Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Smellscapes: Ghostly Japan & Modern Paris

Kaori Shoji recollects an old smellscape that is making a comeback:
The Showa smell is comprised of a lot of different elements but suffice to say, the notes consist of sweat and mildew, of old wood and damp corners in the house, of oshi-ire (押し入れ Japanese style closets), mothballs and ammonia-based toilet cleaning solutions. It's the smell of people over 60, many say the chief smell of the Showa Period is the koyashi (肥やし fertilizer made mainly from cow, horse and human dung) that reigned supreme over the farms and fields of Japan for centuries.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Marie-Helene Wagner inhales a different sort of funk:
If I had forgotten that it this is the season for linden trees to bloom, they did not let me forget that fact. The other day, walking down Avenue Mozart in Paris was a novel experience as I distinctly smelled in the air the smell of horse stables and manure . . .

Sunday, June 26, 2011

On the Fragrance Publicity Beat with . . . The Wall Street Journal?

Rupert Murdoch’s transformation of The Wall Street Journal continues apace. More pictures, more lifestyle stories, more . . . fluff.

From yesterday’s online edition: “The Scent of Angels.”
To celebrate the launch of Thierry Mugler’s Angel Eau de Toilette and the fragrance’s newest spokeswoman, Eva Mendes, the company flew in dozens of guests for a cocktail party Thursday at the IAC building and served truffle pasta and short rib plates. The notoriously reclusive Mr. Mugler made a rare cameo.
The report drops 4 celebrity names in 163 words, for a tabloid respectable CPW rate of 40.7. Extra points for “truffle pasta” and “notoriously reclusive.” Points off for the repetitive redundancy “rare cameo,” and for failing to mention the Eva Mendes nipple slip.

So who does Rupert have churning out this fragrance-fluff? Priya Rao? Marshall Heyman?

No—there’s a new hack in the Journal’s stable. Meet Valentine Uhovski. He’s the young “social scribe” who, along with his creepily ever-present step-sister Olga Rei, founded a short-lived website that provided weekly rankings of New York socialites. Then he wrote for Harvey Weinstein’s online magazine ASmallWorld, a feature of the “private online community” aimed at the world’s rich and fabulous. Recently, he’s been writing for W magazine.

Given his limp on-camera persona, he should probably stick with print.

The Smelly Web Indexes for June 26, 2011

The Solo Blog Index

Close: 96
Change: +10
Big movers: SorceryOfScent +38.4%, FirstNerve +28.0%, OlfactaRama +12.5%, NathanBranch +8.6%, BonkersAboutPerfume +8.3%, PinkManhattan -14.5%, FragranceBouquet -14.1% IndiePerfumes -8.7%,

The Team Blog Index
Close: 121
Change: +4
Big movers: none

The Corporate & Community Site Index
Close: 25
Change: -16
Big movers: TheDryDown -10.6%, Sniffapalooza -10.9%

The Corporate & Community Blog Index got hammered this week. It hasn’t been this low since November/December of last year. There was a fifth consecutive weekly decline at Sniffapalooza, and a fourth at TheDryDown, while BaseNotes eked out its first gain in seven weeks.

One of those periodic bouts of Alexa turbulence hit the Solo Blog Index this week. There were lots of big movers, but the gainers were more numerous and bigger than the losers which pulled the SBI up.

A nice uptick kept the Team Blog Index in the narrow 117 to 123 range it has occupied for the past six weeks.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Stench-hunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone

Stench hunting isn’t easy.

Stand on a New York City sidewalk next to the window of a ground floor apartment and you could be smelling a French cheese or a pile of dirty diapers. Tough call without any context cues.

Same goes for the brighter end of the olfactory spectrum. You’d think perfumers would use their esoteric knowledge to meet chicks at will. “Wow, I love that Gucci Rush you’re wearing” is an outstanding opening line—as long as it’s correct. However, ID’ing fragrance on skin is notoriously difficult. The potential for humiliation and loss of professional dignity discourages all but the most reckless and horny perfumers from using this approach.

When Molly Young of New York Magazine asked me if I’d accompany her on scent tour of the Lower East Side—specifically the famously malodorous block of Broome Street between Allen and Eldridge—I figured “what the hell?” I have been writing about smellscapes, might as well go check one out.

Ms. Young’s piece—"The Smelliest Block in New York"—was published today, and it turns out she had a hidden agenda; she was intent on identifying the stink at one address in particular. To that end she had previously taken an investigative stroll with someone referred to at FirstNerve Manor as TNYTODPC.

Molly! Why didn’t you tell me you were in touch with MAD’s Curator of Olfactory Art? I would have winched the mothballed BurrOmeter onto the flatbed and driven it in from Jersey. Plus, I could have unloaded a ton of Jean-Claude Ellena bobbleheads over on 14th Street.

