Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rambling Rant: Sanrio and Our Lady of Everything, Hello Kitty

I'm just rambling stuff off my head, this may not be any sort of clear argument/statement here, just saying. 

Growing up I had always gone to the Sanrio Store as a kid, and it was quite possibly my favorite place in the mall, and every time I get the chance I still go to one out of nostalgia/misplaced customer loyalty/Asian desire for cute stuff. 

I'm no expert on the history of this brand so if any of this is wrong please excuse me, but it seems like Hello Kitty, more so than any other Sanrio character, is really everywhere.  However, it's also the form in which it is everywhere that kind of fascinates me. 

I remember as a kid how fascinated I was by how detailed so much (though I must say, not all) Sanrio stuff is.  Even then, I was never impressed by the quality of it because hell yes, it is overpriced.  But that price markup is sort of made up for the fact that Sanrio products were unique and cute in detailed and inexplicably new ways that "normal" Western stuff just wasn't (I'll leave my argument for the fact that Westerners often seem to just not "get" kawaii stuff for another time). 

It seems like the big bread winner now is Hello Kitty on everything, in a super simplistic form, just simple colors and patterns with that expressionless cat plastered on it. 
This type of stuff is also marketed very clearly at younger children, and I wonder how much of a variation this is from Japan, where the targeted age group may not be as young, and where many of the designs for things may be a bit more detailed and intricate than the "cat on simple pattern" formula that seems to have flourished here. 

And I can understand why this would happen.  Cute, kawaii things have a larger market and target audience in Asia, while here it seems to be targeted mostly at young children, no matter how popular it seems to be among teens/young adults/Mariah Carey.  I wonder how well more "Japanese" stuff (for lack of a better phrase) sells in American Sanrio stores as compared to the cheaper, simpler Hello Kitty lines that would sell better among smaller children. 

Blah blah, it seems like what I'm trying to get at is this: Hello Kitty/Sanrio is simplifying itself for the American market by sticking to its main breadwinner, Hello Kitty, and keeping it in super cheap, super simple, "kid friendly" patterns to appease easily impressed kids and their parents who wouldn't drop more money into a more detailed Japanese accessory that was probably aimed at an older audience anyway. 

Part of that bothers me.  I realize there should be a product range for kids, but I think that there is a lot missed in narrowing the product range like that.  First and foremost, a lot of characters are lost out on (and I love me some Keroppi), but it also seems as if there is a general drop in quality in stuff that is already pretty low quality to begin with. 

I have to think this has to do with what is considered acceptable and age appropriate in the West as compared to the East, where cute stuff may be more acceptable for more ages. 

Yeah, I don't know what I'm getting it, it's late...

Review: The Leather Satchel Co.

I got my bag a few days ago and I love it!  Here's the full story:

I had wanted a leather satchel after stumbling upon an image of one by chance (namely, the neon line).  I first stumbled upon the Cambridge Satchel Company and later discovered the Leather Satchel Co. on Amazon while searching for more satchels (I had been in the market for a very, very long time, haha*).  I'm not quite sure which company came first or anything, but since the Leather Satchel Co. had the neon colors that I wanted at a cheaper price I went with them.  (They also offered a guarantee, something that I did not see with the Cambridge, though I didn't necessarily look around for it so I may be wrong).

*I should say, I had been looking around at/for satchels for MONTHS.  I compared the Leather Satchel to the Cambridge to random stuff on ebay and spent months trying to decide what to do because I am indecisive and spineless.

The Leather Satchel Co. sells bags on Amazon but since I wanted a few customizations I worked with them through their site.  I will say, they were always very polite and helpful (even after I sent countless annoying emails full of questions) and answered all my questions fully.

I did run into two problems:

1. Their website seems a bit disorganized.  There are really no links on the first page so I had to do a google search to find the many pages they had up (that were full of pictures and information).  The website itself is great, very detailed and clear, I just wish it were all linked together a bit better!

2. As said, their customer service reps are awesome, but there was a bit of a time wait between emails.  I did have some issue when I had confirmed that I wanted a bag but nothing was sent to me (no invoice or confirmation) for a couple of weeks after that until I sent an email.  So, things may be a bit slow on the email front, but they were very nice.

3. There seems to be a few/quite a few loose thread ends but the stitching itself seems pretty secure.  I guess I'll have to wait and see on this one but I do have the guarantee. 

The bag shipped to me very quickly too!  I did pay for shipping since it came from the UK but on Amazon the bag ships free (though without customizations).  I was really surprised to get it when I did.

My first response upon opening the packaging: "OH HOLY FUCK" (in a good way, it was awesome!).
The bag is crazy, ridiculous bright!  I was a bit worried that it would be a watered down kind of neon but hell no, it is shocking bright.  As they said, pictures do not do it justice, it is really, really bright.

Another surprise: the leather is really nice too!  I had read some reviews on the Cambridge satchels and some said they found the leather rather stiff at first, which I have not found to be of issue.  The leather holds its shape very well, but I have found it to be nice and soft.  This was (after the color) my biggest concern since I really don't like stiff, hard leather but I really like this and I am a sucker for nice, soft leather.

