Tuesday, 28 July 2009


The other day, I was at O.'s place. O. was getting ready for work or something and was worried that she may look fat in whatever she was wearing.
"Do you think I look fat in this?" asked she.
"I don't think so," I said frankly.
"Nope, I can't possibly go out wearing this. My belly sticks out too much," O. was thinking aloud and went to find some other top to wear.
"Geez, forget it," I tried to stop her. "Look at me, my jeans are half a size smaller than my ass and all my bacon is sorta overflowing and my tank top is way too short to hide any of it. Well, whatever. I'm 15 kilos heavier than what I'd prefer, a looser t-shirt won't change the matter anyway so why bother."
O. looked at me saying: "You don't have to worry about it. You're a Buddhist."

Now I need someone to elucidate.

Just so that I don't have to retell it

The other day, I was talking to I. and mentioned that I had to go and sit the admission exams for the biology undergrad course. I. said 'Whaaaaaat?!! Biology? You? What the hell for... and, are you feeling all right?” or something like that.
“I wanted to be a botanist,” I said, “and I thought it would be rather convenient to start going for that when I'm still young, with lots of synapses and otherwise generally functioning brain, y'know.” It apparently wasn't really explaining anything because I. was still surprised. “I always thought you'd been so passionate about art like... ever since, I could hardly imagine you could be that interested in anything else,” she continued to be puzzled. I was also puzzled since I've known I. for five years, we spent a lot of time doing things and going places together, ranting included.
In fact, it puzzles people quite often when my interest or an unexpected bit of knowledge is noticed. It is somehow expected that if I mess with liberal arts stuff, then I shouldn't be able to count and I shouldn't know a spruce from lettuce... or wtf.
I wanted to study botany since I was a kid. Or, maybe not specifically botany, I also liked various small furry aminals but I was indeed interested in plants. When I was five-ish, almost certainly before I started school, I got a huge plant atlas, an armful of plant atlas for a child and still decently large volume for a big girl and soon enough, I tried to use words like phytocenosis in everyday talk. With little understanding from the people around, so I probably soon stopped. I however learnt quite a nice bit of Latin at that time – neither that was appreciated by the folks. When Miss asked us in the first grade what we would want to do when we're grown up, people answered the usual stuff about princesses, trash collectors, nurses and astronauts. “Botanist”, I said, and Miss reprimanded me stiffly for using words whose meaning I do not know. (I suspect that my deep suspicion and general disdain to the ways of the school system have their roots somewhere there although it took many years before they became apparent.)
At the secondary school, I had a series of really lousy teachers for all science-related subjects. Not all of them were arseholes and sometimes there was someone really cool, as that crazy biology teacher who however left for better job, she was a researcher in genetics and for some reasons unclear to me, she taught at a local high school for two years. Or that guy who studied nuclear physics in Moscow, married a girl from my hometown and stayed there with no decent job prospect and a general lack of knowledge of the local language, when someone had that idea that he might teach physics in English at our pretty crazily experimental school. But, that wasn't enough to keep me interested. I however had history teachers that rocked.
In fact, I wanted to do Oriental studies, for reasons unknown but plain interest (maybe a heap of some romantic in it, who knows). Due to the rather strict admission requirements at the universities worth that name, everybody applied for the admission exams to more places... and that's how I started studying art history. Applied to the local university, 'just in case they didn't get me where I wanted'. Nobody knows why I picked art history and not something I may have had closer relationship with. Plain history, English, sociology, anthropology, whatever. I don't know it either. Divine inspiration, punishment for sins committed in previous lives or just sheer randomness of the universe. Or it sounded better than just history, who knows.
I started studying art history, then. I didn't have any particular inclinations towards it and it felt silly at best to see that everybody knows much more and much better than I. Usually, it felt pretty depressing. Combined with the sad fact that I took my stupid years not in puberty but between 19 and 21 or so, it's no surprise to me or any thinking observer that I miserably failed. Thinking of it, I did a decent job since it took me three years of muddling through before they kicked me out.
I worked for two years and then I applied for art history (meantime, I found out that I'm totally unable to study languages and that Oriental studies means a lot of studying languages) to three schools, passed the exams to all three and started studying at two. In two different cities, two different countries, just for the heck of it, and got as far as the postgrad course and people think that I'm good in it. I have my doubts, though.
Meantime, at my friend's birthday party... I arrived there pretty late, I was meeting K. who came to the country from wherever she studied, and to the town, and she's one of my best beloved friends so we met for a coffee and only then I went to that party. Most of the people were already more or less drunk. I was introduced to those whom I didn't know and then I picked a group of folks who seemed to be the most sober and chatted them up. One said he was a botanist … and then we retreated to some quieter corner to talk plants in peace, exchanged phone numbers and are friends since that day. Two years ago, M. took me out to the wild, he needed to do some field work and I kept him company. At a certain point, M. said pensively that I have more intelligent questions that a great part of his Master students and something at some long neglected corner of my brain connected.
In due time, I wanted to apply for the admission exams for undergrad biology but I blocked my internet bank access and wasn't able to lift my lazy ass from work and go to the bank to pay the test fee there. This year, I procrastinated the application for weeks, too, and ten days before the deadline my harddisk crashed, eating my operating system, data and access keys to my account. In one of those rather rare moments when my social phobia doesn't overrun me, I asked for help at a forum where my internet friends live and L. paid my fee, mailing to the office that it was her who paid for me; I mailed them with the same information as well. They wanted some other payment confirmation than what the bank application produced so there was some bureaucratic arguing involved... and I entered the files as (hopefully) interesting and lovable (for certain) troublemaker.
I passed the test.
Funnily enough, I got the letter with results where the address said Liisa Wennervirta, M. A. Well, yeah, I have that degree but I keep it almost secret because I have that feeling that it's a degree that says I haven't really done anything yet and I don't write it anywhere.. Apparently, since it's the same university, they share the database.
Should anyone want to know, no, I have no clue as how to solve all the ensuing logistic challenges. There'll be a lot of trouble for sure but I'll deal with it when it comes, no sooner. I don't have a clue as of what kind of trouble, anyway.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Some sort of love story

