Archive for the ‘That's Just My Opinion’ Category

Veterans’ Day, 2011
To my dad, who served in the US Navy in peacetime
To my brother-in-law Bob, who served in the US Army in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and returned this past January from a stint in Afghanistan
To my friend Army Lt. Terry Plunk, who died clearing landmines in the Gulf War
To all those who gave their lives for their country
To all those who served
To all those who are serving now
To all those who will serve in the future
And to their families
My deep and heartfelt thanks.

 Photo is Arlington National Cemetery, by RuthannOC at flickr

(This is a recap of a post from Veteran’s Day, 2009.  It’s still true.)

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The first thing you need to know before you read this review is what I thought of the two earlier perfume-review books by these authors: I own both, frequently refer to them, and occasionally read them for fun and enjoyment, finding the snarky reviews as naughtily delightful as the lyrical ones are angelically so. My early forays into perfume sampling were in some cases guided by Perfumes: The Guide, with mixed results. I would never have ordered a sample of Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete – which has been on my Top Three All-Time list ever since – without reading Dr. Turin’s description of it as being “something close to perfection, rich, radiant, solid”. On the other hand, I’m not quite ready to forgive him for the rave review of S Perfumes 100% Love, which I hated. And I’m not even going to talk about Secretions Magnifiques, which positive review had any number of perfume fans preparing to come after him in a mob bearing torches and pitchforks.  Suffice it to say that as a strict guide to perfume choice, the earlier books were as controversial as they were helpful.  I’m writing this book review from the perspective of one familiar with the authors’ earlier works, as it’s my belief that most of my blog readers will also be familiar with them.

If, by some chance, readers are not familiar with the authors and/or their previously published fragrance review books, here are a few facts: Dr. Luca Turin has a PhD in biophysics, has spent many years studying olfactory science, and authored The Secret of Scent. Tania Sanchez is a writer and perfume aficionado well-known for her reviews on MakeupAlley. The two are married. For more information, please read this interview with the authors on Now Smell This, dating back to shortly after the first edition of Perfumes: The Guide was published in 2008.

The new, hardcover book is slender and handsome, measuring about 8 ¼” by 4 ¾”, with an attractive black dust jacket embellished with white. The endpapers are bright pink, an elegant 1950s-retro color combination that makes me, for one, smile. The book is 107 pages long, including indices, and includes the following features:


Authors’ Note states that they “judge formula changes based on side-by-side tests of previous years’ bottles and new samples, direct from the firms whenever possible.”

A new Foreword by Tania Sanchez points out that “the fragrances reviewed in this book are not the greatest of all time – instead, they are those that struck us as far above their peers in quality, inventiveness, or straightforward beauty when we surveyed nearly 1900 during the writing of Perfumes: The A-Z guide,” and also that this smaller book eliminates the one-line, snarky reviews for which the authors caught so much ire in earlier editions. (The two-word review for Paris Hilton’s Can Can comes to mind here: “Can it.”) I’m glad to see that the reviews that remain are all thoughtful, well-expressed, and darned helpful if you are trying to place a fragrance along the timeline of historical development, or trying to figure out its structure.

The bulk of the book is, of course, the Perfume Reviews. Essentially, this book is comprised of the five-star reviews from the earlier, lengthier editions, with updates for the 2011 version of those fragrances wherever e possible. Some of these fragrances – usually due to IFRA restrictions on raw materials – are no longer the works of magnificence that the authors felt that they were in 2007. Many of the reformulated scents, about 40%, have 2011 updates. I’ll list a few for you here: Guerlain Apres l’Ondee, Chanel Bois des Iles, Chanel Cristalle, Dior Diorella, Robert Piguet Fracas, Guerlain Habit Rouge, Jean Patou Joy parfum, Chanel No. 5 edt and parfum, Yves St. Laurent Opium, Dior Poison Guerlain Shalimar, Caron Le Troisieme Homme. Nearly all the reviews for fragrances known as “classics” do have updates. I was extremely pleased to see – finally! – a dissenting opinion from Ms. Sanchez following Dr. Turin’s rave review of Etat Libre d’Orange’s divisive scent Secretions Magnifiques. I’ll quote that one for you here (and only that one update, since I don’t want to discourage sales to curious people).

[Secretions Magnifiques] 2011: Smells exactly the same. For the record, there always should have been a dissenting view from me on this one: one star, absolutely revolting, like a drop of J’Adore on an oyster you know you shouldn’t eat. Whatever you do, do not allow any to touch your nose when you smell it off a paper strip. I know Luca is a convincing proselytizer, but trust me.

(Amen, sister. Not for nothing is this fragrance generally known among my perfumista friends as Secretions Gagnifiques…)

The authors also note that some of their chosen fragrances have now been discontinued, such as Theo Fennell Scent and L’Artisan Vanilia. Further, the few already-discontinued scents reviewed in the original, such as Le Feu d’Issey and Yohji Homme, are noted as still being discontinued.

Following the reviews, there is a section written by Luca Turin on the Osmotheque, the only perfume museum in the world. It stores and displays discontinued fragrances of “artistic significance,” and allows visitors to smell samples of these otherwise-unavailable joys. The Osmotheque was founded by perfumer Jean Kerleo and is currently directed by Patricia de Nicolai (who created my dear darling Le Temps d’une Fete, included in The Hundred Classics). Dr. Turin suggests that the Osmotheque should sell their reconstructed beauties, with “no reference to the original name, compounded according to the proper formula. The aficion will know its own. Label each bottle with a skull and crossbones and the warning ‘Do not put on skin’ to avoid IFRA trouble. Maybe if they did this they would shame the brands into reintroducing classic fragrances. I’m not holding my breath, not least because I need to sniff my strip of Iris Gris.” I agree. I do love my 1970s Coty Emeraude parfum de toilette, but I’m sure the recreation of the original parfum would put it to shame.

The Osmotheque section includes reviews of four scents only smellable in original (recreated) form at the museum: Coty L’Origan, Coty Chypre, Coty Emeraude, and Jacques Fath Iris Gris. I’d love to compare the Osmotheque’s version of Coty Chypre (not, you understand, the 1980s eau de toilette rerelease, which is pleasant enough) to my DSH Perfumes version of Chypre, which takes my breath away. And Dr. Turin also touches on the reason I love Emeraude so much: “the two halves of the fragrance [minty-fresh topnotes and lavish oriental accord] are so carefully welded together that they form a single deep saturated, transparent hue, not so much an emerald as the name would suggest, more the green starboard light of a ship gliding by in the dark.” I’d have put it more simply: to me, Emeraude smells like itself, top to bottom, all the way through. You can remark on its similarity to Shalimar, but Emeraude does not smell like Shalimar, it smells like Emeraude – a warm, smiling, bosomy presence, plush but clear.

