Monday, February 27, 2012

Why does coffee smell fishy?

I have often thought that coffee smells fishy sometimes, as in literally like fish, particularly canned tuna (one of the few foods I have always and truly hated, largely due to the smell). I like the smell of coffee, and it's never an overwhelming fishy smell (like when my mom, despite my brother's and my howls, would make tuna casserole), just a faint whiff in there with the regular coffee aromas. I first noticed it on someone's coffee breath, and afterwards from time to time in coffee itself, usually the beans or ground coffee, not the brewed liquid.

I was just setting up the coffee for tomorrow and got that old fishy whiff, and it occurred to me that there is probably some chemical or molecule common to both coffee beans and fish (or at least canned fish). One of the things that 2+ years of perfume connoisseurship has taught me is to always trust my nose! Many of the smells I used to think I was hallucinating or imagining are right there in nature (or non-nature, as the case may be); common "ingredients" can often be confirmed with a web search. At the very least, you can find other crazy people like you who think single-malt scotch smells like Band-Aids, for example. Sure enough, I'm not the only one who thinks coffee (especially darker roasts) smells like fish. Here's a thread with some theories on the coffee-fish connection; could be the presence of Ethylmethylamine (which has a "strong ammoniacal and fishy odor").

Other weird smell/taste connections: cantaloupe and acetone (nail polish remover); raspberry and clove (there's eugenol in raspberry, much as in rose).

What the hell is up with Drive

I have a theory, and it's that at some point in the late '90s or early aughts, the American public so completely bought into the idea of "indie" filmmaking (which was then largely subsumed by Hollywood) that directors hit the goddamn jackpot: they could now get away with almost anything in the name of art. John and I watched two recent movies this weekend that fit my theory, both critically acclaimed and deeply flawed.

The first, Martha Marcy May Marlene, I mostly enjoyed; the major problem is that is has no ending. Most reviewers accept this as intentional ambiguity. Bullshit! There is good ambiguity and there is lazy ambiguity. The impression you walk away with is that the writer/director couldn't be bothered to write and film an ending. It's so ambiguous as to be infuriating. Still, I'm not sorry I watched it; it was interesting throughout, just ultimately unsatisfying (much like Black Swan).

Drive, on the other hand, is a complete failure as a movie. Let's just list out some of the many things wrong with it:

  • The casting is inane. (The woman who has three lines and then gets smacked and her brains blown out: that needed to be Christina Hendricks?) 
  • The first ~30 minutes are wildly tedious. As I tweeted last night, "Ryan Gosling never met a silence he didn't want to impregnate." I guess audiences accept huge gaps in dialogue as artsy. When the Gosling and Carey Mulligan characters do talk, it's pointless filler dialogue; they could be saying anything. 
  • I hate movies where the protagonist is just this unassailable badass. See the part where his boss says he's the best he's ever seen, get him behind a wheel and there's nothing he can't do, etc. (I'm reminded of Top Gun: "You're one hell of an instinctive pilot -- almost too good!") Meanwhile in most of the driving scenes he's just cruising around on regular streets at 30 mph. I guess we don't yet have the technology to film driving that good.
  • The soundtrack never got the "Show don't tell" memo. Ryan Gosling's character actually has a theme song whose lyrics are "A real human being and a real hero." #groan
  • Need I even mention the gratuitous tits and violence? I really was not prepared for the rivers of blood that flow in the second half of this movie. I don't necessarily mind violence in movies, but this was really over the top, and humorless to boot. 
I could go on, but I'm getting bored just thinking about this movie. People really thought this was good?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Gore Vidal on Norman Mailer

I LOL'ed:

Mailer is forever shouting at us that he is about to tell us something we must know or has just told us something revelatory and we failed to hear him or that he will, God grant his poor abused brain and body just one more chance, get through to us so that we will know. Actually, when he does approach a point he shifts into a swelling, throbbing rhetoric which is not easy to read but usually has something to do with love and sex and the horror of our age and the connection which must be made between time and sex (the image this bit of rhetoric suggests to me is a limitless gray sea of time with a human phallus desperately poking at a corner of it).

What is the point?

This scene in My So-Called Life, where Rayanne is quizzing Brian on the mouse experiment, and finally asks "What is the point?" (It happens in the first minute; sorry, embedding is disabled.)

