Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Random Rave: Capucci de Capucci (1987)

It's the end of a long day and I'm a little foggy, so this rave will be brief as well as random. Capucci de Capucci is an 80s designer frag, so you'd expect it to be a bit pushy and loud. But no, it's demure, feminine and understated. A quick Web search found almost no chatter about it in the scent blathersphere--which surprises me, because it's such a classic, wearable perfume. The canned description refers to "oriental and woodsy notes," which is slightly misleading. Capucci de Capucci is actually a warm floral aldehyde with a gently spicy, woody base. Think of Arpege or vintage Madame Rochas, girlied up a bit with a lilac note--that's CdeC. The composition is at once lighthearted and carefully composed. It's not a scent for a matron, but for her pretty, perfectionist daughter.

Bowing Dancers, Edgar Degas, 1885

Monday, June 29, 2009

I've been wandering...

...in a dark wood, thinking shadowy thoughts. I'll be back to blogging shortly.

Illustration from Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, 1499. Image from Web Gallery of Art.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Monday blues

It's high time we got back to starting off the week with some good music. This is John Lee Hooker performing "Boom Boom," c. 1964. There are clips of him performing other arrangements of this song, but I really like the stripped-down, low-key version he does here.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

"Your legs long and cool..."

My breasts are small and my eyes round.
Your legs long and cool as the freshet
that runs down from the fountain

From "The Kiss" by Kirmen Uribe. Complete poem at Poetry Foundation.

Stehendes Liebespaar, Otto Mueller, c.1919. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Even though...

...the air is too humid to breathe, the ticks and poison ivy are everywhere, and the flies are as annoying as the perfume SAs at Macy's, today was still a glorious day to walk in the woods.

Wendell Berry explains why.

Photo of a surviving segment of the Natchez Trace from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"We gave love many dreams and days to keep"

A Leave-Taking

by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Let us go hence, my songs; she will not hear.
Let us go hence together without fear;
Keep silence now, for singing-time is over,
And over all old things and all things dear.
She loves not you nor me as all we love her.
Yea, though we sang as angels in her ear,
She would not hear.

Let us rise up and part; she will not know.
Let us go seaward as the great winds go,
Full of blown sand and foam; what help is here?
There is no help, for all these things are so,
And all the world is bitter as a tear.
And how these things are, though ye strove to show,
She would not know.

Let us go home and hence; she will not weep.
We gave love many dreams and days to keep,
Flowers without scent, and fruits that would not grow,
Saying 'If thou wilt, thrust in thy sickle and reap.'
All is reaped now; no grass is left to mow;
And we that sowed, though all we fell on sleep,
She would not weep.

Let us go hence and rest; she will not love.
She shall not hear us if we sing hereof,
Nor see love's ways, how sore they are and steep.
Come hence, let be, lie still; it is enough.
Love is a barren sea, bitter and deep;
And though she saw all heaven in flower above,
She would not love.

Let us give up, go down; she will not care.
Though all the stars made gold of all the air,
And the sea moving saw before it move
One moon-flower making all the foam-flowers fair;
Though all those waves went over us, and drove
Deep down the stifling lips and drowning hair,
She would not care.

Let us go hence, go hence; she will not see.
Sing all once more together; surely she,
She too, remembering days and words that were,
Will turn a little toward us, sighing; but we,
We are hence, we are gone, as though we had not been there.
Nay, and though all men seeing had pity on me,
She would not see.

Text via Poetry Foundation.

Pilgrim in a Rocky Valley, Carl Gustav Carus, c.1820. Image from Web Gallery of Art.

The new woodchuck

There's a wild cherry tree behind our house that always produces a lot of fruit. The same woodchuck used come every summer to snarf up the cherries. He was a big, fat guy, and it was touching to see him get a little slower as each year passed. All the sources I've checked say that 5 years is the average lifespan for a woodchuck. If so, our chubby friend was exceptionally long-lived, because I watched him for at least 4 summers, and he was no cub when he first appeared.