The section following discusses Sources used by the authors to obtain samples: the Osmotheque, samples sold online, major brands, niche firms, specialty retailers such as Lucky Scent and Aedes de Venustas, department stores, and independent decanters such as The Perfumed Court. The authors also recommend, for perfumery raw materials, exploratory kits from The Perfumer’s Apprentice.

The last few pages are made up of a Glossary, Top Ten Lists, and an Index of Brands (fragrances listed by perfume house). These should look familiar to you if you’ve read the earlier books, except that I don’t remember seeing the “Desert Island” lists of each author before, and that was a fun read.

As I mentioned before in the “book review coming” post, I very much doubt that anyone who owns either of the two previous books will find it necessary to own this one as well. The material in it that you haven’t read before is good stuff, from Foreword to updates to Desert Island lists.  However, if you haunt the perfume blogs as I do, you probably already know that, for example, Diorella has been messed with recently, as have most of the classic Dior fragrances – and not for the better (except perhaps Poison, which probably needed to go on a diet, at least by my standards). You probably already know that IFRA has forced changes to the classic Chanels, and although they seem thinner and lack the lovely sandalwood of yore, the reformulations are still in the spirit of the earlier fragrances. You probably already know that Guerlain’s reformulations of their classics are uneven, with a few smelling slightly better these days due to a rebalancing of the formula, a few fragrances noticeably different but still very good, and a few having had the soul stripped from them.

I’d love to keep this book, but I have plans for it: I’m giving it to my local library. That’s my advice for those of you who are still wondering whether you need a copy: buy one (or two, or four), skim it lightly for the new bits, and then give it as a gift to people who are completely nonplussed as to why you love perfume. Buy a copy for your local library – or for your favorite sales associate, if you are so lucky as to have one of those. It’s short enough to be a quick and entertaining read even for people who have little interest in fragrance, and compelling enough to, perhaps, change that.

Not to mention, I want to encourage supporting people who write about perfume for a living. The book is fairly inexpensive, at $18.00 retail and $12.24 at Amazon.   It will be released on October 27, 2011, exactly a week from today, and it is possible to preorder it.  (Please note, if you go to Amazon, the associated reviews are actually for Perfumes: the A-Z Guide, which confused me momentarily.) A publicity copy was provided to me for review from Viking, free of charge.  Please note: Reader Nina clarifies for us that authors receive better royalties when books are purchased from independent booksellers than they get when we order from Amazon (and, presumably, other online sellers).  Keep that in mind when making a decision to buy books.

Also see Dimitri’s review of The Little Book of Perfumes at Sorcery of Scent.  (I love his blog pictures.)  Book image from Viking.

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You know this is going to be available in a few days, right?  you have heard of this, right?  No?  It’s a trimmed-down, sometimes-updated version of the behemoth collection of Turin&Sanchez reviews we all love to hate/hate to love, plus reviews of four classics only smellable at the Osmotheque in recreated original form (Coty Chypre, L’Origan, Emeraude, and Fath Iris Gris).  Read more about it here, if you want more explanation.

I’ll review it here this week.  I have a publicity copy right here in my hot little hands, and I’ll dish the dirt for you.  The short version: if you’ve already got Perfumes: The Guide in hardback, or Perfumes from A to Z in paperback, you probably don’t need it.  If you’re me (and you own both books), you’ll probably want it anyway.  Just because.

I shamelessly lifted the image of the book from Now Smell This.


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Image from Makeup Files

Many times in the past, I’ve ranted that I hate loud perfume. Hate it, abhor it, despise it… and therefore I never apply perfume such that I can be smelled at farther than a distance of about five feet. My usual preferred wafting distance is about three feet, but every now and then I come across a particularly radiant scent that, however carefully applied, leaves goodly sillage. Of that kind of thing, I just use less than my usual moderate amount.

Not everyone is so thoughtful.

A couple of weeks ago, during a trip to the Wal-Mart to pick up a few groceries and a new bike helmet for Gaze, whose head is relatively large for his size, we were olfactorily assaulted by a woman pushing her shopping cart a good 18-20 feet away from us. This lady was completely doused in Youth Dew, a heavy-hitter of the first order.

(Wearers of Youth Dew, fear not, this is not going to turn into a diatribe. At least, I’ll do my best.) I hate Youth Dew. As a child, I smelled it frequently on ladies at church, and at concerts, and out shopping with my mother. I didn’t like it then, and I still don’t like it. Just last month, I rechecked it at the Estee Lauder counter at the mall, just to make absolutely positively sure that my tastes haven’t changed with regards to YD. I put the teeniest spritz I could manage on a tester strip and then swiped the paper across the back of my hand, figuring I could wash it off easily there. But no go, I still hate the stuff. It smells dusty-oily and cloying to me, just horrid.

If I look at the list of fragrances I have found hideous over the years, they’d include these: Youth Dew, Opium, Obsession, Poison, and Angel. What do these have in common? Well, the first three are hefty balsamic orientals, Poison is a hefty floral-oriental, and Angel is… lessee… perhaps we could call it a huge, stonking gourmand fougere. Further, each one of them is radiant beyond all belief, with a nuclear half-life, with as much personality as Ethel Merman or Liberace, and with a similar attention-grabbing persona.


My further question is, do I hate these because they are Perfumery’s Big Guns – or do I hate them because so many wearers apply too much? This is still the chicken-or-egg question. I know that frequently people who have a signature scent lose the ability to smell the fragrance at the levels that others can smell it, and accordingly, overapply. Also, I think I have to take the position that people who choose these hefty, radiant, personality-plus fragrances really love to smell them, and assume that everyone else loves those scents as well.

It’s not that I only like quiet, unassuming fragrances myself. I sometimes like a big wafter – for example, L’Arte di Gucci, or Carnal Flower. I mostly liked Portrait of a Lady, which is every bit as radiant as Opium. But I like these on a small scale, a drop or two at a time, not at levels that could choke a moose.

I’m dying to know why I never smell someone from fifteen feet away wearing something I love. Why aren’t these Floating-Clouds-of-Fragrance people wearing, I dunno, Cuir de Lancome? Or Chanel No. 5 parfum? Or Hanae Mori, another wafty one, for that matter? I would adore to bump into someone wearing a little mist of, say, Agent Provocateur or Alahine. (Alahiiiiiine, yum.) I once had a boss that wore something quite lovely, and while you couldn’t smell her down the hall, she did leave a tiny trail of delicious scent behind her. Other than that, I never seem to smell something lovely on the air.

