It’s been a long time since my last post. I do intend to catch up, but between a new baby, a job, and the building of a house, I haven’t been able to make the blog a priority. This winter I hope to write some catch up posts and get back on track.
My sister, who may be more of a renaissance man than I, started telling me about this rap musical about Alexander Hamilton a couple years ago. I listened to a few of the songs, but I didn’t really get it. Once Hamilton really started blowing up, I realized I probably hadn’t given it is due. I think the main problem I had was that despite a love for American history, I didn’t know or remember much about Hamilton. For Christmas last year, my parents got my wife and me season tickets to The Kennedy Center. They’ve been habitués of the theater for about thirty years, and generously though we’d appreciate going to shows as much as they have. They even watch the little ones while we’re out, which is honestly about all we get it, so we greatly appreciate it.
I’d only managed to read about 30% of the book before seeing the show. I highly recommend getting some context before seeing the show. At a bare minimum, read wikipedia and then listen to the songs in order. I thought the musical was absolutely incredible. It was very well done. I thought the execution of the DC cast was on par with the original, save maybe for Angelica. However, several members of my family saw the show a few weeks after I did, and they told me that an understudy had filled in for Angelica who was quite good. I thought that Washington was particular exceptional in the DC cast. The set was surprisingly simple, but I don’t think that detracted from the show in any way. I won’t waste any more time of a review as you all know its great and can’t be missed. I hope to see it again, and hear a filmed performance by the original cast my come out as a movie, which I’d love to see. The only show I’ve ever seen that had the audience as engaged and as excited is perhaps The Book of Mormon. However, The Book of Mormon is a pretty pure comedy while Hamilton really has it all.
I finished the book last night after what felt like an eternity of trying to finish it. It’s a lot of book. That’s not to say its not a page turner, but it’s definitely not a light or short read. I’ve ready 1776, and Founding Brothers. I’ve watched John Adams on HBO. Chernow’s Hamilton stands out to me as it really highlights the personalities of the founding fathers and other associates of Hamilton. I also really think it speaks to the savagery of politics and the cynicism and grim view of the human condition held by many great and influential men. In school we learn about great leaders and founders of this nation, and they’re presented as exceptional and superhuman. Chernow’s Hamilton really speaks to the flaws of these men, the failures and shortcomings, which really gives another dimension to their history and a much richer appreciation of their lives and legacies. Interestingly, only George Washington is portrayed as exceptional in both his accomplishments and integrity. Chernow makes it clear that Washington owed much of his success to Hamilton, just as Hamilton did to Washington. Really, they were indispensable to each other. But Washington stands alone as a man of unwavering character, selflessness, magnanimity, integrity, sacrifice, and optimism. He saw the good in all people, and saw beyond party politics, all while holding himself to the highest standards. He was not perfect, but his honestly and exceptionalism is not matched. Hamilton, Jefferson, Adams, and etc., while exceptional, all fall victim to the human condition. They are guilty of being petty, dishonest, of infidelities, and many similar shortcomings. In addition to dirty politics, Hamilton had other mistakes, such as the Alien and Sedition acts. Particularly remarkable since Hamilton was an immigrant. Despite these mistakes, most founders are remembered for accomplishments. Adams and Jefferson included. We know all along that Burr is the villain, but short of murder, many of the founding fathers are guilty of similar lapses in judgement and/or failings of character. While their careers and legacies are exceptional, and they weren’t regular people, they were susceptible to many of the same temptations and weaknesses of their inferiors. This seems particularly relevant in the age of Trump. While Bill Clinton may best be remembered due to the cause of his impeachment, politics in my lifetime has seemed less scandalous than during Hamilton’s time. Until now. While not comforting to me personally, perhaps because I’m too cynical or impatient, its nice to know America has been through a lot and still persevered and thrived. It makes one think that Trump too shall pass. Its hard not to draw parallels. And while the best example of a selfless public servant, especially given his recent passing, is McCain, its difficult to see how or when the reasonable and upstanding republicans like McCain will retake their party. While the book is truly an all encompassing biography, the musical seems to focus on legacy. Only a few years ago, most people probably wouldn’t name Hamilton as a founding father. Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Franklin, etc., could all probably easily be recalled, but Hamilton would probably be as forgettable as John Jay. In his own time and shortly thereafter, Hamilton may have been most infamous for his infidelity and then his duel. It’s interesting that such an accomplished man could have his legacy be something other than The Federalist Papers, the Treasury Department, Neutrality, or Abolitionism. The musical has gone a lone way towards enriching and cementing Hamilton’s legacy. Especially with current generations. But despite the book and musical, Hamilton will likely continue to be best known for the duel. A man of many mistakes, but known for one big one. It gives one pause that one can go from being remembered as a Vice President, to a murderer, in just a split second. Or a from perhaps the most accomplished founding father, to a the victim of a duel.by rsiv with no comments yet
