Wednesday, April 30, 2008

It's a miracle

"It's a miracle!" That's what my father always says when something small, but wonderful happens. He throws his hands up in the air and says it in this certain type of old New York accent that you hear nowhere else, except amongst speakers of Yiddish. He didn't speak like that when I was young. It's sort of like the joke about elderly Jewish New Yorkers; that they have to migrate to Florida when they turn 65. My father didn't do that, but he developed the accent.

I've always wondered about these types of accents. Why do so many gay men have the same way of speaking, even if they're from entirely different places? I've got an accent that is hard for many people to discern. Only once in my life did anyone peg me - "below 14th street New York ex-druggie" is what they said. Talk about being outed.

And I just outed myself. I vowed last week I was going to be brutally honest, and so I am continuing to do so. There are some reasons why this might not be the best idea in the world (like savvy potential employees who google my name) but they are going to find stuff I didn't put up myself. And at this point in my life, I am sick of hiding who I am, who I've been, and how I feel.

This is not what I meant to post. When I hit "create" I meant only to write about starting to draw again.

Before I became a commercial ilustrator back in the 80's I used to draw for fun. I drew for fun probably every day of my life since I could hold a crayon. I mostly drew people for I was a lonely kid. I also drew maps of imaginary towns and summer camps with accompanying lists and descriptions of their residents (more evidence of loneliness, huh?) I also drew shoes and clothes. I was a strange mixture of girly-girl and tomboy. I loved making my own paper dolls and I loved playing with Barbie and friends. I also liked to play rough with the boys. I got into fights all the time. This dichotomy has lasted my entire life. It doesn't bother me, but it seems to confuse others.

As usual, I've gotten off track. When I was in the psychiatric ward last week (more on that another time) I was sitting at a table with a bunch of other "patients" (more correctly: inmates) and they were coloring. I got a piece of blank paper and drew an ethereal woman's face. Everyone was stunned, for it was quite beautiful. I gave it to a fellow who had been very kind to me. But then he asked me if I could draw some cartoon character from Looney Tunes. This is when I realized I was finally free from drawing for others. As a illustrator and a tattoo artist, drawing was always what someone else ordered, like a side of fries. I began to loathe both drawing and certain images (flowers with banners, wolf heads, angels. . .)

When that fellow asked me to draw the cartoon character, I said "No". It was so simple a answer and it gave me pleasure. Not mean pleasure, but the pleasure of being free. I then started to draw a shoe with stiletto heals and a big bow on it. It served absolutely no purpose except the pleasure of drawing it. I was just doodling. This young girl was talking about how mad she was at some doctor and she said she wanted to kick him in the rear end (this is the clean version). . .I started jotting down some of what she was saying around the shoe. She saw it and a big smile lit up her face. I didn't draw that drawing for her, but I gave it to her. Hey: win-win!!

Incredibly, I couldn't find any unlined paper in my house, so I bought a cheap sketch pad today. I came home and drew five drawings of shoes. It was fun! I reiterate: it was FUN!

Get 'em while they're hot

For your pleasure - the Everything is Interesting line of shoes and boots - coming soon to fine shops and psychiatric wards near you.

(I haven't quite figured out how to scan ballpoint pen drawings nicely. But you get the gist.)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Too much perfume, not enough money

"Kate Greene, the vice president for marketing fine fragrances in North America at Givaudan, said that 800 new fragrances are expected to make their appearance in 2007."

I wanted to find out how many perfumes were on the market. I couldn't find the answer on the web, but the above quote (from the New York Times) gives one a general idea of the absurdity of how many scents are out there.

The absurdity, I suppose, is really this: Most of these scents stink. Sorry about the pun, but it works. There are thousands of perfumes on the market, especially if one figures in all the niche fragrances, and very few of them are any good.

I have about three dozen fragrance samples in my possession and only three of them are noteworthy. Oh, I like many of them, but they are nothing to jump up and down about. Nor are they anything I'd pay over 100 bucks for (if I could afford it). I swap fragrances for the price of postage with other people via the web. It's a cheap hobby. There's something rather funny about it. We all swap things we don't like to find things we do like. I don't know how many of my fellow swappers are poor, like I am, but there's some irony in our swapping little vials (mostly 1ml) of stuff marketed to the richest people on the planet. I have a sample of Chanel eau de Cologne that can be attained for $350 if one can even find it. It's marvelous stuff, but unless I win the lottery, I'll have to enjoy the scent a half a dozen times and be satisfied. I read about Creed fragrances and hope to sample a few some day, but I'll not be wearing any of these any time soon. Creed is the stuff of royalty. Ari Onassis wore Creed's Cypres Musc (8.4 ounces at $315).

Right now I'm wearing Serge Luten's Chypre Rouge (1.69oz $140). It's nice. That's all. So I don't have to feel bad about not having the bucks to buy it.

Painting note: I enjoyed the title of the webpage where I got Sargent's" Lady Agnew of Lochnaw": John Singer Sargent: Portrait Paintings of the Wealthy

Celebrity suicide

I didn't pay much attention when Heath Ledger committed suicide. I was aware it was shocking - he seemed successful and happy in public. What darkness lay beneath his Hollywood exterior was something that didn't interest me. Quite frankly, I've always felt that the desire to achieve stardom was inherently pathological, and so, a suicide from that quarter has never surprised me. Adulation from strangers can not fill an existential hole. In fact, from the small brush with notoriety I had when I was young, I believe that adoring fans can make the feeling of alienation even worse. People want to be with you because of your fame, not because they like you. They treat you like you are special but you are no different than you were when you not well known, so you realize the adoration is false. This, I believe, was the pain that hurt Kurt Cobain the most - being loved by those who would have beat him up in High School. It sounds trite in print, but in real life, this dilemma is wrenching.

