January 23, 2011

Some we love, some we hate, some we eat by Hal Herzog

Some we love, some we hate, some we eat by Hal Herzog
Why it’s so hard to think straight about animals

[Book is looking into all aspects of the human-animal relations, provides reasonable reasons; though did not provide any scientific evidence for such relationships; it is more complicated topic.]

Do people really look like their dogs? The researchers came up with two possible reasons why people might look like their dogs - convergence and selection. The convergence theory is that owner and pet acutely grow to look more alike over the years. On the surface, the idea seems nutty. However there is evidence that couples who have been married for a long time, do in fact converge in the way their faces look. Plus, obese people tend to have overweight dogs. The selection theory in contrast holds that we unconsciously seek animals that look like us when picking a pet.

Do dog people and cat people have different personalities? Psychologists have been arguing about the nature of human personality for a hundred years. One issue they fight about is how many personality traits there are. While there are few holdouts, most psychologists agree that we can get a good description of a person’s personality by measuring five basic traits (technically it is referred as five factor model). They are

Openness versus close to experience
Conscientiousness versus impulsiveness
Extroversion vs. Introversion
Agreeableness vs. Antagonism
Neuroticism vs. Emotional Stability.

A small survey (2099 dog people & 527 cat people) reveals the following
Dog people are more extroverted, agreeable, conscientious
Cat people are more neurotic, more open to new experiences.

Why so many Americans afraid of snake? After all, you are more likely to be killed by a dog than a snake. Is ophidophobia a relic of Bronze age myths featuring serpents, naked women and apples? Scientists have been arguing for 200 hundred years about the relative importance of nature and nurture in development of snake fears. Susan Mineka argues that in monkey, fear of snake is learned. She found that Rheus monkeys captured in the wild were terrified of snakes but that monkeys born in captivity showed no fear of them. However many of the animals were absolutely terrified of the snakes even though they had never seen one before. Nature plays a role in snake fears. Some part of the world (Africa,) they are not afraid of snakes. The idea that both genes and environment influence our attitudes towards animals,

Is pet love in our genes?

On the question of ‘why pets’ anthrozoologists have offered a wide variety of explanations for the human-animal bond.

Pet teach kindness and responsibility to children
Pet provide ‘ontological security’ in postmodern age in which traditional values and social networks have broken down
Like ornamental gardens, pets are expression of the human need to dominate nature
Pets allow the middle class to pretend they are rich
Pets substitute for human friends.
Pets and people are autonomous beings who gain mutual comfort and enjoyment from their interactions

The human being is the only animal that keeps members of other species for extended periods of time purely for enjoyment.

Why is the list of animals so long, yet by comparison, the number of creatures whose flesh we regularly eat so short (mostly beef, pork, chicken and lamp). One reason is availability. Personal experience also comes into play. Like rats, humans have evolved a special ability to associate the taste of food with nausea and vomiting. The most important influence on whether we find a food delicious or disgusting is culture. Chinese and Koreans eat dogs, but not the rest of the world. In classical Hinduism, dogs were the outcasts of the animal world. They were despised because they were said to have sex with their own family members, and eat vomit, feces and corpses. Most interpretation of Islamic law also regard dogs as unclean. Americans and Europeans don’t consume dog flesh because they are considered as family members and hence eating them is tantamount to cannibalism.

With the new science of anthrozoology reveals is that our attitudes, behaviors and relationships with the animals in our lives - the ones we love, ones we hate, and the one we eat - are, likewise more complicated than we thought.

January 20, 2011

Merchant King - by Stephen R Bown

Merchant King - by Stephen R Bown
When companies ruled the world from 1600 -1900

[It is quite intriguing to know that companies where controlling vast number of countries outside Europe. The book covers each of these six companies chieftain’s impact in the world]

From the early 1600 to the late 1800s, monopoly trading companies were the unofficial agents of European expansion, controlling vast numbers of people and huge tracts of land and taking on governmental and military functions. They managed their territories as business interests, treating their subjects as employees, customers or competitors. The leaders of these trading enterprises exercised virtually unaccountable dictatorial political power over millions of people.

