The Content Diva

  • blackcattiara
  • Being the thoughts of a (kind of) 1%

This is me, now: A chronic case of guilt, circumstantial distraction and an ever-increasing (and guilt-inducing) backlog of Things That Must Absopositively Be Reviewed Yesterday. Surely, some not entirely benign occult, alchemical sleight-of-hand is involved in the way the samples in my sample box seem to generate ever-larger amounts of liquid and libidinous progeny every time I blink? And yet another force – also morally ambiguous – colludes with my compulsion to write anything that isn’t a perfume review?

As of today, I have not one, not two, but four different book projects all coming to a boil. Two novels, a sequel and a historical novel, one prequel novella and last but never least, another book, but that one is a secret for now.

So if you’ve found the Genie rather lacking in updates these days, this is why. Mea culpa. Alas, my leaden guilt trip suitcase does not have wheels, but I’m hoping to upgrade…

Yet in the last two weeks, several events conspired to rattle me out of my brain-in-the-clouds mode and land me onto Planet Perfume with a loud and odiferous thud.

The first of these was an incisive blog post by one of my longest-running blog idols; Gaia of the Non Blonde. Whether reviewing eyeliner pencils or perfumes, her concise yet precise reviews have never, ever steered me wrong, even if our opinions – or our mileages – vary, as they sometimes do.

The blog post was intriguingly titled The Problem With Blogging – 2014 edition. Go read it. I’ll wait – and get back to that in a moment.

The second was even more shocking, and with all my experience in social media, you’d think I’d be far past surprising by now.

No.

Lo and behold, into my inbox ticked a TAG comment in need of approval, and I quote verbatim:

i see you put a lot of work

in your website, i know how to make your blogging easier,

do you know that you can copy any article from any website, make it 100% unique and pass copyscape test? For more details , just search in google – rewriter creates an unique article in a minute

Yes, it was a definite spam comment, and as such did not get approved. More to the point in this morally relativistic, anything-goes-in-the-blogosphere decade was my utter, old-school blood-curdling horror in realizing that somewhere out there, people are stealing blog content lock, stock and barrel (this has happened to at least four bloggers I know) and also reworking existing blog content to fly under the radar of Copyscape (who monitors for such things) as well as Google search algorithms for your blog, thus ranking you lower in the Great Google Relevance Page Rank. Or to put it in everyday terms: stealing not just your content but the influence and reach you have personally (and hopefully, organically) acquired by years of blogging to the virtual page, tweeting, sharing on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and everywhere else a readership is made.

The rock-bottom line is this one: why even bother to write a blog post, maintain it at some cost to both your personal life (presuming you have one) and your purse if you can just steal it and hog someone else’s credit – not to mention, ruin their credibility?

Dear readers, I almost gave up the ghost right them and there. Note the qualifying almost. Because if I had, a) you would not be reading this post and b) that would mean those §!”#€%&/?§! (insert your own epithet here) thieves had won.

Over my dead, decaying Diors!

The problems with bloggers

It’s no secret that certain sectors of the luxury blogosphere have undermined all semblance of reliability and honest opinion by their practices of kickbacks and paid (and therefore dishonest) reviews. I’m calling it as I see it to say that fashion and beauty blogs are especially ripe for suspicion. That thin line between paid advertorial content and blogging is becoming ever thinner and harder to dissemble, as Gaia rightly pointed out.

There’s a difference in both style, angle and audience between fashion, beauty and perfume blogs, which each have their own considerations. I’d also like to add I have no issues with monetized blogs, meaning blogs that carry relevant advertising links and banners. If you can make even a modest penny from clicks to other websites, then more power to you.

Yet one pink elephant in the room is this one: bloggers matter, even in our sweetly scented corner of the world, no matter what perfume houses or (certain) perfumers might argue to the contrary.

People read those posts, watch vlogs on YouTube and discuss reviews and perspectives on the many fragrance-related groups on Facebook. Ordinary (or not so ordinary!) people and perfume consumers sometimes even let reviews influence the size and scope of their lemmings.

While this might not have an effect on a given perfume house’s bottom line to any substantial degree, the opinions of perfume bloggers have indeed greatly increased – and in some cases built – a brand’s reputation.

In this day and age of instant access to anyone anywhere, when the six degrees of separation rule shrinks by the minute, reputation is where the bottom line starts and sometimes ends. And like it or not, agree or not as you please, in an age of ever-present social media, reach and instantaneous interaction, reputation isn’t everything – it’s quite literally the only thing.

A Free Lunch

US bloggers are obligated by law to provide a disclaimer on their blog posts stating whether or not they’ve received their samples for consideration and review. Bloggers elsewhere – which would include yours truly in the EU – are under no such obligations. Or are we?

Since I began that ill-advised writing exercise I call perfume writing in 2010, the perfume blogging landscape has changed entirely, as indeed has the perfume industry itself, and I rather suspect we ain’t seen nothing yet. In all that time, I’ve specifically asked for samples precisely twice. The first time nearly killed me, I was so mortified, mortified for a very human reason: who doesn’t love free stuff? Located in a niche-less part of the world, mostly too impecunious to afford to order even sample packs of things I’d like to try, my future as a perfume writer was a chancy thing in 2010.

Yet if not for an enterprising part-time perfumer who took a chance on a voice in the Void and sent her a generous sample pack or generous friends and fellow bloggers, I never would have.. a) written about perfume to the extent I have b) acquired the international network I thank my chosen deities for every day I live and last but never least c) made and forged some of the most important, fulfilling and cherished friendships of my entire life. All from that fabled ‘free lunch’ of free samples.

But are they really? Most of the brands I review are either niche or indie perfumers in Europe and the US who are their own entire marketing and PR teams, and we all know it: there’s no such thing as bad PR.

For that matter, there’s no such thing as ‘free’ samples, either, if my own massive guilt trip is any indication. When I’m contacted by PR companies or perfume houses asking if there’s anything of theirs I’d like to try, I always make a point of stating that I can’t guarantee when anything will be reviewed (or not), just as I’m unable to guarantee a 100% positive review.

And yet… I’ve encountered not a few perfumes and not a few famous ones that I’ve loathed no end. Which is an opinion, not a fact proclaiming the perfume in question as inherently horrible (although I’ve encountered a few of those as well). So even if I’ve fallen at the fence of personal taste and inclination, I can at least have the decency to pay my verbose respects to the concept, at least. In so doing, I’ve realized a few stunning truths: that certain brands’ overall aesthetic preoccupations always – or nearly – allies with my own, meaning I at least like most of them, and also there are other, likewise lionized brands I can’t even stand in the same room.

But here’s the rub: between butterflies and blooms, or perfume houses and perfume bloggers, gratitude is a two-way street.

Even so, some of them seem to think the traffic is only allowed in one direction: it’s all about them. We blasted, wretched, irrelevant, opinionated bloggers are simply the vehicle that will (so they hope?) propel them to the stratosphere of perfumista superstardom and infinite black-inked bottom lines and massive worldwide distribution deals.

I’ve written raves of perfumes that have been blithely ignored by the companies who created them, in spite of tags and utterly blatant, shameless self-promotion. And I’ve written the occasional chilly-to-tepid review that has been plastered all over social media.

As a semi-famous relative and DK writer said to me this past year, the one thing you as a writer or blogger can’t control is how your words are received. You never know.

Or not, for in this dog-eat-dog world I’ve also been privately lambasted by people for having ‘insider access’ to new brand releases which questions both the brand who sends them (because they appreciate my opinion?) and my integrity as a blogger. (WTF?)

