Thursday, June 24, 2010

Random scent notes

* Maureen Thorson is going on a perfume journey. You can follow her exploits here. She told me she likes the way tomatoes smell and I informed her that the world of 'fume encompasses tomatoes. And damned if she didn't go find herself some tomato perfumes. Mo is one of a handful of poet friends I have helped find a new scent recently. Anyone else out there want a consult? Catch me fast before my rates go up (from zero).

* It kind of irks me when people say, in re their fragrance, "I smell so good!" It's like they're taking all the credit. All you did was push the nozzle, dude. (I guess there's some effort involved in showering regularly and avoiding dog shit.)

* I have a running mental list of perfumes I want but can't afford (the categories of can- and can't-afford being mostly irrational constructions based on a shifting guilt threshold), sort of a wish list in case I become independently wealthy or it turns out there is a Santa Claus. The list includes Rossy de Palma (a bright green, lemony geranium-rose pick-me-up), Beyond Love (gorgeous, dreamy, creamy tuberose soliflore that is Beyond Any Reasonable Budget), and Philosykos (my favorite fig scent). RdP and Philosykos are not really crazy expensive if you only want one or two bottles of perfume at a time, but since I'm amassing a bit of a collection, I don't feel I can justify spending more than $50 on a single bottle.

* In case anyone's looking for further reading, here are a few of my favorite perfume blogs:
  • Katie Puckrik Smells: I have a total girl/blog crush on Katie Puckrik. She does these adorable video reviews on her YouTube channel. My favorite is the 5-part video where she walks you through her whole perfume collection. Also, she wears great jewelry and has an eyebrow scar. Facial scars rule!
  • I Smell Therefore I Am: Two bloggers, an M and an F. My favorite thing about this blog is its total lack of snobbery. They'll talk about Frederic Malle Une Rose in the same breath as Coty Exclamation. They also seem completely unconcerned with consensus opinion, which I applaud in any setting.
  • Muse in Wooden Shoes: This woman lives on a farm and writes under a pseudonym. She posts a weekly "scent diary." We have some taste overlap (both love tuberose and green florals) and some anti-overlap (underlap?); she hates sillage and patchouli and gourmands, all of which I give the thumbs up. Don't know why, I just like reading about her life and her sprays o' the day. I'd love to tell you all my SOTD's but, well, this isn't supposed to be a perfume blog.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Mizoovie Game Part 2 (The Revenge)

My brother and I and some of our other friends at Rice (Robo, Baseman, Kylec) made up a game called the Mizoovie Game Part II that we used to play all the time. It goes like this: One player names two movies, and the other players try to name a third movie that includes an actor from each. For example, if I say Star Wars and Ghost, the answer is Soap Dish (Carrie Fisher + Whoopi Goldberg). There may be other answers, but you have to have something in mind from the beginning; you can't just throw out two random movies as there may not be a solution.

This is a great car game. It works best when you know the other players have seen a lot of the same movies as you, and if you use movies with ensemble casts, because there are more possible permutations. (If you use movies that only have two significant roles each, there are only four possible combinations.)

I taught you a game! Here are a few more:

Stand By Me & Ghostbusters

Face/Off & Heathers

True Romance & The Day of the Locust

No cheating and using IMDB!

Nothing to blog and blogging it

I've been really busy over the past week or so, to the point of multi-tiered to-do lists and little to no downtime. I don't thrive on this the way some people do. I get irritable and cry easily. I cried yesterday for a dumb reason. Upside is, I like crying. Crying is awesome because it makes you feel better with no real side effects, unlike, say, drinking or comfort-eating, or even scratching an itch.

