Monday, February 26, 2007

Pink Manhattan Celebrates One Year of Musings

"Five hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes" goes the touching, beautifully written and performed gospel-style song in the Broadway show, "Rent". Well, folks--that's how long I've been blogging here in Pink Manhattan. Thanks from the bottom of my heart for all of you logging in from all over the world!

Today, shout-outs go out to you in order of the most visits: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Japan, Netherlands, China, Australia, Germany, Spain, Italy, Mexico, France, Finland, Denmark, Russian Federation, Philippines, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Latvia, Indonesia, Ireland, Switzerland, India, Ukraine, Hungary, Portugal, United Arab Emirates, Guam, Singapore, Slovenia, Austria, Lithuania, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Chile, Israel, Uruguay, Malaysia, Peru, Estonia, Sweden, Republic of Moldova, Republic Of Korea, Morocco, Turkey, Puerto Rico, Argentina and Poland. A heartfelt hello and thanks to all!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Lacoste Inspiration

Lacoste Inspiration is not the stuff that's revered in elite perfume circles, yet I don't care because I know this fragrance was made to smell pleasant for the general audience of women of which I'm one. Sometimes, you just smell a perfume for the first time and know it's right for you. Sometimes, my needs are very simple and I just want something that smells lighthearted and pretty, in a soothing, calming way. It's rated G as in good! Lacoste Inspiration is a crisp, airy laundromat ("clean" or aqueous-ozonic) type of scent with a touch of juicy (red?) fruit and soft white florals. There is some warmth to it (vanilla), making it a fresh floral fruity Oriental type of scent to me. It wears with a lighter feeling than it sounds. It reminds me of a paler Rimmel London Glam, Gucci Envy Me 2 and one of the laundry linen Incanto scents by Salvatore Ferragamo rolled into one. Seems I've got a Fresh holy grail scent now. Yeah! I'm rockin' with new fragrance loves this month. Happy Sunday! :-)

Lacoste Inspiration (2006)

From Sephora.com: Freedom was the source of inspiration for Inspiration - the freedom to express your emotions to the fullest, to live with pleasure and spontaneity, and to make of each day a new adventure. This optimistic fragrance, nestled sensually in its sky-blue box, blends a sweet, fruity opening with Mirabelle-plum accord and a pinch of pink pepper. A voluptuous, powerful floral heart softened with lily-of-the-valley melds into a warm, gentle trail that blends powdery, woodsy, and vanilla notes.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Chanel Les Exclusifs 31 Rue Cambon

This week, I'm testing the new Chanel Les Exclusifs, a collection of six fragrances that just launched about a week and a half ago. I had to stop and write about this one called 31 Rue Cambon because it's basically blown my mind. I'm not sure how wearable it is in everyday life, but I think it's genius. Gotta give credit where credit's due, so if Mr. Jacques Polge ever reads this, I want to tell him that I, Sali, this one unknown, unimportant human being on earth thinks his 31 Rue Cambon is the greatest, most important perfume of our time. At first spray, it's a sour, vile scent. The same sour, mustard-like, dill pickle-like note is found in No.18 which I can't tolerate, but in 31 Rue Cambon, it's not as prominent and therefore easier to take in as part of the composition. Past the sourness awaits a Neo-Chypre which is an oakmossless Chypre (a Chypre with the absence of one of its traditional key ingredients), but I can smell the structure: the bergamot top on a bed of oakmoss and warm, woodsy, resinous basenotes. First I'm reminded of Caron En Avion, then briefly of Guerlain Mitsouko, and then...voila: 31 Rue Cambon smells to me very much like Lanvin Arpege.

31 Rue Cambon is teaching me a lesson about classicism in perfumery in a big way. You see, just recently, I had come across a post on a forum where a poster asked for a favorite Oriental-Chypre. Because most of us hadn't pondered this genre before (because it's not a genre we've heard of), many of us came up with the closest compositions we could think of to fit that mold, namely Aldehydic Florals such as Caron Nuit de Noel. It occured to me then that Nuit de Noel (1922) was modeled after Chanel No.5 (1921), and therefore, it wouldn't be far-fetched to see No.5 as an Oriental-Chypre with aldehydes to modernize the classical Greco-Roman composition in the 20th century. If my theory is right, then No.5 isn't so much a Floral but a traditional (neo-classical) woody-mossy scent with some vanilla to orientalize it, then finally married to science and technology (aldehydes) in the Modern Age. Lanvin Arpege (1927) which 31 Rue Cambon reminds me of, complete with its warm, pungent woody-mossiness and voluptuous floral heart (made abstract and unflowery being overpowered by the warm basenotes), smells absolutely similar to No.5 as well, because it, too, was modeled after it in the roaring twenties, an era I refer to in my own mind as the dawning of The Great Repression, or the Silent Generation.

On drydown, I smell something similar to No.22 (1922), but the pungent woodiness is definitely more that of No.5 and Arpege--a dry, nutty accord. Why nutty? Is there significance to a woman smelling nutty? Would it have any connection to The New Look and Caron Farnesiana, a nutty perfume which followed in 1947, described on one forum's perfume review as being a scent like looking through rose-colored glasses?

