my occasional musings on life, love, art, perfume ... what else is there?


Spiced Peaches

I'm making peach butter (many thanks to Natalia for her recipe) and it's making the place smell like one of my favorite memories.

Not the grandmotherly type, Edythe Eloise was still a wonderful cook. Almost as if she made up for her lack of motherliness with a determined hand in the kitchen.

I will never forget Sunday dinner with her southern-style, dipped-in-buttermilk, heavily-breaded, deep-fried chicken, green-gone-to-gray stringbeans soaked in bacon fat, mashed potatoes with their silken dress of pale milk gravy. (No wonder my favorite uncle had his first heart attack at 42.)

But best of all were pickled beets and the spiced peaches.

I can bring a family portrait to life in my mind, smelling the jam I'm making and remembering my grandmother.

There's more than one way to recapture a memory: as vivid as sepia-toned photos, the spice-sharp scent of peaches.


Taking the Point

My memory now forces me into forensic activity whenever I want to make lucid a vivid event of my past. So the story I'm telling is reconstructed to the best of my ability, and I know it has inconsistencies.

(It is only in more recent years that I've thought complete honesty was the way to go anyway; I used to make much more creative fabric out of my hole-y recollections of the past.)

When I was 15, the Wicked Stepfather was youth pastor of our college town's more conservative congregational church. As a basic component of his personality, W.S. loved to stir up controversy and for that reason alone, I believe, decided to take the youth group on a field trip to the Chicago Theological Seminary in the later 1960s.

At that time, Liberation Theology with its emphasis on social activism, was gaining ground among daring young seminarians,and a mixture of this philosophy, woven into the fabric of theistic existentialism, was what our tender young minds were exposed to during that intense three days.

I think W.S. got more than he bargained for ... and, in hindsight, I bet he had some explaining to do when the youth of the church returned and started spouting some of the revolutionary rhetoric in which we had been immersed.

What I remember most strongly is the intensity and monk-like quality of the young men who were teaching us. We were staying in what seemed like a monastery, communal living with barracks-type beds and awful food served at long tables.

There were about 12 of us ... probably seven girls, five boys. And there was much stirring and twitching when the lectures started.

But I was transfixed. They were telling us that our lives, intrinsically meaningless in their raw state, could be fashioned into sharp tools for the advancement of God's purpose. We must learn to take risk in this regard, to put ourselves at the front line, to "take the point."

There was a symbol for this: an arrow shape struck through with a perpendicular line. Its meaning was that one should seek to be at the point, in the avant garde, on the frontlines, doing battle for God.

The context of that (and this?) time was that we should fiercely battle injustice wherever we found it (remember that this is the time period immediately before the Chicago Convention and I would imagine some of the seminary's denizens were much caught up in that violence).

These earnest young men taught that true faith involved action, and sacrifice ... and only these would result in our redemption.

Adolescent intellects were expected to absorb CliffNote distillations of Kierkegaard and Tillich and Barth. I cannot render meaning for you out of the faded memory of those lectures. I most remember the tone, and the intensity, and the certainty.

That we could make meaning out of nothing, that this was God's wish for us, that we were soldiers in an ongoing war, and that if we denied our role in this war, we were lost.

It is only at this moment that I realize how much this sounds like the doctrinaire teaching of the Muslim imams, readying their own soldiers for war against the infidels.

But I was in America. And although after three days I was filled with the spirit, the process of diluting the message had already been implemented by W.S., who hadn't realized the contents of the box he had opened.

Reimmersed back into a world of clothes, boys, music and makeup, it didn't take me long to forget the impassioned speeches of the young men, however attractive I had thought they were at the time.

But imagine if there were no diversion of a prevalent culture to dilute the message. Imagine if the message itself was the prevalent culture, and truly seemed the way up and out.

Then you get a glimpse of how a teenager could strap a bomb onto his body, make his bravado tape of farewell and, welcoming redemption, step into a crowded marketplace and toggle a switch.


A Tough Day for Pluto

One morning you wake up, and you're relegated to dwarf status.

Isn't this really a warning to us all?

This is Anton von Leeuwenhoek.

In honor of Goatman, I publish this drawing of Anton von Leeuwenhoek, discoverer of the microscope, and what really is in the plaque on your teeth.


Now, go floss.


This is Zrínyi Miklós.

Ariel, are you high???? This guy looks nothing like me! For instance, his hair is much fluffier!


Matisse's Goldfish Have Their Own Blog

Doesn't everyone?


Art of Jenny Holzer

Lack of Charisma Can Be Fatal, Jenny Holzer's conceptual "installation" on a BMW sportscar.


Being...Nothingness...Lone Star

David Horsey cartoon in which the existentially angst-ridden Dubya orders another "absinthe."



I've been branching out in my blogreading lately.

Since entering blogdom, I've read the prominent perfume blogs, including the no-nonsense, extremely informative Now Smell This, the beautifully written Bois de Jasmin and the free-fall, byzantine aesthetic of cognoscented ... places where I know the language, and learn even more about the artform that is scent ...

For wordplay and wit, I read Waking Ambrose, the blog where Doug channels Ambrose Bierce and you'll like it or else ... and, for the most humorous woman in the world, there's Tan Lucy Pez.

Then I also have some foodblogs I always check: Simply Recipes, Veggie Venture and Lex Culinaria.

But suddenly I find myself in places like Pocket Farm and
10 Signs Like This ... places where terms like Voluntary Simplicity and Eat Local are thrown around.

It's a whole different world. These are people committed to "sustainability" and who know exactly where their meat came from, because they slaughtered that chicken themselves. They discuss the most efficient, frugal means of accomplishing existence, but aren't joyless about it.

I admire this tremendously.