The merchant kings of the age of heroic commerce were a rogue's gallery of larger than life men who for a couple of hundred years, expanded their flag-flung commercial enterprises over a sizable portion of the world. They include Jan Pieterszoon Coen, the violent and autocratic pioneer of the Dutch East India company; Peter Stuyvesant, the one-legged Governor of the Dutch West India Company whose narrow-minded approach lost Manhattan to the British; Robert Clive who rose from company clerk to become head of the British east India company and one of the wealthiest men in Britain. Alexander Baranov of the Russian American Company: Cecil Rhodes, founder of De Beers and Rhodesia and George Simpson, the Little Emperor of the Hudson Bay Company who was chauffeured about his vast fur domain in a giant canoe, exhorting his voyageurs to paddle harder so he could set speed records.

Merchant Kings looks at the rise and fall of company rule in the centuries before colonialism, when nations belatedly assumed responsibility for their commercial enterprises.

“Whosoever commands the trade of the world, commands the riches of the world and consequently the world itself” Sir Walter Raleigh,1600.

Jan Pieterszoon Coen was the ruthless pioneer of the Dutch East India Company, a trading enterprise that within its first two decades was in conflict with nearly every maritime nation in the world. During his reign, the company became the foundation for the wealth of the Netherlands's golden age by supplying most of Europe with exotic spices. His famous line: “Your Honors should know by experience that trade in Asia must be driven and maintained under the protection and favor of Your Honors’ own weapons and that the weapons must be paid for by the profits from the trade, so that we cannot carry on trade without war, nor war without trade”

The one-legged Pieter Stuyvesant was the autocratic governor of the Dutch West India Company’s colony at Manhattan. For decades he resisted all attempted by the increasing numbers of non-employee citizens of the expanding colony to provide responsible government. He ultimately placed his company’s interest ahead of those his country, an approach that resulted in the loss of entire territory of New Netherlands to a foreign power (Britain), surrendered without firing a shot. His famous line: “We derive our authority from God and the West India Company, not from the pleasure of a few ignorant subjects.”

The English trader Rober Clive rose who despite having no formal training, was a military genius who transformed the company’s fortune’s with a series of astonishing military victories, using company troops, over French East India Company and various local rulers in India during the dying days of the Mughal Empire. When in 1772, he was questioned by Parliament about his possible corruption and the source of his wealth, he indignantly proclaimed: “I stand astonished at my own moderation”. His famous line: “Consider the situation in which the victory of Plassey placed me. A great prince was dependent on my pleasure; an opulent city lay at my mercy; its richest bankers bid against each other for my smiles; I walked through vaults which were thrown open to me open, piled on either hand with gold and jewels. Mr. Charmin, at this moment, I stand astonished at my own moderation.”

Aggressive and efficient, Aleksadr Andreyevich Barnov was an itinerant Russian merchant and trader who first migrated east of Siberia then to Alaska. In 1779 he assumed command of the Russian American Company, a semi-official monopoly colonial trading company chartered by Czar Paul I. He solidified his country’s territorial claims on the frontier and extracting vast quantities of sea otter furs for the company’s shareholders and directors in St. Peters-burg. his famous line: “Since my life is in constant danger not only form the hostility of wild tribes but from men often unwilling to submit to discipline, since my strength is exhausted and my health dissipated battling the hardships I have had to endure, I feel that natural time, the hour of my death, is for me more uncertain than for most men, and therefore I make my will.”

George Simpson was the financial and structural genius who steered the Hudson’s Bay Company to its greatest financial success and territorial domination in the early 19th century. Responsible for shipping hundreds of thousands of beaver furs to London every year. After he died in 1860, most of Simpson’s domain passed from the Hudson’s Bay Company’s power and became part of the new nation of Canada. His famous line:” I consider it quite unnecessary to indent for Sauces and Pickles on public account... I never use fish sauce in the country and never saw anyone use it or pickles either. From the quantity of Mustard indented for, one would suppose it is now issued as an article of trade with the Indians.”

