Sunday, November 25, 2012

Look For The Silver Lining (Film Review: Silver Linings Playbook)

If you look at it simply, "Silver Linings Playbook" follows the formula of a classic romantic comedy: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, big misunderstanding breaks them apart, they get back together. But, in this movie, it doesn't necessarily come in that order. Here, boy goes crazy so he loses one girl, only to meet crazy girl, and... Well, to pigeonhole this movie into one genre would not give it justice. "Silver Linings Playbook" is a lot of things - a family comedy, a love story, a dance movie - and thank God for that. Director David O Russell gives us a very complicated and satisfying movie that hits right at the core: the heart. 

Pat Solitano, played by Bradley Cooper, plays a high school teacher just released from a Baltimore psychiatric ward. He comes home to his parents, played by Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro, and he pines for his wife who he caught cheating while Stevie Wonders "My Cherie Amore" plays, coincidentally their wedding song. He meets another tortured soul, Tiffany, played by Jennifer Lawrence, and the rest, well, the rest of the story is hard to describe. It is topsy turvy and makes unexpected turns. 

Cooper makes it all work. Sure, his frat boy tendencies still show up here, but he delivers a layered performance. He understands his character: this damaged good guy and he could have gone the sentimental route but  instead injects it with just the right balance of vulnerability and strength. Lawrence is a revelation. I knew she was good, and was even impressed by her Katness Everdeen, and even though I still think she is a tad too young for the part, she bulldozes her way into the role, and runs away with it. The two of them deserve at the very least his and hers nominations. Robert DeNiro has never looked more alive. I see him nowadays in all these thankless roles where he looks bored that it was nice to see him tackle a real character, for once. Actually, the whole ensemble is good. 

The romantic comedy fan in me wishes that the development of their love story was better, but that would be asking for a different kind of movie. And the last quarter of the movie seemed just a bit rushed. Still, you can't those away from a wonderful movie experience that you should hear honored on Oscar night.

Blog, Scandal, and Videotape (Book Review: Sad Desk Salad, Jessica Grouse)

I was attracted to "Sad Desk Salad" because it is a story of a blogger, and right now I am writing on a blog. Jessica Grose used to write and was an editor of Jezebel, a famous women's blog, and I thought it would be great to get an insider's take on the whole blogging business. It's a fairly entertaining novel, and though I thought it would be, it's not entirely a rip-off of the Devil Wears Prada formula. 

Alex Lyons works for Chick Habit, a snarky blog that skews a female audience, and she has a tough boss, Moira. When someone tips her off on a NSFW video of a daughter of a conservative politician, she at first questions publishing it, but eventually does. She then confronts the consequences of her actions. 

The book raises some very important questions - mainly on how people live in the internet age, and on the twenty four hour news cycle. It also touches on celebrity, and notoriety, and how it makes or breaks people. It also deals with how some peopel live in an internet bubble - how they surround themselves with online life, and how that can destroy one's perception of "reality."

I found the novel very engrossing, if uneven. While I don't think it was a distraction, the side story about Alex and her boyfriend seems unnecessary plot contrivances. The whole story was also rounded up rather quickly, with some plot points hard to swallow in their impossibility. But, there was enough drama in there to keep the pages turning, and I like the fact that Alex wasn't entirely sympathetic: she was unlikeable at times, making her human. All in all, I liked it more than I didn't, and would even recommend it for a quick read.

The Adorkable Doctor (Television Review: Emily Owens, M.D.)

I guess with CW's success with Hart Of Dixie (A show which I like a lot) they just had to find ways to replicate the formula, so they came up with Emily Owens MD. Mamie Gummer (she should really change her screen name) plays a young doctor in a Denver Hospital.As most young doctors are, she is unsure about hat to do at the hospital, and she realizes that it is "just like High School," with meanies and bullies. And crushes, too of course. Emily Owens is adorkable. Her character - and the way Gummer plays her - sort of reminds me of the Jess character in "New Girl" (a show I stopped watching because that character just annoyed me) Adorkable works, I know, but Gummer is a good actress not to go for the overkill. Two episodes in,  there's a part of me that's ready to give up with this: the meanies are two-dimensional, and the story lines are generic. I wonder, though, if the show will move into a more soap-y direction, just like it did with Hart Of Dixie. I am sure the love angles here would be developed. Emily pines for Will Rider (Justin Hartley) aka the bad guy, though Will has told her he doesn't like her that way. There's another guy - the good guy - Micah (Michael Rady) who we know likes her, but Emily doesn't recognize that yet. I know that situation is a big set up for multitude of things, and I know Gummer is a good enough actress to run away with that storyline. This makes the whole show a bit predictable, if sweet and familiar. I decided I will not give up. I had the same dilemma with Hart of Dixie last year, but I got patient and it paid off. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fame Is Overrated (Scent Review: Fame, Lady Gaga)