The suicides that bother me most are those of people who have made great accomplishments. Writers, scientists, fine artists - these people, it seems, should feel satisfied with their accomplishments. From the outside looking in, it seems like their personal voids are being filled. Spaulding Gray, Mark Rothko, VIrginia Woolff, Primo Levi. . .just to name a few. . .these suicides are incomprehensible to me.

Yet, as a person who has suffered from depression throughout my entire life, I understand. Not the particulars, no, of course not. A part of me rails against these people - c'mon guys - you were functional enough to get published or get your work hung in galleries, at the very least! - but then I step back and examine my own depression.

People who have not had depression do not get it. Even I, when I am horrified at Spaulding Gray's death, for example (for his really affected me) sometimes don't get it.

Depression is irrational. It poisons everything. It doesn't care what you do. You can achieve great things or sit in front of a television set all your life. It does not matter. Just being alive is painful.

As sad as this is, I have to remind myself just what depression is. Even if I accomplish nothing in this life, if I make it through to a natural death, I will have made a great statement (though sadly, unnoticed): that you can survive depression. It doesn't have to wrap you up in its arms and smother you. You don't have to die before your time. Even if it's just the pleasure of a bird outside your window, every day holds something wonderful, and that is worth living for.

I wonder sometimes, when people accomplish "big" things, if they forget to notice that which is very small. And for myself, it is the smallest things in life that keep me from the worst act. The blooming of a flower, the smell of ozone during a summer rain, a good meal, the sun rising and setting - this is the stuff of life that keeps me going.

Art Note: I was wavering between putting up a photograph of a particularly beautiful flower and a depressing drawing by Egon Schiele. Schiele (1890-1918)won. In spite of his "paranoia obsession" and other mental health quirks (not to mention his decidedly gloomy art) he did not commit suicide.

Opening the nutcase

I am crazy. I have decided to come out of the closet about this. Now, I realize "crazy" is not a diagnosis, but it's more descriptive and, in my mind, probably a damn sight more accurate than what comes out of that holy grail of books, the DSM IV. For those of you not familiar with this book, its full name is "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" and it is written and published by the American Psychiatric Association.

This is the book that psychiatrists use to pigeonhole people so that they don't have to spend time seeing them as individuals. It also supplies the code number so that doctors can bill insurance companies properly. This may be the most important aspect of the book.

Until 1980, the DSM considered homosexuality a psychiatric illness. There has been continuing controversy over the term "neurosis" for decades. This book, which is revised periodically (hence the IV, which is now in a newer, revised edition), is considered the scientific reference manual for psychiatric disorders. With the exception of schizophrenia, every diagnosis in this book is conceptual and open to debate.

Yet, in spite of this, anyone who has ever seen a professional for a mental health reason has been labeled with a so-called objective scientific diagnosis that is gleaned from this manual. These diagnoses can be tricky, and some of them are very sticky, for once you have one, it's almost impossible to rid oneself of these "diseases". You will be forever treated not like an individual, but by a label.

I sincerely doubt there's any person in this society who couldn't be tarred and feathered with at least one mental health diagnosis. If you function well in society, you will not receive a diagnosis. This doesn't mean you don't have one. You may have narcissistic personality disorder (and most likely do) if you're an actor, but this serves a person well in this particular job. The same set of character traits will impede you greatly if you live in a small town and work in a job with no possibility of recognition or achievement.

Sociopaths make excellent businessmen, for they care not a whit about others, and so they can make decisions based solely on the bottom line without any guilt. Again, put that person in a small town and see how well they do.

I didn't know where this post was leading, but I see a thread that intrigues me greatly and I've never thought of before. There is a higher significance of mental health problems in rural areas. I have always attributed this to poverty, but now I think there's much more to it. Many personality disorders are very useful (and perhaps essential) in high paced, competitive fields, which are found, generally speaking, in high population, urban areas. In areas where there are no outlets for competition and conformity is prized over originality, many people languish. In addition, lack of diversity and outlets for creativity. . .well, it's an environment ripe for simple depression at the very least.

I'll stop here. There's too much to chew on and I could babble forever. But I've started the conversation (and the rant) that I need. It's healthy to come out of the closet. I never knew what it meant exactly, but there's an AA slogan "You're only as sick as your secrets" that I like. It resonates with me even though I don't know how to explain it. Anyone care to enlighten me?

Richard Dadd (1817-1886 ) spent 9 years (while "insane") painting his "The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke". I found his name on this webpage: Famous Crazy Folks - Almost no one was glad to be their friend until they became famous.

Ashes to ashes, musk to musk

I've been wearing the same two scents for weeks. With all my samples, I figured it was time to try a new one. I had remembered liking Montale's Musk to Musk when I tried it once. I either put the tiniest amount possible on or was near brain dead the last time.

So far, I can stand it enough to wear it while I write this post. I'm not feeling ill and heading for the scrub routine. In fact, I find it rather intriguing in its awfulness. There's a note somewhere in this mess that's truly wonderful. Unfortunately, I can't place what that note is (I can imagine a reader saying "geez, write about something you know!")