Liz and Jamie (of the above named blogs, respectively) are putting their politics where their mouths are, literally. They grow their food, what they don't grow, they make every attempt to purchase close to source (eating local), they preserve that food, they prepare that food. And it looks delicious -- I've seen pictures.

(Admittedly, I couldn't get behind the roast duck, after I'd seen the fluffy white being sauntering around the yard. Hypocrite that I am, that would push me all the way into vegetarianism. It seems that I'm ok with the occasional meat meal, as long as I wasn't on a first name basis with it. That isn't only hypocritical, it's disrespectful of the animal's sacrifice and I'm still thinking my way through this.)

But what got me started down this road of thought was an interesting post Liz made about consumerism as it regards to knitting, a pastime of many of the "sustainability" bloggers. Buying, keeping, "stashing" quantities of yarn, some of it quite expensive. And whether this went against the Voluntary Simplicity ethos.

Now I start getting disoriented.

If we can jam my thoughts into dialectic: thesis would be "I want to smell every expensive perfume in the world, and own as many as is humanly possible."

Antithesis would be: "Humans, especially first world humans, consume much more than their share of the earth's resources. How can I exist in a moral manner, living as lightly as possible, in order that more may have a decent life?"

I don't know where to find the synthesis of this.

On Liz's blog, I posted something about there being a need to build aesthetics into the sustainable life.

By extension, I meant that art, artforms are a human need every bit as strong, as imperative, as the need for food. We need beauty, to create it, to appreciate it.

But art often implies heavy consumption. The perfumeurs are not going to create for free, any more than the farmer can sow seed, break his/her back in the field, harvest and provide food for free.

Can there be a moral ground for consumption of art, similar to that being forged by individuals who are implementing voluntary simplicity in their food and clothes?

Is it possible to live in voluntary simplicity, wafting Ormonde Jayne Ta'if behind me?

I'm asking a serious question.


This Says It All

Many thanks to Wiley's Non Sequitur, that temporarily relieved the boredom of this blog with its illustration of all of us crowding into the narrow road of the "last throes of summer" as the multi-lane "real life" highway remains -- right now -- empty.


Truths from the Horoscope Annals*

You're not cotton candy, babe. You'd like to come off as sweet, light, colorful and casual as spun sugar, but you're just not.

You're heavy, dark, and rich, like flourless chocolate cake with espresso.

Since the main problems you may encounter this week have to do with pretending to be something you're not, simply don't do that. There are times for acting, make-believe, and plain old lying, but this week ain't one of them.

Be absolutely real, without embellishment or digression, because anything less will be so obviously crap that people won't have any qualms about hanging up, walking away, or kicking your ass.
*with thanks to Caeriel Crestin

Today's fragrance: an inadvertent mix of Caron Nuit de Noel and Narcisse Noir ... heavy, dark and rich.


Damn Liberals

Wiley Non Sequitur featuring Ann Coulter in a burkha, noting that the liberal gains of property ownership and suffrage for women probably aren't acceptable to her, given her hatred of all standing left of troglodytism.


Small Price to Pay

Yup, no creams, liquids, gels, *perfume* in that carry-on luggage. And, in exchange, you apparently, hopefully, will not be blown out of the sky over the Atlantic Ocean.

Heartfelt thanks to the United Kingdom and their MI5 for their vigilance. May they -- and U.S. Homeland Security -- be forewarned and forearmed against the evil, malicious minds who keep trying ... and who, this time, failed.


Of Two Minds

Between reading reviews of vodka, searching for the perfect martini ingredient ... desultorily sniffing perfume samples ... meticulously counting calories of everything I put in my mouth ... searching for the best broiled sole recipe ... and studiously avoiding sending out resumes, which was what I was supposed to be doing ... I noticed I haven't been able to write.

I mean, I'm still thinking. It just isn't ringing with clarity and it doesn't come out as written sentences.

What I have been observing is that I am of two minds about almost everything. I am in this strange place where I can see two sides of everything. How many of us have trouble justifying dual natures -- of ourselves, and everything surrounding us?

It is far easier to be philosophically clear about what is right, to dogmatically know that yours is the Way and the Light. It is much easier to defend the "right" side.

But I see no "right" side now.

Why is it that we could go grocery shopping this morning in a pristine, airconditioned store that features incredible selection of beautiful food -- we purchased what we wanted, and came home to a peaceful, intact neighborhood where the loudest noise is the neighbors' unfortunate taste in technopop.

I lavishly used running water to rinse the chard we're having for dinner ... if I flip a switch, the lights come on, the broiler will heat, my computer will boot up.

Why are we given so much? Look at how they're living in Iraq, in Israel and Lebanon right now.

The wars make me wake up and fall asleep wondering why our country, to date, hasn't suffered the way the mideast is currently suffering. I have this awful feeling of waiting for another shoe to drop, for us to be made to pay the toll for the incredible amount of hatred directed toward us from so many points on the globe. Some of it we've earned. A lot of it we haven't. But it won't matter when the bomb explodes.

It didn't matter a week ago when a deranged individual forced his way into the Seattle Jewish Federation, shot and killed one woman, and wounded five more.

The Blue Angels are in Seattle this week for SeaFair, and they held practice flights over our neighborhood. It is too easy, and terrifying, to imagine those FA/18 Hornet jets doing the jobs they were intended to do, rather than making PR runs overhead, on behalf of an affluent American city's summer festival.

I am of one mind as I pray to God that I'm never underneath jets like that when they're carrying bombs intended for my homeland, my home, to destroy my life.

But don't you think the Iraqis, the Israelis and the Lebanese prayed the same thing?


Strangely Silent


Test Pattern


Rabbit, Rabbit!

Happy First Day of August!