Thursday, October 29, 2009

listen to scent here & the six seconds frame

as we forge ways, 

new and old,
of delivering olfactory imagination

in conjunction with
other media
-Lura Astor


backstory of the Green Aria Scent Opera

 click here in this interview you will hear
perfumer Christophe Laudamiel
musician Stewart Matthew,

who played with Nico Muhly and Valgeir Sigurdsson.
Neil Yule of Flaktwoods,

the company who created the scent delivery system/organ for the
Guggenheim presentation

if you have trouble with the link, click here "Scent Opera"

Also Check Out
preview, reviews, backstory, music
on this site's posts -
May 4, 9

June 2, 4, 2009

illustration: Shimmer Lura Astor

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

OR7D4 ... odor receptor 7D4

Depending on your genes, 
the smell of androstenone 
comes across as urine or vanilla, 
or for some, no smell is detected. 

How's that for a range?

I love Nature!

This picture has a wonderful story I will reveal later

Monday, October 26, 2009

Kiss the Future

Pasadena, California
25 October 2009
LINK to see/hear it HERE

Production designer Mark Fisher discusses taking show director Willie Williams’ initial inspiration of the Theme Building at LAX and coming up with a structure that would fulfill the needs of the U2 360 tour.

click this blogpost talks about production aspects on tour in different venues; Berlin, Paris, Dublin, etc.)

photos: LA in LA

LAX photo: Steven Fjeldsted

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Birds & Bees ... move over

Smelling Others
click to read

part of
Design Interactions, RCA Degree Show
Royal College of Art, London, June 2007

following links within the coverage, you'll read of bees' nasal acuity, choosing partners based on genetic suitability (whatever this is going to mean), and paying attention to the rise of GSA/genetic sexual attraction as a consequence of reproduction techniques such as infertility treatment and genetic screening.

Some of this information overlaps with

.... Research that has demonstrated (2001 article by Alison Motluk) that women taking the contraceptive pill decrease their ability to detect odours, preferring genes similar to their own, and eventually choose a mate who is not genetic-suitable.

Tim Jacob briefly records overlapping research by Martha McClintock on women detecting male immunotype by smell, here.

Susana Soares' Sniffing Others developed from her previous exhibit Genetic Trace, postulating that we can have, and use, tools to collect genetic material, detect one's genetic family, thus avoiding "wicked relationships" while also addressing issues specific to Donor Offspring (from donor eggs or sperm).

The collection of genetic material could be extended to physical contact like handshakes or kisses. While touching the hand of the other person you would use your "brushy" nails to scrap some genetic material from his or her palm. Similarly women facial hair would finally be useful because they would allow you to grab genetic information (saliva or dead cells containing DNA) after a kiss.  Soares

I like the idea of growing bee whisker antennae on human eyebrows, acting as additional sensors.

Why not? Women already wear false eyelashes. One can't move through a department store cosmetics area without being told you can receive a free eyebrows consultation and fix-up (at least in Los Angeles).

People can get back to fairy roots!

My informal research (begun in the 1960's due to circumstances of who I grew up with and who came through our home) shows that many hormone-changing birth controls for women not only affect the woman's sense of smell (thus her accurate sniffing out of a proper mate) but also makes her body think she is already pregnant. When this happens the woman's system says, "Making baby, make nest, make nest, make nest!" This is different than being on the prowl with natural hormones that say, "Mmmmmmm, sniff, sniff, are you the one? Are you the one? Are you the one who makes my blood sing?"

I would change jimi hendrix's lyrics from "Wild Thing you make my heart. sing. You make my everything, Wild Thing, I think you move me ... but I want to know for sure ...."

to Wild Thing you make my blood sing, you make my hormones sing ... I think I love you.

Enjoy the links!

Another thing about hormonal birth controls is the small print side effects lists: in addition to helping skinny girls have bigger breasts and helping some women lessen their zits, the 50+ side effects of hormonal birth controls include jaundice, nausea (prolonged morning sickness), changes in smell and taste, and ... death*. mmmmmm that'll put zip in your prowl.

* maybe every breath we ingest includes the disclaimer up to and including death.

