Wednesday 30 November 2011

Pop Songs of Fragrance and Symphonies of Perfume ...

The orchestra of the perfume world used to be ‘au  naturel’ ... then Coco Chanel came along introducing in 1921, what would become the world’s most famous perfume, even today, Chanel No5.
No 5 CHANEL, Paris
Eau de Parfum
in iconic bottle

Perfumes are a mixture of fragrant essential oils used to give the human body a pleasant scent – and have been known to exist since the earliest of human civilisations.  Modern perfumery began in the late 19th century with the commercial synthesis of aroma compounds, such as vanilla or coumarin (that newly-mown hay ‘sweet scent’).

Chanel No 5, firstly, was a landmark in fragrance chemistry – as it finally made a synthetic ingredient acceptable, although most of its components were still derived from natural products. 

Secondly, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel launched her perfume to complement her collection of clothes, whose themes were elegance and mystery.

"Coco before Chanel" is a
2009 French film about the
early life of the famed
designer Coco Chanel
So now-a-days those wonderful perfumes you may be receiving/giving at Christmas are just chemicals with attractive aromas - ?

The melodies of the fabric softener and the air freshener are the pop songs of fragrance chemistry, whereas the symphonies of perfume are a much richer harmony, among which there may even be a few discordant notes, deliberately introduced to contrast with the harmonic ones.

Le Grand Nez’ (the big nose) Monsieur Ernst Beaux composed Chanel No 5 – he chose an oil derived from the flowers of the Philippino ylang-ylang tree, as the middle note of the perfume; the purely artificial fragrance material, called 2-methylundecanal, for the top note.

Ylang-Ylang blossoms
The top note is the most volatile part of the perfume and the one we detect first, the middle notes take a little longer to register, and are often derived from flowers that give off a heavy, almost overpowering aroma, such as jasmine, tuberose, lily of the valley, lilac, carnation, rose and ylang-ylang.

The base notes of a perfume are the least volatile – we may not even notice them to begin with – and yet they are the most tantalising and the most erotic.  The base note is there to stir emotions and suggest experiences, such as the mysterious East, a wood at night ....   Base notes also serve an important chemical function in ‘fixing’ the top and middle notes by slowing their evaporation over the lifetime of a perfume.

Drawing of Vanilla from the Florentine Codex  (ca 1580)
and description of its use and properties - written in
Nahuati language (see a previous post)
The secret of Chanel No 5 is not only its chemical components but also the proportions in which these are blended.  Before modern methods of analysis came into use the original formula of Le Grand Nez was a trade secret, however today we know the secrets ...

Neroli Orange
Neroli Oil is one of the minor top notes, while ylang-ylang is the major middle note – I seem to have heard of Neroli Oil recently – see my previous post on ScentingYour Gloves. 

The basic ingredients and methods
of making perfumes are described
by Pliny the Elder, in his
Naturalis Historiae

But what a way we’ve come ... only about 130 years ago we were still using essential oils within 40 years or so - chemical compounds were becoming acceptable ... and now we have 'Scratch ‘N Sniff” – which that clever young man, Lenny, suggested in my Neroli Oil post.

How do these youngsters ‘beam’ these things up ... amazing it’s come true – Lenny!!

My flat has been scented with Christmas cake spice for the last week or so – not from any introduction I’ve made to my kitchen or sitting room ... just that wonderful pervasive aroma of Yuletide spices ... mmmmm  - delicious ....

Can the Plum Pudding mix be down to a few sheets of newspaper?  Well now to try ...  from a Saturday’s Times pull-out title “12 easy treats for children to make:  The first EVER recipe pullout that smells!!” – scented paper ... rub and sniff .....

