Marc Chagall

Went to see Marc Chagall exhibit (1, 2) at SFMOMA today. It was a zoo. The crowd situation was reminiscent of Ansel Adams 100 we’ve seen in 2001. We bypassed the first long line waiting to buy a ticket by waving my memebership card, but there was a second line await us outside the 5th floor exhibit room. Once inside, we had to negotiate our way in and out of the crowd in order to read every bulletin board, or to exam every piece of painting.

But it is worth it. I love his indigo blue, his lush dark green, and his crimson red all splashed carefully within one canvas. I love his soft coloring, the compartments he drew for different sections within one painting. I love watching his soaring imagination flew over a spread of peaceful Russian village laid out like doll houses surounded by rolling green or deep blue evening sky. The tiny houses, the shiny church with onion doom, the grazing donky, and of course the young couple that were so oblivious to the rest of the world. Everything was drawn with so much care and tenderness. In any of his pictures, there is no minor subject. Often his small figures are more intricate than the dominate ones.

I first learned of Chagall from a movie The Notting Hill(1999), when Juliet Robert’s character commented on a painting in the living room of Hugh Grant’s character, “…that’s how I think love is, floating in all that vast deep and sad blue…” I started search every reprint shop for that “love floating in all that vast and sad blue”. That summer, we were in Nice for a friend’s wedding¡£ I paid a visit to Chagall museum there. Instead of that vast deep blue, I found plenty vast deep red. In addition, the Chagall Museum at Nice featured some beautiful stained glass designed by him as well as his illustrations for the Bible.

In 2001, a gallery in SF was showing a large series of Chagall’s drawings. I still remember that chilly grey Feburary morning as Gui, Matthew, Alice and I climbed up the hilly street to arrive at the gallery right by Union Square. By then I already forgot what that “love floating in vast blue” painting looks like. Is it this, this, or this? It no longer seems to matter, I came to look for a stone, but I’ve found a world instead. My favorite ones are this, this, and a few that I can’t find images on line: Le Calvaire, La Noce (a wedding procession in his hometown Vitsyebsk, Russia, Paris par la Fenetre (Paris outside of my window?), Le Miroir (The Mirror, where a small figure was praying on the lower left corner while the entire picture was filled by a huge mirror that held an image of a lamp. I’ve never seen this picture until today. Now I can’t get this image out of my mind). This site has by far the most complete Chagall collection on line (just go to paintings and then select the painting’s name from the right).

Paris Journal – the Anti-Anti-Americans

A summer of obsessions in France by Adam Gopnik. to be published in The New Yorker issue of 2003-09-01.

It is a bit too long, and could be more concise at times. But it contains many interesting tidbits of information that makes it worth the read.

Even the most resolutely anti-anti-Americans in Paris don¡¯t know what to do about George W. Bush¡ªno one since Joseph McCarthy has been such a gift to anti-Americanism in Europe, and particularly in France. [snip]What the French, from left to right, see as Bush¡¯s shallow belligerence, his incuriosity, his contempt for culture or even the idea of difference¡ªno one in France can forget his ridiculing an American reporter, on his one visit to Paris, for daring to speak to the French President in French¡ªmake him a heavy burden even for the most wholeheartedly pro-American thinker.

I found that last bit of fact interesting. I wonder why it was not reported in the US at all…

This quote simply chilled me to the bone…

¡°What¡¯s happening is simple,¡± Glucksmann said. ¡°There are no longer battles, or Auschwitzes. But anyplace can become an Auschwitz. ¡®I kill, therefore I am¡¯ is the motto of the new generation of murderers. It¡¯s really very easy: the Hutus attacked with machetes and a few machine guns, and committed a genocide of a million people. The Russian Army blunders its way into Grozny, and no one cares or objects. Rwanda and Chechnya are the intimations of Manhattan¡ªthey are rooted in a will to kill no matter whom. The crime is to be,and the act is to kill: to be a Manhattanite on that morning was your crime, as to be a Jew was the crime in Germany.

Call me a sentimentalist, but i do find the following touching.