It gets worse. Much, much worse.

The Inexcusable

Sometimes – not at all often – it has happened I’ve written a review – a good one, and some time later, received a full bottle (or a large decant) of the perfume in question from a grateful indie perfumer or perfume house. It would be hard to describe just how grateful I’ve been for those extravagant and likely sincere tokens of appreciation, or how happy they’ve made me every time I’ve opened the red IKEA cabinet of doom and seen them glittering in the light, and every time I’ve cherished wearing them as a reminder of the person behind the perfume.

Yet it seems to have become a burgeoning – and despicable – practice among some bloggers to either sell these bottles (some of them very rare) or decant them on at a profit to interested parties. Which is not only an insult of the first order, it’s also a defiant slap in the face to those of us who dearly love those treasures in our cabinets because they were given in good faith and given as personal. It’s something that gives all of us a deserved checkered reputation for questionable ethics, and something I consider the lowest of low blows in human endeavor.

(Im)Moral Suspicions

This blog – The Alembicated Genie – is a proud and l-o-u-d independent blog. Meaning I will never monetize it, since I’m old school and unfashionable and don’t give a flying who knows it – and also precisely… independent. If I rave about something, you can bet your vintage Nombre Noir it’s because I think the perfume in question is that great and good. As the saying goes: your mileage may vary. I have never, I do declare on one super-rare, exquisite and costly perfume I own and adore, received any kind of compensation for any kind of review and I never will.

Having said that, the alter ego of this blog has also written and prepared press releases and copy for a few select people in the industry – for money. In such instances, the Genie as you know her is nowhere in sight, because she has no part of it at all.

The writer that I am is for sale, as all artists are to differing degrees.

The perfume writer and blogger, on the other hand, never will be.

Now, you know.

Reality Checks

Meanwhile, in the blogosphere, those thieves who choose to profiteer off the backs of those of us who do what we do for love on our own time and initiative will find they’re not only reported to several relevant authorities for daring to suggest that stealing is a ethically feasible alternative to creating content of your own as well as the radical proposition that blogging should be easy (the very idea! :-O), they’ll also find my content has been bullet-proofed to the best of my abilities.

Because in this day and age of blogvertising, I’m more than a little proud of belonging to the one percent of social media who creates the content my readers will (hopefully) enjoy. From scratch, from the heart, con amore.

Call me the Content Diva. As soon as I get the next harrowing deadline out of the way.

With grateful thanks to Gaia, the Non Blonde, for making me think.

The Mutual Appreciation Society

marilynairkiss

 – without you, I’m nothing!

When I began my descent into the fragrant maelstrom that is perfume blogging almost three years ago, I likely had a good general knowledge of my subject matter – perfume – but not one clue as to what my love of that ephemeral art might come to signify. My main concern was really my only reason to begin – to become a better writer, on the premise that if you can write about perfume, you can write about anything.

But that airhead decision, born one summer night after the third glass of wine and pleasantly fuzzy White Zinfandel-tinted thoughts, would have consequences far above and way beyond anything I could possibly have imagined in even my wildest dreams.

In the perfumes I have come to love and adore – some of them many light years removed from my previous fragrant inclinations. In the knowledge I’ve acquired – about their making, their marketing, the machinations and mayhem of Planet Perfume. In the future I’ve come to envision (and create) for myself. In the writing I’ve done since then – if all my sometimes verbose reviews were put together end to end, you would have about five paperback novels worth of material.

But above all other considerations in the people I’ve come to know.

Some of my dearest, most precious friends have come through perfume and remained for reasons which have nothing to do with the juice and everything to do with common ground elsewhere. Phone conversations, Skype conversations, emails and PMs and DMs and onward – all of these fellow perfumoholics have somehow come into my life as invaluable additions to an otherwise fairly solitary existence and to such a degree I really don’t know how I could live without them.

Without the astonishing generosity of the international perfume community, the many connections I’ve made and the friendships I’ve forged in the process, this blog  – and indeed this writer! – would never, ever have been possible.

So when my laptop Cassius Dio exhibited signs of encroaching Elzheimer’s, I did what any social media-savvy, destitute writer would do. I created an Indiegogo campaign to see if I could raise the funds to acquire another and later model, one that might conjure even greater chances and opportunities and possibilities for a future once so far-fetched I didn’t even dare to dream about it.

As of today, the campaign runs for another twenty-six days. As of today, I’m over halfway to my goal. I arranged to have the campaign run as fixed funding, meaning if I don’t reach my goal and you have contributed, your pledge will be returned to you, since that seemed only fair. I’m emphatically not out to fleece people or to abuse such declarations of faith and trust. In the event I don’t, I’m enough of an optimist to believe that miracles can happen, and usually when we least expect them.

To say I am grateful, floored, flattered and completely humbled by that response is the Understatement of the Century.

Really, those two small yet all-important words ‘thank’ and ‘you’ aren’t nearly epic enough for my tastes.

I’m not about to embarrass anyone by pointing out to my contributors. You know who you are. You are my friends, my comrades in sillage, my daily inspirations, aspirations and confidantes. You enrich and elevate my earthly existence daily.

You more than anyone at all have made everything worthwhile in my life not just possible, but probable.

I really am about to set the world on fire, which is all I can say for now, but trust me – it’s all good!

But without you, without your input, your comments, your encouragement and your faith in one lowly, destitute perfume writer in her garret, it would have never happened at all.

If all goes well, I’ll do my utmost to live up to that declaration of faith – to challenge myself as a writer and a perfumista, to up the ante in terms of perfume writing, to do everything I humanly can to contribute any way I can to…

The Mutual Appreciation Society. I’ll blow you a fragrant kiss and last, but never, ever, ever least…

Thank YOU.  

____________________________

More on the Save The Genie campaign here.

SotSolipsism

conversation

– SotDs, sensibilities and virtual soapboxes

That ‘life’ – even the virtual ‘lives’ we lead online, can prove stranger than anything an aspiring fiction writer can cook up, was brought home yesterday evening, when I had my own daily dose of an oversized WTF moment.

Another perfume blogger posted a polemic/satirical rant about the proliferation of what he saw as utterly pointless SotD (Scent of the Day) posts and tweets on Facebook perfume groups and Twitter feeds. To this gentleman, such posts/tweets were not only deathly uninteresting in and of themselves, he frankly didn’t give a flying what anyone else was wearing. He saw these posts – often accompanied by links to a Fragrantica page on said SotD, or an image found elsewhere – as nothing more nor less than desperate cries for attention happily perpetuated by other members, who could then ‘like’ the post, start engaging the poster, and then start – or not – a conversation about it.

Dear readers, the horror! The very idea!

I would have liked nothing more than to link to the blog post in question, but alas, the blogger then proceeded to effectively shoot himself in his metaphorical mouth by deleting the post. I’ll be getting back to that.

The ensuing debate that raged across two Facebook perfume communities (and probably elsewhere) I know of is still ongoing as I type.

What really rallied my inner Doña Quixota was not just the blithe obliviousness to the role of engagement in social media (which is quite heinous enough) but a total and what I thought an arrogant disregard for one of the founding principles in human interaction.

If you don’t want a conversation, don’t start talking!

Unless, of course, you’re trying to convince yourself of the validity of your own opinions, in which case – go for it! I explain my interpretations of Schopenhauer to my cats several times a day, and so far, they still disagree, unappreciative wretches that they are.

