Saturday, September 28, 2013


It was at that time, that the silence was largest
And longest, the night was roundest,
The fragrance of the autumn warmest,
Closest and strongest.

Wallace Stevens
On the Road Home, 1942

Thursday, September 26, 2013


We didn’t have the money to go to concerts, but before Robert left the Fillmore he got me a pass to see the Doors. Janet and I had devoured their first album and I felt almost guilty seeing them without her. But I had a strange reaction watching Jim Morrison. Everyone around me seemed transfixed, but I observed his every move in a state of cold hyperawareness. I remember this feeling much more clearly than the concert. I felt, watching Jim Morrison, that I could do that. I can’t say why I thought this. I had nothing in my experience to make me think that would be possible, yet I harbored that conceit. I felt both kinship and contempt for him. I could feel his self-consciousness as well as his supreme confidence. He exuded a mixture of beauty and self-loathing, and mystic pain, like a West Coast Saint Sebastian. When anyone asked how the Doors were, I just said they were great. I was somewhat ashamed of how I had responded to their concert.
Patti Smith, recalling 1968 in Just Kids.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Your Cheating Scent

Tempo, an online news site in the Philippines, features advice columnist Manay Gina. Here’s a letter she posted yesterday:
Dear Manay Gina,

One day, while I was putting our clothes away for laundry, I found a shirt my husband had worn to work. Surprisingly, it was scented—a really strong one. I know that my husband does not go to work with cologne on. When I inquired about his change of habit, he got very defensive and asked if I was accusing him of something.

Do you think I should be suspicious?

Manay Gina takes a wait-and-see attitude. Here at FirstNerve we’re more like “duh.” [Yeah, but is he seeing a woman or a man?—Ed.]

Sunday, September 15, 2013

“A Riff on Coq au Vin”

People complain that I don’t provide enough lifestyle advice here on FirstNerve. Allow me to remedy that.
“I love the sweet aroma of squirrel, and I’m surprised at most folks’ inexperience with serving the little guys,” says chef Levon Wallace, who heads up the kitchen at Proof on Main in Louisville, Ky. Wallace developed this recipe after bagging a few grays on a recent outing.
Pretty much everything tastes better with Pinot Noir and bacon.

One of my favorite courses as an undergraduate at Cal was comparative anatomy, taught by an Englishwoman named Thelma Rowell. In the notes for each lab assignment she would include a recipe for the species involved. There was Skate in Black Butter Sauce, and a Cordon Bleu recipe for rat that dated back to the siege of Paris. After we dissected pigeons, the grad students came by each bench and collected the breast meat for a cookout.

Good times.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

American Smellscapes: The Carter Years

Vermin problems in the Obama White House spur National Journal reporter George E. Condon Jr. to recall Jimmy Carter’s olfactory travails at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. They were caused by an infestation of mice.
To make matters worse, GSA and Interior refused to use traps, claiming humane groups had protested that in the past. But when mice started scampering across his office in daylight and when his meeting with the Italian prime minister was conducted amid the distinct smell of a dead mouse, Carter erupted. 
His fury was captured in his diary entry for Sept. 9, 1977. Carter that day summoned top officials from the White House, the Department of Interior and the GSA to the Oval Office to unload on them about the mice overrunning the executive offices – including the dead ones rotting away inside the walls of the Oval Office and giving his office a very unpleasant odor.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Motels & Wooded Areas: ISDP September, 2013

It was on a Friday the 13th some years back that we were inspired to post the first ISDP. And here we are again, providing an olfactory momento mori in the form of a curated set of stories from the dark side of the local news. It was the supposed urban legend of The Body Under the Motel Bed that first brought the world of ISDP to our attention. Fittingly, an incident in Royal Oak, Michigan, takes us back to that theme.
Oakland County Sheriff’s deputies were called to Royal Inn Motel about 6:45 p.m. Sunday because of a foul odor coming from one of the rooms, according to a news release. 
Deputies contacted the motel manager who let them inside of the unit. They found the body of a 61-year-old man on the floor outside of the bathroom.
Foul play does not appear to be a factor.

We haven’t done a count recently, but Florida is historically a leader in ISDP incidents. The latest comes from the town of Kissimmee:
Authorities are investigating after a partially decomposing body was found in a wooded area in central Florida. 
Osceola County Sheriff’s detectives were called to the scene Saturday after the caretaker of a property in Kissimmee complained of a foul smell while he was mowing the lawn. The caretaker went searching for the source of the odor and stumbled upon the body.
Finally, a team effort from Staten Island, New York. Three women smelled a foul odor in Willowbrook Park but were unable to locate it, despite having a pit bull with them and spending an hour searching the woods. After they finally called 911 police arrived in force and soon discovered the remains of a woman in her twenties. According to one of the women who noticed it, “It’s not an everyday smell, it’s a really bad smell—and one I will never forget.”

Mud Wrestling in Federal Court

I was excited when this story broke a couple of weeks back:
Snooki slaps perfume company Excell Brands LLC with $6M-plus lawsuit for using her name without her permission 
The ‘Jersey Shore’ star is raising a stink after the company allegedly sold a scent bearing her name and signature, exactly as they appear on her authentic ‘Snooki’ and ‘Snooki’ Couture products. The perfume, according to the suit, also ‘features a distinctive black-and-white animal print on the box.’
It has all the finest elements of a mudwrestling contest: New Joisey culcha, celebuscents, fragrance knockoffs and a Federal lawsuit. Perfect material for FN’s Business End of the Blotter. So why, you might ask, have I taken so long to serve up the inside scoop? Well, it’s not for lack of trying. Here’s what I found so far:

Excell Brands LLC is a New Jersey corporation founded in 2010 and located in South Plainfield. According to its profile page on, the company has seven employees and annual revenue estimated at $750,000. The business directory locates the company in Princeton and estimates it as having one to five employees, and annual sales of less than $500,000. So we are not talking about a large enterprise. But they have lots of perfumes listed on, the somewhat skeevy e-commerce site in communist China.

