Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Pet peeves

Everybody has them. Mine are, not exclusively and in random order of importance:

1. people who scribble, underline etc. in library books. These should be nailed to the bridge by their knees
2. teh studip. Buddha, Jesus and Elvis (and also most likely The Flying Spaghetti Monster but I'm not really well-versed in religious studies) teach us that we should be forgiving because people are not mean, they are just stupid and cannot do any better. Mostly, my inner cynic adds, and in Ankh-Morpork, there is a law of 4th Grune of 1581 dealing with Criminal Stupidity and some secondary sources claim that voluntary ignorance is a mortal sin against the Holy Spirit so apparently, in later times, the teachings somehow evolved, reflecting the reality, not the ideal. So... well.
3. the cat howling for no reasons - in the last ten minutes, contrary to my beliefs, I threatened her that I'll make her into a pot of nutritious soup and a pair of warm fuzzy mittens.
4. the pinyin transcription of Chinese.

The Wikipedia article says that pinyin is the most widespread transcription. And that it was coined in 1958.
For reasons unknown to me, until some 15 years ago, the Wade-Giles transcription and its local varieties was used. I don't know why pinyin came to such a widespread usage because it is... studip. Eh, now I see, because the United Nations and who else adopted it as their standard (1).
Now, I'm perfectly well aware that Chinese has a different sound system anyway so whatever romanization there is, it will necessarily remain only an approximation. But, the hell, even if there's no exact rendering, the inexact thing can be done with a grain of reason... at least theoretically. The thing is, an average studip furriner is able to decipher Wade-Giles, or, actually, to read it somehow and easily. Pinyin - I have to wait until I come across a language in which it works in a manner close to common sense. Like, people not breaking their tongues.

Being an editor brings many an exciting task and it includes dabbling into every field of knowledge. Also, the fashionable multi-culti has invaded the curricula and it has to be squeezed into all places possible and impossible (2) and sometimes there's some geography or something mixed in. Or whatever. I've always argued in favour of Wade-Giles' local derivation because it's for the kiddos and after all, it's a local approved standard and I've always been told something like 'But it is [the pinyin horror] used this way all over' and who I am to contest something widely used (3).

I like L. She's witty and entertaining and she's a medical student so I can use words like 'exothermic' in common speech without the inner guilt that I am a nasty intellectual snob (4). The other day she told me that she was looking something up in a library catalogue (or looking over someone's shoulder) and couldn't believe her own eyes when she saw that cray-zee transcription we use here. I rejoiced upon finding a like-minded soul and we ranted in a nice accord about the cray-zee for a while. How pleasant to find that I'm not alone with my opinion.

The cat is asleep in my bed.

(1) headdesk
(2) such as alternative theories of how the life came to exist. Those that include various gods and such. In science textbooks headdesk
(3) headdesk As if more stupid somehow, by all the heat and pressure it creates, recrystallized into diamonds of smart? Well, if we take it literally, then studip humans (also the smart ones) actually contain carbon enough to compress them into some diamonds but then, rocks can't be smart nor stupid since they have no brains whatsoever. Metaphorically, not at all.
(4) mom has been hammering that into me ever since I learned what biotope was, as if there was something shameful in the word - and many others. I think that reasonable people can open their precious mouths and ask what the heck I mean by the word that starts with phy-, there's nothing wrong with not knowing. And if someone feels intimidated, then they should work on themselves. I'm not a snob but I'm no compassionate bleeding heart either.

Thursday, 14 January 2010


Molyneux is one of the venerable couture houses that live only as ghosts of their former glory. Edward Molyneux opened his house in Paris in 1919. He started his career in the fashion world as a sketcher for Lucile, lost his eye in the Great War, was promoted to the rank of Captain in 1917 (he was nicknamed Captain Molyneux in the fashion world, too), and in 1919, he started his couture house in rue Royale in Paris.

Edward 'Captain' Molyneux entered the world of fragrance by launching his Numéro Cinq, the legend has it, the same day as Coco Chanel launched her No. 5 - they were friends and played this game between them (1). The story is perpetuated on the internet and elsewhere and I cannot say for sure how many grains of truth are in it but I like it.
There were a few other numbered fragrances (3 and 14, says Perfume Intelligence) and a host of others; in 1950, Edward Molyneux retired, left the house to his cousin and later on, the couture salon was closed (it was reopened and re-closed later on) and the fragrance trademark sold.
Nowadays, the brand falls under the house of Berdoues (that of Violettes de Toulouse) and only variation on Quartz seem to be in production. I suspect that the distribution is somewhat limited, I don't remember having seen it in a shop anywhere.

