Saturday, October 25, 2008

tastes like burning...

Ant Farm: Media Burn (1975) videos available here and a shorter version here

The other day I stopped by Takashimaya and Bendels to sample the new fragrances. At Takashimaya, I developed new respect for Ineke Chemical Bonding and pretty much the whole line of Neil Morris Fragrances. In the brown somber hall of the minimalist Japanese store there was a radiant scent of cheer. What can I say, I love a good upbeat citrus, and these lines offered a range of appealing and unusual variations on this theme.

Henri Bendel is done up in bright colors, but the scents there were positively somber. A lovely perfumer was representing her line of 60's influenced scents. One of them even featured my own name so I had to try it on my skin. It was a nice mix of bright citrus, dry rose and a thick gray incense. I found it quite unusual. Standing next to her samples, the perfumer told me a little bit about her company when she excused herself for a brief coughing fit. I realized my own eyes were starting to water. When she returned I realized we were standing in a cloud of incense vapor! I walked away and my eyes thanked me.

Ant Farm, Space Cowboy Meets Plastic Businessman, 1969. Performance at Alley Theater, Houston

After I left the store, my throat felt off and I realized it got worse as my sprayed hand neared my face. Psychosomatic or otherwise, the scent of incense seemed to grow, and tickle my eyes and the back of my throat with it's sooty fingers.

I'm not sure if this was my first allergic reaction to a fragrance or of something in that scent is a universal irritant. But seriously, yuck. I am now a huge fan of ingredient labeling on scent, because I want to know what this was so that I can avoid it at all costs.

Additionally, I was browsing PubMed the other day to put together ideas for an experiment and found numerous articles about the diffusion of synthetic musks into blood, breast milk etc. Double yuck. Besides the fact that many synth musks make me want to hurl, I try to avoid sneaky hormone-like chemicals whenever possible. My fondness for perfume makes this a sticky wicket, as lavender oil will grow extra boobs, and most fragrant things are going to be aromatic hydrocarbons which are likely to fuck with us in yet unknown ways. So my goal is to try to stick to the ones that do the least fucking. And no, this doesn't mean natural perfumery, because nature has graciously provided us with some of the most powerful toxins and mutagens known to man. It just means that I'm keeping my eyes open and noticing labels. I may not know what all the ingredients do, but I have a greater incentive to try to keep track of the effect they have on me.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Rose by Any Other Name: The Science of Smell

"Rose and Ant" from The Floral Stereoradiographs of Albert G. Richards at The Museum of Jurassic Technology

A quick heads up on a cool talk coming up in December:

A Rose by Any Other Name: The Science of Smell
Speakers: Leslie Vosshall, The Rockefeller University, HHMI;
Avery Gilbert, author, What the Nose Knows

Dec 2, 2008 • 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
A reception and booksigning follow until 9:00 pm.
The New York Academy of Sciences, 7 World Trade Center, 250 Greenwich St. at Barclay St., 40th fl.

It's part of the Science of the Five Senses series. More info is available at the New York Academy of Sciences site. Also, Leslie Vosshall will be giving a Harvey Lecture on May 21st. Harvey Lectures are free, open to the public, and some of the most fun you can have inside a geodesic dome.

Sniffing out the Diagnosis

Matteo Bonazzi, Listeria monocytogenes polymerizing host cell actin into comet tails (63X)(#48 in the 2008 Nikon Small World contest)

The Yale School of Medicine has a cool show on microscopy through the ages that featured a fun online quiz on food borne microbial pathogens. One of my favorite parts is this chart matching unusual scents to different diagnoses. Who knew tuberculosis smelled like beer?