Monthly Archives: April 2020

A TOTAL, LAZY FUCK : SLOTH by ZOOLOGIST (2020)

 

 

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Could a perfume with such a title  be released in a better year?

 

 

 

 

The domestic argument we are currently wrapped up in as I write this involves some truly horrifying drama we had from outside yesterday that I don’t feel it would be wise to exactly write about right now, but which we are processing. My goodness. That came most unexpectedly.

 

 

 

 

 

But even if that hadn’t happened yesterday, the Sloth issue would still exist. Because I AM the sloth. He has just told me. so L A Z Y . Going to bed unspeaking. Sloth residing. The problem being, despite the fact that I have just cooked a perfectly fragrant and edible dinner, that at the deepest, cellular level, I don’t give a  shit about almost anything. I despise it from the bottom of my heart: The housework, the commute, the dishes, the structures, the wiping up and putting the dishcloths aside; the floor, the bills, the drudgery  – I fucking hate all of it. I can’t be arsed. So to me the fair sloth is not a bad creature – it has found the life.   It just FUCKING slobs around. In green spaces. Breathes the air. At its own pace. Hangs from a tree; slowly. Not giving a shit. Chewing leaves or smelling things of just thinking or being sloth like. Looking upward into the sky and knowing how damn boring it is. It CAN’T BE ARSED. And then does it again. And then dies. Would you rather be a cheetah? OR A FRANTIC SQUIRREL?  (duncan’ would). I WOULD RATHER JUST LIE BACK, LOOK INTO THE SUNSHINE ABOVE THE FOREST CANOPY AND PLAY DEAD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEAVE ME. THE FUCK. ALONE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever. ::::the notes are fresh and citric, green and marigoldy; chamomile. hay, moss; sleepy. I sniffed it once, it felt fresher than a sloth to me. A real sloth would smell more hairy, more dirty -=more lazy. but still. probably the best sloth I am going to get in a bottle anytime soon round here, innit

 

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(facetiming with my slothmeister, looking for a new direction in career : it was quite a difficult interview, actually)

 

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– it turned out that I was the lazier

 

 

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Filed under FUCK EVERYTHING

SYLVIA by SHISEIDO (1963)

 

 

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We had to get out of the house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So yesterday we plunged down the hills on our bicycles (all the new green; early summer, just bloomed young acer leaves, ferns, azaleas, wild irises, Japanese bluebells, dandelions)  –  and rode forcefully to our ‘junk shop at the end of the world’ (just like our bar at the end of the world, Der Rote Rose, The Red Rose, in Berlin), which we predicted would be open (and was); unlike, thank god, the majority of everything else  – rinky dink tourist shops;  bars, restaurants, services, even temples, actually  – to my disbelief and great pleasure- – FINALLY!!!!!!!!!! – physically closed. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the last post on here, which for some reason was born out of terrible dreams (I have been plagued with the most terrifying and dreadful nightmares since the weekend, waking up in a sweat and panting – D is a comfort, as is the cat, who always comes by my side and wants to be stroked at just the right moments and helps me gradually get back to sleep again), it was a great relief to be riding on much noticeably emptier roads. The government has asked for  a 80% reduction in foot traffic and people, and it seems that the message is finally getting through. I would say yesterday was 90-95% emptier; the message has sunk in, and in Golden Week – the busiest time of the year-   to boot  – this knowledge put a real charge in my pedal. Some semblance of sanity; people moving like the birds of a flock, together, irrationally or otherwise – at least they are acting – STAYING INSIDE, despite the glorious weather – and not gathering. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My parents told me in their last phone call that they went out of the house recently – my mother for the first time in four weeks – and gingerly went for a walk around the common (my dad also wanted to show her a great patch of bluebells he had found in the nearby woods) – but my mum said that she actually hated it; the lack of people; ‘not even in windows!’ she told me – a zombie apocalypse absence which she found ‘quite eerie’  and which made her quite happy to be back home, door locked, in the safety of her house and garden again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I sensed some of that yesterday, also; it felt odd – but also extraordinarily right. With police cars and neighbourhood patrol cars also out on the streets extending the message I felt slightly out of place and vagabondish  in my foreigner’s unwashed body and hair and my beanie hat and facemask, but it was great to be able to just ride, unhindered, to our local oddity by the ocean and pick up a few fusty and eccentric little perfume bargains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second I walked into Kurukuru I immediately espied an ancient Shiseido boxset, which came into existence seven years before I was even born – but was there in its full, unused glory; a gorgeous conglomeration of the eau de cologne, parfum, and puff puff atomiser – the first time I have ever seen one of these as part of an actual perfume gift set and not as an outside fancy toilette piece; I was thrilled. IRare, unheard of – I got home excitedly to look for a review of the perfume and was amused to see that the only one written was one by myself   – just a line – I had smelled this before in a precious box set of Shiseido miniatures parfums a few years ago, but smelling the perfume like this is somehow very different. This is Sylvia in profusion, in immaculate olfactory condition (and how strange, don’t you think?  – given that I was writing about Sylvia Plath in the context of Miss Balmain and Germaine Cellier so very recently…..)

 

 

 

 

 

For two thousand yen (about twenty dollars) we filled out rucksacks with this slightly ropey and rough around the edges, but divine flight of fancy (my first ‘non-essential’ non-grocery purchase in so long! : a bottle of vintage Chanel no 19 eau de cologne (lovely, when it gets to the base not) ; Molyneux Vivre parfum (an article shall follow) ; a Madame Rochas soap; East of Eden cinema booklet; a beautiful old thermoter/barometer which D has hammered to the wall of the deck outside to further ensure my constant awareness of temperature ; a high quality auburn mustard coloured emo wig (hilarious taking photos of each other on the beach afterwards in masks, looking like horrendous virus-filled perverts); a scarab beetle buried for eternity in perspex, which has gone straight way into our Egyptian Museum like entrance;  a beautiful black and red glass; and a bottle of Houbigant Musc (no, I had never heard of it either) – I wore this simple but very pure, white musk from the seventies in my old hospital pyjamas to bed last night.