Cecil John Rhodes, the British born South African mining magnate, politician businessman and racist promoter of British colonialism was the founder of the diamond company De Beers. In 1899 he secured British government support for the creation of the British south Africa company to operate in Rhodesia , a territory he created and ‘allowed’ to be named after himself. his famous line:” Great Britain is a very small island. Great Britain's position depends on her trade, and if we do not open up the dependencies of the world which are at present devoted to barbarism, we shall shut out the world’s trade. It must be brought home to you that your trade is the world, and your life is the world, not England. That is why you must deal with these questions of expansion and retention of the world.”

They were vested with enormous powers by both their companies and their countries, yet there was a clear conflict of interest between advancing the business interests of companies and acting as civil authorities. By making far reaching decision according to their conflicted consciousness, the merchant kings had a profound influence. Companies are not generally known for having sweeping political control, but trying to balance interests of their companies with the interests of their countries, the merchant kings changed history as significantly as the most celebrated military generals, political leaders and technological innovators did.

The seven deadly sins: pride, greed, sloth, lust, envy, wrath, and gluttony.
The seven virtues: humility, charity, diligence, chastity, kindness, patience and temperance.

Among the merchant kings, the seven deadly sins might seem overrepresented, but there was goodness in most of them too.

January 17, 2011

The secret of Chanel No. 5 by Tilar J. Mazzeo

The secret of Chanel No. 5 by Tilar J. Mazzeo
The intimate history of the world’s most famous perfume.

[Whoever wants to know the science behind famous perfumes, this is a good starter.]

Coco Before Chanel No. 5

Gabrielle Chanel(Coco Chanel) has a peasant's roots went deep into the earth of provincial southwestern France. Mother died when Coco Chanel was just 12 years old and her father soon, left her along with her two sisters at an orphanage Aubazine. During their time at the orphanage, Coco Chanel and other girls were assigned to read and reread the story of St. Etienne‘s story of exemplary life and unrelenting dullness of his good deeds is crushing. The saintly Etienne however had a keen sense of aesthetics at a moment when Western culture’s ideas about beauty and proportion were in radical transition.

For the children who lived there, it was a youth of hard work and strict discipline and fortunately for the future prospects of the young Gabrielle, much of it focused on clothing. There was nothing luxurious about it, however Days were spent washing laundry and mending and it was here that she learned to sew. However it was a desperately unhappy childhood; Aubazine was a word throughout her life that Coco Chanel would never speak. She surrounded it in silence and mystery and it remained a guarded and shameful secret.

Coco Chanel once later said that fashion was architecture and the architecture she meant was based on this convent home with its brutally clean lines and the stark beauty of simple contrasts. It was at the heart of Coco Chanel’s aesthetics - her obsession with purity and minimalism. It would shape the dresses she designed and the way she lived. it would shape Chanel No. 5 her great olfactory creation, no less profoundly.

Standing amid the scene of Coco Chanel’s childhood, the power of Aubazine is obvious. It possesses a striking and silent kind of beauty. Everywhere in the world of Aubazine, there were scents and symbols and reminders of the importance of perfume. St. Bernard of Clairvaux who founded the Cistercian movement, made a point of encouraging his monks to give perfume and anointment a central role in prayer and in rituals of purification. Someone got the idea that this contemplation would be even more effective if it were combined with time spent simultaneously sniffing the aromas of the local jasmine, lavender and roses.

Etienne has made a mission of planting richly scented flower everywhere in the empty ravines and wastes around his abbeys. They were the bracing scents of order and severity. Everywhere at Aubazine was the aroma of sheets boiled in copper pots sweetened with dried roots of iris and the aromas of ironing. There was the scent from linen cupboards lined with pungent rosewood and verbena. There was the smell of raw tallow soap on children’s skin and ruthlessly scoured little bodies. It was the scent of everything that was clean. Aubazine was a secret code of smell and in the years to come it would be at the heart of everything she would find beautiful.