And then consider this item for sale on “Women’s “MY BUTTERFLY PINK” Perfume by Diamond Collection.”

Take a close look at the label; it reads“Our version of Mariah Carey’s Luscious Pink.”

Here’s the Amazon page for Mariah Carey’s Luscious Pink.

And here’s a close-up of the Luscious Pink label.

The use of a logo signature on an “our version of” product is exactly what Ms. Polizzi is objecting to in her lawsuit against Excell Brands. [OK, Sherlock, but My Pink Butterfly is produced by Diamond Collection, not Excell Brands—Ed.] [Keep your pants on.]

The name Diamond Collection was filed as a perfume trademark in April, 2011, by none other than . . . Excell Brands LLC of Princeton, New Jersey. The trademark application was abandoned about a year later. In the meantime, however, Excell Brands registered the perfume names “Ruby Collection,” “Emerald Collection,” and “Diamond Collection Luxurious Fragrance.”

Check Emerald Collection on Amazon and you will find
Golden Rush Perfume an Impression our Version of Gucci Rush by Gucci
Ferrera Perfume For Women, Version Of Carolina Herrera
Very Sensual Perfume, an Impression our Version of Victoria's Secret Very Sexy for Women
Change Blue Cologne/Perfume Impression. A Version of French cologne Bleu de Chanel
and so on and so on. Meanwhile, Ruby Collection features "Our version of Paris Hilton For Women," etc.

The brain trust behind Excell Brands must feel pretty confident that it is not infringing trademarks when it uses a competitor’s name and incorporates similar design features in its packaging. Ms. Polizzi’s claim is that the use of the exact design of her name logo on the Excell Brands product is an infringement, and she may be correct. Whether she can squeeze $6 million out of these down-market knock-off artists is another question.

Here’s where I would usually offer some choice bits from the court filings. But the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has taken a long time to get posted online. And what has been posted is not promising.

D’oh! Spelling matters, people! [Nah, it’s a Jersey thing.—Ed.]

Exit question:Can a corporation refuse service of a lawsuit if the company name is misspelled?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Twelve Years Later

Image via UCSBRepublicans

Twelve years after 9/11 there is a “memorial” at Ground Zero. It is not a monument or a statue. There is no human form, no representation of the event, its consequences, or our resolve in the face of it. There are two holes in the ground. Water runs into them like storm drains. The names of the dead are inscribed on panels surrounding the . . . drains.

Was this the best we could do?

Yet to open on the site, twelve years after 9/11, is a memorial museum with a “projected $60 million operating budget.”

$60 million a year.

The museum hopes it “can cover 60% of its operating budget with earned revenue, including admissions, gift-shop sales and concessions.”

A 9/11 gift shop.

“The museum plans to charge roughly $20 for adult admission.”


The museum’s “creative director” originally considered Tom Franklin’s iconic photograph of firefighters raising the flag amid the rubble too kitschy and “rah-rah American” to include in the exhibit.


Twelve years later, the new One World Trade Center Building (formerly the “Freedom Tower”) is still not complete. Its office space is only half leased.


Twelve years later, I see 9/11 remembered better elsewhere. Today on West Beach in Santa Barbara, California, the UCSB College Republicans will set out 2,977 flags, one for each person who perished that day. They do it as volunteers so that their generation will never forget.

And on a shady residential street in Montclair, New Jersey can be found, as on every day of the year, a plaque remembering a friend and neighbor. Today the flowers are fresh. And so is the pain of loss.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sniff It, Fat Boy

From today’s Wall Street Journal:
Overweight Kids Learn Willpower With a Sniff and a Nibble
How researchers are helping overweight kids train their brains to resist temptation
Thoughts occur:

#1. Hasn’t this been tried before?

#2. Other than sounding scientifical, how does “train their brains” do any work that “exercise self-restraint” does not? For a take-down of vacuous claims made in the name of neuroscience, see Brainwashed by Sally Satel and Scott Lilienfeld.

#3. “Behavioral Director of the Weight and Wellness Clinic” is academese for “fitness consigliere.”

#4. Sometimes I’m ashamed to be a psychologist.

#5. Kerri Boutelle, the clinical psychologist running this study, is addicted to cute acronyms: there’s HOME (Healthy Home Offerings via the Mealtime Environment), and HOPE (Health and Obesity: Prevention and Education) and FRESH (Family, Responsibility, Education, Support, and Health) and CHEAR (Center for Healthy Eating and Activity Research)

#5. Whoa, for a minute there I thought I was gonna PUKE (Parody Unfortunate Kerri’s Education).

EXIT QUESTIONS: Suppose obese New Jersey governor Chris Christie was presented a bill “outlawing therapy that aims to convert obese children to normal size.” Would he sign it? On what basis would he veto it?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Price Break on What the Nose Knows

What’s on your bookshelf?

Amazon just dropped the price on the Kindle edition of What the Nose Knows to $8.39 (from $13.99). That’s 40% off. Grab yourself a copy now. Click through the Amazon link at the right and you’ll kick a few cents into the FirstNerve Beer Fund at no cost to yourself.


Tell your friends!

UPDATE September 2, 2013
My apologies to everyone to went to Amazon and didn't see the reduced price. It seems to have lasted only one day.

UPDATE September 5, 2013
Well, how does $11.84 sound? That's the price today.