I know it's been out there for a long time now, but believe it or not, I just sniffed Fame, Lady Gaga's scent, today while at Sephora. I liberally sprayed on my left arm, and waited for the magic to happen. The Lady herself said in very early interviews that her perfume would smell like blood and semen (though that's been done before, via Etat Libre d'Orange's Secretions Magnifique)  When the perfume was launched, though, she changed that and said that the perfume would smell like an expensive hooker. Well, if only. All the hookers I know have good taste, and I would venture to say that none of them would proudly wear this fragrance. Just like her music, Fame is a derivative. It smells like a cheap knockoff of a drug store scent, not even in the same league as something in a department store. It smells so plain, a generic fruity floral. It smells faintly of generic fruit. The notes say apricot, but I smell powdered Kool-Aid. There is a cheap vanilla base that smells very fake. To say that I am disappointed would be incorrect. This is much worse that I feared it would be. I can think of a dozen celebuscents that are better than this: Halle Berry's and Hillary Duff's come to mind. And there are even a handful of very good ones, like Madonna's and Queen Latifah's. Why Lady Gaga would attach her name with something so uninspired I will never understand. This is as bad as they get, folks. Lady Gaga, the singer, is an attention whore, yet this perfume is a wallflower - it barely registers. It has medium sillage and longevity. I know they spent a lot of money developing this perfume's black jus that sprays clear. They should have spent just a little more to better the more important part of the perfume: the smell.  

Raspy Holidays (Music Review: Rod Stewart, Merry Christmas Baby)

Maybe I am getting older. The "Standards Snob" in me wasn't really fond of Rod Stewart's foray into The Great American Songbook, although I certainly understood why he went into them, and why people responded to those albums with ferocity. I do admit Mr. Stewart has a great, distinctive voice. It's not for everyone, but I like that rasp. He employs that rasp to full effect on his very first Christmas album, "Merry Christmas Baby," and what do you know? I think it's a very enjoyable Holiday album. Producer David Foster has infused the album with a variety of genres, and the end result: there's wistful, there's happy, there's body, there's soul! I love the collaborations, there's a funky duet (the title track) with CeeLo Green, and there's a bragaddocio Rat-pack style with Michael Buble, and there's even your duet-with-the-dead with Ella Fitzgerald. But I really liked his take on Christams standards the best. There's a great dichotomy between the sweet lyrics and the roughness in his. Without a "beautiful voice" to go with the pretty lyrics, you get the sense that you are getting something new. I could totally myself trimming the tree with this!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Therapy (Movie Review: The Sessions)

The first part of "The Sessions" is difficult to watch. Set in 1988, it tells the story of Mike O Brien, a 38 year old man who has an iron lung. He can only be off a metal contraption to his gurney for about four hours a day. He is a devout Roman Catholic, and a virgin. But he is a man, and he can still feel sensations in his body, so he asks his priest, played by William H. Macy, if he should pursue to lose his virginity. Startled at first, the priest says, "I think God will give you a pass on this one," and gives him a go-ahead. John Hawkes, in an Oscar-worthy performance, plays this awkwardness with such believability that you cringe. (You really feel his discomfort - there were a couple of walkouts in the theater in the screening I went to) This is such a physical performance without all the obvious physicalities. Each pause in his voice, each tick in his eye, they all serve a purpose, and he flawlessly delivers. Enter Helen Hunt, who plays a sex therapist. She gives a raw and naked performance, both internally and externally. A lot has been said about her nude scenes, but I never felt they were exploitative. She enters this transaction with stern professionalism. ("Unlike a prostitute, a sex therapist doesn't want return business")  But somewhere along the way, it begins to mean something more. And that's when the film hits a stride. It hits you, holds you and doesn't let you go. I had trepidations about the theme of this movie, and when it started, it felt like a documentary. You empathize, but don't connect. Until you do.

