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PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 9:03 pm 
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vison wrote:
I asked a friend of mine who is a Latin scholar about "adeps humanis" and her response was: adeps soft or fat but
humanum for "of human beings", not "humanis".

A quibble, perhaps. But perhaps significant.


Yes, and I don't know the answer to this, vison. I'm not sure whether this was intended as the grammatical expression "of humans" or as a categorical similar to the way we indicate species. Those designations are not genitive case. I can pass this along to my friend and see what he says. It is his thesis, not mine, and I brought it up here because we both had the same reaction -- how can this information not be mentioned anywhere when it stabs you in the eye to find such a thing in a shipping manifest.

Regarding the makeup, though ... you see, it is very embarrassing for me to think that because of naivete I might be passing along information that is not only incorrect but patently impossible, so I spent some hours last night, in the middle of the night, trying to find either confirmation or disconfirmation of the fact that animal fat was used to cover smallpox scars.

Now this is not something that I picked up from the internet. I read it long ago in a book from our university library, before there was an internet. One of my daughters had some middle school or high school project to do on fashions in history or something like this. I routinely hunted up sources for them at our library and talked to them about their projects and discoveries and so on. I have a very clear memory of the impact this info made on us, that animal fat was used as makeup, and I thought that this at least should be confirmed or disconfirmed on the modern internet, even though I have no chance of remembering the name of the book we were reading at the time.

You know, hunting for this stuff on the internet is not as easy as it sounds, because the whole set of sources that you access is predicated on the key word that you use. I googled into the history of cosmetics, the history of smallpox, the history of animal fat ... :) ... trying to find the convergence between them, and for the first two hours at least I could not find any website, professional or amateur or commercial, that talked about these three things in conjunction (though I now know more about smallpox than I ever wanted to know).

But I did find it, ultimately - by knowing that it must exist somewhere if I once read it in a published source, even if what exists is a more modern discrediting of such notions.

I also found the explanation of why it was so difficult to find! - animal fat was so prevalent as a make-up base that in discussions of cosmetics as such it 'goes without mention' that this was the medium in which powders and colors were mixed. The powders were mostly metallic, which can be poisonous, as you noted, but they were not dusted on, they were painted on after being heated and then mixed into lard. The consistency of the result was that of honey, and apparently it hardened as it dried.

I located (among other things) a commercial site for an Italian cosmetics company that had a very enjoyable history of both the colors and the bases used to mix them from Roman times onward, with pics of the implements used for mixing and painting. Vegetable oils were used in some cases by the wealthy in ancient Rome; in Europe the solution of the nobility (if they eschewed animal fat for its smell) was egg white. 'Water based' makeups were achieved by having your servant spit on the powders or mix them in her mouth. But the overwhelmingly common base was animal fat.

(Fun Facts: Julius Caesar had a combover.) :)

What began to develop uniquely from the 16th ce to the third quarter of the 18th was the habit of plastering your face with this stuff to hide the disfigurement of smallpox. The hair-styling gel in all those tall coiffures was also lard, pure lard, and hair was rarely washed clean of it because this was considered bad for the health. When the lard would start to break down they would pour more lead powder on it.

Fat was considered more healthful than water. Did it go rancid? Yes! Did it stink? Yes! Did it attract rats? Yes!

Did it melt? Eventually, I suppose it would have, but not immediately because the powders mixed into the fat were so heavy they prevented decomposition. This is my conclusion based on reading that the makeup would break down by caking and cracking. It was not washed off, it had to be scraped off, and women had to remember not to smile (like modern models) because this would cause cracks to appear in their faces, lol!

The white powder mixed into the fat as the "foundation" for other colors was a lead powder, and the same thing was used apparently from the days of the Roman Empire through Revolutionary War times in America. They called it 'biacca' in Rome and 'ceruse' later in Europe.