I know it takes all kinds to make a world, and I’m sorry if I’ve stepped on toes today. Anybody want to weigh in on this issue? Have you ever suspected, or been told outright, that you’re wearing too much perfume? Whether you love the Sillage Monsters or hate them, whether you like big sillage or hate it, please share.

See also this blog post on people wearing too much perfume. I disagree with the blogger that church should be a totally fragrance-free zone, but (as I mentioned a few paragraphs up) I’ve certainly been smacked about the nostrils while sitting in a pew, so she does have a point. Mine is just – “Please, don’t give non-perfumistas reason to hate us. Wear something that smells really good, and unless you’re in a spot where you can let loose without bludgeoning people, be discreet.”

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By which I mean “the so-called big city,” with exaggerated finger air quotes and nudges and winks and elbows to the ribs, and it’s only big city if you live in Podunksville, as I currently do. This afternoon, I dropped off the rest of my family at the minor league ballpark and headed off for some mall sniffies. I enjoy revisiting the place where I grew up. Roanoke, VA is not big. Nor is it particularly citified, although it does contain several places I wouldn’t dare to drive through at night – especially not in my minivan with its “Virginia – Farming since 1614” license tags. But compared to where I live now, it’s “big city.”

Roanoke is approximately 50 miles from my house, and a good thousand feet lower in elevation. Consequently, it’s on average a good five degrees cooler here. Today, it was 93 F in Roanoke, and humid. The other thing about Roanoke is that it’s a valley surrounded by mountains, and the mountains hold the heat/humidity/air pollution in, so it can get really, really muggy. It was so today, with the mountains blue and hazy, and the air nearly wet enough to wring out.

Roanoke is where The CEO went once a year when he was a kid, to buy school shoes. His mother would bundle him and his sisters into the Plymouth in August, and they’d drive downtown to Thom McAn and buy one pair of leather shoes for each child. (Digression: Remember those days? I do. But I have weird feet, and my mother took me to Julien’s instead because they sold “corrective instep” Stride-Rite shoes. My first pair of school shoes I can see in my mind’s eye right now: dark red leather lace-up shoes, with a leather sunburst applique starting where the laces began and pointing toward the toe. I loved them. In first grade I owned a pair exactly the same, except in dark blue. I wore skirts to school, or corduroy pants, and was probably in third grade before I even owned a pair of jeans… I don’t think any of my children have ever worn anything other than sneakers to school. Ever. EVER.) The Thom McAn store downtown closed seventeen years ago. But Julien’s is still a going concern, catering to people with unusual footwear needs.


"Cross Creek Mall" from Wikimedia Commons

And there’s a mall; it contains a Sears, a Belk, a JCPenney, and a Macy’s. Belk and Macy’s have fragrance counters (oddly, Belk has a larger selection of men’s fragrances than Macy’s does). Bath & Body Works, where I’d gone to restock my sister’s bathroom shelves with Aromatherapy Lavender Vanilla body products, is closer to Macy’s. So I went a-merrily sniffing down the aisles at Macy’s.

The revelation: I’ve been spoiled by niche and indie perfumery. I’ve come to expect that the scents I plan to drop cash on be mostly natural-smelling, coherent, free of nasty chemical surprises, and interesting. That combination is difficult to find in many mainstream fragrances.

So the sniffery goes like this: I walk into Macy’s, right past the big display of Thierry Mugler Angel, the fancy lopsided star bottles. There’s no “fragrance counter” here, rather a little stand for the register and miscellaneous stuff the SA’s need, and several tall freestanding shelves, upon which are placed the stock of the fragrance department. These are the fragrances I see on the shelves:

Beyonce Heat and Heat Wave

Burberry Brit, Touch, and Gold

Bvlgari Omnia, Omnia Green Jade, Omnia Amethyste, and Blv II

Calvin Klein Eternity, Euphoria, Obsession, Beauty, and cKOne

Chanel No. 5 (in edt, edp and parfum as well as body products), Allure, Chance, Chance Eau Fraiche, Chance Eau Tendre, Coco, Coco Mademoiselle

Christian Dior J’Adore and L’eau Cologne Florale

Coach Eau de Toilette and Eau de Parfum, Coach Poppy

Dolce et Gabbana original Dolce et Gabbana, Light Blue, The One, and Rose The One

Donna Karan Cashmere Mist and Be Delicious

Ed Hardy Hearts and Daggers, Love & Luck, and something else I don’t remember now

Elizabeth Arden 5th Avenue and Mediterranean

Gucci Flora, Guilty, and Gucci Eau de Parfum

Guerlain Shalimar (only the EdT)

Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey, L’Eau d’Issey Florale

Jessica Simpson Fancy, Fancy Love, and Fancy Nights, as well as the new I Fancy You

Juicy Couture original Juicy Couture, Viva la Juicy, and Couture Couture

Katy Perry Purr

Lancome Tresor, Tresor in Love, Poeme, Magie Noire, Hypnose, Magnifique, and Miracle

Marc Jacobs Lola and Daisy, and Daisy Eau So Fresh (gag me with a plastic SPOON, words cannot possibly express how much I hate that name, even though I still have a fondness for Daisy)

Paloma Picasso

Paris Hilton Siren, Just Me, and CanCan

Prescriptives Calyx

Queen Latifah Queen and Queen of Hearts

Ralph Lauren Romance and Romance Always Yours

Thierry Mugler Angel, Angel Innocent, Alien, and Cologne

YSL Parisienne and Opium

It’s been, oh, ten months or so since the last time I was in Macy’s fragrance department, and it was surprising to see what was missing: L’Air du Temps, Poison, Dior Addict, and Be Delicious Fresh Blossom, all of which I’d seen on my last visit.

The Clinique fragrances are an aisle or two over: Happy, Happy Heart, Happy for Men, and Aromatics Elixir.

Also, there’s a whoooooollle long counter full of Estee Lauder, with testers for every single flankered thing: Estee. Beyond Paradise, BP Blue, BP Men. Pleasures, Pleasures Sheer, Pleasures Intense, Pleasures Exotic. White Linen, Pure White Linen, PWL Light Breeze, PWL Pink Coral. Beautiful, Beautiful Sheer, Beautiful Love. Cinnabar. Youth Dew. Knowing. Azuree. Bronze Goddess, BG Soleil. Private Collection, the original only. Tuscany per Donna. Intuition. Spellbound. Dazzling Silver. Sensuous and Sensuous Noir. (No Dazzling Gold or Youth Dew Amber Nude or Alliage or PC Tuberose Gardenia, though.) I had a nice conversation with the older lady staffing the Lauder counter: she was surprised that I knew what the bottle for Cinnabar looked like, even as I mentioned that I was smelling it because I wanted to know if I still hated it. She likes Estee and Beyond Paradise, herself.


