Friday, July 29, 2011

Fashion History and Makeup Series: Makeup in Mesopotamia

Ancient Sumerian Makeup was very similar to ancient Egyptian makeup. Historians have found great evidence indicating that people in Mesopotamia were very interested in body care. It seems that they even used perfume, made from soaked plants with water and oil, used for both cosmetic and medicinal purposes. Historians also found that they were using makeup; makeup was held in sea shells and a lot of them have been discovered in tombs, containing red, while, yellow, blue, green, and black pigments. 

Just like in the Ancient Egypt, kohl was used as an eye protection against bacteria and red eye, which was very common back then. It seems that khol was “a paste originally made from charred frankincense resin and later from powdered antimony (stibium) or lead compounds”.

Khol was worn as a mascara or eyeliner, and for lipstick, women used red henna. During excavations at Ur, Dr. Kenneth Graham found lipsalves in a tomb and they are believed to have been used by Queen Shub-ad. People also painted their faces with white lead and vermilion. For skin they used pumice stone powdered manganese oxide and turquoise to line their eyes.

What’s interesting about people in Mesopotamia is the fact that, besides being the inventors of makeup, they also used jewels to decorate their face and their eyes, by crushing them.

Hairstyles were also very important and it seems that their hair style changed very often.  For example, in the Early Dynastic Period, men would shave their hair and women wore their hair long, but in Akkadian Period some men also wore wavy hair. In other periods, curls or face hair were "trendy" and the kings were always the trendsetters.

PS: Thanks for the award Go check out her blog, it's amazing!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fashion History and Makeup Series: Makeup In Ancient Egypt

Beauty was always a priced trait and even in antiquity women did everything they could to improve their appearance and be more desirable.

The first archeological evidence of makeup dates from 4000 BC and it comes from Ancient Egypt. 

Glass kohl tube in the form of a palm column
An interesting thing about ancient Egypt was the fact that cosmetics were used by both men and women and makeup was not only something that enhanced people’s beauty, but also a therapeutical practice. 
The black eye makeup was made from carbon, lead sulphide (galena) or manganese oxide, green makeup was made from malachite and copper based minerals and red makeup was obtained from red ochre and mixed with water or animal fat. Eye makeup palettes were even found in tombs and they seemed very essential in people’s journey after death.  
They also had henna, which was used for fingernail as some sort of nail polish.
Makeup was not only used by rich people, everybody had access to some kohl and other makeup colors. What’s interesting about that period is the fact that there were professional face painters, like makeup artists today.

Eye makeup

Black steatite statuette of a girl holding a kohl pot
Kohl was used as an eye liner and mascara; it was made from galena and other ingredients. The kohl makeup kit contained a vessel which had a small applicator and it was made of different materials like bone, bronze, glass, etc. The stick had two sides: one used for mixing and the other for applying makeup. It was either mixed with water or scented oil.

It is still used in the Middle East, North Africa and India by women and even men and children. It is supposed to protect people of evil eye, eye diseases, and sun damage. Scientists found out that lead is efficient in killing bacteria around the eyes. However, there’s a lot of brain damage involved when it comes to lead. 

Lipstick was made from red ochre and animal fat but there were also lipsticks made from a combination of focus-algin , iodine, and some bromine mannite (which were very harmful). The shimmery lipsticks were made from fish scales and other types of red pigments were obtained from crushed insects like beetles and ants (Cleopatra is known to have used this combination).  

When it came to skin care, Ancient Egypt had a lot of creams and lotions made of beeswax, vegetable oils and resin. They also had scrub and some medical papyruses have recipes for scrub. Soap was made by mixing vegetable oil or animal fat with alkaline salts. They also used a lot of honey, whole milk (Cleopatra is famous for taking milk baths) and myrrh for fragrance. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Adele Hugo - When Love Destroys

Adele Hugo’s life has always been surrounded by mystery. The daughter of the famous French writer Victor Hugo had an extremely harsh life and ultimately she was committed to an insane asylum at the age of 41.

