Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Nasal NIMBY of the Month: Allan Tannenbaum

Here at FirstNerve we’ve covered the Nasal NIMBY beat for quite a while. Nasal NIMBYs demand to live a life unsullied by any aroma they find personally offensive. They bitch and moan about features of the smellscape that have been in place forever and taken for granted by everyone else: places like dairy farms, chocolate factories, tanneries, and the bread ovens at Subway.

The typical Nasal NIMBY feels his extremely refined sensibilities outweigh anyone else’s right to conduct a normal business that benefits the entire community. The Nasal NIMBY demands physically impossible or commercially unrealistic “odor remediations” but his ultimate goal is to force the object of his wrath to shut down or move out of town.

Our Nasal NIMBY of the Month® is Allan Tannenbaum, a 65-year-old douche bag in TriBeCa who is unhappy about living near an Indian restaurant. The story is locked away behind Rupert Murdoch’s tight sphincter the subscription barrier at the Wall Street Journal, but Gothamist has the key details.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Something Fishy About “Smelly” Drug Bust

Based on sensory science we’re skeptical when law enforcement claims to have discovered hidden caches of unburned pot based on smell alone. So this item on Drudge caught our attention:
‘Overwhelming odor’ leads to $45 million drug bust . . .
He links to this CNN story:
Authorities in southern California said the strong smell of marijuana helped them discover $45 million worth of drugs in the back of a tractor-trailer they had pulled over for a traffic violation.

An “overwhelming odor” led investigators to about 20 tons of narcotics stashed in pallets in the back of the truck, including about 38,000 pounds of marijuana, 2,700 pounds of cocaine and 67 pounds of methamphetamine, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
The CNN story implies the following sequence of events: routine traffic stop, driver’s papers not in order, truck opened for inspection, pot smell alerts officers to contraband.

Sounds like the police in southern California have some impressive olfactory skills. Or do they? Let’s go to the local press coverage. Melissa Pinion-Whitt of the San Bernardino Sun writes
Sheriff’s deputies found a tractor trailer packed with $45 million in drugs during a routine traffic stop in Rancho Cucamonga on Wednesday.
But one sentence later she writes:
The sheriff’s Hi-Intensity Criminal Interdiction Unit stopped a big rig on the eastbound 10 Freeway for a traffic violation at 11 a.m.
Hmmm. Either the Sheriff’s Department in San Bernardino County has its Hi-Intensity Criminal Interdiction Unit making routine traffic stops (“Freeze! You’ve got a broken tail light!”) or they already had reason to suspect this vehicle was carrying drugs.

According to an item on a Los Angeles Times blog, the traffic stop was made by a narcotics officer:
He was driving east on Interstate 10 in San Bernardino County on Wednesday morning when a narcotics officer with the Sheriff’s Department stopped him for a traffic violation and found his paperwork was not in order.
Here at FirstNerve we’re not as credulous as CNN staff writers when it comes to the amazing olfactory powers of police officers—or anyone else, for that matter. Here’s a different way of describing this incident: narcotics unit gets a tip about a drug shipment, stops the vehicle on a minor violation (tail light? two mph over the speed limit?), calls bullshit on the driver’s manifest, gets permission to view the cargo.

Did they smell pot? Maybe. But is this how they “discovered” the contraband? Not too likely.

Smelly Web Indexes: Playing Golf

Not to worry—the Chief Data Monkey is chained to his abacus and we’ll have the results next week.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Click for Katie

We’ve been big on Katie Puckrik’s fragrance videoblogging from way back. (What? A year and a half is an internet eternity.) She obviously has the talent to carry a scent show on big-time TV: she’s winsome, sassy and smart. Plus the camera loves her. What more do you need to know?

Well guess what? Katie’s going for it. She’s got an audition tape on Oprah Winfrey’s Your Own Show contest—there’s a web site where you can view the tapes and vote for your favorites.

So this is your chance, fume heads and couch potatoes. Go to Oprah’s site and click on Katie. She will make all your dreams come true.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Attack of the Smell Nannies

Two weeks ago it was German researcher Christof Koplin who brainstormed a smelly new way for safety weenies to reduce their anxiety about whether ridiculous-looking bicycle headgear might have a—gasp!—hidden crack. 

