Thursday, January 31, 2008


The snakes have begun to hide for the winter. Vile egg-eaters. What a disgusting race they are. Still, one has to admire, in a way, that they choose to live at all, trapped in bodies that can only drag themselves through the dust. I don’t know how any of them can bear to live, the creatures that cannot fly. It must be so cruel for them to see that the Sun loves us best, having given us ownership the air and blessed us with such freedom and beauty.

Just look at Oni, the curve of her breast, the way it quivers when she sings. In flight she is exquisite. And yet, that is why the snake kills her children. The ugly being hates the beautiful one, hates its innate goodness and superiority, and seeks to destroy it. The predation of the snake is the price of our glory. He is the earthbound error without which we could not see our perfection. Poor snake.

From "Julius the Mockingbird," a children's story I never got around to finishing. I dug out the manuscript today, and this passage seemed like an echo of something.

Mockingbird photo from Wikipedia.

One Sentence Perfume Review: Tumulte, Christian Lacroix

Tonight's entrée: A Shirley Temple, accompanied by a Dreamsicle smothered in marshmallow sauce and macadamia nuts, with a muskrat and olive cookie on the side ...mmmmmm.

Notes per Green Mandarin, Freesia, Rose water, Grasse Rose, Heliotrope, Iris Wood, Patchouli, Musk, Tonka Bean

Photo from Imagination Perfumery

Funny how none of the presidential candidates are talking about this

"The Israel-Palestine struggle is portrayed in our media and elsewhere as an endless religious rivalry, but it is no more a war between Jews and Muslims than the civil rights struggle was one between African-Americans and whites. This is a struggle for justice, one that affects us all and in which we all play a part." Anna Baltzer, a Jewish American peace activist. Read her entire essay here. You'll find more at her blog.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Speaking of old music

I just love this clip of John Lee Hooker singing "Hobo Blues."

If you like early country music...

...Tony Russell's book Country Music Originals: The Legends and the Lost is an unbelievably good encyclopedia of every old hillbilly musician you never heard of. Click here for my short review in the Scene.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Down in the dirt

We seem to be having our January thaw here today—60 degrees with rain blowing in from the southwest. As much as I like getting a break from the cold, these winter warm spells aren’t much fun because they usually bring storms, which we’re expecting tonight. A few years ago a January tornado flattened a large portion of the town where my brother lives. Nothing like that is on the horizon at the moment, but as far as Kobi is concerned, a single rumble of thunder is sufficient reason to panic. It may be a long night.

It was just drizzling pleasantly this morning during my walk. The warm, moist wind made it feel like spring, and the varmints seem to think so, too. The chipmunks were out, and they’re usually reluctant to emerge until winter’s nearly gone. Maybe they’re doing reconnaissance for the groundhogs. The skunks have been out too, which means they’ll soon be doing their boy/girl nuzzlies in my back yard. That’s always pleasant.

The ground is usually frozen in the early morning when I’m out, but of course it wasn’t today. My favorite trail is a pretty steep climb, and I was slipping a little in the muddy spots. I actually have lousy balance, and I’m sure one of these days I’m going to make a wrong step and sprain my ankle for the umpteenth time, but I still love tromping along in the mud. It’s not that I love muck so much. In fact, I take a pretty dim view of muck most of the time, as my dogs would tell you if they could talk. (“Mom is such a clean freak.”) But when I’m out in the woods alone, alive to the experience of being there, I find that the sensation of my feet sinking into the ground creates a kind of shadowed ecstasy. I don’t just feel connected to the earth—I know I am the earth, the same stuff that is squishing under my feet, full of worms and rot and the seeds of new life. There is no self or seeking in that moment, just a complete surrender to the limitations of physical existence.

It’s hard to convey the quality of this bliss to someone who’s never felt it. Western dualism is so prejudiced in favor of spirit over body that we don’t have any convenient words for it. Our language for experience of the sublime—or the divine—is all about getting away from the physical world. We talk about transcendence, elation, being lifted up, feeling boundless, knowing infinity, etc. Even “mystery,” which ought to be a great all-purpose word for such an experience, doesn’t quite work, because it leaves out the joy. Mystery isn’t happy, and the happiness is at the core of communing with the mud god.

I think one of the reasons I find it so hard to live an urban life is that everything in the city conspires to obstruct this particular meditative pleasure. There are too many glittering distractions, too many potential threats that need monitoring, and you can go weeks or even months without setting your foot on anything but pavement. A lot of Wiccans practice something called the Tree of Life meditation, which is a useful bit of mud magic for the nature deprived. It was incredibly helpful to me during my Chicago years. I looked around the Web for a good description of the ritual, but couldn't find one I liked. I did find a gay male Wiccan who makes erotic prints--mostly pretty marginal, but I think this one has a special charm.

Photo by Brad Haire from Georgia Faces

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Question

Tell me if this is all true, my lover?
tell me if it is true.
When the eyes of me flash their lightning on you,
dark clouds in your breast make stormy answer;
Is it then true
that the dew drops fall from the night when I am seen,
and the morning light is glad when it wraps my body?

Is it true, is it true, that your love
travelled alone through ages and worlds in search of me?
that when you found me at last, your age-long desire
found utter peace in my gentle speech and my eyes and lips and flowing hair?

Is it then true
that the mystery of the Infinite is written on this little brow of mine?
Tell me, my lover, if all this is true!

Rabindranath Tagore, 1913. Text via Poetry Foundation

The Three Ages of Man (detail), Titian, c. 1512, from Web Gallery of Art

The Madness

Arms and the Boy

Let the boy try along this bayonet-blade
How cold steel is, and keen with hunger of blood;
Blue with all malice, like a madman's flash;
And thinly drawn with famishing for flesh.

Lend him to stroke these blind, blunt bullet-heads
Which long to muzzle in the hearts of lads.
Or give him cartridges of fine zinc teeth,
Sharp with the sharpness of grief and death.

For his teeth seem for laughing round an apple.
There lurk no claws behind his fingers supple;
And God will grow no talons at his heels,
Nor antlers through the thickness of his curls.

By Wilfred Owen (1893-1918). Text via Poetry Foundation.