Every now and then, I have a kind of nihilistic breakdown, and I ask myself that question about ... everything, pretty much.

Luckily, it passes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I'll love you foreverish

The Voice is on again, and I'm watching it again. Lindsey Pavao is my early favorite, even though (or because) she's similar to last year's runner-up Dia Frampton (whom, the reigning wisdom is, would have won if not for Justin Bieber telling all his Twitter followers to vote for Javier Colon), and especially even though in her intro clip she claimed to like "experimental music," then named Nirvana and Radiohead as examples. Still, I love her smooth, ultra-atmospheric version of this shitty in-da-club-type song:

The judges are being pickier this year, which is good, because last year I felt the early rounds were muddied up by a lot of male genre singers (country, rock) who were competent but not very original/interesting. They got weeded out quickly, but still. I think it's generally easier for men to win over the judges with mere confidence + competence, because men project "confidence" in more blatant ways; they may also be more confident because they get praise all the time that isn't centered around their looks.

In other TV news:
  • The Christmas episode of Downton Abbey made me cry. HAPPY TEARS.
  • I'm really pissed about what's going on with Blair on Gossip Girl right now. Two, three episodes ago she was telling Chuck that even though she thought she loved her husband (then fiance) Louis, deep inside she had always loved him (Chuck), still loved him (more every day, "if it's even possible to love someone that much"!) and would always love him. And now, suddenly, she's hot for Dan instead?  I'm supposed to believe this shit? That really, really deep inside, she loved Dan all along, like some kind of romantical turducken? UGH
I'm such a sucker for drawn-out, semi-doomed relationships, and this is why I hate TV: Screw you for making me care about fake people via transparent plot machinations and emotional manipulation!

What else? I don't know. I spent two hours at the DMV yesterday, but on the plus side they didn't tell me any of my documentation was wrong/insufficient, which usually happens, and I am now the proud owner of Colorado plates, which match the color of my car. Also, I'll be at AWP next week. Say hi if you see me! Wave if you can see me?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Starve a cold, starve a fever

There's an interesting article in the new Harper's about the potential health benefits of fasting ("Starving Your Way to Vigor" by Steve Hendricks). It cites a number of historical cases to refute the common wisdom that a person will die of starvation after 10 to 14 days. There are reported cases of people living much, much longer than that without food, assuming they are adequately hydrated, and especially if they are overweight to begin with. One grossly obese Scotsman supposedly went a full year without food, feeding solely off 276 pounds of excess body weight.

Hendricks names numerous studies in which short fasts reduce or eliminate the symptoms of various illnesses and diseases, some associated with obesity and some not. In one, a group of 174 hypertensives fasted for 10 days, and all but 20 of them had normal blood pressure by the end of the fast; the average drop was greater than has been reported in any drug study, and six months later most were still maintaining a healthy blood pressure. In another, cancer patients who fasted prior to and during chemotherapy suffered fewer side effects. Rats who fasted every other day prolonged their life spans. There's a treatment for epilepsy that involves fasting for several days, followed by adherence to a strict high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet; discovered decades ago, it has recently come back into favor and is known to be far more effective in preventing seizures than drug therapy in some patients. The author himself fasts for 20 days (with daily exercise) and loses 20 pounds.

Given my interest in outsider health stories and self-experimentation, I of course find all this fascinating, but I do think it's strange that the author doesn't address calorie restriction, known to prolong lifespan in pretty much every species for which it's been tested, as a method distinct from fasting; long-term calorie restriction doesn't require fasting per se, and humans who voluntarily adopt calorie-restricted diets have reported similar health gains (and weight loss, natch).

I kind of want to do a brief fast, not to lose weight but to give my intestines a chance to heal up completely. They seem to be in a constant state of slight disrepair, though certainly much better than they were when I was eating gluten all the time. My guess is that not eating anything for a few days would do my gut good. I'm too paranoid to try in earnest, though, because I have a history of fainting when my blood sugar gets low; one of these episodes sent me to the ER in need of stitches (in my face, no less). So it seems unlikely that I'll get a chance to try it out, unless some nearby hospital runs a study and I can volunteer as a subject, hence doing it under medical supervision. That would be swell, especially if they paid me. How about it, science?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Ultimate in Cocky-Hot

Who is it: James Spader in Pretty in Pink?