 

 

 

 

 

Riding through Kamakura, along the beach beside the waves, nodding sagely (good; good), that the situation, though more empty and bleak than usual,  was at least nothing like that crazy last time when I wrote about the throngs and the magnificent blue thrust above the waves of the snow-capped Mt Fuji. This time, the bars were empty (masked proprietors staring out imploring for you to come in…..sorry, not this time!) ; we decided instead to grab a couple of convenience store beers and have a small sit down by the sea  with Swiss roll and potato sticks (a hawk swooped right down suddenly, making me scream and brushing Duncan’s head with its wing trying to pinch some of our meagre picnic – a friend of ours has had her hand scratched by their talons before; they are quite dangerous and notorious –  ‘eagle-eyed’, said D, acerbically.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The birds  – and there were many of them, as usual  – you hear the word eagles, ospreys, kites, kestrels, but I think they are actually some kind of indigenous hawk – were definitely more interested in our paltry and unhealthy unprocessed snacks than my perfume (which I couldn’t resist getting out and spraying and using the little plastic pipette to convert from the cologne bottle to the fine, Parisian spray, just because I was there and I could. I realized immediately that although I had been a little dismissive of the Sylvia in my previous review, it is actually really very beautiful; extraordinarily delicate, elegant – old fashioned, yes, but with a great deal of soul and temperate comportment.  In my previous mention of the perfume I alluded to this smelling like Givenchy L’interdit – which I definitely also thought of again yesterday; a woody, powdery, aldehyde, musky, orris, jasmine rose; but smelling more of the perfume  – sometimes a real miniature doesn’t give you the full reach and perspective and diorama of a fragrance in full, I also felt the definite influence in Sylvia of Coty L’Origan ; a rich, carnationed, anisic; spiced and effortlessly burnished seriality. And though ragged around the box’s edges, tossed unknowingly in some rusting junkyard along with a thousand other useless artefacts in Zushi;inside, in terms of perfume…………unravaged.

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Filed under Flowers, SOFT ALDEHYDES

THE BAFFLING BEHAVIOUR IN JAPAN : : : ON CORONAVIRUS, ‘DISTANCING’, AND THE CRIPPLING ‘AMBIGUITY’

 

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Sitting on the balcony yesterday evening, I asked Duncan why he was living in Japan. It is not usually a question I would ask outright, but recently, he seems to have rather hardened in his irritation – you might even called it a kind of calcified, internalized fury – about the general reaction to the current pandemic here (which this country only slowly seems to be opening its eyes to; it has been beyond exasperating). He will roll his eyes, or look straight ahead of him in a way I am not sure that I have ever seen before, when asked about the general attitudes and lack of action taking place in these perturbing, maddening;   terrifying times.

 

 

 

 

 

