Sunday, November 28, 2010

Are You a Perfume Blogging Snob? Take This Simple Test to Find Out!

Lately, I've noticed a certain level of stuffiness creeping into the sensibilities of several blogs I once thoroughly enjoyed reading.

Let's call them the Old Guard. They've been around a little longer than your average blog. They've been around, some of them, longer than this blog has been. And maybe it's me; maybe, when I first started reading them, I missed out on a current of negativity which was always there. Then again, maybe it's not me, and they've just succumbed to problems many people face in middle- to old age: paranoia, a feeling the world is passing you by, the sense that a younger generation doesn't pay sufficient respect to your wisdom and experience, crankiness, exhaustion, constipation.

Blogging can be lonely. Lord knows, if blogging were all I had going on in my life, I might very well be in a sad, sorry place. No one says blogging has to be a laugh riot or simply a ruse. Committing yourself in general, let alone to a blog, is serious business. But taking yourself seriously, too seriously, can be deadly. Your reader feels it. Other bloggers do, too.

You don't care about other bloggers, you say? Oh but you should. Every halfway committed blogger knows that readers are only part of the process. Minus relationships with other bloggers, you're in for an even lonelier row to hoe. Other bloggers can be an invaluable source of support and inspiration. To be sure, not all of them will be your cup of tea. Maybe you don't need support; only the right connections. Fine. But to assume you've made friends with the right bloggers and can shun the rest is a mistake only a truly silly, feeble strategist makes. Remember that blogger in whose basket you so delicately placed all your painfully laid eggs--the one with what you deemed such an "important following"? That blogger is now temp-ing at an auto parts plant in Iowa. She had mouths to feed. The one you wrote off, that uneducated, upstart blogger--the one who didn't know what she was talking about and was only clogging the arteries of internet discourse with needless fatty garbage? She has 15 thousand hits a day, and counting.

Where's the joy? For these bloggers, blogging seems to have become such a dark, unfriendly, unproductive place. The writing feels stale: its only reason for being is to serve the blogger's ever bloated ego. Remember that Monty Python sketch in The Meaning of Life? Over fed man walks into restaurant to feed ever more? Hilarity explodes. It's not always so funny, and if there's time to save these bloggers, perhaps we should try. Maybe it isn't too late. Maybe their egos haven't ossified and are still merely somewhat fragile. Maybe they can be broken and restored. Better yet, maybe these bloggers can help themselves. First we must recognize the signs of trouble. Here, then, are some of the more common symptoms of distress.

1. Do you lay awake at night, worried that the world will not receive your next missive soon enough?

Remember that one piece you wrote--the one about the relevance of the house of Lutens to world peace? Oh, let's not call them "posts" anymore. Posts make it sound as if anyone with a computer could do this. Reviews, dissertations, essays--anything but "posts". Make a note to yourself: tomorrow, on blog, stop referring to your life's work as "posts." Train yourself to vomit a little at the mere mention of the word. Does "posts" sound like the talk of a writer with a book contract? Tomorrow you must also write something which reaches the poetic grandeur, the historical sweep of that Lutens review. You must write something which advances your sense of alarm at a world gone haywire with the over-estimation of utter dreck. One blog reviewed Jontue the other day! Can you imagine? Why not review the contents of your junk closet? Why not review in loving detail the toilet cleaner in your bathroom cupboard? Oh, but what if tomorrow is too late? Who needs sleep, anyway? Someone in the provinces is checking her computer every ten minutes, hoping for a new post from you. There's that pernicious word again. Someone in the provinces is contemplating a life of prostitution and degradation. Without your regular guidance, what could possibly be the point of aiming higher? Must get out of bed. Must reach out immediately. Your public awaits you. It could mean the difference between life and death.

2. Do you have a book deal?

There are many things you could write. Where to start? You did get an agent, which is the first step. Books are important. That's the thing. Yes, you write a blog. Oh, let's not call it a blog. Really, isn't that like calling a Chanel handbag a fanny pack? The thing is, yes, it's true, you write this Chanel handbag. Yes, it's true, the success of a thing like your handbag--you have the numbers to prove it!--would seem to indicate that nobody much reads books anymore. Who needs a book when you've got a handbag? The thing is, just as those classic perfumes you admire have hit the dust, just as they are devalued if not discontinued altogether under the wheels of ceaseless forward motion, books have become practically extinct, a rarefied pleasure. The publishing industry indicates that only memoirs and self help books really fly off the shelves these days. It's one thing to have a book. You need one, of course, in order to command respect. It's quite another thing to have it read. In order to be respected a book must be noticed. Granted, you shall shout it from the mountaintops yourself, but how far can your own solitary voice be expected to throw, even with echoing factored in? The book must be read, or else it ends up in the bargain bin. What could be more horrible than a classic perfume in the bargain bin? It's like picking up a bottle of Sarrasins at Walgreens, between Snuggies and HuggieWipes. Eureka! In essence, your book must be Proust in the form of a Snuggie. Why, yes: a Chanel Bag with arm holes! A tome with the soft, supple ease of use required of a Huggie Wipe.

3. Do you grumble about all the little people, all those new bloggers sprouting up beneath the sprawling wisdom and authority of your big strong Oak of a blog?

Back in your day, a blogger had credentials. A blogger was someone who really knew what she was talking about. Yes, she loved perfume. She had a passion for it. But also an obsession, and to the point of near psychosis. Look at all these little seedlings. Where are their chops? They're sitting out there in, what, Peoria? In their little houses. At their little desks. It's not like you. Where, pray tell, is their psychosis? Where is the overflowing ashtray, that longstanding symbol of your wheezing dedication? Where are their book deals? Have they lunched with Lutens? Would Lutens, looking at his cell phone, vaguely recognize their incoming number before ignoring the call? I think not, and so do you. What do they have to say, these seedlings? Who gave them the authority to say it? What precisely inspires them to think that the world must hear their thoughts on every little perfume that flits past their consciousness? On top of this, they merely imitate you. They see how wonderful your dissertations are, and they try to emulate your magnificence. They cannot, of course. Can the little cat with a missing leg grow up to dance the polka? Can the trashy pop singer belt out Wagner at ear-splitting, glass-shattering decibels? They can no more emulate the Chanel handbag than the local butcher can, so why are they trying? You're a kind, patient person. You would let all this pass. But your commitment to excellence forces you to speak out. Don't all these little seedlings know that they're taking up the majestic Oak's water supply? Don't they realize how crushing the dessicated Oak's fall would be? You tell them for their own good. The world needs the Oak's health. Do they know how many people rely on the bloated oak's shade?

