Visions of a Freeman - Brain Age - 16, July of 2017

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July 16, 2017

Very Private Issues (VPI) and the Fart Smelling Machine.
Wicked Fascinations*Circus Contraption
Worried about your odour? At least a machine will tell you straight
Nell Frizzell

A few years ago I lost my sense of smell for 18 months – and it was curiously disconcerting. Now there’s an app to help you find out if you stink

• Nell Frizzell is a freelance journalist

[Image not even needed]
‘I whispered frantically to friends, ‘Do I smell? Honestly?’ Only for them to smile benignly, shake their head and point blank refuse to actually nuzzle their nostrils into my armpit like I was hoping.’ Photograph: Burger/Phanie/Rex

Sunday 16 July 2017 18.11 BST Last modified on Sunday 16 July 2017 18.13 BST

Nobody, apart from maybe my mother and Jefferson Hack, will ever tell you that you smell. I know, because following a particularly graceful, bike helmet-splitting fall on to against a piece of New Zealand road back in 2014, I lost my sense of smell for a full year and a half. I was as anosmic as the joke dog with no nose; and spent the ensuing months furiously washing already-clean clothes, avoiding lifts, dousing myself in perfume that could have been a mix of WD40 and TCP for all I knew, showering religiously, studiously avoiding high shelves and silently quaking with an unquenchable fear that I stank.

So, it is with some interest that I read that those former archdukes of the photocopier, Konica Minolta, have recently developed an app that will allow you to test yourself for three categories of smell. The device, which looks like a 1982 Hitachi beard trimmer, called Kunkun Body, connects to your smartphone, takes a reading from your skin and reports back any dangerous levels of ammonia, 2-nonenal, and isovaleric acid – the chemicals associated with the smell of urine, sour old age and smelly feet respectively. (Precisely the combination I imagine the 1922 Committee to smell of.)

Of course, it would be easier than falling off a Glade PlugIn to see this as yet another harbinger of mankind’s technological isolation, subservience to capitalist fearmongering, social dislocation and inane love of gadgetry. It is a harnessing people’s of fear and discomfort with being, essentially, mammals, in order to sell small plastic devices that remove the need for human interaction. Except, as I say, only your most brutal critic, most sensitive loved one, or most coked-up party guest will ever actually summon the glands to tell you to your face that you smell. Like asking someone if you look stupid in your new cowboy hat, the answer is either in the question (we all smell of something) or the asking proves more embarrassing than the answer.

During my scentless 18 months – a time when I felt like I was living in emotional Tupperware – my home became just a building, lovers became skin-wrapped objects, hugging my mother could have been moving a mattress in a wig, and dinner became a joyless exercise in munching. I whispered frantically to friends: “Do I smell? Honestly?” Only for them to smile benignly, shake their head and point blank refuse to actually nuzzle their nostrils into my armpit like I was hoping. Not only will they not tell you; they won’t even check.

According to the journalist Daniel Hurst, there is a Japanese word, sumehara, that pretty much translates as “smell harassment”. Apart from North Sea fishermen, most of us will know the particular disquiet of working alongside a real honker. The person who glides through meeting rooms exhaling a unique combination of cheddar and burnt onions; the one who fills a lift with the yellowish air of sour milk; the colleague who leaves a trail of malted sebum and eau de carpet tiles in their wake.

But imagine, for a second, spending your work day gripped with the fear that you are that olfactory hooligan. That, unknowingly, you smell overpoweringly of basements, bacon fat or Bovril but nobody is going to threaten a workplace lawsuit by ever mentioning it. Instead, you will find yourself simply edged out of tea rounds and workplace drinks until, finally, you get the message and go back home to Pariah Avenue.

Anosmia (loss of smell) and its bitter bedfellows, parosmia (to experience smell and taste distortions) and phantosmia (being haunted by smells that are not there), affect about 5% of the population in the UK, yet most of us know, or care, very little about them. Times without number I was told, cheerfully, that at least I hadn’t lost my sense of hearing, or sight. Which may be true, to an extent: you are certainly less disabled by society’s infrastructure when you have no sense of smell than if you have no sight. But the emotional consequence of losing this most basic, most bestial form of navigation, connection and communication, is significant.

As a species you cannot rely on us to always be honest. So no wonder that, when faced with the big questions – am I ugly? Am I stupid? Do I smell? – we put our faith in machines. And while sliding a small plastic box behind your ears, across your toes and around your armpits won’t make your home smell like home any more, at least it might temporarily quell the fear that you’re polluting other people’s lives.
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Look what I have for The Guardian's Nosy Machine:
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Circus Contraption Wicked Fascinations

Welcome to our wicked little fascinations
Right on time to join us for the ride
We've devised an antiquated machination
Oddities await so won't you kindly step inside

We're inclined towards sybaritic exultation
You might find you'll have us for the night
Fall in line, we'll administer inoculations
Turn the nickelodeon and kiss your ass goodbye

The grand American traveling Dime Museum
You laid your money down and you wanna come and see 'em
'Cause people gotta cred for skill
Till the stroke of midnight chimes
Raise inquiry for the afflictions of our times

Welcome to our wicked little fascinations
Right on time to join us for the ride
Fall in line, we'll administer inoculations
Turn the nickelodeon and kiss your ass goodbye

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