Furthermore, I can't help but think the overshadowing of florals in these Florals is a deliberate act of making feminine scents abstract, or fuzzy, or unclear: in other words, they're as feminine as feminine gets: with lack of any clarity, we are as soft as our heads in the clouds. It's amazing how far we've come when we can analyze the very softness of femininity through scent we're told to embrace, and connect all we believe with the beliefs of the time--a time in herstory when emotional hearts were quite naturally repressed. The beauty of such a scent of time, then, is in the disciplined life of a woman who could repress her own need for emotion, to live the life of one who finds joy in denial. It's the smell of the spirit of the French. Hail, the new No.5 for the New Silent Generation: 31 Rue Cambon.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Persephone Through the Ages

I'm apparently obsessed with the myth of Persephone, so I went on a little search to find out where Persephone's Latin name Proserpina came from. The inspired philosopher who writes for Persephone's Box Blog, Sage, pointed out in our latest exchange that "proserpere" is the correct root of her name (which Sage taught me means "to emerge or creep forth", a reference to the way plants come out of the ground in the spring). The root of her name is not "prosperitum" (which means prosperity) as I'd thought. Another interpretation of "proserpere" is "seed" or "germination" but upon more soul-searching, I found that "proserpere" also means "first serpent" in Latin (or, I would see "pro" as being "for" the serpent). Now, that's interesting, because I've been writing all about that serpent worship in these past couple of months ever since "The Secret" came my way. (Edited to add) In the Orphic myths, the maiden goddess Persephone was seduced by Zeus in the guise of a serpent.

I think Persephone represents the teaching of karma and hierarchy (Natural Law) in a nutshell, whose central teaching is that there is no good and evil but only life. I think Persephone is Proserpina who is Prisni, an aspect of a Hindu evolutionary triple-goddess named Kali, who is known to us under literally thousands of names but she is the same Goddess of the Underworld who rules the dead (creation, preservation, destruction). In the pre-Vedic tradition of Tantra, Kali is represented by the three stages of woman: virgin, mother, crone (this myth not only assigns gender roles but ageist roles as well). In Hindi, the name Prisni means "cow" in contrast (dualist stereo-type) to Nandi's "bull" (although in real life, I don't think cows are known as being dangerous). The parallel doesn't stop there: Persephone is an aspect of Demeter, the ruler of the earth. So, Persephone is the (ugly?) crone part of mother nature, maybe a figure similar to the Japanese sun goddess, Amaterasu, who is all-powerful, evil, merciless and despised for her power. She's female, she's aggressive, so she must be conquered.

Is it any wonder that the men in Roman-Greek mythology days would adopt the teaching of law of attraction and Hindu/Tantric myths (where lovely concepts like cunni-lingus come from, thank you, India)? There's something to be said about the Brotherhood of Man! Is sex and social engineering how men bonded on an international level right around 4th century BC? Anyway, Persephone brings to us many good things, such as being an excellent muse for great works of art, as well as sparking the most interesting conversations revolving around her. She's served our world as the symbol through whom we can find insight into our own psyches (in however hokey a fashion) and try to understand why the Earth is so unkind sometimes, why life is so hard. She's a beautiful slave to her own self-destruction: she brings everything upon herself and takes down the whole world with her. She frees men from guilt, or so her story can be interpreted.

Serpent or no, we have come to love and need her. After all, I believe Persephone is innocent and that justice will come for her through our mercy for her powerless position. I hope to continue learning more about Persephone, a favorite female figure in our multicultural civilization. By the way, if we leave out the crone part, isn't what we have the virgin-whore dichotomy, the childfaced girl-woman, so innocent AND sexy AND so hard to "get"? This female figure seems quite maleable to make her mean whatever we want, and when you strip her down to bare bones, she isn't as sophisticated as she seems. She's just a natural woman, perfect between youth and womanhood, but then she must grow up and leave behind all childish things.

(Painting by Edvard Munch: Woman In Three Stages, 1894 Oil on canvas, 164 x 250 cm, www.edvard-munch.com)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Persephone, Goddess of the Dead

In creating my second fragrance, Unreleased Mix aka Persephone, I have done much soul-searching to find out who Persephone is and what her role in today's society might be. Before there were horror films, there was mythology. Most ancient myths are pretty similar, even the ones I grew up hearing being Japanese. Persephone is a Greek goddess who is abducted by Hades, the god of hell, or the Greco-Roman underworld. This is how the goddess of spring (daughter of Demeter) becomes the Queen of the Underworld. Some say she is originally a Roman (Sicilian) goddess named Proserpina, meaning "prosperity". The twist in this classic tale that I find disturbing (aside from the obvious) is that Persephone and Hades are known as one of the most loving couples in ancient Western mythology. I wonder if this myth is a joke on women, to say, "You see? One moment you resisted me; next, you absolutely loved being taken by me. Now, look at your prosperous life--you get to go on vacation every spring to see your mother, and then for a few months out of the year you get to serve me, your love. Not a bad deal, eh?".

