Cinematic Horror at Gamescom

I just wanted to do a brief aside about two video game previews we had at Gamescom 2014.

First off we have the wonderfully scary and interesting looking P.T demo (which we played on the PS4) for the newly revealed Silent Hills from Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro using the Fox Engine (it’s gorgeous). It’s a game myself and Peter were never 100% confident would ever exist, a new Silent Hill that actually looks like it has some money, care and sense behind it. Obviously, it’s important to stress that P.T was just a demo, and does carefully state that it will not have anything to do with the main game, this reminds me in many ways of the Quantic Dream tech demo that came out before Heavy Rain, way back when in 2006.

And secondly we have ‘Until Dawn’ from Supermassive Games, which uses the also new and shine-y Killzone Shadow Fall engine, and also boasts some big names in its voice/motion capture cast. I actually quite like that it has a slasher movie feel to P.T’s higher end quality. They are both very different takes on the horror genre.

Most importantly I wanted to talk about the cinematic quality. It’s a really interesting shift we’ve been seeing in the video game industry which I think is a great indicator of how serious the industry is now – the big titles haven’t been about kids and family fun for a long time, but about high end design and serious stories. I like seeing the motion capture and care and how they’re starting to get proper actor billing in games, such as in Beyond: Two Souls big casting, all of L.A. Noire and so on and so on. Both these games have this, with proper actors and people involved in making them who also make films. So we’re seeing games that are becoming more ‘Interactive Drama’ in the good sense – a fully fleshed out game that has had care taken with its writing and acting as well as its engine and game play mechanics – rather than one focused on at the expense of another and we pretend that that’s fine because it’s just a game, the whole experience is very well made because these things have such big budgets now.

So, that’s all I wanted to say for now, it’s very exciting to see these kinds of story and genre driven games coming out, and how much horror is still being a more popular genre.

GlossyBox July 2014

I’m going to skip the GlossyBox introduction this week, as I’ve already done it, if you’re interested refer to the First Impressions post.

My July box is here, it’s the Stars and Stripes edition this month with lots of American goodies. This month the focus is less on the service in general, and more on the individual products, so here’s a quick unboxing picture set, mostly because I like how they look, and then I’m going to get more in detail about the products I received. As mentioned last time, there is now no GlossyBox magazine, as it’s now all digital, but we do still get the little card with information on it.

July GlossyBox

This month promised at least 4 full sized products on the website, and wonderfully…luckily…whichever word you want to use, all five of my box items are full size.

First off is a product everyone is supposed to receive – Bellapierre Cosmetics Ltd Mineral Lipstick. Mine is the shade ‘Ruby’, which is a bright, bold red. There isn’t much in the way of extra packaging or information on the actual lipstick, just addresses, weight (3.5g), and the shelf life (24 months). Bellapierre is our first American brand and is part of a larger company The Exite Group Inc in Los Angeles, California, though they do have a European address too, and are available online.

From the little card description the impression I get is this lipstick is supposed to be bright and long lasting while also being good for your lips, as it’s enriched with vitamins. It’s a nice, rich, thick consistency that’s on the shinier side, but by no means a high gloss finish. I get the feeling you could put it on in differing thicknesses and/or paired with a lip gloss to achieve different looks.

Lipstick in the July GlossyBox

Would I buy it full price? Honestly, probably not. But that’s more to do with the shade rather than the product quality. I tend to stay away from bold lip colour, and focus on having bolder eyes. But then this box is at least partially about trying new things so maybe it will be good to leave my makeup comfort zones – I’m going to try and use it at least.

Price: Full item (3.5g) £20 / from Bellapierre

Next I have the ABSOLUTE New York Perfecting Eyeshadow Primer. Like most primers it is a pale pink/peach colour that fades as you blend it in where you want to prime for makeup. Again there is no extra packaging, but the label is more informative, with addresses, weight (7.9g) and shelf life (12 months) – as well as ingredients. The company/brand is actually Nicka K New York, and is an American only brand, with no European availability usually. It seems like a smaller, lesser known brand and generally the prices of their other cosmetics aren’t expensive looking either.

The primer is oil free which is a great bonus to me, as I have oil prone skin and like to use mostly oil free makeup. It’s a pretty straight forward product that’s supposed to make your eye area smoother and less red, if you choose to wear it on it’s own, and will also make your eyeshadow last longer and wear better. Against my last primer (Urban Decay Potion) it’s pretty comparable, working straight away to make the area look nicer, and then the eyeshadow look nicer. It has the same type of applicator I think most primers have, the slanted sponge thing on a stick.