The number five at Aubazine, though was always considered special. It was the number of an essentially human kind of destiny. Or, that, at least was the idea of the monks who funded Coco Chanle’s childhood abbey and they built its entire structure on the power of this special number. For Cistercian architecture that flourished in Europe during Crusades, the number five was central. Cistercian cathedrals, churches and abbeys are built on measures... which equal more or less the golden ration of Pythagoras. It is the ration of both the five-pointed star and the human form.

Coco Chanel understood the power of this number long before the nuns introduced the children to the esoteric symbolism of the abbey’s architecture and its spiritual meaning in their lessons. The number five, she believed profoundly in its magic and its beauty. Those Cistercian nuns had raised their orphan charges to revere the power of symbols and spirit. In this ancient branch of the Catholic faith, it was a special number. - the number of quintessence: the pure and perfect embodiment of a thing’s essence. It was also, in a material universe of earth, water, wind, and fire, that other thing - ether, spirit - something mysteriously and untouchably beautiful. She also already knew that the number five was about women in particular. From the beginning, the number five and its perfect proportions were tangled up with the secret sensuality of their allure - and with symbolism of flowers.

An education in the senses

Roses and jasmine were scents that told two very different olfactory stories about the women who wore them. The traditional scents for women’s perfume roses were discreetly and quietly lovely. Respectful women could wear them without hesitation, and until the second decade of the twentieth century, floral perfumes came in just one style, the style known today as soliflores. These soliflores were perfumes that captured aroma of a single flower and they were meant to be representational.

It wasn’t until 1912 that the perfume house of Houbigant launched the first true multiflore fragrance, a scent known simply as Quelques Fleurs. It was the scent of an invented and imagined and lovely floral creation. It becomes an instant sensation and the idea behind it -the idea of the essential abstraction - was one that Coco Chanel found utterly fascinating.

As Coco Chanel quickly learned, the essentials of appreciating a fine fragrance begin with this art of blending aromas. Those who make perfumes talk about those scents in terms of accords and scent families and this language is key to gaining a connoisseur's appreciation for the art of perfume. Accords are a group of scents that blend naturally and provocatively together and in blending transform each other. They are fragrance within a fragrance, the building block of a complex perfume and these accords are how experts define the different fragrance families.

When Cleopatra famously set sail to meet Mark Anthony, the perfumed herself with sandalwood and filled the air with an incense of cinnamon, myrrh and frankincense. At the end of the 19th century perfumers added to the warn, spicy aroma of those oriental ambers - another set of fragrance notes, another accord, based around animal muck and orchid scents of vanilla.

At the time when Coco Chanel was learning about perfume, Aime Guerlain’s ‘ferociously modern’ scent Jicky was considered the ultimate oriental. In fact, for many admires it still is. Invented in 1899, Jicky was the first fragrance to use the then -exotic scent of patchouli, to which Guerlain added the aroma of vanilla (combine natural and synthetic essences). According to folklore, the classic oriental perfume Shalimar - Jicky’s only rival as an oriental ‘reference’ perfume- was invented in the 1920 when Jacques Guerlain wondered what the perfume would smell like if he added an even larger dose of vanilla. The result was pure magic. On the market today, familiar mass-market oriental perfumes include CK’s Obsession, & YSL’s Opium. Oriental perfume meant to capture the scent of the East.

The perfumes known as leathers were also a modern innovation in perfume-making. the scent in fact have no leather in them, and they depend on the late 19th century discovery of the scent materials known as quinolines. It was the smell of the rare leathers used at the imperial courts to wrap precious jewels. Familiar staples today include perfumes such as Dior’s Fahrenheit and Lancome’s Cuir.

Then there is the scent of chypre - history’s first international bestseller, the only rival in the long history of perfume-making to compare with Chanel No.5. The world’s oldest perfume family and Aphrodite’s scent sensation, it was popular until the mid-18th century when it mysteriously fell out of fashion. There are still the essential notes of the family of fragrance known to perfumers as a chypre. Today, the family includes fragrance such as Esteee Lauder's Knowing and Dior's Miss Dior.