I include Rembrandt's "The Anatomy Lesson" for it somehow feels like this scent. A dead body and a group of supposedly learned men who don't have a clue what they're looking at. I can imagine Musk to Musk's odor to be that of a strong perfume, combined perhaps with formaldehyde, on a body in the morgue. All the notes that might be pleasing to the senses linger still, but they are drowned out by death. The forensic pathologist wants to know what the scent is, for it might be a clue to the identity of the John Doe. He is thinking he'll call in an expert.

I wonder if that's ever been done, identifying a perfume to help in a crime investigation. I suppose it has been for some reason or other.

I'd prefer these macabre associations to a screeching floral any day of the week.

I'm still smelling my wrist. On one hand, there's a woodsy note I love (sandalwood, perhaps) and on the other, there's a sharp, almost medicinal smell (which probably is the one that made me look for an old painting with doctors in it).

It doesn't matter, really, for as soon as I'm done posting, I will go wash this off.

PS. Even after washing with an outrageously strong cypress scented soap and applying a bit of Serge Luten's Chypre Rouge, I can still smell the offending note on my left wrist. I would love to place this odor. It reminds of something awful from childhood, but what it is will probably puzzle me forever (or I'll just forget about it).

Saturday, April 26, 2008

For Her: a big scent for a larger than life woman?

In a previous post I wrote about my nauseating ordeal with Narciso Rodriguez for Her. I even speculated upon what Luca Turin would make of this perfume.

Well, now I know. Having pre-ordered "Perfumes The Guide" I've had almost two weeks to peruse and assimilate Turin and Sanchez's takes on hundreds of scents.

Like most guides, there's a point system; in this case it being 1 star for Awful and 5 for Masterpiece. A 3 is Adequate.

Four stars means it's recommended and that's what Narciso Rodriguez has merited, whereas some scents that are well loved by many a well informed nose rate as adequate or lower.

I found it interesting to note that the description of For Her has much the same feeling that I described. Turin writes, ". . .stand at attention as she sweeps past."

I'm loving the book for its pithy and sometimes downright bitchy reviews. Would I buy an untested fragrance because of a five star review? Absolutely not. I need no more nights of scrubbing my wrists desperately trying to eliminate a sickening so-called fragrance. Turin may have the most acutely sensitive nose on the planet, but I'm not him. I don't get free perfume, either, and can't afford to own a fragrance just because it's tremendously interesting to a jaded nose.

As to my current love affair with L'artisan's Passage D'enfer; Turin compares it to Pine Sol.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mark Rothko

Before finding the Man Ray poster in the post below, I had decided to use a Rothko. There is a similarity, not of intent, but of style. I know from my recent reading of what Rothko had to say about art making, that he would find the comparison anathema to him, but there it is.

Rothko's work feels rather unimportant when small and reproduced. Standing in front of one of his canvasses, in person, is a completely different experience. Of course, this is true of all painting, but with his, the impact of the beauty of color does just not translate to the page or the computer screen.

I have felt incredibly moved by Rothko's work. His painting feels like much more than simply abstraction and he himself eschewed the very notion that he was an abstract painter. Standing before his work, I can understand his feelings about being pigeonholed as an abstract expressionist, for viewing his work is more of an envelopment than a viewing. It is to be experienced and in that way there is a lack of passivity in seeing (unless one is immune to such things). His work has inspired the same awe that I've felt upon seeing a beautiful sun rise, the setting sun upon layers of clouds. . .many beautiful moments witnessing the majesty of nature, especially those that are fleeting and one of a kind. That beautiful sunset one sees on a particular evening is one that will never be seen again. It is as if Rothko has captured that moment to cherish forever. It is much more than a photograph, which, for me, diminishes the experience. I may feel that way because I have found the camera an intrusion into pure experience, but again, it may also be the miniaturization of such grandiosity that also diminishes the emotional impact of witnessing the visual imprint of nature on ones' retina and into our emotional human brain.

After writing the above words, I found this quote from Rothko, which seemed quite apropos:

"I realize that historically the function of painting large pictures is painting something very grandiose and pompous. The reason I paint them, however . . . is precisely because I want to be very intimate and human. To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience, to look upon an experience as a stereopticon view or with a reducing glass. However you paint the larger picture, you are in it. It isn’t something you command! ”

Rothko is one of those artists that, sadly, many non-artists dismiss out of hand with the "anyone could do that" comment. No, anyone could not do that. I admit that once I had felt the same way. My parents were artists and they were both quite facile. We visited museums in New York City almost every Sunday (instead of church, I suppose). However, my father was quite vocal in his complete rejection of any work that was post-impressionist. He did not understand non-representational work. He was, in a sense, a 19th century man in many ways. I was, of course, impressionable to his opinions, of which he didn't hesitate to share quite vocally, even with strangers in galleries. He was horrified by "the demise of painting", and would talk quite loudly when confronted with, say, a Rauschenberg. To him, work of this kind was an abomination, a perversion of art and of beauty. I mention Rauschenberg in particular, because even as a young child, I liked his work quite a bit, and would keep my mouth shut about this, for I feared the ridicule of my father. At least I knew that I must be "okay" in my liking it, for it was in a gallery or a museum, and as a child, this meant that it had some stamp of approval. I hadn't learned yet that this wasn't a given (and I'm grateful for that, for it may have kept me sane).

Of course, I digress. Art is a huge part of my upbringing and carries with it an immense amount of baggage.

