"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 10 March 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Bound and Gagged



For (certain) drudges in

(certain) paperless offices,

there are few things more

seductive than a newsstand

filled to capacity with

glistening slicks. What with all

the Spring Fashion issues

sitting fat and fetish-like upon

the newsstands, these days it's

an especially pornographic

delight to shuffle furtively

among the periodicals and page

listlessly through the new ad

campaigns, inhaling deeply the

sweet miasma of true push



What do we get in return for the

slavish attention we pay to the

modes du jour? No small part of

our pleasure comes from the

inescapable juggernaut of

scented magazine bind-ins: After

spending long hours in a cubicle

breathing oppressively filtered

air, one wants some civet in the

room. But since consumption

itself is such a powerful

aphrodisiac, aren't all those

scent strips just a case of

throwing perfume on the violet?



Far from it. Where once wily

bachelors in Cologne thought a

dab of rosemary, neroli,

bergamot, and lemon behind the

ears might get them a little

nookie, fragrances are now

numinous nostrums for lackluster

sales - and sometimes even for

lackluster productivity. Forget

Muzak's ham-handed "stimulus

progression" behaviorism;

instead, try Aroma-Chology(tm)

on your serfs! In Japan, lemon

and mint essence have freshened

factories' canned air for a

couple-three years now, and now

the power of flowerwater to

mollify workers has gone public.

The Fragrance Foundation even

dispenses grants to academic

psychologists like the estimable

William N. Dember, whose

peer-reviewed work has shown

that odors like peppermint boost

productivity, while odors like

lavender reduce stress.


No longer are the technologies of

redolence limited to that which

is voided by sperm whales, or

those items lurking in the

glands of beavers. Even organic

chemistry and most methods of

mass production seem hopelessly

Second Wave in light of

advancements in neural netting

and the new "electronic noses."

For the nascent

fragrance-industrial complex,

chemical warfare has

implications in and out of the

battle zone. While some might

consider it a positive boon to

the web not to have to sniff

users's butts like a pooch -

after all, we know as well as

anyone how hygiene can suffer in

the pursuit of progress - the

folks at the Environmental

Molecular Sciences Laboratory

are working hard to perfect

wired whiffers for battlefield

surgery. We're getting nervous

that, sooner or later, the Man

will be able to detect the

dummy-pipe vapors swirling

around our monitors and haul us

off to central booking.



In the short run, however, the

fragrance industry is mostly

still a loser's game played by

half-crazed megalomaniacs who

throw ad dollars at firms that

can't even guarantee their new

eau will be around in three

years. According to one article

in WWD, new perfumes have a 90

percent mortality rate, up from

50 percent just 20 years ago.

Just look at one of Giorgio

Armani's attars: Despite the

high visual recognition of its

US$50 million-plus ad campaign,

a deathwatch recently began for

four-year-old Gió, thus

proving only a precious few

perfumes achieve a brand

recognition that translates into

dollars spent on actual product.

"Who's Gió?" indeed.



In fact, scent strips may have

done their job too well. Because

fragrance samples have

acclimated us to repeated

olfactory violations via

magazines and direct mail, some

now find it empowering to

create their own perfumes. While

Dember has proved that aromatic

balms add atmosphere,

aromatherapy seems like an

obvious con. Can it really be

possible that every physical,

emotional, and spiritual ailment

has its corresponding

homeopathic remedy in particular

combinations of scents? If so,

what's good for treating

self-important Weltschmerz?



While we're still waiting for Eau

d'Ennui, Marie Claire predicts a

more escapist trend: We'll want

"light, wearable scents [that]

evoke personal memories, images,

and feelings" - smells, in other

words that replace the old

housewife's mantra of "Calgon!

Take me away!" But who's got

enough time to drop everything

and take a bath? Just have a

sniff of Vanilla Fields, tommy

girl, or even an Altoid - then

get the hell back to work!


A quick rereading of the fashion

mags seems to confirm Marie

Claire's rather onanistic

appraisal: The Me Decade is

supposedly long over, yet

fragrances this season will be

idling in a highly autoerotic

manner. It seems perfume, like

pornography, is less about

attracting others than it is

about arousing oneself.

courtesy of LeTeXan


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