“George Hadley walked through the singing glade and picked up something that lay in
the corner near where the lions had been. He walked slowly back to his wife. ‘What is it?’
she asked. ‘An old wallet of mine,’ he said. He showed it to her. The smell of hot grass
was on it and the smell of a lion. There were drops of saliva on it, it had been chewed,
and there were blood smears on both sides. He closed the nursery door and locked it,
—Ray Bradbury, “The Veldt”
“Truly a work of Art is one that tells us that Nature cannot make what Man can make.”
“Elegance is frigid.”
At the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, NV, boxers circle each other over the emblem of
the lion. Like Zeus, lions symbolize leadership, strength, and integrity, and are known
for eating their offspring. The lion is the king of the Jungle and of Disney’s England.
Haile Selassie of Ethiopia was the Conquering Lion of
the Tribe of Judah. The crest of the East India Trading Company has two lions, and was
emblazoned on their currency in company-ruled India.1 Dutch East India Company
coins have lions, too.2 The eruption of Vesuvius happened under the sign of Leo.3
The essence of lionship as we understand it is golden, slightly Christmas-y, rich,
woody, savage, opulent, gamey, and a little cloying—charismatic, if not altogether
pleasant. Scoundrelescent. Crusading King Richard I of England and Jean-Claude Van
Damme have been called “Lionheart.” Cologne based on lion-ness should be one of
many rare and meaningful parts, allowed to steep with one another, coalescing into a
rich, insistent, yet elusive odor—something Long John Silver or Patrick Bateman would
like. The smells of leather, grass, pheromones, flowers, dust, and saffron could mingle
with a spicy citrus note to communicate: lion. The wearer’s prospects would instantly
Borfima was an elicit charm worn by members of the intertribal Leopard Society
or Human Leopard Society, who were investigated and tried in Sierra Leone, Cote
1 “Coinage of the British East India Co.” 2 June 2015 Fitzwilliam Museum,
http://www.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/gallery/East-West/India_1.html, (accessed Apr. 5
2 “Gold duit of the Dutch East India Co.” 2 June 2015
3 “Fish sauce used to date Pompeii destruction.”
http://www.nbcnews.com/id/26947215/#.VXB76ig5TRq, (accessed May 1, 2015).
3 “Dan Cruickshank’s Adventure in Architecture: Death”
d’Ivoire, and other countries under colonial rule in the west of Africa during the late
19th century.4 The Human Leopard Society and Human Crocodile Society carried out
grim sacrificial rites, while subverting control the British and Dutch had in West Africa
and threatening the sovereignty of individual tribal governments. It was believed that
the Leopard Society used witchcraft to change into animals and attack. Tarzan once
faced the Leopard Men.5
Human sacrifice was required to make borfima, usually a member of a pledge’s
family served. The victim/offer is sent down a path in the forest, while (usually s)/he is
stalked by men dressed in leopard skins, wielding curved, claw-like knives used to kill
and eviscerate their prey. The liver is inspected to determine adequate health, and then
blood, skin, egg white, grains of rice, rooster blood, among other components are put
into a leather pouch to be worn round the neck. Cannibalistic aspects of the ceremony
are a matter of debate. The amulet’s effectiveness depends on frequent re-anointment,
making borfima a rarified and labor-demanding substance.
Wearing borfima made men leopard-like: marked, a known killer, hunted, and
feared. Laws prohibited (unsanctioned) leopard costumes, curved knives, and borfima—
Imperial troops of the British protectorate in Sierra Leone were ordered to arrest those
in possession.6 Like shark fin soup, borfima was a prize to be kept from the prying eyes
of the law.
