How to be Barack Obama for Hallowe’en

October 26, 2008

US Presidential elections follow hot on the heels of Hallowe’en, and apparently for the past seven elections, a reliable predictor of who’ll take the election is whichever candidate’s Hallowe’en mask has sold out first. Using my deductive superpowers, I draw the obvious conclusion: the more masks you buy, the more likely your candidate is to win. So this Hallowe’en, get out there and do your part!

click to enlarge.

click to enlarge.

Call me a prude, but I don’t like walking around with my head in a latex bag all night, so I modified a latex Obama mask & used some makeup wizardry to look like our intrepid hero. There’s a large-size pic of the final face at the very end of this post.


Black eyeliner for your eyes & brows
Navy blue eyeliner
for your lips
Pink lipstick or lipgloss
Dark brown eyeshadow
Black cream makeup – Mine was about $3 for a tube. Pick one with water as the first ingredient, because if the first ingredient is petrolatum or mineral oil, you’re gonna have a nasty, greasy face all night.
A kitchen sponge – the yellow & green kind with a scrubby side
Spirit gum & Remover – This is a pine-sap based glue for wigs & beards. You only need a little. Should be about $5.
Dark suit, dress shoes, tie.
Barack Obama rubber mask In Toronto, you can get these at Laughing Stuff on Yonge for $28. If you can’t find one, you can improvise with a Spock rubber mask (trim the ears into human-shapes), or paint Obama hair onto a latex bald cap and oversized costume ears.

Obama campaign pin
(Alison made mine by freehand drawing it onto paper. I used clear packing tape to laminate it to a button I had lying around.)


Get dressed & cover your clothes with a towel so you don’t get messy.
Flatten your hair– I did braids, coiled & pinned flat. You can also make a wig cap by cutting the legs off some old pantyhose. Pantyhead!



Sweep dark-brown matte shadow immediately above & below eyes. Because my eyes are slanted up and Obama’s slant down, I also added a little black liner at the outer corners in a downwards direction to make my eyes mimic his shape a bit. I traced a little white pencil into the inner rims of my eyelids to make my narrow eyes look brighter. Finally some mascara, because even when I dress in man-drag, I still wanna look cute!

Contour your cheeks & nose:
Suck in your cheeks & use a blush brush to apply some dark brown shadow under your cheekbones to make your face look more chiseled & handsome.
I also used a little brown shadow on the sides of my nose to make it look longer. I intensified the contrast in this photo to show the contour lines on my nose:

Shading on sides of nose, and at outer eye corners.

Shading on sides of nose, and at outer eye corners.

Open a photo big photo of Obama on Google.
Use the black eyeliner to copy the shape of his eyebrows. They’re about 1cm thick. They slant downwards slightly, and they angle down more sharply at the outer corners.
Use a brush to powder gently over the liner to set it.

Right beside his left nostril, the Senator has a mole.
Use a brown or black eyeliner to dot it on, then powder gently to set it.

Man-skin, aka 5-o’clock shadow:
Use your finger to apply a very light layer of black cream makeup to the scrubby green side of the sponge. You want the makeup to be floating on the top fibres of the scouring pad, not soaking into it.

Gently dab black all over your chin & mustache. Should look like fairly realistic stubble.

Now it’s time to blend. Wet the sponge and squeeze it damp. Use the smooth, clean, damp side of the sponge to blend the black into your face so it’s just an even greyish shadow. Rinse the sponge & repeat this step a few times, til the shadow is as dark as you like, then let your face air-dry. Set the 5-o’clock shadow with a quick sweep of powder.

Obama’s lips are an unusual colour: sort of purply brown with hints of blue. To re-create, start with a bit of lip balm. Lightly colour your lips blue with the navy eyeliner. It’ll look freaky, but then you add some pink lipstick or gloss over it to blend. Keep adding dabs of blue and pink, and blending with lip balm til the colour’s right.

Now you’re gonna ruin a $28 mask, so first put it on and take photos!

Ha ha ha, ok, enough of that.