Now comes designer Ozge Kirimlioglu (pronounced oh-gee criminal-igloo) with a USB-linked device that releases a nasty pepper smell whenever you type bad words on your computer. 

Mr. Kirimlioglu modeled his aversive conditioning concept after his grandmother’s practice of putting peppers in his mouth when, as a child, he used foul language. Her technique evidently worked—it transformed Mr. Kirimlioglu into a full-fledged wussie and digital busybody. One could dismiss this as another droll art concept; the fact that the UK’s Telegraph gave it full play argues against this. Britain, the birthplace of our Anglo-Saxon common law and of Enlightenment concepts of freedom and rationality, has become a suffocating nanny state ringed with surveillance cameras, with a government determined to disarm its citizenry and exert pervasive control over thought and behavior. In this environment, Kirimlioglu’s “Pepper Mouth” device may soon be plugged into elementary school computers across the land.

Olfactory aversion training has been tried many times in the past, first to dissuade fatties from stuffing themselves with food, and later to discourage a variety of sexual behaviors, including homosexuality, exhibitionism and pedophilia. In a technique reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange, sexual sadists are instructed to inhale ammonia fumes while engaging in their deviant fantasies. Searing one’s nasal passages with an irritating chemical results in a dramatic reduction of “average percent penile erection” as measured by a penile plethysmograph. (In some circles having a snug band wrapped around one’s pork sword is itself a source of deviant fantasies and even erections . . . however, the ammonia always wins.) 

We wonder whether the high-end Arizona sex rehab clinics frequented by David Duchovny and Tiger Woods rely entirely on gentle suasion of the Dr. Drew variety or whether they send their clients home with tiny spray bottles of ammonia.

Duchovny blamed internet porn for his descent into “sex addiction.” We see an opportunity for Mr. Krimlioglu to extend his franchise with the “Pepper Pecker”. It would be a huge hit with the Smell Nannies.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Great NJ Perfume Robbery: Million Dollar Morons

Speaking of stinky New Jersey (and we do beg to differ with the childish new PR campaign showing up on coffee mugs all over . . . the advertising agency’s office) there are new developments in the case of February’s million-dollar perfume heist in the Meadowlands. Two more perps were arrested today and brought to Federal court in Newark where their indictments were unsealed. Jerry DeMarco of the Cliffview Pilot has the juicy details.

New Jersey Up My Nose

We’re having a hot spell here in New Jersey. It hit 90 today. August-like weather in June: hazy, humid, airless, and oppressive. Always on the verge of a noisy, refreshing thunderstorm, but none comes.

This was the third or fourth day in a row that the National Weather Service issued an air quality alert for the region because of high ozone levels. Besides making things dicey for babies, asthmatics, and the elderly, this kind of air pollution can mess with one’s sense of smell.

The evidence comes from a paper published last fall in Chemical Senses. It compared smell ability in residents of Mexico City—a place with notoriously bad air pollution—with residents of Tlaxcala, a geographically similar town with cleaner air.

The study is actually an improved version of one done in 2006 by some of the same investigators. The new study used more precise test methods and also looked at trigeminal perception (the in-the-nose sensation of irritancy one gets from inhaling pepper or champagne bubbles).

The study’s title says it all:
Mexico City air pollution adversely affects olfactory function and intranasal trigeminal sensitivity.
Specifically, people in Mexico City have higher olfactory detection thresholds, i.e., they need higher concentrations of odor before they can pick up a scent. They are also worse at odor discrimination—picking the odd smell from a same-same-different trio. To top it off, Mexico City residents are less sensitive to trigeminal stimulation—locating eucalyptol vapor to one nostril or the other. Only in odor identification was there no different between towns.

What’s a little alarming is that the test subjects were young: between 18 and 35 years old. This means whatever the air pollution is doingm directly or indirectly, happens quite quickly.

The good news for those of us in the United States is that air pollution has been steadily declining for decades, despite increases in population, cars, and miles driven.