For a beautiful overview and presentation of Rothko's work, please take a look at the National Gallery of Art's site. Wikipedia has an entry, of course, which gives more information about the artist's life.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

More nausea


Earlier this evening, I was trying to put my fragrance samples into some semblance of order. I have been wearing Passage D'enfer almost every day and figured there had to be something else that would satisfy my craving for woods or incense. I noticed I had a vial of Narciso Rodriguez for Her. I didn't even know I had this, had never heard of it, and opened up the vial for a quick whiff before returning to my clean-up operation.

I hated it at first sniff. It smelled of everything I hate about perfume with a capital P. It's not a particular note, but an impression. It's Perfume! It's the sound of a woman in a stylish power suit wearing pointy sling back heels that clickety clack when she walks. I can see her her approach in the dim hallway of a court. She's got her briefs in a folio kept close to her breast in one hand and the other hand displays her perfectly not too long French nails. She wears this scent, along with stockings and never, ever, pantyhose. It's the Perfume that precedes this same woman when she enters a room and lingers when she leaves like a houseguest who has overstayed their welcome. It screams "smell me whether you like it or not". It's the kind of scent that makes cities like Halifax outlaw wearing fragrance in public space. It's the smell of a new luxury car that's ugly but impresses the neighbors.

For me, it has no fragrance. I can not pick out anything from it. I'd have to ask an expert nose. All I can do is recoil.

I got some of this poisonous horror on one of my fingers. I may have gotten the barest minimum of molecules to even produce the smell. I didn't spill it. I only put the cap back on the vial. There's the tiniest bit of fragrance that gets on ones' fingers when doing this.

I had to stop writing. I thought I was going to be ill. I walked quickly to my bathroom and braced myself, but nothing happened. I still feel sick. Let's move back in time to retrace the origins of this awful feeling:

I had some of the loathsome For Her on my finger. Not even a drop of it. If I knew chemistry, I might be able to tell you just how many molecules there were on my digit. I'm sure Luca Turin could tell you. I assumed that because of how small the quantity was that it would dissipate quickly. Oh, how wrong I was!

I was in the midst of writing this post when I wrote: It was enough. I am writing this while trying not to think of being ill. I washed it off long ago with

In the middle of that sentence I walked briskly to the bathroom. I told you that already, didn't I?

I am stunned by how powerful a reaction I had to this smell. Is it a fragrance, an odor or a scent? Something that makes one so ill would reasonably be called a stench.

I was intrigued by how much I hated this odor, stench, swill, what have you and how I couldn't place what about it made me feel ill, so I googled it to read some reviews. They were few and far between, but I found one woman who said it was her "holy grail" of scents. How can this be? As I write this, still feeling the urge to vomit (there, I've said it), I wonder what is it that this other person smells. It is not what I smell. It can't be.

I've done everything to remove the offensive odor. I've used plain hot water, a wash cloth, the very strong scent of a cedar soap, followed by another wash with hot water. Then I applied Booth's Honey Almond body butter, which usually soothes my senses and masks any odors I don't like that linger on my body.. It was all futile.

Just the sense memory alone is making me sick. I'm not even sure I will ever be able to read the name of this vile product again without some nausea.

The interesting thing (to me!) is that, in spite of how terribly nauseated I am feeling right this moment, I am more fascinated by the fact that a scent can have such a strong effect upon anyone. What is it about this sickening potion that offends me so much? And what is in it that my nose is telling my body that it is poison? For that is exactly what is happening. Why else would one have an urge to throw up? My body needs to rid me of this toxin, pure and simple.

Note: It took me hours to find this (rare) poster from a Man Ray exhibit in 1974 on line. I put it here for one simple reason: I find it a cheerful, refreshing image (and a good antidote to nausea). I own this poster, though it is very wavy. When I saw the words "rare" on the web, I got all excited, for I hoped it was worth some real money. Nah. Only 75 bucks.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


I mentioned in an earlier post that I had been to Marshall's and they had a pretty good selection of deals on perfume in opened boxes. My nose got all confused and I wound up buying Azzaro Pure Cedrat instead of Christian Lacroix's Tumulte, which was a mistake. It makes sense, since they're both cedar smells. But one is cloying and the other (I hear) is not. I will be near that Marshall's in three days. I hope they still have that box of Tumulte.

INTERJECTION: I discovered that the word Cedrat does not mean cedar. There is no translation in English. It is a bit lemon, a citron, and most definately not cedar. No wonder I thought it smelled wrong!

I'm wearing Aura Cacia "Root" at this moment and I'm not liking it much. I have a craving for the scent of wood shavings. I had it on my fingers that day I sneaked a few sniffs from those opened boxes at Marshall's but figured it was the Pure Cedrat (pure cedar, no?)

There's something almost disgusting about this Aura Cacia oil. It's not subtle. But what does it smell of, exactly? This is one of those times where a scent is making me nauseous, literally, and because of that, I can't really say anything about it except it's making me ill. In fact, I am going to go scrub it off right now. I'll be right back.

I used the Caldrea Italian Cypress Pear liquid soap to wash away the oil. It was probably a poor choice, considering it has such a strong woody smell itself. I do feel nauseated.

This has been a nauseating week in a number of ways. I began my phlebotomy course on Monday. On Tuesday, I drew blood for the first time. We looked at the vials of blood after they were centrifuged.

Then I came home and ate steak. I sat and relaxed before I did the dishes and felt rather squeamish about the platter the steak had been on. It was coated with coagulated blood and fat that had turned solid, as fat does when it's cool. It looked too much like the blood in the vials. It's interesting how I wasn't bothered at all by drawing blood out of a person's vein, analyzing the vials of blood or talking about some objectively horrific subjects involving severed limbs and the like. The dirty platter was the thing that made me queasy.

