My thoughts on the FromPyrgos/Bigslyfragrance blog “debate.”

Many of you probably perceive some kind of “debate” going on between myself and the author of FromPrygos. For me, a debate involves the participation of a moderator who is competent and not biased, and that is clearly not the case here. Instead, I view blogs as a way of making one’s opinion known to anyone who is interested. If others disagree vehemently there is nothing stopping them from creating their own blog and making those opinions known. In this case, it seems to me that the author of FromPyrgos thinks that he has a monopoly on truth, whereas I am simply stating my tentative opinion on various ideas/topics relating to my olfactory experiences. I’ve pointed out that it’s not uncommon for certain notes to be more prominent during a particular wearing, whereas during others those same notes seem quite weak, for example. My point here is that there seems to be a fundamental disagreement between us, and that many if not most of the “issues” are related to it.

An example is from a recent and very long FromPyrgos post about Basenotes.net threads. I am criticized because I posted a response to a Basenotes’ thread about Memoir Man. The person who started the thread was interested in obtaining a bottle of MM at the lowest cost possible, but he went on to ask, “Also what are your thoughts on Memoir Man?” I pointed out that Brit for Men was not only close enough for me, but that I preferred it to MM. For some reason, the author of FromPyrgos thinks this is inappropriate. I feel that this is the very point of such web sites, because you never know what you might learn that you never even imagined before! Clearly, there is another fundamental disagreement here between our ways of conceptualizing various scent-related topics. I don’t see this as a case of someone being “right” and another being “wrong,” as the person who started the post can totally ignore me if he wishes.

So, I will continue to write about what I find interesting, informative, etc. in my olfactory experiences (or things I can relate to them), and you the reader can decide what value it possesses. If I read something on FromPyrgos that I think is worthy of commentary, I’ll certainly discuss it, but I realize that it’s often the case that people will sometimes have to “agree to disagree,” and there is nothing wrong with that situation. I am all for a formal debate, but if that can’t be arranged I am comfortable just writing about my thoughts on scents here at this blog. I enjoy reading what others have to say, though disagreement is quite common, but to me that is what makes things interesting, and I have no intention of trying to convince others that I am correct and that anyone who disagrees with me is wrong. This “debate” reminds me of arguments between students of Pythagoras and those of Heraclitus, and I’ll end by saying that I find myself often thinking that I can’t step into the same olfactory river twice !

One strange thing I have noticed at FromPyrgos is that the author seems to want to make a point that he feels is important, but then discusses a blog post of mine (which has a different point), as if it my post is “wrong” because it is not related to his point! It is possible to use the same information or evidence to make different points, but he doesn’t seem to understand this. For example, I certainly can’t say for sure if the person who saw “0% similarity” between Memoir Man and Brit for Men is a “fan boy” or not (I’m not a “mind reader”). I was arguing that this is what I have come to expect from such people over the years; that is indeed what a “niche fan boy” might say! The FromPyrgos author claims that because he doesn’t think that particular thread at BN had “niche fan boy” aspects to it that it was inappropriate for me to write the post or to use that statement in it, but I see nothing wrong with how I discussed the topic. Those who wish can search BN or other sites for threads they do think are characteristic of “niche fan boy” posts and decide my perception seems accurate or not. By contrast, I am not interested in his claim that the particular thread had no “niche fan boy” characteristics. There is no way to be sure that anyone has ever been a “niche fan boy;” it’s just something I felt might be the case and was worth mentioning to those who don’t know that some expensive scents might smell very similar inexpensive ones, at least to them. Blogs do not serve to determine what “ultimate truth” is !

Another example concerns his notion that I called a scientist a “newbie nose.” To me this is quite tangential to the point of that post, but my guess is that he is indeed a “newbie nose,” based upon his claim about Old Spice smelling similar to Le Baiser du Dragon (I strongly doubt he has studied nearly as many scents in the way I have, for example). The only way we could be sure is if we tested him in a way everyone could agree upon, which of course if not likely to happen any time soon. However, whether he is a “newbie nose” or not, I said that I thought this is the kind of thing such a “nose” would say, though it’s something that I might say during a first sampling as well, which is why I’ve almost always worn a scent twice before writing up a review (I’d say I’ve done this for at least 2 to 3 years now), or else I say that it’s a “first dab sampling.” Moreover, these days I tend to avoid saying that two scents smell alike without further, detailed explanation, and I have pointed out on many, many occasions that I largely avoid top notes and that the reader should keep that in mind. Again, I speak from my experiences, and for someone to say that LDdD smells like OS without saying anything else is what I have come to read in “newbie” reviews. It is not the main point of that blog post and anyone can go head and read a huge amount of reviews if the notion of “newbie nose” is that important to him or her.

So, the “bottom line” is that I view many if not all of this person’s “criticisms” as harping on tangential things that would require hours of research and debate to possibly resolve, and I can’t imagine who in the world (other than the FromPrygos author) would care about whether a particular scientist is a “newbie nose” or not, especially when that is not relevant to the point being made in any case! To me it recalls a time I was dealing with two professors who were advising me on a paper. One told me that the word however should never be used at the beginning of a sentence. I then asked the other one to tell me what he thought of a paragraph I wrote in which one sentence began with “However” followed by a comma. He said it was well written and that it shouldn’t be changed. After that, I decided to write with the ideas of conciseness and clarity in mind, not concerning myself with such “issues.”

