Squares, Cubes And Blocks

When I was reading this article about Graham Norton’s beach house, several things struck me. First of all, I marveled at how anyone would want to spend a couple of million for a beach house which overlooks the English Channel — let’s be charitable and say that it can be used as intended for about twelve (non-consecutive) weeks of the year — and for a change, one Daily Mail commenter to the article got it right: it belongs in Malibu, not Kent.

But of course, what struck me the hardest was the house’s extraordinary ugliness.

Now I’ve written before about my distaste if not outright hatred for modernist architecture, so I’m not going to repeat it here. But in this particular case, what amazes me is how little the house is part of the milieu: with only a few modifications, it would fit in quite well with similar structures on the other side of the Channel; only those were the concrete bunkers of Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, built to repel an Allied invasion of Festung Europa.

The ugliness isn’t just skin-deep, by the way: it extends to the interior as well.

Now I know that many people like this kind of interior design because it’s “clean” or something. To me, it’s not a design to live in, but meant for display — like those awful Architect’s Digest spreads which look more like museums than homes. I could no more live in such a place than in a hospital room — now there’s “clean” for you.

And yes, here comes the inevitable disclaimer: taste is a personal thing, one man’s ugly is another’s gorgeous, beauty is in the eye etc. etc. Of course it’s personal. I’m not saying that places like this should be blown up and replaced with thatched cottages.

I’m just saying I wouldn’t shed any tears over it.

 

Dollars And Scents

Continuing on from the post about my naked face, I decided to shop for aftershave / cologne fragrances. Oy, vey.

As I intimated, the last time I used this stuff at all was in the 1970s / early 1980s, so times have changed [sigh] and as always, not necessarily for the better.

I used to use Halston 1-12, but it’s no longer in production and while it’s still available — and cheap! — I fear starting to use something which is no longer made because after a while, it starts to cost more and more because of diminished supply.

And anyway, just because it smelled okay on me back then, there’s no guarantee it would still smell good on me now, because one’s body chemistry changes with age (I’m told).

So I would have to, I thought, start looking for a “new” fragrance and experiment over time to see which one would work — and just for the hell of it, I hie’d me off to Macy’s. Dear God.

Firstly, the prices… sheesh, I’m a guy, not a chick. You can’t expect me to spend $100 (or more) just for some smelly stuff, when there’s ammo to be bought from the same pitiful bank account.

Plus, I think that the product offerings are just proof of the Pussification Of The Western Man,, to coin a phrase, and I suspect that the fragrance people use the poxy inhabitants of the West Hollywood YMCA as product testers. A few samples:

Eros? by Versace? Nope. Next:

Perhaps if they spelled their name (and product) with a “U” instead of that pretentious Latin equivalent… but no. To proceed, then:

Sorry; Dior to me means “chick stuff” and while I am quite secure in my masculinity, I wouldn’t use a product called “Kotex” either, even if it came in 140-grain boat-tail softpoints.

Ditto anything made by some Spaniard, and also, did you see the price of it?  That’s five boxes of quality self-defense .45 ACP, at the discount price! Next!

“Chanel’s Bleu by Chanel” — from the Department of Redundancy Department. Also: Chanel? See “Dior”, above.

Even the perfumes in “masculine” packaging look as gay as Brian Boitano:

“Viktor and Rolf”?  “Spicebomb”?
A man could get some exotic venereal disease just by buying that stuff. To continue:

“Guilty” of what? Spending too much money on bullshit smelly stuff?

No no no no no. No. Clearly, I would have to resort to the more old-fashioned scents and/or potions. But which?

$105 for Ralph Lauren? It is, as they say, to laugh.

So I quit Macy’s because clearly I was looking in the wrong place, and headed off to Amazon.

Before I entered their online portal, however, I decided to do a little pre-research, because I was going to have to try more than one cologne, just to avoid problems with unsatisfactory smells etc. So I called up an old girlfriend (Skype is a godsend) to get her ideas on the topic.

“I remember liking the way you used to smell.” (After so many years… hubba hubba.)
“Do you remember what cologne I wore back then?”
“I liked the Old Spice… it always smelled fresh, you know?”
“Great. So I’ll get some of that…”
“Wait… I also liked English Leather on you. You wore it to that party at Carol Beith’s house, and I remember it.”
Better and better. “Remember the Halston 1-12?”
“Oh yes — YES! I loved that smell!” [pause] “Or was that the cologne that Kissy Foss [my replacement – K.] used? It’s SO long ago.”

So that was my research. I know, it’s a sample of only one ex-girlfriend — but I couldn’t do any more without running afoul of the restraining orders.

The next question, as I clicked on the Amazon link and started to enter product names in the search bar, was: does anyone still make these things anymore? Well now, lookee here:

…and just for kicks, and the hell with Kissy (his actual nickname) Foss:

English Leather wins out, on a cost per ounce basis anyway; but I’ll try them all, get some feedback from some of the (very few) women whose opinions I trust, and make my final decision. Then I’ll order a boatload of the winner, so that I won’t run out anytime soon.

Or maybe I’ll just grow my beard back.


