Monday, December 26, 2011

Coming Attractions

I’ve been a fan of Denyse Beaulieu’s Paris-based Grain de Musc blog for a while—I like her taste, her tone, and her literary style. So I’m looking forward to the (UK) release of her new book The Perfume Lover, due out on March 15, 2012.

In The Scotsman today, Lee Randall has an excellent appreciation of Beaulieu, based on attending one of the perfume courses she teaches periodically at the London College of Fashion.

Bonus: The article comes with a photo of Beaulieu, who turns out to be even hotter than I’d imagined. [Blogger hot?—Ed.] [No, HOT hot!]

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Visions of Sugar Plums: The Business End of the Blotter

It’s been a while since we examined the tangled knot of cross-holdings, family trusts, and related-party sales that connect Parlux Fragrances, Inc., Perfumania, and Perfumania Holdings, Inc. (Parlux licenses a bevy of celebuscents such as Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton, Queen Latifah and Rihanna.) Refresh your memory here, then check out this Friday’s press release:
Perfumania Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq:PERF - News) and Parlux Fragrances, Inc. (Nasdaq:PARL - News) announced today that they have signed a definitive merger agreement under which Perfumania would acquire all of the outstanding shares of Parlux in a transaction valued at approximately $170 million, based on Perfumania’s closing stock price of $19.55 per share on December 22, 2011.
And how is PERF going to swing the transaction?
The company said it will finance the cash portion of the acquisition by borrowing up to $43 million against its secured credit line and $30 million from family trusts of the Nussdorf family.

Members of the Nussdorf family own about 82 percent of Perfumania’s outstanding stock and 11 percent of Parlux’s outstanding stock.

The Nussdorf siblings—Glenn, Stephen, and Arlene—have loomed large in past chapters of the Parlux story. FN readers will also want to know how the Rene Garcia family trusts make out in this deal.

Meanwhile, sharks scent blood in the water.

And finally, check out this prediction made almost three years ago by SeekingAlpha’s Thomas Murphy: “Parlux Shareholders: A Buyout Offer in the Offing?”

Stopped watch is right twice a day? Or vision of a Christmas foretold?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Code of the Spritzers

Rosewood Hotels & Resorts is pleased to announce the addition of yet another unique service that will make traveling easier and stress free. Now, when guests check into one of Rosewood’s iconic city properties, they will have gratis access to a dedicated 24-hour Fragrance Butler.

. . . guests can ring the Fragrance Butler at any time, and the butler will appear at their door, carrying a silver tray with ten luxurious fragrances for guests’ use. After selecting the fragrance of their choice, guests will mist themselves and the Fragrance Butler will disappear with the tray until he or she is rung again.

“I say, Jeeves, I’m rather in the mood to ankle over to Club Drone this evening.”

“Indeed, sir.”

“Gussie Fink-Nottle tells me MC Crazy D will make a latish appearance at the turntable.”

“He is reputed to be the preeminent dubstep DJ, sir.”

“You’ve got that right, Jeeves. And I don’t envision myself throbbing to the beat in a dinner jacket. Better lay out my TriBeCa togs.”

“Very good, sir.”

Jeeves faded from the room in that rummy way he has, and I took the opportunity to wash down a tab of X with snort of brandy. Soon he rematerialized with a freshly pressed set of downtown threads. I climbed into the black A|X Sateen Five Pocket Pants, donned the black Chain Link Shirt, and was inserting the shapely Wooster toes into a pair of black Steve Madden boots when a sudden inspiration entered the old bean.

“Jeeves? Bring round the fragrance tray. As a finishing touch I need to make an artful appeal to the nostrils of my fellow bon vivants.”

“Yes, sir.”

I plopped the self down into the big leather chair and sparked up a largish doobbie-wah. I was leisurely exhaling a cloud of Malawi Gold when Jeeves returned to the dressing room. That is to say, he didn’t exactly enter it so much as he flowed into it. He was bearing the silver fragrance tray.

“What, ho, Jeeves. Hit me with a couple of squirts of Acqua di Gio and I’ll be the nasal sensation of the evening.”

“You don’t mean the Acqua di Gio, sir.”

“By Jove, that’s exactly what I mean.”

“I wouldn’t recommend it, sir.”

“What’s that?” Sometimes the man’s impertinence simply pushed the expansive Wooster envelope beyond the tearing point.

“It’s the best clubbing scent imaginable,” I insisted.

“Current opinion is divided on the point sir. May I suggest the Bleu de Chanel?”

“You may not. That’s the rot Aunt Agatha gave me for my birthday. I’d rather wear bug spray.”

“Then the Tom Ford Black Orchid, sir. It would merge quite appealingly with the rest of your ensemble.”

“Very well, Jeeves. But I think you need to re-examine your prejudice against Giorgio Armani. All the other chappies are wearing it by the gallon.”

“Exactly, sir.”

There was something in his tone that grated on the auditory organs, but before I could summon a reposte, the iPhone warbled and I found myself in animated conversation with Harold “Stinky” Pinker.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

ISDP December 2011: Rocking the Classics

The headline—“Man borrows car, finds body in trunk”—ignores the key olfactory element. The story, in fact, reads like a classic myth: Pandora’s Box, Lot’s Wife, or even Orpheo and Eurydice.
Kirby Mack needed to borrow a car. Friend James Sheets II told Mack he could use a gold-colored sedan parked outside the Tampa hotel room he was renting.

There was one condition: Don't look in the trunk.

But Mack “noticed a foul odor” coming from the trunk and opened it.
The body later was identified as 79-year-old real estate developer Henry Shell, who had been reported missing since Monday.

While we’re on the topic of cars, a couple from New Baltimore, Michigan is suing a car dealership for selling them a 2006 Ford Explorer that, they claim, smells like the dead body it once contained.

Here’s how the pros would deal with the problem . . .

Another intriguing headline: “Police investigate torso found in suitcase off Thruway in Yonkers.” The head, legs, and hands were missing. Is there an olfactory connection? You betcha.
The discovery was made about 1:40 p.m. Monday, when Yonkers Department of Public Works employees came across the suitcase, which they told police was giving off a foul odor. The employees had been clearing brush in the area.

Then there’s this:
Neighbor Jim Molan, who has lived nearby for 20 years, said he recalls two other bodies that were found dumped several years ago, a few hundred yards to the north. He figures this is a convenient disposal area, just off the Thruway.

And this:
This apparently is not the first time bodies have been dumped in the area, as at least two other bodies have been discovered in the vicinity in the past. Mamaroneck village police, in a similar case, were unable to identify a woman's torso that was found in a suitcase that washed up on the beach in 2007. Two legs washed ashore in Long Island that belonged to the torso.
The headline from the Austin American-Statesman is not compelling: “Detective: Man convicted of murder wrote note saying wife shot herself.” However the lead paragraph gives us another nominee for the 2011 Norman Bates Award, one John Malcolm Nordstrom III.
A man who killed his wife and then lived with her decomposing body for about a month last year wrote in an apparent draft suicide note that she had shot herself, according to testimony at his murder sentencing trial Wednesday.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

“A Little Touch of Paris”? Public Toilet Failure in S.F.

[Original image by Wally Gobetz]

San Francisco Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius steps into one of the “automated, self-cleaning public toilets,” scattered around town and doesn’t like what he sees—or smells. His report pretty much jibes with my experience. Nevius reports that many of the city’s 25 self-cleaning toilet kiosks have problems or are not even operational.

Nor is the problem confined to S.F.
As other cities have found, the automated route just hasn’t provided much help. In 2004, Seattle spent $5 million to install automated public toilets. Four years later, lamenting that they had become so dirty and dangerous that even street people refused to use them, the city put them up for sale on eBay.
Nevius contrasts this with a study of the well-received supervised public washrooms in Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library.

[Image by Irus Braverman]

That 2010 paper was written by Irus Braverman, an Associate Professor at the SUNY Buffalo Law School.

In it, she interviewed Jerome Barth, Director of Operations for New York City’s Bryant Park Corporation, who gave several reasons the public prefers facilities with attendants over the automated ones. First off, he says, “People are just not accustomed to the automated toilets.” They can be puzzling and frustrating to use.
Secondly, Barth continues, people prefer washrooms with attendants. “Beyond making sure that the place is clean throughout the day,” he says, “the attendants send a strong message that someone is in control, that this place is safe. It allows you to let your guard down.” Finally, Barth suggests that “the automated toilets are designed as functional machines, not to create an environment for real people to use. The only reason they are constructed in the first place is for advertising companies to win large bids for outside furniture.” “We had tried them and it’s very hard to keep them up, keep them clean, and we weren’t finding the right level of maintenance,” adds Lindsey Boylan, BPC’s Operation Manager, in an interview. “We would have to do a great deal more and staff it even though it was supposed to be an automated public toilet,” she adds. She says about the attendant toilets that “We really wanted something that would be an attraction for people and would bring them here. I mean, when they walk into the bathrooms they should say: ‘is this a public toilet? It feels as though you’re in a private space.’”
The last time I was on a New York subway malodor hunt with a reporter, I kept pointing out the many padlocked public restrooms in the station. I’ve never actually seen one open for use. Wouldn’t clean, well-lit and attended restrooms reduce the smell of urine and feces that plague the subway system?

As a rugged, low-tech solution, the pissoir can’t be beat. (I know, how often do I praise anything French here at FN?) It’s essentially a wall of running water, discretely hidden from view by shrubbery or a baffle wall. My favorite pissoir is the one on the Île de la Cité in Paris, located in the gardens behind the cathedral of Notre Dame. You stroll in, unzip, and relieve yourself in the fresh air, under the towering chesnut trees. What could be better?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Eighth Avenue Stink Out

“I know nothing about pigeons,” she said through a closed door where a strong odor of urine was present.

“I don’t care what he says. I’m not feeding nobody,” said Viola, who insisted her only pet is a cat.
Her neighbors beg to differ.
The result is excrement on the building facade and a foul odor that spreads through the sleek Eighth Ave. storefront when the heat or air conditioning kicks on, court papers say.

Images from Google Maps Street View, duh.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Trim Your Tree Olfactively

Earl Horlyk of the Sioux City Journal follows his nose to a new trend in holiday decorating.
“A lot of people who have artificial Christmas trees miss the smell of a freshly-cut evergreen,” Lowes Home Improvement store manager Tom Ramold explained. “Scentsicles provide that fresh scent for up to 30 days.”
While something about the brand name appeals to our inner Beavis & Butthead, the actual product—which looks like a conifer sprig—sounds pretty cool. Depending on your preference, your fake tree can smell like fir, pine, or spruce. (The manufacturer, EnviroScent, also offers festive cinnamon spice, cranberry spice, and gingerbread scents, among others.)

[Christmas shopping tip: Get your Scentsicles through the Amazon link on the right and, at no cost to you, a few pennies will go to the rum fund for the FN office holiday party.]

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Holiday’s End

[From an image by Titus Tscharntke.]

Thanks have been given, the turkey consumed. Dwindling days flash by stroboscopically. Trees are bare, but the broken branches piled in the street hold their leaves, remains of the great Halloween blizzard. They shattered loudly, like breaking bones, as they fell. Now they quietly release the pungency of decay. Vegetative rot, the evolutionary ancestor of fleshly decay, rises to the nose. The sharp tang of oak resin sublimates from the ripped wounds. The waxing crescent moon dims into the mist.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Scent Marketing: Selena Gomez Gets Appy

Ingenue places a start-up bet in Postcard on the Run’s $750,000 funding round. (The company’s app lets you print and send postcards of photos from your iOS or Android device.) Her cash is probably not worth as much to the company as her 8,000,000 or so Twitter followers.
Postcard on the Run competes with Postagram and the new Apple Cards. What is Postcard on the Run’s standout feature? Scratch-and-smell scents on your postcards.

No, really. For an extra 50 cents, on top of the usual $1.49, you can embed the scent of sunscreen into the wish-you-were-here card you send from Hawaii. Other fragrances include chocolate, popcorn and holiday spice.
Neato! Postcards are a bit Pony Express, but people still like to stick ‘em on the fridge.

Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, Florida:
A $2 million renovation of the Mahaffey Theater with features such as air ducts that spray a coconut-mango scent in the lobby was unveiled Wednesday night to civic leaders, city and county officials, the media and invited guests.
Nice. How long before they start tuning the scent to particular acts?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Snooki the Smellebrity

Okay, it’s pretty easy to parody Calvin Klein perfume ads. Self-parody is more difficult, but I have to admit that Snooki Polizzi pulls it off.

P.S. I know, I know, that’s setting the bar rather low. Still . . . .

P.P.S. C’mon, the pickle scene is funny!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

ISDP: The Downside of Jogging

The gloomy short days of November are upon us—thirteen of them in fact—which means it is time for another lugubrious installment of FirstNerve’s most popular feature. With shrinking daylight and falling temperatures we naturally expected there to be a scarcity of content, so boy were we surprised when we got around to deadline . . .

We begin with a telltale smell in Los Angeles, arising about a mile’s flight of the crow from the interchange of the 5 and 605. Near an abandoned house on a large vacant lot, a buried body calls attention to itself.
“Deputies responded to a jogger’s report of a foul odor in the area,” Lt. Mike Rosson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau said. “They checked the area and found a shallow grave.”
The body, that of a woman, appeared to be partially burned. She became Jane Doe #65. That was on October 15.

Five days later, Phillip Zonkel, a staff writer for LA’s Contra Costa Times, reported that two juveniles—a 15-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy—were arrested for the murder of a man and woman from Compton. The woman’s body was the one found in Norwalk; the man's was found in a shallow grave in Long Beach, after one of the suspects gave up the location. The arrested girl is apparently related to the murdered couple.

The body of an 80-year-old man from Cape Coral, Florida who had been missing for about a week, was found in a wooded area north of town.
Police say a jogger reported smelling a foul odor in the area Thursday afternoon, prompting a search that led them to the body.
Almost simultaneously, U.S. Marshalls in Chicago arrested a prime suspect in the man’s disappearance—his grandson.

From Kentucky—an ISDP first!—comes bizarre case. Let’s go to the videotape:


JOSH SMITH, anchor:

Reports of a foul odor led investigators to the body of a missing person from Buchanan County Virginia.

Good evening. I’m Josh Smith.

Family members reported 40-year-old Jonathan Looney missing on September 22nd. His body was found last Thursday in his girlfriend’s garage.

11 Connects Reporter George Jackson spoke with Buchanan County Sheriff Ray Foster tonight. George, what did he tell you?


Josh, Kentucky State Police found Looney in the Mouthcard Community of Pike County. That’s about a quarter mile across the Virginia state line.

As we mentioned, they got a tip about a foul odor coming from a garage in the 25-thousand block of South Levisa Road. Buchanan County Sheriff Ray Foster says Looney’s girlfriend, Kristi Slone, lived there. She was home when investigators discovered Looney’s body.

Foster says Slone’s father, William Johnny Slone, was in the home too. Pike County authorities arrested him this May during a large drug roundup.
And from way up in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota: “Cold Spring Woman Charged with Murder after Ex-Husband and Boyfriend Die from Apparent Gunshot Wounds.”

It’s very complicated, but the ex-husband’s remains were found in his apartment after other residents noticed a “foul odor” and notified the landlord, who discovered the body. (The boyfriend’s body was found in a hotel in Ashland, Wisconsin where the woman had been staying.) Both men “were found dead with gunshot wounds to the head, both covered by pillows.”
. . . neighbors said they are constantly reminded of the murder, several days after he was found.

“The doors are open (at the apartment building) because there’s such a horrendous smell. We have to close them at night, but it’s just ... you can’t eat,” [neighbor Roxanne] Huston said.

Near Chicago, the body of a murder victim was found on November 7:
The man’s body was found when workers in the building smelled a foul odor and found the body stuffed in the closet of an apartment, police said.

The body was identified and an arrest made a couple of days later.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Olly Olly Oxen Free

Steve Jobs is said to have been a genius because he designed things consumers didn’t even know they wanted, but then simply had to have. The Olly fits the first part of the equation, but is it a “must have”?

Exit question: What do you call a scented Tweet? A twart? A smeet?

Who Will Watch the Sniffers?

A sad story, but also a bit . . . ironic.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Even better if true. . . .

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Sephora Sensorium

So I hit the Sephora Sensorium interactive exhibit on W. 14th Street this weekend. Subtitled “Lucid Dreams from the Sensory World,” the show opened in early October, and will close on November 27.

It basically consists of a loop to the far end and back of a narrow retail popup space in the Chelsea Market. The initial Perfumology section has a timeline of perfumery painted along one wall; it’s rather perfunctory (Cleopatra, Mitsouko, Justin Bieber, yadda yadda) and literal (it’s a . . . line). Opposite the wall are an interesting hodge-podge of artifacts, including a 1950s coin-operated perfume vending machine, which I’ve blogged about but never seen in real life (it’s smaller than I’d imagined). There are beautiful glass cylinders filled with perfumery raw materials, and screens playing brief videos about topics such as the relation of top, middle and base notes to molecular volatility.

This section also has the show’s best interactive display: a round table on a base. The table surface is divided into quadrants, each illustrated with a gorgeous color photo: red pepper corns, star anise, etc. Each quadrant has a button-activated nozzle; you lean over, immersed in the image, and get a stream of air carrying the wonderful scent of the raw material. I’ve seen a lot of scent-delivery exhibits and this was one of the best executed. Too bad star anise is about to be dialed out of perfumery due to the corporate statism of IFRA and the EU regulatory state.

The next section—Senseless—is set of sound-dampened “isolation booths” where you don headphones and listen to voices narrating the depressing experience of anosmia. Although it does have a clever experiential twist at the end—involving a cherry lollypop—I’m puzzled that so much exhibit time is spent on the absence of smell.

At the top of the back stretch comes Life at First Scent, sculptures and assemblages that are spot-lit one by one, with accompanying projected video background and scent release. For example, a lifelike bronze sculpture of a squirming octopus is accompanied by the scent of salt air and sea mist. Interesting, not awesome.

On through black curtains to the Lab of Emotion, a darkened space with wall-mounted chemistry glassware percolating away, while videos play behind glass domes. Four displays presented different emotions, and each display had three or four scent sampling ports. Inserting your hand into the port dispensed a scent. At least I think that was the idea—the ports were too low to bend over and sniff conveniently, and there were several which didn’t seem to be dispensing. There was a lot of text on each display, which prompted the relevant emotion, described the scent, and identified the perfumer. For me, the visual preoccupation with the text detracted from the olfactory experience. This tends to be an issue with most interactive smell exhibits; it’s not easy to balance spontaneity and scent with verbal/textual messaging.

Lucid Dreams, the next darkened space, was four, small, illuminated sniffing globes. The air pressure changes caused by your sniffing trigger spacy, abstract videos back-projected on a scrim behind the globe. Here the exhibit design was excellent—no bending over, very little text—but the fragrances themselves were disappointing. They were tame and indistinct and lacked the trippiness of the visual images.

From Lucid Dreams, one emerged into the light and the Fragrance Bar. This was literally set up like a bar, complete with stools. On the counter were four color coded trays, each carrying six overturned, stemless wine glasses. An absorbent scent sticker the size of a quarter was stuck to the bottom (= upended top) of each glass. One sampled the fragrance—the drydown of an actual, commercial perfume—by upending the glass and sticking your nose in it. Clever, yet simple. This setup is lifted from the wine business, where you cover a glass of wine with a flat plate, and lift it to sample the accumulated aroma of the wine.

In the Fragrance Bar, each tray with its flight of six glasses represented a different theme: playful, polished, casual, and addictive. You could make sniffing notes in a little booklet, and if a scent struck your fancy the bar tender (in my visit a well-informed retail guy who works at Sephora) identifies the brand and offers to sell you a bottle.

The Fragrance Bar uses drydown notes for practical reasons—how would you constantly refresh top note samples?—and for consumer reality: you enjoy top notes briefly, but live with the drydown for the rest of the day, so it’s important that you like it.

Sniffing two dozen drydowns in a row was quite an experience, and the results were shocking. Where a top note sampling would have been a parade of different come-ons (sweet, fruity, spicy, aldehydic, etc.), the base notes were of a much narrower olfactory range. They were far less individually distinctive, often muddled. That the Jennifer Aniston perfume, with its literal-minded evocation of sunscreen, stood out tells you something about the state of modern perfumery. Enormous effort goes into designing the short-lived top notes that leap from the bottle and grab your nose and credit card. The heart gets some attention, if only as a pleasing transition. But drydown is almost an afterthought, murky and indistinct. Perfumes for the age of short attention span.

Hats off to Sephora and Firmenich for providing some entertainment, education and provocation, and for offering the largest blind sampling of commercial fragrances you’re likely to encounter. The $15 admission fee becomes a gift credit at Sephora, so it’s really a freebie for fragrance fans.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday in the Park with FirstNerve

[This one is for +Q Perfume Blog.]

Seemed like a nice day to tunnel into Manhattan—so I did!

First stop, the Sephora/Firmenich Sensorium. More about that in a separate post. Gulped down some truck food afterwards on 14th Street—tasty pork & scallion dumplings from Rickshaw Dumplings—then three more stops downtown on the A train. A short stroll and behold!: Zucotti Park, home to Occupy Wall Street.

One small square block, packed with tourists, police, and a motley and largely unimpressive assemblage of cranks, kooks, and die-hard “activists.” Do I sound too harsh and dismissive? Well, I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s, and went to school at U.C. Berkeley. So I’ve seen a few protests and happenings.

On my personal rating system, Zucotti Park scores about 3 out of 10 for colorfulness; any Wednesday on Sproul Plaza has more exotic causes and more flamboyant performing weirdos. As for message impact, ZP gets a 2 out of 10; the Wall Street hate was almost lost in the general chaos. Regarding the drumming circles, the less said the better. The stoners on Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park have better polyrhythms and more ensemble discipline; the ZP slammers are a couple of cuts below the subway guys with their overturned plastic buckets.

I did get to meet the leader (and only member?) of the FSM: the Fart Smeller Movement.

He's a bit of dick (what, you expected Ghandi? Mario Savio?), but he has his standards. He won't ask to sniff a girl's farts unless she is at least 17 years old. Then again, he says in a pinch he'll also sniff B.O. (These are hard times for the 99%.)

Best of all, there were some old time Hare Krishnas, doing the classic chant. But this being the 21st century, they had a new twist: occasional Bourbon-street trumpet riffs by the guy in the saffron robe. Coolio!

For a big neo-hippie clownfest, OWS also failed to live up to its olfactory potential; despite the piles of bagged garbage, it didn't smell too bad.

The obese homeless guy dozing on a bench in the Chambers Street subway station was another story. Acrid butt-crack stench that pummeled you in the face at thirty paces. Pheeeeuuuuwie!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Decline and Fall

Courtney Humphries has an excellent article in Wired about the devastation being wrought in the perfume industry through IFRA’s craven submission to the EU nanny state’s regulatory absolutists.

Math is Hard: Four More Years Edition

But if you divide each state’s population by its number of Obama donors, you find the Obama donors per capita, and the picture becomes clearer.
Well, not as clear as you may think.

What’s worse: the fact that New York Magazine has to explain to its readers what “per capita” means, or the fact that they got the explanation wrong?

Rules for Radicals: Playing the Stink Card

When I noted that the Fart Smeller Movement had infiltrated Occupy Wall Street, I figured it was some solo oddball taking advantage of free attention from tourists and the media.

But then I saw this report:
Next time, though, you feel like complaining about Occupy Wall Street, just remember it could be worse: This guy could be there.

There is video posted online on of a man being apprehended by police at Occupy Toronto.

The person shooting the video can be heard telling police the man was in his tent, sniffing his girlfriend’s feet. He also tells police the man tried to get people in the tent to drink urine by telling them it was an energy drink. Even more disturbing is that he says the man took a sip, or “pretended” to take a sip, before trying to pass it to others.
Hmmmm . . .

Meanwhile, local NYC residents packed a meeting of Community Board 1, which approved a resolution calling, among other things, for
arranging access to bathrooms off-site to eliminate urinating and defecating in doorways of retail shops and residential buildings
What is it with these OWS people? When was the last time you, or anyone you know in the “99%”, defecated in the doorway of a building? Then I remembered how a couple of psych professors editorialized against conservatives under the headline “All politics is olfactory.”

Turns out this notion goes deeper than I thought. Check out this snippet from Ron Radosh’s review of Radical: A Portrait of Saul Alinsky, by Nicholas von Hoffman:
Yet, even in the Rochester fight, Alinsky’s methods often appeared rather comical, and it is rather hard to believe that they were taken seriously. According to von Hoffman, what Alinsky proposed, and scared the city’s elite with, was a scheduled “fart-in” at the Kodak-sponsored Rochester Symphony. He planned to gather black activists — for whom concert tickets had been bought — for a pre-concert dinner made up exclusively of baked beans. This would be his substitute for sit-ins and picket lines. Alinsky called it a “flatulent blitzkrieg,” and the result of this threat (along with other tactics, including the use of proxies at stockholder meetings) evidently was a settlement in which the city fathers agreed to the demands. In Chicago, he threatened a “piss-in” at O’Hare Airport, which immediately led the city to the bargaining table. That such juvenile tactics worked perhaps says more about the fears of the politicians than the genius of Alinsky.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Sensorium: Molecules, Brains & Emotions in the Meatpacking District

This looks interesting although it seems to lean a bit heavily on the whole fragrance = emotion thing. Maybe I’ll check it out.

You can reserve a visit here. If you can’t get to NYC you can read about it here or watch the video here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

“Gee, Your Car Smells Terrific!”

It’s a hand sanitizer! No, it’s a chrome polish!

Professor Reynolds catches a whiff of olfacto-cultural critique from Wired writer Keith Barry. His best line:
We’re predicting that the next products to take off will be official Subaru-brand patchouli and a leather conditioner for your Grand Marquis that smells like Canoe and stale Dutch Masters.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Deep Questions from Hollywood

From this weekend’s Belfast Telegraph:
Kirsten Dunst wears different scents depending on what character she’s playing.

The American actress thinks that a choice of fragrance is a good indication of what a person is like. Kirsten revealed that smelling a particular way helps her get into a role, so she doesn’t have a signature scent herself.
So . . .

Wearing scent is part of the Stanislavski approach to acting?

Not having a signature personal scent makes Kirsten Dunst the equivalent of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in Patrick Süskind’s Perfume: Story of a Murderer?


Thursday, October 13, 2011

ISDP: The Fading Light of October

The final minutes of October 13th are ticking away and multitudes of olfactively obsessed weirdos are wondering: Where is this month’s edition of FirstNerve’s most popular feature?

Fear not. Here is our exhaustive compilation of The Malodor from Beyond, items having in common the same grim punch line and the journalistic tic “foul odor.” Autumn is upon us, temperatures are dropping, and the news is accordingly sparse.

First up is a case in Tucson, Arizona, where a man’s body was discovered after police received a call “about a foul odor coming from an apartment.” The death is considered a homicide.

Then off to Tulsa, Oklahoma where police got a call about a foul odor coming from the cab of a semi parked near an apartment complex. Inside police found the body of a 58-year-old man from nearby Broken Arrow, who had last been seen entering the truck three days earlier. Foul play is not suspected.

Finally, WCTI reporter Mike Valerio files a story from North Carolina with a headline that reverses the likely course of events: “Two Bodies Discovered, Rancid Smell Covers Neighborhood.”
Two decaying bodies were discovered inside a Pitt County mobile home Friday, after neighbors complained of a foul odor coming from the residence since Tuesday.
Four days before authorities arrived? The stench became so strong that the landlord, who was mowing the lawn nearby, decided to investigate. Why?
The landlord said the smell of death was unmistakable, an odor he recognized after serving thirty years as a detective with the New York City police department and fighting in the Vietnam War.
A week and a half later 34-year-old Joey Allen Owens was arrested and charged with two counts of murder in connection with the case.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

“The Whole World is Farting!”

It looks like the aimless whine-fest that is Occupy Wall Street has finally found its mission: It will become the FSM. No, not the Free Speech Movement. The Fart Smeller Movement!

Time to refresh those old chants (seriously, kidz, they were stale by ‘69).
“What do we want?”


“When do we want it?”

“One, two, three, four, let it go and give us more!”

“All we are saying, is give farts a chance!”

“We are the farts we’ve been waiting for!”

[From the New York Post via JammieWearingFool.]

Monday, October 3, 2011

Celebrity Psychophysics: Pregnancy Edition

Early into her first pregnancy, the mother-to-be notices how familiar things begin to smell different. She’s even a bit turned off by her husband’s cologne.
Not an unusual story, except that the pregnant lady is Beyoncé and her husband is Jay-Z and the cologne in question is his own celebrity fragrance.

I love it when celebrities confirm the basics of sensory science.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

FirstNerve BurrOmeter: Signals from a Lost World

Just before dawn this morning we were pulled out of a deep sleep by a faint beeping noise. Not the alarm clock. Not the coffee maker. Not the carbon monoxide detector or the smoke alarm. Not the low battery indicator on the Orgone Box. No—it was much more distant, almost subterranean.

Leaving our sleeping rack in the northeastern belfry, we descended floor by floor until we were in the sub-basement, below the Data Processing Chamber. And there it was: the distinctive incoming-data bleat of the FirstNerve BurrOmeter, coming from deep within the packing crate.

We never sold it, you see. The Museum of Arts and Design didn’t cough up shipping costs, much less the scrap metal value, so it’s been gathering dust for months.

We grabbed a crowbar, pried open the crate, and were greeted by the auto-detect light on the data transmission panel, blinking like a French perfumer after a face full of Someday by Justin Bieber. We eagerly activated the metaphor diodes, reconnected the name drop dosimeter, and wiped the packing peanuts off the sensor surfaces.

The incoming signal was strong but slightly scrambled. The knob on the Omnidirectional Media Selector was frozen on, but a quick spritz of WD-40 loosened it right up. A few degrees down spectrum we got a fix on the new coordinates: the data were coming from deep inside the Grooming subsector of the Style zone in the GQ quadrant. It was the unmistakable rhetorical signature of the “fragrance expert.”

An entire opus on vetiver featuring nine fragrance reviews. Bonanza!

Name Drops: 12
Jean-Paul Guerlain
Annick Goutal
Henri Sorsana
François Demachy
Jo Malone
Karine Dubreuil
Alberto Morillas
Tom Ford
Harry Frémont
Antoine Maisondieu
Olivier Pescheux
Etienne de Swardt
Bonus Points:
Perfumers: 9
French: 8
Designers: 2
Mix ‘N Match Olfactory Metaphors: 6
the humidity of a blue Haitian morning
a market next to mango sellers in the shadow of palm trees
a seamless, darkish scent inflected with smooth wood that is elegant as a spider’s thread
liquid sunlight with a bite of fresh ginger
the scent comes out of a bottle with a hairy chest and a wood baseball bat
fireflies hovering in the evening air, luminous as embers, and cool as night
European Airlines: 1
Exotic Locations: 5
“Regular Guy” Locations: -2
New Jersey
Jock Sniffing Bonus Points: 5
raw, earthy, masculine
sharp masculinity
undeniably masculine
no nonsense and masculine
raw masculinity
Total BurrOmeter reading for Making Scents of It: A Guide to Vetiver: 46 milliburrs.

Outlook: It’s hurricane season. Gale-force winds spinning out of control. Board up the windows.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sex Pheromones by the Numbers: Have They Peaked?

I recently declared that I no longer find the concept of human pheromones to be scientifically useful. I think there is lots of evidence for the effect of scents on human cognition, behavior, and physiology. But if we insist on labeling all these various effects as pheromones, we muddy the intellectual waters and make it harder to understand the biological basis of the effects. Dick Doty, in his book The Great Pheromone Myth, has done an impeccable job of showing how intellectually bankrupt the pheromone concept has become.

Still, there are die-hards out there who believe that with enough gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and with fine-grained enough fractionations, they will isolate the magic molecule that Will Drive Women Wild. Their more restrained colleagues believe that more research may lead to a mixture of a few different molecules that, when applied to a female with a specific mating history, at a specific time of the month, may, under certain specified conditions, alter her perception of men. For them, sex pheromones are a mixture that Will Drive Women to a Statistically Significant Difference in Perception.

Not exactly the stuff of lurid fantasies . . .

My sense is that many scientists in the field privately agree with Doty’s critique; it’s just not politic to trash the concept when you are applying for grant funding to study sex and scent.

It’s also my sense that public enthusiasm for pheromones has cooled. To test my impression, I played with a program from Google Labs:
When you enter phrases into the Google Books Ngram Viewer, it displays a graph showing how those phrases have occurred in a corpus of books (e.g., “British English”, “English Fiction”, “French”) over the selected years.
Neato! So let’s enter “pheromone” and ask for results from the corpus of English books from 1950 to 2008. Here’s what we get:

We find that pheromone enters the charts soon after its coinage in 1959, and climbs steadily to a peak in 2000. After that, it’s all downhill.

Can such a widely credited concept go bust just like that?

In my review of Doty’s book I wrote:
Once upon a time instinct theory was equally in vogue and used to “explain” all sorts of behavior. Today it’s rarely invoked. By specifying the roles of context and learning, behavioral science simply outgrew the need to appeal to instinct.
So let’s put “instinct” in the Google Ngram Viewer, set the time frame for 1800 to 2008, and see what we get.

Interesting! Instinct enjoyed a long climb in usage throughout the 19th Century and into the first two decades of the 20th. (Darwin, Freud, yadda yadda.) But it peaked in 1921 and then sank like a stone.

Which leads one to wonder: was 2000 the high water mark for pheromones? My money says yes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

ISDP: How low can you go?

There’s a big harvest moon hanging over New Jersey at the moment, throwing just enough light into the belfrey to illuminate the grimy calendar from that Chinese take-out place that gave us the trots a while ago. And whaddya know, it’s the thirteenth of the month. Time for another installment of the FN feature that dares, nay, compels you to peek through your fingers and read every gruesome item. We are talking, of course, about I Smell Dead People, the unaccountable popularity of which drives about 98% of our traffic.

We regularly spotlight nominees for the annual Norman Bates Award, given to the person who manages to live at length in close proximity to the stench of a decomposing corpse. Last week’s story by David Owens and Christine Dempsey in The Hartford Courant opens an entirely new dimension of Batesian misbehavior: people who rob the rotting dead.
While the body of Debra Jurasus moldered in a recliner in her Goodrich Street home, some people from the neighborhood broke in, ransacked the house and stole a jar of coins, credit cards, a laptop computer, a camera and her car keys, police say.

The burglars made several trips to the house, despite the odor, and used her green 1995 Ford Escort to haul away the loot, according to the arrest warrant for two of the suspects.
According to police, the suspects described the body
as sitting in a recliner and being covered with flies and other insects. One said that the odor made him sick and that he went outside to throw up, but then went back in to search for valuables.
Oh, the poor sensitive soul.

Meanwhile, the body of Mrs. Jurasus was described as partially mummified, but with no obvious signs of trauma.
How long Jurasus was dead remains unclear. Neighbors said that they had called police about an acrid stench and an unusual number of flies in May, but that police didn’t go into the house. Neighbors said they hadn’t seen Jurasus since February.
Hartford doesn't sound like the most tightly knit of communities . . .

In Jacksonville, Florida, last month, two bodies were found in a wooded area in the Mixon Town district, near the Prime Osborn Convention Center.
According to officers, neighbors contacted police about a foul odor in the area and they arrived just before 7 p.m. to find the bodies, one male and one female.
According to the story filed by Jessika Lewis, the bodies may have been those of a recently married couple; the sheriff’s office notes the woman had been arrested in April “on multiple charges of possessing and selling cocaine and methamphetamines, and also altering a firearm identification number.”

Around the same time in Huntsville, Alabama, the body of a man who had been missing for about ten days was found through olfactory means:
After smelling a foul odor, a citizen discovered the body in a drainage ditch at the intersection of Bonnie View and Scenic View drives in a neighborhood off Sparkman Drive near the Pulaski Pike intersection.
Finally, we are sorry to conclude that the town of Willoughby Hills, Ohio, does not qualify for a peg on the I Smell Dead People Interactive Map. The headline “Willoughby Hills woman found dead, police look for husband,” is promising enough, but the subhead—“Wellness check by police leads to foul odor”—gives the game away. The foul odor has to lead to the discovery; if the search is set in motion by non-olfactory suspicions, then no peg on the map. Sorry, folks, but the rules are the rules.

The Nosey Book Club

A month or so ago, Harper-Collins sent me a new novel, “The Lantern,” by Deborah Lawrenson, to review. The book is set in Provence, and a minor character becomes a perfumer. Hence sending review copies to perfume bloggers such as myself. I do appreciate the outside-the-box thinking that went into this.
That’s the start of Pat Borow’s olfacto-centric book review at Olfactarama a few weeks ago. While she didn’t care for The Lantern’s Daphne du Maurier-esque Gothic style, she liked its sensory evocation of Provence.
What is heartening about this book is the emphasis on the olfactory sense, usually ignored in fiction, and the writer’s obvious love of classic fragrance.
While it’s not the sort of tome I’d buy unless it came shrink-wrapped with a dose of injectable testosterone, The Lantern is currently doing very well on Amazon. And I’m all for smellier literature.

Which brings me to Millennium People by the late J.G. Ballard. He’s the guy who wrote Crash and the semi-autobiographical Empire of the Sun. Both were made into remarkable movies, the former starring a younger and slimmer James Spader, the latter an adolescent Christian Bale.

Ballard is not everyone’s cup of tea. His novels are studies in modern alienation, written in a style to match. They are not lyrical; their tone is antiseptic. Ballard picks a topic—in Millennium People it is an absurdist, violent, revolt of the English upper-middle classes—and then probes it relentlessly. Despite being drawn in by the weird premise and the plot twists as the hero—a London psychologist—falls deeper into a crazy group of provocateurs and bomb-makers, I often had to put the book down and take a break. Ballard’s technique is to relentlessly probe and re-probe the same situation; the cumulative effect is like having an unpleasant doctor press repeatedly on a newly sutured wound.

Ballard’s characters are sterile and off-putting, and his scene-setting is equally cold and uninvolving:
We set off for Hammersmith, and took the flyover towards the brewery roundabout, passed Hogarth’s house and drove into the west along the M4.
So I was surprised to find numerous smelly passages in Millennium People. A couple are conventional smellscapes:
Somewhere a window had been opened onto the night, and a cooler air moved around me, the street scents of diesel fuel, rain and cooking fat from the all-night cafes near Waterloo Station.
Other—lots of them—have to do with characters sniffing at glasses of whisky or sherry. For the most part, though, Ballard’s literary nose is concerned with the olfactory auras of people, especially women. Here’s the injured narrator being cared for by the violent cultists:
Women moved gently around me, easing off my shoes and loosening my belt. The Chinese girl leaned over the settee and unbuttoned my shirt. A faint but expensive scent floated between us, the tang of an unusual toothpaste, hints of the first-class lavatories on long-haul Cathay Pacific flights, a dream of sable coats and Hong Kong boarding lounges. Then a harsher odour intervened, the coarse petroleum reek of lubricating oil. The biker-clergyman, Stephen Dexter, lifted my head onto a corded cushion handed to him by Kay.
Here he returns to his home after weeks spent at the barricades:
Upstairs in our bedroom a medley of perfumes greeted me when I opened the wardrobe, memories of restaurants and dinner parties. In the bathroom I caught the scent of Sally’s body, the sweet, killing spoor or her scalp and skin on the towels.
These olfactive sketches are more lyrical than anything else in the novel, and yet . . . what’s with the lavatories and spoor? Ballard can’t refrain from the disturbingly off-kilter, even when he’s describing a scent.

For a more conventional, if no less mixed, review of Millennium People, try this one by Sam Sacks in the WSJ.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I put the flag out today, as always. The Stars and Stripes defiant under a dull, gray sky, even as the light now dims.

The grief doesn’t abate. The anger burns on.

The same evening ten years ago: The squeak of playground swings; my daughters and their friend oblivious to the smoking inferno just beyond the horizon. The sky crystal clear and utterly silent. I watch C. on the swing and know that her life is about to break in two, even as her mother searches the emergency rooms and morgues.

Her mother retrieves her from our place later, and as they walk into the night I hear C. ask, “Is Daddy home?”

I will not forget.

Every time the bus leaves the Lincoln Tunnel and winds up the helix, I look back at the missing towers and think of her father. The grief and the anger flare.

A few months ago I looked back and smiled before I knew what I was thinking. And then I thanked the Navy Seals.

Kenneth Anderson, more composed than I, offers a fine thought at the close of day:
May the victims and their families and loved ones find peace. To those who went to war and continue at war, military and civilian alike, responding to that aggression — thank you for your service. To those who have been lost in that service, again military and civilian alike, ave atque vale.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Artist Formerly Known as a Smellebrity

There was a flurry of media attention around Prince this week, in connection with an ongoing legal dispute regarding his fragrance 3121. The headline at TMZ set the tone: “Prince: Stinky Perfume Deal Could Cost Him Millions.” With the exception of Daniel Wise’s report in the New York Law Journal, most of the coverage offered cheap schadenfreude and little analysis.

Yet a look at the actual legal filing reveals quite a juicy story.

The dispute is between Prince and Revelations Perfume and Cosmetics Inc., the Pennsylvania-based company with the license deal for the fragrance. 3121 was released in 2007 and named after Prince’s 2006 album. The scent had gross sales of only $1.3 million and failed commercially. Revelations claims that was because Prince failed to promote it as he had agreed. So they sued him (and his music publisher) in 2008, claiming “fraudulent inducement and tortious interference with contract.” Revelations is on the hook for $3.9 million in production and marketing costs, which they want Prince to pay in addition to lost profits and punitive damages.

So far it sounds like a standard business dispute. Look a little closer, however, and the weirdness emerges. According to Wise, Prince’s original attorney withdrew late last year
after “complaining that the firm had not been paid “for months” and that Prince had “failed to comply with basic discovery obligations.”
After allegedly stiffing his own lawyer, Prince then failed to appear at a court hearing in New York in December. This resulted in a default judgment in favor of Revelations—with the upshot that all facts alleged by Revelations are deemed admitted. Having handed the company a victory, Manhattan Acting Supreme Court Justice Bernard J. Fried had to rule on the validity of its specific claims, i.e., figure out how much money they were owed. Here he followed standard procedure and appointed a Special Referee to look into the matter and make recommendations. It was the Special Referee’s report, made public last week, that sparked the news stories.

The referee interviewed Revelations founder and President/CEO Larry Couey. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, it should. Many years ago he founded Parfums de Coeur, the outfit that marketed the much derided cheeseball fragrances called “Designer Imposters®.”
If you like Clinique® Happy®, you’ll love our Wanna Play?
After selling Parfums de Cour, Couey went on to work for other companies including Perfumer’s Workshop and Gryphon Development; the latter developed fragrances for Victoria’s Secret and Bath and Body Works. He founded Revelations in 1998. The company’s claim to fame is Stoked, the perfume by Bethany Hamilton. [Who?—Ed.] [The surfer teen whose arm was bitten off by a shark.] [Oh.—Ed.]

As Couey tells it (and we have only his testimony because Prince failed to defend himself) he happened to meet one of Prince’s reps in L.A. and was invited to pitch a fragrance project to the Purple One in Minneapolis. There he proposed a routine licensing deal in which Prince would get 6% of net profits. Prince wanted more than that; he “countered with a proposed joint venture that included a 50/50 percent split of net profits between Revelations and Prince.”
He [Couey] recalled Prince suggested the fragrance could have exposure on the Oprah Winfrey Show or promoting it in upcoming concert tours, press releases, personal appearances and that his intimate involvement would assure success.

Couey testified it was at this first meeting where Prince represented that he would support the product in any way, shape or form. Couey responded that if Prince was willing to do the same, then Revelations was willing to do a 50/50 split of profit.
Imagine Couey’s frustration when, after Prince refused an interview with Women’s Wear Daily and to negotiate a date with the Oprah Winfrey Show, he was told by the performer’s people that “Prince does not do interviews.” Nor, apparently, does he do photos of himself holding his own fragrance, nor allow his name to be used on the bottle or outer packaging.

Unlike the absurd story of Julian “Franck” Rouas and his dealings with Joe Jackson regarding a Michael Jackson scent, Larry Couey’s account of his involvement with Prince sounds more than plausible. On the basis of Prince’s enthusiasm for the project, Couey began development work even before the lawyers had finished the formal business agreement. The timetable was reasonable, fragrance development was handed to a major house (Givaudan), and work was begun on bottle and package design. Yet even as Prince reviewed designs and perfume trials, he began to hedge on the use of his image and name.

The July, 2007, launch at Macy’s in Minneapolis was supposed to include an exclusive performance at the store by Prince. Couey was surprised to find that Prince had scheduled a full concert that day. (At the Target Center in Minneapolis, no less; the Macy’s people almost blew a gasket.) Revelations “repackaged the launch” as a ticket-with-fragrance-purchase, at a cost of $150,000 in tickets. In addition,
Couey also testified that Revelation contributed another $150,000.00, as a direct payment into an account held by Prince’s attorney, one Mr. Cousins, in Florida.
Eeuuuwww. Icky. Very icky.

Couey’s testimony to the Special Referee is the story of a business relationship gone wrong. It has a convincing nightmare quality about it—the zombies are chasing you but you are stuck in the mud. You are trying to promote a Prince perfume but the star won’t lift a finger.

A little Googling suggests a different spin. In a 2007, Philadelphia’s City Paper published an article by Ashlea Halpern called “A Hint of Paisley: How local company Revelations put Prince in a bottle.”
Couey was in California last summer meeting with the agent of one-armed surfer Bethany Hamilton, the spokesteen for Revelations’ Stoked brand, when, as luck would have it, Universal Music Group was convening next door. Couey caught wind that Prince wanted to launch a perfume named after his new album, 3121, but was unhappy with his label’s choice of company. “He didn’t want a huge conglomerate,” explains Couey, who two weeks later flew to Minneapolis to seal the deal with the artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known As.

“Even though he has a pretty wild persona onstage, he’s very soft-spoken, sincere and serene when you meet him,” says Couey, adding that he and the Purple One bonded immediately over their Midwestern upbringing.

Couey says it took six weeks to get the top notes right in 3121. “That’s it!” Prince finally cried, snapping his fingers. “Right there, that’s it. Done! Don’t change another thing!”

Unlike other celebrity stinkums, Prince’s name and face are nowhere to be found on the 3121 box. This is deliberate. From the start, Prince said he wanted to build the brand on its own merits, not on his Midas touch.
[Emphasis added.]
Hmmm . . . Is this Couey admitting that Prince’s name and face were, in fact, never part of the deal? Or was this Couey trying to put a happy face on Prince’s refusal to honor the deal?

It also appears this is not the first time that perfume has landed Prince in hot water. In 1995, his self-produced Go Wild came a cropper of Jackie Collins who had released her own scent, Wild, seven months earlier. She sued Prince for copyright infringement, based on similarity of the names and box design.

Prince is something of a diva, having butted heads with record labels and fans alike. But he is unquestionably a talented and creative musician. Meanwhile, the ersatz Justin Bieber has no beef with “huge conglomerates” and when his handlers request a Macy’s appearance to promote his perfume he shows up—at some personal risk!

In the end, Mr. Crespo, the Special Referee, granted Revelations’s claim for $3.9 million in net losses. He denied their claim for potential lost profits on the grounds that they basically pulled the profit projections out of their butt (he used more elegant legal phraseology). He refused punitive damages because Prince’s behavior did not meet the legal standard of morally culpable, willful misconduct, nor was it the result of evil or reprehensible motives.

Exit question: Which does Prince want more—his own fragrance or the chance to jerk other people around?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

One Mighty Drop in the Bucket

Ah, to be alive once again in the heady days of pre-launch publicity, back in December, 2009, when The Fragrance Foundation was ready to unleash its epic new advertising campaign:
A dynamic, key component of the multi-media strategy will be an extremely fun, interactive and innovative microsite “” designed to bring the campaign to life. The site will be the central hub of the campaign, designed to inform, engage and excite the consumer about fragrance. With a few clicks, you will be able to find a fragrance, design your own bottle, read personal perfume stories, get tips and hints from fragrance insiders including how to wear, frequently asked questions and current trends in fragrance. will harness all the power of social networking to spread the word via Facebook, Twitter and featured blogs.

“It’s all about the transformative powers of fragrance and the endless possibilities only limited by your imagination”, comments Stephen Niedzwiecki, owner, founder and creative director of the influential New York based advertising and design company YARD, who created the campaign and developed the microsite together with his business partner and planning director Ruth Bernstein.
Checking the Alexa web traffic rankings this morning, we noticed that had vanished from the radar: “We don’t have enough data to display the traffic metrics for”

Heckuva job, Stevie.

From the get-go, we didn’t hesitate to call this one lame campaign.

One year ago we drew attention to the nosedrive in OMD’s web traffic. Our little snark fest is now the fourth result on a Google search for “one mighty drop.”

Why has traffic now plunged to Alexa extinction? It appears the OMD site has returned to the mother ship: it redirects to The Fragrance Foundation home page, where there is little trace of the former “dynamic,” “extremely fun,” “interactive” microsite. At the time of its humiliating reabsorption, there were only 12 other sites linking to it. As for the rest of the multi-media strategy, the OMD Twitter feed has a grand total of 146 followers, and its Facebook page has 382 likes.

Will the last visitor please turn out the lights?

P.S. Can you spot the missing anatomical feature on the model The Fragrance Foundation is using to promote perfume use? That’s right! She has no nostrils.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Transparency of Human Sex Pheromones

It looks like the emperor-has-no-clothes pushback against the concept of human sex pheromones is getting some traction in the popular press. Susan Perry, in a post at, is exceptionally blunt: “Our body odors are not subliminal mating signals.” She highlights an article in Slate by Randi Hutter Epstein subtitled “Don’t trust the hype about pheromones and sexual attraction.

Epstein’s piece spurred a raucous series of comments, including several by the tireless James V. Kohl, for whom it seems that every piece of evidence for human chemical communication is proof that the pheromone concept as brought forth in 1959 is true in its entirety and completely applicable to humans.

Perry’s piece also features a James V. Komment, which boils down to “Check out my poster about the emperor’s button: obvs he’s wearing the most beautiful, triple-stitched, silk-lined, fur-collared robe evah.”

Surprisingly, JVK is upstaged by Ross (aka Bubba) Nicholson who comment spams his latest publication, Exocrinology: The Science of Love, 2nd Edition; Human Pheromones in Criminology, Psychiatry, and Medicine.

The book’s Kindle product description from Amazon makes some startling claims:
Exocrinology The Science of Love Human Pheromones in Criminology, Psychiatry, and Medicine describes human chemical ecology, the physiology of kissing and hugging, and the passing of human pheromones to explain criminology, psychiatry, addiction pathology and pheromonal sexual orientation. The book begins with home remedies for juvenile delinquency, puberal running away, heroin and cocaine addiction, and unwanted sexual deviancies. The remedy has allowed Charlie Sheen and his Hollywood colleagues to break clear of addiction and perversion. Ellen Page of Inception and Juno fame, is now entirely heterosexual, as are Jessica Simpson and Leelee Sobieski who were earlier recipients.

Exocrinology’s epigenetic pheromones provide explanation for most of the rest of human pathology. The autoimmune disease signs and symptoms find a coherent systematic elucidation, with recommended pheromone therapies for remediation.

This day will be long remembered. Publication of Exocrinology The Science of Love will mark the emergence of modern medicine from the dark ages of psychological catastrophe and the beginning of a new era for humanity.

This book’s power to cure criminal behavior alone will provide trillions of dollars in economic benefit to humanity. Human pheromones provide the final epigenetic key to the medical puzzles of human behavior, physical and mental illness. Pheromones, their deficiencies, receptions, and excesses, accommodate the synthesis of economic, neuroanatomical, physiological, chemical, and behavioral evidence into a new theory of sociopathy and disease: the pheromone theory of love and illness. Surely this book will irrevocably revolutionize human social organization. We must use this new knowledge wisely and well. This is a book of genius. This is a book for the ages.
So who is the author of this book of genius? Here’s the About the Author section from the paperback edition of similar Nicholson opus:
Bubba Nicholson (1954-present) is the ultimate insider. As a teenager, he was instrumental in the decisions of three US Presidents to run for the office. He invented the modern meaning of the word Inclusive and the concept of inclusive democracy. He conceived the Deadbeat Dad Laws that found a state interest in enforcing alimony and child support. Nicholson proposed The HOPE Scholarships that lifted Georgia into the 21st century, with college education for millions of people. It was Nicholson who insisted Spielberg film E.T. and Schindler’s List and it was his idea to film Star Wars. He created and wrote the stories for Avatar, Titanic, Inception, Forrest Gump, The Matrix, and dozens more. Those are his speeches in Braveheart, Juno, and 300. Aside from the $1 and microcassettes for the saxophone cave solo (originally flute) in Dead Poets Society, Nicholson never took compensation for helping Hollywood, citing its ill effect on creativity. Now Nicholson’s great scientific genius is brought to bear on the greatest social and medical problems of our time. “This is why I went to medical school! Hotcho Momma!”
Mr. Nicholson should tell his publicist to take it down a notch. Then again, the rhetoric is consistent with Nicholson’s own approach to establishing authorial credibility. In the Preface to the first edition of Exocrinology, Nicholson explains why his views haven’t yet achieved the scientific renown they deserve. It is due to his “Spielberg show business association” (above) and his “youthful political associations.”
My helps to successful politicians (e.g. the Bushes (villainous fiends who murdered JFK, MLK, RFK, LBJ, George Wallace and many more), the Clintons, Julian Bond, Zell Miller, Ann Richards, Strobe Talbot, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: “Privatization”, “Deadbeat Dad Laws”, “Inclusive Democracy”, “HOPE Scholarships”, “Freedom of Religion Rules in the Federal Workplace” have helped our country, but serve only to disparage me among the various science tribes.
Damn those intolerant science tribes. Mr. Nicholson sounds just like the trusted authority we need to spread the word about human sebum being the cure for crime and lesbianism. What else can he shed light upon?
The JFK assassination and almost all following American assassinations were conducted to appease Barbara Bush’s sexual lusts. [I knew it!—Ed.] Her vengeful husband, the cuckold George H.W. Bush, carried it off.
I recall meeting Bubba Nicholson when I worked at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in the last century. He had a notion about kissing being a behavioral mechanism for transferring behavior-activating sebum from one person to another. Plausible. But no way am I buying that crap about Strobe Talbot.

[Hat tip to FN reader Steve S.]