Friday, September 28, 2012

My new (second) favorite leather

For years, Cuir de Lancome has been by far my favorite leather fragrance. I've tried many others, and found some to like, and some to dislike. In the end, nothing really came close to CdL, with its bracing saffron opening melting into the smoothest, most beautiful caramel leather possible. Generally, I've found that leathers, when they fail, fail in one of three ways:

  1. They're too sweet (Cuir de Mauresque, for example, has a fabulous drydown but is a little too sweet on the opening spray)
  2. They're too animalic (this usually comes, I find, from raunching it up with musk, castoreum, dirty patchouli and so forth, rather than the "leather" materials themselves)  
  3. They don't smell like leather (see Bottega Veneta, Kelly Caleche) 

Now, finally, something comes close! And it might be the most underrated perfume on the planet: Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight in Paris.


Folks, this beautiful leather fragrance (in a rather beautiful, constellated bottle) is not only still in production (what!), but Natalie and I split a huge (125 ml!) bottle that we scored online for something like $55. What I'm wondering is, WHY is nobody talking about this fragrance?!?! The closest thing I can compare it to is cult-favorite Bulgari Black, but Black has always had slightly too high a vanilla-to-rubber ratio to my nose, and I prefer to smell it on my man J, where the smoky sweetness is disarming (on women, vanilla has come to be expected).

We found Midnight in Paris on the men's counter, but it's actually a gourmand leather, which makes it a perfect crossover hit. Folks, if you like leather, please check out this bargain gem. It's more of a true leather than Black (which smells more like tires), and the sweetness is more almondy tonka and smoky benzoin/styrax (styrax being part of the magic that makes Cuir de Lancome so magical) than straight vanilla. In a word, SEXYDELICIOUS. Well worth the money (and the forearm cramps from sprizting half the bottle into a spare).

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Little fascist panties


  • I've had an aural craving lately for vintage Tori Amos -- strictly the first three albums.
  • Also craving '90s-era country music. Deana Carter, Dixie Chicks ... 
  • Last Friday I was in a delight with a handful of crayons, to borrow a phrase from Anne Sexton. My mom saw my blog post and sent me a 64-pack in the mail. Isn't that the greatest? Now I just need a coloring book. Do you think I can find one based on famous paintings instead of cartoon characters? But check this awesomeness out: On the back of the box (above the sharpener, natch), there's a URL where you can go and enter a code from the inside of the box, then upload a photo and turn it into a printable, black-and-white outline. You can make your own face into a picture page!
  • I just skimmed an article in Harper's over lunch that was called "Why Vote? When Your Vote Counts for Nothing." I thought it was going to be the typical economist's take on voting, which reasons that voting is irrational, at least in major elections, because your particular vote is so unlikely to make a difference, your chances are greater of winning the Powerball jackpot multiple times. But instead it was about how politicians lie to get elected, and voting is pointless because, once elected, the candidate you voted for may do the exact opposite of his stated plan. So, essentially, even if your party's votes matter en masse, your votes are rendered meaningless by an increasingly corrupt government. Super uplifting! 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Against talent

The big lie of shows like The Voice and American Idol (though I love them) is that good singers aren't a dime a damn dozen. What's rare is finding someone who can sing and write songs. That's why most of the people who win these shows never "make it" as recording artists. If some studio is going to have to groom you and find songs for you and market you etc. etc. they might as well start with some other singer, probably one who's younger and thinner.

I think "creative writing" is the same. You don't become a fan of someone just because they can write good sentences. Being a poet and being surrounded by poets (and I assume the same is true of fiction writers) is often boring and exhausting because everyone around you is a "good writer," and we're constantly forced to, pardon the expression, suck each other's dicks of talent, even though most of the time (self inclusive) we don't have all that much to say.

Now excuse me while I go watch The Voice. Team Xtina!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Brunch music

"Brunch music" is a term I think I invented, a genre that includes pretty, mellow, and slightly melancholy music that seems perfectly suited to drinking warm coffee while a cool breeze comes through the window and somebody makes you eggs. When I say this term in my mind, I always think of the poet Emily Frey, whom I spent a lot of time with when we both lived in Boston a while back, and whose CD collection is especially strong in brunch music.