Long time ago, when I was young and stupid and read fashion mags almost religiously (along with my mother's nagging, I guess it added to my anorexia and borderline fashion-victimness) and I came across an article on perfumes. Djedi was described as 'the strangest and dryest perfume of all times' and the description was intriguing enough to get me hooked.
Obviously, it wasn't to be had in that small town perfumery nor in the big town perfumery where I sometimes went, one would have to go to Paris, I suspect, and I was 18 or so and a small town girl with small town parents who totally wouldn't let me go anywhere only to spend a fortune on something as useless as perfume.
I never liked those young, fresh, light, whatever fragrances intended for teenage girls. My first real perfume was Le Male. Sweet but rather heavy and with some sort of barbershop pungency that was damn far away from whatever I was offered as suitable for a teenage girl. I got a sample when I was buying some makeup thingy and I was hooked ever since, I have my third bottle now and I've never got fed up with this one.
Then there was Liberté Acidulée from the Les Belles series by Nina Ricci. It blends nicely with the abovementioned Le Male, rendering it somehow more tolerable to mothers who think it weird that girls wear stuff advertised to guys.
Fast forward many years. I randomly got Aqua Allegoria Gentiana from the internetz, the most evil enabler tool, because I like gentians and I liked the picture on the box.
Shortly after, a friend pointed me to perfume blogosphere and I recalled the buried but not dead enchantment of Djedi. I googled something, I read lots of stuff and I was caught. I wandered around sniffing things, discovered the differences, found out how things work... and while learning so much new, I also got the knowledge on the fame and tradition of Maison Guerlain.

At present, I have, lemme think, seven or so of their fragrances. Their Chamade proved one of the biggest disappointments in the perfume world to me - after an enthusiastic review, I bought it without trying and it totally stank on me. After certain research and several other experiences ranging from plainly bad to crazily bad, I discovered that some fragrances that combine white flowers and citruses just turn to a litterbox that hadn't been cleaned for a few days. Or, cat piss, to put it bluntly. Upon further research, I discovered that unfortunately, whatever component combination causes it, it is present in most of the contemporary Guerlain fragrances. No Guerlain for me, I thought sadly.