Or Jeff Bridges in Against All Odds?

Tough call, but given the option I think I'd want to bone James Spader but marry Jeff Bridges. Which is interesting, because Bridges is objectively hotter (the bod!), he just lacks that true asshole edge.

This is as good a time as any to tell you all how much I love the theme song from Against All Odds. Seriously, I could listen to this all day:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A perfume mini-memoir from the fabulous Julie Joyce

Julie Joyce is one of my favorite people in the SEO industry. She has good taste in music and appreciates my stupid Twitter jokes (the latter quality I find especially endearing). But it wasn't until recently that I found out she is also a perfume lover! I thought my perfume-loving readers would enjoy the below, Julie's personal perfume history. You'll recognize from your own perfume lives the scent that started it all, the arrogant SA, the fear of overactive sillage. For more Julie, follow her on Twitter or check out her websites, Link Fish Media (a link building company) and SEO Chicks.

I first encountered the venerable English fragrance company Penhaligons several years back whilst staying in a very, very posh hotel in Bloomsbury, and happily enough, it was one that I wasn't having to pay for. The guest toiletries were Blenheim Bouquet, a somewhat manly, yet still femininely-accessible fragrance that, even today, makes me think of lovely London life, especially on someone else's dime. It's lemon, lime, lavender, pine, musk, and black pepper. It's heaven. After happily wandering into the Penhaligon's shop near Picadilly Circus and being completely overloaded with all of their lush scents, I chose Malabah lotion, the least expensive thing I could find, since no one was offering to foot the bill for me to smell nice. I've parcelled it out over the past 3 years, terrified of running out, but unwilling to buy more, since I'm cheap as dirt. Malabah is the most heavenly scent on Earth...lemon, Earl Grey tea, cilantro, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, rose, orris, sweet amber, sandalwood, and musk. You want to drink it.

Rush ahead to my deciding that I'd bite the bullet and buy the proper perfume when I was in New York at a store which shall remain nameless, except when I asked to sample the Malabah, the perfume lady said, quite nastily, "Don't you mean Malaga?" As I did not, but I'm a good Southern girl, I just smiled and pretended that it was my error. I'll pretend your error is my own, but I sure as heck won't pay for it, so I smelled the good stuff and headed off to buy a hat, being petty that way.

So here we are, a year after that, and I decide to price Malabah online. Well it's freaking pricey, let me tell you, as it damn well should be, but since (remember from above) I am quite "thrifty" I decided to investigate similar (i.e. cheaper) scents and buy one of those. I came upon the lovely Samsara, by Guerlain, and I purchased it online after reading loads of reviews that made me feel like my wearing Samsara would lead all women to hate me, and all men to love me. I may have indeed caused a stir when I wore it the first time, but that could be because I might have been a tiny bit heavy-handed, so maybe the annoyed glances were the results of headaches, not envy. Still, I pressed on!!

And then, yes then again, my sweet, sweet husband ordered the best early Valentine's present ever; a gift set of Malabah. I can soak in a tub full of it, then I can drench myself in it. I can pretend that I have dark eyes and jet hair and am dating a man who wears flowy linen and doesn't look stupid in it. I'm in East India eating raita and samosas.

This is what I love most about a's the most amazingly evocative thing in the world to me, more so than a sound or a photograph. I can remember where I was when I first smelled something in the same way that I can remember which album I bought at what record store when I was 11. Some scents smell fantastic yet have names or associations (like celebrity endorsements) that would put me off enough that I'd never test them, and more is the pity there but it is what it is. For example, there's nothing in the world that could convince me to smell anything that is associated with Celine Dion or Britney Spears. I don't want to smell like bad pop music. I want to dress like it, but there it ends.