Knickerbocker Glory – smells (chemically!) fruity ....
Banoffee Pancakes
Mars Bar Cakes
Fast berry Ice Cream
Banana Split
Mini Gingerbread Cakes
Iced Biscuits
Peanut Butter Cupcakes
Oreo Choc-Fudge Sundae
Marble Loaf Cake
Icy Lemon Meringue Pie
Orange Cake

Mincemeat .... mmmmmm!
Not sure about the 'Scratch 'N Sniff' ... but something is wafting around that’s rather pleasant and Mince Piey .... and I knew you’d want to know which recipes were given ...

I pass my judgement on the scented paper ‘Scratch ‘N Sniff’ ... but the Mincemeat aroma is rather delicious ....

So Lenny – your prediction was very accurate – any other predictions you’d care to let us know about ... 

Finally ... Marilyn is back in town... over at Talli’s masquerading as Willow Watts within Talli’s new book “Watching Willow Watts” ... launched in paperback today – Go TalliGo ...

The screen icon Marilyn Monroe was once asked what she wore in bed, and then scandalised many by replying “Only Chanel No 5” – a curvaceous, sensuous woman’s perfume that’s for sure ... personally I use Lanvin – and have done ever since (ever since!) a friend’s  mother brought me a bottle back from Antigua ... I bet June and Judy never thought I’d never change .. it just immediately suited me and still does.

Congratulations to all of you who have finished NaNoWriMo ...  now – Good Luck with the Christmas countdown ... no time to rest on your laurels ...

PS - this post from The History Girls came up on 23rd June 2015 - giving further excellent details and comments ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letter Inspirational Stories

Sunday 27 November 2011

Earth, Moon and Sky ... with a blog warning ...

Northumberland in 2010: this
snow and more spread South

Volcanoes erupt, the moonlight beams down, from a sky at this time of year that might release some snow flakes ...  England was almost snowbound a year ago ...

Let me deal with the snowflakes first ... beware tinselling up our blog with Christmas snow and other wonderful animations:

Chuck of has reissued his annual reminder ...

Real Unique snowflake (not a computer
generated potentially dangerous one)
Last week, I issued my annual reminder to blog owners, to consider their blog holiday decorations with care. That reminder mainly focuses on the more controversial issue of blog hijacks, and computer hacking. Besides the long term and subtle computer hacking, your readers, visiting your blog decorated with the latest animation, will have a more immediate and obvious problem to consider - browser freezes and other computer overload problems.

This is going to be a simple post favouring those who are tapping furiously towards November end and 50,000 words – plus or minus  a few ...
Map of Miyake Jema Volcano, Japan

Wired Science published some beautiful images of volcanoes – not your usual photos – stating that:  

It's not always obvious what it is that scientists find beautiful about a graph, microscope slide, soil sample or some other aspect of their work. It just looks like numbers, blobs or dirt to the rest of us. But sometimes a scientific result or product is so visually appealing, anyone would want to hang it on their wall as art.

I think you’ll enjoy the visual .. and perhaps look further across to the links and see the other ten volcanoes they graphically depict ...

Wired Science are rather enamoured with craters ... but this time it’s the moon – and I too could not resist passing on the visual and links:

Topographical Map of the Moon
Astronomers at Arizona State University have used NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to build this jaw-dropping map of the Moon. It’s the highest-resolution, near-global topographic image of our lunar neighbour yet.

Finally A History of the Sky – gleaned from another of my favourite sites Brain Pickings.

Since ancient times, the sky has been an object of fixation for humanity. Just recently, we’ve explored some delightful DIY guides to cloudwatching and stargazing, but artist Ken Murphy has taken it to another level. 

For the past 365 days, he’s pointed his lens to the sky, using a custom camera rig affixed atop the Exploratorium museum on the edge of San Francisco Bay, and captured an image every 10 seconds. 

The result is A History of the Sky — a mesmerizing mosaic of time-lapse movies, each containing a 24-hour period, synced and arranged chronologically in a (slightly more mathematically convenient than the 365-day calendar) grid of 360 total rectangles.

I have left the links in – in case you’d like to see more and read the original post ... I just feel the pictures can do their own talking ...