He thought about my question quietly for a moment and then calmly gave a list of reasons why he loves living in this country:  the first one being, quite sensibly, that ‘our life is here’. That is true. It was never any part of any general plan to move to this part of the world, but it happened, and it worked. The refinement, the finesse, he said. The politeness. The general respect. The unbelievable levels of safety (something you can truly never, ever take for granted: until you have experienced this, you cannot imagine what it feels like). The sheer excitement of the cities. The incredible food. The gentleness. The surroundings here in Kamakura. Nature, the ancient culture. The open-mindedness (you could also call it permissiveness, or tolerance  – how else do you think we can walk around the way we do sometimes at night in Tokyo without anything ever happening? The responses are almost unanimously joyous and gleeful: there is no Judaeo-Christian moral judgment). These were just his first, throw-away ideas of why we do like living here; I could add many more (the classical culture; the weird, manic cyber- subcultures, the sheer, visual, aesthetic pleasure we derive from floating through Japan enough to sustain us for many years still to come). ‘But I really hate the work culture’ he said, looking at me firmly. And this, despite the fact that his own school is comparatively very mindful of the wellbeing of its staff and students and nurtures a generally positive environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He is not just thinking of himself though. He is thinking of all the brainwashed fools – sorry, loyal company employees, that have been continuously going into work on buses and trains in the last few critical weeks despite the government’s ‘request’ that social contact be reduced by 80% in order to save the country from a catastrophe ; a very ineffectual plea when people are given an implicit choice whether to work under such an ‘edict’ in a endemically workaholic culture such as this one  (the government apparently does not have the legal right to enforce the kind of lockdowns being experienced in other countries, since the Allies post World War II set up a deliberately very liberal constitution to avoid repeating any nationalistic military dictatorships such as the Emperor Hirohito), all leading to this bizarre, truly ambiguous situation in which there is a State Of Emergency while there isn’t a ‘state of emergency’; pachinko parlours – vile slot machine and pinball arcades,  hotbeds of infection, the domains of the chronically addicted, drop outs who queue up outside them every day in huge droves right now despite the risk of the coronavirus to play deafening automated machines sat right next to each other in hideously smoky environments (the smell when you walk on by one of these places!) their quickminded fingers constantly smearing the screens, always inhaling the same, foetid air……………largely remain open (all the government will do is print the names of such rule-bucking establishments in order to ‘shame’ them, often to no avail – the pachinko honchos, probably in cahoots with the yakuza, couldn’t care less, and the government needs the huge revenue they get from them in the first place); restaurants are still open and being patronised (because how many salarymen know how to cook here?) ; couples and families are still happily out and about – albeit in waning numbers, it was reported today, as people finally come to realise the severity of the situation. Just. Yet it always seems that many –  most, even – are pretending that nothing is happening,  or at least they are looking that way on the surface. ‘We are Japanese, so we are stoic. We have great hygiene. We are above all of this and will not be affected by it in the same way as other countries’ was Duncan’s sarcastic appraisal yesterday evening of the situation. I would agree: I would even say there is a fatalistic ‘if it happens, it happens’ samurai-ish suicide dream packed somewhere in there; a ‘shoganai’ – there’s nothing I can do about it resignation, or else a deeper unwillingness to sacrifice the daily sacrifices in the name of an unseen virus when the pressures to conform in the workplace are so strong that they can override the very real fears that people must have somewhere, locked and bolted deep inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But do they? Really? It’s hard to tell. Cycling back from the local shops to buy some sundries for mealmaking for the next couple of days yesterday afternoon, I was again baffled, and immediately angered, by the complete lack of social distancing occurring; customers crowding round outside the meat shop to buy home made croquettes now it is Golden Week and families are off together ( I wanted some too, but was put off straight away and desisted); most were wearing masks, but there was still no real sense of urgency or needing to stand away from each other; locals milling; no hand sanitisers used by the shopkeepers   (I did, quite boldly, make the suggestion in one place; the lady at the organic vegetable grocer’s, whose produce we categorically rely on – really delicious, fresh produce – made a wry unnn when I said this to her, looking at me slightly dryly from behind her paper mask as though I were questioning the levels of her personal hygiene); I know the lady in the bread shop is rather out of it these days; dotty, forgetful, still wearing her winged, liquid eyeliner and teased up thinning beehive that went out of fashion in the mid-sixties, but I had expressly said I didn’t want a plastic bag in an bid to reduce physical contact; I don’t want my purchases to be manhandled, preferably – in a dreamworld, not even touched; having assembled the things I wanted, I was about to deposit those items in my rucksack but the old dear did have to thoroughly fondle the chocolate with her fingers trying to locate the price tag (she never has any idea how much anything is); the same at every other shop, where we could be picking up the virus from everything we eat. We don’t know what to do: The alternative: cycle forty minutes into town, a busy commuter hub, to bigger supermarkets, with crowds of people in even closer proximity, and a much higher chance of infection – at least up here at the top of the hill in Imaizumidai it is marginally better, or start to order groceries online (have you been doing this?). We have no choice – where else are we going to get food? We have to eat. Even the hapless pizza delivery boy the other night kept dropping his change and re-handling everything and passing it on – there were no attempts to stand away as I opened the door:  as I handed over the yen to him from my  wallet we practically kissed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Riding home, yesterday, I passed by the well-renowned tempura and soba restaurant which is thirty seconds from our house – one of the most delicious meals you could ever have is there for our delightment virtually every weekend; the place is justifiably famous, and people come from miles around to have the homemade buckwheat noodles and incredible mixed vegetable kakeage. But now? Although part of me feels a bit guilty that we haven’t been going recently – of course I want to support local businesses – they rely on customers to keep going –  a stronger part of me selfishly just simply does not want to go into a restaurant. Any restaurant. I feel turned off. Sickened at the thought of it (don’t you?) In almost all countries, they are all closed in any case, so you can’t go out and eat even if you want to. But not here. They close at 8pm rather than 11pm, as though the virus only comes after you after dark, like a virological vampire. Yesterday, in the street I saw a group of seven or eight middle aged men emerge from the premises of the soba-ya and they were all maskless, the restauranteur included; jolly, close together, faces up close, clapping each other the back, having a whale of a Golden Week party gathering, physically close and touching – and I despaired. What is it going to take to make these people realize?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(THE CHRONIC HOSPITAL SCENARIOS! ! )

 

 