Primer in the July GlossyBox

Excuse the blueness/darkness of my under eyes, this was done with no other makeup.

Would I buy it full price? Like last time, with products that aren’t easy to get in the UK, it is a bit of a moot point. For the price it is a great primer, and I’ll be using the whole thing. What I suspect will happen in the future is that I’ll buy a bigger, more general purpose primer, such as the Revlon PhotoReady primer, and use it where I need it.

Price: Full item $4.99 (converted to £2.92 using Google) (7.9g) / nicka.com

Next up is the Carmex lip balm. This is a very basic seeming item, as it’s a very simple petroleum based lip balm. It did come with full packaging this time, so we have lots of extra information. There is a little history about the product, it’s a fairly old brand – since 1937 – originally in Wisconsin and is now readily available outside America. I’ve walked past it a number of times in Boots, but never actually tried one. You also get directions, ingredients, addresses, weight (7.5g) and shelf life (12 months).

It looks slightly yellow toned in the pot, but it’s actually clear. It has a thin, slightly oily/waxy feel to it, which I’m not a huge fan of – but in terms of how lip balms actually work to protect your lips is pretty much necessary to create a barrier between your skin and the wide world. It has a very distinct smell, which is sort of citrus vanilla and a little bit like Vicks Vapour Rub interestingly (my other half says it smells like boot polish.) Weirdly enough it contains Salicylic acid, spotted in a bunch of stuff recently, which has antibacterial and pain relief properties.

Balm from the July GlossyBox

Would I buy it full price? I don’t see why I wouldn’t to be honest. I’ve tried many different types of lip balm: Nivea, Lush, Palmers, and it certainly compares. It doesn’t specifically say it’s SPF like others I have, though it does mention wearing it in good or bad weather, which would be the only niggle for me.

Price: Full item £2.69 (7.5g) / from graftonsbeauty.co.uk

My fourth item is the Mary Kay Cosmetics Lash Love Mascara. It is described as a volumising mascara that also conditions your lashes with vitamin E. Not only is this a full sized item, but it also comes boxed and with a small leaflet. It isn’t a brand that I’ve ever heard of, but that’s mostly been the case this month – the company was founded and still has its headquarters in Texas. On the packaging we have ingredients, description, addresses, weight (8g), shelf life (6 months), and a printed expiration date as well. This line is available in many countries, including the UK.

The colour I received is ‘I heart Black’, and is a very strong black. It has a good sized, thick tube that’s easy to hold, and is very slightly ergonomic. The wand inside is the rubber/silicon type with the shorted style bristles that I actually quite like, and it has a flexible neck – which is something I’ve never tried before again. It’s quite easy to put on, and does make the lashes look longer and volumised. It is very slightly clumpy, but looks nice overall. It’s also a non waterproof mascara, and washes off very well with my Boots makeup remover – a good thing too, as while I like makeup to have staying power, it needs to come off easily too.

Mascara in the July GlossyBox

Would I buy this item full price? For the price, and compared to other mascaras I own probably not to be honest. I can get something comparable for much cheaper. Added to this, the general advice I’ve read elsewhere online – that your mascara is an item to not feel guilty over saving money on, as this makes it more disposable. Mascaras actually have pretty short shelf lives and you need to be careful it’s not being used when it’s dry, gone off, and or has the risk of irritating your eyes. So even a 20, 30, or 40 pound mascara should only last you a few months.

Price: Full item £16 (8g) / from marykay.co.uk

Finally, I received Broadway Nails imPRESS Press On Manicure. This is also a full item with full packaging. Press on nails are essentially a variant of fake nails wherein instead of a set of nails and a bottle of glue, each nail has adhesive already on it. You uncover and press to your nails. They are actually complete, plastic like nails, rather than a nail sticker more like a nail wrap. Like all our other items, it’s American based, though very widely available in other countries, including the UK. It was a little harder to find anything out about the brand, but I finally discovered its parent company is KISS USA, which produces a variety of different makeup and nail lines.

You actually get twenty four nail covers, two sets of twelve in the same shade, mine is ‘So, So Stellar.’ This is nice, as you can try and get the best fit for your nails, as well as practice with the first pair and wear the second if it’s your first set, or have two sets if otherwise. The box claims they will last upto a week when applied well, won’t damage your nails, and are easy to remove. It has both written and picture instructions on the packet, as well as a QR code linking directly to a YouTube video showing you how to do it as well, which is a nice touch.