Oh well. It’s tough to stay mad at Ms. Young (who is cute as a button). And her story is pretty entertaining.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

From the Curator’s Closet: Weekend Quick Sniffs

Another fastidiously curated collection of smelly links for your amusement.

The ladies have had these for years. Now Schick is launching an Xtreme3 razor for men with a scented plastic handle.
[Brand manager] Ms. Nagaraj of Schick said that, for young users, “the scent provides an additional linkage with this razor that strengthens their bond with it.” She added, “Scent is so evocative, and as they grow older we want this scent to be kind of another anchor that’s in their brain for this razor.”
An anchor in my brain? To help me bond with my razor? Really?

USB USMELLSOFINE. We’ve been hearing about these for years. Now a major manufacturer puts them on the market. And yes, it’s for real.

Nanotechnology it’s not. New scent generator sounds like DigiScents without a working prototype. True, this one is getting unveiled in Angewandte Chemie instead of Wired.

Another day, another Corpse Flower Giant Misshapen Penis Plant. This time at UConn Storrs. BTW can someone help Mr. Rick Buell of New London get a life?
“I’ve missed it a few times and I was determined to get here for it this time,” said Rick Buell of New London, who’d been checking with UConn greenhouse officials for weeks about the anticipated bloom, and posed for pictures in front of the plant Friday wearing a shirt with an image of a Titan Arum on the front.
New Fujitsu cell phone 4ChineseGirlz has a “scent chip” by which they mean a chip you spray your scent on. How do you say “lame” in Mandarin?

À la recherche du anosmie perdu. Molly Birnbaum gives away the gist of her book for free in the Times and the Post.

The Smelly Web: Spring Swoon for Corporate & Community Blogs

Here’s a summary of this week’s action:

The Smelly Web Indexes for June 19, 2011

The Solo Blog Index
Close: 86
Change: 0
Big movers: NathanBranch -7.9%, MaisQuePerfume -6.3%, KatiePuckrikSmells +9.4%, AnyasGarden +6.9%

The Team Blog Index
Close: 117
Change: -3
Big movers: ISmellThereforeIam -8.5%

The Corporate & Community Site Index
Close: 41
Change: -14
Big movers: Sniffapalooza -20.5%

The Big Picture

The Smelly Web Indexes are an effort to chart the health of the scent-related blogosphere using the Alexa rankings of website traffic. Since August, 2009, I’ve tracked the ups and downs of solo-author blogs, team blogs, and corporate and community blogs using indexes that all began life pegged at a value of 100. This makes them easy to read—like the Dow Jones Industrial Average on which they are modeled.

So what has been the story thus far? Beginning in January, 2010, a steady rank order emerged: the Team Blog Index was highest, followed by the Solo Blog Index, and the Corporate & Community Blog Index was at the bottom. This rank order persisted throughout 2010. In August of that year, however, the Team index began a slow decline. By January, 2011, it has dropped below both the Solo and C&C indexes. The Team index bottomed out in February, 2011, and by April it had climbed back above the other two indexes. The “natural order” of the smelly blogosphere’s web rankings was restored: Team blogs on top, followed by Solo blogs and the Corporate & Community sites.

Now there is a new move afoot: starting in late May, 2011, the C&C index began to slump: it dropped from 80 to 41 (see the chart above). For the weeks ending May 29, June 5, and June 12, all four sites on the index lost altitude. This week only managed a gain. What’s going on? Is it a coincidence that the C&C index also plunged in May, 2010? Who knows.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Smelliest Public Places in America

Responding to another post on National Review’s group blog The Corner, Jonah Goldberg opens comments to solicit nominations for the Smelliest Public Places in America. At the moment there are 88 nominations, many of them familiar to readers who follow FirstNerve’s ongoing series on American Smellscapes. Worth checking out.

Monday, June 13, 2011

What time is it, kids? It’s ISDP Time!

The thirteenth of the month has rolled around once again. That means it’s time for all the pallid, questionably groomed, and oddly dressed fans of the Olfactory Macabre to huddle around their dimly lit laptops and wait for their outdated browsers to deliver the latest edition of I Smell Dead People.

If you are tan or have used a razor in the past week, or if you are easily offended, now is the time to tune into something happier. But if you want to savor a nearly perfect collection of ghastly bon bons filled with the bitter dark chocolate of the soul, then read on—this month’s collection hits all the classic notes.

We begin on May 19, with what has become an ISDP sub-genre: foul odor leading to a body in a vehicle. WDEF TV reports from Bradley County in southeastern Tennessee:
The body turned up inside an 18 wheeler in the lot of the Loves [truck stop] at exit 33 on I -75.

... A clerk at Love’s reported noticing flies around a tractor trailer...and a foul odor coming from it.