What is finally moving about the anti-anti-Americans in France is that they are defending a cosmopolitan tradition¡ªthe tradition of the Marshall Plan and the melting pot, where, as B.H.L. rhapsodizes, Daniel Pearl could be Jew and journalist and American and internationalist all at once¡ªthat they continue to identify, stubbornly and, these days, perhaps quixotically, with the United States. What is striking, and a little scary, in Paris this year is the absence of anti-Americanism¡ªof a lucid, coherent, tightly argued alternative to American unilateralism that is neither emptily rhetorical nor mere daydreaming. (In fact, it is easier to find this kind of argument in Britain than in France.)

This made me laugh. What is the deal between the Brits and the French? huh? 🙂

The real threat to France is not anti-Americanism, which might at least have the dignity of an argument, an idea, and could at least provoke a grownup response, but what the writer Philippe Sollers has called the creeping ¡°moldiness¡± of French life¡ªthe will to defiantly turn the country back into an enclosed provincial culture. ¡°For the first time, French people care about their houses,¡± a leading French journalist complains in shock. ¡°That was always a little England thing¡ªand now you find intelligent Parisians talking all the time about home improvements.¡± This narrowing of expectations and horizons is evident already in the French enthusiasm for cartoon versions of French life, as in ¡°Am¨¦lie,¡± of a kind the French would once have thought fit only for tourists. It has a name, ¡°the Venetian alternative¡±¡ªmeaning a readiness to turn one¡¯s back on history and retreat into a perfect simulacrum of the past, not to reject modernity but to pretend it isn¡¯t happening.


update: has been abandoned since 2007. author was Renee Perelmutter. hen a doctoral student at UC Berkely Slavic department.

I’m reading (Loved the original design, this new layout is equally excellent). Here is an interesting entry on Wintu: Wintu-2.
The Wintu language was spoken in Northern California by the Native Americans. They were distributed along the upper Sacramento river, in the counties of Shasta, Trinity and Siskiyou.

Some interesting quotes used in the article:

to the Wintu, the terms ¡°left¡± and ¡°right¡± refer to inextricable aspects of his body, and are very rarely used. I think that only once the term left occurs in my texts, referring to a left-hand mythical hero; I cannot remember any occurrence of the term for the right. When the Wintu goes up the river, the hills are to the West, the river to the East; and a mosquito bites him on the west arm. When he returns, the hills are still to the west, but, when he scratches his mosquito bite, he scratches his east arm. The geography has remained unchanged, and the self has had to be reoriented in relation to it.

among the Wintu¡­ the principle of inviolate integrity of the individual is basic to the very morphology of the language. Many of the verbs which express coercion in our language ¨C such as to take the baby to (the shade) or to change the baby ¨C are formed in such a way that they express cooperative effort instead. For example, the Wintu would say, ¡°I went with the baby¡±, instead of, ¡°I took the baby¡±. [..] They never say, and in fact they cannot say, as we do, ¡°I have a sister¡±, or a ¡°son¡±, or ¡°husband¡±. Instead they say, ¡°I am sistered¡±, or ¡°I live with my sister¡±. To live with is the usual way in which they express what we call posession, and they use this term for everything they respect, so that a man will be said to live with his bow and arrows**

Interesting, isn’t it? They show so much more respect for their surroundings. Self must reorient according to the land. How about their indifference for possession? It is almost moving to read this. But there are only 6-10 Wintu speakers left in the entire US! 🙁 If “the fittest survive” is true, that shows “love for the environment and all men are equal” won’t prevent you from being conquered and absorbed by a “lesser” culture (lesser in the sense of being civilized). More over, the “lesser” culture thought people spoken such a language was barbaric.

Summer Is Almost Over…


More photos from New York

Mi just sent me some funny photos he took while I was in New York last weekend. Check them out! 🙂 My first reaction was “My feet look ugly!!” 🙁 Both Mi and my sister think otherwise. “It is very expressive, at least for any woman who’s walked around in heels. ” Alice said. Well I have to agree with that. So what do you think?
More Photos…

EARTH PILGRIM by Sacha Dean Biyan

Absolutely amazing! Photos, design, words, and a journey, what a life!
EARTH PILGRIM by Sacha Dean Biyan
“A compelling photographic journey to the farthest reaches of the globe, delving into the customs and rituals of various remote and vanishing cultures. A revealing glimpse into the lives of several indigenous groups struggling against the tide of global assimilation.”
The names of the place could roll down your tongue like morning dew, still reflecting the lush green of the tropical jungle: “amazon. irian jaya. papua new guinea. ecuador. peru. bolivia. java. brazil. indonesia.”