Notions of hygiene in those centures were just ... really different from ours! It surprised me to read that animal fat was used as the base for all foundation makeups until quite recently, i.e. 20th ce. It was Max Factor who developed alternative oil-based make-ups for the movie industry, because the old greasepaints were too shiny under camera. And water based make-up using something other than spit was developed commercially during my lifetime, so ... very recent, historically speaking.

The reason that wholesale plastering of the face with a lead/animal fat mixture stopped in the late 18th ce was because variolation against smallpox (predecessor to vaccination) had taken hold in both Europe and the US and the incidence of smallpox, particularly the most virulent strain, fell dramatically.

I did find other sites that talked about the poor woman's alternative, which was bacon grease, used both as a cosmetic and as a moisturizer.

You know .... there's a lot of information that just ... goes against our grain, and is very hard to accept on first viewing. I am not generally of the temperment to dismiss things just because I never heard them before. I usually ask myself whether they violate other information that I've acquired from other sources (and I know you do this too!), and sometimes that means going back to the other sources and asking whether they can possibly be right, and sometimes finding that they were not.

One of the things I gleaned from the interview with Jackson about his book (summarized briefly above) is that "astonishment" is a kind of political statement too ... and so have I experienced it as such on many occassions.

Jackson talked about one incident that Stokely Carmichael relates on page ~400 of a 500-page book, that when he would tell people he suspected the US government had given him cancer, their response would be that the US government does not have the technology to do this. (Not unlike our response to Rev. Wright's charges about AIDS.) And he would think, so what does that mean? That you basically agree with me that if they did have the technology they would do it? (And we see in the Tuskegee study, and hundreds of other such studies I found reported in academic literature advertised on the web, that when they have the technology to do it they do do it. So on what basis, exactly, are we astonished?)

We've had a similar discussion once before about the population of the Americas just before European colonization, and I mentioned the estimates I had heard from anthropologists, based on the number of languages known to be extant and the amount of area covered, that it must have been around 200 million. This was met with "astonishment." Outside estimate of historians is 80 million. Median estimate is 20-30 million. But then you'll go into the very same academic sources, and discover that a 15th century Spanish census in Mexico reports 20 million people living there (which included modern Belize, Guatemala, and parts of Honduras as well as much of the southwest US) ... and something about this can't be right! Either the Spanish census is wrong or the historical estimates for the two continents plus bridge are wrong, because it can't be that everyone in North and South America lived in the area known then as Mexico!

There is a strong bias to conclude that all those people cannot have died because all those people did not exist in the first place. I take this bias into account when I conclude what to believe and what not to believe, because I know from personal experience that if one compares, for example, the counts of indigenous peoples living on one island of Indonesia, taken by visiting anthropologists, and the counts taken by the government, one of them is either under-reporting or over-reporting by a factor of 6. The next question becomes: what other information can we bring to bear that might decide which estimate is more reasonable? In the case of Indonesia (where I was involved in an economic white paper for the Interior ministry), the area over which the population was spread was much too large to support a contention that a few thousand people were living there in contiguous, viable tribes. The estimates of the anthropologists were far more likely to be correct, as was their estimation of territorial distribution. (We were attempting to estimate potential costs of transmigration.)

I run into this kind of discrepancy all the time - or did when I was doing this kind of work - because nearly all of my "official" data is self-reported by governments, and they have a vested interest in painting a particular kind of picture. Independent social scientists can have that kind of bias too, and that same vested interest just with a different objective, and these things have to be considered in the conclusions one draws. If I multiply the outside estimates for the Americas by six, I get a number that "feels" to me way too high - half a billion - but if I multiple the median estimate by six, I get a number that feels to me much more plausible, and consistent with the amount of time it takes languages to evolve, the amount of territory involved and the land needs of hunter-gatherer populations (given that carrying capacity is the main determinant of population), and the small regional census figures that are more likely to be accurate than the ones that supposedly covered vast charter areas.