Deputies responded to find a body lying in the truck’s cab between the driving area and the sleeping compartment.
The body was that of a man reported missing 12 days earlier.

Then there was this bizarre case in San Antonio, Texas, on May 24.
Just after 9 p.m. Tuesday, San Antonio police responded to a call from neighbors reporting a foul smell and liquid running down the driveway from a closed garage in the 4900 block of Port Kenton.
A hazmat team entered the garage and found a person dead in a car with a bucket of chemicals that had produced lethal amounts of hydrogen sulfide. Warning placards and a note indicate that this was suicide. KENS-TV reporter Noelle Gardner has the video here. We think she has big future in broadcast journalism.

On Saturday, June 4, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran with a story by Christopher Seward that is a model of succinct ISDP reportage.
‘Foul smell’ leads Clayton cops to human remains in abandoned car

Clayton County police discovered human remains in an abandoned car on Mount Zion Road in Jonesboro near the Woods of Southlake apartments Saturday.

The remains were found after a neighbor reported a “foul smell” coming from the vehicle.
By the following day the mystery was solved:
The body was later identified as Alena Marble, a resident of the apartment complex.

According to Clayton County Police spokeswoman Captain Tina Daniel, detectives interviewed two individuals shortly after Marble’s body was recovered. The victim’s daughter, Kajul Harvey, 22, and her boyfriend Latoris Grovner, 21, confessed to assaulting Ms. Marble in her apartment and later placing her body into the trunk of the car.
Finally, we have a classic “neighbors search wooded area” incident that marred Memorial Day weekend in the Peaceful Valley area of Spokane, Washington. A badly decomposed body
was discovered in a heavily wooded site by neighbors, according to a Spokane Police Department news release. They had “complained of a foul odor nearby” and found the body at about 7 p.m., the release said.
Because the rats keep chewing through the cable at FirstNerve Manor, we haven’t seen too much of the Casey Anthony murder trial on TV. She is accused of killing her 2-year old daughter.

Much is being made of a foul smell found in her car. Prosecutors believe it was from the decomposing body of her daughter which was found months later in a wood lot. In court, a tow-yard worker described a foul odor coming from her car. He was just one in a parade of olfactory witnesses that included crime scene investigator Gerardo Bloise and Deputy Jason Forgey, “a cadaver dog handler with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit.”

Casey’s mother also took the stand to describe the same awful smell:
Her voice cracking, Cindy testified about the foul smell in Casey’s white Pontiac Sunfire. “I said it smelled like something died in the car,” she testified, before tearfully recounting how she took Caylee’s doll out of the car and wiped it with a Clorox wipe.

“Casey’s purse was on the front seat and Caylee’s baby doll, her favorite doll was in the car seat like it was sitting where Caylee would have sat,” Cindy said. “Caylee’s doll smelled like the car so I took it out ... I sat the doll down and I went and got a Clorox wipe and I wiped the face and hands. The body was soft and so it smelled pretty bad ... I sprayed Febreze all through the car thinking that might help the odor ... I used pretty much a whole can of Febreze.”
Prosecutors didn’t rely on heart-rending or informal smell testimony; they also brought in heavy-weight scientific experts:
Arpad Vass of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee said the test results confirmed what his nose had already told him.

“The odor was extremely overwhelming ... I recognized it as human decomposition,” said Vass, a pioneer in the biochemistry of human decomposition.
Fox News legal analyst Greta Van Susteren thought the prosecution’s parade of olfactory experts was an egregious example of “over-trying” a case.
I think the Casey Anthony prosecution would be smarter to play it safe because it has lots of other evidence and not hand the defense a possible appellate issue.

Think about it…does the jury need for a witness to identify the foul odor as human (what else is the jury going to think it is??)
In her live blogging, Van Susteren also highlighted the prosecution’s novel use of chemical analysis of smell:
Scientist is gonna say air from car had special fatty acids that come from gases emitted from decomposing bodies…will also testify about high levels of chloroform in air

Defense will say these compounds can originate from anything….garbage left in the trunk mixed with baby diapers or wet bathing suit….cleaning products…all mixed together can produce these compounds…can u definitely say it came from a dead body? What are the controls?

First time this evidence has been used in court

Judge allowed in when they had a frye hearing because he said defense can rebut it.
Is this an effective tactic, or like the over-trying of DNA evidence in the O.J. Simpson case, could it backfire?

Stay tuned. See ya next time!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Jackson Perfume Launch Party: No Lift Off

It wasn’t all air kisses and happy talk at Thursday night’s long-delayed launch of the Michael Jackson tribute fragrances. The report from Agence France-Presse ran under the headline “Michael Jackson perfume launch causes stink”.
. . . the event descended into chaos when Joe Jackson, backed briefly by his daughter LaToya, made it clear he wanted to avoid any physical contact with Rouas, head of the perfume company Julian Rouas Paris.

