Saturday, February 26, 2011

Book Discussion: The Secret of Chanel No. 5

So here we are, me without my hoped for comment threading widget, and no way -- YET -- to cluster our subtopics.  Because when it comes to this book, subtopics, I've got a few.

Despite the lack of fancy gadgetry, I'm going to plunge forward.  If you like, when you comment, you could use a Twitter convention, and #hashtag certain discussion points, so that you can refer to them.  You know, things like #CocoSexLife or #CleverMetaphors, or #AtHomeRecipes.  

Unfortunately, the book's contents lead to only one of those three hashtags being applicable.  I look forward to any you identify.

I propose that you first write a comment that either represents your "review" of the book, or a Major Point you wish to make about it.  Then, we'll start responding to each other, and track the traffic via hashtags or simply by referencing to the idea we are responding to.

YOU ARE NOT EXPECTED TO LIKE OR DISLIKE THE BOOK.  You are not required to agree with me or anyone who registers an opinion.  I trust you all know how to be polite without squashing your or someone else's Good Thought.  

:), the emoticon said.

We'll start with my thoughts:

I came to The Secret of Chanel No. 5 with no expectations, other than possibilities raised by the title itself.  (Will this deal with formulas? With marketing strategies? With the powerful personality responsible for its success? The little known fact that Allied sympathizers found a way to hide messages inside the iconic simple square flacon?) I have not seen either of the Coco biopics, and while I've read the usual suspects when it comes to perfume history and primers and such, I far from consider myself "schooled" on the subject.

So, The Secret of Chanel No. 5 could have chosen to be a historical fiction, an industry analysis, or a written documentary of how one fragrance influenced boudoirs across geography and time.  (The subtitle is "The Intimate History of the World's Most Famous Perfume," after all.)

Unfortunately, I'm not sure what to call it.

Read the preface, and the author will tell you "this is the history of the world's most seductive scent."  Indeed, you'll get a hit of Chanel's orphan story, a hit on her collaboration with Ernst Beaux, a review of the flacon history, mention of the who's who of society at the given period under discussion.  There is, in fact, a bag full of good data here, and this is worth reading if you are a fan of perfume or fashion.

I am just torn about how to describe how *good* a read it is.

There is an odd combination of attention to detail that veers toward pedantic and a tone that reads, a tone, rather than a voice I want to follow through the wilderness.  I got the distinct impression that the book was developed in chunks, and a through line was never fully developed or followed--relying on a time line to pull us from beginning to end, rather than say a single or evolving mystery that slowly unravels.  (Just one of a few choices.)  

Somebody commented on my Facebook page with encouragement to keep going--it gets more interesting, they said, as you get further into it.  True.  But not in the sense that sometimes happens with a narrative when you suddenly realize that you've become concerned with the characters involved, and must keep going to see what happens next.  More in the sense that you've already spent this much time and energy in the relationship, you might as well play out the whole hand.

I don't regret having this book. But I am rather frustrated with how hard I had to work beyond the narrative to pull things together.  What in the start of the book is a "signature scent" (for the House of Chanel, not for a wearer, an important distinction to point out to perfumistas what with their understanding of the word) and on the book jacket is "the smell of seduction" is at the start of Chapter 17 "an elite cultural icon and an object of mass market-appeal."  Mind you, No. 5 may well be all of those things.

I just think that it was the author's job to more clearly (and entertainingly) connect the dots to show me how.  By all means, go find a copy if you want various historical bits gathered in one location. Do not expect a "good read."

I have not reconciled myself to a positive review.

I will say this:  As for the scent itself, if Mazzeo's theory is right, and Chanel wished to basically put into one bottle the Cisterian values of soapy cleanliness and the lush rose and jasmine content of a "O-De-Kolon" favored by the Russian aristocracy...well...let's say that in my nose, the soapy clerics totally wiped the floor in a victory over the czary flowers.  

What Does Reconciliation Mean?
An accounting process used to compare two sets of records to ensure the figures are in agreement and are accurate. Reconciliation is the key process used to determine whether the money leaving an 
account matches the amount spent, ensuring that the two values are balanced at the end of the recording period.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Dress

Life puts interesting things in your path.  Some are objects, inherently fascinating.

Objects from family add a level of connection and investment, and in a way, responsibility for the owner.

Many times, these objects will appeal to a romantic notion of "would have, could have"--had you been alive at the right time / had the right talent / in the right place, the object could have been yours.  Used by you, worn by you, admired by you.

However, some objects are removed from your sensibilities, and only your love of history, your sense of human hand, your willingness to step inside another mind, your realization that something exists in front of you that, given the right attention, will allow you not only to understand the object more, but also give you a fresh view onto yourself.

So, you dare go open up.

And find a way inside.


I am but one of my Nana's six granddaughters.  Nana was a saver, a collector, a provisioner...not exactly a hoarder, but certainly someone who held on to things.  Hence, at the end of her life, the basement of her modest two-bedroom bungalow, in which at one time there were--let's see, husband, two kids, wife of third kid, father--two kids and four adults living.  Plus the eight dogs.  And some cats, I think, but they were what we would call "outdoor" cats, though that distinction made not a lot of sense at the time.  The house, suffice to say, was full.  And much life was lived there.