When Margaret Sanger correlated poverty with unwanted pregnancies and early maternal deaths, her research took her to the development of modern day birth control. There was resistance. Her work was taken over by a consortium of men from around the world who changed her work (with end results that do not benefit women's long and short-term health). Sanger succinctly stated that the end results were absolutely not what she had worked towards and developed.

The latest advertisements for hormonal birth-controls show women in glee over having to not bleed for as many days now. Perhaps this helps not-reveal evidence that women do bleed more when exposed to toxicities, externally and internally (including side effect symptoms of medications; agricultural, pesticide, hospital and lab exposures, bleach in tampons, etc.).

Instead of women's external blood, the blood we get to see outside of bodies can come from war. #evolution ?

I know that many women, and men, want to be sexually active without human progeny the end result. I know that many men do not like wearing condoms. I know that women's birth controls insert metals or hormones; metal into areas that we know metal should not be allowed to stay and irritate; ingested or inserted hormones that change blood, body, sensing and thinking.

We'll figure it out. Or, maybe we won't.

Illustration: Continuity Lura Astor

Whisker nails for collection of DNA data: Susana Soares

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fun with the Periodic Table

click here to play Bo Jensen's game:

Twenty Questions on the Periodic Table

Science/chemistry teachers are welcome to contact him regarding this educational game.

His website:  here
Jensen has beautiful presentations
on fragrant ingredients:

click here: A Small Guide to Nature's Fragrances


Illustration: Ocean Going Ballet Lura Astor

Wednesday, October 21, 2009



Sophia Grojsman

Wasteland !

the scent

photo: National Aeronautics and Space Administration/
NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
under Photo ID: PIA08374
10 September 2007

"Dark material splatters the walls and floors of craters in the surreal, frozen wastelands of Iapetus. This image shows terrain in the transition region between the moon’s dark leading hemisphere and its bright trailing hemisphere."

This view acquired during Cassini's only close flyby of the two-toned Saturn moon

Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera
distance approximately 6,030 kilometers
(3,750 miles) from Iapetus
image scale, 36 meters (118 feet) per pixel

More Cassini imaging here

AND this photo brings to mind Alexander Calder's gouache on paper Black Saucers, 1968, part of the Norton Simon Museum collection

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


its own

know how

Illustration: Petals Lura Astor

Sunday, October 18, 2009



reread a favorite book lately?

Illustration: Sleepy Head Lura Astor

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Copasetic or Cope Aesthetic?

How go
your days or daze?
Kokopelli or Kopokelli?

dance feet drumbeat the
earth the dreams the feats
feet feats

question something

Dance of Whim Lura Astor

heart rhythms

Heart Rhythms Lura Astor

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Offer the Enjoyment


A hybrid of Midwestern, homesteading, tea-totaling stock with inventor, Roaring Twenties, Poiret gowns, bathtub gin stock ...

In our
highly stimulating home the air cleared for a new chapter each time we changed sheets. Yardley English Lavender Sachet (1873) was sprinkled the air uplifted and caught the wings of change.

Especially welcome after any sickness, a crispness of sheets crackled, no longer limp from fever sweat, now soaring with the elevation of the lavender.

W.A. Poucher, at one time Chief Perfumer of Yardley, beginning at age 35, also known for his perfume Bond Street and written contributions, wrote in the 1920's that,".... it was unfair that perfumes were only available to royalty, actresses and prostitutes".

Poucher introduced less expensive perfumes for purchase by women working in offices and shops, simultaneously developing new ways for perfuming cosmetics.

In 1923 Poucher, a pharmacist, wrote and published Perfumes and Cosmetics, emphasizing reference to Synthetics. This was a time when specialist books on cosmetics had not been printed and cosmetic chemistry was closely allied with pharmacy. In later editions Soap was added to the title.

On my wishlist today is Poucher's Perfumes, Cosmetics and Soaps, edited by Hilda Butler, ISBN 0-7514-0479-9.

According to the book, "In the 19th century perfumery was considered to be an art, totally.

.... The study of perfumes has a fascination unsurpassed by any other branch of chemistry. The researches of many distinguished scientists have gradually raised it from one of the minor arts to almost the level of a science."

The book became three volumes

Dictionary of Raw Materials and Miscellaneous Bodies

'including pigments and dyestuffs of interest to the chemist-perfumer'

Perfumes emphasizing the production of natural perfumes, his belief that one must study raw materials, and counterbalancing his interest in synthetics.