Incidentally, my favorite brunches always occur when I'm hosting out-of-town guests, or I'm visiting friends in another city, and we've stayed up too late talking and sipping whiskey or red wine, and the combination of a mild hangover and a caffeine buzz creates a mood that is both lazy and giddy. That makes me so happy. (I also really like eggs.)

Here are some songs that qualify:




You see what I mean? Other "brunch music classics" include Red House Painters and Beth Orton.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The dependability of Crayola colors


Yesterday John and I went to our favorite taco place for some happy-hour margaritas and snacks with our friend Katie and her baby Zoe. We accepted the nice waiter's offer of a coloring book and some crayons for Zoe, and he brought back a big handful of brand new Crayolas, and I was completely overjoyed to find that most of the color names hadn't changed since my childhood. Is there anything else that hasn't been redesigned, updated, reformulated and probably cheapened? Very little. The reds, especially the red violet and a new, orangey red called scarlet, were as visually satisfying and seemingly edible as lipstick. Holding them and, yes, coloring with them (I was much more interested in coloring than Zoe) brought back a flood of memories:

  • I remember having an intense argument with some girls in first grade over which was more blue, blue green or green blue. They argued that obviously blue green was more blue because the blue came first. No, I insisted, green blue is like "greenish blue," so it's more blue with just a little green. I WAS RIGHT.
  • Green blue was retired, along with seven other shades, in 1990. One of the replacement shades was called "Jungle Green" and I remember that was very popular, all the girls thought it was very cool. 
  • I remember thinking "magenta" was pronounced "magneta" with a hard g.
  • The gray and carnation pink crayons held together always make me think of a mouse. Carnation pink is a disappointing crayon, though; it looks super pigmented but comes out pale on the page. 
  • I always felt there were too many brownish orange and orangey yellow colors; I hated those colors then and I still kind of hate them now. (Raw umber and orange yellow have been retired.) They remind me of the sand art that the Mystics are making at the beginning of The Dark Crystal, as well as that throaty sound they make when one of them dies.
  • I'm fascinated by the minute differences between certain shades, like thistle, lavender and orchid, and all the blues (robin's egg, sky, cadet, aquamarine, turquoise, etc.). I remember one of my teachers (in second grade, I think?) teaching us that the sky got lighter toward the horizon, and for the rest of the year all our drawings had this variegated sky, though almost everyone overdid it so it was blue as night at the top of the sky and almost white at the bottom. 
  • What on earth are you supposed to do with the white crayon? I didn't know then and I don't know now. Though I guess maybe it shows up on manila paper? Incidentally I absolutely hate the way manila paper feels. I also hate the feel of particle board, and I guess they're basically the same material.
  • In first grade my teacher taught me to do the coolest thing with crayons. Basically you totally cover a white sheet of paper with random bursts of color, then you color all over the whole thing with the black crayon. Then you can scrape off the black (what did we use to do the scraping? the round end of safety scissors maybe? not a credit card, but that would work) and the color shows through. You can trace your name, for example, and it shows up in color under the black. I want to do this right now.
Bottom line, I've gotta buy a box of crayons.


Image via laffy4k

Friday, September 21, 2012

The unit of poetry

I'm going to be doing a little nachtmusik light po-crit over at (the freshly redesigned and -launched) Lemon Hound, run by the great Sina Queyras, whom I met when Sandra Simonds asked us both to participate in a roundtable on women who write criticism. My first post is just an introduction to my column, which I'm calling The Poneme, because I'm nerdy for neologisms. Here's the gist:

What is the unit of poetry? If the basic unit of prose is the sentence, the analog for poetry would seem to be the line. Sentences constitute paragraphs, and lines constitute stanzas. The only problem is that it doesn’t work for prose poetry, visual poetry, and conceptual forms that don’t have easily identifiable “lines.” (The foot causes even more problems, since so much of poetry is not metrical in a traditionally scannable way.) 
I’ve talked a lot in the past about “moves” – identifiable stylistic tricks that poets use for flair, often as personal calling cards. The concept is borrowed from chess or dancing. You can abstract certain patterns away from the game, the flow of movement, or the poem as a whole (the Queen’s gambit, the electric slide). In poetry, as in dancing, a writer can create an original or put her own spin on a classic move. Some poets are especially drawn to certain “moves,” and they become signatures at best, tics at worst. Moves come into fashion, get overused and then fall out of favor. Moves are recycled, and new or newish moves are born. 
It’s a useful concept, but it has its shortcomings. For one, it sounds slangy and unserious compared to “line” or “stanza.” Secondly, it’s not specialized; it’s not specific to the practice of poetry. Many disciplines, in both art and science, have their own specialized units. So why not poetry? In linguistics, the smallest unit of sound is called a phoneme – for example, the k sound – while a morpheme is the smallest unit of semantically meaningful language (the word “dog,” the plural “s”). Richard Dawkins defines the gene as the unit of natural selection – a bit of DNA that translates into some potentially useful or harmful trait (such as blue eyes or sharp teeth), and which is therefore more or less likely to be replicated and passed on to other organisms. 
These concepts are especially applicable to the problem of units in poetry – the gene is not defined by size or shape but instead by meaning and use value. This is the type of flexible unit that is needed in poetry ...

Read the rest over at Lemon Hound! See also interviews, essays, poems and much more goodness from Sina, Laura Broadbent, and other contributors and regulars.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mini-reviews, rosy edition: Rose Splendide, Rose Anonyme, La Vie en Rose


I am drowning in perfume, guys – a pretty sexy way to die, no doubt, but practically, I'm running out of storage space. I often hang onto a half-empty sample or the last few sprays in a decant because I think I may want to write about it someday. But I'm coming to terms with the fact that I'll never write at length about most of them; secondly, if I decide I need more of some perfume or other, I can always get another sample. So in the interest of clearing out space for new arrivals, and using this stuff before it evaporates or turns, I'm going to try to do more in-brief reviews here on the blog.

First up, a few rosy perfumes I acquired over the summer months. When I first started collecting perfume, tuberose was my favorite floral note, but at some point in the game, rose pulled into the lead and now I've got tons of them. By the way, "rose" perfumes seldom have the full-fledged scent of actual fresh tea roses, a very complicated smell that can't be re-created with rose absolutes alone, and which, incidentally, isn't really in fashion these days. Most of the time I experience rose notes more synaesthetically; they tend to give a pink or red cast to a composition. Roses can also be recognized by how they play against other notes: rose and violet are a classic combo that together smell like candy and old-fashioned lipstick; rose and jasmine create the golden ur-flower effect in voluptuous florals like Joy and Chanel No. 5; rose and patchouli and/or oakmoss make for a "dark rose" as in Knowing and other rose chypres, which smell sweet and earthy at the same time.

Annick Goutal Rose Splendide: I feel like Annick Goutal's perfumes are weirder than they're given credit for, perhaps because the line has such a prim image. She has a penchant for soliflores, and this is one of a few rose-centric perfumes in the line. What's weird about it is that the rose accord is pleasantly sour, like underripe mango. Some people will hate this quality, no doubt, but if you like the fermented, tangy funk of kombucha, you might find it strangely addictive. What saves it, I think, from feeling like it's just a mistake is the sweetness of the musky vanilla base, which provides balance, even if it seems dangerously close to toppling over into vinegar territory. It feels like a perfect spring-morning kind of fragrance: bright, dewy, pink and green, full of promise that you somehow suspect will never be delivered upon.

Atelier Cologne Rose Anonyme: I swear this goes on smelling like chocolate-covered strawberries – in a sophisticated way! Rose Anonyme is exactly the kind of rose fragrance I love, both bright (with a full, fruity, almost boozy red rose accord) and dark (plenty of patchouli in the base). It bears a family resemblance to Rossy de Palma, my so-far-all-time-favorite rose perfume. Their listed notes are very similar (Rose Anonyme: Calabrian bergamot, Chinese ginger, Turkish rose, Somalian incense, Velvet oud, Indonesian patchouli, Indian papyrus, Laotian benjoin; Rossy de Palma: Ginger, black pepper, bergamot, Bulgarian rose, jasmine, benzoin, incense, cacao and patchouli), but both are very smoothly blended – I don't pick out citrus or ginger per se in either composition, for example, but both have a delicious quality, an almost syrupy intensity. The only problem is staying power; Atelier's "cologne absolue" concentration is supposed to be comparable to an eau de parfum in strength, but it feels more like a light EDT, fading to a faint skin scent within an hour. It's not "full-bottle-worthy" for me for that reason, but I'll race through my decant.