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To look at the situation simply, and rationally, is to feel your chest contracting in stress. The fact is – corroborated by the prime minister and every reliable news agency here – that the rate of infection in Tokyo has increased ten fold over the last four weeks, and the country is running out of hospital beds (per capita it has half the number of ICU units as Italy does). We all know that the reason that Germany has a far lower death rate than most other countries is because of the number of intensive care facilities and ventilators it has amassed; Japan has far fewer. There have been numerous reports of very sick patients being turned away from hospitals, unable to breathe; ambulances circling around for hours trying to find a willing emergency department to take them in; like other countries, the doctors and nurses are crying out for surgical masks, gloves, protective equipment  – and this is one thing I will honestly never understand : how the richest countries in the world: the US, the UK, Japan, Italy, aren’t able to provide the basic necessities for their heroic medical staff in these terrible times; why they can’t just jump up production – it is literally beyond my intelligence to grasp why this could be so difficult.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or to let people work from home. Do you know that I am, to my knowledge, the only person in my company who has been refusing to go in to the workplace? Everyone else, unless they have family members that have been infected, has been going in; commuting. This means that when I return, I will be even more of a pariah than I already was (no, I was never a pariah as such, just someone always ‘outside’ of everything; removed, except for when I am in the classroom). I will possibly be seen as weak, scared; a coward, when my instinct tells me that I am the opposite in my resistance: I was brave to stand up for my right to try to not get infected, particularly when, if caught by the disease, I probably won’t be able to get into a hospital in any case. By negotiating with the top bodies, I have managed to reach a compromise situation in which I am able to record lessons at home, for the time being at least, with my borrowed video camera, which is what I have been doing these last few weeks; something I have still to acclimatise to but which is getting better as I get used to talking into a camera lens and not physical students in attendance (right now I have two weeks off, as does most of the country, for Golden Week, the time when people traditionally travel to see their parents or leave the country or go on trips and fill up all the famous places, like Kamakura (the other day a couple we sometimes bump into walking their dog said that the famous viewing platform near our house overlooking the beautiful Hansōbo and Kenchōji temples was thronging with about thirty eager Japanese tourists………. …..the government is imploring people not to do this; every morning we have an announcement at 10:00am over the loudspeakers by the Local Resident’s Association stating that the ‘infections of the novel coronavirus are increasing. Please stay at home’, but it is often to no avail. The illogic of it all is mystifying; physically painful to contemplate.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(recent office workers going about their ‘corona-free’ days in Tokyo, about 45 minutes by train from our local station:: : : : : :  is this your own personal idea of ‘social distancing’ ?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am praying that more people here will start to comply and take real heed. Reports say that the popular hotspots in Tokyo were significantly less crowded over the weekend compared to January and February  – when the virus was already present but nobody gave a damn whatsoever – with the exception of parks (in our local recreational areas and children’s playgrounds, families are also all out together – no social distancing! ; the concept itself somehow just isn’t taking off; it is impossible for people to take it on……………….why?) They are standing as close as they always would. Kids are all running around laughing and squealing and playing in the sand as they always do; yes, the bigger supermarket we cycled down to the other day did, finally, have a system approximating every other country’s idea of reducing physical contact: shop clerks standing glumly behind plastic screens to avoid ‘aerosol droplets’ plastic markers on the floor delineating where each person should stand – probably one metre apart, though – not two; the pictures of social distancing in other countries look like photographs from another planet. It is somehow unfeasible here, in a collective society, a group-oriented mindset where to stand two metres apart would be to look ludicrous. ‘Selfish’.  But it is a start, anyway.  And it might, when I am in an optimistic mood,  be enough to prevent what some grim forecasts say could be 400,000 infections soon if things don’t actually get properly turned around (though for some reason I feel that those predictions are exaggerated, not that I am an expert. Or maybe I just can’t handle thinking about such a dreadful situation) There are already talks of a ‘total collapse of the medical system’ – an expression I am not very fond of, and which strikes terror into my heart; like you, I have read about the symptoms, and the intubation needed for severe cases, and the extremities of the body going black if you can’t get sufficient oxygen to them – if you can even get into a hospital here there are so few beds. It does not sound much like much of a summer picnic to me, and makes my determination to try and stay here at home for as long as humanly possible until the situation begins to improve a little bit  – and we can be safer  – all the more hard-headed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As usual, everything here is complex. Nothing is ever simple. You never really know what people are thinking. How afraid they are, or are are not. I have experienced this before, after the Great Tohoku Earthquake in 2011, a truly catastrophic triple disaster with a devastating tsunami and nuclear meltdown that left the entire population very shaken, but which was met with great (at times mind-bending) equanimity and mental strength that amazed me; people simply refused to be undone by it;  were determined, at core level, to present a brave face to the world. I was both deeply awed, and flummoxed by it at the time; I will never forget it. That said, the current global challenge is surely different. In being ‘stoic and hardworking’  – some of my colleagues have been travelling to and from Tokyo, the viral epicentre, to the workplace, where the teachers have still been having daily meeting crowded together in the staff room (!) with no real distance between them at all  – I heard, from my source, they even closed the plastic sliding windows, in the staffroom, as they usually would, to prevent students from hearing confidential matters – except there were no students; this was pure force of habit, and where I differ: oh yes ! You can be sure, oh you can be sure,  that, no matter what the consequences were, I would leap up – fuck everybody – and dramatically pull those windows  open so fast they would possibly even break or fly off their hinges as I cannot under any circumstances put up with such idiocy, no matter the reactions of my more self-contained, ‘dignified’ colleagues who just grin and bear it. It perplexes. Oh, how it perplexes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am aware, as I always am here, that there are layers of compulsion, reasons for certain actions and behaviours that I am sometimes not consciously aware of. Like a societal onion, the layers are removed; a deeper layer revealed. I learn. I take in. I understand. It makes sense, in the context. While certain failures are undeniable – I was already spewing acid on here a long while ago about the useless reaction to the Diamond Princess quarantine in Yokohama at the end of January and the beginning of February (WHY. DID IT TAKE THEM. SO LONG. TO FUCKING DO SOMETHING? Why did they just release the infected passengers into the public transportation system? It was beyond, beyond comprehension. STOP! I HAD PROMISED MYSELF I WOULDN’T GET TOO RILED UP HERE; I was trying to keep it calm and measured! !!!! ); but why are there all these half-assed, half-baked measures that go against common sense and global objective reason in combatting the spread of this fucking virus?) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AAAAAAGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH – excuse me while I scream and blow my head off. But no, as D says, this is Japan, and you just have to accept that you can’t do anything about it. The Japanese have their ways. We just have to keep going with it. You live here. You reap the benefits, the advantages: you have to go with the flow. There are things you perhaps have not considered: for example, I read in an article in the Japan Times that the correlation between unemployment and suicide is so great here – deaths have already been increasing a lot on the railways of Tokyo, people leaping to their deaths on the tracks despite the lower numbers of passengers – that the government has to seriously weigh up the risk of suicide and social breakdown against the risk of death from the virus. Though complete loss of income is obviously a traumatic event for any human being, a study has shown that the prevalence of mental illness and self-harm when connected to the loss of work and the presumed loss of dignity that ‘failure’ entails in Japan is in direct proportion to the seriousness of the economic malaise; for many people here, they are their work, so when small or middle-income businesses close down and those that rely on this money to stay afloat go under, so, often, do their owners. It is a spiritual death. According to this study, there is no comparable tendency in Spain and Italy. Though the economic distress will be no less appalling, perhaps people in those countries value time with their families or at home more, or at least do not feel that their intrinsic worth, their value as a human being,  lies in the job that they do day to day. One thing I know unambiguously; mine most certainly does not.

