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I used to write a lot of letters and still have boxes and boxes of unused stationary. In this world of email, IM, SMS, Facebook, Twitter etc. who has time to even sit down with a pen and paper anymore? My penmanship, which I’ve always been proud of, has now been reduced to a scrawl in shortform, no doubt.

I only realized this when I forgot to buy a card for a friend for his birthday, not because I wanted to send birthday wishes (which leads to another thing I hate – don’t include a card if you’re just going to write “Dear xxx” at the top and “from XXX” at the bottom. If you’re going to do that, just use a gift tag, seeing how it’s $5 per Hallmark greeting. WRITE SOMETHING PERSONAL!!!!!!) – ok rant over.So I forgot to get a card, and I did have something meaningful to give and say to him (“from one tea connoisseur to another, here’s a fab tea from France I picked especially for you”) I pulled out my blank notecards from Crane’s (I prefer the simple, elegant stationary – I get bored of the whimsical quickly) and started writing. The scrawl wasn’t too bad, but I missed it and started digging up my other letter writing materials – monogrammed notecards (need more!), Hello Kitty stationary (need to get rid of those)… and happened upon scented stationary. Sure they made their appearance in Legally Blonde 1, but they’ve been around forever. I used to spritz my letters with perfume, but because I write with fountain pens (sigh) it ran. But now the Soap and Paper Factory has come out with stationary scented with orange blossom, green tea, fig, rosewood etc. I don’t think I can resist, maybe even at $48 a box (!). Available at Wish.list Boutique, 2811 W. Broadway (at MacDonald), Vancouver, 604-676-8070. www.wishlistboutique.ca

Also on the list, more personalized stationary from Cranes.

OMG calling cards! It’s so East Coast! (I’ve been

re-reading Bergdorf Blondes) And OMG x10 I think

I’ve found my dream stationary! Pink and simple!

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The second installment of Christopher Nolan’s vision of Batman also brings us Nolan’s vision of the Joker: a frightening “terrorist” with no political agenda other than to create chaos for his own amusement. Batman is certainly in this film, but it’s the Joker who is really its center, its star. He laughs at his own actions, but in this film those actions are more terrifying than they’ve ever been. There’s definitely something wrong with him, but what is that something?

The Joker’s most likely diagnosis is antisocial personal disorder. To be diagnosed with that disorder, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the diagnostic rulebook of mental health clinicians), an individual’s behavior must meet at least three of seven criteria. The criteria most relevant to the Joker involve his repeatedly: 1. violating social norms of lawful behavior; 2. having no remorse for his misbehavior; 3. lying for personal pleasure or profit.

Nolan’s incarnation of the Joker gets his kicks from wreaking havoc, and he’s clever enough that there’s plenty of havoc to go around; he knows what he can do and he’s ambitious. He is grandiose, but does he have a second disorder — is he a narcissist? The diagnosis for narcissistic personality disorder rests on the notion that such people’s beliefs about themselves are greater than are warranted by reality; they have an over-inflated sense of their own abilities. Unfortunately, Joker’s beliefs in his talents are well-founded.

The Joker is frequently portrayed as the inversion of Batman: humorous, irrational, and spontaneous whereas Batman is humorless, logical and methodical. But what makes Nolan’s Joker particularly interesting is his similarity to Batman: They’re both smart, driven, methodical loners who are good judges of human nature. Unfortunately, the Joker, like some serial killers, uses his talents and abilities for his own sick amusement rather than for the common good, as does Batman. Thank goodness for Batman.

See Dr. Robin Rosenberg on the recent History Channel program Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of the Dark Knight. The first part of the show is on her blog; you can also watch the program on YouTube.

…if I were better at math: A forensic accountant.

On how she’d describe herself: “I’m incredibly ordinary, a normal-looking girl, and I just make the best of what I have.”

I say: “EXACTLY! Finally someone who understands!”

My hair is the bane of my existence. It obeys my hair dresser, but not me. He can use a $10 straightener and it will turn out silky smooth. I use a $200 tourmaline/ceramic straightener and it will turn out thick and coarse, and kinky later on in the day. But summer is not about straight styles, it’s about beachy supermodel waves – and now I know how to get it.

