I hope you’re all having a good weekend, whether you’re simply relaxing, plan to enjoy the Eurovision finals, or are doing something fun over the long three-day holiday in American and the U.K. It seemed like a good time for this month’s Grab Bag, with a look at random things from perfume articles on Roja Dove, CB I Hate Perfume, and Frederic Malle, to blurb reviews of two white floral perfumes that missed the mark for me, and the more personal things occupying my attention this month like music, films, a great cookbook, and The Hairy German.
Perfume Articles from the Last Month: There haven’t been as many interesting news pieces this month as compared to the last, but a few things stood out.
From The Telegraph newspaper: “Roja Dove, ‘the nose’, on creating a Western aoud cult.” I know every country has its jingoistic media sites, and that journalist idiocy is nothing new, but really, this article made me want to smack the writer, Rebecca Burn-Callander, over the head. The reason? This little gem: “Roja (pronounced Roger) Dove is also the man who reinvented one of the most popular scents in the Middle East for a western market. […] Dove was one of the aoud pioneers (it can also be spelled “oud”), launching the first of his smoky fragrances in 2011. Other best-sellers, such as Acqua di Parma’s Colonia Intensa d’Oud, didn’t come to the market until a year later. Tom Ford’s Oud Fleur was launched in 2013.” That’s some chutzpah to implicitly frame Tom Ford’s oud creations as something derivative that followed Roja Dove’s lead two years later with Oud Fleur. It was Tom Ford, not Roja Dove, who pioneered the genre in the West in 2002 with his legendary M7 for YSL. Plus, any moderately competent person writing about a Tom Ford oud would surely have heard about the much earlier, 2007 Oud Wood, which basically has cult-hit status. Just Google the words “Tom Ford Oud,” and see what shows up right at the top. (Hint: it’s not the 2013 Oud Fleur.) I think Roja Dove is a lovely fellow and incredibly charming, but to call him an oud pioneer who “reinvented” the genre in 2011 is inexcusably inaccurate. I would laugh if I weren’t so irritated. Intellectual laziness and sloppiness are two of my biggest pet peeves — from anyone, period. But The Telegraph is, ostensibly, more than a tiny fourth-rate paper, more than a tabloid rag like News of the World; one theoretically expects some modicum of journalistic effort. My mistake, and not one that I’ll make again. From now on, I’ll classify them with the bleating Daily Mail.
The Telegraph actually has another article this month on Roja Dove, this time on how his nose is too sensitive to bear the subway/Tube. (Is he paying them to come up with this inanity, or are they morons all by themselves? Surely they were never this bad?!) I’m far too irritated to share it, so I shall focus instead on The Financial Times‘ piece called “Boutique perfume: on the scent of a deal” on Frederic Malle, Le Labo, Memo Paris, and the acquisition of niche brands by large conglomerates. (You will have to answer 2 short marketing questions to get to the article.) A few quotes from Malle in the piece: “‘Firstly, I hate the word ‘niche’,” says Malle, who started his company in 2000. “Niche means ‘small’ and I never intended to be small for long, beautiful as it is. […] I wanted to have a luxury house, and to be the Guerlain of tomorrow. […] If you look at the industry’s history, it went from perfumers making and selling perfumes, to mass-market companies renting celebrity names and asking chemical companies to make perfumes that could be sold in duty free,” he explains. “All we did is put the perfumer back.’” On Clara Malloy, the co-founder of Memo: “‘Competition is the opposite of creativity,” says Clara Molloy, co-founder of Paris artisanal fragrance brand Memo, the top seller at Harvey Nichols. “You have a team who will decide the winning fragrance. It has to please the MD, the assistant, the president, the president’s wife. It has to please consumers around the world. It becomes a process of seduction, and with fragrance that’s easy — you put in something a bit sweet, a lot of musk, you say ‘peaches are fashionable in China’. But is that really an experience of fragrance?’”
