A missed opportunity

February 11, 2013

Evoking images of the South might mean something entirely different to others. In my mind, the epitome of southern living is one of two possibilities. The first? Sitting on the porch of a white shuttered plantation home with wrap-around porch, staring down a tree lined drive, overlooking your estate. The other? Sitting on the porch in front of your dilapidated cabin or trailer looking at cars and pickups in various stages of disrepair, and the woods behind them.

In the former case you might be drinking a mint julep, and in the latter you’ll usually be drinking beer, but for a special occasion, you might need something stronger. No matter how you look at, though, the South drinks bourbon.

Maker’s Mark recently made an announcement that shocked me, though maybe it shouldn’t have. Their brand has become so popular that they cannot keep up with demand. As I saw it, they had three options: allow the shortage to continue, increase production, or increase the price.

Allowing the shortage to continue causes problems with your distributors. If they can’t consistently stock your product, they might drop it altogether. People don’t like empty shelves; not customers, and especially not those trying to make a profit.

Increasing production is a reasonable option, if costly. It takes time and a long term investment to expand a complicated operation like a distillery, especially if you want to maintain strict quality control to guarantee your product. You maintain your name and status, but increase your overall profits, assuming you maintain demand.

Increasing the price opens up interesting possibilities. Maker’s Mark would no longer be imminently accessible to the everyday man. It would become a top shelf bourbon, but with a recognizable name. Overall demand would decrease to current production levels, while the premium price increases profits, all without risking changes to the production process or investing further capital. Southern aristocrats would embrace Maker’s Mark as a true classic bourbon, while the lower classes would still enjoy the name recognition of a premium whiskey for those special occasions.

Instead, Maker’s Mark went full retard and watered down their booze. The upper classes are going to dump the product like turned wine, and the lower classes aren’t going to pay the same price for less alcohol. It’s as if they took a cue from the Soviets and just decided to give everyone a little bit less of the pie. I’ll wait for them to complain when terrible capitalist Americans demand a lower price point.

Norse Proverbs

February 5, 2013

Most people think of the Vikings in the traditional stereotypes: violent, savage, and bearded. While those are certainly admirable Viking qualities, they also understood the world, and more importantly, those who reside in it. One such example is the Hávamál, which offers words of wisdom to the everyman and relives the story of Odin’s coming to knowledge. The proverbs of the Vikings still ring true today in spirit, if not in direct comparison. And don’t forget that the Greeks wore beards as well; perhaps there’s something to be said for bearded philosophers.

“A head stuck on a pike no longer conspires.”

The concept is simple. Destroying your enemies leaves them no room to work against you. If you can lead an opponent to “lose his head” you gain the advantage.

“Cattle die, kinsmen die; the self must also die. I know one thing which never dies: the reputation of each dead man.”

The only thing that survives you is your legacy. Sure, there’s your family if you have one, but you can ruin them with a ruined reputation. While there’s something to be said for living up to your word, there’s something else to be said for not getting caught going against it.

“Even three words of quarreling you shouldn’t have with an inferior.”

Arguing with idiots is very costly of both your time and your dignity. You can’t fix stupid, and defeating a retard in mental combat is disgraceful, not empowering.

“From his weapons on the open road, no man should step one pace away.”

When you are in the shit, stay vigilant. Don’t let your guard down or you will pay the ultimate price.

“Let the wary stranger who seeks refreshment keep silent with sharpened hearing.”

This piece of information is invaluable, if subtle. When you find yourself in new surroundings, it’s best to be patient and just pay attention to how the game is being played. You only get one first impression.

“Many a good girl when you know her better is fickle of heart towards men.”

This.

“Repay treachery with lies.”

Lying is not a vice, and truth is not a virtue; both are tools, appropriate for particular situations. Honor among the dishonorable is a condemnable trait.

“The man that walks his own road, walks alone.”

While there is merit in the idea of “being your own man” and living an independent life, completely giving yourself over to your personal whims and desires without respecting social convention or the thoughts of others is a quick way to find yourself alone, and no man is an island. Stand up for your convictions, but don’t be so quick to dismiss traditional values or public opinion; being on the wrong side of either can bring you a lot of trouble.

“The wolf and the dog do not play together.”

Wolves are aggressive pack animals who work together for common benefit. Any wolf who works against his pack is cast out. Dogs are pets, whose alliances shift, and whose loyalty is to their master, bought with treats and kind words, or demanded with a stick. A wolf without a pack is nothing but a feral dog, wanted by none.

These are just a few of the passages found in the Hávamál. There are many more insights, though some of which are just rephrasing for a slightly different ear. The Viking people are often dismissed as ignorant barbarians, but their culture is much deeper than simple violence. Everything has a purpose. Exploring their ideals is definitely worth a look.

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