This film will make you think about loves in your life. O'Brien wrote that he expects that on his funeral, there will be people who will come and he knows that he will have loved them, and they would have felt his love. To that, one can say that he has lived as full a life as the most abled man in the world. We can all only aspire for such a life.You will enter the theater thinking you will see a story of a sick man, but in the end, it is you who will get therapy.

Parisian Violet Mist (Scent Review: Balenciaga Paris)

I will always associate Balenciaga Paris, the scent, with Kanye West. Why, you ask? I had my first encounter with the perfume at the Balenciaga Store in Chelsea, and that day, Kanye West was holding fort at the store. He had a big entourage, and he had his then-girlfriend traipsing around in Nicholas Ghesquiere's creations. He was making her try on piece after piece. I spritzed the jus on my skin, and didn't think twice about it. I thought it was nice, but my initial impression was that it was meh. But I remember walking home, and it started to mist, and suddenly the scent suddenly blossomed in the wet air. The delicate violet notes started to soar, and it was all I could do to go back and get a full bottle. I didn't, though, and largely forgot about the perfume until this year when I finally got a discounted bottle. Perfumer Oliver Polge does for the violet note here what the iris note for Dior Homme. We get a misting of it - this is a transparent and watery violet (but not aquatic) that is like a scent veil - it envelopes you elegantly, and never takes the attention from you. It's a very subtle scent, and the drydown is beautiful, but stark. It is also very earthy. There is a white musk here that brings down the violet - it is kind of like a trail. You sense it, but do not really smell it most of the time. Balenciaga Paris is a scent I would recommend for a specific type - someone who is very well aware of a streamlines style, somewhat conservative but not stodgy. It is not a casual scent at all - you feel "dressed up" when you wear it so you would be inclined to wear it when you have something a little ore special on. I don't think it would match a jeans and t-shirt aesthetic, but I also think it would feel right at home with a ball gown. I think it's a very modern interpretation of Paris, very different from Sophia Grosjman's classic Paris for YSL. It's beautiful, and I think will stand the test of time.

Sweets For The Sweet (Book Review: Sweetness, Lindsay Paige)

"Sweetness" was a free book on Amazon, and what caught me initially was its cover. They always say don't judge a book by its cover, but in this case, I lucked out. This is a simple story, a young adult book about two people who find each other in the midst of their emotional damages. Emily has had a rough time - she has been abused and pimped out by her own mother while Jake just lost his mother from cancer. They find love with each other, and try to let love grow. It's not lighthearted. The characters around them could be more real, but they serve their purpose well. I did not realize this was one of those "serial" books and this is the first of the series so it doesn't really end, but is set up for the sequel. I guess that's why they gave this one for free, to whet people's appetites so they buy the next books in the series. The one thing I didn't like about this book is that it was promoting the fast food chain Chick Fil-A, making me think that the author is a Fundamentalist Christian homophobe. I don't think I will be buying her books for that reason.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Soul Sisters (Movie Review: Your Sister's Sister)

I love films about character studies. Isn't it weird that sometimes you watch a movie, and even if a gorgeous story unfolds, there are times when you feel like you never got to know the characters? On the other hand, there are movies wherein even if nothing much happens, you leave the theater feeling like you just met new life long friends. "Your Sister's Sister" is one of those movies. Written and directed by Lynn Shelton, this is a wonderful small film. Mark Duplass plays Jack, who is a man who has lost his brother. He is still depressed, so his best friend, Iris, commands him to spend a weekend at her family's summer house. He gets there and finds Iris' other sister, Hannah there, smiting after a breakup with her girlfriend. A simple enough premise, but things get complicated after Iris follows there. A happy reunion? Yes, but maybe not. This is a movie about nuances, with great subtle acting by all three (DeWitt is my favorite) The last eighth of the movie goes the predictable route, but you forgive because these all are three dimensional characters you learn to care about. And it has a doozy of an ending.

I Love You, Oh, You Pay My Rent (Book Review: Rent, Rick R Reed)

I thought for sure that Rent, written by Rick R Reed, would be one of those tales as old as time. You know, like those stories from Douglas Sirk movies, where a good girl gets trapped in situation, sells her body, and then gets a retrieved reformation. This book is similar, but not quite the same as that story. It tells the story of Wren, who tries his hand at being a rent boy, and then...well, there's a murder mystery plot that occurs after. The story flows well, but I can't help but think it's a little disjointed. There's a middle part that seems like is written from another book - a diary hat resembles a portrait of a cocaine addict. While well written, it comes out of left field and disappeared just as quickly. I wish the murder-mystery part was interesting, but it, too was kind of predictable. There wasn't even enough trash in here to make it a guilty pleasure. It was okay for mindless reading, but nothing more. 