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Filed under FURIOUS PERFUME CRITIC, Psychodrama

RUBY WOO by MAC (2016)

 

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– GUEST POST by BELGIUM SOLANAS
One of my most beloved childhood memories is staying up after all my family had gone to bed and watching 80s B movies on TV. Thrillers or horror were the main favourites, Fright Night, Fright Night 2 (even better!), Vamp with Grace Jones, anything with a darkness and whisper of sinister sex. But in particular, the best were movies set at night, hopefully in New York, especially ones which featured smoky clubs or taxis, lipstick and stockings, some venetian blinds, neon and blood. Daryl Hannah doing a strange performance art piece and possibly being an arsonist. Yes please. MORE please.
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After Hours, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Desperately Seeking Susan, Something Wild, these made my childhood heart scream “ESCAPE!”
I wanted to be one of those women, I longed for an apartment with an outside metal staircase where I might escape near death from an intruder, I yearned to use my perfume or stiletto as a weapon.
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As a performer, my persona as Belgium Solanas started incredibly specifically.
Red/ auburn hair: As soon as we could afford proper wigs, always.
Vintage dresses and furs procured at a cheap used shop in America Mura in Osaka, nothing over ¥400. (We got the most EXTRAORDINARY starter wardrobe, I’m still amazed.)
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Coloured tights for every look.
Always an element which was a bit off, glamorous evening dress with a neck brace, a piece of some scrounged object or wig pinned to a shoulder, nerd spectacles and socks with silver platforms.
Multiple looks for each night out, I have no idea where the energy came from but it felt like so many years of ideas were finally able to be unleashed. We could do anything we wanted!
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The first time I ever went out by myself in full drag (the day I christened myself) I had a taxidermy crow pinned to one shoulder of my purple dress. I was invincible (also HIDEOUS in retrospect, but still proud I didn’t go out in something off the rack or a studded Gaga bra or something).
It was the day my grandmother died, and I felt a tremendous guilt for not being able to be with my family. Her middle name was Belgium. And so Belgium I became.
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The story when we started in 2010, was that I and Sasha Zamolodchikova were ancient cannibal witch shapeshifting man killers, in our current guise as Euro-supermodels.
Utterly evil, sinister and otherworldly. Our shows were violent, underground and wilfully anti-drag. No Katy Petty. No cute stuff. Ever. We used music by bands like Crystal Castles, Divinyls (the early, rocking, goddess version before I Touch Myself), Beach House, Phantogram, Velvet Underground and Nico, using overlays of dialogue from Picnic At Hanging Rock and screeching seagulls, patched together in the most ramshackle way but always taking the audience out of this world for a moment.
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Strange, political, often shocking shows (I beat Sasha with a real fish on stage which exploded into guts over our black corsets at Diamonds Are Forever in Kyoto for our second show of two on our first night on the stage, in the first show we slapped each other in the face, progressively getting more turned on with the violence, a show which probably we could no longer do I imagine) that landed us on a proper concert sized stage in Osaka for our third show ever, where we ripped up a bible and threw pages of it into the frenzied crowd. This was real life.
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Sasha left Japan a few months into the start of our newly formed art collective, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (eventually KKBB Colective), although we eventually went on to continue making films and doing shows internationally and made a long form film in 2013 Yūrei Ga Tōru.
Initially I was too shy to think to continue on my own, but somehow I did, more often than not finding people who had never performed before to take roles in these little cinematic moments in smoky clubs at 2AM in Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya. I much preferred this energy to the desperation of people who were “performers” and who begged me to put them in shows. People who craved the attention and not the experience. NO.
The main thing was the energy. I wanted it to look like a story was unfolding on the stage. We practiced a lot, certainly, but it was mostly about finding moments in these shows, this will happen at this point in the track, this will happen here, the in between parts were where instinct and real life took over. Dreams.
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My early obsession with movies was the greatest teacher. An education of composition, colour, movement, use of music. I always imagine myself to be in a movie onstage, even now. In real life too actually, I am a photographer and filmmaker at heart and often picture things happening in my head from the perspective of a lens, as if it’s not actually happening at all. And maybe it isn’t.
Drag, for me, has always been about EMOTION. Connection. Eyes.
A performer who can work their eyes and look like they are truly in the moment will always mean so much more to me than one who is studied and precise and practiced but cold. I don’t give a fuck about eyebrows or splits, I want something real. So often after a show everybody is gushing over some lace-fronted glossy statue, where I am mentally obsessing over the first time on stage stumbling mess who created a moment of magic, even if it was only for a fleeting few seconds. This is it. This is what I came for.
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The evolution of drag into what is now, more or less, THE go-to hobby for queer or queer adjacent kids out to make friends or Instagram followings is a curious one, and ultimately mostly a positive one, but the true diamonds, the ones who NEED it still stick out. I’m always attracted to the quiet ones who live for 5 minutes on stage. The artist.
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Anyway, to the perfume! Red lipstick has always been my go to. It evokes 80s to me, 80s horror and sex stars. Blood and limousines.
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My favourite red will always be MAC Russian Red, a true, hyper pigmented blue-red which reminds me of 70s saturated screen blood, the sickly vanilla scent ALWAYS instantly takes me back to those early years of drag. I have lipsticks everywhere, I find them inside gloves, in pockets, in suitcase compartments.
 After a show I am often packing in a half euphoric daze and put things anywhere they will fit. About once a week I will open a tube, on the way to the bathroom perhaps, stepping over the corpse in the living room and passing my bikinied oran-utan named Linda Manz and sniff it, just for a moment of memory.
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Red is such an evocative colour I think, instant cinema, I particularly love bright hyper red and blonde hair as a combo, the sex goddess Satanic look. I live for it.
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I had no idea MAC had done a small series of perfumes based on their lipsticks. I had no idea MAC did perfume. I found a sample poring over yahoo auction listings in the witching hour one recent night.
The only MAC perfume I was aware of is the semi ubiquitous Turquatic, evocative of a certain culturally empty 2000s era of MAC store members asking me every time I went to buy some makeup “Who is this a present for?”
For ME darling. It’s for ME!
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MAC’s Ruby Woo is a gorgeous SHADE of lipstick, but an utter nightmare to wear. It drags on the lips and has the texture of sand. I hate it. But it is an iconic red. THE red of the 90s. So that is the perfume I wanted to try. And I’m so glad I did!
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It smells, to me, of second day tobacco (another illicit thrill of childhood, the smell of the downstairs rumpus room the morning after one of my parents parties, smokes and alcohol and half empty glasses of rum and coke and potato chips, vinyl records and a faint whiff of an Australian summer lawn and jacaranda, yum!), of cheap vintage leather and, yes, of cherries.
Fake cherries.
Bubblegum cherries.
It smells of an abandoned pinball arcade after a screening of Grease accidentally turned into an orgy and then everyone disappeared.
It evokes being in a half empty club at 4AM, after a show, half asleep but wanting the magic to last, on a cold leather sofa, watching people trying to make a connection to someone or something, and failing. Dancing to this.
I love it. Recently I always wear vintage Opium on show nights (a gift from the black narcissus himself!) and often Devil’s Nightcap by Gorilla perfumes which is vegetal, primordial and sex deep for my day to day. Sometimes Rentless also by Gorilla perfume which reminds me somehow of booze, occasionally with a squirt of Cardomom Coffee for sprightliness.
But this Ruby Woo is really truly delicious! A very happy discovery. And a true Belgium perfume, sinister, sexy, a bit silly and certainly quite the cannibal.
xxx
Belgium
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29 Comments