Macy's from Wikimedia Commons

The young man who was so enthusiastic about perfume and helpful to me on two prior visits to Macy’s wasn’t working this afternoon, but there were several SA’s floating around, with offers of help. “Are you looking for anything in particular, ma’am?” And when I said no thanks, I was just browsing and smelling, each one smiled and told me things like, “Oh, enjoy!” or “Feel free to sniff, and if I can get you anything or answer any questions, please just wave at me.” Maybe it’s just in Really Big Cities that the SA’s are snobby… The Belk SA’s are clueless but very pleasant. (I know nobody trains those poor people adequately. I spent a summer and two Christmas breaks from college running a cash register at Sears, and nobody ever told me a dang thing about what I was selling, whether it was lingerie, women’s wear, or children’s wear. Or belts. I once had a customer scream at me because I asked her in which department she had found a belt which had no tag, so I could find out how much to charge for it.)

I sniffed nearly everything. I’ve already smelled the Juicy Couture things, and I think they’re hideous. Ditto Cashmere Mist, ugh. The Ed Hardy packaging just annoys me, so I didn’t pick up any of those, either. I was shocked that there were a lot of testers missing. I didn’t ask about them, so I suppose it’s possible that the SA’s had hidden them, but the testers were AWOL for several things I’d have loved to have smelled: the original Dolce et Gabbana, Paloma Picasso (do I hate it as much as I used to?), Mugler Cologne (does it really smell like steam?), and that new Justin Bieber thingy. Actually, I’m not surprised that the tester for the Bieb’s fragrance was under wraps; they ought to have one chained to the counter.

What I made an effort to smell were largely scents I’ve not intentionally sniffed before: Angel Innocent (chemical custard), Fancy Nights (which would have been better with less restraint – it should have been a big trashy thing, I’d have liked it more), I Fancy You (glorified shampoo), Beauty (rather nice, an inoffensive lily scent with a nice woody cast), and Euphoria (berry-candy-vanilla, somehow not as good as the superbly-trashy Dark Kiss at Bath and Body Works). Also, I laid nostrils on some Lauders I’d not tried, and even that thing that Musette over at the Posse calls Aromatics of Dooooooom (yes, I find Aromatics Elixir hideous). Azuree is just ashtray-nasty, and Spellbound is not as sweet (“cloying” as PTG calls it) as I’d thought, but still it’s fairly synthetic-icky. I also smelled Poeme, which I was unfamiliar with – and I have to say that I was happier not knowing what it smelled like. Tresor in Love was not dreadful, but not interesting either.

And I sniffed some old enemies as well: Opium, Obsession, Youth Dew, White Linen. Obsession seems lighter, and so does Opium, but I still hate them. White Linen still smells to me as if it should have been named Mildewed Laundry: sour, squinty-eyed, suspicious. (Mind you, I like aldehydes!) I resmelled Private Collection, and actually sprayed it on skin. It is wonderful for all of an hour, and then it tries to kill me with that Lauder base. Surprisingly, Cinnabar smells rather nice to me now, very cinnamon-spicy and sweet and warm, but that Lauder balsamic thing is in there so it was also a complete bust.

Youth Dew I still despise to the depths of my being, so I suppose the world can go on turning. If I ever mention on the blog that I like Youth Dew, somebody is going to have to come down here and check my body for signs of alien invasion.


Collection of panterachik at Fragrantica.com

There is very little available at the mall that is rich, distinctive, and wonderful-smelling. It’s depressing as heck. Aside from Shalimar and Chanel No. 5 (and okaaaaay, fiiiine, toss some of the Estee Lauders in there too if you like), it’s kind of a desert. Way too many fragrances smell like other fragrances: Gucci Guilty smells an awful lot like Coco Mademoiselle; Coach EdP smells sort of like Calvin Klein Beauty. Worse, too many fragrances simply do not smell good.

I came home and put on some vintage Caron Parfum Sacre, and I felt better. I sniffed my Mary Greenwell Plum, and my Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete, and felt better still. I sniffed my DSH Oeillets Rouges and felt positively euphoric.

Perfumery is not dead, no matter the state of the mall.

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Caron Poivre, ad from ebay (item no longer available)

Monday, May 16: Chilly. Our typical “May tenth cold spell” has turned into the “First half of May cold spell.” To go along with that, it’s been so wet that we haven’t even tilled the garden, much less plant anything in it. Also, we’ve been having trouble with a) the septic drainfield and b) the dishwasher, and we had both The Septic Guys and The Dishwasher Repair Guy to come by this morning. The Septic Guys adjusted whatever it is they adjust in the distribution box for the drainfield, since the D-box (their term) had settled further since the last time they adjusted it two years ago: $50. The Dishwasher Guy told us that our pump is inadequate and probably should be replaced, and that would cost us about $400. He pointed out that our hard water and water softener and overuse of detergent had combined to cause problems for the pump, and recommended that before we repair the pump or replace the dishwasher, we should try running the dishwasher with very little detergent and a cup of vinegar, on a normal wash schedule, for the next two weeks to see if the vinegar might dissolve the coating of mineral gunk in the pump, because that sometimes works. Cost: $129. I hate Sears. Did anyone warn us about this? Nope.

SOTMorning: Lancome Tresor, modern edp. Which I rather like, but am not stirred by. No encomium from The CEO, either, just “It’s okay.” The CEO left this afternoon for a Cattlemen’s Beef Board meeting in Denver. He’ll be back Wednesday.  SOTAfternoon: Tauer Zeta. I dabbed it the way I usually dab Tauers, which tend to be huuuuge. Zeta’s very pretty, but it lasted only about 45 minutes. Heavier application seems to be in order.

SOTEvening: You know, scent-eating skin has its frustrations and its benefits. Being able to try three separate fragrances in a day, without carryover from one to the next (“Is that the first thing I tried, or the second? Can’t remember.”), is a benefit. I read Angela’s terrific review of L’Arte di Gucci on NST, and it prompted a full-on application of L’Arte. So gorgeous. So demanding.

Tuesday, May 17: SOTMorning was leftover L’Arte,which was wonderful. Worked on the novel for awhile; I keep hitting a roadblock with one of my major plot points, and I think I’m going to have to ditch that particular point, or give it a major overhaul – change it into something else.   SOTAfternoon: Diptyque Do Son. I don’t like this at all. I had intended to review it for the Tuberose Series, but I’m not sure at this point whether I can manage to wear it again. Bleargh.

Wednesday, May 18: Sunshine, yay! SOTD: Penhaligon’s Amaranthine. Yum. I like this one more and more: a milky floral. How many other fragrances do I say “yum” about? Very few, I’ll tell you. Amaranthine is not quite edible, and not quite simply floral. The CEO appreciated it very much, although that might have been because he hadn’t seen me for a couple of days.