Delicacies are often put away, tucked under, nearly forgotten, and allowed to
ripen, appreciate, ferment, or cure. They are curated or deconstructed in order to be
4 K. J. Beatty, Human Leopards, (London: Hugh Rees, 1915),
5 Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan and the Leopard Men,
6 Beatty, Leopards
appreciated, if not enjoyed—think wine, lutefisk, scotch, sauerkraut, savings bonds, “The
Cask of Amontillado.” Garum, a beloved Roman fish sauce and commodity originating
in ancient Greece, was made by covering fish parts with salt and leaving them under the
sun for months, in order to harvest the slimy residue drawn out by a process called
autolysis.7 Garum production was moved to suburban areas like Pompeii due to the
extreme stench. Garum residue was used to pinpoint the date of Mount Vesuvius’
destruction of Pompeii to August 79 AD.8 Pompeii was also a perfumery center.9
Perfumers use odors to make associations with abstractions like exclusivity,
luxury, and power not by mimicking the odors or pheromones of the rich and famous,
but often by employing agents with little to no obvious material connection to wealth.
Among others, ambergris, a substance created when squid beaks get lodged in the
digestive tract of a sperm whale. Ambergris is used mainly as an odor adherent or
musky base note in expensive perfume and occasionally as a flavoring in Egyptian
Formation of ambergris relies on an unlikely series of events that only occurs in
around one percent of whales, which begins with a leaking sphincter, and ends with a
catastrophic, fatal intestinal rupture. After a period of disintegration and
dismemberment by sea life, the ambergris is released and drifts in the sea, sometimes
(accessed May 29, 2015).
8 Rosetta Lorenzi “Fish sauce used to date Pompeii destruction.”
http://www.nbcnews.com/id/26947215/#.VXB76ig5TRq, (accessed May 1, 2015).
9 “Cruickshank’s Death”
10 Christopher Kemp, Floating Gold, excerpt posted 2012,
http://press.uchicago.edu/books/excerpt/2012/kemp_floating.html, (accessed March
curing for years before being discovered. Cetologists decipher the chunks similarly to
the way dendrologists read tree rings.11 Fresh ambergris smells of manure and is useless
to perfumers: the mass must stay out to sea, appreciating, its discovery becoming ever
more improbable.12 The substance is highly valuable fetching $200,000+ per kilo from
perfumers, but it is not traditionally used decoratively, nor is its image deployed in
The image of the common violet is not a symbol of wealth either, unlike its odor,
a favorite of Cleopatra’s.14 Strangely, humans detect violet scents very intensely one
second and hardly at all the next. The elusive and oscillating presence of the odor itself
is caused by ionine, which “short-circuits” the sense of smell.15 More volatile processes
like distillation and maceration denature violets and kill the scent. Even alcohol
extraction negates the aroma. The scent of violets is traditionally extracted through
enfleurage, wherein petals are arranged on a layer of lard spread across a framed pane
of glass (the enfleurage chassis), cycled out with fresh petals every few days until the
scent of the violets displaces that of the lard. The product can be reduced to a pomade, a
concrete, or an absolute (the silt-like remnants of botanical matter used by perfumers).
Violets’ abundance has little bearing on the value of its essence—a vast number is
necessary for enfleurage: it takes two million petals to extract one pound of absolute.
Unlike the scarcity and unlikely obtainment of ambergris, it is the scale of the endeavor,
12 Beuse, http://www.fragrantica.com/notes/Ambergris-524.html, (accessed March 10,
13 Interview with ambergris hunter Adrienne Beuse, Fragrantica.com,
http://www.fragrantica.com/notes/Ambergris-524.html, (accessed March 10, 2015).
15 Ackerman, “Of violets and neurons” A Natural History of the Senses, (New York:
Random House, 1990),
the amount of time, and the labor demanded by the delicacy of the violet that endows
The word for the smell of rain is petrichor, from the Greek petra for rock, and
ichor: the blood of the Olympian gods. The odor is comprised of plant oils and
particulate that combine to form the compound geosmin. Petrichor is distilled into
perfume in the Indian village Kannauj, where it is called mitti attar in Hindi, or “Earth’s
Perfume.”16 The subtleties of petrichor/mitti attar are specific to nearby agriculture,
plant life, the composition of the ground, the proximity of the sea, recent weather
patterns, and a number of other variables. The porous surfaces of concrete structures
are perfect for collecting and dispersing the subtle odor of rain.
