I SEE WHERE the New York Times has finally gotten around to hiring a perfume critic. He’s a veteran aroma-sampling reporter named Chandler Burr (how’s that for a classic Times- moniker? You didn’t think they’d let a Harry Schlabotnik poke his beak into the creative effusions of Chanel, Armani, and Britney Spears, did you?), and his new column, “Scent Strip,” will rate men’s and women’s fragrances on a four-star scale, as if they were movies or restaurants. Now, since I tend to be old-school when it comes to newspaper features—and, moreover, since I am a sniffy little allergy sufferer who can’t tolerate any scent other than L’Air du Cold Winter’s Day—I don’t understand why the Gray Lady of American journalism wants to start dabbing her redoubtable décolletage with Passion, Poison, or Poème. Then again, if the Times is expanding the definition of service journalism to better address its readers’ sensory lives, shouldn’t we do likewise? Of course we should. Which is why you’ll be seeing a host of new critics joining our staff in the coming months, each one doggedly pounding a beat of particular interest to Minnesotans. To name but a few:
• Charity “Chilly” Billows, a former community columnist for the Suburban Free Bugle, will review cold-weather undergarments, felt boot inserts, and certain classes of thermal socks in a monthly dispatch we’ve tentatively titled “Cozier Than Thou.” Thanks to a nonspecific congenital condition that Ms. Billows is fond of calling “the ding-dang shiver-divver-doodles,” which afflicts her on even the sultriest July days, there is no more qualified person for this assignment on the face of the planet. In addition to researching and writing her column, Chilly will be making regular appearances at local outlet malls and hosting a new cable-access program called “Live, Laugh & Love with the Long-John Lady.”
• Preternaturally hirsute naturalist Gil Stringer will pen “Bait Accompli,” a monthly review of suckers, shiners, fatheads, tuffies, chubs, grubs, leeches, crawlers, and white bread rolled into balls. If you think there’s no difference in mouthfeel between Wonder and Tastee, well, just be glad you’re not a carp. And be sure to catch Gil’s feisty blog, “Minnowmentum,” updated daily on our website.
• Glamorous couple-about-town Lisa Lincoln and Jack D. Seville will collaborate on “The Nosy Parkers,” a pugnacious critique of local valet services. Don’t adjust the driver’s seat, punk!
• Not to be outdone by the Times, we will, despite some misgivings on my part, venture into olfactory journalism with the launch of “Air Apparent,” a recurring treatise on household fragrance products (your Glades, your Air Wicks, your Renuzits) penned by Minnesota’s best-loved domestic authority, Felicity Bonds, who will demonstrate how to live by her creed: “What’s the point of air if you don’t know it’s there?” MM