Saturday, July 31, 2010

Harald Vogt, R.I.P.

I lost a friend, a sounding board, a collaborator and a co-conspirator this week. Harald Vogt, an innovative marketer and scent technology evangelist, died suddenly and unexpectedly. Like many others, I’m shocked and bewildered; it’s hard to imagine Harald—that dynamo of entrepreneurial energy—gone quiet.

It was Harald who in 2005 single-handedly created the Scent Marketing Institute, and who inspired the opening of affiliates in Poland, Finland and the Netherlands. He was the unstoppable organizing force behind the annual ScentWorld Conference & Expo: the first in 2008 in New York, the next in Las Vegas, and this year’s slated for November in Miami Beach.

Harald and I were competitors in the dot com era—he worked for the German-based outfit Aerome, and I for DigiScents, Inc. Aerome spluttered out and DigiScents imploded, but by 2003 Harald and I were collaborating on our own scent projects. We made the rounds of the fragrance houses to pitch the Scent Marketing Institute (Harald was the Chief Marketer, I was the Chief Scientist). We did press interviews, including a memorable lunch with a reporter from New Scientist at The Odeon on West Broadway, where at the next table Salman Rushdie held court with a bunch of publishing bigs.

Every September we would walk the floor of the HBA show at the Javits Center and compare notes on where the industry was headed. We left the 2005 show early and took the subway across town to see an unusual little gallery featuring scented artwork by a guy named Christophe Laudamiel. Four years later, Harald and I went to Laudamiel’s groundbreaking Green Aria at the Guggenheim.

Out on the town, Harald was always the best company: my memories of him are intertwined with lunches, dinners, drinks and talking. His story-telling—done in emphatic New York style with a German accent—was vivid and entertaining. Coming to America as an adult, he had the newcomer’s freshness of perspective; unleashed from what he regarded as Germany’s uptight business atmosphere, he reveled in the freedom and opportunities he found here.

Harald leaves behind his wife Caroline and their six-year old twins. He also leaves an enormous reservoir of goodwill and gratitude.

May you rest in peace my friend.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Which Came First: The Preference or the Choice?

For my part in the recent Mystery of Musk competition I sniffed ten perfumes fresh and at drydown, on both blotter and skin—a rather sustained bout of evaluation that left me thinking about the psychology of sensory judgment. Afterwards, I happened across an new study by Swiss psychologist Géraldine Coppin and her colleagues that speaks to the topic. It’s an olfactory twist on a common experience: after struggling to choose between similar items—neckties, music albums, scenic travel routes—we come to believe that we did, after all, make the correct choice.

But did we really? Or did we adjust our impressions after the fact, in order to justify our choice? A ton of experimental evidence suggests that after choosing between two similar items, a person will later rate the chosen one more positively than before, and the rejected item as less desirable. Psychologists dub this “choice-induced preference modulation”. It’s an echo of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle: the very act of selecting changes the evaluation.

Psychologists like to explain this phenomenon using Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance. The idea is that we get a mental headache of sorts after choosing Mary Kate, because we are aware that Ashley also has many positive traits while Mary Kate has some negative ones. It is hard to reconcile this knowledge with the belief we made the correct choice. To resolve the metaphysical headache, we adjust our view of Ashley downward by stressing her negatives and lowering her positives; we also enhance the favorable features of Mary Kate and dial down her negative attributes.

(Festinger’s much-studied theory had a soft spot at its core: how do we know that any two beliefs are cognitively dissonant? For many years, the joke in psychology departments was “ask Leon”; hardly a solid basis for a theory of mind.)

There remains a open empirical question: how does the post-choice adjustment in perception come about? Is it a deliberate, conscious process (as cognitive-dissonance fans believe), or do we change our evaluations implicitly and unconsciously? There’s a lot of evidence for the latter, which brings us to Coppin’s study.

Working with a couple of researchers from the Swiss fragrance house Firmenich, her team assembled a dozen relatively unfamiliar smells of moderate intensity and pleasantness, e.g., fig flower, tutti-frutti, vetyver and yogurt. Volunteers were asked to rate the smells for intensity and pleasantness. Next, they were given pairs of odors and asked to choose the one they preferred. In some cases the choice was hard: the two odors were closely matched based on the volunteer’s pleasantness ratings. Other times the choice was easy: the odors were ones rated as very dissimilar.

Ten minutes after selecting the preferred odors, the volunteer smelled all dozen odors again, along with six new ones, and rated them again for intensity and pleasantness. He was also asked whether he had smelled the odor previously and, if so, whether it was one he had chosen or rejected.

Among odors presented as similarly-pleasant, hard-to-choose pairs, the chosen odors were later rated more pleasant, and the rejected odors less pleasant, compared to the initial evaluation. This confirms for the sense of smell that the act of choosing modulates subsequent perceptual judgments. This happened whether or not the volunteer remembered choosing. This implies that preference modulation for scents can occur without conscious awareness.

When it comes to smell, it looks like we can safely disregard Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory. It also looks like we can stick another pin in our patented FirstNerve Marcel Proust voodoo doll: here’s another way in which odor memory—more precisely, memory for odor judgments—is modified by experience, and not preserved forever in amber as the Proust Boosters would have it.

Coppin’s results have some impact on the psychology of fragrance choice. The perceptual ambiguity of tough-to-choose sniff sessions are automatically modulated once we make a selection, and our new judgments come to support the choice we made. Think of it as the clarifying effect of olfactory decision making. It also may be the mechanism behind another familiar experience: the fact that a newly purchased fragrance “grows on you.”

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Bride of Corpse Flower

These two trends were going to collide sooner or later, and tomorrow they will.

It’s so high-concept I see it heading straight to Hollywood—a perfect vehicle for Smell-O-Vision.

The Wedding Stinker
(a natural role for Adam Sandler.)

My Big Fat Reek Wedding
“You better get married soon. You’re starting to smell . . . old!”

Sunday, July 18, 2010

SWI: A Whiff of Mothballs

I just reviewed the new Smelly Web Index data which the Stat Monkeys popped into the pneumatic delivery tube earlier this morning, Over the last eight weeks one result is blindingly obvious: there is no trend. The chart lines for the three indexes look like a layer cake. The Team Blog Index is on top, gliding along between 130 and 134; the Solo Blog Index is in the middle, oscillating between 88 and 107; and the Corporate & Community Site Index is the more variable bottom layer, bouncing around in the 8 to 50 range.

Sure, individual sites on each index have had their ups and downs; but the overall rankings are pretty steady and therefore pretty boring. I haven’t been able to squeeze a lot of news out of them. It’s not much fun to write about and, yes, FirstNerve’s ongoing slide (-35% this week alone) takes away some of the zest. I’d rather be writing about science and the cultural scene. 

So for now, the Smelly Web Index weekly report goes into mothballs. The Stat Monkeys—chained to their computer screens in the data vault—will continue to record the numbers in return for their usual minimal ration of bread and water. I’ll post an update whenever something newsworthy happens. I may also post special reports highlighting the performance of one fragrance blog at a time. We’ll see.

Th-th-th-th-that’s all for now, folks.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Eustace Tilley Cogitates

We stopped paying attention to The New Yorker when they began publishing letters from readers (honestly, WGAS?). A bonus is that we’ve been spared the too-too predictable political ruminations of Hendrik Hertzberg masquerading as Talk of the Town. But that’s neither here nor there.

What drew our attention today was a post on The New Yorker books blog by someone named Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn. (We’ve never met the lady but whenever we say her name out loud we see Margaret Dumont and we want to waggle our eyebrows at her.)

What put Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn (waggle-waggle) in a posting mood was the launch by Fresh of a trio of fragrances “inspired by” (read: “trying to cash in on the popularity of”) the chick-lit blockbluster Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. [No relation—Ed.] [Nor would we ever read her book; our testosterone titers would flatline.—Ed.]

Ms. Foley-Mendelssohn’s no doubt very lady-like knickers (shade-grown organic hemp fabric colored with all-natural ecologically harvested annatto pods) were in a twist because she failed to find a textual basis in Gilbert’s novel for the theme notes in the perfumes.

(Yes: she word-searched the book for “smell” and didn’t find mango, sandalwood or juniper berry.)

Having tried our hand at olfacto-literary deconstruction in What the Nose Knows, we actually rather admire Deirdre (waggle) Foley-Mendelssohn’s (waggle-waggle) Birkenstock-serious approach to extracting scents from books. But in this case she is bested by Lez Glazman, fragrance director of Fresh, who says
I found myself trying to translate the words into scents. With each scent, I had the chance to create another emotion. And I also created them so that consumers can wear them together—each scent is a different chapter of experience.
Ms. Glazman, being a marketer and therefore not a deep thinker, effortlessly subscribes to the conventional wisdom that smell is all about emotion. Cue the music:
Feelings, nothing more than feelings,
trying to forget my feelings of love.
Teardrops rolling down on my face,
trying to forget my feelings of love.
D (w) F-M (w-w) has science on her side: the evolving view of smell is overwhelmingly cognitive, not emotional. But when it comes to perfume marketing, icky emotion beats cognition, memory and meaning every time.

BONUS: Lest you think we’re being too harsh on Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn, here’s a photo of her with her mother in Havana listening raptly to a speech by aging communist dictator and gasbag Fidel Castro.

All hail Freedonia! (waggle-waggle).

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Latest Buzz

[ScentHive banner by Hadley Hutton]

Trish Vawter, Queen Bee of the ScentHive, has posted an interview with yours truly in which we manage to cover fragrant butterflies, Lady Gaga, and genetic engineering. Her whole site is worth a look.

P.S. For some reason this reminds me that I’m a Good Do-Bee with the official Romper Room diploma and ring to prove it—just ask Miss Mary from Channel 7 in Buffalo, New York. She’s the one who saw me with her Magic Mirror way, way back in the Sixties.

P.P.S. Great. Now I have this Slim Harpo classic going round my head.
Well, I’m a king bee
Buzzin’ around yo’ hive
Well, I’m a king bee
Buzzin’ around yo’ hive
Well, I can make honey, baby
Let me come inside

I’m young and able
To buzz all night long
I’m young and able
To buzz all night long
Well, when you hear me buzzin’, baby
Some stingin’ is going on.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

ISDP: With This Hot Weather, There’s No Good Answer

We interrupt FirstNerve’s ongoing coverage of The Mystery of Musk—the all-natural, non-competitive perfume competition—to bring you the latest installment of I Smell Dead People, our monthly compilation of macabre discoveries triggered by that singular journalistic tic, “a foul odor.” It’s our custom to present ISDP on the thirteenth of the month and if the juxtaposition of the foul and the fragrant (to coin a phrase) disturbs you, then too bad. And be sure to check out the final item in this post.

The body of a homeless man was found on June 19 at a water treatment plant in Atlanta. “The body was found at the plant on Manford Road after workers cutting grass smelled a foul odor.” An investigator for the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office was unable to estimate the precise time of death: “With this hot weather, there’s no good answer,” he said.

A week later in Satsuma, Florida, “the decomposed body of Zenovia King was found by residents of the Kerry Road area who were searching for the source of a foul odor.”

The next day, in Springdale, Arkansas, police were called “after residents reported a foul odor coming from a duplex.” The cops found the body of a woman “in the ceiling above the bathroom.” According to KFSM in Fayetteville, “police consider the death to be suspicious.” Ya’ think?

On July 6, NYPD found a “decomposing body in the trunk of a gray 1998 Lexus” parked in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn after residents “complained of a foul smell.” The remains were those of a 65-year-old woman from Elmont, New York who had been missing since June 23 when her husband and son were found murdered. The couple’s other son, age 30, has been charged in the deaths.

And finally, meet Jean Stevens, age 91, of Wyalusing, Pennsylvania. She is this month’s nominee for the ISDP Norman Bates Award®.
Widow lived with corpses of husband, twin
That right, folks: she had her late husband and her twin sister June disinterred and kept them in the house for company. James had the garage to himself.
She kept her sister, who was dressed in her “best housecoat,” on an old couch in a spare room off the bedroom. Jean sprayed her with expensive perfume that was June’s favorite.
Now we know what a lot of you are thinking: that we’ve let our editorial standards slip here at ISDP. After all, there was no mention of the definitive “foul odor” in this story. Well, we submit that the use of expensive perfume suggests that her twin sister’s mortal remains were in need of a certain amount of . . . olfactory remediation.

Yes, it’s a rather slender evidentiary thread, but how often do you find a double Norman Bates with twin sister?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Smelly Web Indexes: Soloists Sink with the Titanics

The Smelly Web Indexes for July 10, 2010

The Solo Blog Index
Close: 97
Change: -10 
Big movers: GrainDeMusc +9%, BoisDeJasmin +7%,  Ayalasmellyblog +6%, IndiePerfumes +6%, BitterGraceNotes -42%, JaimeLeParfum -25%, Vetivresse -14%, FirstNerve -9%,  OlfactaRama -9%, KatiePuckrikSmells -5

The Team Blog Index
Close: 131
Change: +1
Big movers: PerfumeDaRosaNegra +8%, PerfumeSmellinThings +7%, ISmellThereforeIam -10%

The Corporate & Community Site Index
Close:  19
Change: -6 
Big movers: Sniffapalooza -17%

The Solo Blog Index dropped below its par value of 100 for the first time in four weeks. BitterGraceNotes slid 42% after nearly three months of steady rankings; JaimeLeParfum accelerated a four-week downturn by dropping 25%. The gas continued to leak out of the balloon as the motherships on the Corporate & Community Site Index lost six points, with Sniffapalooza losing big altitude.  Over at the Team Blog Index it was steady as she goes; the team bloggers continue to turn in very even Alexa rankings.

Mystery of Musk: Skin Impressions

It’s been a hot, miserable, steamy week here in New Jersey and testing perfumes on sweaty skin is pointless. The weather finally eased up enough to let me evaluate all eleven submissions—two per forearm. Sorry this took so long.

I’m always astonished at how different a scent can smell on blotter versus on skin—my skin at least. I have what French perfumers bluntly call “bad skin”; it doesn’t reflect back what they regards as the formula’s true impression.

Tough beans. It’s what I’ve got so I’m going with it. Here are my on-skin impressions arranged in the same batting order as the blotter impressions:

Adam Gottschalk – Lord’s Jester / Dionysus

Fresh: Initially chocolaty
Drydown: A vinyl-like note sticks out

Alexandra Balahoutis – Strange Invisible Perfumes / Temple of Musk

Fresh: Burst of grapefruit which vanishes quickly
Drydown: Residual is a soft santal note.

Ambrosia Jones – Perfume by Nature / Craving

Fresh: Sweet & fruity; like a dessert wine
Drydown: Candy-like

Anya McCoy – Anya’s Garden Perfumes / Kewdra

Fresh: Musky, white chocolate.
Drydown: Powdery, sweet.

Charna Ethier – Providence Perfumes / Musk Nouveau

Fresh: Warm, patchouli-incense.
Drydown: Similar; good staying power.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz – DSH Perfumes / Musk eau natural

Fresh: Briefly green
Drydown: Brown spices; clove-like.

Elise Pearlstine – Belly Flower Perfumes / Verdigris

Fresh: Sweet, honey-like.
Drydown: Similar.

Jane Cate – A Wing and a Prayer Perfumes / Tallulah B.

Fresh: Warm, spicy.
Drydown: Faint.

JoAnne Bassett – JoAnne Bassett Perfumes / Sensual Embrace

Fresh: Very green
Drydown: Green gives way to a pleasant balsamic impression

Lisa Fong – Artemisia Perfume / Drifting Sparks

Fresh: Singular soapy impression; reminiscent of Cashmere Bouquet
Drydown: Same; good staying power; linear.

Nicholas Jennings – Sharini Parfums Naturels / Graines de Paradis

Fresh: Softly herbal; indistinct.
Drydown: Soft

Skin vs Blotter: Some submissions gave consistent impressions on blotter and skin. Charna Ethier’s Musk Nouveau was warm and incense-like in both tests. It was also relatively linear, i.e., it kept the same impression from fresh to drydown.

Other submissions remained true to their blotter impressions, but with a twist. For example, Adam’s Gottschalk’s Dionysus retained a chocolate-like fresh impression in both, but on my skin developed an odd note that dominated the drydown. In Alexandra Balahoutis’ Temple of Musk, what smelled like distinct vine-like green and lemon notes on blotter produced a nice grapefruit impression on skin. (Now I get it!)

The unusual fresh blotter impression of JoAnne Bassett’s Sensual Embrace (“sharp, effervescent Play-Doh”) was replaced on skin by a green note. Skin and blotter both dried down to a warm, balsamic impression. The lovely sweet floral note of Lisa Fong’s Drifting Sparks on the fresh blotter were lost on my skin; it went straight to a soapy impression that dominated the drydown as well. Likewise, the spicy astringency of Nicholas Jennings’ Graines de Paradis so evident on blotter was swallowed up entirely on my skin. (Of course your mileage may vary . . .)

Differences between skin and blotter are not unique to the all-natural ingredients of this design competition; they are a constant issue in commercial, synthetic-included perfumery as well. Perfumes are composed on blotter and tested on skin; sometimes the differing outcomes are not easily explained. It’s why we do a lot of consumer testing before submitting something to a client.

Musk as a Design Theme: I’ve already admitted that I’m not the best judge of musk. (I can’t smell truffles, so I never pay for them!) With a couple of exceptions, most of the submissions stayed within plausible distance of a musk theme. For the Guild’s next competition, I’d suggest going with a wearer-relevant theme: “something light for summer” or “a sensual winter’s night.”

I’d also suggest a smaller competition. Eleven perfumes is a lot of territory to cover blogging-wise (pant, pant); and it’s probably asking a lot of readers to follow all eleven on ten different blogs.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mystery of Musk: Impressions from the Blotter

The theme of this design competition (and yes, it’s a competition at some level, even if there’s no prize money or ribbons) is musk, to be addressed botanically and without recourse to the animal-derived or synthetic materials that are the classic anchor points of this odor category. I took this to mean that musk was a direction not a target, and did not rate the submissions on how close they came to the bulls eye. (In truth this was my only realistic option as I am not especially sensitive to musk compounds, natural or synthetic.)
Although the submissions arrived by mail over the course of two weeks, I waited to evaluate them as a group. Taking my own advice, I attached a random letter code to each sample to achieve some degree of “blind,” less-biased judgment. I began by sniffing each perfume on a blotter—because that’s the way I’m used to working. On-skin evaluations will come in another post. (The results are in progress—it was 101 degrees yesterday and 99 today; not fair conditions for smelling on skin.)

My method was to jot down top note impressions from the fresh blotter and return later to check the drydown. My notes were made without having read the marketing materials and ingredient lists that accompanied each submission. I was not trying to play “guess the ingredients” or “name that note”; I wanted to capture my initial impressions of each submission. And here they are:

Adam Gottschalk – Lord’s Jester / Dionysus

Fresh: Chocolaty, almost vegetal. Low and brown.
Drydown: Only the faintest funk left.

Alexandra Balahoutis – Strange Invisible Perfumes / Temple of Musk

Fresh: Vividly green, like a brambly vine; with a lemony note as well.
Drydown: Imperceptible.

Ambrosia Jones – Perfume by Nature / Craving

Fresh: A candy confection; buttery caramel or a vanilla cream soda.
Drydown: A strong honey-like impression.

Anya McCoy – Anya’s Garden Perfumes / Kewdra

Fresh: Musky, earthy; a sliver of wet potato. A rough sweetness like molasses.
Drydown: Faintly warm & woody.

Charna Ethier – Providence Perfumes / Musk Nouveau

Fresh: A low, quiet, incense-like smolder; a patchouli-like note.
Drydown: Nice; like a warm, sweet leather.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz – DSH Perfumes / Musk eau natural

Fresh: A freshly cut celery stalk (!); warm skin; almost a chocolate note. Blurry.
Drydown: Peppery and spicy (clove). Simple.

Elise Pearlstine – Belly Flower Perfumes / Verdigris

Fresh: Rich new off-white vinyl car upholstery. A honey note. Clean yet warm.
Drydown: Faint.

Jane Cate – A Wing and a Prayer Perfumes / Tallulah B.

Fresh: Warm hair; a chocolate note.
Drydown: Same but quite faint.

JoAnne Bassett – JoAnne Bassett Perfumes / Sensual Embrace

Fresh: Sharp, effervescent Play-Doh. [!]
Drydown: A warmth like saddle-soaped leather.

Lisa Fong – Artemisia Perfume / Drifting Sparks

Fresh: Sweetly floral like an actual blossom; night-blooming jessamine with citrus.
Drydown: Distinctive: light & soapy.

Nicholas Jennings – Sharini Parfums Naturels / Graines de Paradis

Fresh: Spicy & astringent; like a masculine aftershave.
Drydown: Holds up & holds together well.

General impressions of the field: This is my first time smelling so many natural perfumes. For a simple theme, musk produces a dazzling array of creative directions (that’s perfumers for you . . .). The drydowns were pleasingly non-linear (something I had expected, given the nature of the art); but I was startled by how many faded away like the Cheshire Cat.

The proof of the pudding is how a fragrance play on skin—so stay tuned for the next round of evaluation.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Mystery of Musk: Here We Come

Having been in the perfume business, I’ve done my share of professional sniffing, sat in on fragrance evaluation meetings, and managed consumer sensory panels to determine which samples to present to a client. At FirstNerve my focus is on smell, science and society; and while I write about the industry, analyze traffic on fragrance-oriented web sites, and even discuss the philosophy of perfume reviewing, I’ve never posted a perfume review.

So when the Natural Perfumers Guild approached me to take part in The Mystery of Musk—an internet project to celebrate their fourth anniversary—I hesitated for a moment. There are lots of perfume bloggers covering new launches, especially in the increasingly important niche area; many of them are well-informed and more current with stylistic trends than I am.

Still, the idea of smelling specially-commissioned creations by twelve of the natural perfumers I’ve been reading about for the last couple of years was too good to pass up. I agreed to take part.

For two weeks now I’ve been getting surprises in the mail—padded envelopes and small boxes, each containing a lovingly wrapped and adorned perfume sample. I’m still working my way through them and will be posting my evaluations soon.

Besides me, nine other bloggers are evaluating the submissions. To keep myself unbiased I’ve decided not to read their comments until I’ve posted my own. That doesn’t have to stop you however; here’s the batting order:

Bitter Grace Notes—Maria Browning
Ca Fleure Bon—Michelyn Camen
First Nerve—Avery Gilbert
Grain de Musc—Denyse Beaulieu
I Smell Therefore I Am—Abigail Levin
Indie Perfumes—Lucy Raubertas
Olfactarama—Pat Borow
Olfactory Rescue Service—Ross Urrere
Perfume Shrine—Elena Vosnaki
The Non Blonde—Gaia Fishler

Sunday, July 4, 2010

An Olfactory Fourth

[Photo: Alice Gilbert]

Pulled pork, grilled franks, hoppy beer—a backyard feast followed by round after round of fireworks: screamers, starbursts, pinwheels descending on parachutes. Clouds of burned gunpowder drifting across the hot, humid lawn, reminding us of the flintlocks at Concord and of all those since who have risked their lives in defense of our freedom.
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled, 
Here once the embattled farmers stood 
And fired the shot heard round the world. 

The foe long since in silence slept; 
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps; 
And Time the ruined bridge has swept 
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps. 

On this green bank, by this soft stream, 
We set today a votive stone; 
That memory may their deed redeem, 
When, like our sires, are sons are gone. 

O Thou who made those heroes dare 
To die and leave their children free, 
Bid Time and Nature gently spare 
The shaft we raise to them and Thee.

The Smelly Web Indexes for July 4th

The Smelly Web Indexes for July 4, 2010

The Solo Blog Index
Close: 107
Change: +3 [from June 27] 
Big movers:  MaisQuePerfume +23%, KatiePuckrikSmells +20%, Ayalasmellyblog +12%, IndiePerfumes +11%, OlfactaRama +9%, BitterGraceNotes +9%, NathanBranch +7%,  SorceryOfScent -13%, Vetivresse -10%, PinkManhattan -8%, PerfumeShrine -8%, JaimeLeParfum -6%,

The Team Blog Index
Close: 130
Change: -6 [from June 27]
Big movers: PerfumeDaRosaNegra -20%

The Corporate & Community Site Index
Close:  25
Change: -20 [from June 27] 
Big movers: TheDryDown -17%

FirstNerve was on the golf course last weekend and no results were posted for June 27; here we summarize Smelly Web Index action for the past two weeks. The Corporate & Community Site Index slipped a bit last week; it plummeted 20 points this week on a 17% down-draft at the TheDryDown. The Team Blog Index hardly budged last week but dived 6 points this week as PerfumeDaRosaNegra wilted 20%. The Solo Blog Index ticked down a point last week; only four of the eighteen sites showed a gain but the losses were generally small. This week the SBI gained 3 points with lots of movement among the component sites. MaisQuePerfume and KatiePuckrikSmells posted notable gains.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Rupert’s Sad Clown

Want to get your perfume launch party mentioned in the Wall Street Journal’s “New York” section? Then invite Marshall Heyman from the paper’s Fluff About Town “Heard and Scene” column and be sure to serve him a big, fruity cocktail. He’ll walk up to the hired models in the tableau vivant and ask dynamic, hard-hitting questions like:

What was it like being in a bed with a stranger as waiters passed around plates of ginger Biscotti?
He’ll also bring a photographer so you can see what Dree Hemmingway looks like (she is Ernest’s great-granddaughter and uses her mother’s maiden name in a desperate attempt to be interesting). There’s also a nonentity named Lady Alice St. Clair Erskine (elder daughter of the seventh Earl of Rosslyn) whose parents have hired a very effective publicist.  Feh.

Rupert Murdoch media strategy is apparently to bury the New York Times with heavy coverage of perfume launches and other fluffogenic pseudo-events. His man Marshall Heyman is rapidly establishing himself as the jowly Jack Black of lightweight metro journalism, a “social diarist” if you will. If he doesn’t stammer too badly Heyman could become a twenty-first century Louella Parsons, or maybe even get a gig on ET.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

They’re Creepy and They’re Kooky

Hundreds of Berkeley gardeners, topiary stylists, organic produce micro-farmers, and aficionados of heirloom tomatoes have been hiking and biking up Centennial Drive to visit my alma mater’s Botanical Garden. Where do all the sandal prints lead? To the greenhouse, of course: a foul-smelling giant misshapen penis plant is blooming.

San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Carolyn Jones has the story. [Carolyn Jones? Boy, that takes me back. Gomez: “I’m quite proud of Mrs. Addams’ hothouse. She’s raised these plants from tiny weeds.”]

Jones quotes Berkeley gardener Gary Cromp—he’s the guy in the accompanying photo who appears to be wearing a hand-woven, fair-trade Peruvian hat decorated with filamentous fungus. Check it out; you’ll be seeing them in Whole Foods next month.
“Watching these plants bloom—I’ve made it my life’s mission,” he said. “I am obsessed.”
I won’t argue with that. Besides, the Dead don’t play much since Jerry died so traveling cross-country from one botanical garden to another to sniff penis blossoms is a good way to fill one’s days.

Ms. Jones makes Berkeley’s specimen sound like a tranny: “the frilly skirt of the flower was 34 inches wide and its central phallus was nearly four feet tall.” To underscore the point she provides this quote:
“It’s very masculine and very feminine at the same time,” said visitor Yoni Mayeri of Orinda.
Yoni? Where does she find these people? Oh, right—it’s the Bay Area. [“Yoni, I’d like you to meet Bob Lingam—he’s from Moraga and teaches a Tantric sex workshop at Esalen.”]

Sigh. They’re really rather ooky.