Portrait of a Boy Soldier, Nashville, Tennessee, ca. 1860-65 [LC-B8184-10573 (27)] via Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

What I found during the annual January scent binge

It happens this time every year. Maybe it's post-holiday funk or maybe the world is less satisfyingly smelly in the cold weather, but whatever the reason, I get a perfume jones that will not quit. In spite of owning more perfume than I could use in three lifetimes, I start browsing the etailers for bargains and sniffing my way through the stores for just the right mindless impulse purchase. Since Christmas I've bought ... well, I'd rather not say. The perfume fiends know perfectly well what can happen when the madness strikes, and the rest of you don't really want to know.

When I take time off from buying I start burrowing through my collection of samples and decants, sniffing and dabbing like a woman in a trance. There have been times I've gone to bed smeared with a dozen or more perfumes. (Don't worry, Dave's away a lot.) Thanks to my dear, enabling friends, I have scads of things still waiting for a proper test drive. Yesterday I came across a couple of Neil Morris creations from Chaya that just beg to be blogged about, so here goes:

The name says it all with Dark Season, a rich melange of clove, patchouli and amber that evokes the pleasure and pain of midwinter. Hints of leather, tobacco and smoke remind me of moments from my childhood--sitting around a wood stove, playing in a cold barn, trying to catch a contrary pony on a snowy day--but Dark Season is not really a rustic scent. It has a meditative, almost abstract quality. It's not so much a walk in a winter wood as the memory of such a walk, with the edge of experience smoothed and softened by distance. It's extremely well-balanced, so no single note jumps out, yet it has a very distinct personality, creates a vivid impression. It's a haunting perfume that almost makes me sad to see the days lengthening. Almost.

Intimate Lily is Dark Season's opposite number. It's a bouquet of lilies dipped in sugar, suitable to top the wedding cake of a virginal but passionate bride. The faintest possible suggestion of indoles and a musky base hint at pleasures to come, but Intimate Lily's overall presence is perfectly ladylike, utterly raunch-free. I say that with approval. It is my opinion as a certified lily fanatic that this dear flower should never, ever be radically funked up. If you want action, go to jasmine, or perhaps orange blossom if she's having a particularly frisky day, but leave the innocence of the lily intact. My favorite lilies have a touch of bitter soapiness or green purity, both of which are lacking in Intimate Lily, but the velvety sweetness fills that gap very prettily.

I don't think either of these beauties is currently in production at Neil Morris Fragrances, but they certainly deserve to be. Perhaps this post and our friend Chaya will give a little push in that direction.

Two Men Contemplating the Moon, Caspar David Friedrich, 1819-20 via Web Gallery of Art.

Nankeen Lily by Walter Hood Fitch, 1880, via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Happiness

Isn't this just a delightful picture? I could look at it all day.

Two African American girls playing with yarn and knitting needle at a Harlem playground, ca. 1950-1970, by Florence Ward. From the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-122105 (45)], via LC's exhibitions page.

Have I blogged about these guys before?

This pissed-off looking character is a White-throated Sparrow. Isn't the picture a hoot? Reminds me of the famous "mad bluebird" you see in every birder catalog. A blogger curtsy goes to photographer Steve Listengart, who could have made a few bucks licensing it instead of generously releasing it at Wikipedia.

White-throated Sparrows, along with the look-alike White-crowned Sparrows, are winter visitors here, and even though they fall squarely into the Little Brown Bird category, I always enjoy seeing them at my feeders. I know winter's here for sure when they arrive, and it's (blessedly) gone when they disappear. They seem to be especially plentiful this year. I ran across a sizable group of them in the park this morning, flitting around inside a pile of brush next to the trail. I've never seen them mob up quite that way, so I stopped and watched a while. They seemed to be doing more socializing than feeding, and they sang a bit. You can hear their pretty voices at their Cornell Lab page.

I also found this tidbit at the Cornell page, which shows that even LBBs are fashion conscious when choosing a mate:

"The two color forms of the White-throated Sparrow are determined by genetic differences, and are unique among birds. Oddly, individuals almost always mate with a bird of the opposite morph. Males of both color types prefer females with white stripes, but both kinds of females prefer tan-striped males. White-striped birds are more aggressive than tan-striped ones, and white-striped females may be able to outcompete their tan-striped sisters for tan-striped males."

The bird geek in me finds that fascinating. They also sometimes mate with Juncos, which just seems bizarre. Makes me wish I lived where I could see that, but they pass a chaste season here.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The sadness

I always wind up regretting it when I don’t race over to read Lee’s weekly post at Perfume Posse. If I wait a day or two, as I did this week, I invariably find he’s said something thoughtful or clever (or both), and I am too late to the party to comment. I’m especially sorry I missed his essay on the 22nd, because we seem to be in the same state of mourning for the world. My bloviation below is a sort of indirect reply to him, so before you read me, click over to his sweet essay at the Posse.

Like Lee, I was having a perfectly lovely day last Saturday. I went for a nice hike in the morning, indulged in a little shopping, and then late in the day I drove up to Nashville to hear Dave and his friends perform at an art gallery downtown. Dave was happy with the way things went, and I got brownie points for showing up (I often don’t, lazy and reclusive spouse that I am.) I drove home safely and went to bed. That was it—pretty much your run-of-the-mill day for a spoiled American female.

Unfortunately, as I was trying to wallow in my privilege, little tragedies kept revealing themselves to me. It was a very cold afternoon, and as I drove to Dave’s gig I saw a pair of homeless men huddled up against the wall of a warehouse. The men weren’t even in a doorway, they were just sitting on the uncovered sidewalk, completely exposed to the weather. The thin blankets they were trying to stay under kept blowing around in the wind. Night was coming, and they didn’t look like they were going anywhere. What misery.

When I got to the arcade that houses the gallery, Dave was standing out on the second floor balcony watching a hawk that had gotten trapped inside. It had come in chasing pigeons and couldn’t make its way out again. He said it had been flying into the ceiling, confused by the skylights, but by the time I got there it had perched somewhere out of sight. Since it was a city dwelling hawk, I thought there was some chance it might escape, but Dave was doubtful. It was panicked and disoriented, and even sturdy hawks don’t last long in that state. Odds were good that it had doomed itself in its effort to survive.

