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Thursday, March 22, 2007
QUINTESSENCE : The Quality of Having "It".

Oh, Oh, Oreo
Nabisco claims it's the world's most popular cookier, and why not? The Oreo has been around since 1913, when it made its debut as the Oreo Biscuit. In 1921 it was renamed the Oreo Sandwich and renamed yet again in 1948 when it became the Oreo Creme Sandwich, its current designation.

The Oreo is more than a cookie (as profound a thing as a cookie is); it is a form of peronal expression. You can eat it straightfowardly as a sandwich inviolate; or you can lift the top off, eat that, then give the bottom wafer to someone you're not that crazy about. Or you can eat the top wafer and then the cream and second wafer together. Or you can eat the cream first and throw the cookie away. Or you can.....

The quintessentiality of the Oreo is mysteriously and precariously balanced; witness the failure of the spinoff Oreo Double Stuff, the Jaws II of cookies, in which the white cream is laid on twice as thickly as it ought to be: a classic case of fixing something that isn't broken. The real Oreo, having twice the biscuit as icing, brilliantly fulfills a fundamental requirement for the quintessential cookie; It absolutely demands to be eaten with milk.

Ivory Soap
The invention of 99 and 44/100 percent pure Ivory soap was 100 perdent pure accident.
A worker at Proctor and Gamble plant left the mixing machinery on during lunch break, which whipped a lot of air into the soap ingredients. Unknowingly, Proctor and his cousin, Gamble, shipped out a batch of floating soap. And, if it's to be believed, the story behind the naming of the soap is 100 percent pure, period. The year is 1879, Harley Proctor is sitting in church, half listening to the sermon, half pondering what to name his company's new White Soap (its highly unoriginal name). Then, in a perfect confluence of conscious and subconscious, he hears the preacher read the Forty-fifth Psalm: "All thy garments smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of ivory palaces whereby they have made thee glad," Whereby they have made Harley glad.

In December 1882, after naming his soap, Harley Proctor sent samples to a member of chemists asking them to compare it to the competition. One of those chemists found that Ivory had only 56/100ths of a percent of impurities (even less than castile, the most popular soap of the day), and one of the great slogans of all time was born. Ivory is still just what Proctor wanted it to be -- dependable, and economical. Its wrapper is cheerful, innocent, and, above all, clean -- the white bar floats between blue waves, with a single red wave to catch your eye like a flag. Even the waxiness of the paper echoes what's waiting secruely within. The shiny white bar lathers into an instnat slithery richness. Wash with a bar of Ivory and there's no question that something is working. After you've washed your hands and dried them, your hands smell clean -- not disinfected or perfumed -- just clean. All this and....it floats. And swims and bobs and comes back up from the depths. A bath toy that no can make fun of.

If there's one thing you don't associate with a Steinway, it's the kitchen.
But to those in the piano-know, the two are indeed related. For the so-called kitchen piano is the forerunner of the modern piano. And it is so named becayse a piano Englehard Steinwig built it in his kitchen in Seesen, Germany. By the time he came to America and founded a piano company, with his sons in 1853, Steinwig had become Steinway. A Steinway (to say Steinway piano is almost a redundancy) is known as "The Instrument of the Immortals". And so it is. It is the piano of choice for (among many others) Rudolf Serkin, Andre Watts, Misha Dichter, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Lili Kraus, Vladimir Horowitz. And was the piano of choice for the late Artur Rubinstein.

No matter where in America a pianist has a concert, he can find a Steinway within a finger's reach. The company maintaines 305 of tem (about $7 million worth) expressly for performance use. The artist must pay to have the piano tuned up and moved to the hall, but the use of Steinway is free. (It's been reported that if a pianist should ever elect to play on anything other than a Steinway, Steinway will forever refuse to deliver one of its concert pianos to him). Only immortals may play these instruments on concert stages, but even mere mortals can own them. But with a price tag as high as $28,000 (that's for their very best, the Model D Concert Grand) and a wait maybe as much as a year,it's hardly an impulse purchase. A Steinway is a serious investment, and well it should be. It's one of the most carefully crafted instruments in the world. These ivories are not for tickling. No ticklers need apply.