I used to be squeamish. Then I became a body piercer and a tattoo artist and discovered that I wasn't at all. But a funny thing happened along the way. I started to become over-sensitive to the smallest accidents that occurred to people that I care for. If a friend had a bad scrape from, say, falling off a bicycle, I would feel a shiver go through me. I would feel almost faint at the sight of a small cut on my boyfriend. I can not look at these little wounds on those I like. This has now extended to myself. I cut myself with a knife a few months ago while doing dishes. It was not a big cut. I didn't need any stitches. I thought I was going to faint.

I've tried to understand why I changed because it's a bit disturbing. What I figure is that since I put my feelings on hold completely while "working", they're coming out at other times, when it's not important. But the reason it's disturbing to me is that it is important, for if I needed to help a friend (or myself) I might wind up passing out instead of actually doing something.

Ugh. The smell of the lingering Root and Cypress Pear is not a good smell. I can't get it out of my nose. I ate an apple, which usually helps settle my stomach. I think I'll go rub my hands liberally with Booth's Honey and Almond Body Butter and see if that helps mask the smell I don't like. It usually does the trick. Let's hope so. I really feel sick.

Note: That Booth's product really works. It's a bargain, too, at six bucks. It's a bit waxy and greasy, but it has a warmness that is nice. The smell is not quite right, as far as "accuracy" goes. But it does seem to just about always work to neutralize a scent that's bothering me. I do have very dry hands, and so, even though I generally don't like feeling greasy, I like this product. Now, I know I said I wasn't going to write "reviews", but this sure sounds like one. Please don't hold it against me.

And lastly, if you were thinking I was going to be writing about Sartre's "Nausea", I'm sorry you've been disappointed. However, I can steer you to an article entitled "Sartre and Camus: Nausea and Existentialist Humor", which I started to read and found decidedly unfunny, but I'm not an academic. If you read it, let me know how it turns out.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The sound (or not) of music

My lastfm playlist is a bit misleading about my musical tastes. I tried adding some more to it, but I think I need to go put in some new code. Once again, I am lazy (and wonder, at this point, if I should put the word lazy in my list of tags?)

My playlist was formed mostly on the days I was writing about Passage D'enfer perfume, which made me want to listen to religious choral music. I love Baroque and earlier music. But I also love other music. When I say my taste runs the gamut it is an understatement of huge proportions, and even though this sounds hyperbolic in the extreme, it is not.

In the last two days I have listened to: Marilyn Manson, Isis, Jesu, the White Stripes, Deva Premal, the Sex Pistols, the Melvins, Guns and Roses and the Dead Boys. All of this is on my iPod, along with quite a bit of what's called "sludgecore", mostly English rap/industrial music, and podcasts of "This American Life", "Will Shortz's Puzzler" and "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me". I also have a weakness for Bobby Short, a singer of mostly show tunes, who used to play at the Carlyle Hotel in New York. I like Count Basie from when Joe Williams sang with him. . .and I realize I forgot to say I am a hardcore Rolling Stones fan. Bob Dylan, too. There really isn't a genre that I don't like. This includes country music. I'm crazy about Dwight Yoakum (and not because he has a cute ass but because he can sing beautifully, yodel without sounding like a fool and writes perfect country songs). I adore the wild singing of Diamanda Galas and the simple beauty of Gillian Welch. And I still love NIN's "Closer", which I think is one of the sexiest songs ever (which might say something terrible about me). I seem to have a penchant for songs about drugs; Lou Reed's "Heroin", Alice in Chains' "Rooster", the Stones' "Sister Morphine", Marilyn Manson's "The Drug Show", the Dead Boy's "Ain't It Fun" (and Guns & Roses' perhaps even better cover version). . .

When I'm in my car I usually listen to NPR or BBC news, if it's on, or talk radio. When I need to stay awake, or I'm either in a very good mood or a very bad mood, I listen to music on my iPod. In a fair to middling mood, when NPR is airing jazz or classical music, or I can't take another second of the hate radio jocks, I listen to my Podcasts. It really is this simple, as far as my mood goes, and I've never thought about it before.

Yesterday, I discovered I really like the Melvins and was surprised that I hadn't really paid much attention to them before.

I am not supplying any links to these bands. If you're interested, it's for you to google, or perhaps you know what they sound like, and think either: a.) I can't believe this woman listens to this stuff or b.) Wow, this woman listens to this stuff. Wait. There's a third alternative: c.) Who cares?

C seems most likely, in fact.

I am very affected by music. Most of the time I don't listen to any. I like my silence. I like being able to hear the birds outside or even just the hum of the refrigerator, the sound of cars going by (but hardly ever the trucks). I like the sound of my cat running up or down the stairs. Occasionally I hear the sound of a mouse scratching inside the walls of my house. Right now I can hear the sound of wood burning in the woodstove. It's a subtle sound, and if I had music on, I would miss it. I hear the sound of my feet rubbing together and the tap tap tap of the keyboard as my fingers run across the keys.

I love these sounds. Music is wonderful. I can't imagine a life without it. But I hate music as background. I listen to music when I want to listen to music, not as a backdrop to life. I think some people would lose their minds if they turned off the music. When I had a business, people were uncomfortable if there wasn't music on, so I played it all day long. My iTunes playlist is HUGE and wildly diverse, but at present, it is a rare day when I DO listen to music. So, when I do, I really enjoy it.

