song that had defined my first ‘adult’ relationship suddenly felt like a lie. I had been convinced that Smith had written from the same insecure, fugue-like daze of affection that I had experienced. I couldn’t believe those words that had actually moved me to tears had been complete fabrication.

Let's Go to Bed

However, I was also so thoroughly touched by works of fiction in literature—I wept for the doomed loves in so many Gothic novels, and thrilled at the triumph of good over evil in works so obviously fantasy. When I read urban legends (my generation’s fairytales), I found myself jumpy and unsettled for days. Never for a second did I believe these accounts were true, but I still allowed them to move me and spark very real emotions. Whether or not the authors had experienced unrequited love, or ridden dragons triumphantly into battle, or escaped the horrors of Satanic cults firsthand was irrelevant. Whether or not I had any emotional basis of comparison was also irrelevant—the work felt authentic enough to create those for me. Years later, with more of life behind me, those feelings hold true. Now, instead of reading Leroux and thinking, “that must be what love feels like,” I can examine the dynamic between Christine and Raoul and say, “that is love” and feel just as strongly with the bonus of recognition.

We can watch Leonardo DiCaprio fight bears and struggle against a historical wildness without questioning the emotional credentials he or director Alejandro González Iñárritu have behind them. We can even give them both awards of global artistic recognition. So why did I feel so betrayed by Robert Smith for his lyrical fiction?

Perhaps it’s because it caused me to question the authenticity of his other songs, songs I aspired to experience myself. If “Let’s Go to Bed” was a total fabrication, what did that mean for songs like “Just Like Heaven,” or “Icing Sugar,” songs that summed up everything I wanted out of love? Maybe, if the emotion I felt came from lyrics confessed to be fictional, the feelings I got from other songs were just as fictional, and described experiences I couldn’t possibly have. For years, I thought that may have been painfully true—real relationships, at least as far as my experience extended, did not include the dizzy euphoria or frenetic excitement of love that Smith had promised me. It pained me that the emotions they described would exist only in these musical fantasies, and my initial feelings were replaced with resentment.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized the sincerity of Smith’s lyrics were irrelevant: my emotional reaction was no less real, those feelings no less authentic, than they would be born from my own experience. Listening to those words produced in me a reaction—that alone was totally valid. And later on, they proved an invaluable base of comparison for my own feelings in response to other life experiences. Like Aristotle’s poets, Smith’s songs had taught me to recognize love in its playful, creative, joyful form, which I had no previous concept of through my own experience. Whether or not Smith had written them out of like experience made no difference: the emotions I felt listening to those songs were real, and prepared me to identify those same emotions when they came into my life organically.

Let's Go to Bed

There are aesthetic theories that deny we, as viewers, can experience any real feelings from art. With no personal stake in the creator’s experience or the plot at hand, we go through the motions of reacting—while sitting in the dark of a theatre, watching the latest James Wan flick unfold before us, we experience what feels like a genuine stress response. Our heart may beat erratically, we may have difficulty breathing, we might even scream, but according to theorists, this isn’t really fear: at the end of the movie, we know the lights will come up and we’ll all shuffle out of the theatre safely. But those feelings stay with you. Days, weeks, months later, when you find yourself alone in the dark, that same sense of dread may creep back in and you find yourself re-living the fear you experienced in the theatre. My sister still won’t use public restrooms alone thanks to a certain Japanese horror film, and loathe as I am to admit it, I kept all my coats out of sight for days after watching the Babadook so I wouldn’t see them out of the corner of my eye as something else.

The same extends to other works of art, poetry, and music. “Let’s Go to Bed” remains an emotional song for me, whether or not it was emotional for Robert Smith. I had a genuine experience, one that I relive each time I hear that song. I believe that my emotional experiences with other pieces are authentic as well—each time I’m moved to tears or imbued with excitement, I trust the feelings that evoked the response are relatable and repeatable, whether they are insights for future experiences or recall specific emotional occurrences. Those emotions aren’t packed into a box and stored on the shelf at the end of the experience, like the record that provoked them—they’re carried with me, recalled over and over again.


The Cure – Let's go to Bed by bebepanda

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Magic

Hothouse Blossoms: your April Tarot CardCast

Most months, when I pull my tarot cards, I instantly understand the message at hand. This month, however, wasn’t as clear. I pulled one, two, three cards–they weren’t entirely disparate, they weren’t in conflict, but something felt “off.” For a moment, I doubted my intuition: there was something here that I wasn’t seeing, something overlooked. I had to ruminate on the reading for a few days.