I recently enjoyed a really cool cologne class in St. Martin. I’ve never been very big into cologne but the class piqued my interest. Really, I’ll take any excuse to indulge my creative side. I won’t recap the previous blog post too much, but essentially, we got to try to mix a few base, middle, and top notes to create our own custom scent. Once you had your oils you like and in a good proportion, you add some perfumer’s alcohol and you’re in business. At home, one does not have the option of smelling each scent before committing to buy a bottle. However, if you know of a cologne you like, you can look up the notes of that scent on basenotes or fragrantica. I’m not suggesting or recommending that one try to copy a favorite cologne, but it does give you an idea of what smells you like, which provides a pretty good starting point. For example, I wanted to create a Virginia themed cologne (big surprise I know). I got on the basenotes forum, proposed my idea, and asked for suggestions. I got some ideas I liked conceptually, like cedar, but then found it difficult to blend said specific scent into my cologne. Then someone suggested a pineapple top note. Virginia is known for pineapples, not because they are grown here, but there were a symbol of welcome and status back in colonial times. I thought this was a great idea, especially since I didn’t really have any good ideas for the top notes at the time. I thought about citrus or mint, but citrus can only loosely fit a Virginia theme, and the mint was overpowered by my middle and base notes. I also thought about some clean scents like sea salt and driftwood to try to get a briny oyster thing going, but I couldn’t get that to work either. I googled cologne with a pineapple note, and found Creed’s Aventus, which has a smokey pineapple scent. I asked for some more help from basenotes to create something similar, and after some trial and error, found a pineapple scent that wasn’t too cloying or sweet, and also not too green and herbal. After playing around with several ideas, I came up with a few variations I liked. One of which is as follows:
TOP – pineapple – dihydro myrcenol, ambroxan, AAG, Ambergris, Allyl Heptanoate
MIDDLE – black pepper, all spice, nutmeg, tonka bean (popular spices of the colonial era, and tonka bean was a common pipe tobacco additive at the time)
BASE – Tobacco (and variations of…ie tobacarol, vanilla oak, etc.), Leather for Virginia’s esquestrian heritage (several variations including suederal)
I also did one with a middle of dogwood, magnolia, and jasmine (dropping the pineapple top note) but it seemed too floral for my taste. I still kept it though. I also messed around with vetiver using the justification that its similar to sorghum (and I couldn’t find sorghum essential oil). I think a few versions had oak moss and honeysuckle, but neither made the final cut.
I also made some beard oil. I bought some unscented beard oil online (jojoba and argan oil) and then added essential/fragrance oil to it. There are a bunch of sites online that describe how much oil to use, etc. Tobacco and vanilla oak turned out great, as did a variation of my Virginia cologne with the leather note punched way up. This is way easier than making a well-balanced cologne, but you can go so far as to develop a complex cologne and add it to the beard oil if you want to get fancy.
When we were at Tijon taking our class, it seemed to me that perfume was much more difficult than cologne. For a masculine cologne, there are only so many options when it comes to essential and fragrance oils. For perfume, the sky is the limit. As such, blending becomes much more difficult. I wanted to make a perfume for my wife for our anniversary, but it was an intimidating task. Bare in mind that each bottle of oil costs on average $6, so best case scenario, my fragrance would end up costing roughly the same as a store bought bottle. I decided on a concept for her perfume based on some cologne I like. 1 Million by Paco Rabanne has a really nice cinnamon – rose note (but an off-putting sparkling citrus top note). I thought the spicy rose note would work for a perfume, if I was able to create a more feminine base and top note that blended well. I started with a highly rated rose accord (not just straight rose scent/EO, but a complex blended rose accord) from creatingperfume.com. Then I decided on a few other middle notes: dark narcissus (picked mostly for name but I ending up really liking the smell), honey, and prismantol (a woody, spicy, ginger, cardamom note). I bought these blind (nose-blind/I hadn’t smelled them before). The honey didn’t thrill me, but I thought it would blend well. The prismantol was additively good. I smelled it frequently while mixing, and kept adding more and more of it. The rose accord was also very enjoyable, and strong enough to stand out the way I intended. For the base I ordered a sandalwood musk and light patchouli. I was concerned that the patchouli was a little too masculine, but blending it in to test anyway. For the top note I ordered peony, kumquat, and apricot. They all smelled good, but they did not smell great together. I decided to simplify and only include the peony. I started with a fairly even blend of 33% top, middle, and base notes. This wasn’t bad, but I needed to punch up the rose note. I kept adding rose until I found a sweet spot, and I also added a fair amount of the prismantol. At this point I had something very floral smelling, but it just seemed like something was missing. It was too sweet and too floral. I looked in my bag of cologne oil and found a sample of cinnamon. The bite of the cinnamon really balanced out the sweet florals, but it still seemed like it was bordering on cloying. Certainly too sweet for summer. I tried to add a fresh/sea component with ambroxin and hydro myrcenol. These kind of chemicals are what make aqua di gio and davidoff cool water remind you of the sea. I went easy on the fresh/sea component, and slowly added more until the sweetness seemed balanced. Now I was really starting to think I was on to something good. I added a little ambergris, and then I decided the perfume was really good, and it was time to stop before I messed it up. I’m really happy with the outcome. The peony top note comes off pretty good during application, and dominates for an hour or so. The inclusion of the sea smell makes it a fresh floral note and not overly sweet. Upon dry down, you really get warmth from the rose and cinnamon. This was really where the concept started, and I think it works quite well. As the perfume fades, the sandalwood musk, light patchouli, and ambergris leave a very subtle complex scent that I’m not able to identify/explain despite knowing the component parts. Its pleasant and not masculine so it works very well.
