Monday, July 20, 2009

Potter's Potions

Just saw “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Comments: An uber-hip teenage critic in the family thought it was too heavy on frivolity, but changed his mind after a second viewing. Me, I thought it was plenty dark, showed some nice cinematic touches and weaving of themes between the visual and the spoken, and was worth a trip to the cinema. Though I *did* wish there were more layering within sections.

Whyfor Potter? With perfume?

Because early on, in potions class, the students are introduced to the recipe for and effects of a love potion. Hermione, of course, provides the deets: “It’s effect is different on each individual who experiences it. On me, for example, I smell...newly mown grass...fresh parchment...[sigh] spearmint gum....” Have we perfume appreciators not read plenty, discussed plenty, ruminated plenty on those scents which have visceral effects upon us? The wizards’ love potion is all about that. Scents are composed according to the perfumer’s experience, according to a committee brief, a mentor’s directive, a customer survey. But they always come down to a single rendition...a particular something, a unique but the same in every bottle delivery...

...the closest we come to the individual experience delivered by a Hogwarts love potion is the (still contested) experience that different people will experience the VERY SAME potion differently, or differently depending on whose skin they smell it, or differently depending on time of year or context. Come to think of it, maybe there is a sort of magic going on there...yes, I know science will explain it eventually. Receptors and all. But, it’s still magical, isn’t it?

Further on in the Potter film, the pensieve reappears, and there is Dumbledore’s fabulous glass cabinet, full of vials containing various memories. Because my brain had already been primed by the love potion scene, I saw that cabinet and immediately thought of a perfumer’s organ. Yes, physically it resembled some of those cabinets like in the perfume museum in Barcelona, and that crossed my mind, too. But the perfumer, sitting down with so many single notes, ready to compose an accord, or blend a full piece...those memories waiting to be explored individually, or collected in an overall experience...and then Harry, submerging himself in the water, letting the memory/experience consume his conscious.

Mown grass, indeed.


Incidentally, there is a scene in the movie where a professor explains why an academic always travels with ampules, a trait which of course is both "intellectual" and opportunistic. On the way home, I entertained my family by having son-the-film-critic reach into my bag and pull out what would appear to be a typical hardshell eyeglasses case. What does his mother, a one-time college teacher have inside?

Ampules, of course. 1ml and 1.5ml glass vials, at the ready to collect specimens.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Quirks (Independence Day)

I do this.

I check out other people's blogs.  (I know, so far, not very "out there.")  I love to read them; that is, naturally, one of the pasttimes that inspired me to try one of my own.

One way I find blogs is to link back from the comments on other people's blogs.  A couple of days ago, Helg posted a lovely suggested list of "All American" perfumes, in honor of our Independence Day.  You'll see me, there, commenting.  And others, of course, being more erudite/interesting/clever/provocative.  That's how it goes.  One of the commenters, Alt Godt, made a comment about other countries/peoples approach to America/Americans.  And made clear she was Norwegian.  That was enough for I went to investigate.

Her site, Alt Godt, is a charming a visually appealing mix of perfume and cooking, with a hint of gardening.  So far, so good.  Unfortunately, is entirely in Norwegian.  

This would be where perhaps it gets a bit odd.  You see, I don't read Norwegian.  But I "read through" her posts, anyway.  

Mind you, I know that Norwegian is notable for being a modern construct of a language, created specifically to establish a unique identity from Sweden.  I also happen to know that the 17th of May would be a day roughly equivalent to our own 4th of July, for they both mark the anniversary of independence from a reigning ruling country.  

And I can say "excuse me" in Norwegian.  But unnskyllde me please, while I confess this guys:  I couldn't ask my way to the restroom in Norway.  (Fortunately for me, if I had to, and I were there, just about everybody speaks beautiful English.)   Yet I made my way on down the articles, all the way to "older posts," and enjoyed the garden picture, the food, the saying something about Hermes Gentian cologne.  All in Norwegian.  And I had fun.  Just a quirk of mine.

So, thanks to Helg...thanks to Alt Godt...and thanks to all who keep my country and the internets "free."  I might move about peculiarly, but I am grateful I am able to roam.

Through bloggery AND elsewise, natch.