Poison, Opium, Samsara, and Malabah, however, invite you in through their names alone. They are exotic and dangerous, two things that I am not, and for that, I love them all.

noPERCH Reading on Thursday, Feb. 16

Denver people, I am reading in your town this Thursday night! Consider it a little belated valentine. Here's the 4-1-1, as they said in the '90s:

FEBRUARY 16, 2012: 7 PM – 7:50 PM 
Please join us Thursday, February 16th to see Richard Froude, Selah Saterstrom, & Elisa Gabbert read their work in the dome room of the Chamberlin Observatory, a facility that has been in continuous operation since 1890. The reading will take place alongside the 20″ aperture refractor telescope presently installed in the dome room, a telescope with a tube length of approximately 28 feet. More information about this observatory can be found here and here. 
The total capacity of the dome room is 24 people. Admittance will be on a first come, first serve basis. We will be starting on time! Doors open at 6:45 pm.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Downton Abbey: Was Mary date raped, and if so, er, where?

After a couple of conversations in Boston this weekend, I realized my interpretation of the infamous third episode of Downton Abbey diverges significantly from the consensus, at least among my friends.

***SPOILER ALERT*** If you haven't watched the first season of Downton Abbey, and plan to, step away, this post reveals key plot points.

As those of you who have been watching know, there's an incident in Episode 3 that has rippling consequences for the household for years. I'm referring, of course, to "the Turk," Mr. Pamuk, having "sexual relations" with Mary. Because people didn't say what they meant back then (do they now?), and because we don't actually get to see the act, there are two primary ambiguities around the incident. I'm more certain of my interpretation of the first ambiguity, which is ...

Did Mary consent to sex and/or was she "asking for it"?

I was always dismayed that, when asked by her mother if the Turk forced himself on her, she shook her head no. As far as I'm concerned, he did. He showed up unannounced and evidently unexpected. She asked him several times to leave and he refused. By my definition (and probably any American college's), this is date rape.

Here's the scene, as a refresher (sorry for the lousy quality):

Given the look on her face and her various shocked protests ("Please leave at once or I'll scream"; "Please, stop"; "I'm not what you think I am. If I've led you on I'm sorry...") I don't believe for a second that she expected him to show up or was even pleasantly surprised. Is she flattered? Yes. Is she attracted to him? Yes, very obviously. But did she want him to sneak into her bedroom and seduce her that night? No, I don't think so. She was angling for a proposal, not sex. And if she consented in the end, it was because, I believe:

a) She wanted him to like her (Haven't most women at some point done something they didn't want to do for this reason?).
b) She believed he might want to marry her.

This leads us to the second major ambiguity ...

Did Mary and the Turk have anal sex?

I was somewhat shocked to find this is the more common interpretation of what happened in Mary's bedroom that night. Mr. Pamuk tells Mary she'll "still be a virgin for her husband." She asks if he is asking her to marry him, and he says no, he doesn't think either of their families would like that. Then he says "With a little imagination ..." and mumbles something I've never heard clearly, which adds to the ambiguity. So most of my friends (most viewers in general? I don't know) took this to mean he was proposing they have anal sex.

Personally, I find this very hard to swallow (no pun intended, although I'd actually be more inclined to believe he was hinting at a blow job than anal sex). If this were The Secret Life of the American Teenager, sure, I'd buy it, but Downton Abbey? The show is really not that racy. And I just don't think it's plausible that Mary would go along with it.

My interpretation is that they had regular, old-fashioned, penis-in-vagina sex, and Mary gives in for one of two reasons:

1) She believes, as I noted above, that she might convince him to marry her, even if their families disapprove, because his lust could be a sign of love. Also, he doesn't say outright that he doesn't want to or won't marry her, just that he isn't at that moment proposing. I think the suggestion is there that he may eventually be her husband, and he plants the suggestion as a bargaining chip.
2) You could interpret the Turk's claim that she'll "still be a virgin" in another way, that he is getting her to agree to sex by degrees, i.e. convincing her to agree only to a heavy make-out session, counting on her being too compromised to say no to sex once she's already naked.

What do you think, Downton Abbey fans?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Hatters gonna hat

Is there a name for that thing that happens where people redundantly tack the last word from an acronym onto the acronym, as in "PIN number" and "ATM machine"? Yesterday John did it with "BFF's forever," which I'm sure is the name of several Facebook groups. I was talking to a guy at a party once several years ago about this phenomenon, and the example he gave was "stupid hat party party." Whether or not there is such a thing as a stupid hat party (party), this is still my favorite example.

Update: It's known as RAS syndrome (redundant acronym syndrome syndrome).