I got the 15 inch because I like to carry a lot of crap around with me and it all fits really well.  I will say that I kind of imagine the smaller ones looking a bit more "stylish" (at least, or especially, for the neon colors) but I'm happy with the size myself.

As for customizations, I got a handle on the top and magnet closures instead of the buckles.  I had read a review (for the Cambridge, I believe, but w/e) that the buckles can be a pain if you want quick access to stuff which is something I need, and the handle is really convenient too.  

When I wore it out to the mall I got tons of compliments, with people literally stopping me to tell me they liked it, to ask where I got it, and to remark on how eye searingly (in a good way) bright the color is.  I can't recall the last time any accessory of mine got this much attention.

So I will say, if you are considering getting one of these, go for it.  I do think it is totally worth it. 

As to how this compares with the Cambridge company, I can't say as I've never touched any of those satchels, but I am very happy with what I have.  If I were richer I'd buy a bunch in different colors but my Western style "poverty" won't let me.

*Note: I wasn't paid for this, I bought it with my own hard earned money.  It cost about $175 or so (for the bag plus customizations and shipping).

UPDATE:  I took some more pictures, and I plan on putting more up as well after this:

 The one above was taken in an aquarium, hence the darkness.  It looked really cool, especially in contrast to the blue and cool toned surroundings.

This is the satchel in natural light.  It is extremely bright.  Other than the red sweater I tried to stick with a dark and neutral clothing palette, the contrast works really well. 

Funny enough, one thing I'm really excited about is what little picture I want to put in the card/ID holder.  I don't just want my name or anything, I want a picture (a neat way to display art on the go, amirite?) but I want to find something that doesn't clash too much with the neon...we'll see!

 Some Issues That Have Arisen: 
It takes a while to give a really good review of things.  
One issue I noticed after I started to use it was that the area where it folds open is already starting to show some wear.  I really hope this doesn't become a major issue because this is something that is definitely worth sending the bag back (for repairs!) for.  I don't use it every single day but I noticed the wear starting after about a week.  I'm not sure how to feel about that.
Another "issue" although far less stressful is that of the little loose threads (of stitching) everywhere.  Not a big deal, but noticeable.  I also wish that the thread itself had been dyed the same color as the satchel as it would have created a more uniform appearance but again, not a big deal.  
There is also some grime/discoloration/I'm not sure in one area of the bag (the upper part of the back) that didn't seem to go after even after cleaning.  I cleaned the bag today and most dirty spots wiped away easily but that area didn't, I'm not sure why.  I will clean it up more soon and report back.  
 Here is a picture of some of the wear that I'm talking about (along with one of those loose threads). 

Review: NYX "Nude on Nude" Palette

I got this palette from Amazon (for about $25) because I've kind of been wanting a nude/neutral palette that I could travel with without spending the money for the famed Urban Decay Naked Palette or or the Too Faced ones (I had wanted the Neutral Eye one, but it seemed a lot of money to spend at the time and I had a gift card for Amazon anyway).

I'm not sure how I feel about this palette, so I'll break it down a bit in my head:

  • This is really convenient for travel as it has a range of colors along with some lip glosses.  It is relatively small, compact, and seems to have a sturdy case.
  • As stated above, there is a range of colors, far more than  lot of natural/neutral palettes out there. 
  • Along with a range of colors there are different textures (matte, shimmer and some "sorta" glitters).  
  • The packaging is attractive and comes with a nice mirror. 
  • It isn't tested on animals
  • While $25 isn't a big price for how much you get (at least in terms of variation), I kind of go back and forth whether or not this is truly "worth" it.  
  • The quality varies (more on this).
  • The packaging, while sturdy, feels kind of cheap and I found it a bit difficult to open at first.  I also have to wonder/worry whether or not the lip tray will come out under the hustle and bustle of travel. 
  • When I first opened it one eyeshadow fell out (the bronze one), but after I stuck it in there hasn't been issue, so I don't know if this is a con or not.  

My biggest concern is with quality.  Some of the eyeshadows can be a bit chalky (although I will say, others are lovely).  For instance, the black is just bad, it's chalky and doesn't go on evenly.  Some of the colors have issues with blending, but this isn't too bad.  Overall, I'd say the quality is simply "ok" though the colors themselves are, in my opinion, quite lovely.

UPDATE: I notice that the darker colors are the ones with the big issues (they're chalky, don't blend well, don't have good pigmentation, and so on).  The lighter ones work quite well though, I'm quite happy with the white, beige and champagne colors in the palette.  I occasionally use the sparkly taupe colors (more to the right) and they work well.  
I have ended up using this every day, I just avoid the dark ones.  

The lip colors are typical, not-so-high-quality lip glosses that tend to come in large makeup palettes.  I will say though, some of the colors are rather unique.  They are all glossy, while two seems to have glitter in them (one heavily so).  I myself have a hard time with pink lip colors (the majority of the colors here) but there is an interesting coral color here that I haven't seen too often with a lot of palettes that I really liked.  Other than that, these aren't too special to be honest.