This curly style was definitely inspired by Tinsley Mortimer’s hair (see previous post) and with the HOLY GRAIL (only true beauty junkies will understand that one) of curling irons (and now I have to throw out my 3 sets of hot rollers, 2 sets of velcro rollers and 2 curling irons). This is the one and only Infiniti by Conair™ Instant Heat Ceramic.

This was recommended by the Tinsley article, as well as on one of my fave blogs. DO NOT GET THE INSTANT HEAT, and don’t get the MIST one. Get the INFINITI TOURMALINE/CERAMIC HEAT PROFESSIONAL ones. They do not sell these ones at Target (only the cheapie Instant Heat ones that damage your hair), and the cheapest ones I’ve found are at Walgreens. 1″ for $19.99 and 1.5″ for $24.99. Also at London Drugs, but more expensive as the 1″ goes for $32.99 or $34.99. I became so obsessed with this that I bought the 1″ for those “set” hair days aka Tinsley Curls, and the 1.5″ for large beachy waves. Heats up in an instant as it promises, temp control, and it has weight so when you place it on the edge of your bathroom counter it won’t be easily weighed down by the cord and swing around and burn you (from experience).My beach waves took 2 minutes or less, I grabbed random sections and held the curl for 5 seconds. Yes, I did get compliments on my hair!

Also, product was a part of the equation and I used a heat protectant curl spray: L’Oreal Studio Line Hot Curl. Cheap, and it works. No additional hold product was necessary!!!!!

Also useful is this video:

UPDATE: Slept and when I woke up the curls were still there! Not flat at all!

An Australian academic working on Taiwan and China at a university in London. This blog is a space for articles, commentaries, reviews, conference papers, and other miscellany and ephemera which would not otherwise find a permanent place in books or journals.

http://mharrison.wordpress.com/

There is always a difference between fragrances you receive – which says a lot about what people think you are and therefore like, or worse, what they think you should be or smell like – and fragrances you buy for yourself. It’s not only a matter of personal taste, but a sensory conveyance of who you are, what you’re feeling, or where you want to be. It is so gauche to wear a fragrance loud enough to announce to the world that you are able to buy and smell like Chanel, when you’re a teenager wearing Havianas and a belly baring tshirt. Saying that it’s wrong isn’t quite right – more like the contradiction is hilarious. But if personal and done right, no one is there to judge you except for yourself. Fragrances should leave a trail that whispers your presence when you walk by. Or a secret that you keep to yourself.

With that said, I am sitting in an air conditioned office, with stale air circulating and staring out the window at the ominous grey clouds threatening to spoil my weekend. I am wearing something cruise inspired – dark wash jeans, open toed Anne Klein ivory kitten heels and a ruffled shirt. I should be wearing something from Estee Lauder, Dior, Marc Jacobs, Chanel….

Instead.. I am wearing JLo’s Miami Glow.

It’s faint enough to not breach our workplace’s Health and Safety rules on fragranced products, but just enough for me to catch a whiff now and then, and transport me to anywhere else but here.

In Tragedy, a New Kind of Unity

By Matthew Forney
Sunday, May 18, 2008; B03

BEIJING

On my street last week, the Communist Party’s neighborhood committee moved old computers out of its storage room to make way for donated materials bound for earthquake victims 2,000 miles away. Within 12 hours, the space was crammed with clothes and blankets.

All across China, images of mass destruction and individual courage have inspired ordinary citizens to donate money, material and sweat to earthquake victims in the remote foothills of the Himalayas. This national sense of purpose might look similar to the response of average Americans after Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans, but what’s happening in China is new and significant.

This marks the first time in recent history that ordinary Chinese have participated in a national movement that was not a protest against something — usually a foreign power. Until now, China has defined itself in terms of “Us vs. Them.” Today, it’s “Us Without Them.” The change could have a profound and positive impact on this summer’s Olympics in Beijing — and on China’s self-confidence for years to come.