The nails are contained within the nail polish bottle like case, which is nice and compact so it’ll keep everything together without being a pain to store. Alongside that you get a single nail prep sachet and a tiny emery board. It would have been nice if there were two prep sachets, one for each of the two sets of nails, but the main ingredient is Isopropyl alcohol, which is an alcohol based solvent, so nail varnish remover will do in a pinch.

Nails in the July GlossyBox

Would I buy this item full price? Again, honestly I’m not sure I would – I’ve never really been a fake nail person. But these are relatively inexpensive for two separate uses, and nice to have a try. I’m viewing it more as a fun to try item than anything else, and I will give them a go.

Price: Full item £7.99 / Roughly £3.99 per set (though some colours are £5.99) / from superdrug.com

So, it’s pricing and final verdict time. Overall, I recieved 5 full sized items, for a total retail value of £49.60. All of the items are nice quality and I will use them, though perhaps only two or three would I actually buy for myself or buy again. On the face of it there isn’t a lot in actual size/weight for your money (the total value, not the subscription), and I suppose part of this is because I tend to lean towards more value or drugstore type products that just do. I do think it has been worth it in terms of value for money compared to the subscription price paid.

I don’t actually have nails selected on my beauty profile so it would be nice to not receive a nail item next time, but it’s very understandable that it’s the luck of the draw in terms of the low price paid. I’ll keep with it, and see what I get next time.

Quickie Book mentions

So, I’m actually terribly behind on my GoodReads challenge of reading a book a week for the whole year to read a total of 52 books this year. Last year I managed it pretty well, reading a total of 64 books by the end of it. Whereas as of this article I’ve only read 13 book-books this year – only 25% of the whole target. I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to catch up to be honest; there’s just been a bunch of other stuff going on.

The reason I mention book-books is because I actually read a lot online: news, articles, people website posts, reviews, lots and lots of FanFiction. I still count all that as real reading – I’m not sure why you wouldn’t – I just still have a great fondness for reading a physical book, and I love using my local library. (free books!)

So I wanted to quickly mention what I’ve read recently, and what I’m reading.

First of is ‘Why Do You Overeat? When all you want is to be slim’ by Zoe Harcombe – in brief, terrible. But not just terrible, deceptive. It has some really good points about how things work, and the diet industry, and what doesn’t work. But the writer then devolves into the usual worrying diet advice. ‘You can’t eat any x.’ In this case it’s carbohydrates. I should eat fat and protein. This isn’t true. Looking at the book as a whole as opposed to the diet advice, it’s also not fantastically written in the end. It has a very strong beginning, but then repeats itself over and over. It also has things like a whole chapter devoted to simply listing all the essential vitamins and minerals, which just feels like filler material. I’m assuming the problem would have been, properly edited; the book would have been too short. Ah well.

Next is ‘The Woman Upstairs’ by Claire Messud – in brief, interesting, and then good. It’s one of those strange ‘about someone’s life in general’ type of book that isn’t really about any one thing (other than mostly the main character I suppose) and I’m never sure what genre to put it in. The books about art in the background, but mostly it’s about the main characters possibly (probably) unhealthy relationship with a family that moves to where she lives for a year. It has a great ‘voice’ throughout the book, in that it’s written from the character’s perspective, who is at times angry, strange, contrary, worrying etc. I do like this style when it’s done well; it gives the character real life. I’m not sure how much I was expecting the end revelation, but I liked it, and the book overall.

Right now I’m reading The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon, and from the first chapter I’ve read I like it so far. It’s a science fiction/fantasy mix in genre almost, and so far has reminded me a bit of The Magician’s Guild by Trudi Canavan. I think I’ll enjoy it. I have a bunch of other books bookmarked and noted down that I still want to read this year as well, so hopefully it’ll go well. Until next time.

GlossyBox June 2014 – First month first impressions

I’ve been tempted for quite a while now to take the plunge, so to speak, and buy a box subscription of some kind. They’ve been around for quite a while now, and in brief, you can pay a monthly fee, and someone will send you a box full of stuff. Any stuff. You can get subscriptions to snacks, cake, tea, cooking ingredients, alcohol, and finally various types of beauty products.

A beauty box subscription is finally what I settled on, and GlossyBox seemed to have more of the things that I suspect I would use, since I felt BirchBox was aimed at an older audience than the type of stuff that I like, and Love Lula is more beauty care style products rather than makeup – which was what I was more interested in at the moment.