From Yahoo News: “The World’s Strangest Scents: Old Books, Saddles, and Roast Beef” focuses primarily on Christopher Brosius of CB I Hate Perfume, DS & Durga, and their more untraditional olfactory creations: “‘A lot [of fragrances] are incredibly boring, redundant certainly, and far too many are pointless,’ says Brosius.” He wants to create “very different experiences.” “Take In the Library, for instance: an unusual perfume that captures the smell of books in a way that will immediately connect with readers. (The secret: An “English Novel” note that Brosius had derived from a real book.) Another fragrance, Invisible Monster, finds inspiration in a specific episode of the old cartoon TV series Jonny Quest to create a scent that’s floral and earthy.” [Emphasis to names added by me.] The article also briefly covers Malle (“Many of today’s perfumes leave him as unimpressed as Brosius”), and has a quote from Luca Turin about how unusual “strange” fragrances sometimes go mainstream. Turin cites Angel as an example of that, which leaves me puzzled. Angel is intensely sweet and ghastly, yes, but strange?! (As a side note, if you want to read about perfumers creating really unorthodox, “strange” scents, you may be interested in an old post I wrote on how the famous nose, Christophe Laudamiel, tried to recreate the scents in Patrick Suskind‘s legendary Perfume novel, including Grenouille’s “Virgin” and “Human Existence” fragrances.)
My Perfume Misses: I tried a few cheapie, white florals that aren’t worth covering in a proper review, but I thought I would mention them very briefly here:
Madeleine Mono made a famous (vintage) tuberose eau de parfum called Madeleine de Madeleine, and I tried the modern version recently: bug spray. Yes, there was tuberose, but it was a wispy, synthetic, cheap-smelling, thin tuberose that behind a wall of mosquito repellant bug spray that smelled both chemical and like the Citronella candles that people use outside in summer. On Fragrantica, some people mention it in the same sentence as Fracas. I think that’s sacrilege.
Casaque was originally released in 1957 by Jean d’Albret, and was a much beloved white floral. It is now made by Long Lost Perfume, which Fragrantica says has been taken over by the Irma Shorell company (which also puts out the aforementioned Madeleine Mono bug spray). Irma Shorell-Long Lost Perfume has partnered with Jeffrey Dame to have him reformulate old vintage classics. Fragrantica provides a range of notes for Casaque, but I suspect that they apply to the original version, not the current release which is primarily white florals dominated by tuberose. On my skin, Casaque opens with a rubbery tuberose that is indolic, slightly mentholated, and with undertones of plastic. It’s trailed by a dewy, fresh gardenia, resulting in a very green scent with a suggestion of leafiness around the edges and a subtle creaminess in the base. It’s not terrible at first, but it turns into a hazy white floral blur after 30 minutes with soapiness instead of an indolic edge. I suppose that’s better than rubbery tuberose with plastic. Casaque quickly turns into a generic soapy, quasi-gardenia body spray. It doesn’t feel like actual perfume, but like a body spray that is lighter than a mere cologne. Casaque also doesn’t project, doesn’t last long, and is so generic, it’s wholly unforgettable. Avon‘s old (now discontinued) Gardenia body spray in its Naturals line had more oomph and quality; its freshness never smelt soapy; and you can still find it on eBay for $10-$15. Long Lost Perfumes sells a 2 oz/60 ml bottle of Casaque for $55. I don’t see the point.
Cooking/Cookbooks: I haven’t had time to make anything exciting this month, for reasons that will become clear later, but I’ve been going through a cookbook I love as escapist fun. It’s Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies by Najmieh Batmanglij who is essentially the Persian Julia Child. (Here are Amazon US, UK, and France links to the book.) To quote the description on Amazon, the updated 25th anniversary version “provides 330 classical and regional Iranian recipes as well as an introduction to Persian art, history, and culture. The book’s hundreds of full color photographs are intertwined with descriptions of ancient and modern Persian ceremonies, poetry, folktales, travelogue excerpts and anecdotes. […] It is the result of 30 years of collecting, testing and adapting authentic and traditional Persian recipes for the American kitchen. Most of its ingredients are readily available throughout the U.S. enabling anyone from a master chef to a novice to reproduce the refined tastes, textures, and beauty of Persian cuisine. Food-related pieces from such classics as the 10th century Book of Kings, and 1,001 Nights to the miniatures of Mir Mosavvar and Aq Mirak, from the poetry of Omar Khayyam and Sohrab Sepehri to the humor of Mulla Nasruddin are all included.” I think Food of Life is truly an amazing and beautiful book, a feast for the senses on many levels, with really delicious recipes and justly deserves all the praise it has received from reviewers to famous chefs alike. So If you like cooking and Middle Eastern food of any kind, then give it a look on Amazon (or at any big bookstore).