We have Spanish census data from Belize and from Haita/Dominican republic (Hispanola) that both report approximately 2 million people living in those area. This is probably an exaggeration, for purposes of impressing the King! - it can easily be double the actual population. But even if doubled, the numbers suggest to me the same conclusion, that 20 million would be much, much too low an estimate for the entire western hemisphere. This is just an example of official "astonishment" that serves, ultimately, a political purpose, a cultural self-perception that is likely biased.

Anyway, I don't know how I got off onto that!! Well ... part of it is being astonished myself at some of the "conclusions" being passed around in this campaign that seem to me totally off the wall, while far more likely scenarios are dismissed as impossible because they do not fit our cultural self-perceptions.

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PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 9:17 pm 
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Jnyusa wrote:
He also went on to express his opinion that race is not the only thing to be treated this way by modern culture (meaning late 20th ce and now 21st ce). He sees the popularity of "therapy," for example, as a replacement of discussions that used to be held within the family, around the dinner table. We have in general boxed ourselves into a corner where there are many deeply personal feelings that we just don't talk about except under sanitized conditions, such as therapy. But if you looked back 50 years those kinds of problems were not handled that way.


Maybe around your dinner table, but not mine! I think that often "those kinds of problems" were not handled at all.

I could be wrong, heaven knows I have been wrong before. And my experience is certainly not universal. But I hear, from people my age and older, that there is TOO MUCH talk about "things" today, and that a little reticence would be a good thing. That not everything can be talked away and some things are best not talked about at all, best forgotten.

Sanitized conditions might be necessary in some circumstances, too, rather as an operating theatre is necessary for surgery. Talking things out or trying to talk things out can sometimes lead to anger and violence - I don't think the family dinner table can always carry the weight of the situation.

I'm not trying to defend my reticent family's ways, don't get me wrong. I think too little talk is as bad as too much. The trick is knowing what's too little and what's too much.

As for your comments about the man in the gym not being offered a towel, or the white woman tossing her blonde hair: I confess that I have been uncomfortable and unsure of whether I am "coming across" the same way, if you follow me. If a person is aware at all that the other person could have experienced racism or anti-Semitism, it can freeze naturalness? You want NOT to offend, and that in itself is displaying the very thing you don't want. Is that too convoluted?

Familiarity breeds contempt, the saying goes. But familiarity can also, or should also, breed ease in social interactions. Does it? Are people who grew up in a mixed-race neighbourhood more at ease with "the other" than I might be if I moved, for instance, to a city with a large African-American population? Or does such a situation merely solidify prejudice?

An image in a photograph that has stayed with me all my life was taken in a hospital, it shows a black nurse holding a white baby, the expression on the woman's face is kind and loving, the baby is looking up at her with that kind of adoring expression babies have when they are comfortable. How can the baby who was so tenderly cared for by a black woman grow up to be afraid of her?

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PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 9:33 pm 
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He gave two examples, one from his own experience, and one from a book by an African American woman. He was working out in a gym, and the gym attendant went from treadmill to treadmill and handed out fresh towels to every white person but not to him. Then this woman to whose book he referred was riding the bus, and a white woman sat next to her and sort of flipped her long blond hair in her face after sitting down, and she had the feeling that the white woman was rubbing her nose in the fact that long blond hair is the thing to have and she could never have it ... you know, and how do you describe feelings like that. They are at once both preposterous and reasonable.


I don't think these examples are remotely like each other! The hair flipping one seems very unlikely to me. But then the significance of hair flipping is a mystery to me.

As for the gym towels, I don't see how it's preposterous to suspect racism. It seems probable, though I suppose not certain. What occurs to me is that anyone would probably be mad after observing everyone else getting handed towels while he or she got none. It's rude, isn't it?

A more detailed account of the towel incident:

http://anthromania.blogspot.com/2008/04/racism-you-make-call.html


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PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 9:37 pm 
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Jnyusa, you must be a fast typer. Jeez.