Cosmetics at a time, post World War One, before make-up was used by most women and some men, beginning popular life as theatrical products, in court and on stage, later and still, popularized by stars of the movies.

When raw materials were more scarce during World War Two Poucher's work was found to be valuable for creation of replacement formulations.

Until 1974, Poucher wrote all books and volume upgrades. Then, G.M. Howard revised volumes one and three, and Poucher revised volume two, Perfume.


I cannot impress on chemists too strongly the importance of simplicity of formulation in their experiments. Almost always a few well-chosen raw materials properly combined will give a more elegant and stable product than a long formulas in which one ingredient may upset another and so spoil the balance of the finished product - the unsatisfactory result not always being apparent until after packing and despatch (sic) for sale.

Jean-Claude Ellena:

I do not cultivate mystery, complication.

I prefer the clarity, the understanding.
To give to understand it is to offer of the enjoyment.

click to read a brief and lovely post on Poucher by Octavian Sever Coifan


a perfumer can be the

Magician of Multiple Meaning

Illustration: Klimtfume Lura Astor

top of post painting: Bouquet et Coquillages Rene Genis (1922-2004)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

to the rescue, to the succor

People like their heroes 3D

and their history flat

(on paper, edited). 

-Lura Astor

Illustration: Pages Lura Astor

beautiful young adult's book

Warriors, Warthogs, and Wisdom: Growing up in Africa is a lovely read written for young adults. Lots of heart and some smelly facts, authored by Lyall Watson.

The young Watson befriended an orphan warthog who became part of the farm's family and gained the name Hoover. In Watson's longer book Whole Hog: Exploring the Extraordinary Potential of Pigs he could emphasize pigs' olfactory expertise.

Hoover ran away one day to be eventually found at the site where he was originally orphaned when
his family had been killed and eaten. A bush elder tracking low to the ground in search for the pet says to the boy, “Intibane, the ugly one. He has very smelly feet.”

The author continues, "Which is true. Pigs have poor eyesight and only average hearing, but their sense of smell is fantastic. They are walking scent factories, with special glands on their faces, at the corner of the eyes, on the chin, in the mouth, under the tail, and even on the ankles. And warthogs have particularly strong glands on the pads of their feet. Everywhere they go, they leave tiny little droplets of their own personal smell behind them, which can last for days. Every warthog lives in a world filled with messages from every other warthog in the area – so that each one knows exactly where everyone else is, how they are, what they have been eating, and how long ago they passed this way. It must be like getting lots of letters every day from all your friends and family, letters filled with news and gossip, but written in ink that slowly fades away."

"He (pet warthog Hoover) had a great memory and never forgot an odor."

 ... the imagery of smells as ink stories that slowly fade away.

Reminds me of
the burnaway cypher silks in Leo Marks' Between Silk and Cyanide.  

photo: BS Thurner Hof 
Illustration: Color Wave Lura Astor

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sweet Dreams

Professor Tim Jacob, an expert in smell and taste at Cardiff University (UK), said:

"Smell is the only sense that doesn't 'sleep'. Information continues to reach the limbic system of the brain and that includes the hippocampus, or memory area and the amygdala, that is involved with emotional response.

"Other senses have to pass through the 'gate' of the thalamus, which is closed when we sleep."

When the smell of roses had been wafted under the noses of slumbering volunteers they reported experiencing pleasant emotions in their dreams.

....emotional tone of the dream did change depending on the (smell) stimulation.

BBC 22 September 2008

Illustrations: Fan Spray/Dream Smear Lura Astor

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bottle Shock

The movie Bottle Shock, with a great cast, writing and scenery, showed the transition of American viniculture onto the world stage circa 1976, affecting the previous "tradition" of French wine as a standard. This transition, on the heels of "The Judgment of Paris" influenced not only wine culture in America and France but the world.
A similar transition has happened in perfumery. Especially post post-world-war-2, when France positioned as the premiere luxe goods exporter.
Throughout world and time there have been cultural scent traditions. People are popping up their perfume products in all kinds of places now. The transitions and migrations of scent in the current world market influence how we look at, and smell, think about, deliver, speak of, archive and create the olfactory goods.