Music This Month: I have eclectic music tastes, but one thing that is a constant is that I’m a sucker for anything with heavy strings — violin, cello, or both. Whether it’s the theme to Game of Thrones (which I can listen to on repeat for ages), pop music (Dido to Alphaville), or a classical piece, if it has a lot of strings, I’ll sit up and take notice. My absolute favorite composition, and what I’ve been listening to a lot this month, is Pablo Sarasate‘s Carmen Fantasy which takes Bizet’s opera, Carmen, and gives its gypsy music (particularly the famous Habanera) a twist with an incredibly challenging violin solo. The Carmen Fantasy is a lilting piece with highs and lows, but the highlight is the build-up and crescendo at the end. In the hands of a true virtuoso, the result is utterly dizzying, the violin bow flying so fast over the strings that — with no exaggeration or hyperbole — it almost seems as if the violinist must be possessed. The old American classic, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” by The Charlie Daniels Band about the devil competing with a genius fiddler really should be about whomever can master the Carmen Fantasy.
To me, the best version is always by Leila Josefowicz who was a child prodigy and who first took on the infamous piece at the age of 14. Her version of it is beyond all belief; I honestly don’t know how someone’s fingers/bow can possibly move that fast. It seems inhuman, and I so wish I could share it with you. That version is on a CD called Leila Josefowicz Violin for Anne Rice (which, oddly enough, also features a song by Sting). Unfortunately, the sole clip of her playing it on YouTube is a later version with heinous quality, uploading distortions, and breaks. The violinist, Sarah Chang, has an okay version that I can share with those of you who may like violin pieces or Carmen, but it’s absolutely nothing like Leila’s level of skill. Here’s a clip which I’ve positioned about 8 minutes in (it’s a 12-minute piece in total) and the key build-up occurs about the 9:45 mark, but the piece obviously has the most impact when listened to from the start:
At the other end of the musical spectrum, I love Muse, and have been listening a lot to Uprising and Hysteria:
Movies: I finally caught up with Selma and the Hunger Games Mockingjay Part I. The “Hanging Tree” song in the latter was so haunting, it was probably my favorite part of the film. (That’s another song that I’ve been listening to on repeat this month.) What I enjoyed the most, though, was a British film called Pride with Imelda Staunton, Bill Nighy, Dominic West, and others. It’s an incredibly hilarious, uplifting, and moving 2014 film based on the true story of the extremely unlikely, odd union of gay activists and striking Welsh coal miners in Margaret Thatcher’s early 1980s England. The mere memory of the scene where very flamboyant Londoners descend on a tiny, rural Welsh village and the miners’ stunned reaction to them makes me laugh. There is great 80s music (Relax, Love & Pride, Tainted Love, and Bronski Beat’s Why), while the end is uplifting and had me cheering out loud and fist-pumping the air.
Television – Good to Great: Mad Men‘s final episodes were on an uptrend, in my opinion, but I shan’t discuss the details, as some of you may not yet have seen them. I cared more, however, about the final season of Foyle’s War, one of my favorite detective series. It is set in coastal England at the outbreak of WW2 going through to the start of the Cold War with MI6 in London, and features the master of understated acting, Michael Kitchen, as the one honourable man in a world filled with corruption and duplicity. Each season has 3 “episodes” that are 90-minutes long, and covers the issues of the time with great historical authenticity. When Robin of Now Smell This told me on Twitter that this was the final season, I went into mourning. If you like both stately detective series and the WW2 period, I really recommend the show.
Joy This Month: Speaking of British television and Robin of Now Smell This, I will forever be grateful to her for telling me about a new streaming service in America and Canada called Acorn TV. Acorn is the exclusive distributor for all the British (and Australian) series, from comedies to drama, old and new, with a massive library of hits: Foyle’s War, Doc Martin, Poirot, Midsomer Murders, Rebus, Morse, Vera, Prime Suspect, Jeeves & Wooster, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Brideshead Revisited, and so much more, including exclusive content. Acorn has set up something like Netflix, and it’s very reasonably priced: $4.99 a month or $49 a year, but you can get the first month free just to try it out. You can watch on all sorts of popular devices, or straight from your television if you download the Acorn app. (My Samsung TV has it, but a family member’s older Panasonic doesn’t seem to show it.) The only problem I’m having is that my video stream often breaks up, I have to re-load the app, find my show, start it from scratch, then forward to the relevant section. The process is laborious, inconvenient, and not as straight forward as it is on Netflix when you get streaming errors there. Acorn gives me an “Network Error” message and tells me to check my connection, but I don’t believe it because I don’t have this problems incessantly on Netflix. Still, the first month is free, so if you’re a huge fan of British shows, you really should check out the site.
