Monday, May 28, 2012

programming note no.5: summer break

 Cill Rialaig, © Robert Spellman

I'm headed once again to a land of limited internet access, so lights will be pretty dim around here for the next couple of months. I'll be back on a more regular basis in August with notes on new smells and lots more nosy interviews. In the meantime, please enjoy some reruns. I wish you sunny days and breezy nights filled with your favorite summer smells (after-beach skin, bonfires, fruit floating in sangria). What does a forget-me-not smell like?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

scents and a song

I love perfume, but it's a rare week that I change (or even wear) it every day. If you're versed in the language of perfume blogs, you'll recognize SOTD as an acronym for "scent of the day." Two weeks ago, I noticed I wore a greater variety of perfume than usual, so I made a little SOTD list (that it took me two weeks to post this brief list, and that I couldn't even sustain the note-keeping through the weekend proves I will never be a perfume blogger). I also listened to "Same Mistakes," the song above, every single day that week, so it's an SOTD doubleheader. 
  • Monday: Byredo's Pulp. Sooo juicy! I have a sweet tooth for fruits in life and in perfume and Byredo Pulp makes me want to bite into my own arm (in a good way).
  • Tuesday: My beloved East MidEast. Please, D.S. & Durga, bring this beauty back! 
  • Wednesday: Liaisons Dangereuses, the jammy By Kilian dream with a deep plum-colored heart and the creamy warmth of a blown-out candle. This one makes me swoon every single time.
  • Thursday: Rossy de Palma by Etat Libre d'Orange . Elisa (who thinks of SOTD as "spray of the day") introduced me to this gem, a bright thorny green stem and its rose. (My main squeeze says: "A snake in the flowers.") I like the conversation that Victoria and Elisa have in the comments about the texture of this perfume, because even though I appreciate its darkness and "leathery balsamic notes," there is something about it that just shines. Dark sparkles. Sequins. 
  • Friday: Frederic Malle's Portrait of a Lady. What a way to close a rose kick of a week! This perfume makes me want to put on a dress more beautiful than any dress I currently own. I especially love the touch of mint, married as it is to one of my husband's favorites fragrances, Geranium pour Monsieur.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Nosy Interview: Nitsuh Abebe

 Nitsuh in M57: The Ring Nebula, © Subaru Telescope, Hubble Legacy Archive, & Robert Gendler 

My empathy muscle is best strengthened by reading fiction, but there are certain cultural critics so astute in their observations of human entanglements, ambitions, and desires that they light up some of those same empathy hotspots in my brain with their sentences. The music critic Nitsuh Abebe is one such critic, and I relish seeing his byline in New York magazine or on Pitchfork, as it guarantees a dose of generous, intelligent writing that will make me look at music, culture, and human beings in new ways.  Follow Nitsuh @ntabebe on Twitter for the latest on where you too can find his welcome byline. 

What do you smell like? 
A person who smells much, much better than he used to. I mean, I'm a little tempted to try and flatter myself here, and claim that I spent my mid-twenties as the olfactory equivalent of an attractively scraggly beard, right out there among all the twenty-something guys who manage to make being scuzzy and hygienically dissolute pass for being incredibly masculine and alluring. Stale laundry, cigarette smoke, spilled drinks, the slightly irregular shower schedule of someone who stays out late and wakes up ten minutes before he's meant to be at work, and a few dots of some cheap drugstore scent intended to camouflage them all -- so youthful and charming and picturesque, right? But that would be massively stretching the appeal.

So these days I smell (I hope) like a clean and serious adult person who does laundry at a socially acceptable pace, wears a typically sporty deodorant, and has historically had people who already love him and therefore can't be trusted say that his fundamental body-scent is relatively pleasant. Except there was one day when I had to borrow someone's Tom's of Maine natural lemongrass deodorant and wound up smelling like bad Thai food.