Afterthought: In response to Reader goingtothefields (Welsh? no matter) in Comments, I need to tell y’all something.

I too know something about the fragrance business — back in the days of sailing ships, I worked at an ad agency whose client was Max Factor, and at whose behest I did a one-week course on fragrances: their types, their classifications, their histories and most tellingly, the trends.

As with all things, scents follow a pattern — one falls out of favor, another comes in, and the large perfumiers can actually predict what fragrances will be popular up to five years out: musk, floral, citrus, spice(s) and what have you are all combined in different measures to create the product, akin to the creation of blended whiskies and whose formulations are closely-guarded secrets..

It’s all a lot of bollocks, of course. Basically, the costs in the fragrance industry are 65% marketing, 20% packaging, 10% merchandising and 5% product: hence we end up paying retail prices of hundreds of dollars per ounce for perfume (as opposed to cologne / eau de toilette, which are cheaper, but less effective because of dilution).

Eye Of The Beholder

So this Paris-based fitness blogger (no, I don’t know what that is either) decided to give us two views of herself — as men might see her and as she does. Here’s the object in question:

Here’s what I see: a reasonably-pretty woman, decent boobage (the bra doesn’t help), with the bandy legs and slightly large nose of the typical Parisienne. In a stone-cold sober state, I’d rank her somewhat above average: about a 7, maybe a 7.5 if she cleans up nicely. If she has a sexy walk or carries herself with confidence, she’s a definite 8, and I’d wager that most men would happily ask her out on a date.

Here, however, is the comparison she draws:

Good grief. This just goes to prove that there’s no fiercer critic of a woman’s body than the owner thereof.

Suddenly, she’s a lot less attractive. Ladies, take note: self-hatred is not sexy.

And if Miss Aubery is just doing this to attract attention to herself — what’s known today, cruelly, as “attention-whoring” — to build up her self-esteem, then that’s even less attractive.

Getting Happy

According to the NY Post, “buying time” can be the secret to happiness. Sarah Hoyt questions their methodology, as do I. Here’s the study’s methodology:

In the study, more than 6,000 people in four countries were given an extra $40 a week for two weeks.
During the first week, the participants were told to buy material goods.
The next week, they were told to save themselves time by paying someone to do their menial, back-breaking tasks.
Ultimately, people said they got more happiness by saving precious time than by buying more stuff, no matter how exceptional it was.

If anyone can think that $40 a week can buy you happiness, they’re doomed to vote Democrat and/or Labour for the rest of their lives. Hell, for $40 you can’t even buy someone’s time to do menial jobs for you, unless you live in India or some other Third World hellhole where labor is cheap. And unless you live in one of the aforementioned hellholes where $40 can buy you someone’s firstborn, you can’t buy much for a lousy forty bucks either. Good grief, a bottle of decent single malt costs more than that, and that won’t last you a week either (if you consume the lovely stuff like Stephen Green or I do).

Most often, the “money can’t buy you happiness” meme is applied to lottery winnings. The usual rejoinder is, “If you can’t buy happiness with $100 million, you just don’t know where to shop” (as witnessed by this picture, sent to me by Reader OldTexan):

But the idea of buying time when you have a boatload of money makes perfect sense, if you have sufficient money. Here’s an example, using the more appropriate sum of $100 million instead of that $40 rounding error.

So you’ve won the Big Lottery. Assume that you’re not going to waste it (on stuff like trust funds for your kids or donations to Greenpeace), and you decide to buy time with it.

Let’s say that you’ve always wanted to own an E-type Jaguar, because if no less a man than Enzo Ferrari called it the most beautiful car ever made, who are you to argue with him? A quick reminder of what we’re talking about here:

Nigella Lawson with wheels.

Now you have the money to afford it; but there’s a problem. You see, beauty doesn’t offset the E-type’s many flaws, to whit:

…which means that the thing often won’t start, the lights won’t work at night and ditto the windshield wipers when it rains, etc. Now if you’re one of those guys who loves working on cars, none of this matters, because you’re going to spend time fiddling with the thing.

Note that I said, “spend time”. If you’re like me, and want to drive the thing instead of fiddling with it and/or wasting time while other people fiddle with it, you’re not gonna get an E-type.

Fortunately, there is a way for people with boatloads of money to get an E-type and be able to drive it pretty much all the time. It’s an outfit in Britishland called Eagle Great Britain, and they rebuild E-types using all the modern techniques and using modern materials which will eliminate the Jag’s problems. If you’re in a hurry, you can get one of their fully-reconditioned E-types and drive it off the lot. If you can’t find one you like (and unfortunately, this will cost you some time), they will hand-build your E-type to the original (or your own custom) specs. Here’s an example:

Suffice it to say that none other than Jeremy Clarkson said that driving this particular E-type was one of the greatest driving experiences he’d ever had — and he’s had a lot.

I’m not to going to tell you the price, because you have enough. (BIG lottery win, remember?)

Just remember, this is all about buying time (which makes one happy, according to the study above) and I would suggest that time spent driving this piece of automotive beauty would be more exciting (and probably less expensive, ask Charles Saatchi) than driving Nigella Lawson. And that’s a hell of a thing for me to say.

