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Cold Warrior
06-08-2008, 03:25 AM
Cloudy and cold here in Amsterdam. On a day long journey back to the home of dying (what else do they have to do with their lives) insurance salesmen. Flew out of Nice at 6:05 local time this morning and arriving in the megalopolis mid-afternoon.

Loaded down with Biot glassware, in a discussion with my (European) girlfriend yesterday, we talked about why American products (food, manufactured goods, etc.) are all of a single consistency, typically less than, for example, French goods of a similar nature. This is not actually true, but what is true is that the American genius lies in mass production and distribution of goods, all of a consistent, not unique, quality. This was the great leap forward in the midst of the industrial revolution, no better typified than by Henry Ford.

While this capability inevitably leads to (and supports) the creation of a middle-class to consume those goods, all living at a similar standard of living, it does eliminate (or significantly reduce, at least), the extremes, both superior and inferior. Take a simple thing like tomatoes, for example. Because large-scale mass agriculture has not taken hold in France as it has in the US, tomatoes in France tend not to be as "pretty," but do tend to have significantly more taste. The same could be said regarding a wide range of products when contrasting the two countries.

What's interesting is that the standard set by the US via mass production is now being lowered significantly due to the application of similar techniques by China and India. Therefore, you arrive at a $2500 car (by Tata). Since cost is always a key driver, those types of products tend to survive and thrive in a social Darwinistic way, while cars like, say, a Mercedes or Cadillac, die or adapt downward.

TOTD: (At last) Will the very American concept of mass production and distribution of goods combine with the forces of globalization to drive all mankind to a lower (than our current) standard of living or will the rewards of individual excellence and craftsmanship (the European model, shall we call it) triumph?

Hey! It's early and I'm sitting in an airport!!! :D


http://i231.photobucket.com/albums/ee88/scdiver27/Biotglassware.jpg

Biot Glassware

DarkScribe
06-08-2008, 07:32 AM
Cloudy and cold here in Amsterdam. On a day long journey back to the home of dying (what else do they have to do with their lives) insurance salesmen. Flew out of Nice at 6:05 local time this morning and arriving in the megalopolis mid-afternoon.

Loaded down with Biot glassware, in a discussion with my (European) girlfriend yesterday, we talked about why American products (food, manufactured goods, etc.) are all of a single consistency, typically less than, for example, French goods of a similar nature. This is not actually true, but what is true is that the American genius lies in mass production and distribution of goods, all of a consistent, not unique, quality. This was the great leap forward in the midst of the industrial revolution, no better typified than by Henry Ford.

While this capability inevitably leads to (and supports) the creation of a middle-class to consume those goods, all living at a similar standard of living, it does eliminate (or significantly reduce, at least), the extremes, both superior and inferior. Take a simple thing like tomatoes, for example. Because large-scale mass agriculture has not taken hold in France as it has in the US, tomatoes in France tend not to be as "pretty," but do tend to have significantly more taste. The same could be said regarding a wide range of products when contrasting the two countries.

What's interesting is that the standard set by the US via mass production is now being lowered significantly due to the application of similar techniques by China and India. Therefore, you arrive at a $2500 car (by Tata). Since cost is always a key driver, those types of products tend to survive and thrive in a social Darwinistic way, while cars like, say, a Mercedes or Cadillac, die or adapt downward.

TOTD: (At last) Will the very American concept of mass production and distribution of goods combine with the forces of globalization to drive all mankind to a lower (than our current) standard of living or will the rewards of individual excellence and craftsmanship (the European model, shall we call it) triumph?

Hey! It's early and I'm sitting in an airport!!! :D


http://i231.photobucket.com/albums/ee88/scdiver27/Biotglassware.jpg

Biot Glassware

Blah blah blah blah....can someone put a limit on the length of his rambling day threads, please??? For the love of all that's holy and good...:D

DarkScribe
06-08-2008, 09:15 AM
TOTD: I like the way us Americans do things...that's CommieSpeak you're talkin', son! :D I suppose individual craftsmanship is a good fine thing....and there's still plenty of that in the good ol' US of A to go around. Perhaps there's MORE of that in the smaller Yer-Oh-Pee-An countries but I'll take my Mega-marts and fine supermarkets any day... Although I do have a weakness for little out-of-the-way bookshops...