Remember that "25 Random Things About Me" Facebook meme from like 2008? Well I don't, because I'mnotonFacebook. But here are <25 "random" things "about" me:
  • People constantly make fun of the way I walk. I walk quickly, but I take short steps and don't lift my feet much off the ground. Picture a mechanical geisha.
  • I have frequent anxiety dreams that "everybody hates me," guess-I'll-go-eat-worms-style. Seriously, people I haven't seen since high school will show up just to hate me.
  • I've got a fang. Actually just one wicked crooked tooth, whereas all the others are straight. I tend to forget about it until I see pictures of myself, because I don't smile at myself in the mirror. Jesus, does anyone? (<--Stand By Me reference.)
  • I'm terrible at skating, both roller- and ice-. I'm shaky on a bike too. I like to have my feet on the ground. (Hence the aforementioned shuffling.)
  • I am, however, good at racket sports, especially racquetball and ping-pong.
  • In college I wrote a poem that ended with the lines, "I'm always turning corners with you. / Why can't we take the hypotenuse?" Uh, what? In high school I wrote a poem that ended with the line "This time Jonah ate the whale." It was about a kid named Jonah who murdered his parents (true story). Uhhhh. Another poem I wrote in college had these lines, which I still think are good: "That wasn't a blackbird, / just a black bird. But I couldn't tell you no." Confess your terrible lines! Or your good ones.
  • When I was in ninth grade I posted a bunch of poems to a user group in AOL. My email address was Confess your awesomely terrible former email addresses!
  • When I was five or so I had both a security blanket, which I called my "night-night," and a security toy, a little monkey that was part fur and part plastic. The paws and mouth were plastic, and you could lodge his little thumb in his mouth. I called him Chunky. I couldn't sleep without my night-night and Chunky. I also had a traditional baby doll that I carried around by the head, so it kept falling off.
I think I'm sufficiently embarrassed/catharted now.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Funny is what's lost in translation?

One of my favorite things, right up there with whiskers on kittens, is to take well-known pun-based jokes and paraphrase them so the pun and therefore the humor is lost. I always find the paraphrased versions funnier than the originals. I don't know why I have this sick compulsion. It's interesting, in light of the whole translation question ("Poetry is what's lost in translation"). Jokes often don't translate. So why are these so funny to me? Obviously, it's dependent on my knowing how they're supposed to go (though even if I didn't, I could probably figure it out). Anyway here are a couple. (If you haven't heard these can you guess the real joke?)

Q: What did the Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor?
A: Do you have Tofu Pups?

Q: How is light beer like making love in a canoe?
A: It's fucking practically water!

Now that I think about it this basically works on the same principle as the Back to the Future line "Why don't you make like a tree and get out of here."

Can you think of any more of these?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What I've been writing: Little poems that look like this. Perfume reviews.

What I've been reading: I'm between novels. I read the first ~25 pages of Stoner (which is about a small-town professor, not a pothead), and the story seemed interesting, but I couldn't stand the writing. There were way too many summarizing sentences like this:
His parents were happy to see him, and they seemed not to resent his decision. But he found he had nothing to say to them; already, he realized, he and his parents were becoming strangers; and he felt his love increased by its loss.
I kept thinking, "Stop just telling me everything!" It felt like a (nonfiction) biography, not a novel. Also two different tables within the first 10 pages were described as "gleaming" "dully." Stuff like that bugs me. Had to abandon. I'm starting Howards End.

What I've been watching: John has a special talent for renting the worst movies ever made. This week: They All Laughed, a Peter Bogdonovich "film" from 1981. What a garbled mess. It has all the trappings of a movie, including John Ritter falling into fountains and Audrey Hepburn playing Audrey Hepburn. But it lacked a certain ... reason for being.

I'm starting to feel bad. I know Matt Cozart liked Stoner. I hope this isn't one of his favorite movies.

What I've been wearing: Cropped pants. "Boyfriend" chinos. L de Lolita Lempicka. Rosy scents, e.g. Agent Provocateur.

What I've been eating: Lots of summer fruit (strawberries, cherries) and frozen fruit bars. Lots of feta. Full-fat Fage yogurt (tastes like whipped cream). Quinoa salads.

What I've been drinking: Water with fresh mint. (If you let it steep long enough, it almost tastes like ice cream.) Bourbon, campari, and ginger beer. Not all at the same time.

Etc.: We went to Provincetown. We went to South Hadley. John had a book release party. I got a cold. I still have a cold. This cold is my nemesis.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Interview on Bookslut

The lovely and inquisitive Elizabeth Hildreth interviewed me for Bookslut. We talked about The French Exit, of course, and "why [my] poems are like Zoe Saldana, how to give 'robots' extra weight in a poem, how good poetry is like good perfume, how writing a poem is like finding the area of a curve, why, in the case that you find your face crashing through a glass door, you may want to stick out your chin, and why you should not read Wikipedia if you want to have fun at slumber parties." Is she my ideal reader? I don't know. She's pretty close. Here's an excerpt:
What’s up with the cover of your book? I didn’t see the art attributed to anybody. I’m terrible at processing images, so for all the books I get, I ask my husband who’s a painter what’s happening with the cover art. He said it looks Victorian. Like a Victorian portrait pixelized by IBM in 1982. Did you choose the art? If so, why? And does it tie to the content and the title The French Exit in any way?

