Ylang-Ylang: Calming the Panic of Love & Memory, Essay 5 of #52essays2017

When I first read about ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata), I’d no smell associations, but I was intrigued because it is included in so many aphrodisiac blends. It is both relaxing and stimulating, which is a fabulous combination when you’re trying to get it on. Then I smelled ylang-ylang out of a labeled essential oil bottle, and I realized I’d smelled it… Read more

Hannibal: From Acting to Aromatics, essay 4 of #52essays2017

Two winters ago, I got a call from my agent in LA to tape an audition for Hannibal, and it led me on a journey from stars in my eyes to a brand-new appreciation of smell. I was, as an actor, thoroughly green. I did not even know that for TV/film auditions you sit or stand still with the camera… Read more

A Blind Person’s Notes on Notes On Blindness and Touching the Rock

Upon entering the Film forum, where Notes on Blindness, an innovative documentary centered around the voice of John Hull recorded in the early years of his complete vision loss, is playing, I was offered a headset, but told that I should only wear it over one ear. It turned out that I could not mix the audio description track with… Read more

Helen Keller Plays Vaudeville With You

Out of the dark, a jewel box scene materializes; Helen Keller plays vaudeville on this top-billed set. The handsomely appointed drawing room, brilliant and color-saturated, projects hugely: French windows overlook rolling hills and a sky that will shift from day to night; drapes puddle on the floor; The Apotheosis of Homer hangs on one of the brocade-papered walls, and a… Read more

INWARD VISIONS: Helen Keller Defends her Sense of Beauty

[These thoughts on aesthetics, understanding, poetry, beauty and the senses come from Keller’s 1908 book The World I Live In. “Inward Visions” is Chapter 9. You can read Chapter 6 on Smell HERE. The text has been hyperlinked, gently edited for apparent scanning errors and the odd British spellings Americanized.] ACCORDING to all art, all nature, all coherent human thought,… Read more

Helen Keller on Smell, The Fallen Angel

[“SMELL, THE FALLEN ANGEL” is Chapter SIX of The World I Live In (originally published in 1908), a magnificent book that tells of sensations beyond seeing and hearing. It is also the book from which I took the heartbreaking preface that ends Helen Keller Tries To Tell You Her Story. This has been gently edited for apparent scanning errors and… Read more