The tension between Jackson and Rouas was obvious even before a press conference attended by more unknown models than journalists, and no members of the US media.
All that tension might have had something to do with the lawsuit that Rouas was hit with the previous day; it seeks an injunction against his use of MJ’s name and image, and if successful would scuttle the whole project.

But FirstNerve fans will notice something even more interesting amid the drama, namely that Joe Jackson and Julian Rouas have changed their story about how the project came about in the first place. Back in our first post in January we linked to Marie-Helene Wagner’s account of it:
Founder of Julian Rouas, Franck Rouas, explains that the project was born literally on the spur of the moment when two kids came up to him at a show asking to borrow his pen. Why, did he ask? It was to get an autograph from the Jacksons. Rouas then was immediately inspired to throw in two of his perfumes for the Jacsons [sic] to smell who then declared themselves charmed. [ . . .] A contract was signed 10 days later on December 12th, 2010.
But this is what they were they saying Thursday in Las Vegas:
“I don’t like the way he does things. But the initiative to create the scents was mine, and that plan goes ahead,” Joe Jackson told AFP . . .
And this:
The French perfumer meanwhile said he had known the singer’s father since 2009, when Jackson approached his company “because he wanted to make a perfume as a tribute to the memory of Michael Jackson.
So the spur-of-the-moment version was just a cock and bull story. Now we are told that within six months of his son’s death, Joe Jackson was actively looking to monetize his memory and that he found Rouas, not vice versa.

Monsieur Rouas scores a final bitch slap against Joe Jackson:
“He is a little angry with me now because someone put online, on the Internet [Ooopsy!—Ed.], the contract which we made for the perfume, but it wasn’t me who did it,” he added.
That is true in a sense—all Rouas did was put it on French television.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Served! New Lawsuit a Buzzkill for Michael Jackson Fragrance Launch Party?

A brand new federal lawsuit may dampen the party mood at tonight’s re-scheduled launch of the new Michael Jackson “tribute” fragrances. Originally set for March 7—rather ambitious for a project that supposedly began in December, 2010—the private launch event was to happen at 9:00 p.m. this evening at the Pure nightclub at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

That loud thudding sound you heard yesterday was a 15-page legal complaint landing in the lap of Julian “Franck” Rouas, the colorful character from the Côte d’Azur who, along with the late singer’s father, Joe Jackson, was planning to market his-and-hers perfumes that celebrated MJ, without quite using his name or likeness on the products.

Turns out there may be a little problem with that.

The Michael Jackson estate’s corporate entity granted Bravado International Group exclusive rights to market merchandise—including fragrances—using MJ’s name and image. Yesterday afternoon in Federal District Court in Los Angeles, Bravado filed suit against Julian Rouas a/k/a Franck Rouas and his company Julian Rouas Paris, Inc. They claim trademark infringement, dilution, and misappropriation, along with copyright infringement and a bunch of other fun stuff.

Bravado wants a permanent injunction to stop Rouas from using the MJ name and images. They also want treble commercial damages, statutory damages, and punitive damages.


Game over?

Curiously unnamed in the complaint is Joe Jackson.

FirstNerve has been following this slow-motion train wreck since January. The project got fishier as it went on; we didn’t think it would make it past its own hype. Our guess is that the Bravado lawsuit will squash it like a bug.

Exit question: Is there any chance this case won’t result in a summary judgment for Bravado?

UPDATE June 10, 2010
A better exit question: Is there any chance that this case won't result in a default judgment for Bravado because Monsieur Rouas simply fails to show up?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thursday Night Briefs

Another Corpse Flower blossoms, exciting villagers in St. Austell, Cornwall, Middleofnowhereshire, England. A “rare event”? Well, maybe as rare as Barbra Streisand farewell concerts.

Olfactory memories of high school. Ah, good times, good times . . .

We brought up the late Leslie Nielsen in comments recently, to mention his love of fart jokes. But he may have taken it a little too far. [For real?—Ed.]

We met Jenny Tillotson in NYC the other day and were impressed. She’s working on biosensors and scent-releasing microtechnology engineered into the fabric of clothes. Neato!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Song of Myself: Appearing This Weekend in NYC

Looking for something smelly to do this weekend? Look no further. Grab yourself a ticket to “Scents and Sensibilities: The Invisible Language of Smell,” a panel discussion that is part of the World Science Festival in New York City. I’ll be speaking along with neuroscientist Leslie Vosshall, plant ecologist Consuelo De Moraes, and artist Sissel Tolaas. (Yes, that Sissel Tolaas.) [Try to behave!—Ed.]

Date: Saturday, June 4, 2010
Time: 3:00—4:30 p.m.
Place: Tishman Auditorium at The New School, 66 W. 12th St.

And now for some real Song of Myself:
Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes,
I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it,
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.