Filed under Cherry, Japan, JAPAN PHOTOGRAPHY, Rare

IN THE COLD, ROTTING JAWS OF THE BEAST: : : : :: : TYRANNOSAURUS REX by ZOOLOGIST (2018)

 

 

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As a teacher, my second worst lesson of all time was probably my final, ‘Christmas’ lesson at the end of 2019; the last lesson I ever did in the decade Pre-Corona era and the low point of my recent Japanese teaching career (the number one most dreadful lesson I ever taught I think was about twenty years ago when I was teaching English in a big classroom one-on-one with a ten year old girl who did not at all want to return to Japan from her coddled and idyllic Sound Of Music life skipping on the prairies of Switzerland with her kindly American live-in teacher and nanny who she loved so dearly, and who, undoubtedly seeing me like this

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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– cried continuously for the first fifty five minutes of that  hour (trust me, you can be sure I was looking at the clock); my main achievement being that I got her to eventually progress from protracted, inconsolable weeping to slow, viscous tears and snivelling nose wipes by the final, agonising, five minutes. Never has the ringing of a school bell been more welcome).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(Mr Chapman :

 ‘Right, you are you sure  know what your homework is for next week, then?’)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(New online English lessons with Mister Chapman !: )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘See you next week, children !!’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The second worst lesson I have ever had involved a big error of judgement on my part. Exhausted, as I always am at the end of the year after the stress of the student evaluations in November (them rating and judging us), as well as the hectic pre-exam final push to get the more academic students into the highest level universities, as a wind-down I decided to let most of my classes watch films as I simply didn’t have any energy left to present anything of my own. Juiced out: It’s the Chapman Movie Club! Let’s watch movies in English! A film of their choice (when I say ‘just watch films’, I do of course, for the pedagogically judgmental among you – mean something pre-seen by me with much of the dialogue and vocabulary written down for study and written comprehension questions  : it is a useful exercise, and largely, they love it); rented at my own expense from one of the dwindling CD/DVD rental shops that do, amazingly, still exist in Japan (places like Blockbuster vanished a long time ago in the UK), shown on a projector on to a big classroom wall, me at the back, relieved, once the lights go out, that I can just sit there. 

 

 

 

 

 

Not as restfully as you might imagine, though. I am constantly watching the reactions for the students. Checking their comprehension. Plus, the movies themselves are often quite unbearable. I was of course pleased by the laughing, happy faces of the children watching Disney’s truly execrable Aladdin –  and Will Smith’s muscular blue genie, while making them giggle uproariously, was also strangely sexually attractive to me as well (as were the protagonists of Avatar, a film I also saw againg in a class recently and was quite happy to feast my eyes on : what is it about blue-skinned people?;) But the sub-pantomime ‘acting’ and CG in Aladdin were so bad, so flimsy, so elementary school year end drama, so ugly, that my toes and organs were curling and crimping internally each time I had to watch Princess Jasmine’s clueless facial expressions (Naomi Scott at the very least deserves a Golden Raspberry), Aladdin’s chronic gormless innocence; their utter absence of screen chemistry, the hideousness of the costume design, my god it was dire; such eyesores these blind orientalist taffeta wardrobe consultants come up with ! Ugh. It was quite a hard watch. Gruelling. Admittedly, eventually, I did come to see that the dreadful director Guy Ritchie – the man ‘who destroyed Madonna’, according to an article I read recently probing why it is that she can now only go out with 25 year old dancers that are about 36 years younger than her since being married to a man who stood up to her and ‘broke’ her (discuss) : I saw that overall, he had in fact crafted something that, though so lightweight it practically floated away on its own ‘special effects’ magic carpet, at least wasn’t cynical and self-knowing and wise-cracking in the usual brain splintering mode and did, on later appraisal, constitute an overall entertainment that worked very well with most younger students. It was at least better than Toy 4, requested by an even younger class (let’s face it: I am just not designed to teach infants) : an animation that was torture for  me; the first forty minutes involving the travails of a plastic fork – sorry spork, with eyes and a wiggly pipe cleaner mouth and an incredibly annoying toddler with a high-pitched, squeaky voice that I just yearned to quickly become road kill. Intolerably sappy and cutesy, I was constantly having to prevent myself from jabbing pencils in my eyes watching it while maintaining an adult smile. Reader, it was tough.  Once again, I grudgingly admit that Pixar’s undeniable talent did eventually make itself known by the third, irresistibly sentimental installment, with Randy Newman’s tearjerking score and the overwhelming innocence and cuteness and goodness of Tom Hanks’ Woody and his love for a ceramic Bo Peep too heartfelt for grown up skepticism (by then I was trying myself to conceal my hot, welling crocodile tears). Still, I was so, so GLAD. WHEN. IT. WAS. ALL. OVER.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So you can easily see that in comparison to all this sappy, technicolored corn, I must confess that my higher level returnee class’s choice to watch Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, came to this thrill seeker as an immense relief. Relatively speaking, I was in my element. It was darker, the stakes were higher. It got the pulse racing. It brought back memories of seeing the first installment over a quarter of a century ago with my little sister – I remember her crying with terror as a man’s arm was ripped off in the first pre-internet Jurassic Park when we all went to the cinema in Cambridge together, the blood spurting out from the hole where the limb had once been as I tried to cover her eyes and stop her popcorn from scattering on the dirty, sticky floor. Strange, then, that a similar situation should  happen again over 25 years later in my own classroom. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full chock with suspense, live action, propulsive music, dinosaurs, close encounters, kinetic, heart thumping sequences, as well as easy-on-the-eye actors