Once upon a time – and it was only last summer – I posted two heavily shared posts on the role of social media on Planet Perfume. It explained something about how we’re conversing or communicating our shared passion for The Ephemeral Art, how those conversations are evolving between the customers of perfumers and houses, and how, if you think about it, we’re very poorly equipped as a species to even have these conversations to begin with, dealing as they do with an art form that bypasses all our neocortical verbal abilities and heads like a Cruise missile straight for our amygdalas which hold our non-verbal, most emotional memories.

This is why – bear with a little arrogance on my part here – not everyone who buys perfume and/or is an active member of a fragrance community/group is a perfume blogger.

It’s bloody hard to write about.

If you could see yours truly mid-review, you’d see a barefaced, disheveled slob in leopard print PJs wearing a cloud of said review, sniffing a wrist and/or a strip of Arches watercolor paper, pacing back and forth between the teapot and the laptop, thumbing a thesaurus, chewing on pencils, blasting (and singing along with) vintage punk records and suspect over the hill metal baritones while muttering sotto voce, tearing at hair, pulling faces and displaying an impressive command of blatantly offensive swear words in several languages. All of it performed in front of the most terrifying space of all – a blank Word page. Now you know!

The Rule of Engagement

In social media, there is a term called the rule of engagement. It boils down to something like this:

If a given online community is set to a value of 100%, then 90% of it will enjoy the show, so to say, but only rarely be driven to participate. Ten percent of them will engage – that is to say, participate in any ongoing conversation, comment on a blog or put up a Facebook status, respond to a tweet and so forth. One percent of that total – this holds true everywhere – will quite independently of everyone else feel compelled to create original content for whatever reasons and always or frequently participate in one form or another.

I see this again and again – on Facebook, on Twitter, the very comments I’m privileged to receive and conversations I initiate on this blog by readers I feel privileged to write for, concerning an art form we all feel so passionate about. And if all you as a reader and perfume aficionado are capable of contributing is your SotD with a Fragrantica link, then that’s perfectly acceptable to me. Trust me, I have more than enough words and opinions for at least five thousand people.

The Facebook Freakfumista Show

Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, whether we choose to participate or not, Facebook and social media are revolutionizing our very lives and the way we interact with each other every day.

Why?

Because all of them give us a unique and unprecedented opportunity to reinvent and redefine ourselves every single day – and every single moment, if we choose. Whether we post LOLcats, memes, links or simply what we had for dinner, we’re all of us reinventing our own lives and how we choose to represent them – every day.

Not only that – we’re driven by nothing more nor less than our need for being acknowledged, being seen, being told – in an increasingly fragmented, crowded, anonymous life – that we as individuals have some validation in the footprints we leave on the planet.

Personally, I will go to my grave stating that perfume – that ridiculous, expensive, aspirational, superfluous art – has made everything in my life possible.

I became a perfume blogger for one reason – to become a better writer, since that’s my bottom line in self definition. I exceeded beyond my wildest expectations.

As I evolved from those distant beginnings not even three years ago, I also joined perfume groups on Facebook, was invited to join in those online conversations, became known and accepted into that elite one percent. I observed what people were talking about and how they talked, commented on SotD posts, was pointed in several directions I’ve never known otherwise. I posted my own navel-gazing SotD posts, and sometimes, sparked conversations as I did. They were – and still are – a revelation.

While I may be a resident freakfumista and post-punk midlife misanthrope in my own all-too-real life, to find a kind of community and acceptance in the online world of social media has changed my life forever – for real. I have one real life true-blue friend in my immediate vicinity and a sister in faraway Copenhagen. That’s all, two argumentative Schrödinger cats notwithstanding.

But I also have standing invitations, true-blue and exceedingly real friendships and instant community – and another kind of family? – on three continents, thanks to Facebook, Twitter and those endlessly boring, irrelevant SotD posts.

I’ve learned details about lives and personalities I would otherwise never know from finding out what people choose to waft, wear and adore. I’ve shared in their lives, their loves, their woes and their joys, celebrated their successes and cheered them up when they were down. I’ve met people, found readers, I’ve connected, I’ve had long, involved Skype conversations. I’ve fallen in love and certainly laughter with not a few of them in a way that feels less like fake, superficial acquaintances and more like family in the best sense of the word, and to a writer in BFE nowhere who has not much at all, that has meant and still means more than you know.

So those silly, volatile, vociferous Facebook groups and Twitter conversations – the endless revolving virtual happy hour across time zones of SotDs and discussion and dissent, where fellow freakfumistas just like me argue, laugh, post bad jokes and share ourselves, our lives and our preoccupations are far more important than they appear on the surface. For one thing, it’s nice to know you’re not alone in your obsession and have a place to share it.

For another, you may have far more in common with your fellow freakfumistas than just perfume, and isn’t common ground where all true friendships often begin in real life?

The Towering Ivory Soapbox

Any kind of creative expression – regardless of the medium you choose – is in itself a kind of narcissism – or solipsism. If it’s just an exercise in preventing your head from exploding, you might choose to stick with the decidedly old-school method of a pen and a notebook. Alas and alack, so very many of us don’t stop there. We begin to believe our own brand of blarney. We begin to think we have an opinion and what-the-hey, why not commit that ultimate exercise in vanity…put it out there?

Publish a blog post, put the link up on Facebook and elsewhere, tweet it and tell the world, tell the world that you exist?

It’s a free world, we have freedom of speech and freedom of opinion, and the online world has plenty of room enough for everyone. Say whatever you please. Stand by what you say.

So long as you’re aware that nothing – not even in the blogosphere – exists in a vacuum, and whatever you do say can and often does find a level – or an audience. You may get a reaction to your words and your opinions, if not always the reaction you would choose. But blogging is itself a social medium, and by choosing to blog, you are also opening yourself up to criticism, dissent and discussion. How you decide to deal with it says very much about the courage of your convictions and very much more about your social media credibility.

I think it’s a crying shame that particular blogger deleted the post – as if he didn’t get the reaction he was hoping for, so he then chose to erase it. I would have respected it very much more if he hadn’t, and had the determination to stand by what he wrote.

Dissent, discussion and even the occasional satire is a many-splendored thing. All too often though, it backfires on the writer. Not because of the mode of expression he chose, but because the writer didn’t have the necessary writing skills to make his intentions crystal clear – or perhaps the motivation or resolve to explain them properly, and if that’s true, then he might have chosen a better angle for a better reception.

Yet, there it is. We live in a social world. We redefine ourselves within that context every single day of our lives, with LOLcats, memes, links, tweets and status updates and SotDs.

Some of us haul out the virtual soapbox and preach to an unseen choir, but in a social world, it isn’t up to us to decide what happens once we do, or even if we might topple from our ivory soapbox towers.

Only that our SotSolipsism might have consequences we could never have foreseen.

Image: via The Globe And Mail

The Best of 2012 – Phrases, Friends and Facilitators

christian5crown

(Note: The following information may be disturbing to some readers)

True Confessions: I don’t consider myself a perfume blogger. While I have nothing but the utmost respect for those who are, I’ll tell you straight away that the idea of me being a pefume blogger makes me break out in hives. Why?

Because I’m not a blogger at all.