DSH La Vie en Rose: La Vie en Rose is one of five perfumes that were inspired by the YSL retrospective that recently came to the Denver Art Museum, this one being an interpretation of the rose-violet accord central to the original Paris by Sophia Grojsman. I like Grojsman's work a lot, and Paris is one of those perfumes that I "wanted to love," as they say, it being a modern classic and all, but it's far too sweet and powdery and aldehydic for me; in my 2010 review I described it as "bathroomy." (Sorry.) It's probably sacrilege to say so, but I think La Vie en Rose is better than Paris. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has shifted the balance away from rose and more toward violet, and freshened it up with lily of the valley, creating a much more delicate effect. It's present but diaphanous, with a tender sweetness but some green herbal bite (blackcurrant bud, violet leaf) to keep it in check. There's a sophistication to Dawn's recent perfumes that has really blown me away, and this is perfectly representative of the shift. I used to think her (hugely expansive) line was a bit hit-or-miss, but I bought three of her 2012 releases on the spot, and they strike me as being up there with the best of what's coming out of niche and indie perfume houses today. Impressively, her prices haven't increased accordingly. If you like Rose Praline from Parfums de Rosine, I suggest you try Dawn's Pretty & Pink (I've used more than half of my purse spray in just a few months, a rare feat when you've got as much perfume as I do), and Sweet Dreams reminds me of the heavenly vanillic lavender in By Kilian's (much more costly) A Taste of Heaven.

All of the above were my own acquisitions.

Image credit

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reading for pleasure vs. reading as obligation

I had a fractured conversation on Twitter today (with players including Matt Walker, Sandra Simonds, Anne Boyer, Man Suit -- I still don't know who this actually is, but I love her/it -- Michael Robbins, and Alex Estes) about Frederick Seidel. It started when Matt said "i would think flarf poets, of all people, would appreciate seidel." I took this to mean that both flarf and Seidel's poetry, in terms of their content, are potentially offensive. I pointed out that the reason I "don't love" the Seidel poems I've read (indicating something between vague dislike and indifference, I suppose) has less to do with the content than the form; I find them sing-songy and the end rhymes lazy. Matt said, like flarf, they are "bad on purpose." Michael Robbins, who thinks Seidel is "the best poet we have," later backed this up, calling the "sing-songy" effect deliberate; "he's making a sophisticated point," he said.

This is interesting and I certainly trust that it's true, though I really don't know what that sophisticated point might be, if it's not that poets and readers of poetry are frauds. (Reading a Seidel poem in The New Yorker feels something like a Sokal hoax, the poems published therein are so often doggerel of the unintentional type.) But I noted that knowing this didn't really make the poems more enjoyable to me. This took the conversation to a different place -- we were no longer talking about how good or bad Seidel is, but whether or not "enjoyment" should be a factor in what one reads:


I agree with Michael in principle. Art shouldn't simply make us feel good! It should challenge us and make us uncomfortable. Sometimes it should hurt. I've used the exact same argument to convince people to read things they claim not to like. And certainly, the problem with most literary criticism is that it revolves around the "Did I like it or not" question, as if it were just a glorified recommendation system. I agree with Daniel Mendelsohn that good criticism teaches us how to think.