Chuck went missing a couple of years ago. We were having a terrible drought at the time, and it may have been too much for an elderly woodchuck. Or he may have fallen less peacefully, to the coyotes or our gardening, gun-loving neighbors. I've missed him, so I was very happy a few weeks ago when I saw a cat come flying out of the brush under the treeline, pursued by an angry woodchuck. Kitty was probably after the woodchuck's babies. This new Marmota monax is a much more petite specimen than her predecessor, but she scared the shit out of that cat.

I've seen her several times since then. She's currently out there every day, getting her fill of cherries, so I feel as if we've definitely got a replacement groundhog-in-residence. I just hope she steers clear of coyotes and armed humans.

Maxine Kumin wrote a very fine poem about woodchucks. You can listen to her read it here. I should warn you, it's a sad poem. The hungry heart of the woodchuck is no match for human selfishness.

Groundhog photo by April M. King from Wikimedia Commons

(Also posted at Turn Outward)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Nursing duty

I had a couple of new posts in mind for today, but I've been busy looking after a sick Kobi, so they're on hold until tomorrow. (Nothing serious with the Crazy One, and she feels much better now, thanks to some magic pills from the vet.)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

One Sentence Perfume Review: Summer, Madini

The perfect scent for flirting at a garden party: sweet and harmless, but not entirely innocent.

Notes per BitterGrace: Bergamot, Neroli, Lavender, Rose, Jasmine, Lily, Vetiver, Sandalwood

The Earth, Nicolas Lancret, c. 1730

Happy Solstice!

Katha Pollitt on the assassination of Dr. Tiller

Click here.

If you don't have the time or inclination to read Pollitt's column, here's its most useful piece of info:

You can honor the life of Dr. Tiller and make sure that low-income women receive safe abortion care by making a donation to the George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund at the National Network of Abortion Funds. Contribute online at nnaf.org/tiller.html or mail a check to George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund, c/o National Network of Abortion Funds, 42 Seaverns Avenue, Boston, MA 02130.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Valentino: The Last Emperor

First, a disclaimer: I am a fashion rube. My interest in designer frocks is stretched to the limit by 10 minutes of watching the red carpet parade at the Oscars. I think the fragrances marketed under Valentino's name range from insipid to awful, and for all I know the clothing cognoscenti feel the same way about his dresses. Personally, I think the conservative, feminine glamour of Valentino gowns is pretty appealing—but then, I’m a rube. What do I know?

All of which is to say that I have no idea what serious fashionistas would think of Valentino: The Last Emperor. The film presumes the audience has respect for the man, as well as for the cultural importance of high fashion. Not that the filmmakers take the whole business too seriously. Valentino’s over-the-top lifestyle, his tantrums, and his squabbles with longtime partner Giancarlo Giammetti are all presented with wry affection. An extravagant gala celebrating the 45th anniversary of the fashion house is portrayed as the vaguely surreal event it must have been, and there are some very funny moments, including a priceless exchange between Valentino and Karl Lagerfeld. And if you’ve ever suffered pangs of envy for the catwalk goddesses, this movie will cure them. I’m sure the mute model who is shown standing around naked while clothes are constructed on top of her was very well paid for her time, but watching the process made me realize she must have one of the most boring jobs on earth.

In spite of all the fun, there’s a tragic aspect to Valentino: The Last Emperor. Corporate forces of evil lurk in the background throughout the film. The narrative ends with the ascendancy of the bean-counting weasels, followed by Valentino’s retirement, so all the high living and bitchery we’ve seen takes on an unexpected layer of poignancy. The film becomes a sort of swan song for Valentino and a tribute to the dying traditions of haute couture.

The trailer below gives you a pretty good idea of what the film is like, although I should point out—for those of you who do care about clothes—that the movie features lot more of Valentino’s dresses than this teaser would lead you to expect.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Nio wants to know...

...why nobody told him there was a barking contest. He'd put that snooty German Shepherd in his place. WOOF!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Book rec, as promised

I was browsing through Rock Point Books in Chattanooga a few weeks ago, and came across The Last Witch of Langenburg by Thomas Robisheaux, a historian at Duke University. The jacket blurb made great claims: "...Robisheaux brings one of the last European witch panics to life, unraveling the complex set of motivations, beliefs, and fears that lay behind this accusation. The texture of day-to-day life and the terror that the witch trial engendered are fully rendered in novelistic detail."