4. Do you count several perfumers and/or fragrance industry types as your closest intimates?

Just the other day, as you stretched out for just a moment to consider your book deal, the phone rang. It was some journalist--some woman--you can't remember who at this point. A lot of important people call. They're calling every day. They look to you for your unbiased insight, relying on your expertise. You know more than they do, and this they recognize. This particular journalist wanted to know your impartial assessment of what your favorite perfumer has been up to. That glowing review you wrote about his latest perfume. It made the stuff sound like manna from heaven. Why yes, you answered, it is, and I say that as someone who doesn't call just anything manna from heaven. When will it be available? asked the journalist. With a funny little snort you worked hard to make sound voluntary, you announced again the release date, adding that surely this journalist wouldn't have to call quite so often if only she read your reviews more carefully. The journalist answered, why yes, I try to read your reviews as carefully as possible, but they are so packed, so overflowing with insider information that it can be hard to retain all the data with any kind of permanent recall. I will accept that answer, you said, as long as we can agree that, while as women we are equals, your answer endorses the idea of my superiority over you as a fellow generic human being. Tell me, continued the journalist. What was the perfumer in question thinking when he created this lovely fragrance? What was running through his head? What are his private thoughts and dreams? If only we knew what he is thinking now, from an impartial, totally unaffiliated source like you. At which point, you placed your hand over the receiver and rolled over in bed to ask.

5. Is it important for you to be the first to report on some breaking development, even if it means making it up?

You would like everyone to know that you were the first to reveal the discontinuation of several highly esteemed fragrances. You make sure they know by reminding them they heard it here. It's sad--tragic, really--but the good thing is that your readers must acknowledge that the best place to hear bad news first is from you. Then again, not all news is bad news. You are often also the first to review the latest fragrance. The latest very important fragrance. Though, by reviewing it, you have virtually created its relevance, really. You were the first to ever wear perfume. Then you were the first to smell it. Just joking. You're not that elitist. You were merely the first to wear it and smell it the right way. Before you, people scarcely knew how to spray the stuff. Do you know how many people practically blinded themselves by trial and error? Of course you do. You know everything! You were the first to report on various rumors which never crossed over into fact. But your attention elevated them in a way which made silly issues of accuracy secondary. Your gaze upon these issues is itself a form of truth. If all else fails to impress, you were the first to report your own significance. Surely that counts for something in certain quarters.

6. Are you paranoid about challenges to your imagined throne?

People are out to get you. This post is a case in point. All these coded references. Here's what it is, you tell yourself. People are jealous. Remember when you were young? Younger. Remember when you were younger, and people in school made fun of your lisp? Oh how they mocked you. People can be cruel. What it was is, they were jealous, because you were different in an interesting way. Sure, it wasn't interesting to them, but only because they were so blinded by jealousy that they couldn't recognize how fascinated they should be. Alas, the good thing about a blog is also a bad thing. On one hand, you can hide your lisp. And you can puff yourself up in various ways no one can contradict. No one sees the books to dispute the numbers you quote. You can tell people you descend from royalty and they'll never know the difference. Were they ever to meet you, they might imagine that your lisp is merely an accent, the way royal people speak in your homeland of Selfimportia. You can tell them you get inside information the same way everyone else does, from the outside. You can hide behind any number of ruses which distort your imagined weaknesses into formidable strengths. The problem is, your readers can hide too. How do you know to trust they are who they say they are; how can you be sure they mean what they say? You know they can trust you, but how can you trust them? Soon enough, everyone is out to get you. What they want is what you have. A book deal. A Chanel handbag. Who wants a fanny pack? Who wouldn't want a Chanel? When you were younger, and the others bullied you about a lisp, you couldn't wait to grow up, not to get away from them, but to join their ranks undetected, so you too could be important. Now you're important and everybody's still calling you names. Soon you will be more important, which should put an end to that.

7. Do you make a lot of "distinctions"?

There is a difference between good and bad, and many distinctions in between. A Chanel handbag is preferable. A fanny pack is unfortunate. A book deal is success. A blog without one is a waste of time. Readers mean nothing unless among their numbers are important people. People are more important if other important people say they are. You are important but you could be more important, and you will be, eventually. Some fragrances are worth one's attention. Others are by perfumers you don't yet know or haven't been made to feel by important people you should want to know. Not every nose is worth knowing. Sometimes, you can make a real ass out of yourself cozying up to just any nose. Some things are worth saying. Generally, these things are being said by you. Other things are a little less worthwhile. If a writer has a book contract, he or she is a good writer. If he or she has an agent, he or she is almost there. A writer without either is like an artist who cuts off his own ear. How will he hear success calling with such a disadvantage? Here's the thing: the cream rises to the top. We live in a meritocracy. We all know that. Artists who haven't "made" it know that what they have to say isn't important or valuable because it isn't being said so often on TV that its genius is immediately recognized. In a culture where the best dancer on Dancing With The Stars can be relied on to win, only the truly great and worthy have a book deal. The truly profound have made the book into a Snuggie.

8. Do you condescend to your dear reader?

In order for you to truly be smart, your reader must be a little more stupid. While you like comments--thrive on them, even--you can't help pointing out in some subtle way how unlikely it is that you would make any such remark. You take the time to respond to each comment, if only to point out how unenlightened it is. This isn't a conversation, folks, you'd like to say. One has conversations with people of the same socio-economic status. It's only natural that, being above your readers, you will talk down to them. There's no malice in it. Is God malicious?