The magic of being a collector, a treasurer, an appreciator of objects and artifacts, was that life as the granddaughter of this woman yielded many interesting somethings.  A chunky comic book...a tea cup from the war...a woven fishing creel...a costume jewelry  Toward the end of the ten year period over which she was slowly handing out things, I put together that she was slowly doling out to all of her granddaughters, according to a system which somewhat related to who their parent (which of her children) they descended from, but also some sense she had of what you would treasure.

I do not know why, in the end, I was chosen to get her mother's wedding dress.  I had not married conventionally, I was not the daughter of her daughter, and I was among the most tomboyish of her granddaughters.  I did not sew, though my other grandmother and my mother did, and perhaps that plus the fact that her mother was a seamstress played into her conclusion.  Perhaps because I had cooed at the detailing of my father's baptismal gown--an object which should be noted was not again used for her son's children, or by her son's children's children.

Perhaps it was as simple as the fact that we shared favorite colors.  Or somehow, in some way, the fact that I shared her husband's stubborn streak.  Or maybe she had given all of the other of her mother's significant objects to the other girls, and this was what remained for me.

A wedding dress.

I am truly amazed at the details of the handwork.  Handwork which I have never attempted, mind you, but which I learned about thanks to a treasure given to me by a friend from the basement of a house he moved into.  (Once again, from the damp depths...)  A turn of the century how-to book on tatting and needlework.  Which also came with two pamphlets I prize to this day, "How to Dance and When to Dance" and "The Dangers of the Slave Trade in the City."  But this book, this odd combination of Victorian typeface and photographs, and its details instructions on how to tat and crewel and all sorts of sub categories for making certain sorts of empty space in fabric, or how to add raised shapes.

 My Nana, it turned out, liked to embroider.  As did my Grandmother.  My Nana was fond of the empty spaces kind of work, the stuff you would do at the edge of tea towels.  My Grandmother liked the crewel work, the kind of stuff that made things bumply.

You may have inferred I learned neither.

I stare at this wedding dress, and try to understand it by the hand that made it.  A hand that was not the hand of my Great Grandmother, but a dress touched by the hand of my Great Grandmother as she committed to the man that would sew back together the nipples my Nana's baby bottles, even though Nana was supposed to be too old for them, these objects that my Great Grandparents would not have had as the accoutrement of their youth.

Each generation touches something new, something old.  Whether or not they are aware they are doing so.

I try to be aware.

So, because I fear too much contact from my actual hand upon this fragile, 100 year old garment, I touch it with my eyes.

I note the changes in texture, the kind of dexterity to create, the kind of feel it must have had.

I imagine the body inside, other eyes seeing, joy, apprehension, welcome.  It is never me I imagine in this dress.  I know that some people would.  In fact, I have done so with other pieces of clothing.  Part of it is the era; I never fancied myself Victorian or Edwardian.  

But part of it, I think, is I feel there is someone else in that dress.  Still.  My Nana had stored it as her mother had, and pulled it from the crypt that was a modest bungalow's fruit and coal cellar, carefully packed away in a box.  She had never fully examined it, she said.  She was, from a curatorial point of view, afraid to expose it to light.

I'm trying.  To examine it.  To expose it to light, which is the information our eyes use.

Because, here, my eyes are my hands.

I'm trying.

It is interesting, feeling with your eyes.  Putting on clothes which do not fit.  Knowing that you could never be this, but someone needed to be this so that you could be here now, feeling without touching. 

Yet feeling.

all photos are by and property of the author, taken while wearing blue jeans, a pashmina, and vintage Mitsouko edc.  Which just this day, this very wearing, for the very first time after many many tries, makes sense.  Turns out it does not screech every.single.time.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ice at the margins

There was a hint of the turn of the earth yesterday.  We stood in a transition, a hard one, with collisions of sharp wind and bright sunshine, soil uncovered and ice still floating, the smell of water melting and of organic matter still thawing.

It was but one day.  Winter will roar again, but Spring will poke in, then grab hold of a few spots, then eventually lay over everything.

In past years, I might have reached for Silences.  I do love it when it is nearly time to literally turn the earth, when remnants of chill remain, but the soil is nearly ready to turn.  For no discernible reason, I picked up Aliage instead.

Turns out it was perfect.  The citrus wallops back against the greens, just like the bright nearly harsh sunshine pierced the fierce wind...and the bitter wind ended up holding its own against any hope of solar warmth.

Allowing oneself a glimpse of spring at this time of year at this latitude is not for sissies.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Blue (a musing)

WARNING:  No perfume today.  Follow the bouncing ball.  A sketch from a sketchy brain.

jeans  sky  mood  moon  sea  lake  yonder  flu  Monday  language  humor  cheese

There we go.  Cheese.

Had to take a while to get to food.  Something food.  That's edible.  Even if that's mold I'm consuming.