After the performance I went home by myself, and happened to drive past one of the parks where I walk. The road isn’t well lit there, so I couldn’t initially see why the traffic was slowing ahead of me. Then the headlights revealed a carcass and a lot of blood in the road. I assumed it was a deer, but as I passed it I got a glimpse of a furry haunch. It was a large dog, a golden retriever I think, undoubtedly someone’s pet. I wondered if it had gone astray during a park outing, and maybe its owners were back home making “lost dog” signs in hopes of finding it. When I passed that way again early the next morning the dog was gone, but the wash of blood across the asphalt remained.

All week I’ve been thinking about the ordinary suffering I kept seeing on Saturday. I understand exactly what Lee means about the horrific imagery that assaults us, and the sadness he feels at our jaded response, but it’s the mundane death and pain that seems to pull me under. It’s not that I’m indifferent to mass violence, war carried out in my name, etc. For me, the huge atrocities are just the most visible manifestations of suffering that is constant, omnipresent.

Right this moment, I know terrible things are happening. Not just in Iraq or Congo, but within miles of where I sit: a child is being beaten, a woman is being raped, someone is dying a painful death. A thousand lesser tragedies like the ones I saw on Saturday are happening, too. They always are, every minute of every day. Like most semi-sane people, I block that fact out of my mind so I can get through my life, but there are times it won’t be denied, and it just fills me with paralyzing grief.

To act against suffering, of course, is helpful, right and necessary. By all means, we should do what we are able to do, I don’t mean to discount the value of that at all. But it has to be done in the knowledge that it can never be enough, and it’s no remedy for the grief. On the contrary, how can it do anything but make grief more acute?

The only way I know to deal with the sadness is to accept it as my current portion of suffering. Someday life may—surely will—dole out a much bigger slice of pain. If I try to turn away from the hurt I feel today, I just set myself up to be blindsided. Awareness, agonizing though it may be, is a gift. It’s the only preparation we get for the unhappy ending that awaits us all.

The Abbey in the Oakwood, Caspar David Friedrich, 1809-1810, via Web Gallery of Art.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Guess the price

"Distrust and caution are the parents of security."
Benjamin Franklin

"What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?"
George Eliot**

Distrust is my default setting. I carry around a wealth of distrust. It’s the currency of all my human interaction. When necessary, I surrender my natural suspicion in the same way I’d fork over big bucks for a pristine bottle of a vintage Lanvin—with some hesitation, with some dread of future regret, but also with the understanding that you don’t get something for nothing. I have to be willing to lose a little wariness if I want to operate in the world with other people. The trick is knowing how much is too much. And what are the consequences of being too stingy?

This morning I pulled into a mostly deserted parking lot in Nashville, not another soul in sight except for a young man who seemed to be wandering around aimlessly—a few steps one way, then a few steps another. If he was homeless, he hadn’t been that way long. He was too clean and well dressed. He didn’t seem high, or deranged, just oddly uncertain. He saw me park, and moved vaguely in my direction, as if he planned to approach me when I got out of the car. So I didn’t.

Nashville has very little street crime, almost none compared to a lot of the places I’ve lived. Odds were very slim that this guy intended to grab my purse, and I seriously doubt he was some variety of perv. I just didn’t get that vibe from him, and in my experience sexual weirdos are more careful to avoid telegraphing their intent to approach. If I had to guess, I’d say he was stranded and was just going to hit me up for money. But I’ll never know, because I sat tight until he finally wandered away.

In the afternoon I went to vote in the presidential primary. (Tennessee is part of Super Tuesday, but there’s a week of early voting.) When I got to the county election office, they were all befuddled because somebody had accidentally been given the wrong party ballot on the voting machine. They were trying to figure out how to get the machine to cancel the ballot and still let the guy vote—there’s a code number attached to each voter, and his had already been entered into the incorrect ballot.

Need I say that this was a sizable boost to my already ample distrust of the election process? I mean, I don’t spend a lot of time sticking pins in Diebold voodoo dolls, but you’d have to be an idiot not to wonder about the cumulative effect of problems like this one. The guy was allowed to vote on another machine, and presumably that vote will count, but the duped code might mean that both ballots wind up being rejected. Who knows? The voter doesn’t, and I don’t have any faith that the nice people at the election office do, either.

Nevertheless, I shoved all my skepticism across the counter to the poll worker, and stepped up to cast my own vote. (For Obama, in case you’re wondering—without joy, but also without the faint nausea that accompanied my vote for Kerry in 2004.) Once I’d entered Obama’s name, the machine told me hit the red “Cast Ballot” button and wait for the waving American flag to come up on the screen. Sure enough, the flag waved. Just in case I had any doubts, the machine assured me that I had voted and was free to go.

Allegory of the Good Government (detail) by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, 1338-40, via Web Gallery of Art

**Both unsourced quotes from the guilty pleasure that is BrainyQuote. If you know where they can be found, please enlighten me.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


This is one of those classic winter-in-Tennessee days when the weather can't quite decide what it wants to do. It started sleeting in the wee hours, then it rained, then it sleeted a bit more, now in late afternoon it's gloomy but dry. The sky's got an inscrutable look, though, as if to say, "Well, I might pelt you with ice or I might not. Dare ya to drive up to Nashville for that Slow Food dinner you've been looking forward to--you're not scared to skate home, are you?" This morning I rounded a curve on a country road and found 2 cars that had wiped out on a patch of ice. I braked as gently as I could, but I still fishtailed and nearly wound up in the ditch myself. So it feels a little like tempting fate to go out again, but I think we will. I've been bugging Dave to go with me to one of these dinners for ages, and who knows when he'll be home for one again. Wish us luck.

The weather's not the only thing that's indecisive. I had a real essay for the blog outlined in my head, but I have dithered around all day, too unfocused to write it or to accomplish much else. Tomorrow, I promise. Meanwhile, here's an oddly prescient poem from a couple of centuries back.

January, 1795

Pavement slipp’ry, people sneezing,
Lords in ermine, beggars freezing;
Titled gluttons dainties carving,
Genius in a garret starving.

Lofty mansions, warm and spacious;
Courtiers cringing and voracious;
Misers scarce the wretched heeding;
Gallant soldiers fighting, bleeding.

Wives who laugh at passive spouses;
Theatres, and meeting-houses;
Balls, where simp’ring misses languish;
Hospitals, and groans of anguish.

Arts and sciences bewailing;
Commerce drooping, credit failing;
Placemen mocking subjects loyal;
Separations, weddings royal.

Authors who can’t earn a dinner;
Many a subtle rogue a winner;
Fugitives for shelter seeking;
Misers hoarding, tradesmen breaking.