Promises, promises. Over the years I have slogged through a lot of books churned out by academics and then marketed to general readers. They're usually awful. Sometimes they're just drivel dressed up with footnotes and a nice bibliography. More often, they contain some interesting material but destroy their intellectual allure with bad prose and/or a clumsy narrative. (Another book on witch trials, Mary Beth Norton's In the Devil's Snare, is a classic example of this "smart book, badly written" phenomenon.) The Last Witch of Langenburg is not awful. In fact, it's one of the best examples of popular history I've read in a long time.

The book tells the story of Anna Schmieg, a miller's wife in the German village of Langenburg in 1672, who finds herself accused of witchcraft and murder. The narrative is pretty standard witch hysteria fare: middle-aged, mouthy woman is disliked by her community; an accusation is made; torture and execution follow. What sets this book apart from others of the genre is Robisheaux's nuanced understanding of the dynamics of 17th century village life, and his insight into the complex interplay of religion, law, and budding science that marked the period. Robisheaux is a fine writer, with a straightforward, readable style. Though his account of events is meticulously sourced, his empathy for Anna gives many scenes the emotional punch of fiction. He provides the reader with poignant glimpses into the crumbling psyche of a woman who has been isolated and tormented:

"Anna's belief that this confessional rite could heal her broken life--going back to her childhood--explains why painful memories came tumbling out of her at times. Remembering her mother's death and going to her uncle's house for help, Anna said 'she did not stay long with him because he had so many children and she misbehaved so badly.' Without prodding, she then recounted other sad details of her childhood, and her own guilt, so common among children, that she bore moral responsibility for it all."

Robisheaux doesn't linger over the physical horrors inflicted on Anna, but his portrait of her character is so engaging that her ultimate fate is shocking, though completely predictable. She was just one of many victims of the witch hunts of her day, a fact that makes The Last Witch of Langenburg a tale of tragedy much larger than the destruction of one unlucky woman.

(I said I'd have a few words about this book, and now I've blathered on for hundreds of words. Sorry about that. The review of Valentino: The Last Emperor will have to wait until tomorrow. It's a tragedy, too, in its way--but more fun, with prettier people.)

Punishments for Witches, an illustration for Laienspiegel, 1509.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

We beg your patience

The dogs and I are all feeling logy at the end of a hot, busy day. We just don't have the energy to post. Check back tomorrow for a few words about a book, and a review of Valentino: The Last Emperor.

Meanwhile, ponder this snippet of verse from Cesare Pavese. The complete poem is here.

In the sprawling vineyards, the sharp, sweet voice
of the sun whispers through the diaphanous blaze,
as if the air trembled. Grass trembles around her.
The grass is young still, like the heat of the sun.
The dead are young too, while memories live.

From "The Drunk Old Woman" by Cesare Pavese, translated by Geoffrey Brock.

Nymph and Hound, Jacob Matham, 1607-1610.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The owl children

I'm pretty much back to my regular hiking habits after my little Memorial Day mishap. It feels great to be spending hours rather than minutes outdoors. Aside from the contemplative benefits, clocking more time in the woods increases the chance of encountering something interesting, charming or just plain weird. Today I found charm, in the form of three juvenile barred owls. ...Click here to read the rest.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"But leave me a little love"

At a Window

by Carl Sandburg

Give me hunger,
O you gods that sit and give
The world its orders.
Give me hunger, pain and want,
Shut me out with shame and failure
From your doors of gold and fame,
Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger!

But leave me a little love,
A voice to speak to me in the day end,
A hand to touch me in the dark room
Breaking the long loneliness.
In the dusk of day-shapes
Blurring the sunset,
One little wandering, western star
Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow.
Let me go to the window,
Watch there the day-shapes of dusk
And wait and know the coming
Of a little love.

Text from Poetry Foundation

V Rozkvetu, Max Pirner, 1883-84.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

One Sentence Perfume Review: The Unicorn Spell, LesNez Parfums d'Auteurs

It's not widely known, but Jolie Madame has a younger sister who was raised by wolves.

