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Hands Off for Best Results

Posted by Dirck on 17 July, 2013

If one presses me to describe myself in terms of religion, I will usually say I’m a Buddhist.  Some Buddhists disclaim it was a religion, preferring to use “philosophy” to describe it, but it fits etymologically as a religion in as much as it brings clumps of people together to pursue a given philosophy in, with allowance for sectarian variation, the same way.

If pressed further, I’ll own being not very good at Buddhism.  I’m far from a vegetarian, I have habits of acquisitiveness and covetousness, and I will happily put alcohol in my system.  I even carried an ant out of the house this morning, knowing full well that taking it off its scent-trail was writing its doom.  I try, but I have lapses.  It’s the lapse in the direction of alcohol that gives me some insight into an aspect of the thing I’m most interested in acquiring and coveting.

I recently read an article, which you may also wish to glance at, which spoke of some semi- or perhaps quasi-craft breweries currently in production.  I use the prefixes because at their creation, there was no question about their nature; small or even micro-breweries which produced beer of at least decent quality and in which flavour was allowed to reside (as opposed the extremely weak lagers of the major breweries, which are relatively uniform in the “taste” they offer and even more uniform in suggesting serving them at 0.01°c as a means of keeping your taste buds from working).  As beers in which flavour other than skunk could be found, many of these small operations found that they could not keep up with demand and the major players became aware of the public demand for something other than what they were churing out by the teraliter.  Big fish eat small fish, even in the beerquarium.

The thing that resonated in my head was this (which you’ll find about 2/3rds the way down that article):

Molson has also recently spun both Creemore and Granville into a separate corporation called Six Pints — a good sign that just might mean the big boy brewers are finally learning that the methods and metrics of craft beer are vastly different than mass-produced lager, and that their usual cookie-cutter approach simply doesn’t work.

The resonance comes from the frequent lamentation by myself, both here and on my site, and others about the pen forums, of the state of some major pen makers today.  The ones about which the most concern is heard, in my non-scientific observation, are Parker and Waterman.  They are also the ones which seem to suffer most from direct interference in in their craft from an owning corporation which cuts the cookies of disposable goods– Newell-Rubbermaid.

Sheaffer also gets a fair expression of concern, but certainly less than the other two.  They’re owned by Bic, which is also primarily concerned about disposable goods.  However, Bic is also first and foremost a maker of disposable pens, and I think this greater understanding of the specific domain has made for slightly fewer ructions in Sheaffer’s on-going existence.

Looking at a few others, the same effect seems to be at work.  Pelikan was having its worst time when it tried to diversify into other things, and the new owners lopped off the diversification; Pelikan is now, to all appearances, thriving.  Lamy sticks to what is knows, and look like lasting, and likewise Cross, Pilot and Sailor.  Mont Blanc is a bit outside my model, but they’re also in an incubator for golden eggs– they’re bound to be atypical.  I’ll stick Hero in as an atypicality at the other end of the price spectrum, as their expansion into various lines of industry don’t seem to have done them any harm; they are, of course, in a rather different atmosphere, and I don’t pretend to understand how China’s economy works apart from “through lashings of coal.”

I wonder if there’s any way to suggest to Newell-Rubbermaid that giving more autonomy to their pen-making appendages will lead to them functioning better?  I wonder if their understanding of “better” and mine have any overlap, too… I’m thinking of how Parker and Waterman might wander gently towards their respective bicentennials, rather than how they might maximally enrich shareholders during the next quarter.  As a certain cartoon and popular beer flavour once said, Le Sigh.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer 300
Today’s ink: Herbin Perle Noire

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2 Responses to “Hands Off for Best Results”

  1. flounder said

    “How long must a fool who misses the way wander through his many lives?”

    I still visit parkerpen.com every so often, and have high hopes for news of a different tack to go with the new site, when it’s ready.

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