When she was 16 she fell in love with Auguste Vacquerie who was 26 years old. They were unable to get married immediately so they had to wait. Unfortunately she gradually fell out of love with him until she reached her twenties. She received many marriage proposals but refused them all. She also had many crushes her parents did not agree with such as the sculptor Jean-Baptiste Clesinger and the man who became the source of all her sadness, Albert Andrew ("Bertie") Pinson

Lieutenant Pinson was much older than Adele and he was considered handsome and a ladies man. After they met, he regularly visited her and even proposed but she refused. However, they seem to have been very much in love with each other and she also visited him to England a couple of times. But it seems that his love was not like in the beginning and his attentions to her began to diminish.  They had met in 1854 and it was in 1861 when he was ordered to move his regimen to London

Her parents were reticent when it came to Pinson because he was known to be a womanizer, a gambler in debt, and had bad temper.  She became more and more infatuated with him but when discussing the marriage issue with her parents, they advised her to marry him in Brussels, where they lived. But Adele did not agree with that and she decided she would follow him to London, thus being against not only her parents’ wishes but also the social rules of women at that time. Her mother, however, agreed that she would accompany her to London but when they arrived they learned that he had moved to Halifax deserting her. She returned to Brussels for a year and despite the evidence that Pinson was not infatuated with her anymore, she became more and more obsessed with him.

She decided to go to Halifax, making her family believe that she was going to meet a family member in Europe. When she arrived she registered herself as Miss Lewly but soon she would refer to herself as Madame Pinson. She lived in Halifax Hotel for a while but to preserve her money she moved with the Saunders family. She was described as a mysterious and isolated woman. Nobody knew at that time that she was the daughter of the famous writer Victor Hugo. She wrote to her family regularly and lied that she was married to Pinson. She also received money regularly.

Most of the time she tried to contact Pinson: she wrote him daily she tried to meet him but it seemed that he had absolutely no interest for her. Although at first he did visit her and answered her letters, soon he started ignoring her and her advances. But she was determined to make him love her so she pursued him night and day. She even went so far as disguising herself as a male while stalking him.

Her mental illness started to show, she refused eating, took little care of herself, and her physical health also started degrading. The Saunders heard her all night walking and talking to herself in her room.

Pinson had a pretty bad reputation in Halifax also, he engaged Agnes Johnson, but the family soon decided that he was not what they wanted for their daughter.

In 1866, he moved with his unit to Barbados and Adele, while still being extremely obsessed with him, also went to Barbados. There she moved in Mrs. Chadderton’s residence but her behavior was similar to the one she had in Halifax: she would write continuously in her journal, she wandered the streets to look for her lover, and she was isolated. It is not known if she met Pinson there, but soon she became the object of ridicule because of her behavior and way she dressed. Pinson soon went to England and married Catherine Edith Roxburgh while Adele was still in Barbados. She met a woman who took care of her and brought her back to France. Her father committed her in a mental institution and she lived there all her life. Here is what he wrote in his diary:

"I saw her again [in the mental institution]. She did not recognize [Francois-]Victor. She recognized me. I embraced her. I spoke words of tenderness and hope to her. She was calm and seemed, sometimes, to be asleep. It is just one year ago today that I left for Bordeaux with Charles, who would not return alive. Today I see Adele again. What sorrow."

It is believed that Adele suffered from schizophrenia and she might have inherited it from her family(her father’s brother had the same condition). However, her tumultuous life might have contributed to the degradation of her mental health: the death of her sister, her unrequited love, the death of her two brothers, and the pressure that society had on women back in those days.  

There's also a great movie about her called The History of Adele H. - here's the trailer:

It's dubbed in English, but the best version is the original English-French one so try to find that version. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

An Essay On Happiness

How to be rich/How to happy/How to be a better person/How to live forever/How to be everything etc. 