The idea is to make the mask into a hat with ears. You want all the hair intact, and the ears attached, so you can put it on your head like a helmet & glue it to your face so it stays. Here’s how to do it:

Cut the mask:
Use sharp scissors to cut out the face from your mask. Leave the hairline & ears totally intact, and keep about a 1-inch border of mask all around the ears. Remember you can always cut off more later, but you can’t put it back when you cut too much.

I kind of screwed this step up, so I can’t show you how to do it right. But basically you’re gonna glue the mask to the sides of your face, so you need at least an inch of flat mask in front of & below the ears to adhere the glue. And you want the mask to have enough surface area left that it fits easily. If it’s pulling tight the glue will rip. Put the mask on a few times as you cut to see how much to take off, and remember to be conservative & cautious with this step.

Most rubber masks have a split up the back. You might wanna carefully measure & trim a slim wedge out of this slit so the mask fits better, then tape the slit closed from the inside.

Glue the mask:
Use spirit gum to glue the mask to your face around the ears. Little dabs of tape will help hold it in place while it sticks.

If you cut off too much in the previous step like I did, there won’t be enough mask to use the spirit gum, so you’ll have to make sideburns out of black duct tape & use them to stick the mask to your face. Or else use some black cream makeup on a brush to make sideburns and camoflague the transition. Note that Obama’s sideburns are points, and don’t make the points too long or he’ll look like a Vulcan.

That’s about it. Oh also, I forgot the first step. This one takes some planning, but it’s worthwhile in the long run. Go back in time a few years, and cultivate a friendship with a doe-eyed brunette who wil accompany you as Sarah Palin and talk like an idiot all night to make the likeness complete!

Note the duct-tape Vulcan sideburns in this pic.  Oops.

Note the duct-tape Vulcan sideburns in this pic. Oops.

Enjoy your Hallowe’en, and if you see another Hallowe’en Obama or Palin, send ’em along!

Want more funny?
Well, this one time, I brought homemade bacon candy to a Jewish dinner party. Yeah, that went well.


Obama for Hallowe’en: I hope to believe in change we can believe to hope for.

October 26, 2008

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Colin Powell endorses Obama – and finally raises the Muslim question properly.

October 20, 2008

Colin Powell endorsed Obama. Most news outlets I’ve seen are excerpting only a few seconds of video, essentially the last 30 seconds of Powell’s endorsement. But you should watch the whole thing, because finally, finally, someone is sticking up for Muslims.

I didn’t really have an opinion on Powell until this- but he just made me like him a whole lot. He raised two important points, and chastized Team McCain on their xenophobia:

1. Obama is not Muslim.
Hillary “As far as I know” Clinton should take notes.

2. But more importantly, it shouldn’t matter even if he was.
The America Americans are proud of is one in which it wouldn’t matter. The America Americans are proud of is one in which little Muslim-American kids should be able to envision themselves growing up and running for President, and shame on the McCain camp for encouraging any other point of view.

Powell’s seven-minute endorsement basically synthesizes every jangly, frazzled, emphatic opinion I hold about this election, emulsifying it into something warm and smooth and thoughtful. It’s a silken position purée, an intellectual political velouté, an analytical fricasée of punditry, and well worth listening to. It’s here.

Thanks to dziga for the tip.

Obama HOPE poster and copycats

October 18, 2008

I love this poster, created by graphic designer Shepard Fairey:

But even more, I love these posters, which I found with my Google-Fu Image-Searching powers:

I choose to interpret this as a compliment in Ebonics.

I choose to interpret this as a compliment in Ebonics.

I think I’d like one featuring Obama, entirely in shades of light brown, and captioned TAUPE.
Update: Obama: Taupe is done.

Here’s a great tutorial on how to make your own vectorized poster using Photoshop and Illustrator.

And finally, if you like this post, you should really check out my Barack Obama Hallowe’en costume.

NYTimes’ David Brooks hopes you’ll agree Obama is “dull” and a “machine”.

