Criticize Everything

The opinions of the opinionated. Let's take a look at food, cinema, fragrance, baby products, legal decisions, booze, cars, and whatever else catches our interest.

Friday, May 1, 2009

On Blogging

It looked so easy.

I follow some great blogs, including Pyramus' One Thousand Scents, and CakeWrecks, a side-splitting gallery of baked goods gone wrong. I can do that, I thought. I have opinions. I am a decent writer. I know how to steal photos from other websites.

Updating it every week has been an impossibility, and I salute those bloggers who can post with any regularity whatsoever. I am comforted to see that Julie hasn't posted in months, either. My friend Troy's blog consists of exactly two posts.

Two posts I was working on (one titled "The Singing Whore,") fell down some rabbit-hole in Cyberland and I can't seem to find them. Rest assured, I will find the time to reconstruct my post about that woman who's been undressed by kings, and she's seen some things that a woman ain't suppose-ta see.

Living as we do in a world with female judges, 5-star generals, surgeons and senators, what exactly is a woman ain't suppose-ta see? Considering the women I know, it may be spiders.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Would You Trust These Ladies with Your Baby?

Stinkum Review: Prada Infusion D'Homme and Estee Lauder Sensuous

The scene: a department store in Mobile, Alabama. Two fortyish men, one wears a five-month old infant on his chest, the other carries a very manly diaper bag with the Jeep logo on it. The baby has midnight black hair and almond-shaped eyes; the two men are white. The New American Family from California visits Grandma in the Deep South.

The woman behind the men's fragrance counter read the situation right away, and commented that as dads, we'll recognize a slight diapers-and-baby-wipes note in Prada's Infusion D'Homme. She's right, though the biggest impression I get from that oddball new scent is my grandparents' pink-tiled bathroom, Tucson Arizona, around 1977. Infusion D'Homme is supposed to smell like a man who used a lady's Prada-infused soap, likely the morning after a one night stand. My take isn't nearly that sexy. I smell a bathroom in Tucson: Papa's shaving cream, and I'm guessing Nana had a perfume tucked away that had an iris note. Infusion is weird and unwearable, seventeen things from the drugstore stewed together.

The next woman to notice our little family was behind the Lancome counter. "What a beautiful baby! You must take him out so you can meet women." Let's examine how many ways this is wrong. First of all, don't forget the shorter dad toting the diaper bag: hey lady, I'm standing right here. Or worse, if the tall one is out with the baby trying to meet women, where is his poor, naive wife? At home, pregnant again, wondering if her husband is out cattin' around, using her newborn as bait? If this is the story the Lancome lady has crafted in her head, why the hell is she smiling? She should be yelling at the scoundrel.

A day at the mall in Mobile was fun and uneventful. The husband spilled his hot chocolate all over the Starbucks while trying to spoon-feed the baby balanced on his knee. There weren't any good deals in the Big & Tall section. But look! They have the new perfume at the Lauder counter.

The ad campaign for Sensuous features several model/actresses looking windblown, airbrushed and a bit aroused, each wearing (or half-wearing) a man's white dress shirt. Other perfume bloggers have noted that Sensuous shouldn't be categorized as a feminine, despite its placement and marketing, and I wholeheartedly agree. It's a dry, almost papery scent, with loads of wood smells, dry leaves, vanilla and sugar. Florals are absent, and though the wood scents are strong, they aren't dark enough to immediately read "cologne." Neither does it read "perfume." It's a very good unisex, and definitely a new favorite of mine.

As the two Lauder counter ladies cooed over the baby, Daddy hit his wrists with Sensuous. I'd already tried it and knew I would be buying it soon, but couldn't resist a free spritz. One of the Lauderites looked at me like I was crazy. A man putting on a woman's perfume? In public? She would not have been more shocked if she'd seen me try on a girdle and a Jill Sander skirt. Apparently the clerks believe their own marketing materials, and Sensuous is for a woman. A half-asleep, horny woman, falling out of her shirt in front a wind machine, and most certainly not a man. I concede that just because the Lauder Ladies sell the stuff doesn't necessarily make them experts on fragrance, but a simple sniff of their own product would reveal that Sensuous is far from girly.