Photos from New York

Flea Market on 23rd. Sunday, Aug. 17, 2003

New York was always so full of surprises. On Saturday we accidently walked into a free aircraft exhibit in Rockefeller Center: Centennial of Flight 1903-2003. To stand next of a real F-16 was interesting, since we’ve been hearing of its name in news when it was flying over Iraq and Afghan. Then there were those moth-like small planes used during WWI and WWII. They reminded me of all the romantic movies such as Out of Africa and English Patient. The one that really caught our fanscy was the supersonic “wedge-like” small aircraft that is able to go from NYC to Tokyo in one hour! I immediately thought of the 3D grid-wise transportation system portraited in The Fifth Element.

On Sunday Mi bought a new digital camera–Canon PowerShot A70. We took some pictures of Chelsea street fair and the colorful flea market on 23rd. Then we went back to Rockefeller Center and captured the images of these interesting planes.

More pictures here….

Blackout of 2003: New York City

¡°You just can¡¯t get away from that, you are bringing trouble to New York again!!¡± My friend Bonnie happily announced so in an email to me on Friday morning 9am. This morning I was back in the office, my boss leisurely walked by, and with a big grin he said, ¡°next time when I hear something big happened in New York, I would know where Jean is.¡±

I myself start to believe maybe they are right. Earlier this year, when that ¡°Blizzard of 2003¡± shut down New York City with the largest snowstorm in the past 30 some years, I happened to be there that weekend and had to delay my return since all airports were shutdown, too. Then there was a smaller but rather strong snow storm came in April. Even Mi was incredulous when we sat there watching evening news and the forecast guy was predicting snow the next day, ¡°It is April! New York doesn¡¯t snow in April!¡± and it did. Now this¡­

1:30pm Thursday afternoon, I was about to leave for SFO when Mi called, ¡°Entire Manhattan is blacked out. We are locked in the office since all the doors were shut. Someone said the entire Northeast was blackout, including Canada. My cell phone doesn¡¯t work.¡± ¡°Is it terrorist?¡± ¡°Not sure, I saw a building on fire close by.¡± His office is in East Village, Astor place. ¡°United website still says my plane is on-time.¡± ¡°Are you sure? All three airports here are shut down.¡±
Continue reading

The Zanzibar Chest

Today’s FreshAir interviews Former war correspondent Aidan Hartley, who was born in Africa to a British colonial officer father. The previous four generations of his family were colonial officiers for The Great Britian. Hartley himself was a war correspondent for Reuters.

I was only able to listen to half of the show on my way to work this morning. It was fascinating. His experiences and his reactions to the suffering of Africa, the continent he deeply attached to. He considered Africa his home. Kenya his homecountry. The few segments he read from his book was lyrical and full of the mystery and beauty of African light. Words can be magical sometimes.

In the 1990s he covered Ethiopia, Somalia, Rwanda and the Congo for Reuters. Three of his colleagues were killed by a mob in Somolia during a rebellion against the presence of U.S. forces, and he witnessed the atrocities in Rwanda. Hartley grew up in Africa, the son of a British colonial officer. After the death of his father, Hartley found in a chest his father had given him the diaries of his father’s best friend who had died mysteriously 50 years earlier. Hartley set out to find out what happened. His new memoir is The Zanzibar Chest: A Story of Life, Love, and Death in Foreign Lands.

Mozart Requiem conducted by Benjamin Britten

A classical album recommanded by About Last Night.

The recording was made at a 1971 performance by the the Aldeburgh Festival Chorus, English Chamber Orchestra, and four of Britten¡¯s favorite solo singers. It¡¯s well sung and well played, with slightly congested but otherwise serviceable sound¡ªnone of which matters in the least. If you had a chance to hear Felix Mendelssohn conduct Bach¡¯s St. Matthew Passion, you wouldn¡¯t pass it up because the organ was out of tune, would you?

What can we get away with?