I am – for better and (likely) for worse – a writer. I’m currently working on a revamp of Quantum Demonology and a translation into Danish for publication. (Otherwise, my sister will kill me if I don’t!) I sometimes still write about whatever grabs my feminist goat hairs on The Termagant Tarleisio. At the back of my mind and in yet another notebook, a QD sequel is bubbling away. So is a story I began because of perfume, the ‘sequel’ of Théophile Gautier’s ‘Clarimonde’ I began when I reviewed House of Cherry Bomb’s ‘Immortal Mine’ for the Clarimonde Project. Instead of celebrating Christmas, I applied myself to submitting a story to an online erotica publisher (who has published me before) as a warm-up exercise for an erotica novel a fellow perfume writer dared me to write after I bellyached loudly over the pathetic ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’, which at this point is in sections, research and sketches in longhand in a notebook. Let’s just say it won’t be for the faint of heart…

Oh. Yes. I also have a quite a few friends who are sweet enough to say… “You should really write a book about perfume…”

Last, but not least, I also…write about perfume. I began back in the day with the absurd idea that I could do that, too – so I thought. Yet even as I thought I reviewed as straightforwardly as I could, I came to discover that the writer overruled the perfume blogger and sometimes, the perfumoholic, too! Maybe that was a good thing?

I dare say it was, for I have received far and away more enthusiasm and encouragement for my perfume writing than anything else I’ve ever written, and at this point in time, I have more followers, more hits (and more notoriety!) than ever before.

Thank you.

But the very idea of just writing reviews also makes me break out in hives. For one, I would be bored out of my mind when so many other aspects of Planet Perfume are so fascinating. For another, words  – even fragrant words – have power. Since the advent of social media, more power than I ever anticipated when I thought out loud this summer on TAG about Planet Perfume, social media and other things worth mulling over since completing vocational training in social media marketing this past spring. I never expected the eminent Andy Tauer would pick it up, but he did. Of all I’ve written on TAG this past year, the two posts I wrote on the topic (here’s the other one) were the most read/shared/retweeted of all. They even prompted further discussion elsewhere in 2012, and I feel a bit guilty that Andy Tauer – one of my own Primeval Forces of Perfume – was one perfumer I didn’t have a chance to review nearly enough. Dear, darling  Andy – we should certainly remedy that in 2013…;-)

2012 was a year that threw my offline life in a bit of a tailspin, and since the beginning of October that tailspin meant that I couldn’t review at all. All the same, it did make it possible for me to rant/vent/think out loud on other aspects of my fragrant life, and now that I’m back in full-on writing mode, I have the backlog from Hades…

Ask any writer – whatever avoidance actions they can take to avoid nailing their posteriors to a chair and letting rip are always justified. We have to do our ‘cat-chasing-its-tail’ routine before facing the inevitable terror of the empty page. This year, I came to discover something truly great– as even the media did elsewhere. More men are writing/blogging/vlogging/thinking about/buying perfume than ever before. Suddenly, it’s dead hip to take an interest in or find a passion for the good stuff, and I’m thrilled to find several other new bloggers whose perspectives I’ve come to appreciate.

I’m very proud to celebrate a friend and fellow blogger who published a very well-received perfume book this year. Kudos and congratulations to Persolaise for the publication of Le Snob: Perfume. I always suspected you’d be trouble! Now, I have proof! 😉

A few new friends and favorites have also snuck upon me unawares, or should I say, found me when I wasn’t looking?

One of them was Aussie national treasure Portia Turbo of AustralianPerfumeJunkies. Portia is so good, she also writes for the Perfume Posse, but this past year of trials and tribulations, Portia and her dazzling self has been a constant source of encouragement, as well as introducing me to a few new lines I otherwise would never know. Bless you, lovely! You do know that in the not-too-unlikely event I make it Down Under, it will never be the same again?

The Goodsmellas – those fabulously fragrant specimens of testosterone – made quite a splash in the media this year, to my own total lack of surprise. The more we can spread the word, the more magnificent males everywhere can waft something infinitely better than Dior/Chanel/Dolce&Gabba Aqua High Sport Intense Extreme BS what-have-yous. Therefore, fellas, your mission, should you choose to accept it… is to save the world from these travesties. There can never be enough testosterone bombs wearing Amouage’s Memoir Man on Planet Earth. Or Devs. Ever.

Other notable blogs that crept up on me and I read voraciously are…The Scented Hound and The Scentrist, with their refreshing, no-nonsense prose. I should be so lucky.

I am, actually, so long as the perfumosphere also contains the writing of Memory of Scent, who has done so much to recalibrate my nose and my prose. He’s so good, I can’t even be envious!

That Devil Thang

This was the year that launched that little item of dubious repute and seriously seismic perfumes known as…The Devilscent Project. What began as a double-dare inspired by my review of Andy Tauer’s Incense Extreme in 2011 became my own personal baby of a project, for which I can never thank my partner-in-crime/fellow instigator and friend Ellen Covey of Olympic Orchids enough, nor the bloggers who chose to participate.

Ladies, you have all of you completely blown me away…

If there were alternate reality awards for PR and promotion –  of the DSP – and indeed several other projects she has curated so flawlessly – then Monica Miller of The Perfume Pharmer would win them all. Her infectious enthusiasm, loyalty, unrelenting support for indie perfumers and perfume writers and the astonishing generosity of heart and soul she pours into everything she does has been a constant inspiration and (tough) example to follow. So far as I’m concerned, that perfume Oscar is already sitting on your mantel, Monica. Now you know!

I’ve already stated in Part One just how supremely proud I am of all my participating perfumers. I’m not one whit less proud of my bloggers, including one surprise who was not only persuaded to participate (not by me), but also (was I ever bowled over!) brought in yet another elevated eminent perfumer, and that was Neil Morris. Chayaruchama – long a supremely respected writer and Eminent Entity on Planet Perfume– joined the DSP to my everlasting wonder and delight. She’s another reason I can’t get back to the US fast enough. We have a dinner date with Destiny, she and I…

Speaking of destiny…I swear, not even my twisted imagination can make this up. Not long after my initial post on the Devilscent Project, I received a comment in my inbox from an unlikely and unexpected source. A reader of QD had suffered through the first thirteen chapters I originally posted on the QD blog, and now, she simply begged me for the rest. I really couldn’t say no. In due course, I recruited her for the project – how could I not after that ego boost? Maggie of Architecture of Perfume gave her unique spins on both the project and the perfumes and is a highly talented perfumer in her own right at Lalun Naturals. The Oxford Concise Dictionary has a word for such occurrences. Serendipity!

But my dyed-in-the-juice friends made several huge splashes of their own. When my Scent Twin Suzanne of The Perfume Journal asked to do a DSP post on her site, I was far too flattered to refuse. Lucy of Indieperfumes did what Lucy so excels at – delved so deeply and beautifully into my story, making it something marvelous not even its creator could have guessed.

The amazing Jen of This Blog Really Stinks and the stellar Nat of Another Perfume Blog rose magnificently to the challenges of the Devilscent Project. Since I wrote it, I had some (vague) idea of what to expect – but even in my isolated eyrie on the wrong side of the Atlantic, I detected the aftershocks of seismic perfume ripples on their behalf. I dare say neither of them are quite what they were before they began. Maybe that’s a good thing?

In the brief I sent out to both perfumers and bloggers, the supreme commandment was this: Have fun!  Fun with the brief, with the concept, with the perfumes, perhaps even with the reviews themselves – the style, the form, the inspirations – and just follow those fragrant Devils and see where they take you. So darling Donna of Perfume Smellin’ Things did just that. She used the brief as the starting point for her own perfumed story in parts One and Two (which was my secret hope all along), and if I don’t know what happens next in her diabolical tale, I don’t know what I’ll do!