But in practice, when it comes to how I live my actual life, it's more complicated than that, for all kinds of reasons:

  • "Pleasure" is fuzzily defined, especially for highly educated snobs like ourselves. There are simple pleasures (like trash TV) and there are complex pleasures. By choosing to read poetry at all, I'm already choosing a complex pleasure (a more active, challenging, and intellectual kind) over a simple one. Is that enough? Do I need to further complicate matters by choosing poetry I don't even like? What exactly would be motivating that choice? A pure desire for self betterment? (I doubt it.) 
  • When I say I "like" a poem I mean that I find it stimulating in a very specific way that is both aesthetic and philosophical, and it's difficult to tease apart how much is aesthetic and how much philosophical, because both arise simultaneously from language. If something doesn't hit this particular spot for me, it's almost like it's not even poetry. Not only is my experience of reading bad poetry nothing like my experience of reading good poetry, the experience of reading poetry that I know to be "good" but don't especially like is nothing like reading poetry I do enjoy. 
  • If I'm not in the right mood/mindset to read poetry it will be lost on me entirely. 
  • As an adult, a number of my interests, hobbies, pleasures, whatever you want to call them, exist in a space that is part pleasure and part obligation. This is true of both reading and writing. At times I can  fall into the much-sought-after "flow state" where you are so absorbed in what you're doing you lose all sense of time and self outside of that activity, but 90-95% of the time it feels at least partially like work, and I can't stop myself from glancing at the clock. Cooking falls into the same category; I love cooking but it's also an obligation (as they say, you gotta eat). Perfume is an almost-pure pleasure, but because I'm a writer, I often feel obligated to write about perfume. Honestly, drinking is one of the few things I do for pleasure that is completely free of any sense of obligation. Choosing and opening a bottle of wine requires almost no effort, and if I intellectualize the experience at all (describing the taste of the wine to myself), I feel no need to commit my impressions to paper or memory. 
  • I work 8 hours a day at a job that requires me to read and write a lot. This makes it even harder to choose "difficult" pleasures when it comes to picking up a book. I can't help wondering if my "extra-curricular" reading patterns would be different if I had a different kind of job. My attention span often feels shot at night, my tolerance for words of any kind stretched thin. 
Do you read purely for pleasure? And how is that pleasure different from what you get out of, say, music or movies or ... ? Do you find your hobbies are often tainted with a sense of obligation? 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

How to sound more like a chef

Cute things you can say to sound more like a chef, at least a chef on TV:

  • "Break it down": Chefs don't chop things up and they certainly don't cut them up! The process of using a knife to make a thing be in smaller pieces is known as "breaking down" the thing, as in "breaking down the lobsters" or "breaking down some broccoli." Bring that broccoli to its knees!
  • "Bake off":  And I'm not talking about the Pillsbury Bake-Off! Chefs are fond of inserting an unnecessary "off" after various cooking verbs, e.g. "bake off those cookies," "roast off the quail." It makes you sound super casual. Just bake 'em off!
  • "Make it rain": This is what you are doing when you properly season a "beautiful piece of meat" or a pot of water in which you're going to cook, e.g., pasta or some of that broccoli you previously broke down. You should keep kosher or sea salt in a little crock so you can grab a big pinch and "make it rain" from a good 8-12 inches above the food. 
  • "Developing flavors": "Seasoning," by the way, means adding salt. Everything else you do, such as adding garlic or deglazing with wine, is developing flavors. 
  • "Acidic" is the new sour: If you're commenting on the vinegar or citrus component in a dish, don't say "sour"; instead refer to the level of acidity, e.g. "There's a nice bright acidity in the salsa that cuts the fattiness of the pork."

Other ideas? Speaking of my cheffy life, John and I finally fulfilled my dream of playing a home version of Chopped this weekend. On Friday, he brought home a "mystery basket" of ingredients for me to use in our dinner: whole trout, radishes, watercress, and orange marmalade. I thought this was a perfect beginner basket, challenging (I've never worked with whole trout or watercress before, and I don't like orange marmalade) but not so challenging as to take the fun out of it or to result in a disgusting dinner we'd then be forced to eat. I made:
Roasted trout with lemon-herb butter
Radishes two ways (braised in more butter and sliced raw in the below salad)
Watercress and butter lettuce salad with radishes, chopped eggs, and marmalade vinaigrette 
The salad with the marmalade vinaigrette was my favorite part, worth repeating now that we have a big jar of the stuff. The components were a blob of marmalade, a blob of dijon mustard, minced shallots, a dab of honey, sherry vinegar, tiny splash of soy sauce, salt, pepper and lots of olive oil. It was very savory with just a hint of bitterness from the bits of peel.
Ben Lerner on Allen Grossman on sandwiches:

Sandwiches are virtual for Grossman because there is an unbridgeable gap between what the sandwich-maker wants the sandwich to do and what it can actually do. For Grossman, this arises out of a kind of contradiction at the heart of sandwiches that’s always been with us, what he calls “the bitter logic of the sandwich principle.” Sandwich logic is bitter because the sandwich is structurally foredoomed. The sandwich-maker is moved to make a sandwich because she is dissatisfied with the human world, the world of representation. But the stuff of sandwiches invariably reproduces the structures it aspires to replace. According to Grossman, sandwiches issue from the desire to get beyond the human, the finite, the historical, and to reach the transcendent or divine. But as soon as the sandwich-maker moves from the sandwich impulse to the actual sandwich, the song of the infinite is compromised by the finitude of its terms. So the sandwich is always a record of failure because you can’t actualize the impulse that gave rise to it without betraying it.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Quick sniff impressions

When I left Boston, I left my best perfume sniffing companion behind (that would be Elizabeth of Nosy Girl); I also lost next-door access to a handful of well-stocked perfume counters, as my office building was right next to the Prudential/Copley mallplex, which houses a big Sephora, Saks, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus and Barney's in throwing distance of each other. So whenever there was something new to smell, I'd dart over during a break or after work.

I was mildly worried that Denver would be a perfume wasteland, but it's not as bad as I feared. The nearby Cherry Creek Mall has a Nordstrom and a Neiman Marcus in addition to the expected Macy's and Sephora, as well as one of those goofy little mall stores where you can sometimes find fun older things that are either discontinued or in production but with limited distribution. There's also Dawn Spencer Hurwitz's studio in North Boulder, which is great. It's not Manhattan, but it could be a lot, lot worse. Also, shortly after moving here, I discovered that the author of one of my favorite perfume blogs currently resides about a mile from me. What luck!

Today we ventured down to the mall for some endurance sniffing. Solo sniffing is dangerous because the sales associates tend to hound you, so it's good to have a buddy, especially one who's not afraid to fry her nose (and fry our noses we did). Here are super-quick impressions of some of the (many) things we sniffed:

@ Macy's:

Truth or Dare: Madonna's perfume was at the top of my list of newish releases that I definitely wanted to check out. On paper, though, I didn't really like it. More than tuberose, it has a ton of whatever synthetic material usually goes into "gardenia" accords plus the kind of metallic jasmine found in Gorilla Perfumes Lust. I find Lust oddly compelling, like the super-trashy sister to Annick Goutal Songes, but Truth or Dare also has a big dose of that buttery lactonic note from Fracas, which turns the whole thing kind of rancid. Like Fracas, it's very close to several things that I really like, but the balance felt off. Bottom line: Impressive effort but too much of a muchness.

Lady Gaga Fame: I think I pulled a muscle rolling my eyes. Enormous fruit note, smells like every other celebrity release of 2012.

Coco Noir: Ari was right; Coco Mademoiselle with more patchouli.

@ Neiman's:

Narciso Rodriguez For Her Delicate: Natalie had her eye on this one; it smelled great on her. A variation on the original along the lines of Mugler's "Taste of Fragrance" flankers, it was fruitier, with a jammy fig note, in the EDT, and the EDP seemed to have a more natural, petal-y floral accord.

Laura Mercier Creme de Pistache: I love the way this smells if you just sniff the nozzle, and sprayed on skin, it had the most amazing top note -- with the super-toasty quality of just-roasted nuts as well as the sweet, marzipan-like intensity of pistachio ice cream. Then within minutes it turned into an overwhelming Angel knockoff, all choco-patchouli-candyfloss with no nuts in sight. Huge disappointment.

Spicebomb: I've been wanting a bottle of this since it launched earlier this year, but today is the first time I've tried it on skin. Now I NEED a bottle. I was initially drawn to it due to its similarity to Tea for Two, which is reportedly discontinued, but now I think I like it even better. It's smoother than TfT, which is so smoky initially it evokes barbecued meat, and the longevity is terrific. Of the five or six things I spritzed on my arms it's the only one that's still well-represented.