And then, in the small hours of the morning some 50-plus hours after the cards had been pulled, it hit me. I had overlooked something–that was the point. We all have.
April Tarot CardCast
As spring unfolds, the fever sets in. We all want to shed our winter layers, cast off our icy attitudes and frosty ways of being. We want to take part in the abundance we see coming in around us. We watch flowers bloom, trees bud, animals awaken and we want that newness for ourselves. What we have doesn’t feel comfortable anymore.
But here’s the thing: we have all that, and more. We have all the pieces we need for that fresh, full life–they’ve been there all along. The seeds have been planted and are beginning to sprout, all we need to do is tend the soil. Those new green buds have been growing silently, waiting for us to turn our eyes to the ground and take notice. They’ve fed off our cast-offs, fertilized by our acts and decisions all winter. And now that they’ve broken ground, it’s time for us to see what we’ve sewn and begin to actively nurture our own abundance.
April Tarot CardCast
The barren season is over, and all the pleasures of these fertile times are ahead of us. If things still seem stormy, remember what children say this time of year: “April showers bring May flowers.” Rain will make the flowers grow, and there’s nothing more beautiful than a hothouse blossom. Everything worth having takes time and effort, and patience is rewarded manifold, but so much of that work is all ready behind us—instead of keeping our eyes fixed ahead towards the future, it’s time to be present and enjoy what we have right now. This month sees the sun in both ego-driven Aries and beauty-driven Taurus, and we can take lessons from both signs: take time for yourself to reconnect with the things you love, the things that bring you pleasure. You’ve earned it.
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Cosmetics

If That’s What You Wanna Do: Makeup Inspired by the 1975’s Love Me

“Another post about the 1975?” you’re probably groaning. I know, it’s been weeks since their album came out and I’ve all ready mentioned them so many times…but the moment I saw the video for Love Me back in October, I knew I needed to play with their look.

Just Keep Lookin'

The video, directed by Diane Martel, featured the band partying with a horde of cardboard celebrities, but let’s face it: the real star of the show was Matty Healy’s makeup, as done by the incredibly artistic Jeffrey Baum. Powder blue and neon pink is a very particular colour combo, and definitely serves as a throwback to the kind of retro 80’s glamour the band is channeling, but Baum keeps it from looking dated by keeping lips clean and natural, tying it all together with dashes of dayglo liner.

Bright Liner in Love Me

Considering that “Serendipity” blue is one of Pantone‘s dual Colours of the Year, I decided to bust out my new Sephora Pantone Universe lipstick and do some role reversal. You’ve seen the blue eye pink lip combo a thousand times, but I’m always interested in paths less traveled. And considering the song’s New Wave influences, I thought it was appropriate to play with some heavy contouring and bright blush.

"Love Me" Spinoff Look

I used Sugarpill‘s Dollipop, Urban Decay‘s Savage, Bones, Alien, Truth, and Too Faced‘s Your Love is King to create a bold pink eye and blend it out into my contour, a la some of my New Romantic image idols. Then, using Dior‘s Dior Addict Fluid Shadow in Magnetic, I traced a silver line under my waterline before creating a second line in black liquid liner–everyone has their favourites, but mine is Urban Decay‘s Perversion. Extending the line beyond my natural eye on both sides, I let the inside corner fall downwards while the outside corner continued up.

"Love Me" Spinoff Look

Rather than creating a full line along my upper lash line, I joined the lower line with a wing on top and piled on the black mascara. Leaving a slight gap between the upper and lower lines creates an even larger-looking eye–something between a doll and a wild animal, two things everyone aspires to of course.

"Love Me" Spinoff Look

I filled in my brows as usual, and finished the look off with the fabulously blue Serendipity lipstick from Sephora’s Pantone Universe collection. For such a light colour, Serendipity goes on opaque with the first stroke, so application was painstaking–moreso because the bullet itself is a rather strange shape and doesn’t lend itself well to drawing lines or creating shapes. If you’re a dedicated brush-user or have a magic supply of blue lipliner, this probably won’t bother you. Personally, I think this shade is worth a little time and effort–it’s the perfect counterpart to the classic (cliché?) powder blue shadow.

"Love Me" Spinoff Look

While I love the clean neon liner seen on the video’s models, I felt like taking it back–Love Me via ’81 if it was done by Boy George. Naturally, this isn’t a look for some light afternoon shopping or a family dinner. Luckily for me, there’s never a lack of good dance parties in town, and with a New Order show the same night, I was in good company.

The next time you see an artist or model in a video you like, take a look at their makeup. I challenge you to create something from it, to turn it into something you identify with or feel strongly for. Not only does it inspire you to break out of your daily beauty routine, it also creates a unique place for you within the music. You strengthen your relationship not only with the song itself, but also with yourself–it really is amazing how far a little makeup can push the boundaries of our identities.