"So in conclusion, {cough, look down at notes} my subjects were more willing to eat the food with the green dye than any other alteration {raise hand to point at bar graph}, and the blue food {brief pause, smile that might be a smirk flashes across face} was the least chosen."

Science fairs.  Ever been to one?  A sea of tri-fold upright poster boards, visible schisms between parent aided and student dependent projects, kids giving their spiel to visitors, kids bored out of their minds, kids totally distracted by their projects.

Next to talking to plants to see if they will respond to kindness (or, alternately, music), one of the most frequent themes and variations I have seen is playing with your food.  Specifically, messing with the color of it to see if one's subjects can be grossed out influenced in terms of preference.

"BLUE: the absolute worst.  I had blueberries all day.  And Gatorade.  Dinner was this gross blue ice cream I saw at Baskin Robbins.  This was so, so gross.  Most people tell me they started to worry because they were feeling sick just looking at the photos.  Blueberries aside, there is nothing blue that isn't synthetic.  And don't try to argue with me here.  There are 30 people that each said 'let me think, I know I can think of something blue for you to eat' and I would respond with 'no, really, you can't.' [...] I hated blue day.

"Diet Sunglasses" available at Yumetai
wear them to reduce your appetite
These words from Johanna's TokyoHanna blog.  Johanna's mind (and blog) wanders a lot of places; a girl after my own heart.   She undertook a week of monochromatic eating, which is, of course, the polar opposite of eating across the rainbow.  Nonetheless, there she was, and on the last day she was sticking with BLUE, not purple, because photography was an important element of her diary project, and the foods had to register as true blue.

Johanna was unhappy with the fact that there are not many "blue foods" to choose from in the first place.  (Fortunately for us rainbow thinking eaters, we can also find other foods fertile with flavenoids, such as cabbage, kale, spinach, asparagus, lima bean, garden peas...even onions.)

Hey, while we're here in blue food, have you ever come across that helpful diet "tip" that occasionally appears in women's magazines?  The one that says  when trying to lose weight, blue food and blue plates are your friend?  Of course, they were thinking more about our predisposition to avoid blue when it comes to food, not to the paucity of purpleness in food.  They're back at the science fair.

"Try this," he said, plonking a potato shaped object onto my plate.  "Go ahead; guess what that is."  My eight year old self searched her developing brain.  "A potato?," I ventured.  He looked a little disappointed.  "Wait; don't guess yet.  Taste it."  So I did.  "A potato?" I suggested again, this time more boldly.  This time, he was pleased and disappointed.  "Well...yes.  But don't you find it kind of mealy?"

Conversations with my grandfather often veered off into unpredictable directions, often just as much because we didn't talk all that often as the strange tacks they could take.  But produce was generally predictable.  And a topic of discussion every year we were both alive and capable of conversing.  He grew all his vegetables in his garden.  He was a man of patterns.  He would plant 4/5 of the garden with known favorites, and experiment in the rest.  My eighth summer was the first he first grew blue potatoes.  They became a kind of in joke between us, the innovation that wasn't an innovation--he had researched; turns out some scientist in a lab hadn't created the potato, they were an honest genetic strain--but a novelty item.  Because when it came down to brass tacks, they weren't the best potato, or even a good potato; they were just the purplest.

But he amused himself with them.  Many years later, when his granddaughter started her first garden, there was no doubt what kind of potatoes she would grow.

And when she had trouble with the novelty item that was supposed to be "perfect for growing potatoes," but most certainly was not, she avoided getting purple in the face but managed to let loose with some blue language she learned from her gardener grandpa.

No matter / How you slice it / It's still your face / Be humane / Use / Burma-Shave

I have enjoyed the sensory writings of Michelle Krell Kydd for a few years now.  Over at Glass Petal Smoke, she has written some beautiful pieces on things that smell and what smell does to us and for us.  Hers was one of those blogs where postings were infrequent, but almost always gems.  Then things slowed way down in 2010, and I wondered if we blogosphere attendees were losing her to other projects.

The worm turned.

She started a Twitter feed.  I followed.  And suddenly a mass of tweets about blue potatoes, an Oxo™ ricer, and an upcoming pie recipe.  While the onslaught of Burma shave like tweets was a little onerous, the promise of something insightful or beautiful or maybe both regarding blue potatoes kept me in the game.

Finally came the recipe.  And the pictures.  And my first two thoughts were, I know what the science fair kids would say.  And boy, is that purple.  (See post here.)  The flavenoid involved is apparently anthocyanin; while the Wikipedia article linked within the post explains that the "cyanin" part comes from the Greek for "blue," but you know that I am leaping across the Greek root and landing on another "cyan" word.  Yup, just like those smarty pants kids would.  Smirk.

Incidentally, some of those smarty pants kids would be telling me that if food is so good for you, why are there cherry pits and almonds, hmmm?  Because that's where cyanide comes from, you know, Teach.  Inevitable diversions into botanicals (digitalis, anyone?) and or misleading labeling (the mistake of equating "all natural" with "healthy for you," for example).