9. Do you review only the most expensive fragrances, believing that to do anything less would make you less like royalty?

Why of course. Only an inferior blogger would review anything anyone else could just as easily review. Who would read a book he could write himself? Does the Queen of England go to Chuck E. Cheese to whack the bobbing groundhogs over the head with those mallets? Does the President pass out eating potato chips in just anybody's TV room? Does a Kardashian get waxed just anywhere--and by that I don't mean any old place on her body? Does a patty melt stand up on the grill and say, Hey, you, can you keep it down, I'm burning my ass off over here? Did Marilyn Monroe marry just any Joe Blow goat-herder from Montana? Did Susan Boyle say, I think I'm good with this uni-brow, let's go public now? Did the little dog on whom you blamed your flatulence write a retort on an index card which read "Those who smelt it dealt it?" Royalty must be cultivated and enforced. There must be a sizable moat between the castle and the crap-dwellers.

10. Are you tiresome?

Increasingly, yes. Lighten up. It's only a blog.


Carol said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carol said...

As one of the little bloggers, I look at your list and think "do people really do those things?"

Though I am sure some think me tiresome.

Long live perfume blogs of various shapes and sizes; we need them all.

Katy Josephine said...

Wow, provocative post. As a new-ish perfume - and life - blogger, and a long time perfume blog follower, I have also noticed this slip into snobbery. And you're right, it's tiresome.

Thanks for having the balls to say it.

I have failed your simple test miserably, which I will interpret as a very good thing.

Elisa said...

What Josephine said about the balls.

Brian said...

The great thing about blogging is how personal it can be. The pratfall of that is taking oneself too seriously. I'm not sure I would pass or fail this test myself. I shudder to think. But yeah, I've read some things in the last several months to a year which kind of seem overblown to me.

It's very easy to fall into the traps of wanting to be read, wanting to be important, wanting what you fear you're not, wishing you had what you lack--to such an extent that you miscalculate your importance in the largely hostile universe. I think that's a real handicap for a good blog, though the hubris can be mildly entertaining for a time.

Ultimately, it's all about fear. Fear of irrelevance; a panic that the world doesn't hear you well enough. The sickness of self-importance has crept into a few blogs I truly once enjoyed, making it hard to read them at this point. There's an air of prickly superiority there which unfortunately is saddled by a lack of good humor. Where's the perspective?

The truth is, yes, anyone can keep a blog. I think that's a fantastic thing. There are no rules or credentials required. You don't need a masters. This has all come along at a time when the people who make the fragrances we all love dearly need to hear what real people think about their product, and real people want to hear it too. Some bloggers, I suppose, feel their achievements are diminished if other people can do what they've done. But without the democracy of blogging, no one would have heard of them either. So it's really a moot point--and they know this, which is why they create bogus distinctions between themselves and less "qualified" bloggers. I don't think it bothers them in the least that this kind of argument reeks of hypocrisy.

Sigh. This too shall pass, no? Until then, let's have a laugh.

pitbull friend said...

Huh. Wow. I wish I knew who the heck you were talking about. I've been reading dozens of perfume blogs for years, never written for one, and I'm completely missing the references here. Who is talking down to me without my realizing it???

jensun said...

I'm in LOVE with this post! I see the same thing in the beauty blog arena. Oh well... People are endless interesting!

RM said...

I know EXACTLY who Brian's talking about! Well, only one individual springs to mind, but they fit the bill so accurately that I'm surprised you had the guts to post this!
You know, I always thought it was just me that felt this way about this blogger but now I feel so much better. Honestly, the arrogance, rudeness, superiority and nepotism (is it still nepotism if you're not related) that I read sometimes leaves me speechless. And don't get me started on the constant corrections and re-education of reader comments!
Brian, thanks for posting this. I think this particular blogger needs a bit of a wake-up call and you, so far, have been the only one with the, yes, balls to say something!

Martha said...

Who? Who? I wanna know whoooooo?! Somebody email me?

Wandering around in puzzlement,

RM said...

Oh, and, I forgot to mention - your post was the funniest thing I've read/seen on the Internet in a very, very long time!

Brian said...

Oh it's more than one, unfortunately, but I'm also making fun of myself. I've been known to take myself way too seriously as well. I should also add that I read many of the older perfume blogs religiously and love their writers, and a strong opinion as well. I even like a good snob. But it's awfully nice to poke fun once in a while. Pitbull Friend, I'm glad you don't feel talked down to. I didn't have the guts, RM. I just have a habit of opening my big mouth, and only being busy lately has kept it shut for me. This morning, I thought, oh why not. Life is short. Like I said, it's just a blog.

tarleisio said...

Thank you, Brian, for not only making me think - but also making me laugh! No small feat for a Monday morning, very early!

I'm laughing hard, not just for your delightful sense of humor but because you're right - sometimes in the perfume blogosphere, things/blogs can get a little...precious. Precious in the sense that you sense yourself a veritable plebe if you lack a monthly perfume budget of at least 500$, or failing that, the right connections with the right PR representatives to send you the right (read:snobby, rare, niche, limited-edition what-have-you) samples for review.

I've read perfume blogs for over seven years now, and for most of that time, it's been both edifying and an education for someone who has always loved perfume, but had trouble articulating it.

Now, of course, I recently had to insert my own size 6 foot-in-mouth and...create a perfume blog. I know nothing, and I know it. But I know enough to keep learning and keep reading - the good, the bad, the overly pretentious, even - and above all else, to keep my sense of humor about a favorite preoccupation that's supposed to be fun.

Right? Just as you did. If that's not aspirational, I don't know what is!

RM said...

Yes, it probably is more than one but one in particular manages to tick ALL your boxes for me.
And sure, you can get on your soapbox too (as you should, I mean, that's what a blog is for right? Why else do we read?) but you always respond to people politely, never dismiss them and always welcome a different point of view. THAT'S the difference for me. I think it's great that you put what you want out there, but I think it's even better that you allow us readers to respond however we like - without making us feel like no-nothing prats!

Elisa said...