Taste and talents quite deserted;
All the laws of truth perverted;
Arrogance o’er merit soaring;
Merit silently deploring.

Ladies gambling night and morning;
Fools the works of genius scorning;
Ancient dames for girls mistaken,
Youthful damsels quite forsaken.

Some in luxury delighting;
More in talking than in fighting;
Lovers old, and beaux decrepid;
Lordlings empty and insipid.

Poets, painters, and musicians;
Lawyers, doctors, politicians:
Pamphlets, newspapers, and odes,
Seeking fame by diff’rent roads.

Gallant souls with empty purses;
Gen’rals only fit for nurses;
School-boys, smit with martial spirit,
Taking place of vet’ran merit.

Honest men who can’t get places,
Knaves who shew unblushing faces;
Ruin hasten’d, peace retarded;
Candor spurn’d, and art rewarded.

by Mary Robinson (1758-1800) via Poetry Foundation

Photo of Allegories of the Months: January (mid-13th century, Stone, Basilica di San Marco, Venice) from Web Gallery of Art

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tagore in word and image

Keep me fully glad with nothing. Only take my hand in your hand.
In the gloom of the deepening night take up my heart and play with it as you list. Bind me close to you with nothing.
I will spread myself out at your feet and lie still. Under this clouded sky I will meet silence with silence. I will become one with the night clasping the earth in my breast.
Make my life glad with nothing.
The rains sweep the sky from end to end. Jasmines in the wet untamable wind revel in their own perfume. The cloud-hidden stars thrill in secret. Let me fill to the full my heart with nothing but my own depth of joy.

By Rabindranath Tagore, 1913. Text via Poetry Foundation

Dancing Girl, ink on paper, undated. Image from

How does the chant go?

NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE --something like that.

A quote from Frederick Douglass, in honor of the day

Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

We're shocked, shocked...

It seems some cruel academic has publicly suggested that the great god of Scottish literature, Robert Burns, might have been a bit unenlightened on the subject of slavery. (Hard to believe, huh?) Here's the article in today's Sunday Herald from Glasgow, but be sure to read the snarky comments. These people take their literary hero worship very seriously.

Is there, for honest poverty,
That hings his head, an' a' that?
The coward slave, we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that,
Our toils obscure, an' a' that;
The rank is but the guinea's stamp;
The man's the gowd for a' that ...

Friday, January 18, 2008

More Lagniappe Oaks

Back to NOLA and her perfumes, as promised.* I found a couple of surprises in Lagniappe Oaks' Jazz Ensemble, both good and bad.

Jazz Royale: A classic fougere, similar to Bourbon French's Carre, but a bit less butch. I think I could get away with wearing this one around Dave, who frowns on girls in boy perfume. If you love a lavender/oakmoss combo and don't have a barbershop phobia, this one would be likely to please you.

Jazebelle: A faintly shrill white floral, and I mean that in a good way. I get the usual mix of orange blossom, gardenia and tuberose underneath a prominent white ginger note. The base seems to be a very light musk. Jazebelle suits its name, and IMO is the only thing from Lagniappe Oaks that carries the slightest air of femme fatale. As floral screamers go, however, it's pretty subdued. It won't call the dogs from across a parking lot.

Jazmine: What a disappointment. I love jasmine, but it often doesn't love me, so I am always on the lookout for tame-yet-interesting versions of the flower. I was sure this would be one, given the general tone of the perfumery's output. Jazmine, alas, smells nothing like real jasmine in any form I recognize. All I get from it is that awful laundry room note that ruins Wisteria & Lace, with a touch of drugstore plastic jasmine underneath. Would probably make a fine air freshener.

Jazzelle: This one is a surprise of the delightful kind. I was sure I would hate it. It's a chocolate scent, and I am very much in the camp that says chocolate should be eaten, not spritzed. I might get the occasional urge to smear myself with cocoa butter in the winter, but I regard that desire as faintly perverse and embarrassing. Why would I want to leave my house smelling as if I'm wearing edible panties? The great thing about Jazzelle is that it opens with such a brazen, over-the-top chocolate note that all my resistance is overwhelmed by the surge of feel-good neurochemicals it induces. Jazzelle them rewards my weakness with some unexpected, and very pretty, floral notes. This may be love.

The Heirloom Collection is for those days when you're ready for some serious past life regression. These are scents to please your grandmother's grandmother.

Lady Evangeline: The website calls this a vanilla scent, but my thought on first sniff was "heliotrope and musk." Actually, it is rich in vanilla, but it's a true vanilla, rather fresh and light, as opposed to the resinous vanillic notes that come from benzoin and amber. Faintly sweet and powdery, this scent is just too wide-eyed for me to wear alone. It does, however, layer well with just about anything you want to soften or sweeten. It even works with Jazz Royale above.

Mignonette: I confess I have never smelled real mignonette, so I have no idea how true Lagniappe Oaks' version is to the flower. Other supposed mignonette perfumes I've smelled have been sweeter and much more powdery than this one. That said, it's probably my favorite scent in the whole line. It's difficult to describe, but if you imagine a slightly herbaceous, powdery heliotrope, you'll get the idea. It has a decidedly Victorian character. I've got the edt and the lotion, and I've had great success with layering both of them, especially with white florals. Mignonette is quite wearable on its own, however, especially if you're not planning to handle power tools or confront troublesome persons.

Victorian Lace: Basically, a muguet and stephanotis scent. Not powdery or sweet, not terribly green, either. Soapy in what I consider to be a good way. It would make a wonderful scent for a very young girl, but I'd be happy to wear it any time I wanted something clean and unobtrusive.

Lilac & Lace: Like the name says, lilacs, freshened with muguet and a mere whisper of that cotton note that keeps turning up. I actually like it here, because it works against the cloying quality that often ruins lilac scents for me. This is another one you wouldn't mind dabbing on your first-grader or yourself. Very unlikely to draw complaints.

*I meant to say a word in the prior post about the rather precious marketing of the New Orleans perfumeries. I'm sure it's a bit of a turn-off for some--hell, it's a bit of a turn-off for me, and I love New Orleans. If you're at all curious about the scents, I'd really encourage you to forget the twee names and try the perfumes with an open mind. We manage to overlook the obnoxious antics of Tom Ford, don't we?

