Uncooperative Rebels, Openings, and Preferences.

Some people like to view themselves as “contrarians” or “rebels,” and I’m guessing this is largely an under-40 phenomenon, especially for rebel. In my experience, such folk tend to use false equivalencies often. In politics, for example, they go to great lengths to justify one President’s actions, but then when a President from the opposing party is elected they criticize him harshly even though he is doing the same thing as his predecessor (and sometimes to a considerably lesser extent). The chess great, Bobby Fischer, seems to have been one such person – he certainly had his “rebellious” qualities. Towards the end of his life, he seems to have become a raving anti-Semite, spouting absolute nonsense at times. Despite this, a new film will soon be released about his winning the world chess champion title back in the early 1970s. My father became interested in chess at the time and taught it to me, and by my teen years I had taken it seriously, reading books about how the “great masters” played.

Fast forward to 2007/2008, when I became interested in fragrances. I noticed that some had the “traditional” three stages of development but most did not. Instead, I noticed that there was more of a two-part structure, with the first part being stronger but lasting a short period of time, a half hour being perhaps the average. After that a weaker stage began, which could last hours. I don’t know if I was thinking about chess, but when I began to write reviews I sometimes would say “the opening” rather than “this opens with,” and a few years later I noticed that many people were using this same phrasing. I don’t think there is anything “special” about it, but I do think it’s almost always better than thinking one will get the three stage development experience that is at least implied with most note pyramids supplied by the companies that produce the scents.

I did some research and couldn’t find any other use of the word opening in this way before I did, and I mentioned this a couple of times, mostly because I found it amusing. One blogger apparently thinks that I believe myself to be some sort of “genius” because of this notion, and has implied that I am lying or otherwise incorrect in thinking that I was the first to use the term in this way. I find it quite fascinating that anyone would care, one way or the other. I certainly don’t care, though I’d be curious to know for sure. If I were to imply what he did, I would find some evidence first, and this brings me to the rebel/contrarian issue, because it seems to me that people like this “shoot their mouths off” before actually doing any “fact checking” far too often. And now we have people who will say things like, “well I read it on a credible web site so I assumed it had to be true” (if confronted by an undeniable lie), and it’s almost always the case that calling the web site in question credible demonstrates very poor judgement in the first place !

This brings me to another thing a blogger has recently posted, though I’m not really sure I understand it. The claim is that notes or note pyramids are “phantoms.” Isn’t that redundant, such as calling someone an uncooperative rebel? Just about everyone who has studied these olfactory concoctions for a while knows that many “official” notes appear to be a figment of someone’s imagination. If you want “reality,” then you can read the list of ingredients, but even here there’s a problem, because consumers aren’t told exactly how much of each is used, and these are only the ingredients they are required to disclose, from what I understand (at least in most cases). In particular, my Fragrantica.com review of Aubusson Homme was criticized (again, I can’t say I understand what the blogger was trying to communicate):

Just did a quick ankle sampling along with a few others, so I’ll certainly have to update after a regular wearing. This does feel light at first, a bit fruity and fresh, but not in a dihydromyrcenol overdose kind of way. Instead, this smells natural and it’s somewhat dry; it’s definitely not too sweet. Over time a nice sandalwood note emerges. Don’t expect heavy patchouli, moss, or leather notes; this is more of a warm weather scent. Interestingly, there’s at least an impression of tobacco in the background, and I’m surprised at how nice this is, somewhat like Ho Hang Club or Halston’s Limited for Men, but not as floral or dense as those. Overall it’s a little creamy and with a mild woody texture, in some ways like a more natural smelling Code for Men by Armani (after a couple hours or so). I know my bottle is quite old, so perhaps it was reformulated into something different, especially considering the amount of stock I see on amazon now and the low prices.

UPDATE: With a regular wearing, I’d say I’m leaning towards Shamu1’s review. That is, it’s fresh and fruity at first but then it’s like a light version of Balenciaga Pour Homme, though without the animalic quality of that one. I get little moss or patchouli, but instead the dry woody quality is obvious, with the fruity/freshness hanging on for a long time at a considerably lower volume. Overall, it’s a little sweet and powdery.