Photo:Bob Gruen (Memories of my youth)

The horse named Degeneration pulls into the lead

When I was looking for an image of a horse drawn carriage with the horses rearing up, I found this Currier and Ives print. Nothing like the bucolic scenes of a perfect Christmas time here. I had no idea that Currier and Ives indulged in such bigotry (click on the picture to see it in detail to get a full impact). Here is a link to a scholarly site about the "dirty secret" of Currier and Ives, along with plenty of images, and this disclaimer at the top:
"Be aware that the words, descriptions, and images from Currier & Ives Darktown Comics series are considered racially offensive by today's standards."

In the horse drawn carriage of my imagination I'm sitting in, we suddenly come to a huge crevasse in the earth. If the driver didn't pull back on the reins hard enough, we would plummet to our deaths. He does, and the horse rears up, whinnying. It is all so very classic. Just like in a movie. I've never seen this in real llife.

No matter. It is a mental picture of the feeling I'm having that this blog is quickly degenerating into a place where I come to unload my crapola.

Slang break:
crap·o·la (kr-pl)
n. Vulgar Slang
Rubbish; nonsense.
[crap + -ola (probably modeled on trade names like Shinola, a brand of shoe polish).]

This is not what I wanted to happen, but it's an easy chasm for me to fall into. Thus, I am pulling on the reins, for I don't want that horse named "Degeneration" to win this race (or to fall to its death, along with its passengers, which includes this blogger and perhaps a reader or two).

As a respite from my crankiness, I offer you the following: In spite of the snow on the ground, spring is evidencing itself in the sound of birds. I heard the distinctive call of the Red-winged Blackbird a few days ago. DIck reports that he saw a few Robins across the road from us.

I saw some greenish grass in my back yard for the first time in at least five months.

And that is the end of my post. You get a beautiful Japanese wookblock print,"Camellia in Snow and Sparrows" by Utagawa Hiroshige, as a bonus for this post that started with such distasteful imagery.

It's all in the translation

I was wondering if French had more words for scent than English. What I discovered is that all our words for scent are pretty much the same as in French. This is the extent of my investigation for the evening. I could track down the origins of these words, but. . .

parfum smell, scent
odeur f noun
scent, perfume
senteur f noun

. . .there is another word that came up on the Google translation page: Piste. It means a scent trail or track (of an animal, I presume, but understanding this means more investigation. . .

And now, on a completely different topic, but one that will not be in English, here are some of the cranky (and absurd) thoughts that I allowed myself to indulge in earlier this evening, after a particularly disturbing day:

Deutsch scheint wie eine gute Sprache, um meine Gedanken in den meisten hässlich. Das ist schrecklich. Ich vermute, es ist, weil ich die Sprache assoziieren mit Nazis.

Auf der anderen Seite, wenn ich ein Kind war, meine Mutter zu mir ins Bett tuck während sagen: "Gute Nacht und süße Träume".

Das ist einer der wenigen schönen Erinnerungen habe ich von ihr als Zahlungsmittel.

Aber das ist nicht relevant. Frühere diesem Abend, ich habe diese wild absurden Gedanken in der deutschen Sprache. Hier sind ein paar Beispiele für Ihr Vergnügen:

Die meisten Menschen sind insgesamt Idioten, und ich bin krank.

Wenn Frauen in der Gruppe, es gibt einfach viel zu viel Östrogen. Ich kann es kaum stand.

Ich bin krank und müde von Machismo und die fragile männliche Ego.

Manchmal denke ich, wir sollten doch einfach mal vorbei eine neue, spezialisierte Neutronenbombe dies bedeuten würde, dass nur die schöne Architektur.

Rid den Planeten von allen Menschen, die können nichts tun, außer zu töten und Vergewaltigung einander und den Planeten, und lassen die Erde zu flicken und neigen dazu, sich.

That's quite enough for one night.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I suggest reading like this

No, you don't have to wait for a warm sunny day nor find a field with access to wi-fi to read this blog. You don't need to wear 19th century attire, either. Though, if you are sitting outside, I do suggest a hat, for you should protect your skin from the affects of UV light.

Never mind that bit of silliness.

This blog has longer than "normal" entries. Because of that, I suggest that you, the reader, treat them more like chapters in a book than blog entries (like this one). You don't have to read the entire thing in one sitting. Nor do you have to read them at all! It is a blog, after all. It's not a textbook, nor is it a novel, so there is no need to read in order (though there are some entries that play upon past ones. I try to link them, when I think of it.)

I also may be boring you. In this age of too much information (which is not a judgment from me, who loves it), publications, such as magazines, are becoming more specialized. I recommend going into a Borders some time and counting how many magazines there are for sale. I haven't done so. Borders doesn't even carry them all, not by a long shot. I just googled the question "How many magazines are published in the USA?" and the answer I received was "too many" (literally, hence the quotes, from Yahoo answers). Again, I'm too lazy to research this.

I just hopped over to Amazon and discovered that they have 479 magazines available for subscription on architecture alone!

So, as usual, I am off topic. The point is, while thus far my entries have been predominately about fragrance, as evidenced by the last one, you will never know what you will find here. It's more like the old "Life" magazine without the big, award-winning photography (and that magazine is out of business).

So, I'm using the most modern of formats for an anachronistic, generalist purpose.

I also want to remind my readers that I am not a revewer. When I write about perfume, or someone's book, (or whatever), it is only as a jumping off point for other ideas. Whether or not I am succeeding is another story. This blog is still in is infancy.