NONE of which is to suggest that the sweet potato pie recipe, which happens to be purple, and uses specific proprietary natural foods ingredients, is poisonous.  I'm just laying bare the easy associations my particular brain takes when the purple potato path is opened.  Also, perhaps, as additional warning that my brain can wander, even while focused.  As in...

The pie recipe calls for muscovado sugar.  Muscovado sugar is different from other raw sugars, like say demerara, because instead of being process via centrifuge and then having molasses re-added, it is allowed to dry in the sun.  Now, you combine "dry in the sun" and "musco-" and in the background, my brain is already seeing grapes in the sun and smelling a muscat. In the foreground is the question "why not call for a specific muscovado, but go ahead and specify a particular company's prepared Graham Cracker crust?"  I am disappointed to discover that my answer is related to the noise I find in Ebert's Amazon tweets.  But hey, I could be wrong.  And even if I was right, we all have the right to monetize as we see fit.

I miss the old posts, though, the ones that seemed to come from various paths of the heart and mind but didn't go down a highway in South Dakota toward Wall Drug.

In the interest of Science Fairs and fairness, I should point out that the pie is purple.  Not blue.  And I haven't made it or tasted it.  Not so sure how rosy the outlook is on me actually doing so.

My grandfather met my grandmother in South Dakota.  The purveyor of the blue potatoes and nearly every other thing he planted in his garden and yard used to be based in Yankton, South Dakota.  Cary Grant once dangled from the face of Mount Rushmore in a movie, and in the same movie, is menaced by a crop duster.  The Badlands wasn't just a movie, it's a heckuva place.  I kinda feel for Cary Grant.  Being lost in the Badlands would be awful.  Would I rather have a purple potato, or one from Idaho, if I were lost in the Badlands?  Can you stick two electrodes in a potato and power a compass?  

I miss my grandfather.  I miss my garden.  But the snow is melting, and I know I'll be turning over the soil in a couple of months.  This is the year I plan to introduce potato hills into the garden, something I haven't had since moving to the new house.  I'm looking through the catalogues, trying to find the right combination of options I know will do well in my climate, and a little something to experiment with.

I like experimenting.  I like it in my own life, in measure, and finding it in other places.  I like seeing the excited kids at the science fair, the ones who were able to find a topic they cared about, whose boards are maybe not beautiful, but whose minds are.  I like a person who says "why not?" to purple pie, and sets about making some.  Like most people, I have things I like, and things I don't like.

I know a compass uses a magnetic and not electrical current.  But my mind goes places.  Into the wild blue yonder and back again.  And again.  And again.


The Straight Dope on cheese, specifically blue cheese.

Pleasures of being diverted:  I found a recipe for Jack Daniel's Orange Zest butter.  Kid you not.  Though I suppose if ever we wanted to avoid the "appetite stimulating" spectrum of color, it would be when encountering butterfat.  Ah, well.  Maybe I'll pour a shot of JD and bake some blue potatoes tonight, all as a sort of half-baked homage to making the butter and the pie.  

Flavenoid food lists:  Care2, BBC

Bill Mitchell's Poynter Online article about Ebert's tweets, which Ebert tweeted a link to saying it supported his enterprise, but which I would qualify by saying it supports the action in that he is in the clear for doing so because he writes his own [advertising] copy, and is wiser to do his own rather than use a service such as Sponsored Tweets.  Which then becomes another numbers game, and a search for begetting followers as revenue stream rather than listeners ensues.  Folks who toil in online content and need to pay for shelter and food are, of course, interested in revenue streams, sooner or later.  

blue diet sunglasses found at Inventor Spot
cyanide bottle image at Firefighter's With Parkison's Disease
Deliciously Different Purple Viking potato image is my own, from the Gurney's catalog

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Avon Timeless: Is it Soup Yet?

When I was at the Smithsonian seminar on the history of perfume last fall see post, Luca Turin interjected a point about perfumes that pretty much put a lot of elements into a perfume without them ever coming together as a whole, and/or cram in so many parts that it just goes over the top.  He said he refers to such perfumes as "soup."

The Avon Timeless recipe, per Basenotes:

Aldehyde, Lemon, Bergamot, Gardenia
Cedarwood, Patchouli, Rose, Orris
Olibanum, Opopanax, Amber, Musk, Vanilla, Tonka

Yes.  Those are there.  In the same way you can put flour and butter and eggs and vanilla and milk into a bowl and not have a cake, but have have the smells of flour and butter and eggs and vanilla and milk, all of those elements are there.

Actually, push down on the stuff a little bit.  There are times when some blend, at least in short bits.

Remember, I am a scent amplifier, and tend to run things in slow motion.  Even so, to see/hear/smell nearly every one of these notes pop out was both kind a Dick and Jane reader whose theme was "see perfume run" and Chinese water torture.  The worst part of the slow drip of the water torture was that there were times when I wanted to like it, and thought maybe it was going somewhere.  (Which never happened.)  And times when, a full day later, I caught a whiff of something that smelled good, and went in to huff with the eager hope that magic had happened.  (It didn't.)