The Roman Coliseum was built from concrete. Concrete is our second-most
heavily used natural resource, after water. Concrete is commonly used to alter and
redistribute the flow of water: the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the St. Francis Dam17, for
example. Mobile homes would appear less like they attracted tornados if their only
significant structural difference from McMansions were not the concrete foundations.
The state of the union is readable in the concrete footings of high-traffic bridges.
Concrete-lover Louis Kahn, in a moment of thrilling hubris said, “The sun never knew
how great it was until it hit the side of a building.”18
Concrete will protect us from The Bomb. It makes up the Imperial overbite of
Brutalist architecture. In the World Trade Center, reinforced concrete created large
open spaces that supported modular interior design solutions.19 It can be molded into
virtually limitless forms: animals, roads, walls, swimming pools, birdbaths, lions,
gnomes, even boats. It can be used to revive or mimic classical architecture and
statuary. Concrete is to architecture what the light bulb was to Marshall McLuhan.20
16 Cynthia Barnett, “Bottling.” Quartz 25 Apr. 2015, (accessed April 30, 2015).
17 Blitz, Matt, “On occasions like this, I envy the dead: the St. Francis Dam disaster”,
Mar. 12 2015, Smithsonian website, (accessed May 5 2015).
18 Louis Kahn, from Robert Hughes’ The Architects: Louis Kahn, (New York: New word
19 Interview with Leslie E. Robertson, Clog: World Trade Center
20 Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, (Cambridge: MIT
Press), 1994, 8.
During the dormant season, grass turns yellow. Greenskeepers spray blue dye on
the dead grass, rendering them an unconvincing but visible shade of green. The dye is
also used to subtly track pesticide spraying during golfing season, to ensure even
application. The ultramarine of the dye is deep, like Yves Klein’s International Klein
Blue (IKB). On its own, in a container, or on a neutral substrate, the dye is the blue of
water on maps. The dye turns yellow grass into a shade resembling green dye fading
from bleached-blonde hair. When the dye is sprayed on dormant Bermuda grass, it
changes nothing about the texture of the grass or the performance of the ball. The
difference is a reassuring aesthetic, maintaining that grasses needn’t die, and that all is
quite well in hand.
Homeowners paint the ceilings of their porches a shade known as “haint blue” to
fool wasps and birds into thinking there is be no place to build a nest, and to fool evil
spirits who are unable to cross water.21 Blue is clear. Maps are mostly blue, though water
is not. The smell of chlorine reminds of cool, blue swimming pools. Blue is the concrete
Tarzana is an edge city on the ledge of Topanga Canyon in the San Fernando
Valley region of Los Angeles, CA. The high school scenes in “The Karate Kid” were
filmed at Portola Middle School in Tarzana.22 Balthazar Getty, star of “Lost Highway”
and son of the infamously kidnapped Jean Paul Getty III23, is a resident of Tarzana.
The land that would be called Tarzana was acquired from Mexico through the
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. After decades as ranchos, land for expatriate
Spanish gentry, the land was purchased by Harrison Otis, publisher of the Los Angeles
Times and member of the controversial “San Fernando Syndicate,” a group of
businessmen buying tracts of land in anticipation of the Los Angeles Aqueduct in
1909.24 The scheme, built from dubiously purchased water rights in the Owens Valley,
culminated in the California Water Wars (the context for the Roman Polanski film
“Chinatown”). The water was moved through dams, reservoirs, and the Los Angeles
Aqueduct: hundreds miles of concrete canals, tunnels, and conduit.25
21 David DiBenedetto, et al, “Shades of the South” in The Southerner’s Handbook, (New
York: Harper Collins, 2013).
22 “Tarzana overview”, JDS Realty website, (accessed Apr. 3 2015).