Midnight in Paris: This was the other winner of the day, a terrifically smooth leather, not too sweet, smoky, or animalic. We're planning to order and split a bottle of this.

@ Sephora:

I don't remember a thing I smelled here, our last stop of the day. OK, I just looked at their inventory online to jog my memory:

La Petite Robe Noire: This has been reformed. It used to be nice and pretty complex, similar to Lolita Lempicka. The thing I smelled today had a bright cherry top note but smelled very simple and thin.

Marchesa: Notably not a run-of-the-mill fruity floral, but not particularly compelling anyway. Kind of a white floral? It's advertised as iris, but I got mostly a cheapish lily.

La Vie est Belle: Smelled like everything else so I spent no time on this.

Loverdose: I remember hearing that this was interesting. It was interesting all right! A huge grape soda note (as in the original Alien) plus a huge pepper note that somehow added up to the smell of salami. I mean, wow. I kept smelling it and laughing in shock. But it's literally impossible to imagine anyone wearing it.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Your daily dose of despair


The other day I was talking to Jen, one of my best friends, who lives in New York, and she was telling me that it's unfair that she can keep up with my life via my blog, but I can't keep up with hers because I'm not on Facebook. She quickly admitted that the real reason she wants me on Facebook is to "like" her pictures, because in truth I keep up with her life just fine through email and phone calls. Still, I told her that Facebook drives me batty because the updates that are personal (as opposed to just links to news and crap) are positive and self-flattering to a wildly disproportional degree. (At least that's how it seems to me when I scan someone else's Facebook feed and am rapidly bored to tears.)

To be fair, some people, writers especially, use blogs (and Twitter, which, let's remember, is a microblogging platform as much as it's a social network) the same way, as a vehicle for self-promotion, for "building your personal brand." But I don't bother reading those blogs. My two favorite writer blogs these days are Molly Says (Molly Laich) and Frances Farmer Is My Sister (Kate Zambreno). What I love about these blogs, aside from the fact that I love the way Molly and Kate write (which is another way of saying that I love the way they think), is that they aren't an exercise in maintaining the illusion that life is always fun, happy and on an obvious upward trajectory career- and success-wise. Instead, they are confident enough to show self-doubt, to reveal flaws and general life messiness. I'm not the first person to say this but guess what? If you pretend your life is perfect all the time, nobody believes you, and if your life is perfect all the time, you're boring.

Here are some recent snippets from Kate Zambreno's blog:

I will not write anything this weekend, most likely, and will spend it recovering. This morning I read the Bookforum review of Heroines that's in the new issue. I can only describe the experience of reading it as devastating. There has become such a taboo in our literary culture about writing or venting when we receive a bad review. But the thing is, and I've spent some time thinking about whether I should write about it, this wasn't just a bad review, it was a dangerous, mean-spirited, intellectually dishonest review, and the irony is, it was a review that was not aware of itself as committing the same sort of critical crimes against a woman writer, the same sort of shaming and silencing and disciplining, that is itself the subject of the book. (from "one can be dumb and sad at exactly the same time" 8-31-12)

26
Toxic shock on the Internet. I begin to be obsessed with myself as a minor author in society. Two versions of the minor: the anonymous, the Solanas, and then the one who deranges the master language, as D&G write of Kafka. Perhaps these are the same. I begin googling myself obsessively. I visit my Goodreads page. My novel Green Girl is involved in some sort of brutal bloodsport literary prize, where it is decimated, where I feel decimated. I take to my blog to rant this all out. I have just taught Sarah Kane’s perfect crystalline text of fury, Psychosis 4.48 to my Women and Madness class. I expel my alienation. Then I erase it all. I suicide my blog. 
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Feeling sometimes like Carrie at the prom—it is her alienation and fury that sets everything on fire. 
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I decide I must expel all the toxins from my system. I go on a juice cleanse. I drink beet juice that stains my fingers, my cutting board. I shit out pink, mingling too with my darker menstrual blood in the toilet bowl. 
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I am psychotic. 
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I write so as not to suicide. And yet—I suicide. I stop writing. Whenever I don’t write I commit violence to myself. I write instead of kicking and screaming. I write instead of dying. (from "Apoplexia, Toxic Shock and Toilet Bowl: Some Notes on Why I Write" 7-4-12)

