Copy
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
This newsletter may be cut short by your email program. View it in full
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Saturday, October 17, 2020
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Suggestions for your senses,
every Saturday at 9 a.m.
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

Good morning.

This week, we lose ourselves in a documentary about punk flower artist Makoto Azuma, pick up a Peyote Pot grow kit, debunk myths about olive oil with Aishwarya Iyer, indulge in two climate podcasts, and waft French perfumer Francis Kurkdjian’s new rose fragrance for men. 

On our At a Distance podcast, we talk with artist Enrique Martínez Celaya and Fund for Global Human Rights founding president and CEO Regan Ralph.

249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
c0a5b558-f175-41b1-8fdd-8742f22f9a80.jpg
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
See
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Petal Pusher
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Courtesy AMKK Studio
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

Japanese artist Makoto Azuma is known for creating poetic botanical sculptures, but the medium in which he works most intimately is time. “Flowers are about something more than just beauty. If you just wanted to see something beautiful, you can go out into nature,” he says in Flower Punk, an award-winning film about his work and life, now available for viewing as part of the The New Yorker Documentary series. In just under 30 minutes, director Alison Klayman captures the artist as he creates spectacular arrangements, and sets about photographing and filming their ephemerality as they wilt and decay, imparting the beauty of age. Azuma and his team even send their blooms into space, as with his 2014 piece “Exobiotanica.” Rigging a camera and a flower bomb to a weather balloon, documenting his terrestrial creation as it soars through the stratosphere, the artist simply wanted to “find out what kind of phenomenon [would occur] if we put plants where they don’t normally exist.” The result is, in a word, transcendent.

Earlier in his career, when exhibiting his works within the bounds of traditional galleries posed a challenge, Azuma opened his own, staging installations that presented plants and flowers encased in tanks of water, in vacuum-sealed bags, intertwined with metallic and ceramic sculptures, and in hanging arrangements alongside vegetables and the raw flesh of fish and meat. “I really value the punk spirit,” says Azuma, formerly a punk rock musician in his youth. “I don’t play an instrument, but I’m able to express myself, my ideas, with flowers.” To watch the artist in action is to observe how his meticulous, deft hand meets each bloom with equal parts care and urgency. “You can see flowers burn through their life at such a fast pace,” he says. “I want to keep up with it, but as I make an arrangement, it keeps changing and deforming… It’s like chasing the game of life.”

249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
02817334-c281-4083-8c48-cc1cd3aab3d1.jpg
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Touch
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Strange Root
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Courtesy Cactus Store
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

There are roughly 2,000 species of cacti found around the world. The speciality plant store Hot Cactus, run by a collective of creatives in Los Angeles, stocks some of the rarest breeds online and at its shoebox brick-and-mortar in Echo Park (they also run a second outpost on New York’s Lower East Side, though both locations remain momentarily closed due to Covid-19). In addition to plants, succulent lovers and enthusiasts can also find a bevy of custom cacti-oriented goods: apparel, gardening tools, books, and a range of planters shaped to accommodate particular species. One such vessel, an oblong stoneware pot designed by journalist Hamilton Morris (host of the docu-series Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia), is made expressly with the elongated napiform root of peyote in mind. For $70, you can nab one of Morris’s Peyote Pot grow kits: Each comes with four seeds so you can germinate your own Lophophora fricii, a cactus species that’s native to Mexico and commonly referred to as “false peyote.” That is—sorry to disappoint you—not the hallucinogenic kind that’s apt to get you tripping, though no less reason to get your green thumb going with this uncommon houseplant.

249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
ac88f66b-0c77-4443-b441-7965dbd27806.jpg
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Taste
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Oil Change
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Photo: Julia Stotz
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

Aishwarya Iyer never thought she would found an olive oil company. At least her background in start-ups and venture capital never led her to thinking she would. But after realizing that the oil in her pantry was making her sick, she began researching the kitchen staple—and discovered that most of the olive oil consumed in America is rotten, rancid, or adulterated. It’s also perishable, one of many little-known facts about the ingredient. 