Bubba Dawg
06-08-2008, 10:30 AM
Hey, I like long rambling threads. That's what...I ...write...um

I think there will always be a place for craft and style. We have the everyday dinnerware, but we also have the wedding china for special shindigs and hoo-haas on the mountain.

I drink cheap booze and smoke inexpensive cigars, but every now and then I get a glass of single malt and a really fine cigar.

And CW, today is the French Open, I think Nadal will win handily, the Dauphiné Liberé cycling race kicks off with a time trial (Go Levi!!!) and I think there's an international soccer tournament going on as well.

Nice. Really nice. Or is it Nice? :D

Lager
06-08-2008, 12:37 PM
If you look at our taste in beer, it has moved slightly from the rather bland mass produced varieties such as budweiser and miller towards a tastier variety of craft and european beers. That doesn't mean that the behemoth breweries have anything to fear over night, but it does mean that tastes can change over time. Had it not been for my military time spent in other countries, I might still be swilling the home grown stuff and never discovered the real taste of beer. The power of the market can cause a rather homogeneous similarity of products, but the market can also succeed in introducing a taste for variety and quaility.

Anyway, you haven't developed a sense of that french elitism, have you? Are you subtly looking down your nose at our hokey american ways? :eek:

Shannon
06-08-2008, 12:57 PM
Anyway, you haven't developed a sense of that french elitism, have you? Are you subtly looking down your nose at our hokey american ways? :eek:

He's really not that subtle about it.:p

Goldwater
06-08-2008, 01:13 PM
Anyway, you haven't developed a sense of that french elitism, have you? Are you subtly looking down your nose at our hokey american ways? :eek:

He never had to go to France to have it. :D

SaintLouieWoman
06-08-2008, 01:46 PM
Blah blah blah blah....can someone put a limit on the length of his rambling day threads, please??? For the love of all that's holy and good...:D
Don't mind the rambling so much, but get sickened by the putting down of all things American. Why in the hell doesn't CW just stay over there and sip his beverages in the Biot glassware? Actually, I have known many insurance people over the years. Although they can drive one crazy, the patronizing remarks really grate me the wrong way.

Actually, I feel that America's promoting mass production raised the standard of living for the masses, rather than lowering it. Not everyone can afford to sip their wine out of Baccarat goblets, but there are still some nice things made in the US. An example is Steuben glass, one of the finest.

lurkalot
06-08-2008, 05:07 PM
TOTD:

I got as far as "will the..." ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz:p

JB
06-08-2008, 06:14 PM
TOTD: (At last) Will the very American concept of mass production and distribution of goods combine with the forces of globalization to drive all mankind to a lower (than our current) standard of living or will the rewards of individual excellence and craftsmanship (the European model, shall we call it) triumph?Both have to exist in todays world.

How can we have 3 or 4 TVs each if only craftsman are making them?

Cold Warrior
06-08-2008, 07:09 PM
TOTD:

I got as far as "will the..." ZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz:p

hhmm. Not surprising, actually, as the next word in the sentence was "very," the first word to have more than one syllable.

lurkalot
06-08-2008, 07:39 PM
hhmm. Not surprising, actually, as the next word in the sentence was "very," the first word to have more than one syllable.

yup, silly little ol' me just cain't do them big words :)


for next sunday can you talk about milk chokolat or dark chokolate?
thanks

Cold Warrior
06-08-2008, 07:55 PM
*sigh* I knew this would be misinterpreted and it's not surprising by whom it has been. I was careful to point out in my backgrounding that mass production has indeed led to the creation and the sustenance of a middle class while systems that are less reliant upon standardization in mass production and distribution, such as France, are more likely to produce products and services that are both superior and inferior. A trivial example -- the rather upscale hotel we ended up staying at provided a unique breakfast (as part of our costs) that included various cheeses, breads (including olive bread! :D), and figs, as well as cafe creme, cappuccino, and cafe-au-lait. However, they also failed to provide their clients with any beach towels, something that virually all American hotels of the same class would provide, although they were meters off of the Croisette in Cannes!

