Charles McCabe, My Favorite Critic
I get so sick of Parker, The Wine Spectator and all the various other wine journalists that I often think of Charles McCabe, my favorite critic.I should note here that I do like Steve Tanzer, who I know personally, for being somewhat more tentative then the rest of the bunch. And of course, Steve is a helluva-a-guy!

McCabe was a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle along with Herb Caen -- a powerful one-two morning punch for City residents. I lived in San Francisco from 1975 to 1980 and greatly enjoyed both columnists, McCabe was perhaps best know for his motto Any clod can have the facts, but having opinions is an art, but I always remember him for his muckraking columns against America's razor blade manufacturers.

McCabe's theory was that America's razor manufacturers were intentionally making blades that required weekly replacement. Periodically, they would develop new shaving technologies that were seemingly superior -- the twin-edged and then triple-edged blade come to mind, although McCabe did not live to see the triple-edged. At product launch, these new blades would be extremely-sharp and last weeks. But as months and years went by, the razor companies would purposely lower the level of razor quality, ensuring that once again the shaver had to replace the blade on a weekly basis. This would create a perceived market need for an even newer technology and a new product would be introduced yet again that would work fine for several months and then once again degrade in quality. Ad infinitim.

I was very happy with Gilette's entry into the triple-edged market and was perhaps one of the first consumers to buy the Mach III when it was introduced. In fact, I was so overwhelmed with the performance of this machine, I was enthusiastically converted to Gillette's contention that this was the most important shaving innovation since the 1960s (although I was too young to shave until about 1968). But two years have gone by and I note that the blade cartridge, which seemed almost immortal at product introduction, now requires constant replacement. And those hard to get smooth spots are becoming the impossible to get smooth spots.

Happily, Alyce Dressner, my 12 1/2 year old daughter, constantly peruses the Drugstore.com site and I learned that the Schick company has now come up with its own triple-bladed system, the XTreme III (Schick XTreme III Site). Of course I immediately seized the opportunity to order these new razors and found the overall experience to be qualitatively superior to the Mach III. But still, it lacked the excitement that was there when the Mach III first came into the market. The XTreme III is incrementally better than the Mach III, but nothing more than that.

During this time of disappointment, I accidentally tried out another Schick blade. I am currently going to a physical therapist three times a week to remobilize my chest. My chest, which was once mobile, was recently cracked open to make way for four heart bypasses. Or quadruples bypasses, as they say in the medical trade.My physical therapist turns out to be organized like a luxury gym and oddly my insurance pays for the whole shebang, including the luxury showers outfitted with luxury cosmetics and razor blades. Just this week, they changed blades from an uninteresting Gillette disposable to a fascinating ergonomic Schick twin blade that I had never seen and that I decided to try out. What a shave!

It is not principally the ergonomic design of the razor that makes it so interesting as it is the inclusion of the One-Push Cleaning System. The shaver pushes this button during the shave and a clever mechanism pushes a small plastic strip between the twin blades, quickly dislodging any dirt or whiskers that might lead to clogging and eventual blade dulling. Again, I cannot recommend this blade highly enough and hope all interested readers will take the time to look at Schick's inspired web site dealing with this new technology: The Schick ST Disposable. Not only is this the best blade in the marketplace but it is also one of cheapest -- I bought a 15-pack today at Rite-Aid Drugs for only $5.99! Of course, there is always the possibility that the razor will go dull in several months or in a year. But until then I'm convinced.

There is a lesson here for wine lovers. They've been making twin-blades and disposables for some time now. Finally, it is an incremental improvement to an old and tested design that qualitatively advances the shaving experience. Not fancy new shavers or elaborate blades. The market always come back to the tried and true and demonstrably effective. Novelty, for the sake of novelty, eventually fatigues.

There is a lesson here for wine lovers.....

posted on Friday, November 24, 2000


- Joe Dressner 5-09-2001 6:02 pm



return to: Joe Dressner The Wine Importer


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