A co-worker is planning her long-deserved month-long vacation. Knowing I’m a book warm and a travel addict (or used to be), she asks me for some travel journals to read. She was the one that I’ve dragged along with me to rock climbing gym, scuba diving, and later sky diving. Once when she was filling out another “If I died during the action, I promise I or any of my relatives won’t sue you” form, she commented, “How come I’m always filling out this kind of forms whenever I’m out with you?” I give her Michael Crichton’s Travels. “Urgh!” She winced, “I’m looking for leisure travel, not adventuresome ones!” But she takes the book and starts reading anyway.

Then she just IMed me,
She: “Guess what?”
I: “What?”
She: “I’m reading that Crichton book. The story on his diving in Baire?”
I: “Ya. Do you like it?”
She: “He concluded at the end that subconsciously he was trying to get himself killed.”
I: “WHAT?! I don’t remember that!”
She: “Ya. He said the reason he had been trying more and more dangerous activities was because he wanted to kill himself. Remember? Once with the sharks, once on the wreck?”
I: “Oh, ya. Right. Maybe subconsciously I’ve been blocking that conclusion out of my mind.”
She: “I think he is right. We all are. Kept on trying and eventually we will get it.”
I: “hmmm¡­ maybe we just want to see what we can get away with. Not really get us killed, but want to see how far we can push the envelope?”
She: “maybe…”

That reminds me of a piece of news I heard on NPR yesterday. One senior manager at MCI was released from prison. He had been fresh out of business school with an MBA degree. Started climbing the management ladder at MCI. Then he found out the top-guys didn’t want to hear bad news. In order to advance himself, he started to use accounting tricks to hide loses and to report false profit. It worked and he got promoted faster and faster. Eventually he noticed that he could pocket money along the way so he did. He pocketed approximately $6 Millions of it. The NPR reporter asked him what made him do it, was it greed or the rush of getting away with it? He thought for a second and said, a little bit of both.

Why is “getting away with it” such a rush? It seems to be within each and every one of us, that rush of doing things we know we are not supposed to do and yet we could get away with it. Why are we such testy animals? Why does that impulse exist in our vein when it is directing us toward the opposite direction of safety and survival?

Or is it that impulse, in the larger scheme of things, ensuring our survival? For example: discovery of the American continent, ability to fly, space travel, or the collapse of Enron?

ISSN for Weblog

Pretty amuzing! ISSN for Weblog.
Note on this site’s sidebar:

… In short, every country I have heard about is doing whatever it can to refuse new ISSN applications for Weblogs, usually on trumped-up reasoning.

I don’t blame them! Just imagine the sheer volumn of ISSNs required…and you thought IP address is about to run out? 🙂

The Quiet American

It is a classic Graham Greene story. It starts in a leisure pace. All is quiet and calm. The narrator’s voice is a little tired but rings true. The narratives are measured and carefully planned, yet, you won’t see any trace of planning. The story unfolds itself layer by layer. We are led into believing and trusting the honesty and noble qualities of men. Then, in a few scattered sentences, we are allowed to look out of the emotion-rich minds of these men, who were surounded by the chaotic and elaborate background story that deciphers war, conspiracy, politics, and intertwined interests of countries that are powerful and the ones that are weak. As the story approaches its ending, everything is suddenly swept away by the cruel current of the uncontrollable river, which we later would call history. The story will end with a sober note. Everything is quiet again. We are allowed to depart with some satisfaction. But then if you look back, and try to think it through. You are stunned at all that were left unsaid. Only then do we know nothing is what it appeared to be, and no man is as honest and noble as he wants you to believe.

Graham Greene is a genius. The movie The Quiet American definitely captured the essence of Greene. Excellent.

The New Yorker and I

Saw this New Yorker Subscriber statistics. I can¡¯t make much sense out of most of the items. But I found these interesting:

Women 43%
Men 44%

So what are the other 13%? Undecided?

Then there is ¡°Median Age 49¡±! What¡¯s up with that?!

I started subscribing to The New Yorker in my junior year of college. My reason was very simple. I wanted to read short stories. In China we had many literature periodicals that were published on a monthly or a quarterly bases. The paper and layout might be very low-quality, but I was sure to have my story-craving filled because those magazines had nothing but fictions in short or medium length and sometimes even full length novels. I can¡¯t find anything like it here on newsstands. I was baffled. Americans don¡¯t read fictions?