Meanwhile, these heretical elixirs of blackest Alchymie certainly inspired some of the best perfume writing I’ve ever done. My personal favorite reviews of the DSP, where I just followed those Devils…are The Four Devils of My Undoing, of Olympic Orchids Dev no. 1-4, Midnight Places, of Neil Morris’ Midnight at the Crossroads Café, and Sweet Damnation, of House of Cherry Bomb’s Dev.

Find all the DSP reviews here.

Inspiration can be a terrible or terrifically perilous thing. A Dialogue in Definition, of Amouage Beloved, and A Dance Through a Heart, of Serge Lutens’ Santal Majuscule, literally wrote themselves. That doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it provides the very raison d’etre for Why I Write, besides the obvious. (I suck at everything else!)

Here’s an example of what I’m up against in my offline life. My insignificant spot on the European mainland is in the Perfume Empty Quarter, which is to say, everything they sell at Macy’s they also sell here, but that’s about as exclusif as it gets.

Since last year, one colleague who went over to the dark side of the Perfume Force is now on her second bottle of Etat Libre d’Orange’s Jasmin et Cigarettes (and boyfriend no 3). Another acolyte, also from last year, is working her way through acquiring as many bell jars as she can stand, over the increasingly meek protests of her husband. They would be meek when you’re up against the power of El Attarine…

A dreary Wednesday during a lunch break, I tried to convert/contaminate the colleagues I’d overlooked before.

“Me,” said one tough-as-nails young lady after sniffing her way through assorted classic Guerlains, the more benign Serge Lutens, and a Neil Morris creation I happen to love above all reason, “I don’t care about perfume. Paris Hilton is good enough for me, and I’ve had no complaints so far…”

You see what I’m up against here? Not only did my boss proclaim the glories of Robert Piguet Bandit parfum as ‘not safe for work’ (he might have a point there), but Paris Hilton????

As Charlie Brown would say… “Good grief!”

So the importance of finding likeminded souls can never be underestimated. One commenter on TAG broke my heart this year when she described a visit to Paris and greatly anticipated her grand initiation into that Holy of Holies, the Parfums Serge Lutens boutique at the Palais Royal – only to find it closed. She was flying back to South Africa the next day. It broke her heart. And mine when I found out. I gathered up a Red Cross package of different (actually, a crash course in indie/niche) wonders pronto and sent them off to the Western Cape. Of such things are true friendships made!

When everything in your personal offline life is up in the air and subject to seismic disasters on a far-too-frequent basis, when you yourself are in the process of redefining your own life from scratch and deciding never to settle for less than your dream ever again, people who inspire you, encourage you and give you the guts to perservere or bust, darn it! –  are worth their weight in rubies, emeralds, pink diamonds and vintage Cabochard parfum. I was so incredibly lucky this year to meet two epically spectacular inspirations.

Not long after my beloved grandmother died this past winter, that great Remover of Obstacles, Ganesha (one of my favorite gods) took pity and sent me… a friend.

She’s nothing in the slightest like my grandmother (except in common sense), but although we met through perfume (hers) and words (mine), over the course of this year, I’ve had to wonder – how did ever I manage without the utterly wonderful, vivacious Neela Vermeire in my life? Our first phone conversation was almost three hours of champagne for the brain – a lot of it shared laughter, bawdy jokes, and an instant connection. We’ve had many of those l-o-n-g conversations since – about life, love, literature, art, music, architecture, perfume, history, people, and everything that makes life truly worth living. We’re very different women who live vastly different lives, but nevertheless – when the going got rough as it sometimes did, the virtual scaffolding we’ve given each other at different times and the inspiration she gives me to follow my dream has meant and still means – only everything.

Likewise, another great inspirational story – indeed, she’s the perfect embodiment herself – came through perfume. After I reviewed Vero Kern’s brand-new and spectacular Mito, I received an email so beautiful, I wanted to frame it. And read it whenever I felt blue. I’m out to find that perfect frame tomorrow…Vero has been incredibly encouraging, supportive and endlessly inspirational – always when I needed that extra little nudge to remind me to ‘Keep on keeping on’. I’m going for it, Vero, also thanks to your shining example!

Two women took that great leap of faith in spite of it all and followed their dream. If they can do it, then so can I!

Yet the dream of taking that fatal plunge and deciding that 2013 will be the Year Of Kicking Max A** (and all hail the August Personage who gave me that title!) would never have happened without those who make it possible – and make it possible for this particular starving artist to sniff marvels I would otherwise neither be able to afford nor acquire. For that and for laughter, virtual hugs and fervent discussions about perfume…I would personally like to thank that brother-from-another-mother, Carlos J. Powell and also the collective membership of the Facebook group Peace Love Perfume. As I use Facebook not just as a personal bulletin board but also as a tool to market myself as a writer, I have to be a bit careful of what goes up on my wall. Therefore, if any location on Facebook sees yours truly in all my real life less-than-Epic splendor, it would be here, among the family I would choose for myself if I could. As indeed I have.

Last, but never, ever least – thanks to all the perfume fairies whose astonishing generosity and friendship have made these words possible. You know who you are. I’d send gold bullion if I could, but since I can’t, I’ll send you my words – and pray you find the sincere, 24K gold bullion intentions behind them!

Stay tuned for part Three – Worn and Adored!

The Emotional Engineering Society

–  some further D-list thoughts on brands, bloggers and buyers in the world of social media

Some things I’ll never get used to. Such as…posting what I thought would be a pretty innocuous if slightly polemic blog post only to find some hours later that no less an august personage than Andy Tauer had picked up my topical baton where I dropped it, and in a certain manner of speaking both of our blog posts as well as Undina’s had touched a very live nerve on a very passionate subject.

Therefore, before I incriminate myself any further than I already have, I’d like to state a few things. First of all …there is no controversy, at least as that word is usually understood. My original blog post was prompted by nothing more than my own preoccupations in the world of perfume as well as several informal phone conversations with close friends who share my passion.

Last, but not least …despite my love of the focus of this blog and the people who make those epiphanies possible – fans, friends and perfumers alike – sometimes, I like to think out loud in public and point to what I see as pink elephants in the room. To be honest, the idea of never writing anything BUT perfume reviews (and my profound respect and admiration to those who do!) would bore me to tears and sometimes does. It makes me feel like a broken record, hauling out the same metaphors and the same similes and simply changing the order around, which does me no favors as a writer and is a disservice to the concept I’m trying to grasp with my nose as well as to the mind(s) who conceived it.

Before the perfume blogger, before the social media identity, and sometimes even before the woman lurks an iconoclastic, post-punk catastrophe writer, and if the blogger is to dance on this virtual page, then that writer needs to exercise her train of thought and her vocabulary. I didn’t mean to step on any toes or ruffle any feathers, but karmic law decreed otherwise.

The thing is…there IS a pink elephant in the room. No one wants to know about it, never mind even think about it, other than in hushed sotto voce whispers to very trusted friends. And as Andy Tauer rightly pointed out, no one is talking about it, very few are aware of it, but then, the iconoclastic post punk catastrophe began to think. Caveat lector.

Who is to say that a perfume blogger – even such a grade D entity as yours truly – can’t write about some of the other things happening on Planet Perfume? Well, no one, actually. Except I found two things very telling about this hot-potato topic. One, two people – one a rockstar-level perfumer herself –  commented on Andy’s riposte to my own blog post. Two, quite a few more than two commented back to Undina’s own thoughtful post, many of whom did not comment on my own.