Thus, I do not intend to bring up these “criticisms” any more. If someone wants to think I am creating “straw man” arguments or doing anything else inappropriate, he or she can simply leave a comment and I’ll respond, just as long as there are no nasty comments, racial slurs, obscenities, etc. The FromPyrgos author has tried to leave comments about obvious “typo” errors and I did not publish them. I am doing this for free and yes, sometimes an error like that occurs (just as one can find in the books of some “great geniuses”). If anyone wants to be my copy editor or proofreader, I thank you for your time, but if you won’t read blogs that contain any “typo” errors, ever, then I suggest you stop reading this blog right now! Perhaps it would be best to state a “rule” (call it Bigslys Rule if you like) in this context: You can’t read someone elsse’s blog and tell them that they must conceptualize things the way you do; the point of a blog is for an individual to “showcase” his or her particular view of a subject. The best example of this may be the FromPyrgos author’s use of my comments about some things Roja Dove said in an interview:

Bigsly says that internet writers have, to his knowledge, never compared the two, but it is well known that Luca Turin calls the comparison meaningless in The Guide, stating that it’s like comparing “apples and pears,” and that the nose behind Envy tweaked it to compete with Pleasures, so Bigsly’s point is moot. These fragrances are common to so many things that they aren’t worth differentiating, especially when one was intentionally formulated to compete against another. But Bigsly doesn’t mention Turin’s review of Envy. He mischaracterizes the context in which Dove addresses these two fragrances by suggesting that Dove is the only person who compares them. He isn’t, and comparing them is pointless anyway.

What I did in fact was provide my assessment based upon what I can determine on sites like BN and Fragrantica, which may be true of a huge number of scent enthusiasts. I never claimed to have read every review of every scent ever marketed to the public in the last fifty years, but instead I am trying to figure out general ways of figuring out if someone’s opinion seems helpful. I don’t see how the fact that I don’t know every last detail of everything ever done in perfumery is relevant here. My point concerned trying to find people who write reviews that seem to reflect a “nose” similar to your own. He can believe I mischaracterized something, but I stated clearly that I never smelled these two scents. Thus, based upon what I read on the major sites about Envy and Pleasures, and Roja Dove’s claim that GIT and CW are nearly identical, I would not take his opinion very seriously in this context, despite that fact that he is a “great perfumer.” The author can believe that he is able to read my mind if he wishes, but I fail to see how I said anything inappropriate or unreasonable. I’m not sure if he doesn’t understand basic logic or if there is something else going on in his mind, but as I said up front, it seems that only a moderator could sort this out in a formal debate format, though what would be sorted out? What is the “worst” one could say about my notion? And should I have known Turin said something about a particular scent? If he doesn’t seem to have a similar “nose,” then according to my way of thinking, his reviews are not relevant in this context.

As I made clear in my argument, a person’s opinion (and that includes Turin) would only be of value to me if I thought his perception of scent is similar to mine, though it might possess some sort of “entertainment value.” In fact, I criticized the “Perfumes: The Guide” book long ago because in some cases reviews didn’t even include what the scent actually smelled like! You can apply your own standards to your own olfactory journeys, but you can’t claim that everyone else must follow those standards! This reminds me of something a professor said when I was in graduate school, which is that their role was not to make us into “intellectuals” but rather to teach us the methodology in our field. There is no methodology to wearing or appreciating scents; you are free to use them as you like. There are some common notions, such as that top notes are part of the overall experience. I’ve found that top notes are best if largely avoided, in terms of my overall appreciation of the scent. You can claim that this is not the case for you, but if you claim that this is not the case for me, then you are claiming to have “super powers” and my suggestion is to consult a mental health professional !

NOTE: I believe that what the author of FromPyrgos is doing here is what “Dr. Phil” calls “right fighting.” That is, a person tries to argue about minor points because he or she thinks that if he or she can “prove” that he or she is “right” in some context then the larger point can be pushed to the side. For example, a man who slaps his wife may talk about how she “provoked” him, and his specific claims about what she did may be true, but his physical assaults are unacceptable, no matter how obnoxious his wife may have behaved in the past. Another way of thinking about what this author does is reflected in the old saying about missing the forest because the trees get in the way, IMO. If he wants to debate what I consider to be a “major” issue, such as the subjectivity of scent perception, that’s fine, but arguing about things like whether I should have found some evidence for Dove’s contention that some people think Envy and Pleasures are nearly identical is something I find ridiculous. I just wanted to make my position clear here, and if anyone doesn’t understand what it is, please feel free to ask in the comment section.

Finally, I’d like to do something hypothetical I learned in graduate school here. Let’s say I do what the author of FromPyrgos seems to have wanted me to do. That is, I go to Basenotes.net and search for threads that seem to be good examples of “niche fan boy” comments. Now what? Suppose one blogger thinks this is not the case? What do I do then? Now, to move forward, let’s again hypothetically assume I can get everyone in the world to agree on that point. I can’t read the minds of the people who seem to be “niche fan boys” and in fact I can’t “prove” that anyone in the world is one. All I can do is to form an opinion based upon what I read. I really don’t understand his point here, as all I wanted to do was to point out to my readers that “niche fan boys” appear to me to exist and may have bias in the way they assess scents, trying to turn people away from less expensive alternatives (though I’m not claiming they are doing it deliberately). Any specific comment may only appear to be generated by such motivations (even if unconscious). Though he may not realize it, he seems to be setting a standard that would make it impossible for me or anyone else to address such issues (that is, if we took his notions seriously)! In the world not controlled by this person, it is the case that if the readers of this blog come across such comments and do not feel the statements are examples of “niche fan boy” activity, they can think as they like, but at least they will be aware of the possibility.

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