Photo of Jackson Square from Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Junco sighting

Remember my complaint about being the object of a Dark-Eyed Junco boycott? Somebody broke ranks--there was a lone Junco hanging around my back yard all afternoon yesterday. Maybe he read the blog and took pity on me.

Come back, little man, and bring your friends!

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Lagniappe Oaks, finally

As all my sniffy friends know, I am a hopeless slut for the hopelesly old-fashioned scents of Bourbon French and Hové. Maybe it's just a reaction to having lived through the horrible excesses of the 80s (Giorgio, anyone?), or maybe I am unconsciously channeling my grandmother, but when I get a whiff of the sweet, feminine perfumes of New Orleans I feel an instant mood lift. I have a completely uncharacteristic desire to sip cocktails and talk to people. I feel pretty, dammit. Well, prettier anyway.

I never really explored the perfumes of Lagniappe Oaks, which was located outside New Orleans, mostly because I still don't have everything I'd like from The Royal Street stores, and it seemed unwise to put myself in the way of more temptation. But the devil won't be denied, apparently, because when I clicked over to Bourbon French's site last month there was the news that it will now be the home of Lagniappe Oaks. The LO collections can be ordered from the BF page with one-stop impulse purchase convenience. Naturally, I caved and bought samplers of each of the 3 LO collections. I have to do my bit to head off the recession, you know.

I'll say a word about all three collections over the next few days, but I'll start with the Renaissance Florals, which are all soliflores of the classic type--which is to say, blended scents in which a single floral predominates, not the more modern soliflore which is focused on mimicking the true scent of a flower.

Sweet Olive: A restrained osmanthus in which the apricot element is very pronounced, especialy in the opening. A softer, gentler version of tea olive than either Bourbon French's or Hové's. Sweeter, without the oddly alluring (to me) floral hysteria of the other two. Would be perfect for those times when you're craving tea olive but don't really want to feel like Blanche DuBois.

Les Fleur Magnolia: Again, a soft take on the flower. The lemony pine element of magnolia is minimized in favor of the fresh green notes that lurk beneath them in the living blossom. Something about this scent reminds me of the sporty modern Vent Vert.

Cameo Rose: If the odd metallic wang of many modern rose soliflores annoys you, then this one might be to your liking. It's a mellow rose over a base of powder and what I'd call a very faint hint of caramel. The website says "baby powder and spice," which suggests some icky concoction of vanilla and other foody notes, but in fact the powder note is perfectly adult, and any spice in there is lost on me. I usually like my roses fresher, with a faint hint of green, as in Hové's Rose Celeste, but this would make a nice rose for a different mood.

Wisteria & Lace: Wisteria, like bayberry, is a scent that is promised more often than it is delivered. People just seem to slap the name on anything that even vaguely suggests the real fragrance, and on plenty of things that don't. Sadly, I find that's the case here. What this smells like to me is that "fresh cotton" scent that has been popping up the last few years in home fragrance products. I seem to recall that B&BW had a line in cotton something-or-other that was pretty popular. Anyway, as that scent entity goes, this one's not bad. If they made a dryer sheet in Wisteria & Lace I'd buy it, but it's not my idea of perfume. Or my grandmother's.

These scents don't evolve much. Once the alcohol dries down, you've arrived at your destination. They're all pretty light, but last quite well on me. If you're the cutting edge type, then none of them will interest you in the least. If, like me, you often get a jones for something that gives pleasure and makes no demands, they are worth checking out--especially if Bourbon French keeps the current prices, which are fabulously low. The packaging, with velvet bags for full bottles and other pretty touches, is also nice. Hope they keep that, too.

Image from Bourbon French Parfums

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

One Sentence Perfume Review: Moss Breches, Tom Ford Private Blend

Both ethereal and earthy, the scent of Galadriel meeting the Hobbits--or rich ladies making mud pies.

Notes from The Perfumed Court: fresh wood, spice notes, beeswax absolute, Moroccan clary sage, Hungarian tarragon, Corsican rosemary, labdanum, patchouli and benzoin

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Nio says, "Thank you verrry much"

In case you missed it, Saturday's post was graced with a comment from the president of the Nio Fan Club (aka Dave):

"Yes, Nio is a great dog. You couldn’t ask for a more devoted companion, affectionate, ready to fetch just about anything you throw, with the coolest array of howls when there’s a siren. As they say around these parts, “My dog is an awesome dog”—oh wait, that’s God, not dog. But everyone with that bumper sticker would rethink it if they knew Nio.

Now if we are to have the full Internet experience of Nio, you Perfumistas need to get busy and invent virtual scratch and sniff technology. Because to know Nio is to smell him. Let’s just leave it at that.

And there’s another part of the Nio experience missing on-line—moistness. He dribbles, he sprays, and most of all he slobbers and drools, and greets everyone he can with a robust stroke of his paintbrush tongue.

What can I say. This boy is a one-dog multi-sensory experience."

Monday, January 14, 2008

Monday is Meat Day

Well, to be precise, not every Monday is Meat Day, just the second Monday of each month. That's when I drive to the other side of Nashville to rendezvous with Farmer Jenny, who hands me some delectable parts of the cows, pigs, goats and chickens she so lovingly raises. I've been subscribing to a CSA with her for several years now. I haven't spent a day at the farm in a long time, so I didn't know any of today's ex-critters in life, but at least I spent a moment chatting with the woman who saw them into and out of this world. Michael Pollan would be so proud.

On the way home I stopped at the big box pet supply place to buy my dogs their kibble and treats--which are, of course, made with factory farmed meat. (Go ahead, Michael, judge me.) As I stepped out of the car I saw a white mutt standing about 30 feet away, surveying the parking lot with that mixture of confidence and wariness that is the hallmark of long-term strays. I called him just to test, and sure enough he acknowledged me but kept his distance. Dogs that are lost or dumped will either come right to you or run away in a panic. This guy was clearly hardcore homeless.

I went in the store and got a couple of extra packages of jerky treats for Mr. Stray. I argued with myself as I always do in these situations. Should I try to take him home? I already have three rescues and feel slightly overwhelmed. It wouldn't really be fair to the current pack to bring in yet another foundling. Should I ask the people in the store to call animal control to pick him up? He seemed like a nice enough dog, but not exactly highly adoptable. He'd just spend a few days in a cage and be euthanized. He was thin, but looked like he was doing okay on his own. At least he was smart enough to cruise the doggy supermarket.