Draw your own conclusions.

So many relevant points were brought up however, that it seems a bit pointless to go comment by comment, when I should have a) been a bit clearer about my intentions and observations and b) been a bit more precise in my argumentation.

Andy wrote that he didn’t consider social media to be relevant to any discussions about perfume because the medium IS…the message, as Marshall McLuhan famously said in that innocent, Pliocene age before Facebook, Twitter and other hazards to our collective sanity.

Andy, you’re absolutely right. It’s not. And it is. And the medium is less a point in itself as it is a platform and a Wild West free-for-all land claim for the message its users are trying to get across. I’ll be getting back to that.

Second, my blatant and purposely provocative use of the term ‘niche’. Yes, there is indeed a vast difference between big, corporate-backed ‘niche’ brands, independent perfumers and artisanal perfumers. There is a difference in the way these businesses are operated and maintained, there is a definite difference in terms of distribution and customer reach, and above all, there is a marked difference in the business philosophies of all three entities. I’m not even mentioning how new launches are conceptualized or executed, since from where I’m standing, that’s one distinction between them.

My point is…whichever category a perfumer/brand might belong to, and I’m so very sorry if I burst any bubbles…it’s still…a business. Money makes the world go round, money makes it possible to keep a company afloat whether they’re a one-man band or a whole olfactory orchestra of magical elves.

Perfume, that most ephemeral art, is costly to produce, at least at the level I’ve become accustomed to. Sourcing a consistent quality and supply of raw materials, manufacturing the juice or outsourcing your production line, bottling it up, finding the appropriate packaging, producing – or outsourcing –  the PR to go with it – all these things take a considerable amount of a brand or a perfumer’s time, and just as in any other business, you’re only as good as the reception on your last product. As an artisanal perfumer, if your juice doesn’t sell, you’re not going to remain a perfumer for too long if you also like to eat.

Now consider this – in 2011, more than 1400 new perfumes were launched. Some of those were struggling, artisanal brands with very limited distribution – if at all – and most of those 1400 launches came out of the great corporate conglomerates. How many of those will survive the end of this year? How many of those will be reviewed or remembered? How many will distinguish themselves to such an extent, they will still be bought and talked about five years from now?

In a market economy, wouldn’t that depend on not just the quality of a given perfume and the concept behind it, but also on things like…exposure, availability, trade-show schmoozing, word-of-mouth, editorial coverage, and the general conversation in the perfume community? In a world of ever-increasing olfactory noise and with the backlash to prove it, how else will any new and curious perfume buyer even know about it?

Enter the beast that is…social media. The casual Facebook user might not think too much about these things, but you do have to wonder…what are we doing there?

Posting cutesie Photoshopped animal pictures, commenting on other pictures and clicking links and sharing – or even oversharing – everything from intimate details of our private selves and offlline lives to inadvertently delivering a marketing executive’s wet dream of a demographic analysis in the process for free. Posting our SotDs and declaring our undying loyalty and love of a given brand – or forty – commenting back on other SotDs in happy-hour cocktail-party fashion… “Oh, I love that one, I have that one, that one didn’t work for me, have you tried X, Y or Z instead?”

If the medium is the message, then the message here is…despite all our high-minded efforts, despite the opportunity and the platform to engage in meaningful discourse in all sorts of Web 6.0 ways with anyone we damn well please, perfumers and/or brands included (I mean, they can’t see you blush as you type your shy ‘hello’ to a rockstar perfumer, or see you bang your head against your keyboard with your likes), we’re still interacting on the same principles that grease the wheels of human concourse anywhere in the world.

“Nice weather we’re having lately!”

Why? Because the point of Facebook, or Twitter, or Pinterest is not…a philosophical discussion about the creative process or the concept behind a concrete idea. In fact, it’s not about discussing much at all. It’s about the daily reinvention of ourselves as individuals in an increasingly crowded world. It’s about staking that claim and drawing those lines of distinction. This is who I am. This is what I like. This is me…today, this week, this moment in time.

No, Andy, it is all too true and you are all too right…there really isn’t, despite all efforts to the contrary, a hell of a lot of ‘meaningful discussion’. Because this really is a brave new world and we’re all taking our baby steps as we walk this brave new media landscape of 24/7 virtual life, being brave or not as we go.

Why not? Ah…

Well, I’ll venture that the vast majority of perfume consumers simply don’t have the vocabulary for it. Francis Kurkdjian landed in hot water when he claimed that bloggers or even layman critics as a rule don’t know what the hell they’re writing about, since they have so little knowledge of the technical skills of perfumery. This is very true. We don’t. And if you ask me at least, I don’t give a flying, since I don’t buy juice to determine the artistic use and technical merits of this or that aromachemical, this olfactory riff on a material. Even if I did, it still wouldn’t sell the juice to me.

That’s not why I love it, that’s not why I buy it, that’s not why I dream about it and that’s certainly not why I write about it. I do all of it…con amore. I’ll wager my D-list status here (about to be demoted, any day now!) and venture that isn’t why any other blogger – or at least the ones who are capable of articulating that passion to any extent – does it, either.

We articulate our inordinate passion for perfume artistry for no other reason than what it does to our selves, to our moods, and to our daily real-life reinventions. We articulate it to inform, to entertain, if only to inform and entertain ourselves, to make our readers agree or not with our assumptions, and all along, we know damn well we’re charting virgin territory in the process, since articulating a wordless, emotionally fraught art is very, very hard. Poets, writers, artists and dreamers have been trying to convey the inarticulate with words for millennia. But in the end, the nose…knows what the word can’t say.

Not everyone has the depth of cultural knowledge, the passion, or the psychological insight to participate in any meaningful discussions about perfume. And there are no troll-free zones to do it in, either, unless it’s an option to moderate comments on a blog.

Does it take away from the mystique, the whole romantic aura of perfume to know something of the process that goes into its creation? Maybe it does for some, maybe they can’t be bothered to be informed on such a level, maybe they just don’t care to know anything other than what their acute, discerning noses tell them.

What about bloggers? What are they doing, thinking, planning? Is it true that some bloggers have an inside track on certain brands, new launches, new hotly anticipated moments in perfumery?

Yes. And if we didn’t (I’ll freely confess to being one of them, and I’m obliged by US law to state it every time it happens), how would a lay perfume customer even know? They don’t have access to trade magazines, wouldn’t know unless they read perfumer’s blogs or editorial write-ups, and even those do come from other sources than press releases. In the case of indie perfumers and artisanal brands, they don’t have an advertising budget, or much more to go on but determination and dedication. Some of them are internationally renowned, some of them not at all. My point is…a blogger receives a sample because a perfumer would like that spin on their creation, to see what a blogger’s interpretation might be. And any blogger worth his or her weight in bottled bribes knows full well there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Any artist in any medium knows that once a work of art is finished, you have opened up the gates of Hades to pass it on to the world. You want feedback, accolades (it is to be hoped) or alternatively, at least a certain level of creatively stated antagonism.

That doesn’t mean you’ll get it.

Not one blogger that I’m aware of does this for a living. In most cases, we have very full and overflowing lives that entail things like spouses, children, pets, families, day jobs and laundry baskets. There are only so many hours in a day. I’ve been known to knock out big reviews in an hour and thirty-seven minutes, and several others that took me days or weeks. Yet I have very few truly negative reviews. Why?