Still, I would like a nice, loud, air-cleansing thunderstorm right . . . about . . . NOW!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Smell of Books

[Image from GreenBriarPictureShows]

Those of you who listen to radio may have caught an oddly portentous report by PRI’s Alex Gallafent back in April, in which your humble proprietor had a minor speaking role. The hook for Gallafent’s piece, “The sweet smell of literature”, is a study published last fall in Analytical Chemistry by group of British and Slovenian materials science types. Their specific interest is in the chemical breakdown of the paper in old books and manuscripts, and how this knowledge might be used to evaluate the state of historical collections in libraries and, perhaps, to help preserve them.

I smiled to myself during the phone interview with Gallafent when he mentioned that particular study. I had intended to blog about it when it first came out because the title grabbed me right away: “Material degradomics: On the smell of old books.” Unfortunately, the actual experiment turned out to be a run-of-the-mill chemical analysis of the volatiles given off by bits of old paper baked for a day at 176 ºF. According to the GC/MS analysis, this treatment produced acetic acid (vinegar), already known to be a marker of paper breakdown, and a bunch of aldehydes (pentanal, hexanal, octanal, nonanal, and decanal) associated with the paper’s rosin content.

Despite its title, the study itself involves no odor analysis—other than a lyrical sentence in the introduction that mentions “grassy notes with a tang of acids.” The real variables of interest are things only paper conservators could love: the degree of polymerization of the cellulose, the paper’s lignin and gelatin content, its pH, fiber composition, etc. The lead author, one Matilja Strlič, does a lot of off-gassing himself, chiefly to flog a conceptual framework he calls “degradomics” (a play on metabolomics which is a play on proteomics which, in turn, is a play on genomics. Sigh.) The idea is to comprehensively analyze the breakdown components of paper and establish nondestructive sampling methods for assessing the condition of an old book. Ironically many pieces of old paper were harmed in the pursuit of this admirable goal which, as of press time, remains in the realm of pure speculation.

But hey, it’s a sexy idea and Strylič got his fifteen seconds of Warholian fame.

Having finally listened to Gallafent’s radio segment this weekend, I began thinking about the smell of books. I remembered, for example, that when e-readers first hit the market a couple of year ago there was some buzz about a survey result that 43% of students thought smell was one of the most important qualities of a printed book. (Take that, Kindle-heads!) This buzz, as Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy pointed out, was based on a sloppy misreading of the original survey.

I was also thinking about adding smell to books as form of scent marketing for the publishing industry. At an early publicity meeting for What the Nose Knows, someone brought up the idea of a scratch-and-sniff book jacket. The publishing folks were unanimously negative and I agreed—it seemed like a distraction. I thought scented bookmarks might be a worthwhile promotional item, but that was another nonstarter.

Back in the era of Smell-O-Vision and AromaRama, Madison Avenue was hot for the idea of scented books. Here’s an item from the September, 1960 issue of Changing Times: The Kiplinger Magazine. It appears in a feature called “News behind the ads; Matters of interest and significance from the fascinating world of advertising”.

A publisher of paperbacks proposes to scent three novels (The Enemy General, The Stranglers of Bombay, and The Brides of Dracula) with Chanel No. 5 perfume; western and frontier titles with saddle leather scent; flower arrangement books with floral scent; and cookbooks with the odors of freshly cooked bakery goods and seasoning herbs.
The publisher in question was Monarch Books which did a good business in racy-for-the-time novelizations of the lurid horror films produced by England’s Hammer studios. Brides of Dracula starred Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing, along with the
beautiful Yvonne Monlauer, France’s latest sex kitten, as Marianne, whose beauty was her passport to the twilight world of the undead.

Check out the classic trailers here and here, boys and girls, and find out where the campy parts of Indiana Jones came from.

P.S. I can’t find clear evidence that Monarch Books carried through on the idea of scenting its paperbacks. However a lot of used copies of these titles for sale online note heavy cover wear. Perhaps from scratching and sniffing?