With Rio de Janeiro winning the 2016 Summer Olympics (congratulations), my fantasized money is on continuing increase in Brazil's perfumery.

Illustration: My Bottles Lura Astor

Friday, October 2, 2009

Sniff 'n' Poof !

I love Lyall Watson's Jacobson's Organ!

Don't worry, you have one, and you and you and I ... we play them marvelously ... lovely smell music.

Published in 2000,
Jacobson's Organ: and the Remarkable Nature of Smell from another interdisciplinarian, is a delight to read.


We think because we smelled ~ Lyall Watson

Smell is governed more by instinct than intellect, moving through our lower brain while other senses take a different freeway, transmitting via one's upper brain.

Dr. Watson passed in June of 2008 at the age of 69. He answered many of the questions I have begun to raise on this site.

First Smell

In his commentary on Patrick Suskind's book Perfume I found kindred perspectives. On people's surprise that the main character, orphan turned murderer, Grenouille, has powers of extreme smell receptivity, Watson says, "He produces all the evidence of what we call 'second sight' by the exercise of what we might instead call 'first smell'.


And, in my opinion, importantly Watson writes

"I believe that where Perfume ultimately fails is in its emphasis on the dangerous savagery inherent in the sense of smell Suskind lingers on the details of fragrant, hapless maidens stalked by an obsessive maniac who sniffs out his prey, instead of exploring everyone else’s untouched potential. This is a little disheartening. It really is time we stopped denigrating the power and influence of smell in all our lives. And yet, smell has been culturally suppressed for so long that one has to wonder. Perhaps heightened olfactory consciousness really would be dangerous to the established social order. Think what we could do with it!"

To that I respond, more heartening, lifely ... fun and funny things.

Lyall Watson addresses smell's effect on our hormones, which dovetails with earlier posts here addressing some precarious side effects of birth controls, especially in relation to smelling and truth in mating.

"We know that the odour of a strange male’s urine lowers the level of pituitary hormones in pregnant female mice and results in miscarriages. It has been shown that strange male urine can even shift the hormonal balance so far that female hamsters never become pregnant at all. And the same results in rodents have been produced by androgen-rich human urine. But no one seems to be looking at the possible role of smell on the fertility of women who work, perhaps as cleaners, n surroundings where they may be exposed to the urinary odours of unfamiliar men.

We should worry about such things. They represent real risks to any woman who is both pregnant and has an intact Jacobson’s Organ. An informal survey among my own friends suggests that young wives do often have difficulty conceiving for the first time when living in the home of their husband’s family, surrounded by the odours of brothers and fathers-in-law. They often fall pregnant within months of finding a home of their own."


I remain vividly aware of scent and color.

Watson, ".... I believe that there may be still other ways of olfactory knowing. These involve synesthesia, not taking away a sense and allowing others to compensate for the loss, but adding one sense to another in ways that reinforce them both."


A bit of the organ's historical context and lore:

"This elusive feature is the Organ of Jacobson, named after the sharp-eyed Danish anatomist who discovered it nearly two centuries ago. It is easy to miss. The external evidence consists simply of a pair of tiny pits, one on either side of the nasal septum, a centimeter or two above every human nostril. But the fact that it does exist changes everything.

Far Smell

1780, an obscure civil servant on Ile de France (now Mauritius) wrote to his Minister of Marine and announced that he had discovered a way of detecting ships while they were still below the horizon. He called it nauscopie, and describe it as ‘anticipating by means of smell’, the olfactory equivalent of ‘far sight’, a sort of ‘far smell’. Unfortunately we know no more details about his technique, but history records that it enabled him to win a great deal of money in wagers."

There is so much more in the rich books he has left us; mine them. 

For now, I leave you with this:


"I don’t believe we have even begun to come to terms with our sense of wonder. We still have a lot to learn, particularly from those parts of the sense housed in the rhinencephalon  the old ‘smell brain’.

Mysteries abound there, and reveal themselves only when we have the courage and the imagination to ask the proper questions.

Jean Jacques Rousseau says,
The sense of smell is the sense of imagination.
It greatly disturbs the brain.

Indeed, and it still does."

Images: Circle Fumes/Woman/Wind/Under Beauty/DNA Egg Lura Astor Art