I know what some of you are thinking. Yes, it's true, I am the one who's always saying you shouldn't feed feral cats, that feeding them without taking some responsibility for them just encourages overpopulation, rapacious songbird slaughter, etc. A dog in an urban environment, however, has a much harder time supporting himself than the cats in my rural community. And in any case, we have already established above that I am a hypocrite. Back to the story...

I wasn't surprised that the mutt wouldn't come to me to take the food. I pitched the treats about 10 feet away, and he ate them calmly. Clearly, I was not the first soft touch he'd met. I ran some more errands at the shopping center and was relieved not to see him when I returned to the parking lot. Then I saw her. Black and tan mutt, a little smaller than the boy dog, sitting almost exactly where he had been standing when I first saw him. Great. They were tag teaming me.

I went through the same drill with throwing her some treats, but before she could take any, here came the ungallant Mr. S and he gobbled them right up. He let her have just one. It was cold out there and I needed to get home, but hey, we bitches have to stick together. No way I could leave without making sure she got some food. I was out of treats, so I went back in the pet store, and by the time I came out the dogs had wandered over to a little grassy area and were lying side by side, a dysfunctional yet loving couple. I made two piles of food, one far enough away from the other that the male couldn't guard both, but he had gorged himself sufficiently. When I left them he was quietly watching her eat.

Then I got back in my car full of meat and drove away.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Venus, Adonis and Cupid, Annibale Carracci, ca.1590

For the flip side ...

... of the sad news below, go see this happy video post at Teh Portly Dyke.

So much for keeping the homeland safe

"The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment — along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems — appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction.

Three-quarters of these veterans were still in the military at the time of the killing. More than half the killings involved guns, and the rest were stabbings, beatings, strangulations and bathtub drownings. Twenty-five offenders faced murder, manslaughter or homicide charges for fatal car crashes resulting from drunken, reckless or suicidal driving.

About a third of the victims were spouses, girlfriends, children or other relatives, among them 2-year-old Krisiauna Calaira Lewis, whose 20-year-old father slammed her against a wall when he was recuperating in Texas from a bombing near Falluja that blew off his foot and shook up his brain."

From today's New York Times. Read the full article here.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Nio's Quote of the Day

"Books are not easy to digest. They are often thick and hard to tear into, and without fail the ones that are really, really soft leave a bad taste in your mouth. In general they are hard work. Owners keep them around mostly so visitors think they're smart and don't watch a lot of television."

From *The Dangerous Book for Dogs: A Parody by Rex and Sparky, by Joe Garden, Janet Ginsburg, Chris Pauls, Anita Serwacki and Scott Sherman (Villard: 2007) 64.

*Click on the title to see some fun videos at the Amazon page.

Friday, January 11, 2008

She of the variably transliterated name

Umm Kalthoum, Oum Kolthoum, Umme Kolsoum, whatever. She was the great diva of Arab music. Read about her here.

This kinescope (I think that's what it is) may make you a little seasick. Just close your eyes and listen. Amazing, passionate stuff.

*UPDATE: I found a translation of the lyrics to this song, "El Atlal," at this page.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

It's a beautiful evening

The clouds are dispersing after a day of rain and storms. A thin crescent moon is rising and the stars are shining through. It's been warm here the past few days with a strong south wind. It feels like late March instead of mid-January, though that's supposed to change tonight. The mild weather has made the woods a lot livelier. The deer have been up early, and now that the mating season is over, they're moving around in big single sex groups. Does seem to hang together throughout the year, but bucks are solitary most of the time when they're not chasing a girlfriend. There's just a brief period in winter when the bachelors socialize, and I can't help thinking they look like a bunch of guys trying to figure out how to entertain themselves without the possibility of sex to distract them.

The squirrels always seem to be out no matter how cold it gets, but the fake spring has really got them riled up. Yesterday they were squealing and chasing each other like crazy--sure looked like squirrel love to me. It was pretty entertaining, but I was careful to keep my distance. As you know, I've had my problems with squirrels.

I haven't seen any sign that the songbirds are getting a jump on their mating season, but they've also been out more, so the woods are full of their music. A mockingbird was giving it all he had this morning, and there were lots of winter wrens--adorable little guys--who always make a lot of noise for their size. (You can hear their song at their Cornell Lab page.

When I got back from my walk this morning, I found an email from fellow nature lover Michael Sims with a link to this fun page, which gives all the collective nouns for birds. Remarkably, there's nothing for wrens or mockingbirds. It's not that surprising, I guess, that the great gray warriors are left out, since they don't really mob up in a serious way. Wrens do, though. I've seen a dozen or more fluttering through the brush together as they look for goodies. They move so quickly, your eye can hardly keep up. So how about a "twinkle of wrens?"

Crescent moon photo from

Winter Wren photo from Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Donne on the dangers of sillage

I'll bet most of my fellow perfume nuts already know this one, but it's worth revisiting. Donne always is. This poem was presumably inspired by Donne's secret marriage to Anne More, which got him briefly thrown into prison.