P.P.S. Here's another cover for commenter janicki

SWI: Big Sites Gain While Others Move Sideways

The Smelly Web Indexes for June 20, 2010

The Solo Blog Index
Close: 105
Change: +1 
Big movers: PinkManhattan +17% Vetivresse +11%, Ayalasmellyblog +5%, SorceryOfScent -31%, FirstNerve -15%

The Team Blog Index
Close: 133
Change: none 
Big movers: none

The Corporate & Community Site Index
Close:  50
Change: +22 
Big movers: Sniffapalooza +17%, TheDryDown +11%, OsMoz +5%

The Corporate & Community Site Index continued its recovery with impressive gains. OsMoz has now returned to levels not seen in three months. The Team Blog Index hardly budged. On the Solo Blog Index a couple of big gainers balanced out a couple of big losers.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Where's the Vermouth?

Apparently Tilda Swinton’s new perfume is a “below-the-surface gourmand.” You know what that means—it’s martini time!

What, you’re not hip to the latest fragrance drinking games? Then check the comments here and grab your swizzle stick.

Plus: it is just me, or does Ms. Swinton not resemble the “O-face” guy from Office Space?


Friday, June 18, 2010

The Wedding Stank

I hate it when this happens. Damn those free-range hens!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Esteem of One’s Peers

I was flaked out on the couch Saturday when a bunch of mail dropped through the slot. In the pile was a large envelope from the Association for Psychological Science, a group I’ve belonged to for many years. Its 20,000 members are dedicated to advancing scientifically oriented psychology—in contrast to the heavy emphasis on clinical practice found in other organizations—and I’ve been pleased to witness its growth as an influential society. 

Still, it seemed odd to get something this big from them in the mail. Inside was a certificate and a letter telling me the board of directors had voted to make me an APS Fellow—an honor given to “members who have made sustained outstanding contributions to the science of psychology in the areas of research, teaching, service, and/or application.”

I was stunned and overwhelmed and surprised—this was not something I’d lobbied for or even thought about.

It’s very hard to describe what such recognition feels like. You enter a field because you love it, because you want to get to the truth of things. You get thrills from experiments that work, from findings that surprise people or that answer long-standing questions. Along the way there’s plenty of grind: endless analysis of data, drafting of papers, reviewing of articles for journals. But that’s all worth it because it’s part of something larger than you—the advancement of science. You care about the standards of the field and you know that your colleagues do too, even as you sometimes take issue with them.

The science of psychology has been my life. To be recognized by my peers for the work I’ve done means more to me than I can express.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Parallel Universe Alert

The Wall Street Journal has one of the strongest editorial pages in the country; but much of its reporting is indistinguishable in content and slant from other legacy media like the New York Times and Washington Post

The Journal’s recently launched Greater New York Section is Rupert Murdoch’s attempt to dislodge the NYT's liplock on the Manhattan glitterati beat. So far they seem to be matching the competition in banality and triviality. Exhibit A: this piece of fluff by “Heard & Scene” contributor Marshall Heyman. He tracks Tinsley Mortimer at the FiFi Awards as her manager steers her toward various fragrance industry folks in hopes of sparking interest in a Tinsley fragrance.

There’s a creepy sense of déjà vu about this piece—if Mr. Heyman attaches himself to Ms. Mortimer and her entourage, we may in a year’s time be treated to The Perfect Scent, Part Deux. Heyman looks more like Jack Black than the NYT’s perfume critic, but if he buys himself a BurrOmeter there’s no telling how far he could go as Rupert’s attack poodle.

[Full disclosure: I know or have met all the fragrance folk quoted in the piece; I’m not knocking them—they are consummate professionals. It’s the utter unoriginality of the Murdoch/Heyman project that I find depressing.]

ISDP June Edition: Car Trunks & Apartments

It seems like every time we turn around the 13th of the month has crept up on us again, announcing itself with a slight, yet disturbing odor that soon becomes unavoidable. So welcome back to ISDP, the monthly digest of foul smells that invariably lead to the darkest of discoveries. As they say on cable television, VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.

Here at ISDP the common impulse is to feel sorry for the victims. But not always.
Sex offender’s body found in trunk of car at Flagstaff airport
The discovery was made when “an off-duty police officer smelled a foul odor coming from a car.” The deceased had apparently taken his own life.