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Music

Neon Pink Cynicism: the 1975’s I Like It When You Sleep… Review

It was a frigid February morning and I was huddled with my sister on Orchard Street trying to soak in sunlight to combat the unforgiving wind. I had only been standing there for about 20 minutes, but she and her friends had been on the street since 2AM counting down the moments. We barely noticed when the car pulled up at the curb and the 1975 rolled out, all retro fringe and rockstar shades. Screams erupted as Matty Healy pulled off his sunglasses and sniffed the frozen air, “Oi, it’s blazin’ out here!”

Pop-Up Line-Up

 

Some 15 minutes later we were inside the LES gallery space rented for their one-day pop-up, a well-kept secret to promote their brand new album: I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It. My sister had hunted down the address only hours before she arrived on the scene, and now some two hundred fans were lining the adjacent blocks waiting for their turn to buy the new music and meet their idols. The bare brick walls were hung with neon signs spelling out new album tracks, and brightly-colored photographs in stark white frames played on lyrical themes. Nothing could stop me now: I was going to buy the boxed set. I had almost preordered it originally, instantly attracted by the neon-pink lucite casing and the idea of exclusive 7” singles, but the price tag seemed steep—now that I had a chance at an autographed copy of the LP, it seemed well worth it.
Bubble-wrap trailed out of my pockets as I ascended the back stairway, barely registering the photographs hung along the hall. My eyes had barely adjusted to life in neon pink when I realized this was no formal record signing meet-and-greet. The minimal loft space had been converted into a sort of listening lounge, with a well-worn black leather sofa totally abandoned as the band wandered free, chatting with fans, taking selfies, sharpie-ready for autographs. Each wall held massive prints of album artwork, including the neon sign spelling out the impossibly long album title, coating everything with a candy-colored glow. I barely registered the upbeat Haim song piped in as I embarked on my signature-collecting mission, LP clutched tightly and phone camera-ready in pocket. At one point, I found myself nervously chatting to Ross MacDonald about the album, admitting I had listened to it on loop since it had leaked a couple days earlier. “It’s a bit all-over-the-place, don’t you think?” He asked with a certain degree of concern in his voice.
I Like It When You Sleep...
At first listen, it is. The band’s now-signature, self-titled opener is given a brighter, chorus-driven vocal, turning it from sort of sleepy to deliberately dreamy before launching straight into the retro-funky Love Me. The transition from swelling synth and slow vocal to Bowie-Chic guitar is a little jarring, but maybe intentional considering the dialog proposed by the leading single’s lyrics. That said, Love Me remains among my favorite tracks on the album: aside from the obvious musical similarities, the lyrics read like a Millenial Fame, equally cynical in a new age language. It’s the same cynicism that pervades songs like Change of Heart, which feels like the disillusioned follow-up to their self-titled LP’s the City. It’s the falling-out-of-love story after the romance of Robbers dies–
“You used to have a face straight out of a magazine
Now you just look like anyone

I just had a change of heart
I feel as though I was deceived
I never found love in the city
I just sat in self-pity and cried in the car”
But it’s not all twenty-something bitterness and upset. One of the album’s standouts is the ethereal, choral-driven This Must Be My Dream,  an upbeat, synth-pop plea of adolescent optimism that simply sticks with you. Like She’s American and the Sound, it’s got a catchy, danceable beat that distracts you from the admittedly garbled, Manchesterese lyrics long enough that you might be surprised by the actual words:
“You got excited and now you find out that your ‘girl’
won’t even get you undressed or care about your beating chest”
Personally, I think the album might have been better ending on the following track, Paris. The relaxed, nostalgic vibe is a pleasant wind-down from some of the album’s quicker-paced tracks without bringing down the mood or inducing sleep–but the band continues with two additional tunes. Nana and She Lays Down are both absolutely heartbreaking, tragic songs backed by a simple acoustic guitar, bringing the album to a strange, unsettling end. If they had been anywhere else, I might be able to overlook the general air of melancholy peppered through the record’s more electronic tracks. Concentrated at the end, however, it’s an unavoidable fact: this is kind of a really sad album. It tells stories about lost identities, painful breakups, faith questioned, and deaths faced. But when wrapped in a package of synthesizers and pop guitar riffs, they seem almost idyllic. There’s a romance to the kind of jaded cynicism the 1975 is peddling—a kind of absurdist idealism.
While the musical style does jump from chill out groove to new generation funk to acoustic heartbreak ballad, the mood of I Like It When You Sleep… makes it a logical follow-up to the band’s 2013 EP. If the 1975 was about sex and drugs and making memories with friends, I Like It When You Sleep… is about facing the world after teenage dreams begin to melt away. You might not know who you are, you might not recognize your relationships, you might even lose the people closest to you, but you can be damned stylish and look good doing it.
A Morning Well Spent
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