Shy Sandalwood (Scent Review: Santal Majuscule, Serge Lutens)

Maybe it's just fitting that I wore Santal Majuscle on Thanksgiving Day. I was running late, and was trying to quickly decide what to wear. I told myself I wanted to wear something Holidays-ish, when I saw my new-to-me Santal Majuscule, and spritzed it hastily. The first impression it gave me - cocoa. I thought to myself, here we go again with Uncle Serge. It's always a journey with him, a sandalwood with hints of cocoa to start? I am in. And then his trademark stewed fruit jumbo enters - I smell apricots, and I smell roses. The thing about any Serge Lutens fragrance for me is that they are so complex and layered that what you smell depends on the temperature. It was kind of balmy today so maybe the fruity and flowery aspects are the ones "winning out" ? In any event I smell roses and roses after. They aren't the jammy kind. I am pleased to see this is less sugary rose, perhaps there are spices (cardamom?) that balance it ? And then I smell my arm and there it is - the sandalwood. It's a very clean kind (Serge says in an interview that this is based on Australian sandalwood) and it's very appealing, but... I also think it is kind of...boring? I miss the boldness of Santal de Mysore. As time passes, Santa Majusule veers into sweet toasted bread variety. It becomes increasingly gourmand, and stays so. The sillage is on the shy side, but the longevity is fierce. For a sandalwood scent, the sandalwood is kind of hard to discern, though it is there. And for Thanksgiving, it seem appropriate because, of course, it's a very food-centered holiday. For a Serge Lutens fragrance, the story here is not as convoluted. one may even call it safe, commercial, and compared with the rest of his line, uninspired. It is still solid, though.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Christmas Chills, They're Multiplying (Music Review: John Travolta & Olivia Newton John: This Christmas)

You wanna feel old? Do you know it has been thirty years since the movie version of GREASE? Yet the piece still resonates. Heck, the kids from GLEE just did their own version of it. I grew up singing the songs from the movie, and of course with John & Olivia so I was super excited to find out that they have done a Christmas album. Benefitting their respective charities, this album, I thought, has to either be so good, or so bad that it would be destined to be a camp classic. I mean, look at the album cover on the left - it's the gayest thing since Liberace's piano. And with guest stars to boot - Barbra Streisand for cryin' out loud. and you know what? It's a fine Christmas album. I was expecting camp, but this is a very listenable and tuneful Holiday album. I don't particularly think their voices blend well together, but the sum of them amount to something fun. The song selection is great, if a bit familiar - there's a touching "Silent Night" from both of them, and you can't doubt their chemistry, especially in "Baby It's Cold Outside." It was kind of weird to have Barbra chime in during "I'll Be Home For Christmas" but I will take Streisand anyway I can. Even Tony Bennett shows up in "Winter Wonderland," and he brings a lot of fun with him. The album sounds like a star studded Christmas party. Imagine both John and Olivia hosting a party, and then singing along with their guests. It's fun, it's Christmassy - what's not to like?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Best Abe (Movie Review: Lincoln)

LINCOLN is overly long, it's talky, and it's slow. I won't argue with anyone who says those things about the movie. But, it is also thrilling, inspiring, rewarding, and touching. This movie is not about Abraham Lincoln's life. This movie is about the journey to having the thirteenth amendment passed. I couldn't have imagined all the drama that went on to have that passed. And it is so vivid on this screen I felt like I was there. Sure, the movie felt like a civics lesson, but we need to be schooled a lot of times. I really hope the ADD-addled youth of today pays attention, though I doubt this would keep them up - there are no vampires, no car chases, no explosions here. (Well, there is a war scene in the beginning of the movie, but I doubt it'd be enough) And Daniel Day Lewis' performance is so authentic, so realized that I will forever think of Lincoln in his incarnation. Though at times Lewis can overact, here he is subtle and real. I remember going to that Disneyland attraction where they have the motorized Lincoln reciting his speech and it scared me. None of that here. Sally Field is also great, and she is another one who could be over the top but she is reigned in here. She may be triumphant Oscar night. The whole ensemble is great, but I loved Tommy Lee Jones best as abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens. (It's Mr. Jones' year - he was also brilliant in the comedic Hope Springs)  This is the type of movie that demands to be seen again. I am sure I lost a lot of Tony Kushner's words, and the dialogue is particularly poetic. I know there's a lot more to see this year, but for now, this is tops.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Walk In The Garden Of Eden (Scent Review: Tokyo Milk No 3: Eden)