Buying happiness just means knowing where to shop. And if you’ve just won a big lottery prize and owning an E-type is your dream, I’ve just told you where to shop for one.

You’re welcome.

Missing The Point(s)

Apparently all these women are desirable, according to scientists, because their figures have the ideal waist-to-hips ratio:

…which only proves that scientists don’t know diddly. None of the women can be called attractive.

Here’s a pro tip from a longtime lecher (that would be me): put Nigella Lawson in the lineup, and those other women wouldn’t rate a single look.

The perfect ratio is: big boobs, small waist, wide hips. Otherwise known as an “hourglass” figure, you pencil-pushing dweebs.

Afterthought: I bet that some of these purported “scientists” were female — which would explain everything.

 

 

Not Your Normal Portraits

If you’ve ever wandered through the Louvre in Paris or through any of the great houses in Britain, you’d have come across portraits of royalty and the nobility and good grief, how boring they are. Most, of course, were painted in times when there were no photography, and to preserve any memory at all of King Louis the Umpteenth or His Grace The Duke of  Marmalade-Hyphen-Dogsbottom, a portrait artist was summoned and told, “Paint me.” Needless to say, of course, the painter would take great pains to hide His Majesty’s facial pox marks or the Earl’s syphilis sores, and the result was one of uniform blandness, generations and generations upon generations thereof. If the painter was really good, and not just some fashionable hack that all the Society Knobs were using at the time (yes, that happened then just as it does today), he’d maybe capture a spark of spirit in the eyes, or a dimple in a smile, but mostly they all looked like waxwork figures, with about as much life.

Then came Boldini.

Giovanni Boldini is definitely my favorite portraitist of all time, and indeed he’s in my top ten list of all artists, period. I’m not going to write a potted biography of the man (here’s a decent one on the website bearing his name); rather, I want to highlight just a few of my favorites of his works.

When heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt married the 9th Duke of Marlborough in 1895, one of the things she brought to the marriage, other than a gazillion of her father’s dollars, was a very American attitude towards one’s own children. In contrast to the other noble families of the time, who looked on their male children as “heirs and spares” and wasted no time in shipping them off to boarding school, thence to the Army/Navy or public service, Consuelo adored both her sons, and especially the younger, Ivor Spencer-Churchill.

Enter Boldini. By this time, he was one of the most sought-after portraitists in Europe — indeed, he made so much money through his portraits that in his later years he’d quit painting them and only painted what he wanted to paint (which we’ll look at down the page). Boldini spent some time with Lady Marlborough, and discovered the close relationship between her and her younger son. Then he painted this portrait of the two of them:

The portrait actually scandalized what was known then as “polite” society (even though it was anything but), because instead of having young Ivor standing stiffly at her side in the prevailing fashion, he had the boy lounging against his mother in a pose which, to the swells, looked more like that of a lover than a child, nestled up to her bosom and his hand possessively on her leg. Of course, Consuelo cared not a fig for the whispers — as one of the wealthiest women in the world, and married into one of the oldest and most storied noble families in Britain (or anywhere else) withal, she could tell them all to take a hike, and she did. So the portrait survives to this day at Blenheim Palace, and you can see it for yourself if you do one of the tours (unless the painting is being exhibited elsewhere). I think it’s absolutely incredible: Boldini captured the relationship between mother and son as well as Consuelo’s considerable beauty and elegance, and it remains one of the great family portraits of all time.

Even Boldini’s “ordinary” portraits are anything but. Here’s one of Lady Colin Campbell, a society beauty of the late nineteenth century:

…and I don’t know if there’s a sultrier, sexier portrait of its kind anywhere.

As I said, Boldini gave up portrait painting after a while and started to do works that interested him. Mostly, as his biography notes, they were of women — but instead of the realistic style of the portraits, they began to lean towards late Impressionism. (Whether that’s because of his failing eyesight or just because he liked the style is probably a moot issue. Myself, I love almost every one of his later works.) Here’s a sample. First, the “Spanish Dancer At The Moulin Rouge”:

Now let’s look at something a little (okay, a lot) racier, his “Reclining Nude III”:

Hmmm… maybe I should have put up the usual NSFW warning, but hey, it’s Saturday and you shouldn’t be at work anyway. Finally, here’s my favorite of all Boldini’s paintings, an earlier one entitled “The Hammock”:

In a word, it’s exquisite: the soft springtime lighting and the dense background of bushes, trees and flowers which surround the slight form of the girl sleeping in the hammock. It’s a view which is chaste (the long soft material conceals almost everything except her face) and yet intimate (the stockinged leg falling carelessly off the hammock and out from under the dress). It’s voyeuristic, but innocently so — and I think if Boldini had only ever painted this single work, it would still be considered a masterpiece.

Now you can go and look at his other works, here. No doubt you’ll find one or two that you prefer over my choices, and you won’t hear a word of disagreement from me, ever. That’s how highly I regard this artist.

Enjoy, and if you want to buy a print of one of Boldini’s works (on canvas or paper, in varying sizes), you can do so at the Art Renewal Museum.