Until the quake on May 12, the dominant mood in China was one of frustration. Citizens had seen this summer’s Olympics in Beijing as an affirmation of China’s progress. But everywhere they looked, the world blamed their country for something: its support for the regime in Sudan; its suppression of anti-government protests in Tibet; its dispatch of People’s Armed Police cadets to protect the Olympic torch overseas. China was even faulted for Burma’s unwillingness to accept foreign aid after a typhoon struck it two weeks ago. Few Chinese have problems with these policies, and most felt that the world had violated a compact: The Olympics were supposed to elicit praise, not condemnation.

Those feelings of betrayal are summed up in a hugely popular poem that popped up on the Internet in March, called “Chinese Grievances.” The verses come across as an eloquent but passive-aggressive rant: “When we closed our doors, you launched the Opium War to open our markets./When we embraced free trade, you blamed us for stealing your jobs.” (See complete poem at right.)

China’s sensitivity to the attitudes of foreigners is nothing new. For the past decade, mass expressions of national cohesion have always derived from a shared sense of victimhood at the hands of other countries. Young Chinese united to protest against the United States for bombing China’s embassy in Belgrade in 1999 (accidentally, says Washington) and after a collision between a U.S. spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet in 2001; against Japan several times, most recently in 2005 in remembrance of atrocities committed in China a half-century ago; and against France because of pro-Tibet demonstrations that disrupted the journey of the Olympic torch.

The Tiananmen Square uprising of 1989 was a rare exception, as much of China united against the government instead of a foreign power. But the focal point of the nation’s cohesion was still opposition, and afterward, the government accused “foreign elements” of hoodwinking Chinese students into a plot to divide and weaken the country.

Go back further in time, and the pattern holds. All Chinese schoolchildren learn that modern China was born during a nationwide student movement that began in May 1919 to protest the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I and turned Germany’s colonial holdings in China over to Japan instead of restoring them to Beijing’s control. In the century before that, European powers started various wars against China to control parts of the country, including Hong Kong, which the Qing emperor ceded to Britain “in perpetuity” in 1842.

No one questions China’s suffering at the hands of colonial powers. Yet China won’t emerge as a confident, modern nation until it knocks the historical chip off its shoulder, and that won’t happen until it generates a sense of national unity from within. The earthquake in Sichuan was nothing if not tragic, but its long-term effects may prove beneficial, even cathartic, as they help China shape its modern identity without resorting to foreign scapegoats.

For one thing, many Chinese draw genuine pride from their government’s response, at least so far. The quake hit one of China’s most remote and inaccessible regions. Local officials stayed on the job, put preexisting emergency plans into operation and coordinated their activities far better than might have been expected in a developing country — or many developed ones. At the scene, the encouragement that Premier Wen Jiabao shouted through a bullhorn and whispered to survivors, at one point telling terrified orphans that the government would care for them, struck a Bill Clinton-like note.

For another, China’s media have used their expanding freedoms to deliver stories of heartbreak and relief without turning the rescue effort into a flag-waving propaganda exercise — at least not yet. One hopes that this new spirit of openness will enable China’s journalists to investigate possibly shoddy construction and whether the troops dispatched to the region were properly equipped. Nonetheless, what I saw on Chinese TV last week was far superior to the coverage of flood relief on the Yangtze River 10 years ago, which was cynically marshaled to burnish the reputation of the People’s Liberation Army.

These encouraging aspects of Chinese unity have become visible to a world that is most familiar with less admirable characteristics, such as the nation’s inability to understand why Tibetans might have their own poetic list of grievances. Given the devastation afflicting Sichuan, it’s healthy for the Chinese to turn inward right now. Suddenly, not even the Olympics look very important. Even the government has recognized this by scaling back the torch relay, which had been so maligned overseas and so triumphal at home. China shouldn’t need to prove anything to the world anymore. By seeing its people through the Sichuan tragedy, it has proven enough to itself.

forney.commentary@gmail.com

Matthew Forney, a former Beijing bureau chief for Time, is writing a book about raising his family in China.

“Eat breakfast like a king,
lunch like a princess
and dinner like a pauper.”

“Eat breakfast like a king,
lunch like a princess
and dinner like a pauper.”