It’s the conspiracy of silence. Negative reviews – or simply reviews of stuff you loathe – are too much trouble to write. Why be bothered to forgo an evening with friends, an extra bedtime story, a nosedive into a book, a full night’s sleep, if you have to write a review of something you hate? For that matter, why waste time on what doesn’t move you? I don’t bother with people I can’t stand, why should I do it with perfume? Life’s too short. Better to just…pass it on, pay it forward by sending off a sample to a friend who might love it better, write about it better, cherish that idea you were unable to grasp.

Undina said it beautifully in her post – perfume experts don’t buy perfume. Laymen do. They buy with their hearts, their passion, their noses and their burning plastic, People like you, people like me, people like the perfumers who inspire us and the brands we love – or love to argue about, in that fragrant corner of the dog-eat-dog world of social media, we could call – with some justification, to continue the Huxley reference…the Emotional Engineering Society.

With many thanks to …Persolaise for the interview with Francis Kurkdjian, Andy Tauer, Lucy of Indieperfumes, Undina, Bloody Frida, Susan and the two dear friends who burned my ears this week about this very topic.

Original image: An installation by Brooklyn artist Ebon Heath.

Phantoms in the Fumosphere

–  This could happen to you, too!

Do you like to read perfume blogs? Do you appreciate the different perspectives on this or that verbal expression of olfactory art and expertise, do you love to see where the blogger’s words might take you, or what lemmings the writer will wake? And if you are a reader, do you ever wonder at the life of a perfume blogger? What goes on behind the scenes, what do all those bloggers do when they’re not posting?

The vast majority of us are working our day jobs – most of which are not connected in the slightest with the perfume industry, taking care of our quotidian lives, and to a greater or lesser degree as our life permits planning the next post. Maybe we’ve received samples of something we’d like to review and maybe we’re wearing them, and maybe in those idle moments on a freeway or a subway or city bus, in a supermarket queue, over a stove, we’re thinking about what to write about them, wondering about what places they have taken us, what wonders we have felt and seen and surreptitiously sniffed when we thought no one was looking, writing already in our minds.

You see, that’s what we do – write about perfume. We provide original content for your delectation and delight – and above all else for our own. We have a passion that perhaps is considered a bit suspect if not obsessive by our surroundings, and so…we blog and we write about that passion out of love, on our own time, and for very little or no renumeration at all. In the perfume communities of the Internet, we comment on each other’s blogs, we share discoveries, exchange information, network, and trade samples.

We do all of this for one reason.

We simply l-o-v-e perfume. We see it as the Invisible Art, we consider it a privilege to enjoy, we think it a joy to communicate that love to others who love it as we do.

Now…imagine a very different scenario. Imagine – there are no perfume blogs. At all. Imagine a world where the world of niche and independent perfume has only websites and advertising to notify the general public, and imagine therefore – that there are…no independent perfumers. Advertising is expensive. You as a consumer are stuck with the specters of corporate conglomerates who are thinking entirely different things about sensory transport – their bottom line, not your out-of-body olfactory experiences.

Hold that thought.

Now, imagine that you are what the social media marketing world calls the 1%. In Internet social interaction, it is a general rule of thumb that 90% of any given group in any given setting will enjoy the online content they have access to. They will enjoy it, they may even share it with each other. That’s all they do. Nine percent more will comment and interact with…the one percent who actually provide that content – write the blogs, post the links and share them, tweet them etc.

Every single perfume blog you read is part of that one percent. Each providing original, often beautifully written, thought-provoking, never-before-read words so that you may enjoy them.

Only that’s no longer true, I’m sad to say.

The fact is, every minute of every day, nameless, faceless phantoms stalk the blogosphere on the hunt for content to steal. Even in the friendly, rarified section of it I personally call…the fumosphere. There is an entire underground industry in Asia who trawl great blogs for their content so they can proceed to post them as new material. I’m not knowledgable enough or close enough to worry too much about them.

I worry about those other phantoms…the ones who are the stuff of haunting nightmares, the phantasms who in so many insidious ways can make me reconsider why I shouldn’t just …give up the ghost altogether.

These are the content thieves, the domain stealers, those innumerable unseen poachers who lurk in the dark and not so dark recesses of the blogosphere and on every blogging platform we use…to steal our words and even our carefully selected images and pass them off for their own.

They aren’t out to poach from the big blogs, the household names, since they are very well aware that if they did, the large audience those blogs have would expose them in a heartbeat.

Much better, so they think in their larcenous minds, to take from the smaller blogs, the cognoscenti blogs, the blogs that are just far enough under the radar of the fumosphere not to be entirely well-known. Who would notice, after all, if a domain registered since 2006 is used for a subterranean blog, who would care that blog posts are purloined wholesale and set up on another blog much further down the food chain in those overlooked shadowy corners, who cares if these thieves bask in the reflected glory of the words they loved enough to steal and try to pass for their own?

The one percent who conjure that content from thin air, sparse spare time and sleight-of-word care more about this issue than you could possibly begin to imagine. You see, this is our creativity, these are OUR words, this is what we love to do more than nearly anything else on Earth, which is exactly why we do it to begin with – for love. Those words, that content contains the DNA of our hearts and souls, the very essence of ourselves and our raison d’être. Our words, our blogs and our creativity has established a network, a reputation, and a credibility in a community that means everything to us – and to steal it amounts to something akin to violation of our souls.

Surely, I must be exaggerating? It can’t be that bad!

It is.

Last week, my friend and fellow perfume writer Lucy of Indieperfumes discovered to her horror that someone had hijacked her domain, a domain she has owned since 2006. This was a very suspect blog to begin with – there was no contact information and no links whatsoever, not even submerged in the HTML header code. In not much time and with a little help from perfumer and blogger Absinthe Dragon, we took it to the social platforms of Facebook and Twitter, shared our links, spread the word. Many of our friends in the perfume community reported the offender to the host. Less than 48 hours later, the blog name had changed. The case would have rested there – lessons learned, reports filed, copyright offices and ditto lawyers notified at exorbitant cost – except that wasn’t all that happened.

This morning, I woke up to another horror story. Lucy was notified that someone had stolen many of her own favorite posts – images and all – and passed them off as original material. Within minutes, I was informed on Facebook by Undina of Undina’s Looking Glass that another very highly regarded blogger, Krista of Scent of the Day, had also had content stolen – lock, stock and barrel.

Once again, this was a highly suspect blog, once again, there was no contact information, no About page, no attribution, no backlinks or even so much as an email requesting permission. Once again, we reported the offender to Google. And last but never least, we’re confronted with that Big Polka-dotted Elephant in the blogosphere…or anywhere original creative content is created, since this issue is nothing new – why bother to create any kind of content and share it, if it’s going to be stolen?

Music is downloaded illegally every day, as are films. Images can be copied and saved with a right-click or a drag. Even perfumes are not immune to plagiarism – formulae are analyzed, copied, watered down and released as ‘new’ and ‘original’ all the time.

I prefer to buy my music and films to support my musicians and directors, not out of any sense of charity, but because these works of art in any medium were created to be enjoyed by people who felt they had something to say and I very much like how they say it and want them to keep saying it, so I can continue to enjoy it.

Why should I care? It didn’t happen to me. It happened to two friends and fellow bloggers who have supplied original content for my delectation for a very long time but whom I would never even conceive of stealing from or even quoting without permission because I’m a firm believer in the laws of karma. Yet it could happen to me, to you, to anyone who creates at any moment of any day – perpetrated by anyone who loved it so much even imitation was too much to ask and only copy-paste content poaching was enough, all to bask in that reflected glory and clandestine thrill only theft can provide.

