V&R Spicebomb – SNAD*

*Significantly Not As Described

Diana surprised me yesterday with a sample of Viktor & Rolf’s new Spicebomb, we haven’t followed them lately but their first two releases, Antidote and Flowerbomb, are favorites of ours. Spicebomb doesn’t quite do what it says on the label; I get an opening reminiscent of Gucci Pour Homme II, tea leaf and fruit. The base is, in a word, safe. Amber and light woods, nothing near even Antidote’s spicy heart/base. I wasn’t paying a ton of attention to the progression, but then again, it didn’t do anything to grab my attention, either.

The tragedy here is this isn’t some marketing team’s vision; this is a Jacques Polge creation, the nose behind Flowerbomb, Kenzo Power and Dior Homme(!!). He’s a versatile, talented guy; this just isn’t his finest work. Clever packaging isn’t enough to save the latest misfire from team V&R.

First World Dilemmas

My creative impulses are dragging me all over the place. I’ve got about a half-dozen projects I want to work on and I’m paralyzed with indecision. Maybe writing them down will help. In no particular order, I want to…

– Get started on the perfume I’m making for Eve.
– Play the hell out of some Skyrim.
– Make something in FL Studio. I don’t really have a hook in my head to start with, though.
– Finish configuring the netbook for emulator play. Yesterday’s testing was mixed. It’s fine with NES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Sega Genesis, but some SNES games are choppy, particularly Super-FX enabled ones. N64 games were hit and miss, I was getting probably 50fps on Super Mario 64 but it choked up a big hairball on Goldeneye and Hot Wheels Turbo Racing. I haven’t bothered with my PSX roms. I haven’t set up Quickplay for my MAME roms yet as it’s quite involved.
– Get Quickbooks set up for Diana. She’s wanting to learn how to use it so she has another marketable skill for the future job search. The idea I had is that we can set up Shooting Star Perfumes as the business to learn with. It might get us back into making our own stuff.
– Eat the hell out of some pizza.
– Listen to some new albums that came out, particularly the new M83.
– Channel former blogging buddy Krooze L. Roy and review some old video games. I hope he reads this some time, because I miss the hell out of his writing, and I still want him to message me some time about Amplitude on PS2.

And even out of so many tempting options, the combination of pizza and Skyrim is a siren’s call I am unable to ignore. Bye.

Am I a writer? Or just restless?

There’s a certain self-righteous quality to calling yourself a writer when you have no published/paid work to your name. At that point you are closer to the truth if you refer to yourself as a “typist.” I have some friends, though, that exhibit that trait that I think is the telltale sign of a “real” writer, and that’s the urge to write almost constantly.

I have these urges, but I am usually sated by a one-liner or statement that’s been on my mind. I have several friends that are finishing up on their NaNoWriMo projects today. A novel! Jeez. I don’t think I can keep a train of thought from derailing for that kind of length. An overactive imagination needs an outlet, though, and I have many. Lately it’s been Skyrim, but other common pastimes have been making perfumes, designing houses in The Sims 3, writing, trying to come close to the talent level of my 18-year old self at FL Studio, making stepcharts in StepMania, designing board, card, or role-playing games…I can keep busy. There’s something deeply satisfying about writing, especially on a platform like this where I can toss these words into empty space and whatever happens, happens.

Every creative outlet of mine has a muse, and for writing it is two entities. The first, my long-time muse, has been Jerry Holkins (Tycho Brahe) at Penny Arcade. He puts out the most amazingly smooth, polished work three times a week and his tone just makes me happy, his sense for when to drop the flowery language and rage-curse for a while is incredible. The second, a somewhat more recent find, are several of the writers at Cracked. What’s more, they blatantly encourage writing at all skill levels. Somehow, a website that routinely publishes lists like “The 7 Most Elaborate Dick Moves in Gaming History” has become a beacon for aspiring writers.

An article that Robert Brockway (arguably my favorite writer on the Cracked staff, incidentally) put up today got me to thinking. Three posts a week on here was the idea and that fell apart rather quickly. I get a surprising amount of traffic for how little I post, so if I were to start up again I may end up with an even bigger audience. If I were a “real” writer that shouldn’t matter, but I find it disheartening to write to an empty room. And, I must admit, the fragrance industry is short on top-tier writers and I can’t help but be fascinated with the prospect of working in that industry. So expect more reviews in the future as I sharpen my nose and writing chops.

Dreamweaving Again

So the good news is I’ve gone longer without posting on here, but that’s like saying midget murder is more condonable because they’re about half a life.