 

 

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– chunks of man-meat in the form of Chris Pratt, and the feline-green eyed pleasures of Bryce Dallas Howard –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

this film also contained a lot of pseudo science and high level technical and paleontological vocabulary that made teaching (and vocab tests ) easy to set up for the following weeks’ classes. The boys lapped up the action and sat forward in their chairs with anticipation of the next chase or volcanic eruption,  and though frequently terrifying – I later, to my horror, read online warnings about this film saying it really wasn’t suitable for children under 15 and that kids in America could be found weeping in fright in movie theaters in the summer of 2018, it seemed to be working well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That is, until one scene, in which a gravely injured,  genetically modified killer dinosaur is being given a lifesaving blood transfusion from a tyrannosaurus rex; I saw my students (11-14) blanching and looking away at the sight of vials and needles and syringes of thick red dinosaur life fluids flowing through plastic tubes into the veins of the scaly, reptilian wounds (the producers of this rather brilliant film – I genuinely like it – or was it just a reaction to Toy Story?  – were clearly feasting quite a lot on eighties horror film tropes to excellent effect); however, what I realized was that as a jaded adult just writing down the words of the actors on paper lackadaisically when I was preparing the film in the classroom alone upstairs  – by the end of the year I am totally sociophobic  : how I love quarantine! !  – I am not missing any of this at all  –  I had, with my years of horror films and thrillers ingrained in my viewing tendencies not properly taken into consideration how all of this would play out in the context of the classroom. BAD TEACHER  :   as the needle jabbed in and dinosaur blood splattered in hot red splashes onto the face of one of the frightened characters I saw one girl tear up; blood trickling down his astonished face; she had been already clutching at her face in fright in previous instalments and now looked stricken;  another boy went pale. I felt sick. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How could I not have foreseen this?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Racked with guilt as I saw them off at the entrance, the freezing cold of December outside in the miserable city of Fujisawa whistling through the building with a hollow-hearted ‘Merry Christmas everyone !! (the students had left in silence, not really saying anything, leaving my classroom and just loping towards the entrance), as I left school, putting on my many coats and scarves, and walked emptily towards the station, I felt like The Worst Person In The World .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(Mr Chapman says ‘Merry Christmas !!! and a Happy New Year’!

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(“YOU MADE A CARELESS MISTAKE WITH THE PAST TENSE, TOMOKI!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When we came back to school after the New Year break, worrying about parental reprisals and the kids having nightmares,  the first thing I did  (I had forgotten about all of this about two days later..) was to apologize to the students in that class for what I felt had been a genuine mistake on my part; I took the girl in question aside before the lesson and said I was truly sorry for making her watch something that had obviously petrified her, but she looked me in the eye and insisted, adamantly, and I know she meant it, that despite the fright she had endured watching the film she actually loved the feeling  :  “It’s like riding a rollercoaster at an amusement park!” she exclaimed with her Californian accent, and said she really wanted to continue to the end of the film (as did the rest of the class, unanimously).  Phew.  Perhaps it had just been my lack of energy, my flatness, that had created that particular atmosphere on that day, not just the mauled and maimed bleeding humans on the screen. I realized then, that the whole experience had actually been something of a thrill for them (how could it not be, given the education system here? but I digress….). To maximise the impact,I also bought some speakers to amplify the sound, the psycho strings and and roars of T-rexes and velociraptors and excruciating screams to bring the final chapters to an exhilarating conclusion; the kids were all huddled together in their cinema positions messing around and poking each other and scaring each other throughout, and. surviving all the way to the horror of the climax, it turned out to be something of a bonding experience for all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinosaurs are exciting. Fascinating. Unbelievable that they once existed (and what does that existence mean for Creation Theory? Were they lurking in the backdrop in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, hiding behind giant fig leaves? ) There are obviously no words for how terrifying an actual tyrannosaurus rex would be, breathing down on you in the flesh (how long would you last before it crunched you up in one foul-breathed bite, bones and flesh swallowing down without even blinking its giant, dotard, Trumpian lizard eye?) Although I was never as fully into those illustrated encyclopaedic books on these creatures as some of my science nerd friends at primary (elementary) school were, what is great about the Jurassic Park series is that eventually, once you get used to and start believing the effects, you are immersed in the impossible; you are watching dinosaurs running around before your eyes gleefully chomping on each other and on rednecks and conservatives (it is always the anti-environmentalists and greedy oligarch bastards who get gnashed and shredded for lunch in the mouths of these beasts). It is all something of an exhilarating carnage; a pop corn escape from reality. The stench of the breath bellowing into your face; hair blowing like L’Oreal in a hurricane….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How would this actually smell? What about a T-Rex perfume?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes from the Zoologist:

 

 

 

 

A Fantastical Cretaceous Apocalyptic Scent

A sultry heat wafts across the land, lapped up greedily by the abundant flora that thrives in its midst. Trees soar to majestic heights and plants flower for the first time, their petals spreading to give birth to a world rich in diversity. The Cretaceous period comes of age against a backdrop scorched by wildfire and lightning strikes. Over this turbulent landscape, a massive predator looms. Giants rule the earth, but even giants can be cut down within the powerful jaws of the fearsome tyrannosaur. Standing tall, the terrifying beast fears nothing, until that pivotal moment when a fire in the sky signals the end of their deadly reign.