I am always up for cheap thrills. I have heard of the niche line Tokyo Milk but have never tried it until recently, when I chanced upon a *very-cheap* full bottle of Eden(03). It was so inexpensive that it was so worth the risk. And it paid in triple-digit dividends.Tokyo Milk was created by Margot Elena Wells, and I thought maybe the line would be too "twee," but I was glad to find out that the line is pretty sophisticated. Eden is an elegant fruity-floral, a scent sub-genre that could easily go bad. This opens with fresh greens - I smell crushed leaves - and then the flowers come through: cassis and a clean iris. Musk rounds it out pretty quickly, and stays there, thought the florals never really leave the scene. It's blended perfectly - nothing is obstructive, the musk is clean and pretty. I have this new thing of doing one spritz on my shirt daily, and every now and then I get a whiff of Eden, and it brings a smile to my face. Eden isn't the most innovative scent, but it's formidable, with great sillage and longevity, and for the price, unbeatable. I must admit that I had predisposed judgement on this line before - the perfume snob in me sometimes takes over - but I definitely want to sample the rest of the line now.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

After All, Just One Song (Music Review: Deborah Winters, Lovers After All)

I hear so many standards albums that most of them go in one ear and out the other. Deborah Winters' album "Lovers After All" got my attention because of the title track:  a simple beautiful song composed by R R Bennett. And she does quite a good job with it - sung plaintively, with intelligent and emotional phrasing. It was such a promising first track in the album. Unfortunately, the rest of the didn't quite hold up for me. And I think it just boiled down to a 'taste' thing. I disagreed with all the artistic choices for the rest of the tracks. There is a slightly swingy version of "How Deep Is The Ocean" that felt all wrong for me. It felt overly long and missed the point. And why ever would someone employ "Haunted Heart" with a bossa nova beat? Even a fool-proof song like "The End Of A Love Affair" misses the mark. Ms. Winters has a nice voice, but it's a bit colorless, and just gets lost in the spacious arrangements. I wonder if she would fare better in a duets album. There's just too much happening here. But, she does have that one good track and that will go to my iPod.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Sometime Parisienne (Book Review: Paris In Love, Eloisa James)

There are a lot of people who are just madly in love with the city of Paris. My sister is one of them. She goes there at least once a year. Whenever she travels in Europe, she makes it a point to stop there, even for a day. I have written this numerous times: I do not get along with the city, but I am certainly not immune to its charms. Eloisa James had a cancer scare, and when she got her doctor's clean bill of health, she decided to uproot her family, selling her New Jersey suburban home, and live in Paris for a year. And it sounds like such a wonderful idea, and is the premise foe the book "Paris In Love." The book is a collection of short essays, and Facebook status updates of her year there. It is written kind of like a memoir, and it certainly is very personal. You know how you friend someone in Facebook and then inspect their page, looking at their past status updates? This felt exactly like that, and even though a lot of it is very personal, there was something detached in it. I wanted to like this more, but there was something missing somewhere for me to fully appreciate it. But, I felt like I got to know her family. When they finally left Paris to go back to live in New York City, I felt wistful. 


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Her Name Is Not Susan (Music Review: Susan Boyle, Standing Ovation: The Greatest Songs From The Stage)

So sue me, I kind of like Susan Boyle's voice, and her records. I like that in her past albums, there is always something pleasantly unexpected: a cover of Depeche Mode or a Stones song, something you never thought she would cover but brilliantly does. On her new album, "Standing Ovation: The Greatest Songs From The Stage," she still sounds divine - there is always such a vulnerability in her voice that slays me. I can' help it. But the song selection here is so uninspired - it's as if they had a quest to choose some of the most overplayed songs ever to hit the stage. Name a cliche, it's here: "Over The Rainbow," "The Winner Takes It All," "Memory."  You know how you look at a track listing and you know exactly how the album will sound even before hearing a single note? That's how I felt here. I mean, I wasn't expecting a cut from "Coco," but a little unique variety would have been nice. She literally chose some of my most-unfavorite songs of all time. Someone on Facebook asked me if there were any "highlights," and the closest I could think of is her duet with Donny Osmond in "All I Ask Of You," a song I can tolerate. But then again, it brought back memories of when I saw her on stage with him (singing another song) and she seemed wooden and almost mentally-challenged. I hate to say this, but this album is a misfire for me.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