Initiation (by Ilias Ermenidis, says Fragrantica) one only passed throught my dirty paws, I and a collector friend bought some stuff from one place and I got it shipped to my place because I had other stuff for M. With her permission, I decanted a sample for later messing with... and even while messing with the bottle, I was overwhelmed.
Initiation is indeed a late spawn of the powerhouses of the 80's but there's something from the upcoming bland nineties, after all, it was launched in 1990.

The mixture of conservative and creative (see the hexagonal but not really so bottle to get what I mean) evokes one single thing to me: bal des débutantes. Old money, satin, tiaras borrowed from grandmas, pearls, dangly shiny crystal chandeliers. And no, my inner cynic didn't wake up to remark something about good girls from filthy rich families throwing up champagne in the small hours. That could be present in another fragrance but not in this one (2). A young lady who would wear Initiation wouldn't throw up champagne because this lady has manners enough not to drink in excess and moreover she's cute and entertaining.

The packaging would go to the better half of what I've seen. Not exquisite but good enough - the bottle that looks like a crystal pendant on an expensive chandelier, box with burgundy wood grain print and some gold are neat.
The fragrance is done well - launched after the weapons of mass destruction (think Opium) were slowly fading from fashion but not too late to be one of the ozonic florals. It's somehow in between: aldehydes, florals, tuberose, muguet - the latter two used rather carefully so that they don't overwhelm. Tuberose does stick out but it doesn't try to kill anyone as in the hell of Fracas. A handful of citruses and peaches.
The base notes are a bit puzzling to me, there should be civet and coconut and patchouli and amber which I can't smell at all, just some patchouli and vetiver. Along with the aldehydes it creates a sort of breath mint - not bad, just slightly odd.

There's one thing that doesn't happen too often - as if there were two parallel fragrances: one of the breath mints, fresh and rather straightforward, and one of oversweetened fruity floral. Not a bad fragrance at all but the sweet streak kills me so no, I don't intend to live with this one.

Initiation is discontinued but it can be found occassionally at discounters or random places.

just a note, the post got published while unfinished, I mistook Publish for Save.

top notes: Aldehydes, Gardenia, Mandarin Orange, Peach, Bergamot, Brazilian Rosewood
middle notes: Carnation, Tuberose, Jasmine, Heliotrope, Ylang-Ylang, Lily-of-the-Valley, Rose, Narcissus
base notes: Honey, Amber, Patchouli, Coconut, Civet, Oakmoss, Vetiver

(1) I have a bit of Numéro Cinq, I need to check whether it's totally rotten or true to its original nature. A rant will come anyway.
(2) Something sour reeks from certain Guerlains, for example

Sunday, 10 January 2010


On Wednesday, some 15 centimetres of snow fell overnight. And, from this season on, the city council is responsible for cleaning the sidewalks as their owner, not the owners of adjacent houses who were used as slave labour and fined if the sidewalks weren't dry and clean to their full width or to two metres of width at least. Since the city council is run by brainless individuals, they don't actually clean the sidewalks, they throw salt on them in indecent amounts. The popular myth is that the salt teleports the snow somewhere else while the grim reality is that the melting point of saltwater is lower than of salt-free water and since sodium chloride is hygroskopic, it dissolves ice and snow in temperatures above around -15 (when it's colder, calcium chloride is needed to do the same job). However, dissolving a film of ice after freezing rain is totally different from salting a layer of snow – then it changes into godawful dirty goo that dissolves shoes and dogs' feet, makes sounds as if frogs had rained when cars drive through that and it's plainly ugly.
I don't get it. Every year, there's collective whining from the beginning of December that the winters should be white, idyllic, with muffled sounds and kiddos building snowmen. When the actual snow falls, people do their best to change that white, quiet idyllic beauty into an immense puddle of dirty salty crap.
The Wednesday snow was partly turned into dirty crap but Nature is mischievous. Yesterday, it started to snow and it snowed and snowed. (Alright, the today morning's rain wasn't really needed but the glassy crust is pretty on its own.) The salt solution is way too much diluted, the road maintenance needs to maintain the main roads first so our dead end alley in a sparsely populated residential neighbourhood remains slippery. It should be snowing and snowing for a few days yet, with sunny and very frosty weather following. I haven't had a winter in years so I'm enjoying it immensely.

On Friday, it was still snowing heavily so we took turns in shovelling the snow out of the driveway. Still, dad managed to drive into the garage door frame and had a general lack of happy because the aluminium cars are hard to fix neatly.
Dad had an argument with the next-but-one door neighbour some seven or eight years ago. Something work-related, I don't really know, and they stopped talking to each other. My mom is loyal to dad so she stopped talking to the folks too (1). On Friday, dad was messing with the snow, so was the neighbour and some sort of enlightement happened because dad dragged the neighbour to the garage. I went to bed at usual time but I heard them drinking (2) until around one in the morning. Snow causes people return to normal, apparently. Since the world is a lousy place, it's not snowing anymore, we have rain and sleet. I guess that it would have to rain frogs or brass bedposts (3) to reconcile with the next-door neighbours. But that would be another stories.