Oh yes, the one it fits most for me is the one who said the problem with upstart blogs is that they prevent the conversation from happening in one place, i.e., that blogger's comments. :)

MyPerfumeLife said...

I love you for writing this post!

Unlike RM I don't specifically know who you're talking about - But I'm aware that there's one blogger who ticks all these boxes as far as I'm concerned.

Brian said...

Tarleiso, your blog looks great. Can't wait to read it. I find it bizarre that any blogger would feel threatened by the proliferation of blogging. It's a total thrill to find out there's another person writing on perfume.

One thing I learned very quickly when I first started reading these blogs is how smart and interesting their writers tend to be. It's not just perfume we have in common but a diverse array of interests and an independent outlook.

To find these people, after years of feeling like a total weirdo, is a real relief in many ways. I just wish I'd had access to all these voices and influences sooner.

RM, I too once loved to read the blogger I think you and Elisa and perfumelife might be referring to. "This blogger" (TB) is quite literate, and had a wonderful writing style. Now it's very hard for me to get through a post. I feel like I'm reading one of Freud's case studies about narcissistic sociopathology.

On a gut level, I think TB's attitude about new bloggers is embarrassingly transparent, and the kiss ass embrace of industry figures sickening at the very least; offensively dishonest at worst.

On the one hand, TB desperately needs you to consider TB to be an insider, wants you to believe that TB is responsible for a fragrance's success, publicity, or even failure. On the other, TB wants you to believe TB is impartial, and that, contrary to making bedfellows with these people TB has merely been ordained by them the single most important arbiter of taste and quality.

This is a blogger we're talking about. Perfume blogging. So it's kind of silly. Sad, too, because the writing has suffered.

I've watched this weird phenomenon in the creative arts for over two decades now, first in publishing, now in film. People start out making these wonderful, humble things. Very personal. You feel so much of them in it.

Then they're doing it for a while and they either feel bitter about what they don't have and feel they should have been given or they get a little approval and it activates some kind of hunger and need in them which really has nothing to do with what you loved about them. Or you just see that what they were all along was this massive, overwhelming need for acceptance, and you simply misapprehended that altogether.

Here's the reality. Anyone with a facebook account can friend a perfumer. These are very talented people. They're not anointed by God. For the most part they seem very approachable, so to behave as though you are a gatekeeper to them because you've done what any other perfumer lover or hater for that matter can is really the height of absurdity,no? It's also, I suspect, a sign of early-onset stupidity.

I just grew a little tired of the BS from TG. But I've heard much of same from several other bloggers, so trust me, it isn't a personal attack. Or don't trust me: read for yourself. You'll probably find some self-important bullshit on this site too. It does tend to creep in. It's part of the format.

None of us are curing cancer here. And ultimately, the best part of writing a blog is writing a blog. The reward is the process and the interaction. That's true with creating anything. It's giving it and receiving it. That's the whole thing. We all think there's some form of success and approval or endorsement which will make what we do truly valuable. It already is valuable, I think. A lot of the time we don't see that until it's too late or a lot of time has been wasted.

StyleSpy said...

What I don't understand is why, if you don't like someone's writing, you don't just stop reading it? Why the behind-the-back sniggering and thinly-veiled name-calling? All you have to do is take the blog off your reader list.

Which is what I'm going to do.

Carol said...

and that's the beauty of reading blogs of all sorts - you can read or you can decide not to read!

Viva the blog-o-sphere!

Brian said...

I'm not exactly inventing the wheel with this kind of parody. People have been making fun of pretension and outsize ego for centuries. And spies--even style spies--have enjoyed the ring of intrigue and covert drama. I agree, you shouldn't read anything you don't want to. I prefer not to read directions and dosage indications on my meds, as they are small and hurt my eyes.

Unknown said...

I think I remember THAT post, the one that complained about all the new perfume bloggers diluting the quality of the online conversation. And I remember thinking "Oh, uh, she's talking about me." Yeah, that was annoying, so thanks for this, it was a relief to read that I wasn't the only one feeling that way.

But I let it go. Yes, there's an old guard or perfume blogs and they know everyone and they get all the new releases first, and they know all about every accord and they've smelled everything. So what? I like the New Guard, the perfume bloggers I have met who take the time to comment on my blog and I love to read theirs. We also talk about the notes, but in general we tend to be less formal about our criticisms and a lot more fun. We enjoy our perfume explorations and we don't take ourselves so seriously. It is only perfume.

Brian said...

I take things WAY too seriously, kjanicki. And I can't resist poking fun at hypocrisy. I'm sure in some other culture I would have been beheaded long ago, or been forced to wet my pants in public, in white pants, after labor day. And my little head, spinning on the sidewalk would be like, wait, what did I say?!

Anonymous said...

This made me smile...even if I may be guilty of some of it on occasion. ;)

Brian said...

I read PereDePierre religiously. It's one of my favorite blogs. Love it to pieces.

rose said...

While I agree with most points in your post (and there is this blog where I stopped commenting because I feel not worthy enough) I am amazed at the harshness of your attack. I went to this blog you made me think of and found that it is almost impossible for me now to still read it. The pleasure is quite spoiled. The pen is powerful after all...

Brian said...

I'm sorry to have ruined it further for you, Rose.

Generally I find that satire feels harshest the more truth is in it, and had I only one blog in mind I doubt I might have bothered with the post; what fun is a single-minded personal attack?

At least four bloggers I know have book contracts or books published. Many bloggers, including this one, interview perfumers, if not worship some of them (again, guilty). For the most part, I find bloggers to be incredibly friendly in their comments. There are exceptions of course. When I first started blogging about three years ago now, there was a great line of communication among bloggers. Some of us (guilty, natch) have more difficult personalities, making chumminess a little more treacherous.

When I started to see a lot of bloggers emerging about a year ago, it was exciting. More to read! More to figure out. More people to get to know. I met Abigail, my co-blogger, on a perfume blog. We were both newbies in certain respects, though I was far greener. This blog is a product of that kind of friendship; two people learning together. Perhaps because of our relationship, I value emerging bloggers in a unique way.