Notes per The Perfumed Court: green notes, violet, berries, delicate woods

Chastity with the Unicorn, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, 1463. Image from Web Gallery of Art.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Weed eating

Not much time for blogging today, but I thought I'd share this article on why it's better to eat your garden weeds than poison them. I love all the greens mentioned, especially sorrel, but I was surprised that the author said nothing about dandelions. The leaves are delicious cooked, and the flowers are a great salad ingredient. Happy gathering.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


I try to be as omnivorous as possible when it comes to music, but I've never been able to develop a taste for heavy metal. To be honest, I haven't tried very hard. Metal seems to exist exclusively for the benefit of a particular cohort of awkward males. It may be mildly toxic to the rest of us, but for them it is essential sustenance--a fact that Anvil!, a documetary about a metal band that just missed hitting it big, never lets you forget.

After a brief moment of glory in the early 80s, sharing the stage with Bon Jovi and Scorpions, Anvil's original members "Lips" Kudlow and Robb Reiner watched their band slide back into complete obscurity. The film focuses on their lives today, entering their fifties and working blue collar jobs as they struggle to keep their rock dream alive. We see them go on a semi-disastrous European tour, followed by a recording session during which they spend as much time squabbling as making music. After all the agony--as well as a sizable debt incurred to pay for the record--they can't get a label to distribute it.

On one level, the story is as grim as it sounds. Could there be anything more excruciating than watching a couple of overgrown boys try to reconcile their sweet dreams with the drudgery of real life? No middle-aged person could fail to see his own struggles mirrored in the pain of Kudlow and Reiner. What saves the film from being unbearable is its acknowledgment of the love between the two superannuated metalheads. These guys have failed at everything they think is important, but they've achieved something precious that eludes most of us: a profound, enduring friendship.

Note to self:

Remember that trains in Australia leave on time.

Friday, June 5, 2009

"I know that all beneath the moon decays"

I know that all beneath the moon decays,
And what by mortals in this world is brought,
In Time’s great periods shall return to nought;
That fairest states have fatal nights and days;
I know how all the Muse’s heavenly lays,
With toil of spright which are so dearly bought,
As idle sounds of few or none are sought,
And that nought lighter is than airy praise.
I know frail beauty like the purple flower,
To which one morn oft birth and death affords;
That love a jarring is of minds’ accords,
Where sense and will invassal reason’s power:
Know what I list, this all can not me move,
But that, O me! I both must write and love.

By William Drummond of Hawthornden

Adam and Eve, Hans Baldung Grien, 1531

The featherweights

Our resident hummingbirds have arrived. We've had a steady stream of transients since April, but I can always tell when the nesting birds are here, because that's when the fighting starts....Click here to read the rest

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Adieu, Ms. Taylor

If you asked me to name all the great things about Chicago, I think Koko Taylor would have made the top ten. It's so sad to know she's gone. I went hunting for video clips of her and couldn't find any I liked better than the one I posted last year. What a gift she had.

Photo by Sumori from Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Help me out

I am planning a trip to Australia. I'm going solo and have only the vaguest idea what I want to see there. Depending on how things work out, this might be a rather lengthy trip--weeks, not days--so I may be able to cover a fair amount of territory. Please offer any tips, suggestions or dire warnings you may have, especially about Sydney, and about the rail journey from Adelaide to Darwin.

Google Analytics leads me to believe that there are a few shy Australians who visit BitterGrace Notes but never comment. I'd be especially grateful if you folks would chime in. You can email me via the link on my profile.

At the moment, my intention is to blog as I travel, though that may be impractical in some of the places I'm thinking of going. If any of you have experience blogging on the road, I'd love to hear about that, too.

Schnapper Point from 'Beleura', Eugene von Guerard, 1870

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

One Sentence Perfume Review: Midnight Forest, Neil Morris Vault Parfums

This wood is sweet and inviting, with a touch of magic, but no monsters.

Notes from the NMF website: Galbanum, Redwood, Dark Musk, Nagarmotha, Oak, Myrrh, and Myrtlewood

Genoveva in the Forest Seclusion, Adrian Ludwig Richter, 1841. (Click here to read about Genevieve of Brabant.)