Hairy German News: Several of you have asked about My Teutonic Overlord, so for those of you who are not dog/animal people, feel free to skip the next few paragraphs. My poor sweetheart is not well. I thought his chronic skin allergy issues had flared up, but it turns out to be much worse news. He’s got Perianal Fistulas, which is a ghastly, lifelong, chronic and progressive disease that affects German shepherds above all others, though Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Irish Setters, Corgis, and other breeds are also susceptible.
Until recently, about 8-10 years ago, “PF” often ended up being a death sentence, with owners having to put down their dogs to relieve their suffering. I’ll spare you the physical specifics, but you can read more about PF at these English or French links if you’re curious. (Warning: there are gross photos on both sites.) Medications were rarely effective; neither was surgery to cut out the affected areas, or amputation of the tail. Then came along a hugely expensive pill called Atopica ($400-$500 a month) which can have up to an 80% success rate in controlling the disease, though the dogs have to stay on it for life. A generic (clyclosporine) is now available, though only slightly less expensive, but the main problem is that some dogs can’t handle it, not even in the smallest doses (which also tend to be doses too low to have any medical effect).
The Hairy German may, unfortunately, be one of those dogs. Last weekend was so utterly awful, you have no idea, with side-effects that made me wonder how I could put my boy through such a thing and if a death sentence were down the road. It wasn’t the Dante-esque nightmare that I went through with my last furry child, the original “Kafka,” but it was awful nonetheless. (Kafka was given Atopica for Lupus. And, no, I do not have much luck with the breed’s health issues, but I’m a GSD zealot for life and I’d sooner give up perfume than one of them.) In any event, I’ve spent the last week stabilizing my poor boy, which is why I’ve failed to answer most comments on the blog lately. PF is a situation which frequently requires a fine-tuning of the cocktail of pills (prednisone steroids, Atopica, and heavy antibiotics) to get the condition under control lest the flesh essentially turns to oozing, sulphurous-smelling, bloody meat, so Zola’s vet (whom I love and think is fantastic) has adjusted the dosage levels for his medications, but refuses to give up on the Atopica until we’ve tried every possible amount of it. The alternative is too dire.
So far, Zola is managing on the lower levels, but I see hints of the dreaded “swiss cheese holes” in the skin starting to emerge. It may be because he was off the pills for 4 days as he recuperated, so we’ll have to see if things improve under once the Atopica builds up in his system again. Then again, once that happens, the possibility of anorexia looms on the horizon as many dogs on Atopica refuse to eat, due to the pill’s effect on the stomach, but I’m prepared with Zantac 75, some prayers to the canine gods, and His Highness’ favorite treats. (Watermelon, pears, celery, and apples. Don’t ask. Just trust me when I say that you’ve never seen anything quite like a huge German shepherd daintily nibbling on a whole pear or chunk of watermelon.)
Impact on the Blog: I’ve gone into so much detail over the Hairy German’s condition so you’ll understand why managing the PF is going to significantly impact my time and schedule in the weeks and/or months ahead. Responding to blog comments may be the first thing to suffer, as it always takes some time, but my reviews may also change, becoming shorter or wholly cursory. (At least, as “cursory” as someone like me can manage.) I’m putting off a European trip that was scheduled for June, and will have to see about another planned for September/October. I may not be going on holiday, but I’m exhausted, so I may simply vanish from posting for days at a time to take care of my boy and recuperate. It’s just hard to focus on things right now, particularly perfume. A whole slew of new releases are sitting idly by, even ones for which I’ve already tested and taken copious notes, but writing is a real struggle. Even more so to write with any degree of caring, passion, or literary fervour.
I know most of you will understand why my priorities have changed right now, but I do feel guilty and will try to continue on as though nothing had happened. I just ask for your patience if my reviews change in frequency or detail, or if they sound utterly flat or mechanical.
Anyway, I’ve bored you all long enough with depressing personal stuff, so let’s talk about happier things. Do you have any fun plans for the long weekend (if you’re in a place where there is one)? Are there any upcoming holidays that you’re looking forward to? What are some of your recent loves, whether films, television shows, books, food, or something else? Will you be watching or streaming Eurovision? Does Acorn Television tempt any of you? Or, you can skip all that and talk about something else, anything that is going on in your life. I’ll enjoy reading all of it, even if I’m unable to respond. Have a great weekend everyone!