Thursday, May 19: The dishwasher is not better, with treatments of vinegar. In fact, it’s doing worse. I’d have thought we’d see improvement by now. However, I’d like to give it at least a week before we ditch it and start over. SOTD: No. 5 Eau Premiere. Nice. It never goes wrong for me, never turns out to be the wrong choice, never fades into the background or tries to throttle me. (Well, No. 5 parfum doesn’t throttle me either, but it does deserve my attention, so I don’t wear it all that often.)

Friday, May 20: Was supposed to be sunny today, in the upper 70s, but no dice: cloudy and 68F. I got the lawn mowed, wearing (reformulated) Arpege. I still wish there were a way to merge the top/heart of the refo with the vintage base – the base is thin in the modern, and the florals are too rich in the vintage. Sigh.   SOTEvening: Cristina Bertrand #3. Nice relaxing white floral thing, a jasmine that doesn’t singe my nose hairs.

Saturday, May 21: It’s supposed to be the date of the Rapture. Jokes about this – how stupid Christians are – are alllll over the ‘net. I’m utterly sick of it. I mean, the whole thing is silly. I do believe Jesus will return and things will change, because he said he would. But. First, nobody, not even the angels, knows when (Matt. 24:36, and yes, I know that if you put no faith in the Bible, this won’t mean anything to you, but if you do believe it, the way this nutcase preacher says he does, you ought to have better sense than to think you’ve got secret knowledge of what even Jesus doesn’t know). Second, I don’t think we can have any idea what that return is going to be like. Third, judging by media reports and my admittedly-unscientific, unofficial poll of status reports on Facebook, apparently everybody who isn’t a believer in Jesus thinks that all Christians are idiots because we all think the world will end on a certain date, with the favored ones flying up into the air like loose helium balloons. News flash: we don’t all believe that. I’m going to stop there without continuing the tirade, because Tirades Don’t Help Anything.

Whew. Rant over.

Bookworm holding the 2011 Girls' Track & Field District team cup, with her bestie Grace behind her, photo by The CEO

Bookworm’s track meet, over the past two days, went well.  Her girls’ team won the district meet with a good margin, and Bookworm was pleased to have contributed to the points.  She’s still making recovery from that sprained ankle in March, so she wasn’t running any of her better events (i.e., the 1600m or 3200m).  On Friday, her 4 x 800m relay came in fourth.  Today, her 4 x 400m relay came in fifth, and she finished 11th out of 16 runners in the individual 800m, well out of point range but with a personal record of 2:37.   Her high school’s district is really tough for distance runners; we looked up the meet stats for the districts surrounding ours, and with that time, she’d have placed 4th in one district, 3rd in another, and outright won another.  I’m very proud of her effort.

SOTD: LeLong pour Femme. This is beautiful – smooth, floral, flirty, sweet, a 1940s pinup girl in lace and maribou slippers. It’s not doing much to counteract my general irritation, though.

I warned The CEO about wearing his Curt Schilling Red Sox tee-shirt while watching the Sox play the Chicago Cubs. “That could be construed as taunting,” I said. “Sure you want to risk a jinx?” He looked at me in puzzlement. “It’s just the Cubs.” Turned out he might indeed have jinxed the Red Sox – they lost to the mediocre-at-best Cubs, 9-3.

Sunday, May 22: Surprise, surprise, the world did not end yesterday, and we went to church with all the other non-raptured Christians. SOTD: Nuit de Tubereuse. Which The CEO had once commented that he found “enticing,” but which I don’t care much for (the mildew, the mango, the not-very-tuberose-ness of it). This go-round, he said he thought there was something sharp, like rubbing alcohol, in it, and he didn’t like it. Come to think of it, when he said something before about liking it, it was in its most tuberosey stage. I think I need to try him on some other white floral favorites; I know he likes original Chloe because he told me so.

We went by Sears and bought a new dishwasher. I may have mentioned that we’ve been having trouble with the DW for the past six months or so, and that its cleaning abilities have gone seriously downhill over the last two weeks… if I didn’t, now you know how long it’s been a problem. The CEO said, “I am really tired of not having clean dishes come out of the dishwasher. And I can wash them myself, but I’d rather not have to.” Ergo, new dishwasher with Big Gun Super Jet Blasting Power, and a separate filter that can be removed and cleaned, unlike our current (cheapie) one. Should be installed next Friday. Also, because the Dishwasher Repair Guy had made a service call, we got $65 more off the 30% off sale price. Still expensive, and I’m hoping this one manages to last more than five years, which has been our track record with dishwashers since we moved out to the farm, with its off-the-charts hard water.

SOTEvening: Miss Dior, vintage parfum (thanks, Tamara!). When I opened this vial last week and sniffed it, Miss Dior tried to stick me with a big sharp knife. I recapped it and shuddered at my narrow escape. This evening, I decided I was just cranky enough to threaten her back if she tried any funny business. “Watch it, missy,” I told her, popping the vial cap, “I can drown you right out with No. 19, if necessary.” Turns out that on skin, Miss Dior is smoothly powdery, strongly reminiscent of makeup, a warm skin scent that I would probably wear for myself. Nobody else in my family liked it (four noses turned up in unison, four Ewwwws), although Gaze said, “Aldehydes. And amber, maybe. And now I smell… herbs?” I still don’t love MD, but I certainly appreciate the chance to smell it.

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Minis in the Hocking Manhattan berry bowl: MJ Daisy, vtg Shalimar, Nina Ricci Nina, K de Krizia, Encre Noire, DSH Oeillets Rouges

Monday, Apr. 11: A rainy morning, followed by heat in the 80s (ugh, steamy). SOTD: Cuir de Lancome, a choice I’m now regretting given that I have another concert tonight. It turned out that no one had remembered to turn on the AC at the church… or open the windows… and it was miserably hot. I smelled a bit like Overheated Leather Handbag.

The middle school track meet scheduled for this evening was cancelled, due to the tornado damage in the area and the 6 pm curfew imposed for part of the county. These things happen, but Gaze was disappointed.

Tuesday, Apr. 12: More rain. All day. I feel like Noah’s wife*.

SOTD: original Nina Ricci Nina – not the modern tutti-frutti thing, but the earlier floral. I don’t remember smelling this particular scent before, but it smells familiar somehow, like an amalgam of the two fragrances I wore most frequently in the 80s: Karl Lagerfeld Chloe, a kitchen-sink white floral with a rich base, and Prince Matchabelli Cachet, a soft floral chypre. There is a pleasant powdery-soapy cast to Nina. It’s not terribly distinctive to my mind, but it is very pretty and soft, with that faintly-chypre hint that suggests that the wearer of this Nice Girl’s Aldehydic Floral could probably clobber her date in a Trivial Pursuit grudge match, if she chose to ignore his ego.