Regardless, it annoyed me at first when some of the older bloggers started talking down to these newer folk. I'm not sure when it moved from annoyance to something I felt an abiding interest in verbalizing.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of that joke of academics... (adapted)

Question : Why are blog fights so vicious?

Answer : Because the stakes are so low.

I'm a relative newcomer. You really have to just do it for yourself and not expect too much. I don't compete much with others. In fact, I have found very few blogs that overlap. Everyone has a different angle.

From Billy Elliot : Always be yourself.

Brian said...

They say the same about poets!

The stakes, like I say, are the pleasure of doing it.

Anonymous said...

Bile, a vilified fluid, the one that was attributed to envy, to poisonous envy...this is what I find, to my disgust, shock and disdain read in this post of yours, Brian. And that'd love things to be as you depict them, but they are not.
I have been navigating the blogosphere for seven years, done MUA, then went on to read all of you as you expanded your posting musings on fragrance there and in other websites to creating your own blogs. I seldom comment, but I always read. I remained with a few. I remained with those that seem to me to be enormously talented, endowed with knowledge, with a deep conviction about what they're doing and a huge sense of style. Your blog could never be counted among those, because of the geographical marginality, because of the - it was there before - capability of using the base tool of verbal abuse in order to express your view. your post the reflection of 'a view'? I doubt it. Unless, of course, rants, tantrums and verbal pogroms are 'a view'. It is a libel, a manifesto of hatred and jealousy for all that magnificent structure of mundane flexibility, rigourous, elegant writing, strong, solid chunks of erudition (not only in the field of fragrance)that the attacked blog can be proud of and that makes it a priordial station in anyone trying to learn more, from home, in the unique classroom of this medium. So those polite and serious answers to each and every reader who posts a comment means it is patronizing? Mm..obviously, for someone so arrogant as to deny the need to learn more all possible teachers seem patronizing. The blogger makes every answer to a comment feel like a little capsule of, yes, more knowledge, more data, more wide horizoned clarifications, more questioning. Isn't that horrible...when we could all plunge into the murky detritus of anything refined and cultivated?
And the cowardice...not to name the blog by its brilliant name, not to name the blogger, not to publish the photograph with the interesting features and obviously attractive demeanor, and putting instead that caricature of a very challenged creature?
And,in spite of your own hatred, you end up doing what hate filled individuals do: you try to diminish by naming the qualities as flaws. ...a Chanel bag, you mock. It is a Birkin, a full Birkin. And it does take more than two years in college to achieve that level of authority, and there shouldn't be anything wrong with it, unless you hate everything, not just culture, elegance, the aspiration to a classical level, women, and people of a certain age.
Everything denied turns awry. Speaking of odours. Think armpit sweat. If denied, it turns sour and becomes unbearable If acknowledged one washes, and that's it. If you used your jealousy and envy to compete in a fair play, becoming fitter in the process, that would be legitimate.
Whatyou do only showed us, the anonymous readers, who you are. jakob boehme said: everything the self describes, describes the self".
I never thought I'd find a clear demonstration of how true is that affirmation in a hateful post.

Had you said it like it is I'd respect you more, and so many of HER readers could come and testify to why they stick with her.

Brian said...

Thanks for your opinion, hills.

As I said, it's more than one person.

Anonymous said...

indeed, there are some wonderful 'voices' on fragrance, some more mature than others, some based in Paris, some in America. But you played unfair, because you depicted one specific, very specific blog (as I said, you named all its best qualities as flaws), and then imply that it also applies to a few others.
Are professors of literature incurable snobs? Some are, but if you want to hear erudition pouring on Metaphysical Poets or the friendship between Henry Adams and Henry James you better listen to them. If you prefer afterwards to go for a lighter form of's up to you. Why make everything equal? Why not acknowledge differences, and enjoy them. Describing a drive to the mall during Thanksgiving or Advent, the kiosk, all is fine IF it admires and remains open and clean to create, not to vilify.
Why the violence?

Abigail said...

Dear hillsofrome,

I need to thank you for making me laugh harder than I have in weeks.


Oh, dear, you are a riot.

So thanks, so much, for the laughter. It's healthy and good for the soul.

Martha said...

The blog can't be _that_ specific, because I (whine) still don't know who we're talking about. Or even who the primary candidates are. It's possible that I'm just not all that bright. :)

(But, yeah, regionally what? What's that again?)

Chuck said...

Thank you, thank you! This is a brilliant post and echoes many sentiments I've had recently. My problem with a few prominent perfume blogs -- probably the same ones you are thinking of -- is that they are shockingly, ineptly written: the language is hilariously pretentious and overwrought, to the point where gigantic words are often used incorrectly when smaller ones would do just fine.

Alas, I am shocked to discover that your blog cannot be "counted among these," because of the lack of "strong chunks of erudition." Generally when I discover strong chunks of erudition, it's time for a doctor's appointment; but your mileage may vary.

Brian said...

Chuck, I'm in love. Let me look into these vilious fluids of mine first and we can make a date. I'm regionally marginalized and have very few teeth left. I hope you don't mind too terribly much. Otherwise I am chunk full of love to give. And envy. I'm so dreadfully full of envy as well.

Brian said...

and btw, thank you for recognizing more than one!

Chuck said...

Brian, thanks for your hilarious comment. I'm laughing out loud. It's a date!

Brian said...

Hills, come now. I'm speaking of qualities, as I said repeatedly. You seem unusually, even obsessively certain that I have one person in mind. You even seem certain that the picture I use to illustrate the post is meant to represent HER!

The photo, incidentally, is referenced in the post. It's a still from The Meaning of Life, a Monty Python film. Not quite James. Not quite Adams. But some of us out in the lowly provinces appreciate the humor. We have fewer teeth, one digit IQ's, and are full of impotent rage which erupts in satirically violent blog posts. Base humor appeals to us, just as bright shiny objects once appealed to the cave people, also regionally marginalized and full of jealous, unacknowledged armpit sweat. It's all we understand, those bright shiny base things.

