Hello everyone, I hope you’re all having a good weekend. It’s time for this month’s Grab Bag, with a look at random things from news articles on popular fragrance genres, top Arabian perfume brands, synaesthesia, and the science of smell, to the more personal things occupying my attention this month.
Scientific Articles on Smell & Scent:
- The Guardian had something really interesting to me: “Smell, evolution and the sex brain: why we’re monogamous and use perfume.” The piece argues that “Today we have a global fragrance market equal to the GDP of a medium-sized country, because of a gene mutation that made smells less sexy to us.” Basically, we used to have a gene — nicknamed “Adam” by its discoverers — that transmitted sexual scent messages (largely about ovulation) to our brains, but we lost it about 16m years ago because of evolutionary pressure to maintain monogamy and the family bond. However, the neural pathways that responded to such messages will still respond to “sensual perfumes made from – among other things – the sexual signals of musk deer, beavers and civets.”
- From Science News: “Sense of smell is strictly personal, study suggests.” The article’s focuses primarily on genetics, neuroscience, and how we have “olfactory fingerprints,” thanks to a “new test [that] can distinguish individuals based upon their perception of odors, possibly reflecting a person’s genetic makeup[.]” However, there are obviously indirect implications that support what most perfume bloggers always say, that smell is subjective and subject to wholly personal variables.
- From Aeon Magazine, a really fascinating piece asks “Are we all born with Synaesthesia?” It covers synaesthesia in literature (Nabokov’s Lolita, Mary Shelley, and the Enlightenment philosopher, Rousseau) before looking at the neuroscience, child psychology studies, and different forms of synaesthesia (musical notes, numbers, letters, or one poor woman who reacted viscerally to mere fabric textures). It’s a really interesting, in-depth piece that covers some unexpected issues.
Articles on Fragrance from the Last Month:
- It’s hot and miserably humid where I am right now, so we should probably start with an article from The Guardian called “How to wear perfume in summer: what to cherish, what to avoid and why.” The subject matter should be self-evident. Personally, I go by mood, not seasonality or the weather, when making my perfume choices and I’ll continue to swear that Chanel’s Coromandel is actually better in the heat, but there was a brief, passing moment yesterday when I could see the appeal of the cool, crisp citruses suggested by the article. God, the humidity is utterly heinous in my neck of the woods.
- From Arabian Business, a piece called “Revealed: Five of the UAE’s most luxurious Arabian Perfumes.” The focus is on brands, not specific fragrances, and looks at Rasasi, Hind al Oud, and 3 other companies.
- From the L.A. Times, two pieces focus on perfumes that take on the bouquet of various beverages or alcohols. First, “Perfumes with a spot of tea or coffee” talks about fragrances in the coffee or tea genre, and quotes Franco Wright of Luckyscent. Second, “The intriguing scents and business of mixing liqueur, wine, perfume” examines boozy fragrances, with a particular look at several Kilian releases. It also mentions scents from Parfums d’Empire, Demeter, Lubin, and Caron.
- From The Guardian, Katie Puckrik pens a response to the news that came out in April of a French perfume company that says it has developed a scientific way to bottle the scent of your deceased loved ones. Ms. Puckrik’s response is called “Bottling the smell of dead people won’t capture their essence.” Naturally, it covers the Suskind/Parfum issue.
Food: I haven’t made anything exciting or creative in months, and I’m totally going to lose my Foodie membership card. I did have an urge to make one of my more elaborate dishes one night after watching Hannibal (the tv show, not the film), but I had no energy to get up from the couch and the mood soon passed. As a side note, I haven’t figured out yet if watching Hannibal is counterproductive to hunger or not. On the one hand, you have mind-blowing, magnificent food feasts (created by food stylist, Janice Poon, in consultation with famed three-Michelin star chef, José Andres). On the other, you have… well, surreal horror involving that food. My stomach ends up very confused.