*Joan of Ark, of course. (Apologies to those of you who’ve never seen “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” which is right up there with “Princess Bride” and “Monty Python’s Holy Grail” for quotability percentage in the Woodenshoes household.)

SOTE: Le Temps d’une Fete. After reading Victoria’s lovely review at Bois de Jasmin, I decided not to try something new, but to put on something I already love. Watched “Tombstone” with The CEO last night (hey, another quotable movie!) and wondered exactly why it is that I still find Kurt Russell so gosh-darned attractive, even after all these years. I would blame Disney, but that theory doesn’t explain the Tommy Lee Jones phenomenon.

Wednesday, Apr. 13: Chilly and damp. I am annoyed, and not just because of the weather. The grass in the yard is getting ridiculously thick, and I’d mow it if it would ever stop raining. Also, I just made my 2010 tax-year IRA contribution, and while the numbers on my statement have been getting bigger year by year, I look at the total and think, “No way can I retire on that. NO. WAY.”

Retesting the mystery bottle that Donna (Flora, of Perfume-Smellin’ Things) found and alerted me to: Cristina Bertrand #3. It’s a pretty, gentle white floral. Review here.

Thursday, Apr. 14: Lovely weather. Too busy to mow today; I had errands to run. I deposited donations from our concert, I bought more milk, I took some packages and our federal tax return to the post office. Also, I had to take Eddie Van in to the garage to get a checkup before The CEO takes it on his field trip. He’s got five students doing an honors project, and this is part of it – they’re going to the VA Beef Expo and visiting various agricultual businesses (a seedstock breeder east of Richmond, groundskeeping at Camden Yards, a dairy operation in the Shenandoah Valley, etc.). Anyway, that shimmy in Eddie’s undercarriage, noticeable when going more than 45 mph, turned out not to be “something loose under there,” as The CEO thought it was.

It was a busted sway bar. Thank heavens I took it in when I did. I’m $452 poorer, but safer… thanks to Woodyard Auto.

SOTD: vintage Dior-Dior. Nearly indescribable, but I’ll have a shot at it for a full review later.

SOTE: Diptyque L’Ombre dans L’Eau. Green, fruit, and rose; I can’t figure out why they called it “Shadow on the Water.” I amped the rose with a teeny dab of Montale Highness Rose, and the combo was pleasant and cheerful all through Gaze’s middle school track meet. He did okay. He said he felt nauseated while running, which could have been nerves, or – more likely, IMO – a combination of nerves and low blood sugar. He hadn’t eaten anything since lunch, and he ran at about 7:25 pm. The first thing he did upon finishing the race was go get his backpack and eat a protein bar, and then when he got home he ate a full supper of chicken and veggies and some fruit. His 800 meter time wasn’t all that bad for a 6th grader, though (3:13).

Friday, Apr. 15: The chance of heavy rain for tomorrow is 100%. I figured I’d better mow the grass while I had a chance, but the lawnmower had other ideas. I filled up the gas tank, pumped up the tire, checked the oil, and started out, but I’d only been mowing for about three minutes when the blades stopped. Jeff the hired guy came by while I was messing with the mower, and took a look at it. “Your belt’s stretched,” he said. “There’s no tension on it, so the blades aren’t moving properly.”

Can I fix it myself?” I asked him. He just laughed. So I put the lawnmower away until The CEO can deal with it. There are many things I can do, but my lawnmower repair skills are sadly lacking.

SOTD: Nothing in the morning. I was feeling bad, so I took a mongo nap on the couch. Woke up just before Taz got home, and took a shower so I could go get Bookworm and Gaze from their track practices. SOTA: Dior J’Adore L’Absolu. Looks like I’ve just killed a 2ml spray sample; I have one left. I don’t need any more – there are other Just Pretties out there, not least of which the Cristina Bertrand #3, and that’s a big bottle.

My DSH samples came: some of her Essense Oils Designer Duplicate scents (Chypre, Norell, and Chypre Grass, a recreation of Jovan Grass) and some Parfums de Beaux Arts scents (L’eau d’Iris, Route d’Iris, Lili, and Vert pour Madame). I asked Bookworm to smell the Jovan Grass one because from the vial it smells very much like grass to me, but she says all she can smell is galbanum. “No moss? No grass?” I asked. Nope, just galbanum. Which she hates. She sniffed the Chypre recreation too, and said it smells just like the liniment that the high school’s athletic trainer uses… ouch.

Saturday, Apr. 16: Wore SSS Tabac Aurea to bed last night, as it was chilly and windy and starting to rain. It did indeed rain buckets and buckets this morning, but the afternoon was sunny and windy. The dregs of Tabac Aurea were still there this morning, so I put DSH Chypre on the back of my hand to test. This is an intimidating thing, all steely-eyed witch, intoxicating and dangerous and, somehow, self-centered. Perhaps it should have been called Morgan Le Fay.

It also has made my skin tingle and burn… perhaps there is something after all to those IFRA regs. I’m sure there’s a ton of oakmoss in this. Of course, the oils are pretty concentrated; I might not be bothered by an alcohol formulation of it. I don’t remember having a skin reaction to the other chypres I have (L’Arte di Gucci, Leonard de Leonard). Of course, those are floral chypres, with presumably a lower percentage of oakmoss.

Gaze woke up late and immediately dashed for the bathroom to be sick. Poor baby. Perhaps I had a touch of the bug yesterday? My stomach was fine, but that long nap makes me think perhaps I was fighting off illness.

Sunday, Apr.17: Windy and in the 50s today, but with sun. It could be worse. I gave Taz the opportunity to choose my SOTD from several samples, things I’ve tested before and deemed wearable but not full-bottle-worthy. He picked Lys Mediterranee: “It smells like flowers.” Unbeknownst to the two of us, Bookworm had already picked Donna Karan Gold, and together we were a walking lily bouquet.

Gaze is still sick, poor baby.  I’m a little worried that I’m going to get his bug, too. 

Worse, my laptop fell off the desk while I was trying to hook up the AC converter, and busted the screen.  It appears that the screen is the only thing damaged – I hooked up the laptop to the PC monitor, and everything seems to be working fine – but STILL.  We’re talking minimum $120 for a replacement screen, and that’s if I fix it myself (and don’t screw it up).  I could replace the whole laptop for $200.

Top photo mine.  Photo of Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday in “Tombstone” from imdb.com.

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I’ve been feeling for some time now, over these past couple of Really Cold Winters, so like the 1970s winters of my childhood, that I need a winter hat.