All About Connie (Television Review: Nashville, Wednesdays on ABC)

After watching the third episode of the new television show, Nashville, I still don't know how I truly feel about it. I have watched it, and it has kept me interested enough, but I can't say I am loving it enough to watch the episodes right away. I feel my emotional involvement with it isn't as strong. And I cannot understand why. What I do know, though, is that Connie Britton is a force of nature here. She smolders in her role as Rayna James, a Country Superstar. Rayna is experiencing some challenges: her label is now gravitating towards Juliet Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) who is the new hot young thing in country music. And her husband has started to run for Mayor of Nashville, against a friend of hers and her family. Rayna has her plate full, and Britton provides just the right balance for her character: strong without getting too overbearing, stubborn in her strength which makes her flawed enough to be real. A lot of people are already talking Emmy for her in this role, rightly so. But I am also quite impressed with Panetierre. I thought she would be just middling in her role: a young brat diva. But she has shown surprising humanity, perhaps aided by a well-drawn script. It's definitely a three-dimensional character and she is convincing. The storylines verge on soap-operaish, and some twists and turns are predictable. But these two women keep on pulling me back. I just wish I was more invested, but there's enough here to still see.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Love Turned Gay (Book Review: Tips On Having A Gay (Ex) Boyfriend, Carrie Jones)

I had feared that "Tips On Having An Gay (Ex) Boyfriend" was one of those books where the title was more interesting than the book. But, I was pleasantly surprised to find a sensitively written book. The plot could certainly be a recipe for disaster: a high school student gets dumped by her boyfriend, after he confesses he is gay. She is taken aback, but you found out later on that the clues were all there in front of her, but perhaps she loves him too much she got blinded. Carrie Jones handles the delicate subject with a soft and firm hand - you understand both character's plight. I wish the homophobia angle of the situation was dealt a little more: it would be helpful for the young adult audience of the book, but ultimately it would be unfair to make that the book's agenda. This is a romantic story, with a positive gay undertone, and that's just fine. I found out that this book is a beginning of a series, and I wonder now if the ex-boyfriend remains a character in her life.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Luck Of The Iris (Scent Review: Iris Nobile, Acqua Di Parma)

Why do people always take the Acqua Di Parma line for granted? I guess because while they are interestingly packaged, they give off a staid vibe (not unlike Creed, for example) but I actually do like their "Nobile" line, though I only have one: the Iris Nobile EDP. (I know the picture on the left is of the EDT) I have been meaning to get the Colonia, but I am not really a big cologne fan - I want my scents to linger on me for a long time. And Iris Nobile, does. I spritzed some this morning, and now, almost ten hours later, the dry down is still there. Iris Nobile is a chypre, and I know most peopel don't appreciate those as much as they used to, but Iris Nobile is modern enough. It starts with a citrus vibe (a melange of oranges: mandarine, bergamot) then it veers to a white flower concoction: ylang ylang, tuberose, and a clean iris. This is not the rooty kind - think Dior Homme - but it's creamy, buttery, real pretty. This white floral bouquet is what would turn some people away. When I started appreciating scents, I used to be turned off by it as well, but now I cannot get enough of these heady notes. It was cold today, and the middle notes stayed with me and I felt really good wearing this. It smelled elegant, and the materials used were certainly expensive-smelling. You know how you can't sometimes describe a scent as luxurious? I think Iris Nobile smells luxurious - someone who wears this has taken time to appreciate perfume. It isn't the most innovative thing, perhaps, but it is certainly well-crafted. I do admit I sometimes forget to wear this. But I have vowed to put it on my front row selection.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Money Changes Everything (Book Review: Why I Left Goldman Sachs, Greg Smith)