The cover was designed by Joshua Elliot, who is mega-talented. (He also designed the cover for my chapbook, Thanks for Sending the Engine.) When we were brainstorming about cover designs, we knew we didn't want it to be too literal. "The French exit" has a double (at least!) meaning. Slangwise, it means leaving (e.g., a party) without saying goodbye. In the context of the book, it also refers obliquely to French doors. Many of the poems reference an incident in which I passed out and stumbled unconscious into a French door, breaking one of the glass panes with my face. (I have a bitching scar on my chin to show for it.) It was something of a French exit in itself because it happened without warning and no one saw it (not even me, since I wasn't really there). So we didn't want the cover image to be French doors or something, which would be too punny and potentially limit the metaphorical applications of the phrase within the book.

Dan Boehl (one of the Birds) has a particular fondness for the line "serious face while gaming" from the last poem, and I have a particular fondness for the aesthetics of classic video games (Atari, NES). We were batting around the idea of using a screenshot from Pong for the cover (they naturally look like book covers, with the "net" in the center as the spine), since it would be kind of abstract on that scale and not totally obvious at first. (It took me a while to see the cover of The Anger Scale by Katie Degentesh for what it is, a scantron.) Josh ended up going in a different direction, but riffing on the 8-bit theme. He'd always wanted to do something with a clip art image like that. We love how the X in "EXIT" looks in the 8-bit font, and how it marks the spot on the woman's forehead.
Thanks to Liz and to Bookslut!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Grub Street Update

It's not too late to sign up for my seminar on "The Poem and the Idea." The registration deadline is June 11. I'm also going to be teaching a 10-week workshop this summer. Here's all the info:

10 Weeks, 10 Poems, 10 Questions

10 Wednesdays, 7-10 pm. Begins June 23rd.

This 10-week workshop offers the opportunity to broaden and deepen your knowledge of poetry while challenging your writing skills and comfort zone. We will study the craft and vision of contemporary poets and write poems to be workshopped in class. Each week, writers will ask themselves a question that forces them to reflect on their work and their relationship to it (such as, "Do my poems take risks?" and "What traditions do my poems build on?"). These questions will frame the discussion. This class will allow you to break old habits, find new influences, and, most importantly, leave the course with both fresh and revised drafts of many poems.

Level: Advanced
Type: Full-length Workshop
Price: $455.00/$430.00 members
Registration Deadline: Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Characters aren't your friends

I really irks me when people critique a book or a movie on the basis of "unlikeable characters" or characters who take morally questionable or reprehensible actions, which is like saying you didn't like The Poseidon Adventure because the ship wasn't seaworthy. When you read a book you're not supposed to evaluate the characters as people, like you're deciding whether or not to hire them or be friends with them. Characters aren't your friends and they don't have to be role models.

Relatedly, there's a difference between a sexist (or racist or elitist, etc.) book and a book with sexist characters. Matt Cozart mentioned semi-recently that someone he knows thinks House, M.D. (the show) is sexist. I assume this is because House, the character, is sexist. But that just doesn't follow. Sexist characters may indicate a sexist book, but a better indication is how women are represented: Are female characters flat/stupid/stereotypical? Are there women in the world of the story at all?

Also relatedly, art doesn't have to be "beautiful."

Besides, I like unlikeable characters (see House, Humbert Humbert, etc.). Someone should do up a list of likeable unlikeable characters in art and literature.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tutti Frutti

My second "On the Scent" column is up in the June Open Letters. This time I talk about the much-maligned genre of fruity perfumes:
Currently, fruity florals are riding out their moment in the sun, which means they get no love from “perfumistas.” Fruity fragrances are considered “ditzy” and unchallenging by perfume reviewers and bloggers, belonging to the realm of cheap body sprays and celebrity scents and suitable only, if ever, on tweens.

The question of age appropriateness is central to the matter. Classic perfumes smelled like flowers, exotic spices and resins, rare mammalian effluvia. They were often dry or powdery or sharp. Since our mothers and grandmothers wore these perfumes, they smell to the contemporary nose, by association, “old”...