Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Wonderful Land of Oz

Yes, I’ve been away: that’s why the One Direction hairstyles have been at the top of page for so long. I was in Australia: a week in Sydney for business, then a few days in the Outback. All of it totally awesome. Sydney for style, scenery, food, wine and microbrews. The “Centre” for a whole lot of nothing—spectacular rocks and vistas.

Pictured above is the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney, which houses a high-end shopping arcade. Sydney is a mix of (relatively) old, classical sandstone buildings and the very latest commercial towers. The scale of the town is nice—more Boston than New York. But the feel—on the Pacific coast, loads of waterfront, temperate weather, fairly relaxed people—is more San Francisco.

Heres the obligatory shot of the Opera House and Sidney Harbour Bridge taken from the Royal Botanic Gardens. I took a ferry from The Rocks (the heart of Old Sydney) out to Manly Beach and walked up and around North Head where I found this colorful specimen; I'm told it's a rainbow lorikeet.

For a change of pace, I flew to Alice Springs, rented a car, and drove down to Ayers Rock and Uluru National Park. Driving on the left (with right-hand steering) isnt too bad. The highway, which bisects the continent from Darwin in the north to Adelaide in the south, consists of two lanes. Easy going except for occasional kangaroo loping across the road. At night. When you are doing 75 mph.

While the marquee attraction is Ayers Rock, I really liked the Olgas, picture above. They are a bunch of roiling rock domes that pop out of an otherwise flat landscape. A two hour hike takes you through the heart of them. Beautiful.

Back up in Alice Springs, I drove out into the Western Macdonnell Range—a series of ridges and outcroppings with some fantastic gorges and vistas. Like New Yorkers who have never been up the Empire State Building, most Aussies I met told me they had not been to The Centre. Too bad.

The smellscapes? Ocean spray, eucalyptus and blue gum trees, and a flowering, spiky-leaved plant that I have yet to identify. Plus some great Shiraz, Cab and Pinot headspace, and hops over the foam of some excellent IPAs.

Monday, June 10, 2013

One Direction: All Pink, No Platitudes

Wow, those One Direction guys sure use a lot of product in their hair.

I’m told this UK boy band is s**t hot with American tween girlz. The band’s collective smellebrity scent Our Moment just launched in the UK and heads to the States this fall. The fellows provide some of the usual launch talking points:
“It’s not too strong and it’s quite sweet and subtle, rather than it being a bit more in your face,” [band member Liam] Payne told WWD of the scent.
Noticeably missing are the strenuous assertions that the smellebrities themselves were involved in every facet of the project, smelled dozens of mods, worked with the perfumers, yadda yadda. Instead, we get this:
Given that there were five opinions involved in the creation of Our Journey [sic], the band insists it was a dispute-free project. “We kind of just agreed on it,” said Tomlinson. “We’re all, like, into the same sort of thing. It was actually easy in that respect. The people we were working with were a great help. They were, like, making really good stuff, and we were, like, ‘That’s great!’ They gave us what we wanted.”
Such easy clients. And why not? According to WWD, “industry sources said they expect [Our Moment] to make $120 million in first-year retail sales.” Let’s say net sales to the manufacturer (after cost of goods, marketing, shipping, etc.) are $30 million and the band gets a 7% royalty. Divided five ways, each band member gets $420,000. Not a huge payday, but surely enough to mouth a few of the usual pieties, no?


The kitsch factor in the Our Journey packaging is off the charts. Then again it’s probably on target for the group’s demographic. Can’t you see it covered in glossy, candy-flavored, super-moisturing, lip imprints from the owner?

And check out the launch event on YouTube: it screams semi-ironic distance. Again, probably just what the demo expects.

I see they were pouring non-vintage Canard-DuchĂȘne Brut Champagne. (On sale at £19.00!)
. . . a clean, easily accessible style . . . and a fine mousse.

Meanwhile, this tidbit from WWD hints that Our Moment had something other than a carefree development process:
The license for the scent is owned by Eden Parfums, which is a subsidiary of Imperial Pharmaceutical Group and owned by chief executive officer Nayan Thakrar. Eden purchased the license from Olivann Beauty, a division of Fusion Brand Inc.’s luxury fashion division, in February this year, along with all the assets that had been developed before the sale.
Hmmm . . .

Friday, June 7, 2013

Smelly Sockless Loafers and Other Libels

I yield to no one in my disdain for metrosexual fashion trends. But the UK’s Daily Mail beclowns itself with this headline:
Metrosexual trend for wearing loafers with no socks causes surge in fungal foot infections
If Daily Mail writer Rachel Reilly really (heh) thinks sockless loafer wearage is metrosexual, she doesn’t know her ass from her elbow. Sockless loafers are the mark of the preppy. Thus was it written in The Official Preppy Handbook (1980):
Gucci loafers. Black. Glove-soft leather. Worn at the country club, never with socks.
Reilly’s article also repeats the canard that the sockless mode results in stinky feet. Take it from me—a smell scientist and lifelong sockless fan of Sperry Top-Siders (muni links kid, not country club)—that’s a lot of hooey.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

When Compost Attacks, Blame Peabody

A bad smell drifting through Danvers, Massachusetts on Monday had residents in an uproar. How bad was it?
“We were making broccoli rabe and garlic and it was ruining my dinner because I could smell it,” Public Health Director Peter Mirandi told WBZ NewsRadio 1030.
If you can smell it while cooking garlic, it’s pretty bad by definition.