After all, like the scent of fougere fragrances, Quelques Fleurs and these new multi-flowers that followed in the course of the next decade were wonderfully conceptual. In order to create these effects - transforming the real emotive perfumery - they turned to something else completely modern: the science of scent creation. The perfumer behind the Quelques Fleurs was Robert Bienaime who was a revolutionary and used largely unknown material known as aldehydes. The combination allowed for the artistic creation of a scent that was powerfully original.

Coco Chanel wanted to create a signature perfume. She said, “The perfume many women use is not mysterious. Women are not flowers. Why should they want to smell like flowers? I want to give women an artificial perfume and should smell like a woman and not like a flower”. Smell was always the keenest of her senses and to explain the intensity of how she lived with the scent, she would claim, “In the lily of the valley they sell on the 1st of May, I can smell the hands of the kid who picked it”.

The Prince and the perfumer

For Coco Chanel, precision was a religion. When she decided on something, she followed her idea to the end. In order to bring it off, and succeed she brought everything into play. Once she began to be interested in perfumery, she wanted to learn everything about them - their formula, fabrication, and so forth. Naturally she sought the best advice.

After the first world, the south of France in 1920 was known as crazy years. Women sunbathed on the beaches wearing ropes of pearls, and the Bohemian rich staggered tipsy from extravagant party. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote of those times, ‘it was a whole race going hedonistic, deciding on pleasure”.

Throughout France in the years that followed, refugee princesses worked as seamstresses and the handful of royal men lucky enough to have been at that moment in history somewhere far from St.Petersburg now took the job as salesmen. Coco Chanel took one of the exiled princes as her new lover. His name was Dmitri Pavlovich and he was among the grand dukes of Russia and a cousin to the last czar, Nicholas II - who has been murdered along with nearly all Dmitri’s family in the revolution. Like Coco, Dmitri had been raised an orphan.

Due to incidents happened in czar family; Dmitri might someday inherit the imperial throne. All that talk of inheriting an empire ended in 1916 when Dmirti was 25. Horrified by the power of the ‘mad monk’ - Grigori Rasputin - over the czarina and by the whispered talk of a palace revolt. The prince (Dmitri) and the duke were horrified and they resolved to take action. First they poisoned Rasputin with wine dosed with massive quantities of Cyanide. When he failed to die, the prince shot him. According to the gruesome legend, Rasputin survived another three gunshots in the back and when the bullets too seemed eerily ineffective, the young men finally drowned him beneath the ice of the city’s frozen river. When Dmitri’s role in the murder was discovered, the enraged czarina exiled him out of Russia. This resulted in, Dmirit not being killed by the Bolsheviks during the Russian revolution in which revolutionist killed all czar and czarina , princess and princesses.

The past Dmitri remembered was filled with every imaginable luxury and always with the richness of perfume. There was one perfume, Dmitri remembered piercingly: an eau de cologne with the rich notes of rose and jasmine. Made in Moscow by the firm of A. Rallet and Company and it was known as Rallet O-De-Kolon No.1 Vesovoi or simply Rallet No. 1 perfume. It had been royal favorite and the czarian cherished it especially.

Coco Chanel told him of the smells and all those sensations that she wanted a scent to capture. In return, he told her of that scent he above all remembered, the Rallet No. 1 and connected her with the royal perfumer -Ernet Beaux - who also forced to flee due to the effect of the revolution. Coco Chanel had asked Ernest Beaux that summer to create for her the signature perfume she was imagining and she wanted a sultry freshness, which he accepted with reluctance.