However, I think it's important to realize that American-like mass production and distribution does provide, what I would call from my Saudi days, "the middle cut," that is products and services that are of a standard, consistent, average quality. This, indeed, has a number of positive benefits, but it also sacrifices the uniqueness and superiority that is provided through regional production and distribution. It is also particularly vulnerable to globalization and capitalistic price pressures that lower, rather than raise the average of quality. It's also an important topic due to the current pressures upon a business model that relies upon efficient, cheap transport of goods across large areas that may force a return to more regional production and distribution.

And, btw, I don't drink wine out of Baccarat goblets, but I do prefer to drink scotch out of Waterford rolly-polly's.

Cold Warrior
06-08-2008, 07:57 PM
yup, silly little ol' me just cain't do them big words :)


for next sunday can you talk about milk chokolat or dark chokolate?
thanks

Actually, that's another good example of a difference between Americans and Europeans as the former prefer milk chocolate while the latter prefer dark. :D

Cold Warrior
06-08-2008, 07:58 PM
He never had to go to France to have it. :D

As usual, GW, yours it the most insightful and accurate post in this thread thus far! :D

Gingersnap
06-09-2008, 10:08 AM
This is an interesting question. Since most of the world's people have had a sustenance lifestyle until about 15 minutes ago, access to mass consumer goods and "average" quality is a huge step up in terms of standard of living.

On the other hand, quite a few people in the United States are developing more rarefied (if not better) tastes and interests and are willing to pay for them. The explosion of spa experiences, the mainstreaming of organic grocers, the proliferation of Farmer's Markets, and the growth of specialty stores catering to upscale tastes in everything from knitting yarns to cheese would be an example of this.

Then too, there is simply the perception angle. What is charmingly rustic to one person to one person is simply neglected or run down to another. The local dish that is lauded as an example of an outstanding culinary heritage by one eater is not very fondly recalled as a famine food by those who had to eat it day in and day out.

In my own life, I pay more or less outrageous amounts of money for yarns that hand spun and hand-dyed made from sheep and goats raised here in the U.S.A. on specialty farms. The quality is very high. On the hand, I'm well aware of the history spinning and knitting in this country and people almost cried with relief when machine spun yarns became widely and cheaply available. For every great spinner there are a hundred talentless or indifferent spinners. As you say: with great quality comes the flip side of inferiority.

linda22003
06-09-2008, 12:21 PM
In my own life, I pay more or less outrageous amounts of money for yarns that hand spun and hand-dyed made from sheep and goats raised here in the U.S.A. on specialty farms. The quality is very high.


Me too, Ginger. This is one of my favorite crack dealers - um, I mean, yarn dealers:

http://www.morehousefarm.com

They're in the Hudson River Valley, and spin lovely yarns from their farm-raised Merino sheep. Their motto is, "Where sweaters are born, not just made". :)

Gingersnap
06-09-2008, 12:35 PM
Me too, Ginger. This is one of my favorite crack dealers - um, I mean, yarn dealers:

http://www.morehousefarm.com

They're in the Hudson River Valley, and spin lovely yarns from their farm-raised Merino sheep. Their motto is, "Where sweaters are born, not just made". :)

I know it well. Here's another one: http://www.blackberry-ridge.com/

Sadly, there are dozens and I could easily spend more on yarn than some people spend on food if I was left to my own devices. :)

linda22003
06-09-2008, 12:40 PM
Thank you! The silk and merino blend looks wonderful. I love the lace weight for vests; on #2 needles they take awhile, but I have to do something with my hands when I'm watching TV, so it doesn't feel like I'm totally wasting the time. :)

Gingersnap
06-09-2008, 12:45 PM
Thank you! The silk and merino blend looks wonderful. I love the lace weight for vests; on #2 needles they take awhile, but I have to do something with my hands when I'm watching TV, so it doesn't feel like I'm totally wasting the time. :)

I love their lace weight stuff and they tuck little sprigs of lavender into the shipping boxes so the wool smell heavenly for months while you work with it. I use sock wool on #1 # 2 needles for my own socks and they go pretty quickly. It's a handy project to have around for waiting rooms or carpooling pickups.

linda22003
06-09-2008, 12:48 PM
Ginger, if you have other "boutique" yarn sources like that, could you PM them to me?