Books: Camus is my favorite author, so when I read an NPR article called “Algerian Writer Kamel Daoud Stands Camus’ ‘The Stranger’ On Its Head,” my heart skipped a beat. The book is called “The Meursault Investigation,” and is essentially the flip-side tale to L’Etranger/The Stranger. Here, the brother of the victim (“The Arab”) tells the tale of what happened to his family after his murder, but really responds to Camus’ book and overall philosophy, with underlying commentary on the failures of post-colonial/independent Algeria and the country’s growing religiosity. I practically fell over myself to order the book from Amazon, especially after reading another rave review from The Guardian that called it an “instant classic.” (If you’re interested, you can also find it on UK and French Amazon.) The book should arrive tomorrow, so I’ll let you know what I thought of it next month.
Television: As some of you know, Game of Thrones finished two weeks ago. I’m a die-hard fan generally, but the last three episodes were very difficult for me to get through and I felt positively battered by the time the finale faded to black. I’ll never give up on the show, but I desperately hope the next season isn’t quite so sadistically bleak. Watching some of those episodes at the same time as Outlander‘s torture porn (and THE worst rape scene that I’ve ever seen — anywhere — let alone for male rape) really pushed my limits. (I think it says something that Hannibal seems positively soothing in comparison.) So, after all that grimness, the new version of Poldark on Masterpiece comes as a bit of light relief, and Aidan Turner seems like a good fit. (I don’t know if I would go so far as to say, “Move over, Mr. Darcy,” as so many British newspapers have done, but we’ll see.) I’m more ambivalent about Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell on BBC America and the second season of HBO’s True Detective thus far. The latest season of Midsomer Murders was a disappointment, and I think the show has gone downhill. I watched it on Acorn TV, the new television service I talked about last month (I got the kinks in my service worked out), and Acorn is also where I saw a great Australian soap-opera-ish drama, “A Place to Call Home.” It’s set in 1950s Australia, and covers everything from WWII and the Holocaust, to anti-Semitism, the abominable treatment of homosexuality back then (including medically), socio-economic class issues, romance, marriages of convenience, and more. I binge-watched both seasons in a row, and loved it. Less appealing was another Australian Acorn show, the Anzac Girls, a true story of nurses in WWI. Meh.
On a totally shallow note, I watch the detective anthology series, Murder in the First, which stars Taye Diggs (and Kathleen Robertson), and it always tickles me that he’s one of the blog’s Twitter followers. (Has been for more than a year, in fact.) So, not only is Mr. Diggs a good actor and a hunk, but he’s a niche perfume lover, too.
Joy This Month: See, Taye Diggs up above. See, also, below, re. The Hairy German.
Hairy German News: My Teutonic Overlord is better. The hideous horrors of bloody flesh and oozing, gangrene-like pus are over, thank God, and most of the negative side-effects of the medication cocktail are at manageable levels. However, it’s not all happy news. The medications have resulted in painful colitis and some extensive… er… bowel issues that I will not go into. Even more frustrating, the minute I finally stopped the steroids, the scabbed-over lesion begun to turn raw again. I started up again on the steroids before it could turn into bloody meat, and got myself a referral to one of the top animal medical centers in America.
I made the long drive with The Hairy German, stayed in a pet-friendly motel for a few days, and had him examined by specialists. They essentially confirmed everything my main vet has said and done is the right course of treatment. It’s simply going to be a guessing game, where we continuously adjust the medications to the changing conditions. I also asked about new medications and alternative remedies, including those that a few of you were so kind and thoughtful to email me about. The doctors thought that it’s better to stick to the tried, tested, and proven treatments for the moment, especially there have been no major studies showing things like testosterone injections, for example, have any effect on PF. In the same way, there have been no major studies covering potentially negative side-effects, like aggression, so they wanted to stick to less radical methods for now. The fact that I caught His Highness’ condition early means my situation is not as dire or limited as it might have been, and I have more options.