Ernest Beaux had joined the firm’s of Rallet as a young man in Moscow in 1898. he possessed a dazzling talent, Erner’s first blockbuster fragrance, a men’s cologne called le Bouquet de Napoleon - Napoleon’s Bouquet - hit the international market in 1912. Encouraged by the popularity of the perfume, company urged him to create a new women’s perfume in time for the celebration of the three-hundred-year anniversary of the Romanov dynasty in 1913. le Bouquet de Catherine was a perfume that he invented and it became simply Rallet No. 1

Based upon the Rallet No. 1, Ernest Beaux created 10 perfumes for Coco Chanel to select from. Each of these small glass vials containing 10 samples of the perfume a new fragrance innovation based on the core scents of May Rose, jasmine and those daring new fragrance molecules known as aldehydes. According to legend, in one of the vials a careless laboratory assistant had accidentally added a massive overdose of this last and still largely undiscovered ingredient, confusing a 10 percent dilution for the pure, full-strength material. Coco Chanel picked this vials and named it as Chanel No. 5 where five was her mystic number from her Aubazine days. And the day she select to announce new perfumes, are usually on the 5th day of the 5th month of the year.

Generally speaking, there are three kinds of materials that are used to make perfume - scents inspired by flowers; scents inspired by other parts of plants, such as their roots, barks, and resins; and the scents inspired by the smells of animals. Chanel No. 5 - one of history’s most famously sexy perfume - uses them all in generous doses.

Scents inspired by flowers
Roses and jasmines may not seem likely to smell like sweat and bodies, but to think otherwise would be wrong. As scientists who study the sexiness of perform explains, “Many classical ingredients of natural origins reminiscent of human body orders”. Among most inherently sensual have always been the scents of jasmine, orange blossom, honeysuckle, tuberose, and ylang-ylang, flowers that chemically speaking, have particularly high propositions of the scent molecule known as an indole. These indoles are the smell of something sweet and fleshy and just a little bit dirty.

Scents inspired by plants:
The same is true of those delicious plant resins: “several ingredients of incense resembles scents of the human body”, one expert reminds us. When the perfumer Paul Jellinek was writing the standard text book on the science of fragrance chemistry; he testing on traditional incenses showed that myrrh and frankincense had identifiable notes of armpit odor; a common plat source known as storax was the scent of skin; and the coveted resinous gum known as labdanum has ‘the smell of head hair’. When any of them were added to a simple, fruity eau de cologne, people consistently rated the perfume as more sexy. With its fragrant central notes of labdanum and storax, Aphrodite’s perfume was an erotic bestseller for a reason.

Scents inspired by animal:
The perfume materials that have the most direct connection to the smell of sex, however are the traditional musks. Smelled on their own, the scent is often overpowering and even revolting. Yet used in small proportions and blended with other fragrance, these materials, with their strange and unsavory origins, have been among the most prized ingredients in perfume industry. They come primarily from the private parts of some very unlucky fellow creatures whose glands and sexual excretions have been harvested. Natural musk - musk proper - comes from the male musk deer, an animal native to China and Southeast Asia and the fluid stored in a small sac in his nether regions during the rutting season has been the object of a lucrative international trade for centuries. The word musk comes from the Sanskrit word, ‘muska’ which translates simply as testicle.

But aldehyde is just a part of what makes Chanel No.5 special, despite the importance given to them in the legend. Long after they have faded - because aldehyde fades quickly - there is a rich depth of musks and florals in the perfume that is strikingly sensual.

To balance the severity in Chanel No. 5, Ernest added even greater amounts of the exquisite jasmine from the perfume capital of Grasse, opulent and honeyed enough to leave the senses swimming. He warned Coco Chanel that a perfume with this much jasmine, would be fabulously expensive. She simply told him that, in that case, he should add even more. She wanted the most extravagant perfume in the world.

The basic structure of the human brain means that scent and sensuality are hopelessly and wonderfully caught up together in a network of desire. This was at the heart of Coco Chanel’s relationship to No. 5 perfume.

Today, a pound of jasmine absolute sells for more than $30,000. It was already fabulously expensive in the 1930s. Nearly 350 pounds of jasmine - over a half-million flowers - go into a pound of jasmine concrete and in each small , thirty-milliliter bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume, is the essence of more than a thousand jasmine flowers and the bouquet of a dozen roses.