Yes, I knew that the "fat" was used as a makeup base, with powdered pigments and metals mixed in, but I read it that people were smearing the actual fat on their faces, and that made no sense. I still don't "buy" the barrels of "adeps humanis", though. It just doesn't fit with common sense. As I said before, I'm not saying "Oh, no one would do that". I'm just skeptical.

The ancient Eygyptians also used masses of grease or fat and it seems to me that I remember they even fastened lumps of perfumed fat on their foreheads, to melt as the evenings wore on.

The descriptions of how women (and men, too, for that matter) painted their faces to hide the scars from Smallpox make fascinating reading. The white lead did poison people, arsenic was commonly used and poisoned the wearer, as well. People did not wash, as you pointed out, and one can only imagine the smell. I mean, think of it. Rooms lit by candles, even wax candles stink, full of hot, sweating unwashed people whose hair and faces were coated with rancid fat-based makeup, breaking wind (not frowned on, by and large) wearing layers of unwashed clothing . . .eating rotting or rotten meat, too. (I will merely mention the issue of "human waste" and recommend a TV documentary called "The Big Stink". I mean it REALLY makes you cringe. If you don't know about the lack of sewers in London - a lack that existed until Victorian times - be prepared to gasp in horror. I believe there is a book of the same title.) At any rate, these stinky people often lived in houses where the privy contents simply fell into the cellar of the house (very, very grand houses in London, too), the cellar contents had to be taken out bucket by bucket - my god, it is NO WONDER people died all the time. It's a wonder anyone at all lived, if you ask me.

I have read how people were sewn into their winter underwear - and that it was worn all winter. That it was truly believed that frequent (or any) bathing was unhealthy. No wonder people went around clutching pomanders and posies to their faces!!! And no wonder that Native Americans thought the White Man was a filthy beast.

This is getting off the subject of racism of course. But I have always been utterly fascinated by the history of daily life, how women managed their kitchens, etc., and I think these things are much more important than who won what battle.

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PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 11:09 pm 
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vison wrote:
Sanitized conditions might be necessary in some circumstances, too, rather as an operating theatre is necessary for surgery.


Yes, I can also see this being true for many issues. My family was not very talkative either about crucial issues, but also had a tendency to ... over-react in inappropriate ways to certain events ... and under-react in inappropriate ways to others. For that I did need therapy!! :P

Faramond wrote:
I don't think these examples are remotely like each other! The hair flipping one seems very unlikely to me. But then the significance of hair flipping is a mystery to me.


:D That must be a Mars-Venus thing, Faramond. Hair flipping and head tossing are standard non-verbal communication among women. We need a hair-flipping emoticon on this board, in fact, so often have I wanted to use one!

No, seriously, I have no idea what the hair flipping meant either. I think that if another woman sat down next to me and flipped her hair, I might consider it a bit of an affront, without actually being able to define why. It would have nothing to do with race, obviously ... but, it's a sort of crypto-flirtatious action, and when you do it to another woman ... it's a sort of, "I'm the pretty one" statement. Can't quite verbalize this myself, as you see! But I do 'get it' when I hear another woman talk about not liking it.

Thanks for that additional link! That's a much better website for hearing his ideas. The thing that struck me about this expanded description is the number of explanations that ran through his head! And the argumentation with self that went on. I guess what I agree with most on this topic is that it is darn complex to try to build a discussion around it.

vison wrote:
... but I read it that people were smearing the actual fat on their faces, and that made no sense.


For that I apologize. It was my way of stating my impression, because it struck me that way, that this is what people were doing, smearing fat on their faces. I did have this remaining impression, from reading long ago, that the fat went on first and then the colors on top ... like the fat was the glue or something. :) But obviously the process was more artful than that, if every bit as stinky as we might imagine! (Can you tell that my make-up box is rather small?)

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I still don't "buy" the barrels of "adeps humanis", though. It just doesn't fit with common sense. As I said before, I'm not saying "Oh, no one would do that". I'm just skeptical.