Good luck to all of you NaNoWriMos for the rest of the week, good luck to you dieters after Thanksgiving and us preparing for our Christmas superdelicious dinner ... and let’s hope the weather ‘us do not disrupt’ – can anyone tell us what the weather can do ..?!

Enjoy the photos –

The Real Blogger Status:  Chuck and his warning - First Post
The Real Blogger Status:  Chuck and his Second Warning: Blog decorations

Wired Science: Moon Topography 

Brain Pickings: A History of the Sky - a Mosaic Time-Lapse Visualization of the Sky for an Entire Year (Syncing the Celeste, or how to touch the fabric of time)

PS I hope the coloured text comes out ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday 22 November 2011

If__ .... and Thanksgiving ... and Nano ....

IF... that poem “If __” by Rudyard Kipling, which commences with the lines:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you ...”

Glenridding, Ullswater - The Lake District
William Wordsworth and Daffodils
... just seems so appropriate for a number of reasons .... it’s Thanksgiving ... many of you are doing NaNoWriMo, the Saturday Times produced a supplement setting out 30 classic poems, and I’ve been having challenges with my connection or Chrome or ...

IF I have connectivity and can internet link then I hereby wish all my American friends a very happy Thanksgiving – and weekend to follow – and will be over to catch up on my commenting et al ...  

‘Autumn Damask’ ancient rose 
“How do I Love Thee?” 
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
IF friends around the world had not realised – as I had not ... Thanksgiving is on the fourth  Thursday of November.  “Black Friday” comes next – no surprise there .. shopping frenzy day (IF you are not doing NaNoWriMo) – the start of Christmas shopping in the States .. the stores open very early 4.00a.m. ...  but it is also “Buy Nothing Day” – an international day of protest again consumerism;

... finally comes “Cyber Monday”  (first coined in 2005) when the retailers persuade people to shop on line – discounts and online promotions abound .... IF you can avoid the clouds of ads that will smother you – you’ll be a wealthier person.

A William Blake original of 
The Tyger, printed 1795
By the way – Happy Thanksgiving time everyone - with family and friends ... enjoy yourselves.  I have The World Atlas of Food – whereby it says that originally Thanksgiving was the Pilgrims’ ceremony of gratitude for survival in their new and bounteous land. 

Those first Thanksgiving dinners would have been even more elaborate including roast duck and geese, lobsters and eel pie, as well as mounds of venison provided by friendly Indians – together with the traditional fare you anticipate today: succulent roast turkey, chestnut stuffing, served with roast potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, Brussels sprouts, squash, succotash, creamed onions and cranberry sauce and topped off with pumpkin pie.  How do you do it?

IF you can keep your head on and remain creative for the month ... you are almost certainly participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) the annual internet-based creative writing project which challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel during November (annually, IF you so wish!).

Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll
Good Luck to those finishing NaNoWriMo after Cyber Monday has gone by – IF you move to Scotland you could have a public holiday on St Andrews Day – 30 November.

iF Poems is an iPhone or iPad app created by the actress and writer Allie Esiri and the former Times journalist Rachel Kelly, it includes hundreds of poems searchable by theme, poet or age category and features recordings by Helena Bonham Carter and Bill Nighy et al.

Edward Lear’s illustration of 
the Owl and the Pussycat
It is being used as a promotional tool by The Times for the Young Poet Competition.  As well as listening to the star actors’ recitals, children or parents can record themselves and then e-mail the recording to a friend.  A donation of 10% of all proceeds from the app will go to Save the Children.

The app features everything from Shakespeare sonnets to Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat and classics from Byron, Keats and Shelley.  Old favourites by Burns, William Blake, Lewis Carroll, Kenneth Grahame and Walt Whitman ... to name a few others.

To Autumn -
by John Keats
You can search or browse by categories such as “IF you are facing grief” or “IF you need courage” as well as suitability for three age groups: 0-6, 7-12 and 13+. 