Every company promises happiness nowadays: you will be happy if you buy this perfume, you will attract women and be happy if you buy this car, etc. It all resumes to being happy by doing what society and advertisers want you to do. This also applies in psychology and we can see how self help book writers make millions and people still remain unhappy. 

As a disclaimer I would like to add that I am not against positive thinking, I believe it really helps people remain sane and find life bearable. However, there’s something about the superficial positive thinking that really gets to me; another problem of mine is everybody’s concern with everybody’s state of mind. In our society not being positive all the time is seen as abnormal; I guess it’s safe to say that being negative or having a slightly negative view upon life is the absolute sin nowadays. There’s no wonder with all the self help books out there and everybody constantly trying to reach happiness all the time. This idea of happiness is almost forced on us by mass media. I’m starting to hate this whole happiness thing because it has been reduced to materialism and you can see this direction in all those books that promise you will become a millionaire. It seems that everybody with enough will power can become rich and successful. What about personality? What about opportunity? What about ability? What about intelligence? What about the fact that sometimes in life things can go wrong? What about PROBABILITY for a change? Apparently those are not factors that need to be taken into consideration; it all comes down to the fact that you don’t have enough will to become successful and rich. And this is what bothers me, this oversimplification of life, the fact that human beings are reduced to having will power or not, the fact that you are in that situation because you want to be. Of course,
I don’t deny the fact that some people make bad choices, but saying that everybody deserves what they have is not a correct statement from my point of view. Some people really have a disastrous life and it might not be their fault. But most of those gurus have no idea what they are talking about or they just write books for extremely simple human beings. Life is not a 4 step plan for success, people are not robots.

How choices are made

Many factors influence our ability to make choices. Of course, we like the idea that we contribute the most in deciding on certain things. But do we really? How about the pressure of society when making choices? How about the fact that many of us simply choose something that puts us in a positive light? Of course, one would argue that being seen as a better person through our choices makes us happy. The simple fact that we are approved by society makes us happy. But does it when our internal mechanism is different than what is generally preached? I believe that it is what makes most of us fall into depression when we look back at our lives and see that despite making good choices we are now unhappy.

People like power and control. We constantly try to use our power of choice even when there is no choice. An example would be death. People have so many coping mechanisms when it comes to death, it’s fascinating. We want to control death as we want to control everything in our lives. In Yalom’s book “Existential Psychotherapy” there are a few examples of how we try to control our lives. For example, there’s a case of a patient who refuses chemotherapy because he has extreme anxiety regarding the process which implies him being powerless. So he puts his life in danger just to have this illusion of control. And I agree with Nietzsche when he says that will is not known absolutely and it cannot be known. If we take into consideration the millions of factors that influence our decision we start understanding what Nietzsche wanted to point out. Of course, this doesn’t mean that people don’t make mistakes and even if our decision making is limited, you can still make decisions that will affect you. My interest is not to limit the responsibility of a person’s decision making but enhance the fact that people should be rational when trying to become something that simply isn’t for them.

Choice implies loss because when we make a choice we lose another opportunity and another path in life. Some people go so far as they stop living their life so that they can have some control on the bad choices they would make. But I think you agree with me when I say that is not a good idea also.
Our society constantly tells us that we can make a choice and be happy even if there’s nothing wrong with us.
Even if you are happy, they tell you different, they tell you that being what you are now is not enough and you need more. Of course, I’m not referring to progress, I’m only referring to the unimportant things compared to what life really means like having the newest LCD TV, or the latest Iphone. Don’t plan your life so that you become meaningless, unhappy and unsatisfied just because you pursue the wrong things. Be positive through your actions and achievements, but not in an artificial way. Don’t do things because they will make you successful, do things because you find pleasure in them. If you have a goal and the path to that goal is extremely unpleasant, you risk being unhappy for the most part of your life. So find out what you really like and be successful doing that. Being passionate and the commitment people get from pursuing their passion are overlooked. If we look at successful people we can see that besides a great deal of commitment and effort, they enjoy their work, they are passionate about it. That’s the key to success, not deluding yourself constantly that there is a force in the universe that gets activated whenever you engage in positive thinking. Of course, negative thinking is counterproductive but it can also help you want more.