When I was a College Sophomore, I got a part time job at one of those old-school Investment Baking firms, and ever since then, until two years ago, I was a Wall Street employee. I have worked at several trading desk over the years - not as a trader or sales person - but as middle and back office support for the. So, I am familiar with the environment and culture that Greg Smith talks about on his book, "Why I Left Goldman Sachs." Maybe that's why I was attracted to this book. It's a memoir of sorts, specifically around Mr. Smith's tenure at Goldman Sachs, starting as a college intern, up to his Vice President days at the New York, and later, London offices of GS. As a book, I thought it was pretty fascinating, although I don't know if it would necessarily read well with people who may not be into finance. I saw it more as a story of a man and his loyalty. I don't really think there is anything shocking or revelatory in it, and if someone thought there was, I honestly don't think it was malicious on the part of Mr. Smith. I wish the story was just a bit more personal - we only learn bits and pieces of his personal life, and of a more nebulous account of a love affair with "Nadine." I think that would "humanize" Mr. Smith a lot more. But then again, that may not be the intent of this book. Some details are almost nonsensical, but this book is finely written, and always kept my interest level high. I do agree that the culture of firms have changed considerably, on a company politics level anyway. It used to be more familial, but I noticed at my last firm, it was more "each man on his own." Even though right now I am no longer in the business, I do think I may come back one day. Hopefully, if I do, it would be like the way it was before. 


Summery Chistmas (Music Review: Colbie Caillat, Christmas In The Sand)

I dragged my feet listening to this album because, frankly, though I have heard some of her songs, I really have no idea who Colbie Caillat is. I think I like her one song "Lucky," (if it's the same one I am thinking of) but otherwise I cannot say I have paid any more attention to her. But as soon as I played "Christmas In The Sand," her new Christmas album, I realized that this was a different kind of holiday album. She says in press notes that she wanted to do a Christmas album meant to play for the beach, and yes, I think she captured that feeling and mood. This isn't an album with lush arrangements meant to be listened to while snow is falling. This is a beach Christmas album, and the title track, "Christmas In The Sand" is warm, infectious, and a great *POP* Christmas tune. We do not get a lot of those, and this one is a doozy. Born and raised in Southern California, Caillat gives us a sunny, breezy Christmas album. Her duets are fun, "Merry Christmas Baby," with Brad Paisley is a rockin' opener, and there's a different kind of lilt in her "Baby It's Cold Outside," with Gavin DeYoung that gives the song a tropical wind vibe. Colbie Caillat gives us a Christmas album that's fun, different, and summery - gotta give her credit for thinking outside the box.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Reba's Country (Television Review: Malibu Country (ABC Fridays)

I was more than ready to ignore "Malibu Country," Reba McIntyre's new sitcom (Friday nights on ABC) when I found out the great Lily Tomlin was in it. So I told myself I should at least watch the pilot. I am not Reba's biggest fan, as she is a conservative Republican whose "values" I do not agree with (She is against marriage equality, for example) so I am not going to pretend and say that I am not biased. And after I saw the premiere episode, I can't say she swayed me to her corner. The first thing I thought of, actually, was: why is Lily Tomlin playing second fiddle to this woman? This sitcom isn't reinventing the wheel, but I don't think it set to do that anyway. It's a family "fish out of water" premise, and it's been done a lot o ftimes before, and better. But this isn't bad - it's ordinary, and comforting. It's well-scheduled on a Friday night - most viewers, after a long work week, aren't looking for something complicated and this fits the bill. I just wish it moved me. I may watch it for Lily, but I won't be rushing home.

Slippery Rock (Book Review: Paper Covers Rock, Jenny Hubbard)

It is hard to describe "Paper Covers Rock." It's a novel in the form of a journal. I kind of imagine it more as if written on a moleskin notebook. The sequences are artfully done not in sequential order, and there are a of poetry (Some of which are brilliant) Told in the voice of a young male boarding school student in an all boy's school, it is very convincing. It is also very contemplative and melancholy, and is always very deep. This young man is an old soul. He and his friends were drinking by the river and one of them dies from a freak accident - or was it? A teacher, a young female who just graduated from college before teaching there may or may not know more about the said incident, and they are all left to grapple with the choices they make after. I was engrossed by the book - it seemed like an easy read, but I found it to have a lot of depth, and definitely would make you think. 