Sensuous reminds me of the scent that first convinced me that fragrance is art: Bulgari Black. It shares Black's vanilla base and lack of sentiment. Sensuous is decidedly pretty, but there are no fruits or flowers to pretty it up. Black's shocking first notes of a tire fire (but an unexplainably gorgeous tire fire) are missing; Sensuous doesn't take those kinds of risks. But what it does do is project a subtle and sophisticated dry warmth. Despite those two confectionary notes, there is no stickyness to it at all. Rather than the baked-goods of Angel, Pi Neo or Thallium, the sugar and vanilla sit in a cold, quiet pantry rather than the bakeshop window. Crisp dry leaves and woods dominate.

There is also a hint, especially in the drydown, of a trickle of very cold and clear water. Sensuous is a walk in an autumn forest, so bring a sweater. It smells like the sound of brushes on a snare drum: dry, measured, anticipatory, exciting.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Science Fiction, Science Fact

Please skip this entry unless you're a total nerd like me. I am so excited that science fiction writer Neal Stephenson included Luca Turin's tunnelling electron theory of olfaction in his newest novel, Anathem. It happens on page 590 of the first edition when one of the scientist/monks informs the hero that of course, the nose is a quantum device.

Of course it is!

It grabbed me because I'm such a fan of both men. Turin is a biophysicist and a perfume critic, and his theory of how the sense of smell works is as compelling as his writing about the art of scent. Stephenson, starting with the magnificent first chapter of Snow Crash, turns science and math into great storytelling. Seeing Stephenson refer to Turin's theory in was like finding out that my two good friends already knew and like each other.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Golden Girls, Hip-Hop Edition

Watching the American Music Awards last weekend, I was struck by an odd pattern I recognized in the names chosen by some hip-hop artists: old-lady names for young black men. It's as if they're choosing their monikers from an old Lutheran church newsletter, circa 1961.

Nelly: He's been around a while, and I still don't get it. In gay slang dating back to the 1940's, nelly or nellie describes stereotypical gay effeminate behavior. Pretty much the opposite of this dude:

Another association for the name is the character Nellie Forbush in South Pacific. Nelly's gonna wash that man right out of his hair, perhaps by killing him execution-style.

I'd never heard of Flo Rida before watching the awards, but his name is a hoot. So many levels of (unintentional? intentional?) queerness. First, as a riff on the state name Florida, it's a great drag name, competing in my mind for favorite status with Bertha Venation (that To Wong Foo movie) and Ida Slapter (a drag performer in Puerto Vallarta). Seond, it conjures up bags of frozen potatoes, a la Ore Ida, with which it rhymes beautifully. Finally, he shares a first name with Flo, Polly Holiday's wisecracking waitress on Alice. Smack your chewing gum and say, "Kiss my grits, m***er f***er!"

I was worried that my third example of the oldladyfication of hip-hop was a strech until I visited the official website of Lil Wayne. I looked in vain for the apostrophe that would indicate that "Lil" was a contraction of "little." It isn't there. I have to conclude that Lil is in fact short for Lillian. Lillian Wayne is quite a pretty name.

I bet she makes a mean casserole for those church suppers.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Listen To The Music: Bread and cheese

Welcome to Listen To The Music, an occasional feature in which I'll puzzle out the lyrics of the songs we know and love.

Peaking at #4 on the charts in 1971, Bread's "If," written by group member David Gates, has some lyrics worth a listen.

Question: If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can't I paint you?
Answer: You can, just use water-based paint so I can shower afterward.

Declaration of Committment: If a man could be two places at one time, I'd be with you/ tomorrow and today/ beside you all the way.
Analysis: Dude, tomorrow and today are two different times, not two different places. You can be with her tomorrow and today, so long as she's not still mad at you for getting paint all over everything (see above).