(1) I do think that this attitude is utterly and totally stupid and I've said it aloud repeatedly.
(2) that thermonuclear calvados. It was a loud party
(3) now, from which book does this vague reference come from? The first right answer wins chocolate.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

On a side note....

No. 5 is legendary. So legendary that the legend has it that it's the most bought perfume of which most bottles stand on someone's vanities with the content slowly rotting away. I don't really remember sniffing it on someone on the street.
My mother is a good example. We went for a holiday and for some reason, I packed my No. 5 to wear there, not something beach-worthy and summery. My mother is kept in dark about my perfume passion and I don't have a vanity (1) where I'd display all the bottles so she didn't know and upon seeing the bottle, she said Whoa, a Chanel, that had to be incredibly expensive, can you afford that, blah, blah. The legend, again. Mom kept borrowing it all holiday long and then I said If you like it, keep it. She did – now it's displayed on her vanity and as far as I can see, totally unused because it's The Chanel That Need to be Saved for Better Occasions. I think I'll steal it away from her.

I do like No. 5. There were gossips circulating that starting with 2010, amounts of jasmine would be regulated stricter and since jasmine is one of No. 5's main constituents, I wanted to stash up.
I was aware of the 1997 limited edition, prepared in cooperation with Andy Warhol Foundation and I happened to bump upon one and bought it. So, now, I'm one of the 27 000 people who own it.

See, numbered.

I expected that the whole package would be in the Warholesque style. Like, the inner box in shades of pink and some funky silkscreen print on the bottle. I always hesitate to tear open the packages so it took me several weeks to actually dare and to my disappointment, in the pink box, there was a booklet with some information on this special edition... and the plain ole white Chanel outer box which contained the plain ole two-part inner box.

There's even no pink silkscreen print on the bottle. No fun at all although it offered itself on a silver plate.

I've re-read the whole Liza Dalby's almanac (2) because I needed some reference for something on the blog which I thought of while finding my way through the snow; go ahead and get the book, it's quite entertaining mixture of gardening and observation of natural phenomena blended with observations of fellow humans. However, upon reading, I remembered: the passage where Dalby talks about having left a bottle of No. 5 on Murasaki Shikibu's grave (3).
The snow changed the general logistics and planning. The dog is buried down in the garden while the ashes of my grandma are still somewhere in the garage. We don't have any family grave, the grandma in the garage could be thought to have been raised by hyenas if her mother were not remembered as one of the kindest people ever. Anyhow, grandma was a thrifty bitch and since it would be expensive to get an actual grave, with some sort of stone and such, she got her parents and the grandma cremated and the ashes tossed in the common ground in the cemetery and sold the grave of her brother which she inherited from her mother. Like, the grave, not the brother. My mother's kin do have graves in those various Podunks and Anytowns and since that part of the family kept arguing and not talking to their parents and siblings, my mother has no idea which cousin or auntie is buried where. And, she's fascinated with cemeteries. She wants a tomb with a weeping angel or sad Christ or something similarly cute. And because people may thing bad of us if someone found out about the different treatment of the dog and the grandma (I'm telling you, the dog did have a better character), she decided to get a grave and make it a sort of cenotaph to all those grandmas. Well, the snow prevented this so the grandma (who wasn't raised by hyenas but behaved like that) needs to rest in the garage for a few days more.

Erm... got a bit away from No. 5. Which reminds me, I have Numéro Cinq by Molyneux somewhere around here. Or, next time?

(1) well, I do. Mom bought me one, reasoning that I said I could use a mirror and this one was cheap and has a pretty mirror and also some cute little drawers. Now, there's a piece of furniture which doesn't fit among the simple and angular birch stuff I have here, it blocks space and it's of no use. Please, folks, don't give me furniture unless you exactly know what I want. Puh-leeze.
(2) whose name I always forget. So, upon some rummaging in the shelves, voila: East Wind Melts the Ice, Chatto & Windus, London, 2007, ISBN 987-0-701-18104-8 for the nice hardback edition with a sleeve in shimmery golden paper.
(3) fiy, page 189

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The Perfumista Challenge - one more update

Should anyone not know what's going on, the information is here and here.
I was occupied elsewhere so the deadline is shifted to Jan 6, midday (1200 CET. Six hours more in New York, eight hours less in Japan or something like that. Find your own timezone, please.) Should some latecomer want to join, do it NOW.

Also, Melissa, please, mail me with your postal address so that I can effectively add you to the swap.

I already have something ready so I'll be eagerly waiting for another homemade perfume.

Update of the update: I've sent out the addresses to the participants so now we have to wait and see.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Best of 2010

My allergy worsened.
Welcome, corticoids. (1)

(1) In other, clearer, words: Damn fucking shit.