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pricey Smokes (Scent Review: Back To Black, By Killian)

Oh, By Killian. It's a line that truly exasperates me. I love it, then I hate it, then I love it. I love By Killian fragrances because they truly are great perfumes, with top-notch materials blended supremely (by Candace Becker) and packaged magnificently by its creative maestro, Kilian Hennessy. But it comes with a price, a pretty steep one: $225 for a 1.7 ounce. That is why I am petrified to sample them, because I am scared that if I fall in love with one, I will obsess over it. "Back to Black" is a wonderful scent, and it was love at first sniff. It opens with a fruity berry something - the notes say raspberry, but in my mind, I see black cherries. That settles before the main note comes in - a glorious honeyed tobacco note. It's a sweet tobacco note, rich and sumptuous. And then it just gets richer and more opulent, staying pretty linear but deeper. It's a star, and it never overpowers you with a moderate silage and great longevity. But at the end of the day, I cannot justify its price (which I think mostly goes to its wonderful bottle)  For much less, I can think of very similar alternatives: Tom Ford's Tobacco Vanille, or L'Artisan's Havana Vanillle, or Diptyque's Volutes. Or even for much less, there's Viktor & Rolf's wonderful Spicebomb. These five fragrances are scent quintuplets: I bet you any inexperienced nose would not be able to tell subtle differences between them. So as much as I am in love with "Back To Black," it's for now an impossible dream. I can catch my dream cheaper. But, if I were a rich man....

A Feeling Deep In Your Soul (Stage Review: Barbra Streisand, Back To Brooklyn at MGM Arena)

Sometimes, someone just gives you the ultimate feeling: that feeling deep in your soul, says you were half now you're whole. I have listened to Barbra Streisand all of my life, and I will probably listen to her till the day I die. It was a treat to see her in 1994, and I seriously felt blessed to have seen her then. I thought it would be a once in a lifetime thing. It turns out I will experience the Barbra experience twice in a lifetime. Last night, at the MGM Grand, Barbra proves she has still got it. Harsh critics will argue that the voice isn't what it used to be, and sure the pure dulcet tones have aged and mellowed, but at 70, by God, that voice is still a force of nature, and yes it is still like buttah. The high notes seem clipped, but she still possess such control of it that it hardly matters. It is not a shadow of itself, it is still front and center, and you will thank the lucky stars that you heard it live! The repertoire is almost exactly all from The Great American Songbook, just the way I like it.  It was wonderful to hear her sing "Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered" with its original orchestral and vocal arrangement, and even if that particular  song has been played more than a hundred times on my iPod, last night it felt like I was hearing it for the first time. Another one I loved was her duet with Christ Botti, a fine medlette arrangement of "What'll I Do," and "My Funny Valentine."  The former is a song I always wish she had sung, and I guess I got my wish. Another Irving Berlin song I have always wanted to be Barbra-ized was "How Deep Is The Ocean," a song that I have emotionally connected with. I got half my wish - she duets that with her son, Jason Gould, and while I felt she was just "supporting" him here, it was still a treat to hear her sing Berlin's wonderful lyrics. I can go on and on, there's a rousing "Make Your Garden Grow," a rare gem in "Lost Inside Of You," or a powerful "Some People" paired with "Don't Rain On My Parade," but that's just stating the obvious. I have always felt Peter Matz's arrangement for the single version of "People" was fantastic, and it was nice to see her sing that version last night. One cannot be more effusive when describing a Barbra Streisand evening. My 1994 experience was more of an epiphany, it had the quiet explosive energy. Last night was more familiar, more intimate. I closed my eyes at one point and felt I was at The Bon Soir, and by God, it felt like I was really there, and the world was more innocent. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Scotty's Christmas Country (Music Review: Christmas With Scotty McCreery, Scotty McCreery)

The only thing I know about Scotty (that nickname makes me cringe, I don't know why)  McCreery is that he was (and won?) American Idol, and I didn't even watch his season, and have never really heard him sing. I do know that his music is country, a genre I am not really a big fan of, though, for the record, I don't dislike it. And "Christmas With Scotty McCreery" is definitely a Christmas Country album. No sweat. To me, the album sounds authentically country - arranged to showcase guitars, a rhythm section, pedal steels. It's pleasant, for sure, but... generic, if a bit bland. He possesses a clean baritone that sounds to me quite common, and the arrangements, while competent, do not show a lot of originality. But his fans probably aren't looking for that, and they will most likely eat this up. I read somewhere that he was inspired by the Rat Pack while doing this album, but I don't see it. There's an almost offensive religious song in here that's called "Christmas In Heaven" that's a little too treacly, but otherwise it's standard fare. I can imagine hearing this while at Wal-Mart.