If you have only one life to sign away, for self-pity's sake do the deed with a tool worthy of the momen, the Mont Blanc Meisterstuck No. 149 - a.k.a. the Diplomat (though the pen is indeed mightier than the sword, that pen is surely the Diplomat. Everything about it is significant, from its howitzer shell heft to its profound blackness, from the six-pointed trademark snowcap (left off pens sold in Arab countries because of its resemblance to the Star of David) to the 14 karat gold nib engraved with the number 4810 - the height in meters of Mont Blanc.

Consider the difference between preparing to write by pressing a ball points' button and slowly unscrewing the top of a Diplomat, removing it an replacing it at the other end, then pausing just another moment in an attitude the manufacturer nicely calls "classical pensiveness". If by then your banker is not ready to extend far more credit than you're worth, theman is dead to style. (Te effect on subordinates of this stern swagger stick of pens is daunting in the extreme. The tiny "Germany" engraved on the pen's uppermost gold rign comes as no surprise.)

The Mont Blanc Company began manufacturing fountain pens very much like the Diplomat in 1905, when the company's president, a certain Herr Dzianbor, grew tired of traveling around Germany with a bottle of ink to dip his pen in. In those days the written word was king, the typewriter was a slightly contemptible convenience, and the time was not envisioned when the act of writing would be brutally parodied by "word processors" capable of neither blot nor blessing. With the Diplomat poised, even today, there is still no need to think about such things.

An engineer will tell you that two cylinders don't make sense anymore. A perfromance freak will tell you that the imports can eat it up. Don't argue; they probably would'nt understand that on the shimmering blacktop of the id, every man rides a Harley.

More than seventy years ago, William Harley and three Davidson brothers turned out their first V-twin, 61-cubic-inc dream machine, establishing a basic design pattern that has never changed, by 1922, the 74-inch JD model had emerged from their Milwaukee shop and created the line currently embodied by the massive 80-inch ElectricGlide.

Alomg the way certain amenities have been added - overhead valves came in with the 1941 "knucklehead", hydraulic forks and an electric starter appeared in the fifties and sixties (all of which did nothing to lighten the mood of the dour highway patrolmen who ride these battle chargers). But even with its limousine ride and middle American stolidity, the ElectraGlide still retains its primal elan; blasting by at full bore it sounds just like a dinosaur gargling.

In a dispirited world of dull, charmlessly efficient butane sticks hissing at the cigarettes of conscience strickenm smokers, basic Zippo model 2000 is an unashamed feast for the sense, as good and generous a machine as any America has produces. From the unmistakable kerchung of its lid being opened, to the heady aroma of the fuel vapors trapped underneath, to the soft blue and yellow billow of its flame, is a flawless blend of art and utility.

Though the clean lines of the Zippo might easily have sprung from the mind of a Mies van der Robe, its creator was, inf act, George G. Blaisdell, co-owner of the Blaisdell Oil Company in Bradford, Pennsylvania, who in 1932 redesigned an Austrian army lighter and brought smoking into the modern age. Blaisdell believed so emphatically in his product that he promised to repair any Zippo - damanaged in any way, no questions asked free of charge. The offer still goes, with the result that almost half a million lighters come back to Bradford every year for restoration, and they are invariably turned around within forty-eight hours.

When it comes to evocative power, the Zippo has no equal. Fire one up in a high wind to light a crackling Camel and you can dream anything you want; Tobruk, bomber command, the Mermansk run, Bogie's lip, Ingrid eyes.....