Certainly, some will argue that this is or is not a helpful review, but I would never suggest that anyone buy a bottle ‘blind” based upon any one review, including my own! And I’ve said that at times I seem to be much more sensitive to certain notes, accords, or aroma chemicals than I am at other times. If I try a scent more than once (separated by at least a few weeks, usually) I feel more confident about my review. In this particular review you can get a good sense of that, as I now would not hesitate to tell someone that if he/she doesn’t like strong patchouli or “moss” that shouldn’t be a reason to avoid sampling this scent. Of course if the person is extremely sensitive to such notes, there could be an issue, but in such cases I would suggest that people avoid blind buying scents that list such notes, regardless of what the reviews say (assuming price is a consideration – if not, you can just give it to charity or as a gift, or try to swap it off).  The rebel/contrarian, though, will always find fault, no matter how much of a “mountains out of molehills” the issue is!

I was also criticized (implicitly) for my preference for Playboy’s VIP for Him (over Cotton Club for Men). I found this very odd as well (and also incomprehensible) because of how clear my review was:

First dab sampling: it seems most similar to Cotton Club for Men. This one seems a bit fruitier and less woody… The odd composition actually seems to balance things out so it doesn’t go too far in any direction…

In chess, you try to steer the opening in a direction that you prefer, and one that you hope makes your opponent uncomfortable. This blogger seems to be suggesting that one should wear a scent that he/she doesn’t like as much as another (even though the two are quite similar) because of some sort of objective standard by which to measure scents (apparently, some people think they can appoint themselves the Pope of Perfumery!). If anything were more subjective than scent, I’m not sure what that would be, and when you reach for a “super cheapo” any claim about the “art of perfumery” is beyond laughable. And so my conclusion is that “right fighting” with a rebel/contrarian personality is futile. One should simply make one’s case and let readers decide. There isn’t going to be any kind of “final showdown,” or even a world championship match. Unlike chess, you can’t demonstrate that your preferences are the “right” ones. The “leading voice” in the USA in this context talks about how he likes the smell of the “clean anus,” after all! Some people do not seem to understand the concept of personal preference (I have no idea how such people can exist in our kind of society, but that is not my problem).

NOTE: To be clear, I don’t view rebels/contrarians as being predisposed to things like antisemitism. I view Bobby Fischer as a great example of someone who cultivated at least a rebel-ish quality, and his uncooperative antics at the 1972 world chess championship should have come as a surprise only to the most naive. He just happened to harbor some abhorrent opinions too. By contrast, the person who raves about an upcoming “nanny state” because a bill concerning the labeling of genetically-modified food ingredients is being debated in a legislature is exactly the kind of person to whom I’m referring. However, I certainly hold out no hope that such mind-reading, future-predicting, false analogizing, conspiracy theorizing, etc. is going to end any time soon – the internet seems to have increased either the number or “visibility” of such individuals (if not both!).

UPDATE:  The blogger in question apparently has found a few usages of “the opening” in this context before I began using it frequently (though I certainly never claimed to know for sure, and I’d guess I was in fact the first to use it frequently at least online).  The key question seems to be, why was this an “issue” in the first place?  If someone said he/she thinks he/she was the first to say that a scent is delicious,  I might be critical of the usage (as I have been), but I wouldn’t care who applied it this way first (and it may have occurred first “offline” in any case!).  In fact, if I had it to do over, I might say something like, “beyond the fleeting tops notes, this scent has two stages, the first lasting about half an hour,” for example (an when applicable, obviously), rather than the opening.  When someone says “the opening” I don’t know if they are referring to fleeting top notes.  My guess is that many are, and then for them the drydown is what I consider (or used to consider) to be “the opening.”

Moreover, I think there is something else that can be garnered here.  Does anyone remember Stephen Colbert’s concept, “truthiness?”  There was a much more important idea behind it, and in some ways it was prophetic, considering how many American politicians claim to no longer believe in various scientific theories!  How less significant can the answer to the question, who was the first to use (or use frequently) the phrase, the opening, in the context of fragrances, be?   I’ve mentioned this before, saying that I’d be amused if I were the first to have used the phrase, but I didn’t think much of it, one way or the other.  However, this episode seems to be an excellent example of how the mind of the rebel/contrarian functions, so is this “check and mate?”


Leave a comment

Filed under Criticizing the critics.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s