I give my opinions because I am aiming to give you an idea of what is going on inside of my mind. This is also why I choose not to edit (except for spelling). I want to expose the workings of my mind in all it's long winded and side tracking glory. Why? I don't know. It's something to do, as the old timers say here in Maine.

I am fascinated by the difference in the way we each see and experience the world and everything in it. So, I include my own thought processes in my interest. I do find it fascinating to see why certain ideas and experiences "hook" me, lead me into other explorations (or not). I find other peoples' fascinations (almost) equally fascinating. There: I was brutally honest and wrote the word "almost". Yes, I admit to my narcissism. In theory, I am most fascinated by what common factors lead things to be nearly universally captivating. For instance, why are certain facial types considered more beautiful than others or certain types of music more "sticky" (a loose term used by neuroscientists)? Great questions, but first I must examine what those things mean to me. This is a personal blog, not a piece of scientific research.

Skip that which you find unenjoyable. Leave a comment when you have a thought. If you have something quite long to say, send me an e-mail, which I may or may not post in its entirety.

Last note: There were so many typos in this blog entry (because I was falling asleep) that I've spent an hour correcting it. Now, I'm still tired. Does the sentence that makes no sense actually make sense? The sentence is now in red.You tell me (if you can).

Note: "Reading" c.1873 Artist: Berthe Morisot

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Richard Lewis, Yiddish, American Slang, Salvador Dali, Bread: a trainwreck of thoughts

I was perusing a small book store last week when I picked up Richard Lewis' "The Other Great Depression". I remember liking Richard Lewis and was intrigued. I figured the book was about depression. Pretty good assumption, given the title. And it was a good assumption based on my memory of Lewis' stand-up comedy. I had always assumed the guy was depressed.

Lewis' entire schtick was kvetching. I use two Yiddish words here, because Lewis was portraying the quintessential "neurotic Jew" to the hilt. He made Woody Allen seem normal in comparison. I hesitate to compare the two, however. Woody Allen was a ground breaking comedian who has also made some films that were pure genius. I wonder why I'm using the past tense. . .

Lewis, though funny, basically did something that any "neurotic Jew" with a big ego could have done: made a career out of self-denigrating himself publicly. Yeah, I thought he was funny, but often felt "Why can't I get paid for this?!" I mean, I have plenty of neuroses and I'd love to get rich pacing back and forth on stage whilst complaining or being interviewed on talk shows and talk non-stop about myself and my worries. How did he manage to pull off this schtick? I'm sorry, but it seems like an easy gig to me.

Time out for Yiddish lesson:

From "Bubby's Yiddish/Yinglish Glossary": Yes, I could have used a "real" dictionary, but they didn't feel right (whatever that means). I wish Leo Rosten's "The Joys of Yiddish"" was online, for it not only has definitions of words, but the oft used jokes that go along with them.

Shtick: piece, thing, bit, part. Also, an act or routine (as in comedy or vaudeville.)

Kvetch: complain. One can kvetch (complain) or be a kvetch (a complainer).

Kvitcher: whine, whimper. "Quit kvitchering. You'll live! It's only a paper cut!" (A kvitcherer is one who kvitchers)

And the joke from Rosten's book:
A young woman was driving her grandfather through the desert, and he kept complaining, "Oy, am I thirsty! Oy, am I thirsty!" And he kept going on like this, and on and on and on and on and finally the young woman pulled off at a gas station and got him some water and Gatorade and anything else she could think of to quench his thirst. He drank some of it, and they got on the road again, and then he started kvetching again: "Oy, was I thirsty. Oy, was I thirsty..."

And now, back to Richard Lewis' book. I generally do not like autobiographies, biographies or, especially, confessionals (especially from famous performers). I don't want to know the "artist behind the art". It's usually a disappointment for me, or has been enough in the past (the distant past), to have kept me from even a fairly normal dose of curiosity about artists I've liked. I don't want to know how a composer treated his family, for example, for it may color my opinion of their music. Having learned more about Woody Allen's life has seriously damaged my appreciation of his work. I couldn't avoid knowing the dirt on him for it was public knowledge and I would have had to make a conscious effort not to pay attention to any news media to not find out that he was having an affair with what I consider to be essentially his step daughter. This doesn't make me like his films less, but I certainly have lost my respect for him. I suppose it may (and perhaps must) effect my sense of his "getting it right" in terms of portraying human behavior. However, I will say that even before all his personal drama erupted into the media spotlight, I had always found his conclusion about human behavior rather suspect. Interesting, but suspect. I suspected that he was, in essence, a morally bankrupt human being, and I now feel more sure of that prior assessment. Yes, that's a harsh statement, and you may vehemently disagree with me. But the final word on this is it doesn't make me appreciate "Crimes and Misdemeanors" or "Annie Hall" any less.

Here's the first part of my train wreck of thought. It's even worse than I thought. I started out, last night, to write something about a word I encountered in Richard Lewis' book. I haven't even gotten close to that subject yet (for I haven't even told you the word). I wound up writing about Woody Allen's scandals, autobiography, why I'm not interested and giving you some definitions of Yiddish words.

So, back to Richard Lewis (which I had said I'd do two paragraphs ago, didn't I?) The book is about his recovery from alcoholism. If it's about depression, I haven't read anything so far that really touches upon the subject, unless we make an assumption that anyone who drinks to excess is depressed (which I don't). Am I that interested in this subject? Not really. What I'm interested in, mostly, about his book, is his seemingly candid discussion of the desire for recognition at all costs. And today, I'm troubled, for I poked around on the web looking for something (what, I don't even remember now) and discovered that there's some controversy over whether Lewis is, in fact, an alcoholic or if he's exaggerating.