As a side note, I have concluded The Hairy Kaiser is a raging snob. We stayed at a very nice, modern motel, and had a large, clean room. Judging by his genuinely disgusted, indignant expression, you would have thought I’d taken him to a hovel in Hell. Each time we left the room for a walk, he was quite literally running out of the courtyard and down the driveway, ignoring all his training to pull me on his leash, in an obvious attempt to escape out of there. And this was even before we got to the medical center and he found out he had to have tests. Actually, he was perfectly fine there. It was simply the motel to which he objected. No amount of bananas eased his misery, and his relief when we got home today was so palatable, I can only laugh.
Music This Month: At times of stress, I tend to go back to my roots, so I spent a lot of this month listening to Eurotrash ’80s Italian and French pop music. I doubt the following discussion will mean anything to the vast majority of you but, if you’re a European reader who lived through the ’80s, did you ever listen to or like Toto Cutugno? He’s one of my favorite, old-time singers, perhaps in the top 3 alongside Joe Dassin and Dalida. So, I listened to a lot of Cutugno’s stuff this month, along with Richi e Poveri, Eros Ramazotti, Jeanne Mas, Sandra, and some Modern Talking. I don’t suppose anyone happens to have fond memories of Baltimora’s “Tarzan Boy,” Desireless’ “Voyage, Voyage,” or Ken Laszlo’s “Hey, Hey Guy“? Those were on the rotation, too, this month, along with an old CD I found called Gelato! (Best of Italian ’80s Pop). That has some songs that were very big Euro summer hits, like Off’s “Electric Salsa,” Sabrina’s “Boys, Boys, Boys,” Valerie Dore’s “The Night;” Moon Ray’s “Commanchero;” and Ryan Paris’ “Dolce Vita.” Much of this was my happy summer music, particularly the Euro club anthem, “Live is Life” by Stargo. When I lived in Monaco, that was THE summer song in THE nightclub to be, Parady’z. (I have rather fond memories of dancing with friends on a few tables at 3 a.m…. (Ahem).) Since the video for that one is too, too embarrassingly ’80s, here is Toto Cutugno‘s L’Italiano, followed by Off‘s Electric Salsa:
Perfume & Upcoming Reviews: I’ve tested a lot of stuff while dealing with my Teutonic Overlord’s medical situation and during my silent blog periods. I’ve held off reviewing the new SHL 777 duo, Mortal Skin, and the Harrods exclusive, until Mortal Skin is closer to release and I get some official information from Stéphane Humbert Lucas, but I hope to cover those soon. I can tell you now that I think Mortal Skin will probably be popular, though it’s no Black Gemstone or masterpiece. It’s not my thing, but I liked some parts of it. It was much better than the Harrods exclusive which I hated, absolutely hated. Passionately. A total scrubber, both times, and I’m dreading writing about it. (On top of it all, Monsieur Lucas sent a full bottle. Oh dear.)
I’ve also tried a few fragrances from a new American, artisanal/indie brand, Thorn & Bloom, that just launched last week, and I found their quality to be excellent. There is an orange blossom one that I greatly appreciated, while the leather reminded me of the smoky, intense, butch leather from Mona di Orio and Carner Barcelona. There are 5 new releases in total, and all are natural fragrances. I’ve only tried two thus far, so I’ll have to give all of them more thorough testing before I write about them (which may just be short blurbs on all 5 in one review), but so far, nice job.
Other fragrances I hope to cover in the next 10 days (if all goes to plan) are: Chanel‘s new Misia (I dragged my heels over my Chanel issues); two oldies from Parfumerie Generale and I Profumi di Firenze; and, probably, a 2014 release from Antonio Alessandria (who made Nobile 1942’s great whiskey scent, Rudis) called Noir Obscur. We’ll see what my mood is like and how the schedule goes, since I’m also trying to plan an actual holiday for the third week of July. The goal is Italy, if everything works out.
So, that’s my news. What is going on with all of you?