Three weeks later the same reporter, Alicia E. Barrón, filed another report of bad smell leading to the discovery of a body in a car trunk. (This makes Barrón the leading candidate for this year’s Peeuuwlitzer Prize in ISDP journalism.) The second incident happened in Glendale, Arizona. A maroon Mitsubishi with Illinois plates was abandoned in front of a foreclosed home.

Richard Ozenbaugh, one neighbor, tells 3TV, “What tipped us off . . . something leaking . . . went over, pretty rank and I said ‘No this isn’t good’.” He called police who also noticed the smell, opened the trunk, and found a body inside.

Sgt. Brent Coombs, with Glendale police, says, “As you can imagine with time and heat, things aren’t the way they would like them to be.”
You can say that again, brother.

Residents of an apartment complex in southwest Houston, Texas called the cops about “a foul odor” coming from one of the units. Inside the officers found the bodies of a 43-year-old woman and a 67-year-old man, both dead of gunshot wounds. Police suspect a murder-suicide.

In Memphis, Tennessee, cops respond to tenant complaints of a “foul smell” and are led by the nose to an eighth floor apartment where they find the bodies of a couple who had lived there for about two years. Neighbors heard them arguing recently.

Neighbor Wanda Stewart said, “I thought it was an animal stuck in a vent turned out it was my neighbors.”
Chalk up another one for Florida. Sheriff’s deputies found a decomposing body in a “small white house” in Orlando on May 31 after residents complained about “a strong smell” coming from the place.

And then there is this from the town that gave rise to urban non-legend of the “body in the bed,”
A body was found today at a Las Vegas motel by a construction worker who noticed a foul smell coming from one of the rooms, police said.
Smells emanating from the Medical Examiner’s office in Cobb County, Georgia (one of only four counties in the state that have an ME’s office) prompted a grand jury investigation. The problem seems to an outdated ventilation system. The ME’s operations manager points out that such smells “are not dangerous and they are not always present. Nor are they unusual for their line of work.”

“I don’t think [the grand jurors] fully understand that the odors described are as a result of decomposition,” Gerhard said. “You can’t keep it under control. All you can do is vent it.”

“When it comes to dealing with what we do on a daily basis, if sights and smells bother you, this is not the profession for you,” Gerhard said.
Sage career advice from a guy who ought to know.

SWI: Putting a Number on Volatility

The Smelly Web Indexes for June 13, 2010

The Solo Blog Index
Close: 104 
Change: +9 
Big movers: IndiePerfumes +41%, JaimeLeParfum +18%, MaisQuePerfume +12%, AnyasGarden +11%, NathanBranch +5%, FirstNerve -17%, BitterGraceNotes -10%, PinkManhattan -5%

The Team Blog Index
Close: 133
Change: -1 
Big movers: PerfumeDaRosaNegra -5%

The Corporate & Community Site Index
Close:  28
Change: +20 
Big movers: TheDryDown +13%

The Corporate & Community Site Index rose further into positive territory this week led by a 13% gain at TheDryDown. Sites on the Team Blog Index had small gains with the exception of PerfumeDaRosaNegra which slipped 5%. The Solo Blog Index posted a nice nine point advance with big gains at IndiePerfumes and JaimeLeParfum.

Special Analysis: Volatility of Smelly Websites
One thing has struck me in compiling the Smelly Web Indexes each week—some sites show little variation in Alexa rank, while others tend to yo-yo up and down.

I decided to look into this more closely and commanded the Stat Monkeys to compile a coefficient of variation (COV) for all our listed sites. Hunh, you say? Math heads can find the full explanation in the fine print below; for everyone else, all you need to know is the bigger the COV, the more variable a site’s rankings.

Right off the bat we find that Team Blogs, with an average COV of 0.14, have far steadier rankings than Solo Blogs (0.26) or Corporate & Community Blogs (0.27).