For GlossyBox each month you pay a £10 charge for the box, plus £3.25 for shipping, so in total £13.25. There are lower prices available, the lowest being £8.50 per month plus Shipping (a total of £11.75) but this lower tier requires you to sign up for a 12 month contract, and I like the freedom of canceling and renewing when I like.

There are a few other ways you can save money or get more for your subscription each month, as GlossyBox has both a Refer a Friend program and a Loyalty Points program, but I haven’t tried those yet.

Under the cut will be the unboxing and reviews.

Unboxing Photos of the GlossyBox

 

So here’s the unboxing. It arrived in a very neat package, just the right size for the box inside. It isn’t small enough to fit through the letterbox, but it is securely tracked which is always a good thing. Inside the box is quite literally a glossy box (I know, the bad jokes) of pretty sturdy cardboard type material, as far as I’ve seen of other people’s boxes, the design each month is different, so I suspect you could view them as collectable. They’re certainly a good enough quality, and arrived completely undamaged – so you could reuse it quite easily. I’m personally very fond of re-using stuff, even packaging – I make enough waste as it is.

Inside there’s a small magazine, which funnily enough is now the last physical copy of the GlossyBox magazine they’ll be doing, as they’re moving it to a digital magazine format. It’s a little thing, only 8 double sided pages in A5 size, but it’s well printed. Inside is the usual general beauty magazine type fair, ‘buy these products’ and ‘advice from this beauty person’. I do think it’s interesting they’re axing the physical copy, as Boots has also recently started a digital copy of the Boots beauty magazine (though the physical copy of that still exists.) Alongside that there’s a small printed sheet telling you exactly what’s in your box, how to use it, where it’s from, and how much it’s worth. Out of the two it’s probably the more useful.

Then we have the very nicely and neatly packaged products.

Products inside

I’m not going to go too in depth about everything, as I’ve only had it for a short while, but here’s a quick look at what I received.

nailgirls – 3 in 1 base, topcoat, & nail strengthener : It’s an all around clear nail polish that looks like it covers pretty much everything, all you’d need is some nail colour, if you even wanted to bother with that. It’s listed as not a full size product, as it’s 10ml rather than the full 15ml, but to me it’s a very nice size, so I’d call it a nearly full sized item. It’s a nice what-you’d-expect consistency and dries quickly.

Would I buy it full price? Honestly, I tend to gravitate more towards value for money style products and I know there are plenty of drugstore beauty price level equivalents – so while it is nice, I probably wouldn’t, though I will finish the one I received.

Price: Full item £13.50 / for the size I got £9 / from nailgirls.co.uk

got2b – Rise’n’Shine souffle : This is a full sized Schwarzkopf hair product. It’s aim it to add texture, volume and shine to hair. It has a thick whipped consistency and smells very strong, but in a nice way – the scent is described as Jasmine. I like that it’s a little pot style one, that you use your hands to apply, as this is the format I’m more used to. Rubbing it on to see how it fairs against my flyaways, it does well, but leaves a really nasty hand reside feeling. Easily washed off of course.

Would I buy it full price? If it’s any good on a full try I might actually consider trying it out more, as it basically does what an equivalent product I have does ( Bed Head Small take – thickening and volume) but cheaper.

Price: Full item £4.07 / from superdrug.com

Teeez Trend Cosmetics – Beautiful Flat Stiff Brush : Makeup brushes are something that I don’t actually have a lot of, and could probably use more of. Teeez is a brand from the Netherlands, and it’s a really lovely eyeshadow brush. It’s nice, full sized, and feels solid. The bristles are described on the packaging as ‘natural hair’  though of what I couldn’t tell you, and are thick and soft. The thing I actually like most about it is the art on the brush, it’s very pretty – though I suppose not  that important to how it actually works.

Would I buy it full price? I’m not sure I’m actually able to purchase this brush or brand in the UK anyway, so I suspect it’s a moot point, though I do need to buy more brushes, and have been looking at the Real Techniques line. I will use this brush I’ve been given.

Price: Full item €19 (£15.14 using google) / nelly.com

Roger&Gallet – Fleur de Figuier discovery ritual : This product is really the only one in the whole box that I’d genuinely view as ‘sample sized’ – it’s a single use sample each of the Fleur de Figuier line’s shower cream, body lotion, and fragrance water (which I think means it’s more like a cheaper body mist/spritz than actually like a full purfume). I haven’t yet tried the shower cream or body lotion – I’ll be using them in the bath next time I bathe – but I did use the fragrance water. It’s all supposed to have the same smell, which is a very nice, slightly musky, sweet fruit fragrance.