I’ve started on a new web project, and with the number of features I want to build out it stands to be my most ambitious project yet, and it’s gonna require some new technologies. Understand that I really don’t like the thought of relying on JavaScript, due to long-standing grudges, but jQuery does offer features I’m really gonna need in this project, in a prepackaged solution. When I hear that there are quite a few Top 100 websites that make use of it, I’m reassured.

So, Project Havana, as I’m calling it right now, is fragrance-related and fills a niche that no other industry website has sufficiently covered. This will also serve as a website I can show as a portfolio piece for both the UI and backend. That’s still a field I’d love to do as a day job again, and I’ve also just recently found all the code for the largest project I’d worked on but was under NDA on for a year. So it’ll be good to have both projects available to point to. I’m being rather tight-lipped on the particulars to this project as I want to develop it at a slower pace, get each feature dialed in before moving onto the next one, and then when I have something worth putting out there, I can do it without regret or concern. So that’s new, as I usually throw up core functionality and build out the site as it’s live, add those features as people use the site.

I’m going to try and get back on the three-day writing schedule, we will see.

BMM11 Behind The Scenes: Wheeling and Dealing

Many Basenoters enjoy Basenotes March Madness, but it’s something just this side of an obsession for me as commissioner of the thing. Suffice it to say that I started preliminary work on BMM12 (March 1 2012) in December 2010. I was simultaneously working on BMM11 and in my first message on the topic to Grant Osborne, owner of Basenotes.net, I asked about the possibility of a prize this year. That was back on 12/15, but good things come to those who wait, and BMM11 officially has a prize package, graciously provided by Indiescents. Not a name you’re familiar with? It’s the niche-focused side of Luckyscent. I know Luckyscent is fairly niche as-is, but these are more independent perfumers, Laurie Erickson’s Sonoma Scent Studio, Brent Leonisio’s Smell Bent, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s DSH line, and so on. Given that I’m already in contact with many indie perfumers this year, the tie-in is great and I think people are really going to enjoy reading the selections from the perfumers, they’re all extremely interesting.

I’ve mentioned discreetly to a few people that the brackets are shaping up to be altogether different from the past two years. Take a look at the latest standings here. Everything below #96 is currently on the outside looking in, and there are some damn fine fragrances currently not in the show right now, Chanel Antaeus, AdP Colonia, Czech & Speake No. 88 (big surprise to me considering how far it’s gone in the past), LV Piper Nigrum, and plenty others that are looking mighty snubbed at the moment. This year I’m not going to be fudging these selections any more than I absolutely have to (for example, a three-way tie for the last position). So if something doesn’t make it in, it’s squarely on the shoulders of you, dear reader. I predict more first-round blowouts this year than the last two put together. To be 100% honest I’m not thrilled with this format, and it won’t be making a return any time soon, but I’m more or less committed to doing it this way this year and who knows? It might be the most exciting year ever.

I’m continuing work on phase two of the BMM site, which is the prediction contest. It will be the only way I will accept entries this year, I don’t want to have to keep up with spreadsheets like I’ve had to the past two years, and having the site automate certain things for me is what’s giving me the extra time to do two tournaments simultaneously.

After much deliberation, I think I’m going to abandon my plan of a betting system for this year’s prediction contest. The idea was that a user could bet less or more than the typical amount of a game’s value. For example, last year all Round 1 games were worth 1 point, with all rounds worth 32 points total (32 1-point games in round one, 16 2-point games in round two, etc.) In my suggested new system, we’d multiply all values by 10 (the maximum possible score is 1920 instead of 192) and for round one games (10 points), a user could bet as few as 5 points (for a toss-up game) or as many as 40 points (for suspected blowouts). Two potential problems have arisen with that system. One, Diana fears it may be too complex to someone new to BMM or unfamiliar with betting, and I could see it. Two, a bigger concern for me, is it’s quite possible someone would have won the tournament in the old points system and not win under the new system, by making poor choices with betting (or not understanding and leaving everything at defaults), and subsequently miss out on the prize. I really don’t wanna see that, so I’ll refrain from rocking the boat this year. Perhaps for a future, non-BMM event (Luckyscent has already expressed interest in sponsoring some future event of mine).

On an unrelated note, the same unrelated note as last week, my Escentric 03 arrived today. Imagine my surprise when I received a full 100mL, still in shiny plastic bottle instead of the 15mL decant they mentioned. It’s quite a strange creature this first wearing, the bitter Mexican Lime blends with light woods and a heavier base of smoky vetiver, leather and musk. Full review probably next Friday but right now it’s the most mysterious thing I’ve smelled in a long time, a dark citrus that conjures notes of anything from ginger root to cannabis. Fascinating stuff.

