Thursday, July 29, 2021

Commie Couture


Jing Daily, which alleges to be all about “the business of luxury in China,” has a recent piece on China’s “patriotic perfume boom.” The story condescendingly puts Western fragrance brands on notice while promoting the new hotness: Guochao, which means “Chinese heritage hip.”

Long gone are the days when established global brands could simply crack the Chinese market with a French label and a cliché image portraying an actress wearing the scent during a night walk in Paris. In a market that is increasingly being dominated by up-and-coming Chinese brands, Guochao-themed shopping festivals, and openly patriotic influencers, international perfume houses can no longer claim to be the authoritative gatekeepers of refined taste.

Uh oh. Sounds like trouble for Chanel and Estée Lauder and all the other mega-brands that want to slurp down that sweet, sweet ChiComm money.

Guochao brands are increasingly turning toward local lifestyles for inspiration.

Well, fair enough! Maybe we can help. We locked the FirstNerve marketing team into a windowless conference room and had them brainstorm new Guochao fragrance concepts. Here’s what they came up with:

Kowtow by Lebron James. A sports cologne from the hoops legend himself.

Slave to Love by the Uyghur Autonomy Region Committee. A people, a place, an attitude.

BSL No. 4 by Shi Zhengli. Die Fledermaus turned into a Chinese opera and captured in a bottle.

Lie Flat. The effortless fragrance for slackers.

Deep Cover by Tang Juan. Your scent, your secret.

Kowloon Memories. The scent of freedom fading in the wind.

1989 Chang’an Avenue. Feel the power, fight the force.

Honey Pot, the alluring new scent from Fang Fang.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

We’re here! We’re here! Casa Bonita!


If this story from THR is correct, Denver’s pandemic-shuttered and bankrupt Casa Bonita restaurant may soon re-open under the ownership of Matt Stone and Trey Parker. The longtime sentimental favorite featured much entertainment but only so-so Mexican food. It shouldn’t be hard to improve the menu, but Parker also has other ideas:
“I was already thinking about how I was going to make Black Bart’s Cave a little bigger.”

As Eric Cartman once said, “I think we should go through Black Bart's Cave right away ‘cause, we’re gonna wanna do it seven or eight times.”

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Make Way for Dionne Warwick

Many in my generation vividly remember Dionne Warwick’s hit songs of the 60s: Walk On By (1964), I Say a Little Prayer (1967), and DoYou Know the Way to San Jose? (1968). The slickly orchestrated pop tunes (by Burt Bacharach and Hal David) were a perfect match to Warwick’s effortless high voice and precise delivery.

So what brings her to mind? Why, a press release from Fragrance Creators Association:

Fragrance Creators Association has announced that DDD3 Inc., owned by entertainer, entrepreneur and philanth­ropist Dionne Warwick, has joined its membership of more than 60 large and small businesses spanning the fragrance supply chain.

My reactions were, in descending order:

“That’s nice, Dionne Warwick is still alive.” (She is 80 years old.)

“What on earth does she have to do with fragrance?”

It turns out she launched a single, self-named perfume back in 1986. Dionne must not have been too memorable—there is no mention of it on and only a placeholder on Basenotes. Good luck trying to find a collectible bottle on eBay.

According to the FCA blurb, she plans to relaunch Dionne “in response to popular demand.” Or perhaps to leverage attention from her recent nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Or perhaps to climb out of her 2013 bankruptcy and deal with an epic $7 million owed to the IRS.

DDD3, Inc., the company named in the press release, is not a fragrance house. It appears to be the corporate entity that books her ongoing musical performances. Warwick’s contract rider can be found online. Alas, it contains nothing as outrageous as Van Halen’s no-brown-M&Ms clause. Sure, Ms. Warwick must be flown first class, but most of the rider concerns stage lighting, rehearsal timing, and orchestra staffing (“Three (3) trombones-two (2) tenor & one (1) bass”). Her dressing room requirements are not particularly diva-ish. She prefers Pepsi (“No Coca Cola or Diet Sodas”), Cristal (“Two (2) bottles of Cristal Champagne per concert (NO SUBSTITUTES)” and is very specific about the fruit plate:

Fresh fruit platter: sliced pineapples, green seedless grapes, sliced watermelon, sliced honeydew melon, sliced cantaloupe melon and bananas. If any of the above fresh fruit is not in season, contact road manager.

Ms Warwick is entitled to earn whatever the market will bear and she is certainly playing every card she can as she climbs out of a deep financial hole. What lingers in the mind, however, is why the Fragrance Creators Association sees fit to include her and her company in its membership on the basis of a one-off scent that vanished after launch 35 years ago.

Friday, July 2, 2021

More Baloney about AI


Some years ago, in What the Nose Knows, I wrote about e-noses and their value to us in the future. I thought it was a rather mixed bag: 

At some point in the development of these fusions of silicon and biology, the question becomes not whether the e-nose can replace the human nose, but whether we want it to. Would I let an e-nose sniff-scan me for lung cancer? Sure. Would I use a robotic odor sentinel? Maybe, especially if I had a B.O. problem. But do I really want my refrigerator to tell me, “I’m sorry, Avery, I can’t let you eat those cold cuts”?

(For full effect you have to imagine the fridge speaking in the voice of HAL, the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey.)

I remain a fridge-primitivist: I recently bought one that not only isn’t “smart” but has no automatic ice-cube maker. Still, the dream lives on for some people including Ashok Prabhu Masilamani, founder of Canadian tech company Stratuscent which makes a chip that can detect various volatile molecules in the air. He’s quoted in today’s WSJ in an article by Benoit Morenne headlined “A new frontier of AI-enabled gadgets.”

E-noses could also be integrated in smart fridges to detect early signs of expiring food and guide users to items that will expire next, says Dr. Masilamani. Scientists at the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore have developed a colored bar code that reacts to gasses from decaying food and a bar code reader that uses AI models to predict food freshness, according to a study published in the Advanced Materials journal in October.

The dream never dies . . .

The WSJ piece also discusses AI-enabled toilets that can analyze your stool sample at the time of delivery. Again, imagine the AI toilet speaking with the voice of HAL:

“Avery, you need to cut back on the kimchi. I have made you an appointment with a gastroenterologist.”

On second thought it would be much better if the AI spoke with the accent of an 18th Century royal physician in England:

“Good news. A fetid and a stinking stool.”
[Assembled colleagues nod in agreement.]
“The colour good, well shaped, and a prodigious quantity.”