October 17, 2008

Today I read David Brooks’ New York Times article about Barack Obama: Thinking About Obama. NYT summary: “Through some deep, bottom-up process, Barack Obama has developed strategies for equanimity, and now he’s become a homeostasis machine.”

Brooks’ article is an utterly disingenuous piece
which pretends to be a grudging endorsement of Obama, but in fact is carefully designed to shake the reader’s confidence in him. Of course Brooks is entitled to any opinon, but good newspaper writing should rely on facts and observations, not sneaky insinuations and coded wordplay. Look at the way Brooks has constructed his sentences.

Obama’s positive qualities are described in negative terms
: “There hasn’t been a moment when he has displayed rage, resentment, fear, anxiety, bitterness, tears, ecstasy, self-pity or impulsiveness.” Well if he hasn’t displayed any of these traits, why list them all?

“There hasn’t been a moment in which he has publicly lost his self-control.” Why not state these “compliments” in positive terms? It would be more concise and more correct. “Obama continually displays calm, gracious, and rational behaviors.” “Obama’s self-control is a constant”.

Why does Brooks take the long route- why bother to list all those traits that Obama doesn’t display? Because Brooks is deliberately associating Obama with this list of negative comments– he wants you to read those sentences and hear the negatives buried inside them: “he has displayed rage, resentment, etc., etc.” It’s a sneaky and dishonorable way to write.

Without exception, Brooks’ compliments to Obama’s disposition are backhanded: “It’s not willpower or self-discipline he shows as much as an organized unconscious.” What does that even mean? How could an unconscious be organized?

“Through some deep, bottom-up process… he’s become a homeostasis machine.” Oh, so he’s actually a robot? That explains it. While McCain is “an experienced old hand”, Obama’s not skillful or intelligent, he’s just a machine created unconsciously. Sounds a little sinister, no?

Brooks insults the reader by burying nasty comments in a screed masquerading as a compliment. This article is a modern version of Shakespeare’s masterful dramatization of the insinuating political speech, “Brutus is an honorable man”.

Brooks saves his most devious phrasing for his final two paragraphs, predicting the good and bad hypothetical outcomes of an Obama presidency.

Notice that the good outcomes are only described in hypothetical terms
(emphases mine): “Obama could be a great president… would be untroubled… would see reality… could gather the smartest minds, and… could give them free rein.” We are reminded of his “youth” and “subtlety” as we are invited to “imagine him at the cabinet table.” Yes, we “could” probably “imagine” all that. But wait, don’t stop there, there’s more.

Now let’s consider the grim alternative. By choosing this as his concluding scenario, Brooks not-subtly endorses it as his prediction (it’s a well-known fact that the public is likelier to agree with whichever argument is presented last).

Note that after a flimsy opening clause, Brooks’ negative conjectures are phrased in certain terms, not hypothetically: “It could be that Obama will be an observer, not a leader… he will stand back. Congressional leaders… will just go their own way… He will be passive and ineffectual. Lack of passion will produce lack of courage… greatness will give way to anti-climax.” Hey, don’t hold back! Tell us how you really feel, Mr. Brooks.

Brooks’ initial tone of grudging support has given way to Brooks’ ugly attempt at neuro-linguistic suggestion. All the good stuff “could” happen, but all the bad stuff “will” happen. And then the laughable coup-de-grace; Obama is “dull”.

I like the dull one better, actually.

I like the dull one better, actually.

In comparison to McCain’s nasty temper and lolling tongue, and beside Sarah Palin’s appalling lack of knowledge and shameless pandering to the xenophobic Republican extremists who scream “terrorist” when they hear Obama’s name at a rally- well, sure, the Obama-Biden ticket gives us less fodder for parody.

Brooks’ emphatic last word calls this dull, in hopes that you’ll agree. But when I see Obama’s self-control, restraint, warmth, grace, analytical skill, and most of all his genuine interest in open dialogue, I don’t see dull at all. Quite the opposite- I realize that Barack Obama is by far the most exciting political figure I’ve ever seen.