The character depicted is a man, not a woman, and I think Monty Python would be shocked to learn that their satire of excess and gluttony is misogyny personified. If only they'd read James. All would be illuminated. Must not offend. Must not satirize. Must not admit to shopping at kiosks. Must wash armpits.

Does the HER you refer to so cryptically really match ALL these criteria in your estimation? I'm sure she appreciates your confidence. With friends like that, who needs enemas?

Lighten up. PLEASE. You're a real kill joy.

Sidney said...

I've been reading perfume blogs for about four years, and have always been impressed by the courtesy and goodwill of the fragrance-loving community. Sure, there's the occasional pedanticism or highhanded remark, but in the end, we all share a common passion.

So I'm disappointed to see a post which-- despite your "more than one person" disclaimer-- seems so pointedly specific that many of us immediately thought of a particular blogger. For me, it crosses the line separating humorous snarky satire from a personal attack-- the first I've seen since I began following perfume blogs. It's disheartening. As others have said, if a writer's style irritates you, why not just stop reading?

Brian said...

Sydney, if, when something bothers you, the best option is to avoid it, why are you commenting on a post which bothers you?

Brian said...

Just to be excessively clear: I have heard on several occasions, as have several people responding to this post, apparently, from more than one blogger/writer, that only certain people, with certain qualifications, have the right really to blog.

Is that a joke? Is that possibly to be taken seriously? That's...pedantic? High minded? Are you kidding me? Anyone can write whatever they like. I'm doing it now. Apologies, Sydney, but my experience of reading blogs was typically one of, yes, some little petty intrigues, some silly internecine differences, but for the most part: a diverse, every-expanding array of people joining in on a conversation, authority and novice alike.

So, to ME, it was a real buzz kill to hear this new elitism sneaking into the mix. Was it one person? ONE PERSON is responsible for that? Fine, if you say so. Maybe for you. If one person fits that bill I'm rather shocked such a blogger has any readers at all.

I've heard it from more than one writer/blogger, unfortunately. Several, certainly. I think only a truly egotistical, self-important personality would assume that a satirical--even, God forbid, snarky--blog post is a singleminded act of character assassination, which sort of supports my irreverent regard for this kind of self-important hype in the first place.

I'm all for everyone who wants to join in the conversation. It's the essential point of my post. I trust you know that, and you'd simply like to shame me for saying something which is less about vindictiveness and more, essentially, about the kind of belief in solidarity you describe. Shame as in, put me in my place. I'm all for solidarity and participation, and I'm officially uninterested in and disrespectful of writers whose egos require making others feel unqualified to express an opinion and make blogging feel like campaigning for world importance. If such a campaign requires my silence and assent, we're in big trouble.

Do you think, just this once, we could make the conversation about more than this one person you deem the most significant subject in my post, or does ego DEMAND we make this about your friend?

Anonymous said...

I can completely understand where you are coming from with this post, but I've often felt that as a non-blogger - who lurked-much, and until very recently commented little - my comments were undesired, even here (which, regardless if they are or not it doesn't matter - I read the blogs first and foremost for information and enjoyment - not for relationships...though they are a nice side-benefit, I've found). We look at everything and everyone through our own experiences... those that you have in mind may not be projecting things intentionally (and then again, they just may be), but when they are knowledgable I think they have a little bit of leeway to act like they know what they are talking about. Could your post be doing the same thing? Confidence and empowerment is not a bad thing. Don't get me wrong, ISTIA is one of my top-10 fragrance blogs, but I think our perspectives of people and things are just that - perspectives. Just my two cents...


Sidney said...

Hmm, good question. Guess I commented because I think your blog's entertaining and informative, and I'm reluctant to stop reading.

If I thought you enjoyed vitriol for its own sake, I wouldn't have posted: I'd have just deleted ISTIA from my blog list. I wrote in hopes that you might consider wielding your satiric pen (keyboard?) a bit more gently next time.

Martha said...

I'll emerge from my "what does everyone know that I don't know?" confusion to emphatically agree that it's just silly to say that one should need qualifications to blog, or to feel good or happy or proud or any positive way, about blogging. To me, a huge part of the point of blogging is that anybody can say anything they bleeping well please, without any "publishability" filter. And they should be proud and happy about it.

(I'll add that I've never actually _seen_ any of these "don't blog if you're not good enough!" assertions. But I can get all cranky about the very idea anyway. :))

I've compared blogging (in my emphatically non-old-guard blog with an excess of cat pictures) with letter writing, back in the old days when people did write letters. Individuals, writing whatever they darn well please, is a great thing, and I'm delighted that the Internet and blogs brings that back, and gives those writers a bigger audience and more interaction than the average letter-writer ever had.

Now, the quality of what's being written does matter, but not in the sense that there's only one standard of quality, and _emphatically_ not in the sense that someone should consider, even for a moment, that perhaps they should pre-emptively stop themselves from blogging because they might not be good enough. If somebody wants to read it, then the quality is there. And I can't think of even one perfume blog that I don't want to read; there seems to be something about the subject or the people who care about it that produces good stuff.

But even if that weren't true, I'd still argue that every single person who feels like blogging should keep on blogging, and the very idea of telling them that they shouldn't seems to show a lack of understanding of what blogging is.

Abigail said...


I personally enjoy Brian's insightful posts, every single one of them; from straight perfume reviews, to satire, to social commentary and boy does he have an accurate BS detector.

I know for a fact Brian is not writing about one individual in this post -- he is drawing from at least a half dozen. The fact that there are a few individuals who believe this is purely about one blogger, well, that's a little scary. If there is one single solitary blogger meeting all of the points above, well, my goodness, how could anyone read that blog?!

I hope Brian continues to wield his "pen" whichever way he chooses. Sometimes he's pure entertainment, sometimes he writes tear-jerking posts, and sometimes he hits a nerve. All the more for us to discuss is the way I see it.

Sidney said... own posting ineptitude kept me from replying to your "why comment" question until after you'd posted your longer response.