BMM11 Behind The Scenes: Unexpected Successes

So the first phase of the BMM voting site has done really well in it’s first two weeks, with 106 different users, 2157 votes and 501 different fragrances in the running at the time of this writing. I’ve gotta say, I wasn’t sure what to expect but I wasn’t expecting that kind of response so early. I took the time to get the most recent numbers, available here, and there’s a good mix towards the top. I haven’t begun any coding on the second half of the site, the prediction contest, I suspect I’ll start on that one of the next few nights.

On an unrelated note, I won my first perfume prize from a blog! Quite excited about the 15mL of Escentric 03 en route to me, especially because my wardrobe is so large at this point, a mL is roughly equivalent to a month.

Time Management Fail

I should be getting ready for work right about now, but I feel like writing too. So writing wins for now. I’m getting myself psyched up for 2011 with plans and ideas for how I’m gonna keep things interesting for this Monday-Wednesday-Friday regularity of posting. My work schedule actually calls for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday off, and I have no plans to change that. So I’ll be writing a week ahead or two.

Mondays are gonna be fairly mixed with regards to music. Reviews of varying formality, top 10s, that sort of thing.

Wednesdays, my wildcard days, will likely have a lot of gaming. That’s for sure. That and whatever else I feel like writing about.

Fridays will be split between reviewing fragrances and a journal tracking Diana and I as we attempt to make custom perfumes, we’ve got about a year of off-and-on experience with it and I think we’re going to be stocking up on some new oils too. We haven’t broken out the EOs since we moved in together, so we’re both excited to get back to it.

Unrelated note, but if you haven’t been following the Steam Holiday Sale, you’re missing the true reason of the $ea$on. You can buy 55 games for $55, for crying out loud.

BMM11 Behind The Scenes: Best Laid Plans

I began preliminary work for Basenotes March Madness 2011 today, a paper sketch that I always seem to need to do before designing a website or a database. I’ll be designing both in this case, but the core of the game will of course be on Basenotes. The site I’m building will host the nomination and voting process to select what fragrances make the cut, and will also manage the bracket challenge, where users attempt to predict the outcome of each game. At the end of a day’s games, I simply give the website the final results for the day and it records it, and gives me the code for the next day’s events.

What’s the website look like now? This. But believe it or not, the hard work is nearly over, the actual construction of the website is a pretty simple process having done work with databases for so long.

I’m still spotty on a lot of details, but I can tell you several major changes from prior years events:

– There will be two concurrent tournaments, men’s and women’s. I didn’t run a women’s tournament the first year because I was uncertain as to the popularity of the event, and the second year because I didn’t feel I’d have time to do both because of the amount of manual work involved. The tournaments won’t be segregated by gender, men can vote on the women’s contests and vice versa. The only difference is the brackets themselves will be quite different.

– Instead of the prediction contest’s old scoring system, where each game in round 1 was worth 1 point, then doubling in value for each round, users will be able to bet varying amounts for each game. Essentially each round’s old point values will be multiplied by 10. A round 1 game is worth 10 points, but a user can bet as few as 5 points or as many as 80 points on any given game, but their total for the round must equal 320. Successful bets pay 1:1. This will let people go with their gut a bit more, it encourages riskier play and also lets people hedge their bets on toss-up matches. I think it’ll be a lot of fun.

rd gms pts min max total
r1 32 10 5 80 320
r2 16 20 5 80 320
r3 8 40 10 120 320
r4 4 80 40 160 320
r5 2 160 80 240 320
r6 1 320 320 320 320

– I’m introducing new AI to complement The Zeitgeist. He surprised me last year, but I believe the dataset was large enough that an AI that picked with the majority on every game that ended up precisely in the middle of the field is telling. I’m introducing 4 new algorithms to see if there’s an underlying correlation between an observable metric and the voting results. Where The Zeitgeist gets his data from the submissions, three of the four AIs will get their data from the fragrances themselves. The last AI is a control, a voter that selects totally at random. I’m also getting my dad, who knows precious little about the industry (he knew of two of the entries last year), and have him fill out a bracket.

That’s the bulk of the outward-facing changes that I can announce right now. I have one other rather large issue, sponsorship, that I want to run by Grant. I’d love to see Luckyscent or someone have a prize for the winners of the contest. I can’t promise anything at the moment, but I’ll provide more information as I can.

Chanel Platinum Egoiste – The Prophet Biggie Smalls

How does an early 90s aromatic fougère get street cred?