What do you like to smell? 
Dogs' paws. I'm really fond of dogs. The pads of their paws often have a Frito-like corn-chip scent that makes me feel all the great feelings dogs are capable of making humans feel. I honestly do not care how much time my dog spends rubbing those paws on sidewalks that are constantly being urinated on by other dogs, and then strewn with dropped and rotting take-out food, and then scurried over by rats fetching the food, urinated on again by humans too dumb and/or drunk to locate a bar bathroom, and then probably vomited on around 3am. They get hosed down now and then, and I just love that dog's-paw smell too much. It actually has something in common with another of my favorites, a nostalgic and long-dead one: the card inserts of cassettes, in the early 90s, when one might still go out and purchase a new album on cassette. That smell was less corn and more flour, less Frito and more burrito. I grew up in the southwest, where "burrito" was a scent category as fundamental as "floral" or "citrus."

Dogs' breath can be pretty lovely, too, with the right dog. (It has to be a small dog, just a little gust of panting in your face.)

I like cardamom, which figures heavily in some of my favorite Ethiopian dishes; a spice called mitmita, which ditto; sweet medicinal smells, from serious-business cough syrup to Red Bull; that candy-banana stuff that seems only tangentially related to actual bananas; swimming pools, and skin that recently in a swimming pool; and the nicotine-stained spot on a smoker's index finger. I like smelling things that are horrible, things that make others say "this is horrible, you have to smell it." (I am not up for "you have to taste this," but for smells I will get right in there.) I have great feelings about the odor of old overworked radiators, especially if they make miasmic steamy noises to go with it, and even more especially if they're in Chicago. The smell of onions and garlic browning seems beloved by more or less all halfway-decent people, but I get the feeling I love it more than average. Same goes for rain, or post-rain greenery, or whatever that smell is -- combine rain and cut grass and I will actually start to feel as if everything about my life is a tragic failure, because my world has failed to turn out as pure and wonderful as rain and cut grass. In college I was completely in awe of an otherwise ordinary girl who'd show up last to intro psychology lectures and sit next to me in back, because her hair invariably smelled like rain, even when it wasn't raining and hadn't rained all month. Rain with a hint of apple. For a while I would stop in drugstores and sniff any new apple shampoos I noticed, hoping to find an explanation for that girl. I never did. If anyone reading this understands the secret to always smelling like rain, please email me. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

oils of summer

I'm not one to rush spring (humidity is my enemy), but it's sandal-weather in Boston, so I thought I'd recommend a few of my favorite summertime oils: 

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse (Multi-Usage Dry Oil): Beach beachy beachiest! You would ideally cover your body with this while enjoying a fresh salty breeze from the open windows of your completely clean, all-white, beachside bedroom. This oil makes an ideal summer moisturizer: it absorbs quickly and leaves just a touch of shine. But best of all is the smell, which I was thrilled to learn is going to be available in a perfume version sometime this month. I plan to wear loads of both this summer, and you'll smell me coming, bringing the beach.

Auric Blends Egyptian Goddess Roll-On Perfume: My policy on layering scents is pretty much the same as for choosing them: if it smells good, I'll put it on.  This light but persistent oil lends itself to layering, and seems to especially extend the life of some of the fainter, citrusy scents I crave in the summer months.  I love how close Egyptian Goddess stays to the skin, and though its warmth and my preferred season for wearing it make the comparison counterintuitive, there is a hint of that beloved cold-smells-on-a-sweatshirt tang to it, something warming-up, something cuddleable and fresh and human.

Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Liquid Soap: I use this castile oil cleanser in the shower year-round (and for my laundry when I travel), but I especially love its bracing chill after a hot, sweaty summer's day. Your butt-cheeks have never been so cold!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Photo: Spencer Heyfron

I've been meaning to share the nose-nuzzle above (from a New York magazine slideshow celebrating marriage equality in New York) for months, and today seemed like a good day: 
"I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry." Barack Obama
That stance smells mighty good on you, Mr. President. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Nosy Interview: Matthew Hittinger

Matthew (photographed by Michael Ernest Sweet) sniffs in The Dark River to Antares, © Máximo Ruiz

Matthew and I met as students at the University of Michigan, where he earned his MFA in poetry, and ran with a group of good-looking poets who really knew how to dance. Pre-order Matthew's newest book, Skin Shift, here, and visit Matthew's web site to learn more about him and his work. 