OK, fair enough. I'll take you at your word that you had more than one blogger in your sights. For the record, I've never met or corresponded with the person I had in mind, and don't really have a dog in this fight, as we say in my own "regionally marginalized" neck of the woods.

Being self-conscious about my lack of a perfume vocabulary, I rarely comment. Fine night I picked to join the fray and get my hand slapped!

RM said...

I kind of feel a bit guilty because, I think, through my comments, I may have given the impression that I thought Brian was talking about one specific blogger when I really should of said that there was only one specific blogger who shared these qualities in MY mind - Brian obviously had more than a few, not just the one I was thinking, and perhaps not even that one at all!
And even though I find the behavior of this blogger (the one I had in mind) questionable at times, I will still continue to read them because, like Brian, I don't mind a bit of a snob really. The haughtiness doesn't put me off, I like that it shows character and personality. And at the end of the day, this particular individual is incredibly intelligent and insightful and well read and all the things I'm not! And I'm cool with that. I'm happy to read and learn and discover new things about my fragrance obssession through them. I think it's just the other qualities Brian described in his post that get on my nerves at times. And I'm glad, as harsh as it kind of seemed, that Brian did this. I think it really needed to be said.

Brian said...

Fair enough Sydney. I'm sorry you feel that way. And my God, I do not want to slap your hand. How horrible that would be. I watched Meryl Streep slap hands in Doubt last night and thought, oh, that's me as an old woman. And I'm a man.

If you've read the blog for any amount of time you might recognize that I've always written in this tone, and have written quite a few irreverent posts similar to this one.

Typically, they spoof the fragrance industry. In this case, I'm verbalizing things I've heard bloggers complaining privately about for well onto a year now.

I think many people are bummed out by the hype involved in the fragrance industry, and not at all thrilled to see that seeping into what has typically been a democratic discourse. I've never purported not to have a strong opinion on this blog, for better or worse. At the end of the day, it's a fraction of my reality, although it's certainly taking center stage today. Certainly I would hate to offend a reader who enjoys the blog. But it is just a blog.

Brian said...

I love how Abigail comes out in my defense like a mom defending her child on death row. My child is a good person! You can't beat that kind of friend. Brian hearts Abigail.

Anonymous said...

I thought this post was more of a cautionary tale for all bloggers including himself. As a new blogger, I took it as a good checklist of things to avoid in order to remain grounded.

However, if ever I get a book deal, you can be sure you're all going to know about it pronto... ;-)


Brian said...

Normand, I love you. Chuck, forgive my fickle nature.

Angela Cox said...

Brian that was a timely reminder that we can all take ourselves too seriously. I am not a perfume blogger just a blogger about any old C**ap that I enjoy . I tell you if you think perfume blogs can ,at times, get pretentious you havn't read the cognescenti of knitting bloggers. I once had to console a woman in switzerland ( not easy in the U.K with only bus fare to the next stop) who had criticised a famous knitter who just happened to be a friend nay a God to these people. I think she survived but I couldn't take anymore acid comments but can still laugh.

Brian said...

Hey Angela. Actually, I knit, and I have read some of those blogs, and you're right!

I remember when I first started and had half finished a sweater, and I brought it into a local knit shop where knitters hang out knitting and gossiping.

One woman, seeing my work, looked up with a sour and accusatory face and said, What's THAT? I hope it's not for YOU. It's way too small.

As if I'd dared to approach her level of expertise and greatness. I always dreaded her presence at the knit shop, and the few people she brought along with her, because it put a pall of discomfort and edginess on what was otherwise a lot of fun and generally a free for all. Some of those knitters are so damn good.

I learned a lot from people who knew more than I did, and I love to help other knitters too now that I sometimes can, but I continue to learn very little from those who feel a passionate need to "instruct" and correct me.

I felt bad for her. She was lonely, and pissy, and I recognized all her insecurities in myself and the rest of us. And I suppose I could have avoided the place. But I liked the place and many of the people there--like perfume lovers, knitters are a diverse crowd--and I've always had a big mouth, so I simply addressed this particular behavior irreverently, and that seemed to do the trick. I remember how many knitters suffered under her negative influence. I felt, why stop coming? Really? You'd give up the place rather than assert yourself?

Of course, having used an example involving largely one person I will now receive angry indignant comments about veiled attacks, in pigeon English. It wasn't just one person, alas. As you know.

It hasn't just been knitting in my experience. It's been filmmaking and publishing, the neighborhood association, the local chapter of Let's Build This Monument to Solidarity Through Bickering and Grandstanding. I think it's true that a certain kind of personality can only feel significant when they can make you feel smaller. Satire's a good adjustment sometimes. But step away from the fan once you throw the shit at it!

I visited my partner's family for the first time last week and it was a pretty humbling experience. Life is huge--much bigger than the interface with our computer screens leads us to believe. I feel lucky to have done the things in my life I want to. It's easy to get stuck and it's easy to end up powerless. It's easy to lose perspective too. Don't I know it.

Angela Cox said...

Oh Brain your comment bought a tear to my eye. I'd always rather avoid than stick up for myself. I can be riled but often try humour to deflect uncomfortable situations. If it's any consolation my daughter makes the most icy comments on my knitting but then I always knitted her Christmas outfits that turned her into a living Carl Larsson painting !!The "old hippy" now knits only for herself and Hols has gone on to wear only fitted ,tidy one colour garments but we still love each other !!

Perfumeshrine said...

I would have burst out laughing if I didn't appreciate the true meaning of satire: truth revealed.
Probably true in my case with rumours which I can't resist sharing: a good theory is never far from my heart, LOL! (Some prove true down the road, I insist!*spoken with conviction and authority*).

What's more important and to the point: (since poor me, being a foreigner can't compete with the more eloquent of you all who have said everything already)

1)You have been linked, sir.