Gingersnap
06-09-2008, 12:53 PM
Ginger, if you have other "boutique" yarn sources like that, could you PM them to me?

Oh, Lord yes. We yarn junkies are looking out for more recruits.


Pssst......kid! Why don't you take this hank of qiviut home to your Mom and here's a little alpaca for your trouble. :D

Give me a day or so come up with a list.

Cold Warrior
06-09-2008, 03:56 PM
Hey you two!!! :mad::D

Gingersnap
06-09-2008, 04:00 PM
Hey you two!!! :mad::D

I don't know, we managed to be intensely elitist and artsy-craftsy simultaneously. :D

I gave you my serious answer somewhere above. ;)

linda22003
06-09-2008, 05:10 PM
Hey you two!!! :mad::D

All right, all right - just to get it back on topic a bit, my husband and I are thinking about a river cruise through Provence next year, from Lyon to Barcelona, and one of theside trips Biot, if I remember correctly.

Cold Warrior
06-09-2008, 10:12 PM
I don't know, we managed to be intensely elitist and artsy-craftsy simultaneously. :D

I gave you my serious answer somewhere above. ;)

I saw (and appreciated) that. I do think, however, it was a bit incomplete. While it is true that some of the appreciation of "hand crafted" or artisan or non-WalMart goods is "rarified," it is also true the economies that don't rely upon mass production and distribution produce a lot of very superior "ordinary" products. Again, I give the example of tomatoes (can Dan Quayle spell that?). Tomatoes are not my favorite vegetable (or fruit, if you're being picky), but they are much better in France (and elsewhere in Europe) than in the US (on a general basis). There, they are rarely, if ever, hydroponic, and actually have some taste above that of watered down paper.

I guess the general point I'm making is that the process of mass production and distribution filters out a lot of good stuff, not just "rarified" stuff.

Cold Warrior
06-09-2008, 10:18 PM
All right, all right - just to get it back on topic a bit, my husband and I are thinking about a river cruise through Provence next year, from Lyon to Barcelona, and one of theside trips Biot, if I remember correctly.

While that's not exactly "on topic," if you do go there are several things you should do:

1. Before starting in Lyon, go to Paul Bocuse’s restaurant and have the truffle soup
2. Make sure you see the Gorges du Verdun
3. If you go to Biot, take your checkbook/credit card, as you'll want to buy lots of signature glassware. They'll arrange for shipping back to the US
4. Drink lots of a relatively inexpensive white, the wines of Cassis
5. Have fun as the south of France is truly "God's country"

Gingersnap
06-09-2008, 11:05 PM
I saw (and appreciated) that. I do think, however, it was a bit incomplete. While it is true that some of the appreciation of "hand crafted" or artisan or non-WalMart goods is "rarified," it is also true the economies that don't rely upon mass production and distribution produce a lot of very superior "ordinary" products. Again, I give the example of tomatoes (can Dan Quayle spell that?). Tomatoes are not my favorite vegetable (or fruit, if you're being picky), but they are much better in France (and elsewhere in Europe) than in the US (on a general basis). There, they are rarely, if ever, hydroponic, and actually have some taste above that of watered down paper.

I guess the general point I'm making is that the process of mass production and distribution filters out a lot of good stuff, not just "rarified" stuff.

I didn't mean rarefied in terms of money, I meant it in terms of perceived value/status. Where I live, heirloom tomatoes and elk jerky are commonplace items. Outsiders find them exotic and high quality. We think of them as the normal byproducts of our lifestyles.

It's much the same with many products and concerns. Sweet corn that you can eat raw, crab cakes, and excellent gumbo are just the normal items in some locales. It's people who are removed from any thing other than mass produced goods who find these items exotic and attractive. Corn is corn, anybody can make a crab cake, and gumbo is really just a stew. I'd rather have a steak, frankly.

Often, it's the perception of uniqueness, status, or insider knowledge that raises a commonplace item or experience to another level.

Cold Warrior
06-09-2008, 11:11 PM
I didn't mean rarefied in terms of money, I meant it in terms of perceived value/status. Where I live, heirloom tomatoes and elk jerky are commonplace items. Outsiders find them exotic and high quality. We think of them as the normal byproducts of our lifestyles.