At the time I was taking English classes. Our textbook was a copy of ¡°Best Short Stories of blahblahblah¡±. One day I noticed at the end of a story, there was a magazine name indicating where it was originally published. So I got an idea. I browsed through the entire book and wrote down all the magazine names. It turned out The New Yorker published the most ¡°Best Short Stories of blahblahblah¡±! So I was all set. I put in my subscription, eagerly waiting for my fiction-quench ¡°pill¡± to arrive.

You can imagine how disappointed I was, when the first copy came in the mail and I found out the entire issue had all but ONE short story! Well, one was better than nothing. It is a weekly magazine, so at least I could get four stories a month. The cartoons also made it worth while.

Slowly I discovered the cinema review was rather entertaining. In addition to be my fiction-fix, it dubbed as my movie guide. After college, I started working as a consultant. One day I read somewhere that Bill Gates claimed The New Yorker to be his favorite airplane reading. I was flying almost weekly then, so I started packing a copy with me on each trip. Only then did I discover the in-depth personal profile, political commentaries, and lengthy report from foreign correspondence, etc. etc. Bill Gates was right. It was perfect for airplane trips. Plenty of variations and none too boring.

Nowadays I could easily finish two issues cover-to-cover on a coast-to-coast flight without feeling bored. In one issue, I could learn about US-Saudi relationships, new artist installment in the desert of Arizona, critique on an up-and-coming ballet company, a movie review, a fiction, a profile of G.W.Bush, and all mixed with plenty witty cartoons.

It has been almost ten-years since I sent in my first subscription check. I feel fortunate that I had stumbled on such a literary and well-written magazine. I could¡¯ve done much worse. [the shivers]

The Emperor of Scent

First I must apologize for my sudden obsession with scent. It just seems to get more interesting by day.

In my searching for a few Perfume guides in the bookstore, I came across this new book–The Emperor of Scent, A Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses, by Chandler Burr. It is a biographical narration of a British Scientist Luca Turin, who recently (1995) formulated a theory on how our noses work, how we human smell. Apparently it is molecular vibration of each scent molecule that our brain recognizes.

Chemistry was my worst subject when I was in school. It frustrated me because for every nicely written theory or theorem, there are at least ten exception cases associated with it. Unlike in Physics and Math, where one only needs to understand the theory and apply them and everything will be peachy, in Chemistry, it is all about memorization of those exception cases, the ones that actually follow the so-called theories are rarities and no teacher has ever tested them in exams.

But this book’s author, Chandler Burr, made biophysics (a combination of molecular biology, Chemistry and Quantum Physics) sounds so much fun. Those crazy hateful molecules made up of single, double, or triple bound among various atoms suddenly turned into lively and funny actors, each with its own distinct personality, hurriedly went on its merry way to find a friend that they can bind with and sing their little note in the chord of a perfume.

Look at this paragraph for example, where the author was trying to explain “electron tunneling” (Don’t worry, I myself had no idea what this term meant before I read on! So read on.).

Electrons are extremely inquisitive creatures, and they want to go everywhere. So they zip along inside conductors until they come to a gap, and then they crowd the edge of this atomic cliff and impatiently try to find a way to jump across to the other side. And you can just insert a bridge into that tiny gap “a single molecule will do, just jam it in there” and the electrons will enthusiastically rush through that molecule (It’s called “tunneling” because they actually burrow through the thing like frenetic moles) and across to the other side.

See? Electrons are curious creatures and they are adventures, how marvelous! Can you imagine having a teacher like this in your high school class? I would be hooked on science, no doubt!

Luca Turin, the scientist who figured out smell, is a brilliant biologist by training, a self-taught chemist and also learned enough physics to make his theory work. He has a marvelous talent to “nail any odor descriptively in a few words.” And he remembers each smell like a concrete event, each perfume like a movie or symphony. Here are some descriptions from Turin, where he compared perfume notes and perfumes to various classical composers.

–“I’ve always thought that esters, fruity, are Mozart. The melon notes –helional, for example –strike me as the watery Debussy harmonies, the fourths. Beethoven in his angrier moments is quinolines, which you get in green peppers. Thus Bandit, a dark, angular Beethoven string quartet. There’s a lot of perfumery that smells like Philip Glass’ minimalism, a deceptive simplicity. Mitsouko I think is pure Brahms, the string sextets, extremely intricate but rather monochrome. Tommy Girl gives you Prokofiev’s First Symphony.”