23 Woo, “J. Paul Getty III dies at 54; scion of oil dynasty” LA Times 7 Feb. 2011
(accessed Nov. 12, 2015).
24 Ralph Herman’s history of Tarzana Ranch, http://www.tarzana.ca/, (accessed Oct. 13,
25 Dana Bartholomew, “100 years of water: Los Angeles Aqueduct, William Mulholland
helped create modern L.A.”, Los Angeles Times, Fri. Nov 1, 2013,
angeles-aqueduct-william-mulholland-helped-create-modern-la, (accessed June 1,
In 1919, 550 acres were sold to Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of the Tarzan
adventure novels, who named it Tarzana Ranch.26 Burroughs eventually subdivided the
acreage for homes and it was sold, adhering to racially exclusive codes and covenants, as
was the style of the time. The name “Tarzana” was specifically intended to evoke themes
of white flight and manifest destiny associated with the story of Tarzan.27 The Wikipedia
page for Tarzana used to have this information, but now it says little more than,
“Tarzana is an affluent, highly-educated neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley
region of Los Angeles, California.”28 It might be different now.
Burroughs was born in Oak Park, IL, a “sundown town” then, where it was
unwise for nonwhites to allow the sun to set on them inside city limits. Sociologist
James W. Loewen says, “Tarzan may have lived in ‘darkest Africa,’ but he was born in
one sundown town (Oak Park, home of Edgar Rice Burroughs), and the proceeds from
his wildly successful novels and movies underwrote Burroughs’s creation of another
26 “Edgar Rice Burroughs—first citizen of Tarzana”, May 1969, (Tarzana: Tarzana
Chamber of Commerce and Tarzana Bank of America).
http://www.tarzana.org/docs/citizen1.jpg, (accessed Oct. 13, 2014).
27 Laura Baraclough on the establishment of Tarzana, A People’s History of Los Angeles
(Los Angeles: University of California Press), 2012
28 Contested Wikipedia page “Tarzana, Los Angeles”,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarzana,_Los_Angeles (accessed May 1, 2015).
29 James W. Loewen, Sundown Towns, (New York: The New Press, 2005), 14.
Mulholland Drive, named after San Fernando Syndicate kingpin and engineer
William Mulholland, is the main route across Tarzana. Locate Tarzana on an iPhone,
with the view magnified enough to see the names of the residential streets, and follow
Mulholland west to the intersection with Topanga
Canyon Boulevard. Find a paramecium-shaped cluster
of streets to the south named for Native American
tribes: Cherokee, Apache, Zuni, Mohawk, Aztec. Zuni
Street is the only of these to have a designation like
“street,” “drive,” “boulevard,” etc. 30 If the view is tight
enough to see Navajo, it takes fewer than two pinches to
zoom out to the point where the tribes’ names and the
streets disappear, just like the house at the end of
30 Top of Topanga Home Owners Association (HOA) website, FAQ
http://www.topotopanga.com/faqs.html, (accessed Nov. 12, 2014).
31 Tobe Hooper dir., “Poltergeist”, (, 1982)
Tarzana Syndrome: A small tin containing Odor of Lions pomade;
concrete blocks with artificial grass dye, offered as Housing Authority; a piece of
backlit sidewalk emitting petrichor proving The sun never knew how good it was
until it evaporated water off concrete; an amortization schedule of a family loan
for the non-tax-deductable portion of the $3 million Getty ransom, arranged into
The Seven Columns of Wisdom; and Tarzana, CA, a photograph of a fleeing
concrete giraffe in Lake City, Seattle.
C. 2015 Matthew Schau Allen
Ackerman Diane. A Natural History of the Senses. New York: Vintage, 1991.
Adams, Robert. Beauty in Photography.
Adams discusses his relationship to the western American landscape and
theories of photography. In the essay “Photographing Evil”, he describes a
guilt-ridden attempt to make photograph a memorial of a mining disaster
after having completed a commission for a mining company.