Zoologist Tyrannosaurus Rex is a gargantuan scent that sinks its teeth into the world of delicate fragrances and rips it wide open. Primitive woods and florals seize you and snatch you away to an ancient era. Smoky, charred wood warns of the danger of smouldering fire, setting your senses on edge, while droplets of metallic rose oxide offer a chilling premonition of blood-lust. The mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex is sometimes menacing, sometimes fascinating, but never, ever ordinary.

Perfumer: Antonio Gardoni
Parfum Concentration: 23%
Size: 60 mL / 2 fl. oz.
Top Notes: Bergamot, Black Pepper, Fir, Laurel Leaf, Neroli, Nutmeg
Heart Notes: Champaca, Geranium, Jasmine, Osmanthus, Rose, Ylang Ylang
Base Notes: Resins, Cade, Cedar, Civet*, Frankincense, Leather*, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vanilla

 

 

 

 

 

Leathery; raw; sharp, fleshy, and hard. I cannot pretend to have spent much time with this perfume, and I would rather die than wear it  – – I detest anything that smells of blood, or fire, or smoke, or anything burnt, charred, acrid (feel me shudder as I write that sentence); and yet ————– when I smelled this at the Nose Shop in Shinjuku a few weeks ago the last time I was in Tokyo, it stunned me: I sensed a fragrance of perfect balance, mildly horrifying, but tapping in to some kind of id sex drive that you are not sure you want to be tapped into – a cigarette-breathed, feral aggressor hunting you down and taking you mercilessly on the spot: : devouring you. Is this why we enjoy watching these hair-raising dinosaur films? Some kind of thantatos death wish?  The secret pull towards those gargantuan jaws filled with spikes of razor sharp teeth like ivory scimitars and decomposing carcasses rotting among gums and a tongue like a massive, prehistoric worm ready take you in;   lacerate you;   destroy you?

 

 

 

 

 

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30 Comments

Filed under autobiography, Woods

MONICA BELLUCCI : : : FERRE by FERRE (1991)

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Sprawled on the sofa next to our red sequinned Salvador Dali lip phone last night, mulling on Italia and sipping some celebratory red with an order in pizza,  I found myself nonchalantly reaching out for the bottle of Ferre by Gianfranco Ferre that resides there like a patiently waiting hand grenade (the original flacon also had black lace stretched over its perimeter).  I inhaled.  Same reaction as always. Yes, it struck me once again: this really might just actually be the sexiest perfume of all time. It is crazily, ludicrously seductive – if by seduction you mean the stereotypical  puta/ madama and mistress and mother and goddess tropes all wrapped into one in the shameless classic virgin/whore duplicity ; a perfectly constructed and balanced floral explosive device that D brought me out of the blue three years ago when I was in hospital and where, with the sterile surroundings,  it could not have been more out of place if it triedI remember laughing out loud impotently as I smelled it. Useless, and sutured; still convalescing and painfully immobile in my pyjamas, I wrote in my notepad :

 

 

 

 

‘Ferre di Ferre. This is one of those mad, lipsticked Italianas I remember from the early nineties;  a glammed-up, Monica Bellucci bombshell whose bottle was even shaped like a grenade and whose smell: sweet, heady, aldehydic, heavily floral, mightily musked and sandalwoody, is proclamatory:  gorgeous.  You almost fear her.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You do. This is one mean femme fatale. Una donna fatale. ‘So sexfully ripe and bustiered Bellucci it could practically turn a gay man straight’, I also wrote, trapped in my wheelchair ( you see I just could not get myself away from Monica). But imagine this woman striding into a room, chest forward, all eyes on her, breathing it in…………..with a hot, powdered, musky fever of jasmine, orange blossom, and a pheromonal, Samsara-like sandalwood that is nevertheless far more suggestive and unbuttoned brassière-about-to-pop-open come to mama than any Guerlain could ever even dream of being, this really is the aforementioned Monica Bellucci, bottled: Bond girl, Matrix dominatrix ; (im)possible sex object of ferocious Sicilian adolescent lust in Malena; ex-wife of the dastardly Vincent Cassel; Mary Magdalene in the Passion Of The Christ; muse and lipstick queen of D+G and Dior; bloodthirsty vampiressss in Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘Dracula’ ………………… with this perfume drifting like sweet poison from her shoulders you know this woman could easily have you for breakfast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Despite what some people say, sex has always been the main push point for popular perfume; it is what the adverts sell to us; secretly, we want that magnetism. Many fragrances these days for women though just pile on and compress too many nasty, melding synthetic ingredients into the chamber pot; ‘patchouli, synthetic vanillins, ‘woods’, ‘fruits’, ‘head space flowers’ and ‘spices’ all ramped up until the point of nausea and for me – most unforgivably –  deep vulgarity (there is vulgarity and vulgarity). What is fascinating about the only delicately vulgar Ferre is the very simplicity of its formula; smooth, contoured, deep, it is certainly over the top but somehow isn’t too much ; the perfume veers to the edges of ridiculousness but just about holds itself into its garters and stockings and other strategically worn lingerie so you never get to see the naked, flagrant full picture. The poussing aldehydes and vanilla do make some wearers think of Chanel Nº5, or even Arpège on certain fragrance fora; but to me those perfumes belong to Ferre’s more restrained and older female forbearers, more mannered and more welcomingly dressed back home in Roma and Umbria. Ferre by Ferre is classically ordained, but a product of the eighties and nineties: big, bold. Di Napoli. Cannily beautiful. A bombshell.

 

 

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51 Comments

Filed under Flowers, SEX BOMB

‘ ALLA RICERCA DEL PROFUMO PERFETTO ‘

 

 

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I cannot deny that an Italian translation of my book Perfume –  a new co-edition –  will be coming out later in the year, published by L’Ippocampo. Just heard. So excited!

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t wait to read it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Italy has long been a special place for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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19 Comments

Filed under Flowers