I’m on page 196 out of 305. This book also did an excellent job at explaining how the perfume industry, one of the most secretive industries in today’s world, works. In addition, there are plenty academic back-stubbing going on to fulfill anyone’s curiosity. : )

I will leave you with some beautiful perfume evaluations made by Turin, who wrote a Perfume Guide for fun in 1992.

Le Feu d’Issey (Issey Miyake)

The surprise of Feu d’Issey is total: smelling it is like a frantic videoclip of objects that fly past at warp speed: fresh baguette, lime peel, clean wet linen, shower soap, hot stone, salty skin, even a fleeting touch of vitamin B pills. Whoever created this has that rarest of qualities in perfumery, a sense of humour. A reminder that perfume is, among other things, the most portable form of intelligence.

-Luca Turin

Chanel 19 (Chanel)
Chanel’s mastery of raw materials and orchestration shines through. Starting with a tremendous leafy-peppery green as of the earthy breath of a lush jungle after a storm, the genius of 19 lies in maintaining this unripe greenness like a tense unresolved musical chord to the very end, without succumbing to sweetness. The rigor of intellectual elegance and restraint. An absolute masterpiece.

Dune (Dior)
Dune’s slow unveiling has the stately pace of classical perfumery, and culminates after an hour or so in the clangor of a strange, muffled atonal chord of vanilla/patchouli/indole, imbued with the desert-earth hues of a powder compact. Dune is more coherent and original than all the perfumes it has inspired (such as Allure) but remains curiously aloof. Distinctive without being pleasant, refined without being pretty, it radiates a rare and somewhat sullen elegance.

Tresor (Lancôme)
There is a particularly delightful stratagem in perfumery, first explored by Molinard’s Habanita, of pairing dry woody notes with a sweet, powdery core, the olfactory Arthur Miller arm in arm with Marilyn Monroe. When perfectly executed, as in Tresor, the effect is a shimmering, delectable cloud, a cross between talcum powder and caster sugar.

Amarige (Givenchy)
Built on a towering tuberose and buttressed by mighty synthetics, Amarige is an olfactory typhoon. It will put you off your food, ruin a concert, stifle a conversation, turn an elevator into a torture chamber, revive calls in Parliament for a ban on fragrances in public spaces, and disrupt radio traffic. This being said, it is unforgettable.

Never Say Never

Good things seem to come to me in a slower pace than to the others. Or, I come to appreciate good things in a later age than the others. : )

First time falling in love, 23
First time appreciate the happiness through that foggy sensation of being drunk, 24
First time understood my passion for wintry mountains, 25
First time found out I actually enjoyed museums of fine arts, 26
First time that classical music stopped putting me to sleep and started to intrigue me, 28
First time discovered the beauty of the outdoors, and started enjoy climbing, hiking, and camping, 29

And now the fantastic labyrinthine of fragrance finally started revealing its miracles one scent at a time¡­

I have never been a girlie girl. My childhood was coincided with the later half of culture revolution. When everyone around me was wearing uni-sex navy blue and black colored clothing, deprived of all sense of fashion and style, I naturally gravitated toward wooden guns and remained indifference to dolls and dresses. Nowadays, cosmetic counters in department stores intimidated me. The names, the packaging, the over-enthusiastic attendants and the suffocating scent hovered around me like a strange trap. In my book, perfume was synonymous to glamorous, made-to-believe, and vanity.

My limited experience with sniffing perfumes left me feeling sick and nausea.

Once a boyfriend persuaded me to wear the perfume of his dreams–Estee Lauder¡¯s Beautiful, I complied. When we broke up, I left the bottle with him. All I remembered of the perfume was its potent sweetness.

Once feeling miserable, I wondered in Macy¡¯s and voluntarily bought my first bottle. It was Clinique Happy. I went for its name. I want to be happy. The scent was overpowering. I left it in my closet and forgot about it.

Once stranded in Paris Roissy airport, I took my time sampled the limited numbers of perfumes at the duty-free shop and settled on a bottle I liked. Lancome¡¯s Oui!.