Here are the Solo Blog results:

*SorceryOfScent 0.07
MimiFrouFrou 0.09
PerfumeShrine 0.12
KatiePuckrikSmells 0.14
NathanBranch 0.15
1000Fragrances 0.16
PinkManhattan 0.19
AnyasGarden 0.19
GrainDeMusc 0.20
BoisDeJasmin 0.21
AyalaSmellyBlog 0.25
JaimeLeParfum 0.29
BitterGraceNotes 0.35
MaisQuePerfume 0.38
Vetivresse 0.40
IndiePerfumes 0.42
FirstNerve 0.50
Olfactarama 0.62

MimiFrouFrou is the Steady Eddie of solo scent blogs with a miniscule COV of 0.09. MimiFrouFrou tops the charts week after week and does so with relatively tiny variation in traffic ranking. (SorceryOfScent has only been on the charts 12 weeks, so despite its low COV the jury is still out.)  

At the other end of the scale are FirstNerve and OlfactaRama. Their high COVs reflect large variability, due not so much to week-by-week fluctuations but to long-term rises and sudden drops in Alexa ranking.

By comparison, the COVs of Team Blogs range from a tiny 0.06 at NSTPerfume to 0.20 at ISmellThereforeIAm. Among Corporate & Community sites, the steadiest is BaseNotes (0.08) and the most variable is TheDryDown (0.46).

[The Fine Print: For each site we calculate the average Alexa traffic rank across the past 45 weeks. Next we calculate the standard deviation; this is a measure of variation around the average. (Two sites could have an average rank of 5, but the weekly data for one site look like this (5, 4, 5, 6, 5, 5) and the other look like this (3, 2, 7, 5, 8, 5). Clearly, the first site has steadier rankings that the second. The standard deviation reflects this: for the first the standard deviation is 0.6; for the second it is 2.3.

But there’s a wrinkle. Since the standard deviation depends on the size of the underlying numbers, a highly variable Smelly Web site ranked 77,000 will have a smaller one than a super-steady site with an average rank of 5,000,000. In order to compare oranges to oranges, we divide the standard deviation by the average and come up with something called the coefficient of variation: a dimensionless number that reflects relative variability around the average. The bigger the COV, the bigger the variation.]

Friday, June 11, 2010

Scent Marketing: An Earful of FirstNerve

That grilled steak-scented billboard story has been making the media rounds and Deborah Becker, host of WBUR-FM’s Here & Now show in Boston, wanted to talk about it. Naturally we obliged. Our five-minute conversation about scent marketing aired today. You can listen to it here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Quick Sniffs

[photo by Rodrigo Argenton]

If you’re a weenie who wears a bicycle helmet then this may strike you as a good idea.

Once the ginkgophobes in your town have annihilated all the female trees, you could suggest they plant these.

Here's a story that combines two of my favorite topics: perfume and animal behavior.

Feel ripped off the twelve blank (but scented) pages in the recent Mono.Kultur? Then try the new issue of Sactown—it has content plus orange flavor!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

American Smellscapes: Another Scent Beacon Snuffed Out

Peter Schworm has an elegiac piece in today’s Boston Globe about the impending closure of a fragrant cocoa and chocolate factory that’s been operating in Mansfield, Massachusetts since 1903. The immediate impact is the loss of an olfactory landmark that has been a source of joy—and sustained employment—for over a century. Schworm claims some people don’t care for the scent of roasting cocoa, but everyone quoted in his article is positive about it, as are most of his online commenters. 

Also felt will be the loss of 83 jobs and the departure of yet another company from the heavily taxed Commonwealth. (Current owner Archer Daniels Midland Co. will consolidate the plant’s operations at its new facility in an industrial park in Pennsylvania.)

When this piece of the American smellscape ends its final evaporation, we will lose more than the chocolaty aroma. We lose the last perceptible connection to a great American success story of commercial innovation, hard-working immigrants, and civic-minded industrial philanthropy.

The builder of the Mansfield plant was Walter M. Lowney, who had started a chocolate candy company in nearby Boston in 1883.
Drawn to Mansfield by its available land and proximity to the railroad, Lowney became a legendary local figure. He donated land, helped create the town’s water and sewer system, and built a popular hotel and restaurant in the town center called The Tavern.