Adams, Robert. Summer Nights. New York: Aperture, 2005.
Alexander, Christopher, et al. A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings,
Construction. Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1977.
Ballard, JG. The Atrocity Exhibition. London: Fouth Estate, 2014.
Baraclough, Laura and Laura Pulido, and Wendy Chang. A People’s History of
Los Angeles. Los Angeles: U. of California Press, 2012.
Barnett, Cynthia. Bottling.” Quartz. 25 Apr. 2015.
Bartholomew, Dana. “100 years of water: Los Angeles Aqueduct, William
Mulholland helped create modern L.A.”. Los Angeles Times, Fri. Nov 1,
helped-create-modern-la, (accessed June 1, 2015).
Beatty, K. J. Human Leopards: An Account of the Trials of Human Leopards
Before the Special Commission Court; with a Note on Sierra Leone, Past
and Present. London: Hugh Rees, 1915.
Explains the practices of the Human Leopard and Human Crocodile
Societies in colonial Sierra Leone. The intertribal secret societies
demanded sacrifice for a coveted position in their ranks, forcing men to
offer a daughter for the ritual. The members dress in skins and stalk the
woman as she walks down a trail
Blackwood, Algernon. “The Wendigo” in The Lost Valley and Other Stories.
North Hollywood :Aegypan, 1910
Wendigo psychosis is a culture-bound disorder that
causes people to believe themselves possessed by a monstrous entity, the
Wendigo, which drives them to crave human flesh. Wendigo psychosis is
associated with times of famine and starvation. The Wendigo is a forest
dwelling demon originating in the folklore of Algonquin tribes. The
existence of Wendigo psychosis is a matter of debate among
anthropologists and psychiatric professionals.
Blitz, Matt, “On occasions like this, I envy the dead: the St. Francis Dam
disaster”. Mar. 12 2015. Smithsonian website. Accessed May 5 2015.
Bradbury, Ray. “The Veldt” in The Illustrated Man. Short story. New York:
Upper-middle class parents buy their son and daughter a state-of-the-art
nursery that can create any virtual environment the children desire. The
parents leave the children to the nursery, where they entertain themselves
with what evidence in the room suggests are simulations of their parents
being eaten by lions.
Burroughs, Edgar Rice. Tarzan and the Leopard Men. Tarzana: Edgar Rice
Burroughs, Inc., 1935.
Tarzan gets amnesia and, with his monkey-friend Nkima, battles the evil
“Coinage of the British East India Co.” 2 June 2015 Fitzwilliam Museum,
(accessed Apr. 5 2015).
Cox, Alex, Harry Dean Stanton, Emilio Estevez, The Cicle Jerks, et al. Repo Man.
Film. Directed by Alex Cox. Universal City: Universal, 1983
Veteran Bud, who, along with Lite and Oly, self-consciously attempts to
indoctrinate Otto with their variations on the “Repo Code”, tricks white
suburban punk Otto into becoming a repo man. The plot centers on the
search for a Chevy Malibu with sausage-shaped aliens in the trunk driven
by the lobotomized inventor of the neutron bomb.
Cruickshank, Dan. “Dan Cruickshank’s Adventure in Architecture: Death”.
Documentary. London: BBC, 2008.
DiBenedetto, David, et al. “Shades of the South” in The Southerner’s Handbook.
New York: Harper Collins, 2013.
“Edgar Rice Burroughs—first citizen of Tarzana”, May 1969, Tarzana: Tarzana
Chamber of Commerce and Tarzana Bank of America.
http://www.tarzana.org/docs/citizen1.jpg. Accessed Oct. 13, 2014.
“FAQ”. Top of Topanga Home Owners Association website,
http://www.topotopanga.com/faqs.html, (accessed Nov. 12, 2014).
“Garum” Encyclopedia Romana. Website.
m.html. Accessed May 29, 2015.
“Gold duit of the Dutch East India Co.”.
/g/dutch_east_india_co_gold_duit.aspx. Accessed June 2 2015.