I'm sorry.  I love cheap thrills.  I won't back off of admitting my fondness for things that aren't cool.   This one has its fans; you can find thrilled happy people partaking of the Timeless on Makeup Alley.  I've even met a few.

But initial runs tell me that, on me at least, it's not soup yet.

For opoponax soup that works, see March's review of Memo Manoa. That one also packed it in, but somehow pulls it off.  Also, for fellow opoponax fiends, I remind you of the cheap thrill Olfacta once shared:  L'Aromarine Opoponax.  I enjoy both, though the second in very light doses.  Manoa has gelled into a worthy soup.  The L'Aromarine is not a fully rounded something; it's more like cake batter, but the kind you like to eat off the spoon.

photo author's own. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

You voted: Spring Scents Yet?

Yes, I like to remind myself it is coming
  4 (19%)
Yes, because it has started behaving like spring
  1 (4%)
No, because that would just be cruel right now
  9 (42%)
No, because they're "in storage"
  2 (9%)
I don't believe in seasonal scents
  5 (23%)

Have tweaked the type color on the poll results so I can read them. (Grey on white?? whose idea of a joke is this?)  Half of the voting public said wearing a spring scent at this time of year would be unkind, and most of the other half was split nearly evenly between going ahead and wearing them to remind themselves that spring was coming, or dismissing the idea of seasonal scents altogether.

Should you be curious, I was in the cruel camp, but I cheated a bit.  I could have pleaded storage issues, because most of my spring/warm weather scents are housed together and currently not in the rotation zone...but it is not so difficult to get the them.  I mean, I could go splash some Eau Imperiale right now if I needed to, without any trouble.  You see, I think by season, but don't strictly adhere.

Fair warning:  I've released my (older version) Hermes Amazone.  Going to see if it is suitable for a greeting/heralding spring scent.  Not today, but soon.  Soon.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Scarves and scent

Have I ever not been aware of references to the smell of perfume on a scarf?

Have I ever not been stricken dead in my tracks, frozen as if in a bad dream, at the thought of purposely applying a scent to a scarf for purposes of imbuing it in a scent?  I mean...I love scarves.  I love them because of how they feel.  And look.  And would applying perfume change that, compromising the fabric, shortening its life, ruining dyes?  What if the perfume I wanted to wear on a day I want to wear scarf X is not the perfume I want to wear the next time I wear scarf X?

The answers used to be "not that I can remember" and "yes, always."  Until a few weeks ago.

'Twas a decant that slayed the beast.

Turns out that vintage Houbigant has a tricky trigger.  Such a wide swath of spray, that it dribbled.  Had this been a replaceable perfume, I might have felt a certain constriction of my chest, a certain sadness, but would have said "sayonara."  But this was precious vintage.  It was only going away, never coming back.

I saw the scarf.  I reached.  I wiped.

Know what?  Apercu makes a mighty nice scarf scent, in a classic perfume way.  Not too heavy, enough flowers to say "perfume," enough lift to keep the flowers from smothering, enough other elements to keep it from being boring.  And, to tell you the truth, I'd rather my scarf smell like that than like sebum.

Go figure.

The damage was done, fiber & dye-wise.  If any were to be done.  I found myself going off in search of a few other scarves...after all, there were more perfumes to be decanted.  There might be other accidents.  One should always be prepared, after all.

Turns out I had two more accidents.  Which probably require those quote marks in the air -- I'm raising and curling my two fingers on each hand, drawing them down and saying "accidents."

I consoled my not-so-shaken but not-so-certain cautious self with the reminder that I could always hand wash.  Sure, even the silk.  Sort of.

This sent me on a pleasant rumination about how one could go about assigned scent to scarves.  Of course, there is Tradition.  Which means signature scent:  "Her scarf was all she still smelled like...her."  In my brain, "smelling like her" has more to do with smelling like sebum and onions and such than perfume, but hey, I came to perfume later in life.  It works for some.  Especially if they have a trademark perfume.  In my world, the line would be something more like "Her scarf was all she left still smelled like she did on a sunny day in early spring when she felt like a chypre but still snuck in a spritz of hay."

Obviously, I needed a different system, scarf-wise.

The first step was easy, I thought.  Sort scarves by season.  Oops, not so fast; certain scarves carry over.  Only the thick chunky woolens and the very sheer gauzy veils end up ghettoized by the weather.  The rest can move up and down in the batting order.   Okay, change tack.  Texture.  That's it.  That's good.  Texture and thickness.

But then I started thinking about that, and my blue and green nubby scarf seems like it could handle a fresher scent than the maroon with flecks of gold.  Shoot.

At this point, I had completely bought into the idea.  So I was bound and determined to scent a couple of scarves on purpose.  But I was lost in the woods with no compass.  How to get out of here?

Kabonk.  Match one scent to a scarf, or find one scarf to match a scent.  Which meant pick two or three scents I wouldn't mind being imbued in a fabric I had about my neck.  And then see if I had a scarf that "looked like" that fragrance.