Would I buy it full price? It’s a very nice smell, but not the type I usually go for, which is floral, musky, spicy, or a mixture of those three. I probably wouldn’t get it again.

Price: Full item £9.50 for the shower lotion (£0.47 proportionally) / £13 for the body lotion (£0.65) / £32 for the fragrance (£0.48) / marksandspencers.com

So Susan Cosmetics – Universal Blush : Another full sized product. While I was wary at first about receiving a blush, as it’s a makeup item I tend not to use very much at all (I go pink cheeked very easily), this has turned out to be my favourite item of the lot. First off it’s a very ethical style beauty product –  the back lists it as being mineral oil free, phthalate free, animal by-product free, fragrance free, hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, cruelty free, and made with fruit oil. That’s quite a long list I realise. The little beauty magazine does have a page featuring the products, which talks about the creator wanting to make beauty products that were good for you first and foremost.

It’s also the best kind of makeup in my opinion, in that it’s clever makeup. Like the foundation I have, it’s a colour changing product. It’s supposed to perfectly match your skin. It’s quite a shock when you first put it on as it looks so dark, but very quickly it turns to a better shade. It has a little shimmer in it, but not a huge amount – the edge of your cheeks/cheekbones just catches and reflects a little light. You also only need to use a very small amount (or I do, as I don’t like a full blush look) so I think it will last a fair while. I’m pretty impressed by it.

Would I buy it full price? I do have a few on the expensive side brands that I like (Benefit and Urban Decay) but So Susan Cosmetics may be joining that list.

Price: £18 / sosusan.com

Close up of some products

 

So, this was my very first month, and I’m pretty happy to be honest. While it hasn’t made me want to buy all the things I received, I’ll certainly use them all. I’m going to keep with GlossyBox for now, and see if I like the next few months before I decide I want to keep it long term. GB has already announced that next month will be Stars & Stripes/American themed, so that looks nice.

Finally, the full value of my items was £47.81. Do I think it was worth what I paid? Yes, very probably. I like the idea of trying new items, and items I wouldn’t be able to get where I live, and it takes a lot of the effort of that out, for a small monthly fee. It’s also nice to get something in the post. The only pinch of salt, I suppose, to bear in mind is that these boxes are probably supposed to make you want to buy more products from brands that you are sent, though I am not too easily swayed I suspect.

Until next time.

Cooking methods and Healthiness: Trying to find real information

So, we’ve recently started to use the oven a lot more for cooking. Particularly for things like chips, and things that go with those chips i.e. sausages. Our deep fat fryer is a little old, and a little icky, as it’s a giant pain in the behind to change the oil.

Added to that, the fact that both myself and Peter are losing the weight we gained during and after University – slowly, but surely – to something at least a bit more healthy. Neither of us is honestly bothered about reaching our ‘ideal’ weight, at least not in BMI terms, which isn’t the most fantastic indicator in the first place. Why? Muscle is weight as well. Both myself and Peter have reasonable leg muscles from walking all our lives (neither of us comes from car driven families), and Peter at least (who cycles a lot more than me) is developing cycle-y thigh muscles, yeah. We have healthier diets, though we still love unhealthy food, and we cycle more.

But I was curious to find out which cooking methods are better, and which are worse. The general consensus is that oven cooking is healthier versus frying. But better how? And what about boiling and steaming?

I’ve come across many websites filled with conventional wisdom, and some that seem to be full of made-up nonsense. I did finally come across a wonderful study, titled “Comparative study of frying to other cooking techniques influence on the nutritive value” by A. Bognár. You can see the cached online browser version here, or download it as a PDF. It’s a good read if you like reading academic papers.

I did want to sum up a few of its points that were interesting about cooking methods, so I’ll just paraphrase:

  • Boiling and steaming both reduce the fat, yes, but they also reduces the protein, vitamins and minerals in all food to the highest extent. Yes, even steaming. (We were surprised. We like steaming)
  • Frying involves very little loss of protein, vitamins or minerals.
  • All frying types of most products does increase the fat content to varying degrees.
  • The highest fat uptake is actually from shallow frying (though deep frying is next).
  • Breaded products have a much higher fat increase than non-breaded using the same cooking method.
  • Non-breaded high fat meat, however, does lose fat in cooking, even in frying.
  • There is a saturation limit anyway, on how much fat something can absorb.

So, it was very interesting, and I hope you take a look.