We content creators and providers, we artists and we dreamers share our passions and our creations in the hopes that you may enjoy them, think about them, talk about them, discuss them with your friends. We arouse your curiosity about a world that may be infinitely larger and richer than you already know, we entertain you, we engage you so that you too can pay that passion forward to those you care about. And we do all of this, every minute of every day in every context and on many platforms – for love.

Du ut des. Latin for the number one rule of social interaction on the Internet:

I’ll give so you can give.

Here’s what I give: my words, since they’re the only thing I really have TO give, to share and to care with. Here’s where I care – to raise awareness of polka-dotted elephants in the blogosphere most of us would rather prefer to ignore if we could. Here’s where I share: the knowledge I have, the connections I’ve made, the precious and priceless friendships I’ve created with the magic my own words have conjured.

Here’s where I laugh: In the world of social media, there really is such a thing as …instant karma.

Here’s what I share: what I know.

Here’s what I know: Stolen love – or stolen words – is no love and no truth! – at all. But should you forget – let me tell you a few things… about instant social media karma…

With profound thanks to Undina, who alerted me to Krista’s stolen posts, too. And to the international perfume community, who knows stealing is so deathly uncool! And the very worst karma!

Image: RelyOnHorror

Butterflies On Blooms



– on the complex relationship between brands, bloggers and bother



If any one phenomenon has utterly changed my life around for better and for worse in the past five years or so, it would be that phenomenon known as social media networking. On Facebook I’ve made some amazing connections with people I might otherwise never have known, through my three blogs I have had the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with my readers on whatever subjects piqued me enough to write about, and on Twitter I could toot my horn loudly and slather the word around like so much virtual virgin olive oil:

There’s a new blogger out there, people. Watch out, world!

But social media these days are a lot more complex than simple shameless self-promotion platforms – for one thing, they are quite possibly the most exciting thing to happen in marketing since the invention of TV commercials. Brands everywhere have sat up and taken notice…this thing called social media marketing. They’ve joined Twitter, created Facebook pages, held promotional events and competitions for new product launches etc, building a brand identity and online presence through the one thing that distinguishes social media marketing from the old school of advertising:

Engaging in a dialogue with their customers.



Nowhere is that more apparent than in the noisy blogosphere, for no other reason than here is where a brand can be made, made over or pilloried by the new media superstars:

Bloggers.

Ordinary – or not – people like you and I, people with and without backgrounds in professional writing, people who are armed and dangerous with the courage of their convictions and more to the point – are not afraid to put those convictions out there in the virtual world for all to read and interact with. In some areas, those bloggers have become entities in their own right – for better or worse, as in the fashion industry.

If a blog is to succeed, said one of my ‘How to promote your blog’ newsletters, it needs to have a defined focus – one topic or passion that will appeal to others who share that passion. Once upon a time, I thought that was the worst sort of bs. This was until I started writing about perfume and gained far more followers and feedback than any of my other blogs ever had. If you write about a product – as we perfume bloggers do – then you need product to write about.

You need the brand that makes it happen – in this instance, perfume houses who make the juice you get to sample and then to write about. Don’t believe for a moment that those perfume houses could care less about your opinions, because trust me – they do!

So we have that delicate symbiosis between brands and bloggers, like flowers and butterflies, each benefitting from the presence of the other. Bloggers are the best ever free PR any brand could ask for – and in return, a blogger can get noticed/promoted/read or even get to the point of actually becoming a brand in his or her own right.

On the other hand, we all know it – there’s no such thing as a free lunch. And in the world I live and write in, there is also such a thing as personal integrity.

Say…an independent perfume house would like to read what stories their perfumes could evoke in my dubious prose. My email is right on my profile page. I receive an email – would I like to review X, Y or Z?

I am several hundred miles away from anything remotely resembling a brick-and-mortar department store/niche perfume boutique. I’m also relentlessly curious, as well as too poor for a credit card. In due time, I receive samples of X, Y or Z – sometimes entire alphabets – and in turn, I have my own part of the bargain to fulfill: to write what I think, publish the results and sit back to watch the fireworks. Since I’m also on Facebook as well as Twitter, I also share the link, tweet my newest blog entry, and in some cases, email/PM/DM the perfume house to let them know it’s there. They get the PR – and I get the benefit of building my own reputation/brand as a blogger who may or may not have something unique to contribute to the ever-expanding world of perfumed prose.

Actually, I have another nefarious agenda here: I want to write for a living, and I have the hubris to believe I can. If I can write about the ephemeral art of perfumes – a very difficult subject matter, since our sense of smell is so subjective – then it serves two purposes at once: I become a better writer, and also gain a reputation as one.

So what would the brand of Tarleisio be? What can I do to be unique in the perfumosphere? I realized a long time ago that I had to be true to my own voice above all else. In other words, if you want a ‘professional’ review, this is not where you’ll find it. So many other bloggers are much better at proper ‘reviewing’ than I will ever be. You’ll find most of my personal favorites listed on the right of this blog.

My angle is different – I choose to go with the genies in the bottles and follow them where they lead. If that means that I can evoke a sense of what a perfume smells like or what the perfumer/perfume house was trying to say, if you as a reader become curious through my words and my idiosyncratic perspective and passion, then it’s all good. If not, well…there are much better perfume bloggers on my bloglist!

Back to that personal integrity. I have on more than one occasion received a few things that left me cold/unimpressed/disgusted. Since I consider perfume a high art form on a par with any form of creativity, I know from personal experience how much destructive criticism can hurt. Therefore, I try to be fair in how I react. Just because I can’t wear something doesn’t mean someone else might not love it.

So I will praise what I can appreciate – dedication, concept, care of execution – and note what did or didn’t work…for me. If I rave, I rave because I think it’s exceptional enough to rave about. If I rant, it’s because it was a bad idea badly executed.

I have never received any kind of payola for my reviews and never will. I also reserve the right to decide what I review and when I do, which is a lot less often than I’d like. Hence, my whopping backlog of guilt over all the marvels I want to review and all the time I don’t have.

Do I have favorites? Yes. I tend to rave about the perfumers/houses who continually push the limits of what a perfume can achieve, who keep trying and keep challenging not just themselves but their customers. In other words, those who evolve in terms of artistry, just as I try to do the same in my writing.

There is an awful lot of awful out there. What is also out there: an awful lot of incredible discoveries to share. Without perfume blogs, I would never have known about niche perfumes or independent perfume houses, and my life would have been infinitely less rich for it on all levels of my existence. I truly was at the point where I thought perfumery as an art form was dying, since so much of the mainstream left me unimpressed or disillusioned.

I’m not immune to the lure of loot, luster or lucre. I’d be thrilled if I had 2000 followers and an online presence to match. But I blog con amore – for love. For the love of perfume, my passion for sharing that love, and a personal dedication and perspective to writing about it that I try to keep my own.

Just as flowers need butterflies and bees to keep blooming through time, we perfume bloggers need perfumes to write about. Just as no flower is identical to any other, neither is a perfume or a blogger. Which is not at all the same as saying every nectared flower is equally sweet – but then, all butterflies are different, too.

Even this one.

A big thank you to Nathan Branch for bringing this horror story to my attention.

Image: Dottie Dee, fineartamerica.com