It's much the same with many products and concerns. Sweet corn that you can eat raw, crab cakes, and excellent gumbo are just the normal items in some locales. It's people who are removed from any thing other than mass produced goods who find these items exotic and attractive. Corn is corn, anybody can make a crab cake, and gumbo is really just a stew. I'd rather have a steak, frankly.

Often, it's the perception of uniqueness, status, or insider knowledge that raises a commonplace item or experience to another level.

Indeed, but contrast them with the tomatoes that most Americans buy in their mass produced Levittowns and you'll see the point I'm making. Clearly, there are many, many pockets in a land of 300M people wherein local products hold supremacy. However, in our working example, most Americans buy mass-farmed (?) tomatoes, grown to feed the world and the US, and they are tasteless. It's not an affectation, it's a fact that can be extended to many other products and services.

Shannon
06-09-2008, 11:25 PM
I just feel the need to say "Fuck France". That is all.

Cold Warrior
06-09-2008, 11:28 PM
I just feel the need to say "Fuck France". That is all.

Well, at least it alliterates. I would only add one word to your sentiment and that would be the word "in." :D

Zeus
06-09-2008, 11:49 PM
Don't mind the rambling so much, but get sickened by the putting down of all things American. Why in the hell doesn't CW just stay over there and sip his beverages in the Biot glassware? Actually, I have known many insurance people over the years. Although they can drive one crazy, the patronizing remarks really grate me the wrong way.

Actually, I feel that America's promoting mass production raised the standard of living for the masses, rather than lowering it. Not everyone can afford to sip their wine out of Baccarat goblets, but there are still some nice things made in the US. An example is Steuben glass, one of the finest.

I don't interpet his post necessarily as an American put down. He is mistaken in that the nexus of quality vs value is unique to the U.S.

I think a somewhat unique attribute of your avg Joe America is the willingness & ability to at times pay the premium for what is considered a quality value.

Gingersnap
06-09-2008, 11:57 PM
I just feel the need to say "Fuck France". That is all.

Okay - that could have been a severe keyboard emergency but I was between sips.

Cold Warrior
06-10-2008, 06:50 AM
I don't interpet his post necessarily as an American put down. He is mistaken in that the nexus of quality vs value is unique to the U.S.

I think a somewhat unique attribute of your avg Joe America is the willingness & ability to at times pay the premium for what is considered a quality value.


Thank you, as you are correct. As I've noted, I was not denigrating America, but rather noting the contrast and questioning the generally-held belief that one approach is always superior to the other. And, of course, you are also correct in that what we are discussing is really a spectrum that's present in all countries. However, in the US, the pendulum has swung very far to the mass production/distribution side as we are not so gradually remaking every town and hamlet into the image of Sam Walton.

linda22003
06-10-2008, 08:13 AM
Ginger and I were on topic with our yarn discussion; you can go to any big discount store and get mass produced acrylic yarn in harsh, bright colors, or you can get the handspun yarns that Ginger and I were talking about, which are a joy to work with and yield unique finished products from talented hands like ours.

Cold Warrior
06-10-2008, 08:37 AM
Ginger and I were on topic with our yarn discussion; you can go to any big discount store and get mass produced acrylic yarn in harsh, bright colors, or you can get the handspun yarns that Ginger and I were talking about, which are a joy to work with and yield unique finished products from talented hands like ours.

And I would contend that this is a perfect example of the point I'm making. If one (and I'm not refering to you as I suspect it doesn't apply) recognizes and buys a non-mass produced, superior quality product such as yarn from a speciality or regional supplier and then proceeds to buy the majority of other purchases from a mass-produced, mass-supplied source such as WalMart, that person is implicity acknowledging the he/she is sacrificing quality for convenience and accepting blandness in order to not to be bothered. This is precisely the "dark side" of the American dream to which I'm refering.

linda22003
06-10-2008, 08:56 AM
Handmade is better sometimes, just as mass-produced is better sometimes. It depends on the product. When I buy yarn, I prefer the handspun, smaller-batch product. It's unique. If I buy a new car, I don't want it to have a hand-whittled, teak radiator. I want the parts of the car to be produced uniformly to standard specifications.