He also built homes for his workers, many of whom were Italian immigrants who settled nearby in the town’s north end. Lowney used the land across the street from the factory to raise cows, whose milk helped produce his premium chocolate, according to old newspaper articles. When he died in 1921, the entire town shut down to attend his funeral.
Lowney was also indirectly responsible for one of the greatest achievements in American popular cuisine. Lowney’s Cook Book was published in 1907 to promote the company’s products. It 
was written by Maria Willett Howard, a protege of Fannie Farmer, and eventually used as a resource at the Boston Cooking School, where Howard began as a student and rose to be principal.

This timeless cookbook offers such helpful hints as hosting formal dinners, using proper measurements, information on the butler’s duties, and an explanation on the growth of cocoa. From Pea Soup to Lobster Rissoles there are hundreds of recipes for both beginners and amateur chefs alike. A section on dessert offers dozens of sweet treats, including Sunshine Cake and Cocoa Ice Cream. Chocolate is the main ingredient in more than sixty of the recipes.

It was in this volume that Marie Willett Howard published one of the first recipes for brownies.

The smells of American enterprise—chocolate factories, pulp mills and tanneries—are blinking out all over the continent. It’s a cause for nostalgia but also for questioning: Is our can-do spirit still intact? Will today’s Walter Lowneys survive the taxes and regulations that weigh them down?

SWI: Playing Catch Up

The Smelly Web Indexes for June 6, 2010

[The SWI weren’t published last week—Ed.]

The Solo Blog Index
Close: 95
Change: +3 [from week ending May 30] 
Big movers: IndiePerfumes +21%, AnyasGarden +19%, FirstNerve -10%

The Team Blog Index
Close: 134
Change: +1 
Big movers: ISmellThereforeIam +5

The Corporate & Community Site Index
Close:  8
Change: -3 
Big movers: none

There was not much movement in the Corporate & Community Site Index this week. TheDryDown plunged 30% in the week ending May 23, but climbed right back 30% on May 30, pulling the CCSI out of negative territory. This week TheDryDown was off only 2%. The only big mover on the Team Blog Index was ISmellThereforeIAm, which was up 5% following a 2% gain last week. The Solo Blog Index was steady the past two weeks. AnyasGarden rose 19% following a 5% gain last week; FirstNerve continued to slip after several weeks of light posting. PinkManhattan was down slightly after falling 15% the previous week; overall the site is down 20% in two weeks.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Hurry, Katie, Before it Wilts!

The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California—just down the street from Cal Tech in neighboring Pasadena—is flogging another “corpse flower” event. The Huntington’s Amorphophallus titanum specimen is blooming. Good news for all you ISDP fans in the L.A. Basin: as of 2 p.m. today (Pacific time) “flies had already begun to appear.”

Here at FirstNerve Manor we are sticklers for the correct use of botanical nomenclature; “corpse flower” is a cheap PR-driven rebranding of the rotten-smelling stalk that emerges from this exotic tuber. We prefer to think of it in the literal sense of its Latin name: giant misshapen penis.

We’ve already sent an urgent email to Katie Puckrik, telling her to grab a video camera, hop on the 110, and get up close and personal with this bad boy. It’s film we’d pay money to watch. [Yeah, that’s it. Closer . . . Now sniff it. Sniff it again. Do ya like it? Hunh, do ya? Hey, no touching unless we say so!]

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ummmm . . . steak

News anchor Jenny Anchondo at KOLD-TV in Tucson, Arizona, has video of what must be the world’s biggest scented billboard. The advertisement, for a new type of beef featured at the Bloom grocery chain in Charlotte, North Carolina, propels the scent of hickory barbeque up to fifty yards across the adjoining roadway. (Yes, close observers will note that the visual image is of steak au poivre. And another report describes the scent as black pepper and charcoal.)
In any case, this beats the old smoke-blowing cigarette billboards in Times Square that were scentless.
All of which produced for me a vivid reverie of rodizio at Plataforma Churrascaria on W. 49th. (+Q Perfume are you listening? I want rodizio and I want it NOW!)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Smell the Light

As I often say, real science is always weirder than science fiction.