So, overall, I think this palette is awesome for travel, when you need something compact, that carries a lot, and has makeup that's generally good for when you need something quick and simple.   The makeup is good for everyday use and translates well from day to night, informal to formal, etc.  I do use this everyday, and it works well enough, although if you are looking for something really high quality it is best to look elsewhere, and I do think a good, high quality set of neutral/natural eye colors is worth investing in.

I probably wouldn't buy this again, though.  

*I was not paid for this.

Ramble--On Walmart and Possible Hipsters

This is one of those things that, in the scheme of things, is rather complicated.

I was given the opportunity for a giftcard recently (as, obviously, a gift) and I implied at one I would have wanted one for Walmart rather than Target, to which the person offering seems to have scoffed, saying they would never shop at or support Walmart in anyway.  I find this attitude rather pervasive, especially here in Oregon, but there always seems to be a tinge of hypocrisy here that I don't quite understand.

Yes, I can see why people are uncomfortable with big corporations/companies that get their goods from China in mass produced quantities and encourage materialism, over spending, etc.  To the people who manage to avoid these trappings of modern American life, I salute you.  I know I sure as hell don't.   

But what boggles my mind is why Walmart is somehow worse off in this respect than countless other stores out there.  I do understand that Walmart has had some extra "charges" brought against them in regards to how they treat employees and some other practices but again, they don't seem to be alone in many of their actions.  The negative criticisms against Walmart could easily be levied against other companies (so while Walmart may treat its employees like shit, Target may give money to some rather unlikeable anti-gay political parties). 

This seems like more of a fad than anything.  I do know of some people who are against Walmart (or many legitimate reasons) that do make the effort to avoid all stores and businesses that follow business models like that.  I just find it ridiculous when people don't go through those efforts and yet act as if avoiding Walmart is somehow a progressive, rebellious act of some sort while they eagerly shop at Target.  Isn't it like avoiding McDonald's only to go to Burger King?

And yes, I realize I may be out of my element, I don't care.

Anyway, here is a picture of my rat sitting on a towel that I bought at either Target or Walmart, I'm not sure where. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Note

I'm just starting out on blogger, getting everything together since I've collected up a bunch of reviews/rants/rambles I have been wanting to post online for a while, from (either) other sites or just stuff I've written down.  I'll also include commentary on various other things but as it starts out, it may just be stuff along the lines of beauty, which seems to be a rather recent focus of mine.

Reviews: Drugstore Mascaras


I'm going to be reviewing some recent mascaras I've tried out in the last few months.  I do not have pictures up as of this writing but I will soon!

1. Maybelline: Falsies Volume Express (waterproof)

I didn't like this at all.  I found the formula to be extremely clumpy, sticky and thick for a mascara.  The brush itself did not lend itself to smooth application since chunks of mascara seem to have stuck to the "stem" of the brush (I'm not altogether sure what to call it), although I'm not sure if this is the fault of the brush itself or the formula of the mascara.  The wand was also made to be flexible and while I can see the appeal of this it ended up feeling weaker than it should have as the main point of flexibility is too close to the brush itself, making it a bit floppy to work with.

This clumped up my eyelashes like no other.  If there is one thing I detest it's globs of mascara on my eyelashes making them look like spider legs--totally this mascara.

I must say though, this did not seem to smear at all, and I have pretty oily skin that tends to lead to smearing/smudging throughout the day.  Of course the waterproof formula helps for this, but that is something in its favor.  

2. Maybelline: Lash Stiletto (waterproof)

I found this to be a generally acceptable mascara.  It did seem to lengthen, as promised, but it didn't strike me as particularly special.  One the whole though, the formula was generally rather nice, and the wand was rather typical.  I'm actually not sure there's much to say about this, it just seemed "okay" to me.  It kind of seems like a lot of the appeal for these was the improved packaging that made it look a bit more high end than most drug store mascaras.

3. Covergirl: LashBlastLength (water resistant)

I really can't say much about this since I actually only tried this out yesterday, but I really liked it!  It comes with a plastic bristled brush which I'm starting to find that I prefer since I need to have very defined lashes (I hate HATE spider lashes).  The plastic bristles here are very small and numerous so it does the job of defining the lashes really well.

I did wear it out in some really humid, hot weather (for Oregon) and it stood up really wonderfully, no smearing at all.  I was also really impressed with the lengthening (and volumizing, defining, etc) for this mascara, I will definitely buy this again!

I also note that while the packaging is very plain (something I tend not to care about when it comes to mascaras really) it seems to have a similar "stiletto" shape like Maybelline Lash Stiletto and I wonder if it was always that way or if they were trying to improve packaging.  If anyone is bothered by that shape (I can see how it would be a pain if you wanted to stand it up) that may be a minor issue. 

I love those short, widely spaced plastic "bristles" (what are they called?).  It works far better for my eyelashes than the more full, brush-like mascara wands, and I think in general it helps prevent clumping a lot. 

*Note: I wasn't paid for this.