Then I read Patrick Suskind¡¯s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. I fell in love with the lavish and intricate words used to describe all the vivid scent. But that is fiction, I thought. In reality, my random encounters with perfume didn¡¯t match any of them written in the novel.

Until now. : ) After being guided so patiently by Fang Zhou, I finally begin to understand how wonderful Perfume used to be, can be, and should be. The scent¡¯s complexity, the subtlety of its graduate changes through the hours, the history and the people each perfume represents, the various reasons that had evolved to today¡¯s modern perfume, and its future possibilities all start to make sense.

Best of all, after diligently wading through counter by counter, brand name by brand name, searching for each perfume on Fang Zhou¡¯s list, I am no longer afraid of the large cosmetic section of department stores. The scents floating above each counter ceased to be a scary maze, and started to become a group of familiar friends who have their own temper and logic.

A good perfume is like a little piece of music. Various notes are like various instruments, whether they will play a classical tone or a modern one is up to the perfume artist; but it should play a harmonic melody. The powerful ¡°Hello¡± is the top note, the expensive and elaborate narrative to follow is the body note, then there is the lovely ¡°good bye¡± lingers for hours, sometimes still visible after a day; and that, is the base note. Fang Zhou told me that base note is the one that kept body note stay. Like the thread that kept a kite in your hand. Most modern perfumes are done away with the base note. They strive to create the most amazing and extravagant top note, because the MTV crowd¡¯s attention span is too short to pay attention to the rest. The sad fact is that without the base note, there is not much of a body note either, thus no more changes from top note to the body note. What you ¡°see¡± at the first glance is all you¡¯ve got.

So that is what we are, a simple and plastic today?

Enough of that, let’s talk perfume! 🙂 Here is Fang Zhou’s List and my comments:

– favorite
1. D’ ete (Kenzo)
Kenzo puts summer into a perfume

Fresh and tender notes
Scent of sap
Green leaves
“Secret flower”


China moss
So this is meant to be an olfactory representation of a day in a Japanese garden.

2. Flower (Kenzo) sweeter and more potent than D’ete. It reminds me of the fragrance of Night Blooming Cereus.
3. Fragile (Jean Paul Gaultier), I like Eau de Toilette more than parfums. Reminds me of hard fruity candy.
4. Envy (Gucci) Sweet!
5. Tender Touch (Burberry) Softer than Kenzo’s Flower, similar notes.

– Another type of favorite
6.Amarige & Amarige D’amour (Givenchy), I like Amarige D’amour even more. Both has a strong Chinese medicine like top note. They are slightly naughty, unlike those more proper banquet scent represented by the group above.
7.Kors (Michael Kors), top note is a bit too strong. Also in the Chinese Medicine like style. But inside its body note, I could taste a small but persistent scent of lightness.
8.Shi (Alfred Sung), this one is a little similar to Oui!. On the quiet side. I really liked its bottle! A drop of water, perfectly crystal, simple and beautiful.(This one was not on Fang Zhou’s list).

– So-so
9.Red Door, top note is similar to Kors, but doesn’t have as many layers as Kors.
10. CK be£¬ Good. Lack surprises or layers, though.
11¡£ Murmure (Van Cleaf & Arpels), top note is good, a hint of sweetness. But underneath the body note, I could smell the scent of “water”. An artificial feeling.

– Don’t like
12. L’Air de Temps Its body note is rich banquet, it lingers beautifully. However, I could also smell the scent of “water” underneath. It is like wearing a silk shirt with a polyester lining. Looks good but makes the wearer (me) uncomfortable.
13. L’eau D’Issey I understand why it is called Water. I like the top note. But the smell of “polyester” is so much stronger than L’Air de Temps. It is no longer a silk shirt with a polyester lining. It is just a polyster shirt. Too artifical for me.

14. Chanel No. 5. Its top note was extremely disappointing. It reminded me of root beer, or coka cola, or any refreshment with compressed bubbles. Later the body note was really beautiful and soft banquet. The underlining “bubble” made it light. It is an amazing scent. I still don’t like it because of the “bubble” (seriously, evertime i smelled it i felt like i need to burp!). But I think I have some idea why it is so famouse. 🙂