“…easy, call em on the phone and Platinum Chanel cologne and I stay, dressed, to impress…”
-Notorious B.I.G., Nasty Girl

I’m fairly sure Platinum Egoiste is the only bottle in my collection that has been rapped about, but smelling it, it’s hard not to see that Biggie was on the right track. Platinum Egoiste is an aromatic fougère, meaning it combines the fern, lavender and oakmoss trio of a traditional fougère with additional woods and spices. 1993 was a transition year for the fragrance industry, some of the last few heavy-hitters and offbeat mainstream offerings before CK One and L’Eau d’Issey Miyake in 1994 set the stage for the aquatic-dominant industry we find ourselves in now. Where most current offerings are either soapy, inoffensive aquatics, or cloying sweet club scents, Platinum Egoiste is neither, and instead opens with a blast of rosemary, clary sage and vetiver that is herbal, slightly bitter, and very “aromatic”. Give it a bit to settle down and you see that the top notes have made some room for the cedar and even a fleeting floral hint, which Basenotes lists as geranium. This combination is unique to my collection, Pasha de Cartier comes close but Platinum Egoiste does a more classy job of it. It’s fairly linear from this point, drying down and losing some of that effervescent, sparkling quality but retaining the slightly sweeter herbal scent.

It’s my belief that fougères are some of the best out there when you need to show a professional, mature side. It’s my go-to scent for job interviews, for example. It rarely overpowers unless grossly overapplied, so it’s workplace friendly. Projection is right about where I’d want it, longevity is average at 5-8 hours.

The marketing campaign for the original Egoiste in 1990 was pure Chanel, dramatic and memorable. See below.

It was another four years before viewers saw the second half of it. A rough translation would be “Selfish, you’re just selfish. You know I follow your trail like a dog. Beware, some day I will steal your perfume to finally take your place, Egoiste.”

Creator and Chanel house perfumer Jacques Polge has no lack of perfumisto street cred, with Chanel icons like Antaeus, Coco, and Allure to his credit and also created Basenotes fan-favorites Ungaro III and Tiffany For Men.

So is Platinum Egoiste a celebration of the ego? The name would lead you to believe so, and the commercials don’t exactly help, but to me it’s not all that serious about it. It is serious, however, a straight-laced sort of scent that is there to put in a full day’s work with you. Given the near-worldwide availability of Chanel, this one is available to sample at pretty much any department store, and I highly recommend doing so if you don’t have a handle on what an aromatic fougère is, or how good they can be.

SoTW 1/31/10 – 2/6/10

Hello and welcome to Week 1 of the 2010-2011 Scent of The Year experiment.  This first week has been all about finding the simplest way to process all the data, and to figure out what exactly we’ll be tracking over the next year.

So let’s take a step back, for the uninitiated.  Scent of The Year (abbreviated to SoTY) is a yearlong exercise, reading the daily Scent of The Day threads and compiling all that data to one central spreadsheet, and seeing what conclusions there are to be drawn from it.  You’ll be receiving regular updates for every week (SoTW), month (SoTM), quarter (SoTQ), half-year (SoTHY) and finally the big SoTY rundown, which will happen right around February 1st, 2011, to coincide with my other project, the lead-in to Basenotes March Madness.

Why, one could conceivably ask, would someone take on the tedious, dull, boring and exceptionally un-fun work of reading other people’s fragrance selections and type them into a book with other people’s fragrance selections?  I’ve got two reasons, the first being I get restless without a good long-term project to work at, and the second being that I do get a lot of enjoyment out of playing with data, and seeing what can be really gathered from it.

I harbor no such illusions, however, that you enjoy statistics quite to the level that I do, so I’ll try to keep it interesting, entertaining even, but hopefully informative as well.  If I start drifting off-course, please send me an email, PM, or tweet and let me know, or take me by the shoulders and gently steer me back in the right direction.

To work, then!  The first step when you start collecting data is, obviously, determining exactly what you want to collect; the fragrances themselves, of course, but what else?  Being able to look up the fragrance house independent of any particular fragrance sounds smart, so that was added.  I hit a bit of a wall at that point, as that was pretty much all that was being tracked when the experiment was done from 2008-2009, along with gender.  I chose to also track the Basenoters themselves, and added fields for username and gender.  Lastly, and another common sense one that I initially forgot, was the date!  It does help to know when these are being entered in when you’re on a weekly schedule.

Once the dataset was decided on, the reporting had to be figured out; that is, how I want the condensed and summarized table of information to be displayed for maximum information.  Right now I have three tables, measuring the most worn fragrance, the most worn house, and the most posts by username.  All three can be filtered by date, gender, or both.  Every combination there can give good info, and it’s with that set of tables that I’m using for now.