BTW it’s worth listening to the audio of Mr. Mirandi’s comment just for his glorious Boston accent. Who says regional accents are fading away?

Mirandi pins the odor on neighboring Peabody, which one might think is a Public Health Director’s version of blaming the dog. But Peabody’s PHD Sharon Cameron raises her hand to accept the foul. She points to large local composting operations and give a cogent and honest explanation of how they can get stinky.

UPDATE June 6, 2013

Well it wasn’t compost. It was lime cake—a byproduct of gelatin production—spread on a local farm as fertilizer. No, I’ve never heard of it before, either.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Feeding the Monster: IFRA and the EU Parliament

I usually ignore the tsunami of self-serving press releases that floods the web every day, but once in a while a particularly ripe specimen gets tossed ashore like, oh, I don’t know, a chunk of ambergris.

This malodorous example floated out of the bowels of Brussels, the gigantic sphincter at the center of the European Union’s relentless and antidemocratic campaign to cover every facet of life under a thick layer of bureaucratic regulation.

It’s an IFRA press release promoting a scented show-and-tell exhibit at the European Parliament sponsored by French MEP Marielle Gallo. The blurb for “Innovation in Every Sense” uses the word “innovate” sixteen times to describe the event’s simulated smellscapes: Calabrian citrus groves, Scottish sea air, and Paris rush-hour Metro. Whatevs.

So why will a harmless sniff-and-chat event be attended by a heavyweight like IFRA president Pierre Sivac? You’ll find the real reason at the bottom of the press release: Mr. Sivac wants more EU trade protectionism for his industry:
IFRA is the global trade federation representing the fragrance industry. Over the last two years IFRA has been leading a campaign to strengthen the European legislative framework for the protection of intellectual property rights, particularly related to know-how and redress for its misappropriation. IFRA has cooperated with the EU Commission to carry out an impact assessment and is now looking forward to a legislative proposal in this area.
IFRA has been hammering this pretty hard. In January/February 2012, the UK IFRA organized another “exhibit” at the European Parliament, hosted by British MEP Julie Girling (also an attendee at this week’s event). Here’s how it’s goal was described in the group’s Summer 2012 newsletter:
The European Union has an extraordinary concentration of industries for which trade secrets are essential to compete successfully. The fragrance industry is one and would like to see an appropriate place for Trade Secrets within the European Union’s intellectual property regime, otherwise, trade secrets will continue to depend for protection on inconsistent — or non-existent — national legislation. The industry needs its defences to be strengthened to avoid creative secrets continuing to be breached by unscrupulous competitors, which will result in the bleeding of industrial innovation from the European Union and, ultimately, the compromising of the incentive to innovate and create that is the foundation of all forms of intellectual property.
If this was only about “harmonization” of EU trade secrets law, it would be just another excuse for the European parliament to excrete more regulations. But I think MEP Girling let the cat out of the bag when she told a UK IFRA luncheon, “I was pleased to host IFRA UK’s presentation in the European Parliament, focussing on the high internal standards of IFRA,” etc.

The equation is simple: IFRA will act as the EU’s regulatory enforcer and in return expects the EU to protect its member companies with new trade barriers.

You couldn’t ask for a better example of corporatism in action.

P.S. Why is increased trade secret protection such a priority? Oh, say the EU was to force labeling of all allergens or even all ingredients.

P.P.S. The venerable Capua family of Calabria makes bergamot oil. What need does an ingredient have for trade secret protection? None. But it puts a charming, suntanned Mediterranean face on a corporate power push and makes for a nice story about local community, sustainability, yadda. It takes a village . . . to sue your ass for formula duplication.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Today’s Trash, Tomorrow’s Nostalgia?

Talk about your buried lede: here’s the penultimate sentence from a long fluffy puffy piece on celebrity fragrance in the UK’s Sunday Express:
An impressive 73 celebrity scents were launched last year . . .
Jumping Jiminy. That’s a new smellebrity perfume every five days.

Express writer Georgia Gould credits Elizabeth Taylor for making possible the smash perfume hits by Alesha Dixon [Who?—Ed.] [Alesha D-i-x-o-n. The one who become a judge on the seventh series of Strictly Come Dancing in 2009. Duh.] and Coleen Rooney. [Who?—Ed.] [Uh . . . haven’t the foggiest.]

Gould also captured this insightful quote:
“Celebrities must be at the peak of their popularity when launching a fragrance,” says Shelly Smyth of beauty distributors SAS & Company, which is behind One Direction’s [Who?—Ed.] [Zip it.] imminent (and currently top secret) launch. 
Then there is this gem:
“Fans are always the first to purchase a fragrance as it allows them to feel closer to their idol.”
There’s an all-purpose sentence! Substitute any noun for “fragrance” and it remains true. Try it yourself : “bubble gum card,” “key chain,” “mouse pad,” “temporary tattoo,” “novelty underwear.”

This is where industrialized celebuscents have taken us. But there’s a bright side. Perhaps someone, fifty years from now, will take as much nostalgic pleasure in an empty bottle of Alesha Dixon as I take in my 1964 Boog Powell trading card.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Good Dog! . . . Uh, Bad Dog?

Image via TheWeedBlog.

Washington’s recent decriminalization of pot creates problems for the state’s drug-sniffing dogs and their handlers. The big question: Can a drug-sniffing dog be selectively untrained?