Many people will defend such a myth saying it's harmless (and even necessary) escapism, that reality and fantasy are not really one, even if the creators of such myths once believed that life imitates myth (Plato's "forms" and all that...very much karmic and "law of attraction" in concept). The rape myth is a myth about violence against women, and therefore not a healthy form of escapism to me. I believe the myth is still around to deliberately confuse impulses. The marriage of philosophy and "science" was a big trend back then, was it not? The patriarchal culture of "science of the mind" (or, theories applied to reality by men in a quest for Truth) has brought us many myths that are sexist from the start, because men didn't see women as anything other than extensions of themselves, not real, separate human beings with minds of their own. Why do we defend this myth today, unless 1. we're adamant about being able to fantasize about violence without anyone telling us what we should or shouldn't think (and therefore consequence becomes a non-issue) and 2. if it didn't have some heavy historical, cultural importance or redeeming quality in Western society (and what would that be, exactly)?

If she is a figure of temptation, all she had to do to be a temptress was be there. The question then becomes, was it her fault or is she exempt from fault by being a non-being, much like how some say children and animals are exempt from karma because they can't will anything to happen to them (having no "will" or ego, only "willingness")? I also believe Persephone, being the goddess of the underworld and the dead, is an example of the deadness we as women were to cultivate inside, so we can be supressed emotionally and psychologically, and be more submissive (and willing--to accept anything men do). Are we quiet enough yet? No, not till we're dead enough inside. Are we supposed to continue to cultivate this aesthetic today as modern women? Should we just sit back and enjoy the story and call it "romantic" because it plays on our emotions? Shall we dismiss it all as just another example of mindless, silly entertainment for the rich?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Intense Fumes

What kind of perfume would you think appeals to someone under great stress in a merciless keep-up-with-the-Joneses dog eat dog world? Based on being in a constant "fight or flight" state, with "chill out" hormones rushing through her veins to try to keep it all together, would you say it would have to be intense? I know that during strenuous times, when I've undergone the greatest amount of emotional/psychological pressure, I've chosen the most intense perfumes to wear. There are perfumes I don't reach for on a regular basis but when I'm feeling challenged by life, until I find a real solution, it's good to have perfumes on hand that can be like a friend and vibe with the intensity I feel, to help me find some kind of balance.

It occurs to me that in my mind they're not "sexy" perfumes, yet often the ones I'd call sexy are my most intense ones. Calvin Klein Obsession (especially in pure parfum for Women--pictured at left is the Men's version), Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque, Boucheron, L'Artisan Parfumeur Ambre Extreme: These are some of those perfumes--like warm, secure, comforting hugs and at the same time flexing strength through the dominance of bold, definitive woods. Sweet, musky amber with sharp, assertive spices lead the dance with the soft, seductive, sensual, beautiful floral hearts and together raise these profound, distinctive perfumes to divine status. Sounds exciting? The combination of such extremes might be said to smell powerful and sexy, smouldering, maybe even smell "dangerous". Is it because the strong, traditionally masculine foundation overrides the traditionally female lighter floral notes, giving us a mental picture of the balance between the sexes in a state of "passion"? Or, maybe from a Westernized perspective, the notes involved are Oriental and therefore "savage" or "otherworldly"? "Devorame otra vez" sang the unknown salsera that I had been once. To devour or be devoured...how many songs have been written about such a competitive form of human "love"? Perhaps the language (or the art, or creation) of Romance has married all of these concepts together since the beginning of its incarnation.

If those perfumes I listed are too heavy and spicy, for a similar theme but tamer, I'd recommend Guerlain L'Instant, Gucci Rush, Burberry London (the original is my preference) and the beautiful and strange Guerlain L'Heure Bleue, like a grown up whisper of sugar and spice and everything nice. It's never "too much"; the legendary oh-so-French creation is true to its classical form--hot 'n sexy as controlled and disciplined as it's permitted to be, and somehow never quite losing its innocent, nostalgic, beguiling natural charm. Oh, and it's plenty weird and musty but I like it. I also find certain Florals assertive, powerful and intense, although they are comparatively softer than the woody sisters, and these rebellious beauties break the rules by letting the lush, emotional floral hearts take center stage: Givenchy Amarige, Gale Hayman Delicious, Giorgio Beverly Hills, Estee Lauder Beautiful, Perry Ellis Woman, Robert Piguet Fracas and Schiaparelli Shocking. I would add to the list an unforgettably intense Chypre named Balenciaga Talisman--it's hard to imagine anything more intense than that sometimes, and it's quite gorgeous if you can handle a fair amount of leather.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Classic Misogyny

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary
Main Entry: mi·sog·y·ny
Pronunciation: m&-'sä-j&-nE
Function: noun
Etymology: Greek misogynia, from misein to hate + gynE woman -- more at QUEEN

: a hatred of women

Learn more about misogyny.