So Iyer decided to make her own, and launched Brightland in 2018. Using olives from a family-run farm on California’s central coast, the Los Angeles–based company makes extra-virgin olive oil, including more adventurous lemon- and basil-infused versions, without the use of fillers or artificial preservatives. We caught up with Iyer to discuss the myths, truths, and outright lies about olive oil, and how Brightland sets the record straight. 


Debunk some false truths about olive oil for us. 

One of the biggest misconceptions is that olive oil is just like wine—that it ages beautifully and should be saved. That’s not the case at all. Ultimately, an olive is a fruit. It is pressed and turned into oil and absolutely has a shelf life. 

Another myth is that you can pour olive oil into a clear glass container and keep it out on your kitchen counter. When you do that, it will go bad within a week. Light is one of olive oil’s biggest enemies. You never want light to hit the product in any way. 

Most people think there’s just one kind of olive oil, but there are actually hundreds of varieties. There’s a specific region and process by which the olives are picked, a specific time they were harvested, a specific blending of them. All of those things have an impact on how the oil ends up tasting. 

How can the average person know if their olive oil is fresh? 

Look for a harvest date. Unopened, it’s fresh for eighteen months from then. Or grab a spoon, and taste it. Good olive oil tastes grassy, fruity, layered, nutty—it is alive, a product of agriculture. If it tastes like waxy crayons or plastic, it’s not good. 

In the U.S., extra-virgin olive oil is not regulated by the FDA. A 2015 investigation by the National Consumers League found that six out of 11 national brands misrepresented quality grades to consumers. Common forms of fraud include blending olive oil with other vegetable oils like soybean or sunflower oil, and refining oil made from rotten olives at a very low temperature, which removes the taste of rancidity. Why has so much deceit happened in the industry?

It’s been happening for thousands of years. In ancient Rome, when they put harvest dates on pots of olive oil to prevent deception, people would cross out the dates to lie about when it was made. Olive oil was liquid gold. Because there was such a demand for it, people cut corners. 

Have things gotten any better? 

We have started to ask more tough questions about food. It’s not like olive oil is the only fraudulent food out there—there’s honey, salt, saffron, wine, and many others. When you don’t ask questions, you don’t really know. The last few years have definitely been an unraveling of that [kind of scam]. 

I don’t know if anything has really changed, though. What I do know is that when I started Brightland, people told me, “Oh, nobody cares about how olive oil tastes. They don’t want anything super bold or pungent or peppery. They just want something buttery.” I took the exact opposite approach. I can only speak to my own experience, but it’s been amazing to see people get excited by the nuances and flavor profiles of our products. 

How does Brightland respond to the bad things you’ve seen happening in the industry? 

We put the harvest date on the label of each bottle, which has a white, organic UV casting that protects the oil inside. From a content standpoint, we do as much education as possible on social media and on our blog. That means talking about the olive varieties we use, where our olives are harvested, why a glass bottle is better than a plastic bottle, why the bottle should not be clear—no one was really discussing those things before.

249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
d29f0557-b414-4fea-82c5-a15d9da127ac.jpg
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Hear
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Climate Models
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
How to Save a Planet co-host Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, left, with “All We Can Save” co-author Dr. Katharine K. Wilkinson. (Photo: Jennifer Robinson)
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

Reporting on the climate crisis is a balancing act, where journalists must convey a sense of urgency without provoking despair—or risk losing audiences entirely. Two podcasts, Hot Take and How to Save a Planet, forgo the subject’s usual doom-and-gloom approach in favor of storytelling, where emotion and calls to action engage listeners in ways that statistics about their carbon footprints never could. 

Mary Annaïse Heglar and Amy Westervelt launched Hot Take last year, with the aim of capturing the range of reactions triggered by climate change. “Hope doesn’t cut it for everyone,” Westervelt says, in a track for the show. “There’s a lot of pain, a lot of anger—” “And spite,” Heglar says, adding that the topic isn’t only for scientists—women, people of color, and residents of the global South have tales to tell, too. Guests include The New Republic’s Kate Aronoff, who talks about the “climate bois club,” and Cherokee reporter Rebecca Nagle, who explains why tribal sovereignty is vital to climate action. Its newsletter extends the episodes with bonus content, keeping subscribers’ wheels turning. 