No problem. It's my friends obligation to defend it with the actual records whenever he finishes his book.

I'm skeptical about such things, too, you see, and in my mind there is a duel of skepticisms ... :)

Lord M. had once brought quotations from the diary of a missionary in a slaver's camp, that some African man had murdered a child and was "just about to throw her into the pot" (I paraphrase, but not unfairly I hope) before the missionary stopped him/ Lord M. said that this was not the only such account he had read, and it is true that our belief in the cannibalism of Africa is sufficiently widespread that one can make cartoons of missionaries in a pot and people find it funny rather than offensive.

I am skeptical about these accounts, you see, without wanting to say that they are fabricated. I do not believe they were fabricated. I believe such people, arriving in Africa and disembarking first in slavers' camps as they must have done, saw probably many things for which they had no context to understand, and gave interpretations that were accepted because no other explanation was available. One reads accounts of warfare between tribes that sound simply irrational. But when one has a better understanding of the likely purpose of warfare in a swidden agricultural setting, more pieces fall into place and it does not look so irrational after all. The slavers' camps were sometimes called "factories" in the 18th ce, and I find that a curious choice of words, but it is also true that prior to the take-off of the industrial revolution this word was used to describe points of trade in general as well as manufacturing sites (which were still cottage industry sites back then). So there are these ... strange things that I wonder about, and have no completely satisfactory explanation for. I viewed the account of my friend as to what he was finding in these manifests as having one thing, at least, to speak for it and that was that it would explain some of the anecdotal evidence that does not jive with our modern anthropological understanding.

Does not mean that our modern understanding is necessarily right! - or that my friend has given the right interpretation to what he read.

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PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 11:28 pm 
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Maybe "factory" came from "factor," "one who acts or transacts business for another," a broker. A place where a lot of factors could be found might conceivably be called a factory.

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PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 11:30 pm 
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Factories were called factories because that's where the Factor was. This was the common term in the fur trade, for instance. He was The Trader, the buyer/seller agent for the House in London, or elsewhere.

I could go on and on about it, it's not only what we do but something I'm quite interested in. I knew 2 men who had been "factors". One of them was from the Isle of Lewis (I think) and was brought to Canada by the Hudsons Bay Company. They used to go up to these remote islands and highlands and get the young men to come and work for them. The Scotch boys were well-educated and desperate to get away from the brutal life of a "crofter" in the Scotland of that era. Life as a Hudsons Bay factor offered adventure and the promise of a prosperous future if they worked hard. Bill Murray was an amazing man and I wish I'd had more time with him.

The other factor I knew was our own agent with The Bay when The Bay still dealt in raw furs. (They only stopped recently, I think it was about 2000, or 2001.) Ken was a Vancouver boy and his family sent him off to the North to get him out of town and his bad ways. The life suited him right down to the ground, he loved the North and the fur trade and had stories by the thousand.

Sorry for the Osgiliation.

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PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 11:32 pm 
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<awards self gold star>

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Yes, that's exactly right. "Factory" comes from "factor." We still call them that, by the way, the "factors of production."

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PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 6:06 am 
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I just wanted to point out there was a blond girl in my class who always flipped her blond hair in my face. Trust me that is something major. Now that I am an adult if anyone did that to me I would tell them that they are being rude and to never do that again. I get exactly what that incident means. (Where is an eye roll smiley when you need one?)

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PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 11:25 am 
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PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 2:31 pm 
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Hair flipping is (IIRC) generally considered a contextual signifier, that is, it means different things in different contexts. There's a reason, for example, that you see it--a lot--in ads for hair care products. It also takes on a different cast if it's done in the presence of an available partner, obviously.