by John Donne*

ONCE, and but once, found in thy company,
All thy supposed escapes are laid on me ;
And as a thief at bar is question'd there
By all the men that have been robb'd that year,
So am I—by this traiterous means surprized—
By thy hydroptic father catechized.
Though he had wont to search with glazèd eyes,
As though he came to kill a cockatrice ;
Though he hath oft sworn that he would remove
Thy beauty's beauty, and food of our love,
Hope of his goods, if I with thee were seen,
Yet close and secret, as our souls, we've been.
Though thy immortal mother, which doth lie
Still buried in her bed, yet will not die,
Takes this advantage to sleep out daylight,
And watch thy entries and returns all night ;
And, when she takes thy hand, and would seem kind,
Doth search what rings and armlets she can find ;
And kissing notes the colour of thy face ;
And fearing lest thou'rt swollen, doth thee embrace ;
To try if thou long, doth name strange meats ;
And notes thy paleness, blushing, sighs, and sweats ;
And politicly will to thee confess
The sins of her own youth's rank lustiness ;
Yet love these sorceries did remove, and move
Thee to gull thine own mother for my love.
Thy little brethren, which like fairy sprites
Oft skipp'd into our chamber, those sweet nights,
And kiss'd, and ingled on thy father's knee,
Were bribed next day to tell what they did see ;
The grim-eight-foot-high-iron-bound serving-man,
That oft names God in oaths, and only then,
He that, to bar the first gate, doth as wide
As the great Rhodian Colossus stride
—Which, if in hell no other pains there were,
Makes me fear hell, because he must be there—
Though by thy father he were hired to this,
Could never witness any touch or kiss.
But O ! too common ill, I brought with me
That, which betray'd me to mine enemy,
A loud perfume, which at my entrance cried
Even at thy father's nose ; so were we spied.
When, like a tyrant King, that in his bed
Smelt gunpowder, the pale wretch shivered,
Had it been some bad smell, he would have thought
That his own feet, or breath, that smell had wrought ;
But as we in our isle imprisoned,
Where cattle only and diverse dogs are bred,
The precious unicorns strange monsters call,
So thought he good strange, that had none at all.
I taught my silks their whistling to forbear ;
Even my oppress'd shoes dumb and speechless were ;
Only thou bitter sweet, whom I had laid
Next me, me traiterously hast betray'd,
And unsuspected hast invisibly
At once fled unto him, and stay'd with me.
Base excrement of earth, which dost confound
Sense from distinguishing the sick from sound !
By thee the silly amorous sucks his death
By drawing in a leprous harlot's breath ;
By thee the greatest stain to man's estate
Falls on us, to be call'd effeminate ;
Though you be much loved in the prince's hall,
There things that seem exceed substantial ;
Gods, when ye fumed on altars, were pleased well,
Because you were burnt, not that they liked your smell ;
You're loathsome all, being taken simply alone ;
Shall we love ill things join'd, and hate each one?
If you were good, your good doth soon decay ;
And you are rare ; that takes the good away :
All my perfumes I give most willingly
To embalm thy father's corpse ; what? will he die?

*Text from

The Lovers, Master of the Fontainebleau School, from Web Gallery of Art

On the Road to Freedom

I did a blog post a while back about Charles Cobb's book on the history of the civil rights movement. It's out this month, and I've got a full review up at the Scene, which you can read here. On the Road to Freedom is conceived as a travel guide for people who want to visit historic sites, but it's also a very readable primer on desegregation, with lots of interviews and documents from the time, along with Cobb's account of events. He really fleshes out the standard narrative of the movement, and give a sense of how people challenged racism in their own communities. His book would be great for a bright teenager who wants something more than the usual MLK Day lesson on civil rights.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The X Factor

Mary has a nice review of Parfum d’Ida over at her blog. She mentions my review, which was actually written about an earlier incarnation of the scent. I liked both versions a lot, but I have to say the latest one is far more wearable and I suspect it will have plenty of fans. If the first one had hit the market, it would have belonged to a select niche among niche-lovers, i.e., people who want something very exclusive with a lot of moxie.

I don’t have anything against moxie. I wear some pretty hardball scents--Miss Balmain and Fracas are two widely hated faves of mine—but they’re always a little bit complicated for me. As much as we sniff fiends like to say we wear perfume to please ourselves, I don’t think any of us are oblivious to the sillage issue. I know which perfumes in my collection are fairly reliable pleasers (Ivoire, Fidji, Narcisse Blanc, Bourbon French Jasmine, Sand & Sable), and I tend to stick with those anytime I know I’ll be in close quarters with people. I save my really challenging stuff for days when I’m pretty sure I’ll be on my own at home, or at least traveling solo.

The trouble is, that leaves 50 or 60 scents in my collection for which I don’t have a wearing policy, because I really have no idea how they smell to other people. I have learned through experience that there is no predicting the reaction I’ll get to a perfume, regardless of its popularity or its cost. For instance, today I put on a generous dab of Bourbon French’s Olive Blossom. It’s sweet, it’s fruity, it’s lush, and it’s old-fashioned with a vengeance. It smells great to me, but it’s just the kind of thing that often brings on nose wrinkling and queries about whether the pest control service has been by. So I was slightly surprised when a nodding acquaintance (I don’t even know his name) walked past me at the park and then turned back to say, “You smell good!” Chalk one up for Bourbon French, but it just goes to show that there’s no reliable way of evaluating the allure, or lack thereof, in most perfumes. Fragrance lovers are stuck with an X factor that can come into play any time we take our scented bodies out into the world.

It’s such a blow to vanity to realize that we have no way of knowing how people perceive us—not just our perfumes, of course, but everything about our public selves: how we look, sound and smell, what attitude we project, etc. There are countless products and self-improvement gurus out there to help us take charge of those things, and all of them are utterly useless. Unless we master Spock’s mind meld, we simply cannot know what someone else perceives, much less control it. Our best efforts to charm may make us repulsive; the flaw we despise may be the very thing that endears us to others.

So what’s a perfumista to do? Spritz and hope for the best, I guess. And enjoy the mystery.

Photo of Tea Olive in bloom from Wikimedia Commons

There are so few public figures to admire ...

... but here's one: Joycelyn Elders, the first Surgeon General in the Clinton administration. She came to mind as I was listening to some misguided member of my sex on a radio call-in show recently. This person was droning on about how important it is that everybody vote for Hillary Clinton because she's a woman--no other reason, mind you, just that she's a woman. Little things like policy positions don't matter, because we "have to break the glass ceiling." That's right, one politician without a penis is as good as another. Pussy is generic. I heard that line early in the campaign from people like Eleanor Smeal, but I'm amazed that it still has traction at this point. (Melissa McEwan, aka Shakespeare's Sister, calls this "vagina voting," and she's done some great riffs on it, such as this one.)

Thinking about the pseudo-feminism of the Clinton supporters got me thinking about the pseudo-feminism of Clinton herself, and that reminded me of Joycelyn Elders. I remember being kind of thrilled when Bill appointed her, because she had a such a fierce vision of how to tackle social problems, yet she seemed to be a very warm, fundamentally likable human being. Everything she did and said in her brief tenure bore that out. And then, because she had the audacity to acknowledge that teenagers masturbate, and to suggest that locking up drug addicts might be pointless, the religious right started baying for her blood. Bill gave her up with almost no fight at all. And Hillary, if memory serves, didn't say a word. Ms. "Vote For Me 'Cuz I'm A Girl" couldn't be bothered to come to the defense of an entirely admirable woman who was being attacked for simply doing her job. That pretty much tells me everything I need to know about what sisterhood means to HRC.