I normally wouldn't care a whit. If someone feels they have a substance abuse problem, that's their call. If they think their use is hampering their lives in any way, I go with the user's opinion. Who else can judge?

But when it comes to a celebrity, my alert system goes off. Are they trying to shore up their career? It seems many of these tell-all books come out when an artist is losing their celebrity (think of all the has-been musicians who've put out "read how much heroin I did and get a vicarious thrill out of how promiscuous I was" books).

Interlude: Confessional book subtitles
Slash: "Slash: It was excessive but that didn't mean it didn't happen"
Nikki SIxx: "The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star"

Only two books? There must be hundreds! But I'll leave that to another time. . .

And why has William Burrough's "Junky" now become "Junky: the Definitive book of Junk"?

Richard Lewis' book really does take the cake with its subtitle: "How I'm overcoming, on a daily basis, at least a million addictions and dysfunctions and finding a a spiritual (sometimes) life" The paperback even has a sub-subtitle! "With a new preface from the author on his current state of mind." Oy gevalt. (I'm tired - google that if you don't know what it means.)

Now, my third try to get back to Lewis' book. I'm reading along. Sort of enjoying it. I think "it's light reading", which is funny, because one reviewer said ". . .painful, shocking, a soul stripped bare. . ." What am I to make of this huge gap in perception? Nothing.

I want to get to my point. You will not believe how small it is. It's as small as a pencil tip.

Wait for it. Hold on. I'm getting there. In a moment. . .

First, on page 61. . .I started to become uneasy. . .he wrote about waiting backstage with Shelly Berman; ". . .rapping with Shelly Berman. . .it was a gas."

I just re-read four pages three times (oy vay) trying to find this tiny little thing, only to discover that it is also on page 61, right before what is written above.

Speaking about Lenny Bruce's mother, who was terminally ill (with what, he doesn't say), he wrote, "comics did benefits to help raise bread for her mounting medical expenses."

That was it. What I was looking for is: "help raise bread".

Maybe it was the whole paragraph. . .it bothered me so much I thought "I can't continue reading this." He says he's raising bread for a sick woman while digging rapping with another comic and it was a gas.

I just had had it at that point. Take off your shades, Richard Lewis! They are messing with your perception of things and how you express yourself. How come noone has called him the "yiddish pseudo hipster comedian"? Perhaps they're afraid of being labeled an anti-semite, but that's not worrying me 'cause I'm of semitic heritage myself (and why exactly does this let me off the hook?)

I am going to continue reading the book. It's become more interesting, in a way, as I see how full of shit he is starting to seem while trying to be "brutally honest". And why am I being so judgmental, anyway? Perhaps it's this: I am experiencing exactly what I usually try to avoid: knowing the personal life and inner thoughts of an artist whom I like.

I never really thought the guy was all that funny. The truth is, I related to him. Like I said, I coveted his "job". I still do on some days. I'm quite good at self-deprecating humor and I love to tell stories. My family is a bunch of nutcases and I grew up in a crazy household. I do see a therapist and there are many times he bursts out loud laughing when I tell him something that happened in my life, or the latest thing my father has said to me (especially then). I am not meaning to elicit a response of that nature!

Before I go off on for five more paragraphs about this, I want to say what happened last night (when I originally started this post). I went to find out when the word bread, rap and gas became part of the American slang lexicon. I got stuck at the word bread. There wasn't much. Or perhaps I was too tired to find it (likely), for I am too tired to hunt it down right now (and it's the early afternoon, not midnight after a long day!)

I put that task aside for a bit and decided to find a nice painting of bread to head up the post. Surprise of surprises: my first few hits were all painted by Salvador Dali! Who knew he was a still life painter? Not I!

I assume these were all early works, but they were not. It seems Dali had all sorts of ideas about bread. Unfortunately, because of the bread/painting search, I came up against a pet peeve (which is an expression I need to research) that is as great as my dislike of certain slang use, namely, Salvador Dali. Note: While spell checking, I discovered that this last sentence made no sense, yet I am leaving it in for it is really quite funny. Accidentally, I equate Dali with slang use. No, this not a "Freudian slip". Sometimes an error is just an error and a cigar is in fact a train. And now I am entering surreal territory where I do not like to go. It is only this: I am so tired that I am typing with one eye closed and I just nodded off mid sentence.

I have always thought Dali was a phoney, a hoax, a media whore (and I give him credit for that before there was all that much media), a megalomaniac, self-consciously (not authentically) eccentric, filled with outrageously stupid ideas about human consciousness. . . .the list goes on. I really "hate" this guy! However, I have always found this painting, the Crucifiction, to be quite powerful (wow-check out that last typo - I know it's the crucifixtion!), but it has to be seen in person (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) to get the full impact:

But I love both religious art and music (as long as they are not current).

I had more thoughts about Dali, especially on his "paranoiac-critical method" of painting. However, this is the end of today's blog entry. I've had enough. In fact, I feel like taking a nap. Dali's ideas are probably completely irrelevant in the face of all post-modern theory, but I see there's an article entitled "A Semiological Exploration of Dali's Paranoiac-Critical Method" which I may read, and you are certainly invited to get there before I, if you are interested.

Last word: I wrote this post when I was dead tired. I just spent over an hour fixing all the typos. Now I'm wondering if the sentence I say made no sense does make sense. It's in red. You tell me.