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PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 5:02 pm 
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The "hair flipping" incident is really hard to "read." Frankly, I'd forgotten (if I ever knew) that it had meaning among adult women, and - as my hair is in this annoying just-past-shoulder-length stage where it won't stay neatly behind my shoulders, I've been "flipping" it back all the time. I'm quite sure I've done it after sitting down on a train and in other public places, and now I wonder if anyone else assigned some meaning to that - or whether it only has meaning if blondes do it...? I would hate for someone to have thought that I was trying to communicate something rude to them - or to communicate anything at all.

I remember girls doing it in middle and high school. I didn't realize it was about "flaunting" it, and brunettes as well as blondes did it. Now that I think about it, everyone whom I remember doing it was white. It may be a "racial" thing - maybe some hair textures are easier to "flip" than others? - but is it a "racist" thing? Do white people (or any other people with more easily "flippable" hair?) really "flip" it as a way to taunt other women? Really? I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but is anyone really that pathetic and self-conceited about their own hair?

Here's another thought - if a blonde woman sat next to me and "flipped" her hair - whether or not intending to convey the message, "Blonde hair is the thing to have and you can never have it" - I simply would not receive that message. I don't think blonde hair is the (only) thing to have. Wouldn't work with my skin tone at all, and I like my exact skin tone on me. I also really really like black hair and am very secure in the belief that it's the thing (for me) to have. Similarly: large breasts are another thing we're "supposed" to have or want to have as women, but if a large-breasted woman sat next to me and attempted to highlight that attribute of hers in a way that suggests, "You should want this and you can't have it naturally" - I also wouldn't take that message - again, because I feel very confident and happy with the way my body is and I don't think it needs to change. But if I was back in high school, 12 years old and sore from teasing about how I "didn't have anything there," I would have "heard" that message whether it was intended or not and probably been really affected by a girl with larger breasts seeming to "flaunt" them in my face.

This makes me wonder whether the greatest harm done from social standards that privilege one appearance over another occurs in the minds of the people who don't possess the "privileged" attribute. Blondes can think they've got the One True Look down all they want, but the only way they have that sort of privilege/power is if the rest of us all join together and agree that that's the way to look, and they're the only ones who look that way. Fair skinned people can think their skin color is the best thing since sliced bread - but the true power comes when us darker-skinned folk internalize that view - when WE subconsciously believe that we are "less than." This also plays, frankly, into the thin-fat discussion from earlier this week: thin people are no longer in the majority in America. Thin people's social "power"/standing is largely conferred by the rest of society, which is hellbent on striving for that look. If society instead decided to idealize the way that a majority of its members already look - those who look like the current, ultra thin beauty ideal would be screwed. (The same will be true along racial lines in the next fifty years, as brown people will collectively become the American majority by 2050.)

(I know it's not as simple as reducing racism to brown people's perceptions. I'm just worrying about the deleterious effect of those perceptions on all of us who might feel them, in one sense or another.)

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PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 5:24 pm 
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I don't flip my hair. I never knew such behavior had meaning. I tie mine up and let the world deal with my exploding ponytail. I do try to keep it out of people's faces though. I hate hair in my face and I assume everyone else does too. :P

I don't wanna be blonde. Too hard to get taken seriously. I don't want to be busty either. A full figure gets in the way. And if I didn't get sunburns so easily I'd be happier.


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I'm calling this blonde hair flipping thing an urban myth. I refuse to believe that anyone gives a damn what color hair someone has. And I am certainly not putting any stock into flipping whatever color hair.
This has to be one of those secret wimmen society things. It has to be. Otherwise I swear I am jumping off the planet now.

Flipping hair. God help us all.

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PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 7:20 pm 
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Living in hope
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Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:43 am
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Location: Sailing the luminiferous aether
You're just envious.

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 7:51 pm 
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Joined: Fri Dec 02, 2005 2:34 pm
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Can you flip ear hair?


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PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 7:58 pm 
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bioalchemist
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Location: the dry land
Ew.


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PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 9:54 pm 
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Can you flip back hair? That's the question.

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A fool's paradise is a wise man's hell.


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PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 9:56 pm 
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Last time I tried I got a slipped disc.


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