I used to wear hats, usually toboggans, all winter – well, for one thing, my mother pretty much insisted on it.  By the time I was in high school, though, I was a) worried about my hair and b) not very cold without a hat.  Our winters had become much less cold, as well.  So I eschewed hats.  I went through a (ridiculous) Earmuff Phase in college, during which I think I had three pairs of them – a white faux-fur pair, a maroon pair to match my knit gloves, and a fuzzy teal pair.   But earmuffs don’t keep your actual head warm, either.  I’m not even discussing their fashion, um, wrongness.

In my late 20s, I did sometimes want a covering for my head that wouldn’t ruin my hair, and bought one of those hood-scarf thingies to wear with my good long wool coat.  But it’s acrylic knit, and it’s pilly and decrepit now, and, to be honest, cheesy.  I expressed displeasure.

So Bookworm crocheted me one out of some bulky blue-and-green marled yarn, as a Christmas present.  It’s super warm, and the color makes my eyes look pretty.  It also makes me look like one of the dwarves from The Hobbit, which is not an especially good look if you are short and plump, as I am.

And then, last week, there was a picture all over Yahoo! of Queen Elizabeth II leaving St. Mary’s Church in Sandringham after Christmas services, wearing a fur hat.  Immediately, I wanted one.

A fur hat! I exclaimed to myself, and considered the possibilities.  It wouldn’t squash my hair.  It would be warm.  It wouldn’t look like a toboggan hat, or a beret – which always seems to give me the effect of a toad looking out from under a toadstool – or a Mad Bomber hat.  And hats are stylishly quirky these days; not everyone wears them.  I am not stylish, but I am happy as a lark being quirky, so there you go.  I am also well aware that Queen Eliz is not known for being fashionable, and emulating her attire is an iffy proposition.  I just don’t care: I like that hat.

So I went to eBay.  They have tons of women’s vintage winter hats, did you know?  Crocheted, knit, felt, fur, faux fur, wool, velvet, with veils, with feathers… the contents of Great-Aunt Mildred’s closets are displayed for all to see there on eBay, stuff made in a time when they knew what they were doing: hand-stitched linings, smooth seams, everything built to last.

I thought faux fur or wool at first, unsure that I really wanted to wear real fur and definitely not up for confrontation with paint-flinging animal rights activists.  But I live in Hunting Central.  People who spend their weekends in tree stands or duck blinds tend not to be affronted by other people wearing fur.  And I certainly wouldn’t buy a new fur item, but the idea of wearing such an item made before I was born doesn’t bother me.  Contradictory?  Maybe.  What are we supposed to do with all those old fur coats, give them proper burial?  Burn them?  I’m all for banning the continued manufacture and import of fur; unlike leather, fur is not a byproduct of food.  I do feel that with vintage fur, throwing it away would be even more of a insult to the animals that were killed to provide it.

And so I bought a vintage fur hat for $20, a third of which cost was shipping – a bargain, if you ask me, a rescue of somebody’s past, and maybe even a rescue of mine: I have a photo of my grandmother wearing just such a hat, sometime in the 1960s, with a green tweed suit and ecru gloves.  The hat hasn’t arrived yet.  But yesterday, The CEO asked me what I’d like as a birthday gift, and I told him.  “A vintage fur hat.  Oh, and a small bottle of Sonoma Scent Studio Champagne de Bois, whenever the website opens up again.”

He looked at me, nonplussed.  “A fur hat? Where am I going to get such a thing?”  Then he blinked.  “Where are you going to wear such a thing?”

“Oh,” I said.  “I think I’ll manage.”

Feel free to share your stand on fur, but please keep it civil so I don’t have to shut down comments.

Image of Queen Elizabeth in fur hat from Huffington Post.  There’s no official confirmation that her hat and cuffs were real fur, though they certainly look like it to me.  Accompanying the Queen was her daughter-in-law Camilla, who was also wearing a fur hat.  Camilla’s hat, which seems to be mink, was apparently made from a coat belonging to her grandmother.  The Huffington Post article contains a poll on attitudes toward fur; at the moment, the poll seems to be running like this:

FINE:  38%        OFFENSIVE: 45%        LESS OFFENSIVE if vtg/repurposed: 17%

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Saw this video last Sunday at church, and it’s made an impression on me.  Thanksgiving has always had strong religious overtones for my family, and that’s still true.  To whom to we give thanks, if not to God? 

Question:If you celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and you’re not interested in religion, how do you celebrate it?  I’m not being snarky, I’m serious here.  I can certainly understand that Thanksgiving is attractive to people who’d prefer that God just Butt Out Of Our Lives, Please, for various reasons – getting the family together, the great food, the continuation of a tradition, the parades, the football games, the four-day weekend… 

…so if you don’t consider yourself a religious person and you celebrate Thanksgiving because it is, after all, a national holiday, I’d love to know how the day goes for you.  Is it a day for eating a wonderful meal with your family?  A shared cultural phenomenon you participate in because not participating would be weird?  A good excuse to lie on the couch and watch four football games, interrupted only by sage dressing and pumpkin pie with whipped cream?  Not that there’s, ahem, anything wrong with that.

We’re eating the main meal with The CEO’s parents and one of his sisters today, along with some other friends who are on their own.  There will be the traditional turkey breast and ham, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie on the table, as well as my mother-in-law’s  broccoli casserole and grocery rolls.  There will be football, both on TV and outside (assuming it doesn’t rain).  My father-in-law will pronounce the blessing while we hold hands around the table.

I might have burned the pies.  Taz might have made rude noises about the smoked salmon and then kicked his sister.  Bookworm might have yelled at Taz, Gaze  might have slyly prompted them to have started a fight in the first place, The CEO might have disagreed loudly with his father over some element of farm management, or with his sister over the best way to invest.  But I will have spent some quality time in the Thanksgiving Chair, and not even (unburned) pumpkin pie could beat that.

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Why am I compelled to write this stuff? Dunno. Just becuz. Bear with me. There are multiple digressions and/or rants in here, so be warned. Or if you’re looking for perfume stuff, go skim the archives. There’s a perfume review category over there on the side, eat your heart out.

I’ve been rereading my copy of Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange, after having reread Pride & Prejudice. I also reread Daphne du Maurier’s classic Gothic novel Rebecca, and Sally Beaumann’s brilliant but disturbing Rebecca’s Tale. (Are you sensing a pattern here? Do you reread books, and if so, which ones?)

In any case, now I want to go pop in my DVD of Pride & Prejudice – yes, I am a philistine, I like the movie version with Kiera Knightley and the velvet-voiced Matthew MacFadyen, with its near-hectic pace that reminds me of student plays I’ve been in… oddly, I find this aspect interesting, but then The CEO tells me I have near-inhuman tolerance for the stage experience. Wait, where was I? Oh, yes, Matthew Mac and his gorgeous voice and his blue eyes, his prodigious nose (seriously, check out his profile – that is a nose, baby!) and his sturdy thighs (what is it with me and the thighs?). Not to forget that mouth… honestly, that’s the most decadent mouth I’ve seen on a human being since Liv Tyler, and she doesn’t count since she’s a girl.