What do you smell like?
My scent is subtle. People often comment on it when they are in close proximity—in for a hug or to
whisper something—with a “ooh, you smell good.” I like to think my scent mirrors my personality—
best experienced in intimate one-on-ones, not overpowering in large groups or public spaces.

Aimee (my wifey, aka best friend and roommate), says I used to smell “surprisingly like a straight boy” after I showered, but this was during my unfortunate affair with the Phoenix scent of Axe body spray, the least offensive of all the Axes. The things I do for my Phoenix obsession.

Other fleeting scents I've had obsessions with and occasionally return to in various permutations
depending on mood and/or time of year: olive scrub soaps (love olives, olive spreads, olive cream
cheese, so why not in the shower?); recently a German liquid soap my boyfriend Michael introduced me to called Algemarin that I save for “special” days (it's made from “the riches of the sea” with algae as a main ingredient); and a revolving door of shampoos (an awful “citrus mint” phase; in summer months shampoos that promise to lighten or add highlights with natural ingredients like honey and chamomile).

But less-fleeting scents I bear and have been committed to for most of my adult life: a baseline of Dial Mountain Fresh soap; a series of tea-tree based shampoos and conditioners; Arm & Hammer Fresh scent deodorant; and clothes washed in Tide coldwater (fresh scent) and Bounce drier sheets. But most importantly my cologne: Rochas Man, which contains top notes of lavender, green leaves, and bergamot, and bottom notes of amber, mocha, and vanilla. It might be the way it mixes with my soap and other scents, but I love during the day when I can catch a tendril of it rising from my warm chest.

What do you like to smell? 
My favorite smells: that earthy, ozone-y scent of a cool spring morning when everything is newly green and dewy; its counterpart in the fall, when the air turns crisp and the air is full of dried chlorophyl and harvest. Balsam and cedar. Ginger. Tea tree. Eucalyptus. A freshly-poured glass of champagne. The floor of a forest and then the ionized air around a discovered waterfall when hiking through said forest. That kelp-y, seaweed-y, sandy, salty sea smell at the shore. The galleries at the Museum of Modern Art after all the people have gone and it's just you and the sterile, humidity-controlled air, and the paintings on the walls and you can smell the oils and encaustics and pastels and canvas and wood frames.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

shared flavors

Image via

Nosy friend Christine sent me a link to this beautiful flavor network (a portion of which is screencapped above) created by Yong-Yeol Ahn. Read more about how this network was created, and explore the full-size version here. I think it's beautiful to look at. Also beautiful to look at are the three poems linked below, all from past Nosy Interviewees. April may be over, but that's no reason to stop reading a poem each day:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Nosy Interview: Julie Klausner

Julie Klausner, photographed by Ari Scott, in Antares and Clouds, © Ivan Eder

If, like me, you finish Julie Klausner's memoir, I Don't Care About Your Band, and badly want to spend more time in Klausner's hilarious and wise company, you're in luck: There are 60 episodes of her podcast, How Was Your Week, available! The F/M/K column (Please bring it back!) she wrote (along with Natasha Vargas-Cooper) for the Hairpin contains some of the smartest and funniest writing about desire that you'll find anywhere. We should all heed the wise words of Amy Poehler: "Read everything Julie Klausner writes and listen to everything Julie Klausner says." To find out how you can do that, visit Julie's web site.

What do you smell like? 
Jeez, I have no idear. I mean, I WISH I smelled like JOOP! because that cologne seemed fun. So did the one that was just an exclamation point. And Charlie by Revlon. Those commercials were fun. 

But I think I just smell like the clothes I'm wearing, or my shampoo. I hope I do, anyway.

What do you like to smell? 
I mean, 'what do I like to smell' --obviously, tasty things being cooked or baked, my hair being blown out by a professional.