They’ve made the app educational and have included extra resources, such as a dictionary of poetic terms and mini-biographies of the poets; while the app has been illustrated by Natasha Law, whose work has featured in Vogue.

(Mr Toad smoking and reading a map)
The Song of Mr Toad
Bonham Carter, who is an ambassador for Save the Children said:  “There is little that is as deeply satisfying as the apt poem.   

It’s like chocolate for the soul, except less fattening.  It resolves the nervous system, captures the elusive experience of being alive so we may always have it and never lose it.

Give your child an appetite for poems and they will never be bored”.  She then added: “With poems in your pocket, you’ll be armed with beauty and food for the soul and you will never be lonely”.

IF you are lacking in NaNoWriMo creativity ...  Rudyard Kipling had a day bed ...

‘I lie there’ he said with a smile, ‘and wait for my daemon to tell me what to do.’ 
He shrugged ‘Intuition, Subconscious. Whatever you want to call it.’
‘Can you always hear him?’
‘No,’ he said slowly.  ‘Not always.  But I learned long ago that it’s best to wait until you do .  When your daemon says nothing, he usually means so.”

Lying on his side on the oak day-bed his head propped on his right hand, Kipling spent many hours while he brooded over the work he was busy with.  From time to time he would jump up and go to the desk, write a line or two, make a note or correction, then resume his place on the sofa.  The day-bed was an essential part of the writing process .... how many of us use this today?

Bateman's front entrance
IF ... and the 30 Classic Poems App can be found by searching for “iF Poems App The Times” – interestingly the Hindustan Times picked the Poetry app up – announcing that it is launched by Indian-origin poet: Rudyard Kipling ....

And finally IF I can post this, subject to my connectivity gremlins, enjoy the post, have wonderful scrumptulicious food per Lenny of Lenny's World, and if you love poetry  .. consider the App ... or consider the idea!

Happy Thanksgiving ...

If __ the poem - see Wikipedia

Notes about Kipling's creative space .. his day bed - taken from the National Trust: Bateman's Guide

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Leonardo da Vinci – London’s a flutter with a polymath’s art ... while his formula for trees is proving true today ...

His childhood home in Anchiano

“I want to work miracles” Leonardo scribbled in his cryptic mirror script – yes, he did write in ‘code’.   He drew, exposed, sketched, drafted, invented, peered into, calculated, dissected, mixed, painted and ultimately showed us the world ... that we might think, feel and respond to the wonderment of  this living earth with all its beings.

There has been a plethora of articles and programmes (many more to come, I am sure) about the new exhibition at The National Gallery – acclaimed as the single most amazing show ever.  Only 15 paintings have been attributed to Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) and of those, The National has brought together nine of them, tying them in with their  sketches, drawings, half-finished paintings and finally the finished masterpieces.

Lady with Ermine – painted 1489-90;  On loan from the Czartoryski Museum, Krakow.  (NB a stoat also known as an ermine).  

When I went to Milan a few years ago, my mother and I travelled down to the Museo D’Arte e Scienza where over 2,000 of Leonardo’s items are on display ... and bought a poster with many of his drawings, mirror writing, botanical sketches ... together these form a part of his knowledge base for the ‘curriculum vitae’ he boldly set out in a letter to the Duke of Milan in 1483.

Leonardo Military Engineer: Representation
of a scene from an imaginary battle fought
with armoured cars and deadly war
machines designed by Leonardo da Vinci 
This letter offered his services as a military engineer!  He claimed he was a master of most disciplines and then once appointed put his research capabilities to good use ... painting, sculpting, botanical analysis, dissecting human and animal anatomy, utilising mechanics, hydraulics, architecture, as well as military and civil engineering – then just add ‘master of revels’.

He designed the dome of Milan Cathedral – I’ve walked the roof! – stunning views – he rebuilt the Duke’s castle ... making it an impregnable fortress; he was an expert equestrian and became a master craftsman in bronze.