Now the game was fun.  And seemed manageable.  Though, truth be told, it was a heckuva a lot easier to just toss responsibility in the air and do things "accident" style.

Which is Aperçu?
Besides the Aperçu, my conscious decision scents were Amouage Epic, and Magie Noire.  I already have an "outer scarf" that wafts L'Accord -- pretty wonderful, and works well with the cozy depths of the scarf, but must admit that was incidental, which makes it accidental.  I picked Epic because it is one of my occasion scents, something I wear when I want to smell fabulous and yes want the smell to not take backstage.  Figured it would be interesting to see how it behaved on a scarf, since the Aperçu did smooth out and focus at the same time on fabric.  The Magie Noire, well...that was because it is a favorite of the other lodger on the Ledge.  Add in the fact that I like it, and it easily becomes a something I wouldn't mind too much if that was the recognizable "me" on a scarf I left behind.  That part of me, at least.

Did I choose well?  I chose in winter.  I'll probably try a couple of other things with lighter scarves.  Will I fall into the habit?  I doubt it.  I'm still a little nervous about damaging the scarves.  And, truth be told, about commitment.  Remember, with perfumes, I'm Big Love.  And I like to have my options at the start of any given day.

Speaking of options...did I tell you about the scented hankies?  No?  Ah.  They are small.  They are plentiful.  They can be found for a song second hand.  And, if you were really particular, you could sew the initials of the perfume you assign to a given hankie and have handy to toss in a bag...

...but we were talking scarves.  And scents for them.  So many possibilities.  So impossible to choose just one.

first photo, scarves akimbo, author's own
photo of Grace Kelly in scarf from The Gloss
photo of Alan Cumming from Broadway World

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Channels and noise

Do you tweet?  How's your RSS feed?  IM'ed anyone today?  What's your junk mail percentage in your e-mail inbox?  Whose pet performed some antic and ended up with a picture of it up on Facebook?

My answers:
Yes.  Not maintained.  No, but I Skyped my kid the other day.  Way up, over 50%, since some "friend" sent me a link to a coupon site.  (Raises hand in affirmative response).

And that's just the citizen me.  ScentScelf tweets, keeps a Facebook page, and blathers in a blog on a regular basis.

Time for some meandering.

Once upon a time, there was a summer of adolescent awakening.  No, not that kind.  But, among other things, I:

  • temporarily swapped away my books #1 and #2 of Nancy Drew, which had been my mother's, and were first edition WITH their jackets, for a couple of Dana girls mysteries, so each of us could experience the other series;
  • swam in an in-ground kidney shaped swimming pool with a diving board at one end;
  • rode my bike to the edges of my town and into another;
  • went to slumber parties, a phenomenon now dissed by Tiger Mothers and studied by cultural anthropologists;
  • was snuck into a friend's father's den, an area of the house oddly dim even in the bright midday, and warned twice warned to NOT TOUCH before a panelled wood door was opened, so that I could see this:

Breaker break one nine, good buddy.  Did I know what this was?

Such was life in certain suburbs before the great divide that I could hazard an educated guess.  Sure, that was...a CB radio.  Which another friend had told me about, because her dad used them in his truck, and by truck I don't mean Ford F-150, but a serious Mack, baby.  On my block, truck drivers, line chefs from the GM cafeteria, engineers from Ford, electrical salesmen.  Down the street, kidney shaped pools.  On the other end of town, where I rode my bike for slumber parties, a favorite "ride by": the house that had a heliport.

Hold that thought.

Meanwhile, return to the hushed plush carpet quiet of the dim house and the cupboard housing a magical communications device.  One that was "don't touch," because one shouldn't turn it on before knowing the rules of operation.  By which it wasn't meant so much how to actually operate the thing, but the conventions of participating in the conversation.  You didn't just hop on an start talking, you made sure you had a clear channel.  Once you had a clear channel, you weren't supposed to yak about what cookies you were making, or what Uncle Don brought home last night.  That was telephone talk.  You could discuss the weather (potentially useful to travelers, such as truck drivers).  And you could simply listen to the appropriately focused conversation underway.

I hushed to carpet quietness.  This was Serious Business, and while I grasped that the reason this particular radio sat in this particular location had plenty to do with why there was an inground pool in the backyard and an expensive sports car in the driveway, I still held respect.  For it seemed that the radio's power was being used for good and not for evil.

My guide then proceeded to turn the device on.  I nearly gasped.  She shot me a look of shush, which I did.  "I know what I'm doing," she said.  It was okay.  She found a channel, said all the proper introduction phrases.  Respectfully listened, answered a question.  Moved to another channel.

Then tossed her long hair out of her eyes and said in a voice I would later learn to call "coquettish": Hey good buddy, how's the weather where you're at?

There wasn't much talk of rain.

Lady breaker...

ScentScelf writes this blog, keeps a Facebook page, and maintains a Twitter account.  In this blog, my chapbook of sorts, I mostly write.  It is a place to assemble ideas and data and discoveries into more coherent chunks, sometimes more so, sometimes less so.  On the Facebook page, I link posts from the blog -- a kind of Facebook user friendly RSS feed, a heads up, or warning, that there's fresh material here.  I'll also post links to articles I think are interesting, that I'm ruminating over, to things that I find interesting but veer beyond whatever I think the edges of the blog should be.  On the Twitter feed, I'll put up posts that are either blog-type-material expressible in 140 characters or less, or items related to my passion for fresh water.

All of which is a way of saying I see them as somewhat different creatures, with perhaps overlapping but ultimate different character.  I *do* think about it, somewhat.  Because I can't see why you'd want the same noise from multiple channels.

Breaker break, good buddy.  Baby blog bear here.  Brush your teeth and comb your hair, catch ya on the flip flop.  Nice to have you in the chain gang.

Not only does the same information repeated over and over again read as "noise" in my head.  So does blathering just to keep fresh content in your feed.  And so does shilling.

As a case study, let's look at Roger Ebert.  Ebert is prolific.  He is a curious guy who bothers to process things and then write thoughtfully and engagingly about them.  He blogs on all sorts of stuff, has a ton of good leads to other interesting material, is thoughtful, and a good writer.  As a result, he has received many accolades for his blog.  He also writes a newsletter, to which I subscribe.  And he has a regular gig as a movie critic. These things bring him a variety of rewards, but not surprisingly, only one brings him real income.  Should I need to point this out, it is not the blog.  As a result, Roger found himself addressing the same question many bloggers and writers find themselves facing:  How can I make money at this?  His answer was to put up an Amazon link on his blog.  Amazon links work on a simple principle:  post one, and you will earn a percentage of sales that result from traffic entering through that link.  Pretty straightforward.

But here's the rub.  Roger started using his Twitter feed to post links to products available on Amazon.  Mind you, he's a clever guy, and generally devised a tie-in to something he had discussed or was discussing in his writing.  However--and this is an important however to my sensibilities--what had been content rich was now 50% junk mail.  Chatter had become noise.  And Roger sounded like a shill.

He's taken some guff for it, and has answered the complaints.  He believes he is right.  He wants to earn money from his efforts.  He is disappointed the more people haven't voluntarily signed up to subscribe to his output (something he admirably offered on a sliding scale basis), and has decided that advertising is the way to go.  Subscription versus sponsorship versus advertising.  (We don't seem to have old world patrons anymore; a MacArthur grant after a years of effort for a notable few is about as good as it gets.)  Old story.  I get it.  (I wonder if Octavian is paying attention?)  It's a tough balance.  Time is spent.  Effort is made.  Ebert has a day job, one which cushions the blow.  In that case, his employer (The Chicago Sun-Times) does the dirty work of soliciting and charging for advertising.  That's what lets them hire people.  Which allows someone to be a "salary man."  Which comes with its own costs.

There is no easy way out.  No clean, pure solution.  Roger drew a line in the sand.  He thinks he is right.  I don't.

My line?  Shilling is shilling.  And noise is noise.  It seems to me, while our tolerance levels may vary, there is a way to moderate the traffic so that we turn on and tune in, not tune out.  If the content provider can't respect that, the only choice for the listener is to tune out.

There is no clean shot.  Best get dressed for the ball before you drop the hammer down.  Right now, it seems like everybody must be walking the dog.  Too much jaw jacking and you're going to put us all in the mud.  

Don't want a SNAFU from that sonnet.

When I first started having control of who and when I had conversations with, my choices were:  Walk to their house and see if they were home.  _OR_ Pick up the phone and see if the party line was open to make a call.

At one point, I used a dial-up modem (listen to the tones! wait for the connect sound!!) and could share interests with like minded folk on a BBS.  And, oh, joy when the day could pay for an e-mail account with AOL.

No, the point is not how complicated communication is these days.  Though it kind of is.  So was an awl and a tablet, in its way; just more in the production than the reception.  The point is that there used to be all kinds of visual and context clues for what kind of sounds you were about to hear:  meanderings about nothing with friends were when your were hanging out.  Using the phone to determine where meetings would happen, and who had a parent that could get you there.  Hallways were for finding out who was on the basketball team.  Classrooms were for pretending to learn but really passing notes; libraries were for pretending to pass notes but really learning.

Advertising wasn't signified by a jump in volume on your television set, or a banner across the front page of your newspaper where a headline used to be.  Not that there weren't overlaps in advertising and editorial content.  But that was generally seen as poor form.  Or so my mythology goes.

Today, you sit with these devices, this input, this constant ready state for the next bit.  Byte.  What have you.

There is power in these new communication forms.  Twitter and Facebook helped a revolution, they say.  They've also led to suicides, career and actual.  With great power comes great responsibility.

My copies of The Secret of the Old Clock and The Hidden Staircase are still not on my shelf.  Waiting next to the incomplete set are both Dana girls books, ready to hand back.  I have a feeling I'll be holding on to them for a while.