But is positive thinking mandatory for achieving happiness?

We all want to be happy and it’s a natural thing, but when you focus a lot on positive thinking I guess you become too involved in that and forget to be happy. I believe is tiresome to be extremely aware, constantly preoccupied by your thoughts and trying to make them “happy thoughts”. Actually there is a study which shows that using positive statements can have a different effect than one would expect. 
People with very low self esteem might find them upsetting. Those who say “What harm can positive thinking do?” now know that it can be harmful in some situations.

Again, I’m not talking about people who are positive by nature, but those who force it on themselves and, more annoying, on others. Have you ever been around one of those? They constantly try to make everything so positive it becomes irrational. And that’s what I’m talking about, the harm created by this irrationality of exaggerated positive thinking.

But really now, how can people get happier?

How about loving ourselves for a change? Accepting that we have flaws, accepting that we will never be perfect and we cannot become perfect.
I believe the secret to happiness is not reaching extreme happiness. That will never happen, the secret to happiness is making sure that you are satisfied with your life. You have to be aware and know why you need improvement. So the first step is knowing why you need to change yourself, what harm not changing yourself can do to your life. But most people start pursuing happiness without knowing why their actions are not correct in the first place. This can make us pursue the wrong kind of happiness, a general meaning of happiness when in fact it all comes down to your idea of happiness. I’m going to use a cliché here: our idea of happiness is pretty biased, but looking down inside us is what matters. So reach out into yourself and decide what makes you truly happy.

Another problem is the fact that people want to be happy now and this is why there is a link between materialism and happiness. Of course the media will want you to become happy on their terms, because that is what keeps the money flowing. But intense happiness is just momentary.
Material things give us a sense of happiness now, but that type of happiness is very short and you will soon find yourself unhappy again. I believe that true happiness is when you look back and see (some might have a problem looking back at all) the small or big successes you had. So how about starting to do things that you enjoy and also make you feel better about yourself)?

People also constantly try to run away from things that harm them, from negative things, from depression, from negative events. As I said earlier, trying to avoid failure and harm can lead to avoiding experience of any kind. People are afraid to embrace sadness, forgetting that sadness is what makes happiness recognizable. Perhaps one of the things that make people unhappy is the fact that they constantly try to be happy and avoid any sadness, so when real happiness comes along, they don’t feel it anymore. So, when we numb ourselves to avoid pain, we also numb our ability to feel happiness.

So do you want to be happy?

Start doing things that make you happy and stop worrying about it. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Monster Study

The Monster Study is the name of a stuttering experiment conducted by Wendell Johnson and Mary Tudor. Johnson wanted to show that the existing theories concerning language and stuttering were wrong because in the 1930 stuttering was thought to have an organic or genetic cause. He wanted to show the world that labeling children as stuttered can make their condition worse.

There were 22 subjects selected and 10 of them had speech problems. Five of the children were in group IA, who were told that their speech was fine and the other five were put into group IB, being told that their speech is “as bad as people say”. Another group of six children formed group IIA and they were told that their speech was not normal and needed improvement. The last group was IIB, the normal group.

The study lasted about 5 months and it seems that the ones who got praises managed to improve their stuttering while those who were constantly criticized stopped talking or became real stutters. People who worked at the orphanage were recruited and not informed about the real motives behind the study. They were used to make the labeling even more real among the orphans. After the experiment, the researchers tried to minimize the damage they done, but with little results.

The children were also never told that they were part of a study until 60 years later when there was an article about it in the newspaper.

For further reading about stuttering and this study you should check out this link.