On the roof of Milan Cathedral

Leonardo had unlimited talents ... searching the earth, studying plants and insects, calculating that humans too one day would be able to fly ... and made over 100 drawings of the ‘Ornithopter’ – the basis for our helicopter.

Leonardo’s ornithopter design
Fortunately he lived in Renaissance times (1300s – 1600s) and perhaps (probably) is the greatest recognised genius of all time, endowed with the brain of a polymath to explore the whole range of human knowledge.  He bewitched the Dukes of Milan, the French King and all persons in between – much as he does the peoples of the world today.

The Museo in Milan has two permanent exhibitions dedicated to Leonardo ... “Leonardo the universal genius in the exhibiton: ‘Leonardo Citizen of Milan’” and “Leonardo the ingenious painter in the exhibition: ‘Treatise on Painting’”.  If you ever visit .. a place not to be missed.

Studies of the arm showing the movements made by the Biceps

Let the scrummage begin – the National Gallery, London  is already packed ... hot, sweaty, tired of standing up visitors will push and shove to get a close viewing ... despite the National’s best endeavours at capping the number of visitors to 180 every half hour – it will be crowded, and there’s no point pretending it won’t be.

Seeing any one painting of Leonardo’s – as many of us know by having had a chance to view the Mona Lisa at The Louvre in Paris ... this is not being shown here – is a marvel to behold .. so no wonder many wish to see this once in a lifetime exhibition.

Study of horse from Leonardo’s journals – Royal Library, Windsor Castle

As I mentioned many are clamouring to see the spellbinding genius in one place – to understand the hows and the whys in his work, why much was unfinished ... he was scrying not only into the structures, but also into the very soul of creation  ... he was getting into a relaxed and meditative stage focusing on the shapes and symbols we see, and trying to interpret what meaning they may have for us.

Leonardo had a rule for trees too!  Wired Science has an article noting Leonardo observed that a tree almost always grows so that the total thickness of the branches at a particular height is equal to the thickness of the trunk.

So the graceful taper of a tree trunk into branches, boughs and twigs is so familiar few of us notice Leonardo’s observation.

It involves fractals – here I come unstuck .. but the article explains!  Simply fractals are defined as rough or fragmented geometric shapes that can be split into parts, each of which is a reduced copy of the whole.

Leonardo's earliest known drawing -
the Arno Valley (1473) (Uffizi)
Botanists have hypothesized that Leonardo’s observation has something to do with how a tree pumps water from its roots to its leaves.  

Recently however scientists realised that it was the force of the wind caught by the leaves as it blew that caused most natural trees to grow in a fairly fractal fashion.

Eiffel Tower, Paris
The results of the research into wind-based damage, such as that caused by hurricanes when many trees are toppled across swathes of countryside ... may give scientists a greater understanding of the likely effects by the strength of the wind, and provide the answer to ‘the topple’ over effect, instead of a tree splintering into bits.

Man-made structures have been primarily designed by taking account of wind-loading considerations – bridges, the Eiffel Tower etc – so now trees have been added to the list ... originally observed by that polymath genius of half a millennia ago.

Virgin of the Rocks, Louvre:
demonstrates Leonardo's interest in
nature (this is on loan to the Exhibition)
Leonardo continues to fascinate us – as an artist, inventor, engineer, scientist, philosopher ... living at a time when it was perhaps possible to know much ... because he was smart, curious and observant – but it’s unlikely anyone will ever again be able to call himself master of all before.  Long may he continue to bewitch us as we marvel at his industriousness, foresight and vision.

Just one amazing man ... a sensational show ...

The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London – “Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at theCourt of Milan”

Leonardo da Vinci in Milan: Museo d’Arte e Scienza

Dear Mr Postman .. my mother would be pleased to know I was writing about Leonardo - she too was fascinated by him ...  

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories