Wednesday, March 30, 2011

David Suzuki’s Environmentalist War on Perfume

David Suzuki, a former fruit fly geneticist, is now an aging television celebrity thanks to the government-funded largess of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (where he hosts The Nature of Things). Suzuki is a standard-issue environmental scold. Lately he has trumpeted his harangues from the ramparts of the modestly named David Suzuki Foundation.

Suzuki is also an environmental hypocrite of Al Gore proportions. While he lectures the rest of us on the importance of sustainability he owns a big second home on a large property in a pricey area of Vancouver. He has not one, not two, not three, not four, but five children. During a recent speaking tour, his large diesel bus was left idling during his lectures.

And then there are the little touches: behaving like a douchebag at his own book signings and calling for the jailing of politicians who don’t toe his particular line of climate science. David Suzuki’s smug self-satisfaction did not develop late in life; here is a video of him preening before a bunch of adoring undergraduates in the 1960s. They love it when he compares humans to maggots—wow, man, that’s like, so deep.

How does Suzuki light up our radar here at FirstNerve? Certainly not through his knowledge of smell and odor perception. You Are the Earth: Know the Planet So You Can Make It Better, is a book for elementary school kids that Suzuki co-authored with Kathy Vanderlinden. On page 16 we find this gem of misinformation:
“As the air rushes along the nasal chamber, getting warmed and moistened, it passes the olfactory bulb. This area sends messages to the brain about the odor of the air coming in.
The only way air rushes past your olfactory bulb is if the base of your skull is fractured and your brain is exposed. If Dr. Suzuki doesn’t understand the basic anatomy of olfaction, how far can we trust him on any other smelly topic?

Two weeks ago we were treated to another bit of his patented finger-wagging: an editorial titled "Has your workplace gone fragrance-free yet?" In it, Suzuki and one of his foundation’s
dronescommunication specialists blamed everything from sneezing to cancer on fragrance chemicals—not one of which do they bother to mention by name. (Smear much?)

This latest eco-alarmism is a follow up to last October’s “news story” carried by Suzuki’s ever-obliging enablers at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: “David Suzuki targets ‘dirty dozen’ toxic ingredients”.

The “news story” is a completely uncritical account of “a chemical survey” conducted by the David Suzuki Foundation. The story quotes from the foundation report, from a foundation spokeswoman, and no one else. The graphic slugged “The Dirty Dozen” is reprinted in full, “courtesy the David Suzuki Foundation.”

You might think a “chemical survey” is carried out by experts in a laboratory with, you know, chemicals. Silly you. The Suzuki survey was conducted online. They posted their “dirty dozen” list—ingredients which the Suzuki Foundation alleges are harmful to humans or “to fish and other wildlife”—and asked people to search for those ingredients in consumer products in their homes. A total of 6,200 people responded with 12,550 products, many of which contained the specified ingredients. All of which proves . . . absolutely fucking nothing.

Suzuki foundation logic runs like this: we think these widely used ingredients are bad; by asking a lot of anonymous people on the internet, we’ve determined that these ingredients are widely used. Therefore they should be banned. Because we think they’re bad.

This is not science. This is not even an argument. This is a seventy-five-year-old man’s tantrum.

David Suzuki is to environmentalism what Hugh Hefner is to sex: a gibbering, dessicated parody kept in the public eye by a compliant media pushing a progressive agenda.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

American Smellscapes: Southwest Florida

Amy Bennett Williams at the News-Press interviews a few locals about the vivid smellscapes of Southwest Florida. My favorite recollection is from long-time resident Jeff McCullers:
“The long-lost smells of downtown Fort Myers when I was a child: fresh popcorn at the Arcade Theater and the Edison ‘Rocking Chair’ Theater, the leafy goodness of the Arcade Cigar Store, the bay rum gushing out of Happy’s Barber Shop, roasted almonds in the old fair exhibit building at Terry Park, and the pungent smell of hay, biddies, rat poison and sweet feed at Futral’s. The crisp tannin and fragrant moss of the Estero River. The heavy, syrupy smell of my grandmother making guava jelly.”
[Biddies is an old term for chickens, esp. hens. Had to look it up . . . –Ed.]

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Really Crappy Idea for a Fragrance

I smell the poop of an Englishman,
Be he artist, or be he fraud,
I’ll use his work to write my blawg.
Based on his portfolio, I suspect English artist Jammie Nicholas is a recent graduate of the Acme Correspondence School of Transgressive Art. He created Surplus, his perfume concept project, last year but it is only now getting attention.

Who knows, it could start a whole new movement.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor: Sic transit gloria mundi

Elizabeth Taylor had a lot of claims on our attention here at FirstNerve, not least for pioneering the celebrity fragrance market. More poignantly for us, her departure breaks the last great link to the era of Smell-O-Vision. Taylor had only a ten-second long, uncredited, aromatic cameo in The Scent of Mystery, but her stewardship of Mike Todd, Sr.’s estate ensured that the film and Hans Laube’s Smell-O-Vision technology would have their glorious moment in the cinematic sun.

In the West Seattle Herald, Steve Shay hands on an Elizabeth Taylor story from his news photographer father Art, who took this wonderful photo of her at the after-party to the movie’s Chicago premiere in 1960.

Personally, our favorite movie of hers was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. But for a full appreciation of Taylor as a woman and actress, read the feisty and insightful Camille Paglia.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Emperor’s New Museum

From Thursday's NYT:
Unlike typical perfume displays, which make lavish use of bottles and packaging, this installation . . . will feature only sound and scent
FirstNerve sent its ace team of dumpster divers out to Columbus Circle yesterday and they struck gold. They found a draft copy of the Museum of Arts and Design’s layout for the new perfume display:

They also retrieved the museum’s grant application to the National Endowment for the Arts:

And here is the curator’s detailed proposal for the first exhibit:

Finally, there is this:
Mr. Burr is also planning retrospectives of renowned perfumers’ work
FirstNerve is pleased to give your this sneak peek at the Museum of Arts and Design’s upcoming exhibition schedule.
July 15 to December 6, 2011
Jean-Claude Ellena: The Early Years—Top Notes of Fury

January 8 to April 22, 2012
Jean-Claude Ellena Midstream: The Heart of a Genius

June 1 to September 20, 2012
Jean-Claude Ellena: The Late Work—Drydown is Forever

November 7, 2012 to February 15, 2013
Sillage of a Giant: Creative Perfumery in the Wake of Jean-Claude Ellena

December 12, 2012
Invitation-only book party for publication of
Jean-Claude Ellena: Le catalogue raisonnĂ©, an exhaustive 350-blank-page scratch-and-sniff archive of the Master’s lifetime oeuvre.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chicken Fried Steak for People in Relationships

A new cookbook promises to reduce not the volume of your post-prandial gas attacks (that’s what Beano is for—and we already have a case of it delivered weekly to FirstNerve Manor), but the offensiveness of the odor. Elena Ferretti gives an enthusiastic review to Fart Without Fear: Comfort Food for Uncomfortable Times, by Wayne Chen and Gary Goss. The authors claim that foods rich in the sulfur containing amino acids methionine and cystine yield the stinkiest farts; think chicken fried steak (open the window!) or turkey club sandwiches (run for the hills!). Their solution is to offer modified versions of traditional recipes that will render your emissions less toxic. Sounds like the perfect gift for everyone in your carpool. Order The Fart Without Fear Cookbookthrough the Amazon link in this post and you’ll help keep us in Beano at no cost to yourself.

As Jacques Pepin would say, happy eating!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sniffing Natalie’s Knickers

Don’t read the trade rags because you think they’re boring? Think again. If not for the UK version of PrintWeek we never would have found this delightful story about the April issue of Bizarre Magazine. It goes on sale today and features a latex-clad model with rubber-scented scratch-and-sniff on the cover.

Bob Guccione would have been be so proud . . .

Bizarre bills itself as the magazine for the Alternative Community, whatever that might be. People with eyeliner and skeevy tats, evidently. On the other hand, we may have something in common with them. If we found the new issue in our dentist’s office we would definitely read this story: “Stinky Kinks - Bizarre explores the fetid world of foul smell fetishes.”

You Can’t Handle the Classics!

Because you are too, you know, young.

Fragrance-maker Thierry Wasser explained that when formulating the juice, he opted to remove some of the more intimidating notes, such as leather, from the formulation.

So buy our fragrance classics with training wheels instead.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

ISDP: The Drought is Over

It’s been a tough winter for our morbid fan base. Each month FirstNerve reaches deep into the darkest regions of odor space to retrieve news items beginning with the incantatory phrase “a foul odor” and ending, inevitably, with the most unsettling of discoveries. But in January and February we could offer our lugubrious readers only the slimmest of pickings. This month we are able to make amends.

We begin on the Far South Side of Chicago—yes, farther south than even the leafy precincts of Mr. Obama’s Hyde Park—where a utility worker noticed a “foul odor” and discovered a body “covered in leaves and branches.” The deceased, a man in his 40s, died of multiple gunshot wounds. The Cook County Medical Examiner has ruled the death a homicide.

We turn next to San Antonio, Texas, where a pair of teenage boys riding their bikes last Wednesday “noticed a foul smell coming from a drainage ditch.” They traced it to the badly decomposed body of a man. Teenage boys being what they are, they will no doubt bounce back from the psychological trauma and tell this story to great acclaim in bars for many years to come.

For Your Consideration

We are pleased to announce our first nominee for the 2011 Norman Bates Award. Meet 45-year-old Patrick Lara, of Merced, California.

Mr. Lara’s uncle, who was 63, broke his arm on January 22nd and died shortly thereafter, Mr. Lara having failed to call for medical assistance. Lara then used his dead uncle’s ATM card to withdraw cash, some of which he used to gamble at an Indian casino. But here’s what qualifies him for the Norman Bates Award: he lived with his deceased uncle for 30 days.

The victim’s body had begun to decay by the time it was discovered, and Lara said the smell forced him to turn on the swamp cooler. The cooler began leaking into the roof, causing it to collapse on the deceased man and coating the remains in mold.

Lara allegedly lived in the house the entire time. Relatives became suspicious when he kept forestalling their visits by making excuses.

The Merced County Sheriff’s Department has charged Lara with involuntary manslaughter pending the outcome of an autopsy.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

That’s Life in the Big City

Gothamist links to the Fox 5 news video about a lingering scent of human feces in the Herald Square subway station. The MTA placed a caution sign at the crime scene, but didn’t get around to, you know, actually cleaning it up until the Fox broadcast.

Afterward, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz declared:
Counter to Fox 5 claims, there were no feces at that location, but the pungent odor emanating from the area appears to stem from the homeless population there.

Well, then, no cause for complaint; it’s merely the pungent homeless population in the Herald Square station.

P.S. Wait a minute . . . did the MTA guy just compare the homeless to turds? Heartless bastard! (Mr. Ortiz must have attended the Rochelle Bloom School of Public Relations.)

P.P.S. [Stop harshing on Ms. Bloom. You'll never win a Best Blog FiFi at this rate.—Ed.]

P.P.P.S. Hey, here’s an idea. You know those highway signs that read “Litter removal next 3 miles provided by Acme Furniture”? How about “Air freshening in Herald Square station provided by The Fragrance Foundation.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

As Long as Grass Grow and Wind Blow and the Sky is Blue

Fire up the popcorn, it’s time for another installment of When Worlds Collide, our series on what happens when PC meets NIMBY. This week features an entertaining two-on-one grudge match.

The unincorporated town of Mecca, California lies at the north end of the Salton Sea in the agriculturally rich Coachella Valley. Since December, residents have filed 66 complaints about a bad smell from a 10 acre industrial site a couple of miles northwest of town. According to David Danelski of the Riverside Press-Enterprise, who’s been covering the story, the smell was bad enough that some elementary school students vomited.

The source of the stink appears to be Western Environmental, Inc. And what might it be—some outrageous industrial polluter? Why no, it’s a green company.

With the motto “making dirt clean again,” the plant recycles petroleum-contaminated soils that are trucked to Mecca from throughout Southern California. The tainted earth comes from former gas stations, oil derricks, industrial sites and other places where oil, gasoline and hydrocarbons have spilled or leaked.

The company uses special strains of bacteria and heating methods to remove hydrocarbons from huge volumes of earth that can be seen in big piles at the site. Once treated, the soil is re-used as road base, landfill cover and landscaping material.

What’s not to like? The smell, apparently. As with so many other green, eco-friendly environmental services, there’s an invisible cost borne by local residents: malodor.

In Mecca, residents got the attention of the local Air Quality Management District. It should have been a simple matter of citing Western Environmental, Inc. [WEI] for regulatory violations. But not so fast. WEI, is located “on land owned by the Cabazon Mission Band of Indians”. Which raises an interesting question:

Q: Can AQMD enforce its air quality regulations on tribal lands?

A. AQMD and other local and state agencies have no regulatory authority over activities on tribal lands including those located on the Cabazon Band of Mission Indian reservation. However, AQMD is working closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which has authority to enforce applicable federal environmental rules and regulations for activities located on tribal lands.

More popcorn, please!
As a result of our ongoing investigation into the odors affecting the community of Mecca, the AQMD has determined that a major source of foul odors impacting the community is an oil/water separation pond located at the Western Environmental, Inc. facility and an adjacent Waste Reduction Technologies’ soy-whey treatment pond, both located on the Cabazon Band of Mission Indian tribal lands and both operated by Western Environmental, Inc.
So far the EPA hasn’t found any federal violations at WEI. And since there is no federal statute against nuisance odors, the residents of Mecca may be shit out of luck. To be fair, however, WEI management has voluntarily responded to the odor complaints.
Mark Patton, a project manager at the plant, said the company did its part to reduce odors by shutting down a pond where oils were separated from wastewater.

The company this month moved about 20,000 gallons of oily water from a pond to a sealed metal tank at a cost of about $75,000, excluding labor, Patton said.

Oddly, a 20,000 gallon oily water pond does not seem to be one of the three processes touted by WEI on its website: thermal treatment, bio-remediation, or chemical fixation. Why would they leave oil contaminated water in a big pond? The oil would just evaporate . . . Oh! . . . [But that wouldn’t be green, would it?]

Here’s a fun fact about Native American culture: the tribe in question was last seen in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, 480 U.S. 202 (1987) which blew open the doors for the fabulous Indian casino binge.

Follow the legal logic, follow the money, and where do you end up? With an Indian Composting Facility coming to a neighborhood near you!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Anchovy Apocalypse

The Joe Jackson-Franck Rouas fragrance deal isn’t the only thing smelling a bit fishy these days. Redondo Beach, California is reeking after a massive fish die-off in the King Harbor basins. Natural causes are suspected—perhaps an algal bloom depleting oxygen levels in the water. Angelinos remain upbeat, as ever:

“Every indication is that this is a naturally occurring event,” a state Fish and Game official said. “It’s just a mess. It’s going to smell for a while, but the city’s doing a great job with the cleanup.”

Photos here and here.

UPDATE March 12, 2011

While oxygen depletion remains the immediate cause of the mass mortality, USC scientists have found high levels of domoic acid in the dead fish, suggesting a role for the algae bloom spotted offshore. The Los Angeles Times reports that more than 35 tons of stinky fish have been pulled from the harbor.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Say, What About Those New Michael Jackson Fragrances?

Back in January there was a lot of hoopla about Joe Jackson inking a fragrance deal based on his late son’s celebrity. The closer I looked at the deal and the characters involved, the louder rang the alarm on the FirstNerve Bogosity Meter. By post’s end it was in full claxon mode, just like the auto-destruct announcement aboard the Nostromo. It seemed to me unlikely that the fragrance house behind the deal would be able to deliver product in time for the announced March 7, 2011, launch event in Las Vegas.

Well, here we are on March 7 and a thorough search of the Web reveals . . . bupkis. So what happened to Jackson Legend for men, and Jackson Tribute: Timeless from Neverland for women?

The trail went cold immediately after the initial burst of publicity, although the Julian Rouas Paris corporate web site added a page with links to the PR. Otherwise, no follow-on press release, no promo for the launch event, nor mention of a delay. In fact, the YouTube video I embedded—an execrable commercial for the Julian Rouas Paris perfume Versailles—has since been “removed by the user.”

There’s a sad little FB page for “Fragrances by Joe Jackson - Julian Rouas Paris”. It has 18 “likes” and was last updated two months ago. Items dated Christmas Day were “liked” by none other than Cynthia Marven. It also has this indelible image:

Quick, now—climb into the escape pod, buckle up, and lower the sun-filter on your space helmet, because this deal is BLOWING UP!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Nostalgie de la moo

Some of you are still grieving over the George Clooney fragrance that will never be. To speed the healing process, why not jump on the latest scent craze from Bavaria: Stallduft. That’s right: authentic cow barn aroma in a can; the mellow asmophere of a straw-filled wooden stable and all the relevant bovine emissions.

Ah, sweet elixir of the countryside. And for only €5.95 a can.

Actually, this doesn’t strike me as a totally crazy product concept. In researching What the Nose Knows, I found lots of autobiographical accounts of farm smellscapes. Barns and stables have an entire repertoire of smells—hay, livestock, saddle leather, wood, woolen blankets—that is potently evocative to those who grew up with it.

What I like about Stallduft is the locality-specific angle. Not just any cow farts: Bavarian cow farts.

To get a can you’ll have to know someone; right now they’re only shipping to Germany and Austria. Das ist eine Schade.

Hat tip: Jammie Wearing Fool

Celebuscents: The Perfect Storm of Self Satisfaction

What celebrity wouldn’t want his own fragrance?

George Clooney apparently. He’s reported to have scuttled a Coty deal by demanding $30 million.

Marie-Helene Wagner wonders if it’s because he’s just not that into fragrance. I think it’s because he’s too into himself—he’s trapped in an enormous cloud of smug.