I’m already getting off track, aren’t I?  Sorry for the thrilling insight into Microsoft Excel, you’re here for the smellies.  All total, 1029 different entries were recorded from the 31st of January to the 6th of February, 2010, with men accounting for 67.7 percent of the total and ladies, 32.3%.  471 fragrances were only worn one time this week, for a uniqueness index of 45.77%.  This first dataset is pretty darn important, as this is the first Top 10, we can see who hangs around and who doesn’t have quite the staying power.  Starting with the combined genders, the most worn fragrance was a Guerlain.  So was the second most.  And the third.  And the fourth.  L’Instant de Guerlain topped the charts at 11 wears, followed by Mitsouko Eau de Toilette with 10, Guerlain Vetiver with 9, and Guerlain Heritage with 8.  Tied below Heritage with 7 wears are Tom Ford Black Orchid, Guerlain L’Heure Bleue, and Andy Tauer’s L’air du desert marocain, for positions five through seven.  Six different fragrances all had six wears, and they were Dior Homme, Guerlain Coriolan, Burberry London, Caron’s Le Troiseme Homme, Guerlain Jicky, and YSL Rive Gauche Pour Homme.

In what may be a bold predictor for the foreseeable future’s totals, Guerlain as a house had more than double the wears (110) of the next closest house in Chanel (47).  In fact, Guerlain’s entries in the Top 10 frags alone outnumber any other house’s total wears all week long.  Serge Lutens and Creed tied for third with 35 wears, Yves Saint Laurent was one behind with 34, followed by Christian Dior with 32, L’Artisan Parfumeur with 26, Hermes with 25, Caron with 24, and Tom Ford rounding out the field with 20.  Obviously there’s a big difference between the most worn houses and those trailing slightly.

Looking just at the men’s side, now, we find that Guerlain Vetiver got zero wears from the ladies, but was tied with L’Instant de Guerlain for the most worn by men, with 9 wears.  Guerlain Heritage was third with 8, and surprisingly (at least to me) we find that more men are wearing Mitsouko than women this week by more than a factor of two! (7 wears) L’air du desert marocain, Burberry London, Dior Homme and Guerlain Coriolan all tied with 6 wears by men, for positions five through eight.  Nine fragrances tied for the final two positions in the top 10, including names not previously mentioned like Chanel Pour Monsieur, Yves Saint Laurent M7, Creed’s Bois du Portugal, and Prada Infusion d’Homme.

Looking at men’s houses, we discover that of Guerlain’s monster 110 wears, a full 80 of them (72.7%) were by men, but men do account for 67.7% of the total wears recorded this week.  This does mean Guerlain is favored slightly more by men than women this time of year.  Creed was the next closest, with 30 wears, perhaps a more interesting number than Guerlain’s.  Creed’s overall third place performance this week came with the help of only 5 wears on the women’s side of things, 5 of the 35 total.  Below Creed in men’s is a tie between Christian Dior and YSL with 27 wears apiece, then Chanel with 21, Amouage and Hermes both with 17, Tom Ford with 15, Caron with 14, and a two-way tie for the last spot with Montale and Serge Lutens both earning 12 wears.

Moving over to the women’s side of things, we find that having a smaller population can really effect the weekly standings of things.  Tied at number one with 5 wears each are Terranova Gardenia and Keiko Mecheri’s A Fleur de Peau.  The catch?  Both were worn by only one person, for five consecutive days each.  Rochas Tocade got 4 wears the old fashioned way, by multiple users, as did L’ Artisan Havana Vanille, Bal A Versailles and Chanel No. 5 Eau de Parfum.  Below those six fragrances are eleven different fragrances with three wears each.  More data is needed before any true conclusions can be reached, but it may take until the SoTM at this rate.

The women’s house standings were quite interesting, and featured a few new faces.  Guerlain’s 30 wears by the ladies were enough to make it the most-worn house this week, trailed closely by Chanel with 26 wears and Serge Lutens with 23.  Things trail off rapidly after that, with L’ Artisan at 14 wears, Caron with 10, Hermes with 8, YSL, Keiko Mecheri, and Frederic Malle all with 7, and Bond No. 9 wrapping up the top 10 with 6 wears.  The women’s field is much more diverse than statistically expected, men recorded wears in 202 separate houses and women in 120, with 248 total (There were 46 houses worn exclusively by one gender or the other).

Finally, mikeperez23 (14 wears), Inselaffe (13 wears), and kbe (12 wears) go above and beyond the nose of duty on the men’s side, with Baldufita (11 wears) being the busiest sniffer on the ladies’ side.

That’s it for this week, see you next Monday for new numbers and new insight as we give this fledgling SoTY project some legs.  Until next time, post those SoTDs every day!