But I hold out hope.  And I try to mind my communication manners.  My glass is generally half-full.  So I like to believe -- time to retrieve that held thought -- that we can all get along.

Like Rodney King said.  When a truck driver made the news.

I know, I know.  Meandering.  Miscellany.  But there it is.  Modern communications, older communications, keeping the input clear, grabbing the randomness at will, finding order.

Pass the numbers.  Ten-Ten, we'll do it again.

Get help with CB Slang at CB Gazette.  Learn why Concrete Blonde is not just a band.
Photo of Louie Louie's CB station found at The High Desert Cobra 200 Club.
Algorithm for deciding whether or not to follow a Twitter account created by Dan Shapiro.

Didn't think you were going to get away without a link to C.W. McCall, did you?  Watch a 45rpm disc of Convoy played on a turntable in a Magnavox console, because there hasn't been enough nostalgia for those who remember, or cabinets of curiosities for those who have no idea what I'm talking about.  But if handheld makes you tipsy, try this link and enjoy the Kristofferson/MacGraw movie poster.  Of course, you can shake your head and try to figure out why movie geeks (including Ebert) have praised Sam Peckinpah.  It wasn't because of the movie adaptation of the song, that's for sure.  I do miss that United Artists logo.  I wonder what Fairbanks, Pickford, and Chaplin would have thought about Rubber Duck.  Their producer sides might not have minded.  I'm pretty sure D.W. Griffith wouldn't have.

If you've made it this far, maybe you'll want to follow me on Twitter after all.  

Two Weeks from today... reminder

Book chat 
Saturday, February 26

Hope to "see" you there!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mixed Fruit News

Yesterday Cafleurebon reported that Caron's L'Accord (Code 119) would be released in the U.S. this summer.  This is good news, to me at least, as my love for L'Accord has not diminished since I wrote about it last summer and spent time basking in my waft.

The bad news is that they are calling it a fruity floral.  Which is too bad, because to me that conjures sweet dreck celebuscents for the young.  This one is not cloying, it is not too sweet, the flowers (rose and what??) are imbued in a gently raspy chord of patch and musk with herbal elements that emerge as you wear it.

I've enjoyed it in Paris heat and Chicago blizzard.  If the report is true, I'll be one happy camper, knowing I don't have to get my passport stamped in order the replace my bottle.  That's some expensive ink, after all.

EDIT TO ADD:  Marina has done some sleuthing, and cloak and dagger operations reveal that the stateside release will happen in March.  Which isn't so far away, after all....

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Figs, wanted and unwanted

Another post reviewing the oddities of scent and mind.

There is an outfit by the name of Upper Canada soap company, and I am about to write about one and only one product of theirs, and I am not going to be happy about it.  Not because it did not perform as it should--it certainly did--nor because it did not smell as advertised.  That it did, too.

It's just that nobody warned me dish soap could smell like perfume.  That's right, folks; we're going on an inverse to the usual trope you'll find in perfume chat.  My issue was not that a perfume smelled like soap.  My issue was that a (dish) soap smelled like perfume.

Aldehydic perfume.

Perhaps you've not been here often, or perhaps I've somehow gently phrased and backed into my thoughts on aldehydes enough that it my come as some surprise to you that this should be an issue for me.  But trust me, I rarely like bubbles in my nose unless they are gen-you-wine bubbles from a semi-dry sparkling wine or in a perfectly drawn bath.  If I find the smell of perfume accosting me in my dish pan, tormenting me with every scrub of a pot, every swish of a dish, well...I am Not Happy.

Add in to that my vein of frugality that says "this stuff is working perfectly well and clearly does the job you asked it to do and nobody is really going to say thank you to a gift of used dish soap so you'd better suck it up and use the resource" and you end up with a rather displeased dishwasher.

Did I mention that the dish soap also performed so well the generous sized bottle lasted and lasted?  Thank you, Upper Canada, for manufacturing such an efficacious product.

(Thank you, wonderfully robust English language, for offering me an honest word of praise that allows me to say something so close to "effing" at the same time.  ALDEHYDES, I tell you!!!)

My bottle is finally, FINALLY, gone.

I have now moved on to Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day dish soap, Basil scent.  Riddle me this, Batman:  Why would a candy version of basil, something that I might find cloying in a perfume, please me so much in my kitchen sink?  Does it benefit from being held against the aldehydic terror perfumey fig that was the Upper Canada offering?

Am I okay with candy in the kitchen, but not perfume?  It is true; I never like to spray perfume in the kitchen, not even when I have my hot mitts (as in my eager hands, not my protective gear) on a fresh package from the mail that I know contains the latest something....

Sorry, Upper Canada.  I promise I will try another offering.  After all, I can see that on a value per penny basis, yours is a good choice.  I also see that no online source offers the fig scent, so maybe there's a reason I found my bottle at the closeout store.

Wash on.

Don't feel too sorry for me.  There is such a thing as a happy fig.

As it turns out, it's not a perfume, either.

images, including bite mark, author's own