If you interested in creating cologne, perfume, candles, etc., I think a good place to start is foaming hand soap. I bought some unscented hand soap on amazon, and then just tried simple blends of two or three essential/fragrance oils. This is an inexpensive way to start out. I did a magnolia one for HB, and for myself I did one with a variation of the Virginia cologne described above. After those ran out I tried one with tobacco, vanilla oak, and leather, and another with tobacco and patchouli. It was very easy. I literally opened the top of the soaps, poured in some oil, shook, and pumped. As with most of my interests, this one can have a pretty hefty price tag. However, if you’re already buying a few bottles of luxury cologne a year, the price is negligible. Until you fall down the rabbit hole…
UPDATE: I just saw an article about upping your hand soap game (ridiculous I know), but it shows you how expensive good soap is, and also, how easy it is to pick a few scents that blend well. Lime, cumin, and patchouli sounds particularly interesting.by rsiv with no comments yet
My uncle has an amazing fountain pen collection. He has gifted me a few, but I don’t use them for fear of losing them. I do occasionally carry disposable fountain pens since losing them is no big deal. I was at a performance review the other day using a Pilot Varsity when the reviewee noticed my pen. We got to talking, and he suggested the Pilot Metropolitan and that I check out Fahrney’s Pens (right next to Shelly’s Backroom in DC). As it turns out, the Metropolitan is a great pen, and it only runs about $14. I already have a couple. Now I keep a couple pens in my bag just for fun, for important documents, and for writing big checks. To make them my own/particular to me, I decided on dark green ink. I bought Noodler’s Zhivago, and Diamine Green Black. The former was a little too green for my tastes. The later was not rich enough, but plenty dark and formal. Unsatisfied, I bought some Noodler’s heart of darkness and mixed it with the Zhivago to get a beautiful dark Charleston Green. Perfect for business and personal correspondence.
by rsiv with no comments yet
When we booked our stay in St. Martin, I started looking over tripadvisor‘s things to do. We really like having an adventure while on vacation, especially during a relaxing beach vaca, so I researched excursions. We had a baby in tow, so if we did something as a group, obvious choices like horseback riding, wave runners, parasailing, etc. were out. I came across Tijon’s perfume creation experience and knew I had a winner. A creative activity in which you get a souvenir and champagne would be a hit with everyone. I called John and set it up.
I can’t recommend Tijon’s perfume experience highly enough. It was a lot of fun, we learned a lot, and the cologne I made really turned out great. Marilyn and Millie (I think were their names) were very helpful in assisting in the creative process and keeping our baby entertained. I could not have ended up with such a great customized and personal cologne without their help. I asked a lot of questions and really tried to experiment to get the most out of the experience. Marilyn and Millie encouraged me and I could not have made such a great cologne without their assistance. I thought the whole experience was well worth the money, and I would go back next time I’m in St. Martin.by rsiv with no comments yet
Candy came up to drive Kate home, so we celebrated Chelsea’s birthday and had a mini-Christmas while they were here.
Kate flew in from LA via Alaska (United canceled her flight and sent her all over God’s half acre), and despite United losing her luggage and sending her to AK, she made it. Kate and Chelsea met us at The Salamander for a decadent brunch with Santa to celebrate Chelsea’s birthday.
My family came in from the Huntington area and Hinton. We had a great time. We had several great meals, enjoyed the farmers market, exchanged gifts, and had some wonderful (if not Christmasy) weather. Without Papaw, Lemuel, and Gary, its scary to think how differently I may have turned out. Without them, I doubt I’d hunt, own a gun, or own a truck. I probably would have never even been on a fourwheeler. I don’t get to see them often enough, but they’ve had a lot of influence on my life. Hopefully we’ll all get together again soon.
My company Christmas party (regardless of employer, and sometimes for both my company and my wife’s) has always (save for once) been at an area Ritz. Needless to say, its something we look forward to each year. So this is our 9th or 10th year of having a company holiday party. This year was Princess Fussybottom’s second trip to the Ritz. She got to enjoy the pool and have her second sleepover. The party was great, and everyone had a great time. Next year we’re going to have to step up the DJ situation though. I’m not going to get back behind the PA system, but its time for an upgrade.
by rsiv with no comments yet