Herman, Ralph. “History of Tarzana Ranch”. http://www.tarzana.ca/. Accessed
Oct. 13, 2015.
Hooper, Tobe, Craig T. Nelson, JoBeth Williams, at al. Poltergeist. Film. Directed
by Tobe Hooper. Beverly Hills: Metro-Goldyn-Mayer, 1982.
Stephen, a pot-smoking Reaganite real estate developer and family move
to Cuesta Verde, a subdivision he helped create. After his daughter is
abducted by the spectral “TV people”, the family hires paranormal
investigators and a psychic medium to help find the little girl. Stephen
discovers that when his company relocated a cemetery to make way for
construction, they only moved the headstones and left the bodies, as a
Hughes, Robert. The Architects: Louis Kahn, (New York: New word City,
2015).“Interview with Leslie E. Robertson”, Clog: World Trade Center.
Quarterly publication. 2014
Kemp, Christopher. Floating Gold, excerpt posted 2012,
(accessed March 10, 2015).
Loewen, James W., Sundown Towns. New York: The New Press, 2005, 14, 112.
Loos, Adolph, Ornament and Crime, Riverside, CA: Ariande, 1998.
Lorenzi, Rosetta. “Fish sauce used to date Pompeii destruction.” Sep. 29, 2008.
http://www.nbcnews.com/id/26947215/#.VXB76ig5TRq. Accessed May
“Louis Khan” in “The Invisible City” issue for the International Design
Conference in Aspen. Design Quarterly. Minneapolis: Walker Arts Center
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MIT Press, 1994.
Magid, Jill. Failed States. 2011 Artwork. .44 magnum casings, armor-plated 1993
Mercedes station wagon, stage direction, prints, audio, photographs.
Honor Fraser Gallery, June 2012.
Moody, Rick. The Ice Storm. Novel. New York: Little, Brown and Co., 1994.
Moody, Rick. “Made in the Shade” in Twilight by Gregory Crewdson. New York:
Moody discusses the photographs in Twilight, Crewdson’s childhood
bedroom that shared a wall with his father’s psychiatric office, and the
epidemiology of suburban heroin overdoses around the campus of SUNY
Purchase in the early 1980s, when Moody and Crewdson were on the
Peiser, Richard B. and Marcus Felson. Reducing Crime Through Real Estate
Development and Management. Los Angeles: Urban Land Inst., 1997.
Polanski, Roman, Jack Nicholson, John Huston, Faye Dunaway, et al.
Chinatown. Film. Directed by Roman Polanski. Hollywood: Paramout,
A private detective becomes embroiled in the California Water Wars as he
investigates marital infidelity, then murder, then conspiracy, then incest.
Ryokuu, Saito, On Elegance. c. 1900.
Shikibu, Murasaki. The Tale of Genji. City of Westminster, London: Penguin,
Originally published in an obscure dialect c. 1021 AD, Genji centers on the
lives of aristocrats and courtiers in feudal Japan during the Hein period.
The mostly nameless characters confront boredom, intrigue and a game
called kodo. Kodo is played with a group where the contestants mix the
few components from the original incense ceremony into recipes that the
others are challenged to decipher. Sometimes the recipes are odorless.
Tanizaki, Junichiro. In Praise of Shadows. Stoney Creek: Leete’s Island, 1977.
“Tarzana, Los Angeles”. Wikipedia page. Last edit: Apr. 18, 2015.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarzana,_Los_Angeles. Accessed May 1,
This article is frequently edited, especially in the “Notable People” and
“History” sections. The culpability of Burroughs in the racial segregation
of Tarzana is contested via these edits, alternating between no mention of
segregation, to blaming overarching housing restrictions in Los Angeles, to
characterizing Burroughs as the perpetrator.
“Tarzana overview”, JSD Realty website, http://jsdrealty.com/tarzanaresidential-
real-estate.htm. Accessed Apr. 3 2015.