The new, equally compelling How to Save a Planet podcast, hosted by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist and co-author of the book All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, and Gimlet Media founder Alex Blumberg, offers another roadmap for facilitating change. At the end of each broadcast, it details specific steps that listeners can take on the subject they’ve just explored, which have included unnatural disasters and the #TeamTrees fundraiser started by YouTuber MrBeast. The optimistic show—its presenters, who refer to listeners as “earthlings,” laugh, joke, and even cry on air—recasts the climate crisis as a conquerable, soul-enhancing challenge. We suggest indulging in both programs, and acting accordingly.

249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
baead8ed-590e-4c70-8193-fb78540a1493.jpg
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Smell
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Coming Up Roses
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
Courtesy Francis Kurkdjian
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

Francis Kurkdjian, co-creator and creative director of Maison Francis Kurkdjian, and the world-renowned perfumer behind classic scents—most notably Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male—tells us about his latest creation: l’Homme À la Rose.

“Rose is one of the most common ingredients in the perfumer’s palette. However, it remains an ingredient: a tool to express a feeling and idea in the exact same way notes, colors, or words are tools to a music composer, a painter, or a writer. To make another parallel, silk as a fabric is neither feminine nor masculine. But the way it is shaped by the designer, and the convention linked to that object, gives it a gender, as you can have a tie or a dress.

Historically, rose has never really had a prominent place in men’s fragrance. In many fragrances, rose is included, but plays a smaller role and can’t necessarily be distinctly smelled. It is hidden behind other notes or blended with darker ones—patchouli, oud, leather—that blur it. I wanted to create a rose scent for men that was truly recognizable as a rose, defining my interpretation of what masculinity means right now. I blended different types of accords so the final scent would be this floral, woody eau de parfum. Today, men are wearing perfumes more and more and buying them themselves. They are more confident in wearing perfumes than before. This is why I brought this kind of modernity.

When I had l’Homme À la Rose in mind a couple of years ago, it defined everything: l’Homme—“man”; À la rose—“with a rose.” The name speaks for itself. It’s universal and yet very open, so everyone can project their own meaning [onto it]. I knew I wanted something that was vertical in terms of smell. Something bold and uplifting—not for your mind, but for your body. Something that straps you back and opens your torso like you’re proud.

I studied ballet intensively from age 7 until 14 at the Paris Opera; I stopped dancing when I was 25. There is a relationship between dance and perfumery, and music—that is my other passion. It’s the notion of space, air, and body: A dancer must occupy the space if he wants to stand out on the stage, just as music needs air to vibrate and enter your ears. A perfume needs both.

I am not sure if there are recipes to create iconic scents. Success is always unpredictable. That’s the magic of the craft. Afterwards, it’s easier to identify what makes a fragrance successful: a mix between a timeless element, a contemporary element, and an element that is avant-garde.”

249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif
6e1482bb-d358-4d02-bf91-1afb9922204a.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif

Until next week...

Today’s newsletter was written by Aileen Kwun. Tiffany Jow contributed the Taste and Hear columns.

Co-Editors: Spencer Bailey and Tiffany Jow
Creative Director: Andrew Zuckerman
Producer: Mike Lala
Copy Editor: Mimi Hannon

Enjoying The Slowdown? Forward to a friend!
If a friend forwarded it to you, subscribe to receive future newsletters.

Send us sense suggestions, collaboration ideas, or general feedback at newsletter@slowdownmedia.com

Not enjoying it? No worries. Click here to unsubscribe.

Click here to update your profile.

The Slowdown | 508 West 26th Street, 7A | New York, NY 10001 | United States

6e1482bb-d358-4d02-bf91-1afb9922204a.gif
249ce146-f022-4409-8b54-ec9b3c7d201e.gif