Speaking of which, it has recently come to my attention that Joan Jett is a lesbian. I know, I know, everybody else already knew, and my just finding out now is a little bit like being the only one without a touch-tone phone: embarrassing, hopeless fuddy-duddy-dom. I can only assume that such information was not widely disseminated when The Runaways (the real ones) were hot – or if it was, I was too young to have picked up on it. At one time I knew all the lyrics to “Crimson and Clover,” but the idea that Joan was singing about a girlfriend was just way over my head at the time. I’ve always kind of liked Joan… I think I knew that she was the kind of person who, beyond her rock-n-roll looks, didn’t care much about what people thought of her, and I thought that was kind of cool. I’d have bought a JJ & the Blackhearts album with my Christmas money in the early 80s, but my mother thought it was subversive, so I picked Barry Manilow instead.

And don’t you dare tell me that there’s no room in the world for both Barry and Joan: of course there is! And for Pat Benatar, the patron saint of Spandex, and A-Ha, and Sarah Brightman, and… oh, there are more, but I’ll stop there. No, one more: Mandy Patinkin. You know, Mandy PatinkinInigo Montoya from “The Princess Bride”? Played Barbara Streisand’s love interest in “Yentl”? Played a doctor in “Chicago Hope” and a profiler on “Criminal Minds” on TV? Yeah, that Mandy Patinkin… he got started acting in Broadway musicals, and he’s got this gorgeous pure tenor voice, as well as a sense of humor. 

So why am I running off at the mouth (fingers) like this? Dunno. But I think it has something to do with NaNoWriMo, the start of which is rapidly approaching. This will be my third year, and I’ve got my novel outlined and planned out, which is a change – and I decided to take it easy on myself and write a romance novel sans cheesy sappiness (oh, don’t worry, there will be mushy stuff – it is, after all, a romance) after the years I have spent saying, “Wow, I can’t believe somebody published this dreck – I could do better with one hand tied behind my back!” Time to put up or shut up, and I’m Puttin’ Up. It’s a Romance Throwdown, people.

This follows the Ambitious Year of NaNo, in which I conceived of the dramatic saga of grad school sweethearts and their tribulations and years apart… and which ultimately I could not figure out how to tell without resorting to the Evil Flashback, or ellipses during which years pass, both of which are stupid. I haven’t abandoned the thing, just shelved it until I figure out how to tell it.

SO. I’d better be clear up front, November posts will probably be thin on the ground, once we’re past A Week of Violets. I have a few reviews in the can, ready to post, and will probably do an abbreviated Scent Diary and a “Howzitgoin at NaNo?” each week, but that’ll be about it until a couple of days into December.

Back to Joan Jett: We’ve got “The Runaways” on our Netflix queue (oh, not for the kids to see, just me and The CEO) because we somehow missed it at the theater… we hardly ever go to movies, even ones we want to see, and those are rare. I have never been a big Kristen Stewart fan, having avoided the “Twilight” movies because I thought the “Twilight” books a perfect example of self-indulgent, juvenile, crappily-written so-called literature (that nonetheless I would have been crazy about at the age of 15, when I had a taste for self-indulgent, juvenile so-called literature). And yet, I must point out that, yes, I did read all of them. I read the first one because all of Bookworm’s friends were reading it, and it would be negligent of me to let her have a book that could engender such huge mania without reading it first myself. I think it was a pretty decent love story that got caught up in wacky, self-indulgent, juvenile, crappily-written trappings. C’mon… leaving aside glittery teenage vampires for the moment, (because I read most of Anne Rice’s books as a young adult and don’t have a leg to stand on here), the ridiculous coincidences and the adulation of the main character alone make it crappy writing. There’s a writerly phrase for the “Main Character as Unique Precocious Genius Prone to Coincidences That Make Her Life Special,”: Mary Sue Syndrome.  You’re Not Supposed to Do That. It’s, hello, crappy writing.  Here’s a link to a Mary Sue litmus test – if you run it for just about any character in Twilight (except maybe Charlie Swann, Bella’s dad), they’ll come out a Mary Sue.  But somehow Stephenie Meyer has purveyed a decent love story, crappily written, dressed up with glittery teenage vampires and muscled teenage werewolves and angsty music, into a BILLION-DOLLAR INDUSTRY.

I really must stop grinding my teeth. End Twilight rant. End digression. Sorry.

Anyway, Kristen Stewart (I’ll get back to Joan, gimme a minnit)… turns out that the girl who played doe-eyed, mopey, passive Bella is actually a seriously good actress. I’ve seen clips of her as Joan. It’s eerie. Her whole body looks different – she’s fierce, aggressive, a ball of energy, self-confident and vulnerable underneath. There’s talent there. This pleases me. It ought to please Ms Bad Girl Stewart, who when she’s not acting is apparently sleeping with/not sleeping with her Twilight costar, chisel-jawed, strangely emotionally-detached British actor Robert Pattinson. (Who, incidentally, has got nothin’ on Matthew MacFadyen.) But I digress yet again.

SO. Finally, back to Joan Jett and her interest in girls. I can’t say I was all that surprised to find out Joan was a lesbian – well, okay, I was surprised for about ten seconds, but it was mostly a sort of “How has this factor escaped me?” surprised, not a “How can this be?” surprised. Sometimes I pick up on stuff, and sometimes I don’t. It took me several months to realize that a high school friend of mine was really more interested in kissing me than in continuing to discuss fantasy novels. Well, she’d probably have gone on discussing Stephen Donaldson after the kissing, but the point was I wasn’t in the least interested in kissing her, and so the friendship disintegrated. I always felt a little hunted and she always felt a little rejected, and eventually we had very little to say to each other.

 The CEO is a little annoyed with me at the moment: I took a certificate of his, where the governor had appointed him to a state board of regulation, to get it framed, and accidentally, um, crumpled it. Oops. It’s not horrible, but you can see the crease. He didn’t fuss much, but I could see he was really disappointed. I feel bad about it. You can’t unbreak an egg and you can’t uncrease an embossed document, even if you’re really really sorry. I’ll have to think up some way to make it up to him. (Call the governor’s office and tell them what happened, and ask for a replacement? That seems a waste of public resources. Ask for a replacement and offer to pay for it? I still think they’ll find it a nuisance. I don’t know what to do.)

I have this really, really annoying cough that’s not going away. Better go buy stock in Ricola, I’m keeping them in business.

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