2)Is it only me who thinks so or does HillsofRome sound even more satirical and "damning with [hyperbole-rich] praise"? (It reminds me of a certain witty someone I knew, with whom I have lost touch, but perhaps I'm mistaken)
I these quotes:
~"geographical marginality" (>obviously the French capital is the omphalos on fragrant Earth, right? This is the second mention of the City of Light in the same comment section. Just saying.)
~"It is a libel, a manifesto of hatred and jealousy for all that magnificent structure of mundane flexibility, rigourous, elegant writing, strong, solid chunks of erudition (not only in the field of fragrance)that the attacked blog can be proud of and that makes it a priordial station in anyone trying to learn more, from home, in the unique classroom of this medium" (I feel a very specific "photographing" here for anyone who missed it!)
~"not to name the blog by its brilliant name, not to name the blogger, not to publish the photograph with the interesting features and obviously attractive demeanor, and putting instead that caricature of a very challenged creature?" (Hard to believe anyone involved would miss this is a Monty Python ref. And do the epithets sound a bit much to be coming from a legit source?)
~"a Chanel bag, you mock. It is a Birkin, a full Birkin." Ehhh...excuse me while I kiss the sky!
Mentions on Henry James too...Hmmm.

Brian said...

You know, perfumeshrine, I honestly didn't have one person in mind. It seemed so obvious to me that this was any number of us, and by us I thought very much of myself and many bloggers I've read.

Not just perfume, either, mind you: when Tracey Ullman pokes fun at Ariana Huffington in her blogging skit, she's making fun of vanity, pretension, and self-importance, a narcissism nobody is really immune from, in or outside of politics, and which is pretty much exacerbated by the internet, so that all of us tapped into the internet as a means of self-expression are operating under those delusions of grandeur.

Ariana isn't really her essential target, however hard it would be not to see her as exemplary of the type. I had even less of a target in mind. My post wasn't anonymously directed so as to conceal its "victim". It was written as satire so that anyone might see him or herself in it. Period.

That seemed abundantly clear to me--not just that my target was wide but that these things corresponded to many people. So it was at first shocking, then entertaining, then frustrating when readers kept insisting that I had one person in mind. I of course encouraged that inadvertently by discussing one of my example bloggers with RM. It seemed a handy reference point, and I've never pretended it wasn't about any one at all. I had very specific things and posts and people in mind, some of whom I read and enjoy.

As time has gone on, I think back on this post and the reaction to it, with a little...consternation. I think to myself, when these people say one person, are they all talking about the same person? How is everyone so sure? Then again, I'm happy that, CLEARLY, I wasn't imagining these things.

For me it took some of the humor out to have to defend it in that way, because, though I used specific examples which came to mind from my own reading, I was channeling a consciousness emblematic of many bloggers, rather than a specific personality. It seemed a lot funnier to me precisely because it was so broad. The broader it got, the more I could see different people, and myself, in there, and take it with a grain of salt. I love to poke fun, but I don't tend to be passive aggressive or malicious in my humor. I'm not generally mean-spirited, nor do I have any interest in contributing to a kind of conversation I think you find very much on comment boards online, where people attack each other for the slightest infraction. Some of the worst things I've read on makeupalley have been about me. I am, it was said at one time, Abigail's "Gay Monkey." I have no idea what that means but it seemed to be a very bad thing--especially after I saw a documentary on cable about women in the suburbs who keep monkeys as babies in their homes. No offense against monkeys.

I'm not sorry I wrote the post. I like to think readers are sophisticated and get humor. And of course I'm glad that people are reading it and enjoying it or being encouraged to think--even if their thinking is just that I'm a jerk. I think I'll live. I can't reiterate enough that it isn't a single-minded attack on an individual--but I'm officially stopping, because on the other hand, I'm not going to dull its edge by insisting who it IS and ISN'T about. I believe it speaks for itself. And I think that anyone who finds it just too harsh or violent for words is living in a really weird little world, and hopefully help is on the way.

Sidney said...

Your latest comment prompted me to reread your post, and the reactions to it. Now I'm rather chagrined to have been part of the Contingent of the Indignant.

Wish I'd done a better job of making clear that I wasn't defending the attitudes you satirized, nor was I trying to condemn you for expressing strong opinions. They're part of your blog's appeal.

I was unhappy when I first read your post because I thought, "Great: now there's going to be MORE internecine sniping between perfume bloggers, and LESS discussion of perfume." Didn't you mention Pauline Kael (whose writing I love)in one of your responses? I'm so old that I remember the 1980 Renata Adler "The Perils of Pauline" attack on her in New York Review of Books. It was called "the New York literary Mafia['s] bloodiest case of assault and battery in years."

But now that I've calmed down a bit and thought about it, I see that you weren't attempting that sort of hatchet job. I overreacted.

If folks are calling either other "gay monkeys" and suchlike on the MUA boards, I'll continue to pass them up and just read the product reviews. But now I sort of want to see that documentary. It sounds almost as weirdly compelling as "Animal Cops of Miami". I found myself watching WAY too many episodes of that this summer.

Brian said...

Sydney, listen thank you for commenting. Really. It forced me to clarify a little. And it created a conversation with someone smart I might not otherwise have heard from or talked to.

That doc--I think it's even called...Monkey Moms?? really unsettling. Talk about people taking themselves way too seriously. Those poor monkeys; they're living on cheetos and canned spaghetti sauce. And not living that long, apparently. I make Abigail feed me the very best food monkey can buy.

I DID mention Kael--and Turin, and Chandler Burr and a few others. I deleted the post because I thought, GREAT, in defending myself against charges of singleminded attack, I'm pointing people out! Just to prove I wasn't pointing people out.

I LOVE Kael, too. She was so withering at times. She was such a great stylist, but also polarizing obviously. I think she was shortsighted sometimes too, like everybody, but it was so amazing to hear such a forcefully asserted point of view, and thrilling to my nerdy ears to see that so much care could be put into something like talking about movies--that it could be fun, sharp, and complicated. I miss her voice.

I hope you comment more.

Hiacint said...

Oh, Selfimportia! This should be an entry in the Dictionary of Internet, B, Blogging :) But yes, blogging is mostly about self, though it's hard to say still easy to feel when „self” becomes less authentic. Thanks, I really enjoyed this post, made me laugh (I should say it's past midnight in Europe and empty silence). Sincerely, Now Big Fan