Elders is in her seventies now, but apparently is still working and speaking out on the issues that got her in trouble. Good for her. You can read a 2005 profile of her here. For more about Hillary's habit of backstabbing, see this post from the blog Jack and Jill Politics.

Monday, January 7, 2008

This is a disgusting post

Really, it is. Don't read it if you are the squeamish type.

Still with me? Okay. I was out this afternoon cleaning up the dog shit in the back yard. (Not my favorite chore, but a necessary one. We've got 200+ lbs worth of canines continually processing and extruding ex-kibble in a fairly small fenced area. You get the picture.)* Unless the ground is really frozen, the poops are always full of dung beetles. For you urbanites, that's a dung beetle in the pic above. They're fabulous little beasties who live on shit, so even if you are a really relaxed dog owner, they'll save your yard from becoming the Augean stables--although the beetles are not so thorough that you'd want to throw a wedding reception out there.

As I was scooping today I saw that the beetles were covered in thousands of tiny mites. I had never noticed them before, but I gather from reading around the Web that such infestations are very common. The mites just ride around on the beetles and eat up fly larvae and other shit in the shit, so to speak. A beautiful system, isn't it? Life sustained by the waste and decay of other life. Everything is food for something.

The beetles' repast is a reminder of the absurdity of our fetish for food. We rhapsodize over it, write books about it, moralize and agonize over its consumption--yet food is really nothing but dead things on their way to becoming shit. Pretty soon you and I will be dead things on our way to becoming shit. It's a beautiful system.

I watched the bugs for a while, and then Nio and I went in to prepare tomorrow's meal for the little guys. I feel sure he is a god to them. A very generous god.

*I should note for the record that I am not usually the one who does this chore. Dave does it probably 80% of the time. Credit where credit is due.

Photo from Wikipedia

Sunday, January 6, 2008

I'm not usually a joiner...

...but I think I may make an exception for this. I'm not going to send the ACLU any of my money, since they've got plenty, but heaven knows I support the cause. And I look so fetching in my UT sweatshirt.

In honor of our Music of the Moment (sorry, Leo)

Here's something sublime for your Sunday--Stephane Grappelli and McCoy Tyner at the Warsaw Jazz Festival in 1991.

Friday, January 4, 2008

In honor of the Huckabee victory

A few words from John Donne for all the fundamentalists out there:

... men do not stand
In so ill case, that God hath with his hand
Sign'd kings' blank charters to kill whom they hate;
Nor are they vicars, but hangmen to fate.
Fool and wretch, wilt thou let thy soul be tied
To man's laws, by which she shall not be tried
At the last day? Oh, will it then boot thee
To say a Philip, or a Gregory,
A Harry, or a Martin, taught thee this?
Is not this excuse for mere contraries
Equally strong? Cannot both sides say so?
That thou mayest rightly obey power, her bounds know;
Those past, her nature and name is chang'd; to be
Then humble to her is idolatry.
As streams are, power is; those blest flowers that dwell
At the rough stream's calm head, thrive and do well,
But having left their roots, and themselves given
To the stream's tyrannous rage, alas, are driven
Through mills, and rocks, and woods, and at last, almost
Consum'd in going, in the sea are lost.
So perish souls, which more choose men's unjust
Power from God claim'd, than God himself to trust.

From Satire III by John Donne. Read the complete poem at A version with notes can be found here.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Out in the cold

Red-tailed Hawk

It was 12 degrees Fahrenheit this morning when I started my walk. I really hate the cold. One of the main reasons we left Chicago was that I just couldn't take the winters. Frozen nostrils, ice in my eyelashes, the dreadful knowledge that my numb fingers are going to hurt like hell when they finally warm up--I could have happily lived my whole life without experiencing any of those things. And don't even get me started about frozen stuff falling from the sky. Snow's pretty, but so is poison ivy. I'd just as soon keep my distance.

Still, there I was this morning, tromping along the frozen ground because the pain of being cold doesn't begin to compare to the misery of being cooped up inside all day. I did without the hike Wednesday for various reason, and by the afternoon I was ready to crawl out of my own skin. It's not just the lack of exercise that gets to me, it's being deprived of all the sensations of being outdoors--the sunlight, the movement of the air, the birdsong and squirrel chatter, the pleasure of feeling the earth under my feet. I seem to need a regular dose of those things simply to be able to think.

One theme that recurs in accounts of civilians trapped in war zones is the confinement they have to endure just to stay alive. It crops up a lot in stories from Iraq, but it's part of every conflict. People hide in their homes, only venturing out when they must, and when they do go out they're terrified. There are so many ways people suffer during a war, but I think the loss of freedom must be especially painful, particularly when it goes on for months or years. I know it would drive me mad if I had to go for days without seeing the sun, if I couldn't have some brief time to feel connected to the natural world.

So, frozen nostrils and all, I felt really lucky this morning. I made it to the top of a ridge just in time to watch the sun rise above the horizon. There weren't many critters stirring, but a big red-tailed hawk did some gorgeous aerial acrobatics, showing off in the golden early light.

(Click here for a BirdCinema video of a red-tailed hawk in flight.)

Meet Michael Sims

I've mentioned Michael and his various books, including Apollo's Fire, a number of times here on the blog, so I think you'll be interested in this nice interview he recently gave, which includes a slide show of his photography. It's a very entertaining Q & A, and it will make you understand why I am always delighted to see Michael's name pop up in my email inbox.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


I spent a little time this morning cruising around the presidential candidates' websites. Trust me when I tell you never to do that. A brief surf of just one site is enough to induce clinical depression. A serial waltz through all of them will leave you ready to lay down and die.

In desperation I went looking for some truly good news in the world. Not an escape, mind you--no Al Green videos or online window-shopping. That kind of thing doesn't cut it after a super-size portion of Mike Huckabee.

I went over to, which was taking a chance, since I often find more outrage there than inspiration. But I got lucky, and found this nice slide show about Umoja, an all-female village in Kenya that provides refuge for victims of rape, domestic violence and child marriage. I hope the women there are all safe today from the unrest plaguing that country.

Some more searching led me to the video below, which I found at Africa Unchained. Looking at these beautiful women and the beautiful things they make gave me a little hope. Should you be in need, may it do the same for you.