It was a long, inconvenient road from the codpiece to the Kenosha Klosed Krotch, an X-shaped overlapping opening incorporated into union suits in 1910 by S.T. Cooper and Sons of Kenosha, Wisconsin. This welcome innovation allowed men minor relief without the necessity ofm ajor disrobing. Thank God Almighty, free at last! But the age of truly modern underwear wasn't yet imminent. Not until after World War I did long underwear lost its dominant popularity, spurned by veterans whose army summer issue had been short shorts. Then in 1934 someone with Cooper Underwear saw an abbreviated swimsuit on the French Riviera and brief Style 1001 was born. This was soon replaced by the more streamlined Style 1007, known today as the Jockey Classic Brief. It's hard to imagine life without Jockey briefs. They seem ancient in their wisdom - soft, white, dependable, with their brand name stitched around the waistband like a news-flash in Times Square. Perhaps the ultimate recognition of Jockey's eminence is the fact that one of America's quintessential derivative designers has chosen to market his own verson, virtually indistinguishable from the original except for the name on the band (and the price on the tag), a product with all the integrity of the Nashville Parthenon. Out, out, brief Calvin! Onward, Kenosha Klassical Konsciousness!

"Coke is it!" No quetion. In one of the few trademark cases ever reviewed by the Supreme Court, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, upheld he Coca-Cola trademark, stating,"The name now charaterizes a beverage to be had at almost any soda fountain. It means, a single thing coming from a single source and wll known to the community". Since that opinion in 1920, the community has expanded to 155 countries. that's because things most definitely do go better with Coke.

The miracle of Coke began in a brass pot in abackyard in Atlanta, Georgia, on a May day in 1886, when a pharmacist named Dr. John Styth Pemberton brewed a distinctive, experimental syrup. He then took the potful to Jacob's Pharmacy whee it was combined with soda water and sold for a nickel a glass. Pemberton's partner, Frank M. Robinson, contributed the name (based, some claim on a dash of cocain) and the flowing Spencerian script of the logo. And then, having set themselves on the path to greatness, the two sold out.

One Asa G. Chandler knew a pause that paid off when he tasted it, and he bought up all the rights ti Coke for a mere $2,300. Chandler not only knew a goodthing, he knew how to exploit it. Under Asa's directin, Coke became the most popular drink in the world.

If, like some, you're delighted by incalculable and unfathomable statistics, then you'll want to know that if all the Coke ever produced were poured in 6 1/2 ounce bottles and they were laid end to end, they could go to the moon and back 1,045 times. (who thinks these things up?) The sheer, astounding fact is that 260million glasses of Coke are gulped down every day, because nothing works like Coke does. Not even water.

And not only does it taste wonderful but it still occasionally can be sipped from those wonderful bottles and glasses. The hobbleskirt green glass bottle was designed in 1916 by the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Indiana, and the graceful fountain glass with its flowing white script appeared in 1919. No question - Coke is the Real Thing. Coke is it!

M&M's is one candy that doesn't have to pander to extraterrestials or evn hollywood moguls.
It mybe forever famous for being the candy that didn't melt in E.T's mouth. (M&M's didnt choose to get involved in the merchandising of E.T., so E.T. got stuck eating Reese's Pieces instead.) These little lapidary buts of confection, in their rather sober brown bag, are simply the perfect snack, fulfilling the desire for sometghing sweet without leaving you with the guilty feeling that ypu've overindulged.

M&M's have been around since 1941. There's a story, perhaps apocryphal, that they were created expressly for the army so that GIs could carry them into battle, providing a quick pick-me-up but leaving trigger fingers itchy but not sticky. M&M's were the creation of Forest E. Mars, Sr. (son of Frank C.Mars, creator of the Milky Way, Snickers, and Three Musketeers). Mars and his associate Bruce Murrie (the M and M of M&M) formed their own company on this one candy alone. (M&M's peanut version didn't come along until 1954). But M&M's were so unlike any other candy that their popularity was immediate and everlasting.

M&M's are fun to eat. You can gobble them up, scoopful by scoopful, cracking the many-colore sugar coating between your teeth with a gratifying crunch. Or you can mete them out, one by one, and suck on them, savoring the hard coating as it slowly yields to the softer, sweeter center within. And M&M's are pretty. A handful of these multicolored, perfectly-shaped ellipsoids are still lovely to behold. And so delicious. Maybe in E.T. II....

(Source: Abstracted from the book: "QUINTESSENCE The Quality of Having "IT"
by: Betty Cornfeld and Owen Edwards)

posted by infraternam meam @ 10:17 PM  
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Name: infraternam meam
Home: Chicago, United States
About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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