Meantime, I got to know Helg and we started an ongoing debate (very enriching for me and I only hope that the feeling is reciprocal, I feel way too often that I'm asking silly question) about fragrances and history and whatever other theme sprang up. She gave my cat piss issue a thought and generously sent me several handfuls of samples of rare and/or vintage Guerlain fragrances. I was caught again and decided to give Guerlain another chance. Under the impression that I'd better search for the scents that are not available totally everywhere, I tried Purple Fantasy whose combination of pepper and violets I found interesting but not totally convincing (I mix it with Beige sometimes, Beige is way too elegant for me). I got a sample of Parure which I quite liked, but I wasn't sure whether I liked it enough to actually get it - it has been discontinued for quite a time and not to be found exactly cheap. Following Helg's advice, I grabbed it when I had the chance, to have it and meditate upon my liking later and I didn't regret that, after all, I like it. And the sucrier bottle could serve as an assault weapon, should such a need arise. Helg also told me that Djedi is unwearable and that I'd better get some Onda which she called a modern rendition of Djedi.

And, around the time when I was pondering about Parure, Djedi appeared on eBay. It sold for more money than I would like to spend and for even more that I could afford to spend (and I did have some extra for such case. After some research in the internetz, I was aware of them crazy collector maniacs). Bite it all, I thought to myself. I'll get a sample somewhere for reference purposes and now, being cured from the obsession, I can move on. And then I bought some books and a new tank top instead, keeping the savings for whatever else life may bring.

In another meantime and another mean-place, J. got me a bottle of Fleur de Feu. It arrived by guerilla mail two days ago, along with some yarn. (Indeed, I haven't written anything on knitting since forever, it seems! I'll fix it soon.) Helg has a lovely review, I've limited myself only to enjoying the carnation and pepper combination. I've found at least two Guerlain creations I enjoy enough to reward me for the disappointment and I've found that missing bit of inner peace... and now I can shift my attention somewhere else.

No, you don't see it wrong. The bottle is that HUGE.

Sunday, 26 July 2009


I'm behind with work. Deadlines are looming over me, I should be submitting three papers within a week or so and I've barely started. (I feel that to my defense, I need to add that I've thought about it all a lot.)
Some people say that I'm a genius. Or that I'm oh-so-smart and oh-so-gifted. It may be. The truth is that I'm a terrible procrastinator and that I read lots of divergent stuff so my only geniality is in being able to produce something sensible almost on the spot in three overnighters in a row.
On every such occasion, I swear to Jesus, Elvis and Buddha that next time, I'll be working continuously on whatever task Life may bring. Next time, Life brings something and I wander around, read, chat with people, knit a few sweaters, blend a perfume and generally do nothing overtly productive... and then the overnighters come. That leads people to another false assumption, that I'm industrious. As it goes, when I deny it all, humility is added to the list of my nonexistent virtues.

I think I'll leave Eau du Calvados as it is.
Helg says it needs more of top notes and proposed some pretty citruses. She also smelled truffles in it, and tea tree – which totally are not there. I, on the other hand, do smell citrusy notes in it. It's rosewood, I suspect, which is mainly responsible for them.
O. said that I'd better not touch it and that particularly citruses would totally ruin it. I'm meeting Mitzi today so I'll ask for her opinion and since I managed some self-promotion, quite a bit of it, in fact, there are a few other people at the perfume forum who are interested. Since they are what I'd dare to call qualified public, I'll blend another batch and I'll wait for the feedback. I personally am totally content.

I fished out the tiny aluminium jar that used to hold hand cream and put a bit on. I'm on the train and it's rather hot and humid day. For technical reasons (read Total lack of both practical and theoretical knowledge on the matter) I used beeswax as a solvent, creating a solide in stronger-than-extrait concentration and put a bit on.
I know that one's own children are always the best but, yeah, I'm content. The scent is lush and juicy and cooling, evoking a misty October day in an apple orchard, an abandoned one where some of the apples stayed on the trees for birds and squirrels to feed on and some fell in the high grass and are crushed under one's feet, releasing that rotten yet intriguing smell. It's the less than perfect apples that are used for fermenting and distilling, after all.

Helg gave me the idea of Vieille Réserve. I gave it a few thoughts – one picks the apples, processes them to 60% brandy and forgets about the barrels in the cellar. Twenty years later, on a dreary misty October day, someone stumbles upon the last barrel of this harvest... but that would make another story which is already crystallizing in my head. But first, I need to get out that Italian floral I've been thinking about.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Just saying.

I warned you (or it was someone else whom I warned but I don't care) that if I get through the admission exams to the biology department, you'll be listening to my endless boasting about how I managed to prepare for them during the lunchbreak. So:
I got to biology course and I studied for it only during the lunchbreak!
(let the gifts be delivered to the usual address)