And from Molly Laich's blog:

Jesse’s an orphan and a roofer and he stares at me for what I consider to be uncomfortable lengths of time. He tells me I move through the world awkwardly, which I already knew but it’s always devastating to be reminded. He said to me, “I feel embarrassed for you sometimes,” and well, that makes two of us. 
The first week I lived here he asked me where he could read some of my writing, and I told him about this blog. I watched him read through every post, and he laughed in a way I found uncomfortable and a little terrifying. Every day since, he asks me, “Have you updated your blog yet?” He says he wants me to write about him. People often don’t mean that, I find. Actually, most people don’t even say that. We will see. 
Jesse is almost always mad at me, and I find it frustrating and exhilarating. I keep trying to learn the rules, but they’re always changing. There are no rules! He’s got bright white teeth and expressive eyebrows. He rotates between a few torn up t-shirts and camouflage cargo shorts. Jesse stares at himself in the mirror constantly. I find him egotistical and difficult. 
When I watch Jesse pick the best cucumbers out of a pile of cucumbers, I start to fall in love with him, and then he opens his mouth and says something. (from "my domestic situation so far." 9-6-12)

I guess what I'm saying is that I like people who are sometimes devastated, who are OK with confronting the devastating.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Solitaire Nouveau

A good game to play with yourself or with others is to try to think of semi-plausible-sounding band names that aren't already taken. All you need is an Internet connection for verification purposes. Damnable Midge is a winner, but only if you accept that it's semi-plausible. Fangsong, too, though Red Fang is a "stoner metal" band from Portland, natch. The Lanterns is taken, as is just LANTERNS.

You get the drift. (The Drift is taken too.)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Vocab fetish

When I interviewed Alyssa Harad, she told me that she used to love reading the liner notes on jazz albums even though she had no idea what they were talking about. Along similar lines, I have always loved video game terminology and, really, gamer culture in general, though only as an observer. I mean check out this awesome verbiage:
More often sprite now refers to a partially transparent two dimensional animation that is mapped onto a special plane in a 3D scene. Unlike a texture map, the sprite plane is always perpendicular to the axis emanating from the camera. The image can be scaled to simulate perspective, rotated two dimensionally, overlapped with other objects, and be occluded, but it can only be viewed from a single angle. This rendering method is also referred to as billboarding.... When the illusion works, viewers will not notice that the sprite is flat and always faces them. Often sprites are used to depict phenomena such as fire, smoke, small objects, small plants (like blades of grass), or special symbols (like "1-Up"), or object of any size where the angle of view does not appreciably change with respect to the rectilinear projection of the object (usually from a long distance). The sprite illusion can be exposed in video games by quickly changing the position of the camera while keeping the sprite in the center of the view. Sprites are also used extensively in particle effects and commonly represented pickups in early 3D games especially. 
This morning I discovered that roller coaster lingo is equally badass:
There are several different layouts of Suspended Looping Coasters although most feature a similar pattern. The ride starts by taking riders up a 33.3-metre (109 ft) chain hill. Once at the top, the train goes down a steep, banked turn to the right where it enters the first inversion element, a roll over. A roll over (also known as a Sea serpent roll) first features an Immelmann loop quickly followed by a Dive Loop. Upon exit from this element, the train goes up a hill which features some banking at the top before descending and approaching the ride's next inversion, a sidewinder. A sidewinder is similar to an Immelmann loop however it features a half loop followed by a half corkscrew (rather than an inline twist). From the exit of this sidewinder, the train goes into a sharp helix before entering the ride's final two inversions, inline twists. These two twists are followed one after the other. A banked curve to the right turns the train back around to face towards the station. At this point some models feature an additional helix to the left while others simply continue straight into the brake run. The standard model also has a relatively compact layout, providing for "footchoppers".
Happy Labor Day, laborers. I think I pretty much maxed out on fun yesterday at Elitch Gardens, so today I am cleaning the apartment and working on my lines. New inspiration: Mae West.