Innovation Infamy

Not all new ideas are good ones.

By Ted Kruckel March 19, 2012, 8:00 AM EDT

The Corkcicle might keep your wine chilled, but I bet it will also make a mess and gross out your guests.

Photo: Courtesy of Corkcicle

Strolling the aisles of the New York Gift Show at the Jacob Javits Center in January, I was struck, as I so often am at these sorts of things, at the sheer enormity of goods and services that every single industry generates.  

Within five minutes, I came across not one but two different shagreen (it’s skate fish skin) picture-frame manufacturers.

There are always lots of bar gadgets, which, given my lifestyle, I’m immediately drawn to. This year, I was fascinated by the Corkcicle.

The Corkcicle is a plastic, gel-filled spike fashioned with rivulets and curves intended to resemble an icicle that extends from a cork stopper. You put it in the freezer for a while, then when you are serving wine, you place the Corkcicle into the chilled bottle to keep it cold for up to an hour.

Putting aside the aesthetics (though I can’t) of inserting an unwashed gel-filled plastic tube into my wine (Corkcicle’s manufacturers do not recommend dishwashers—“simply rinse and refreeze”), I still had major reservations. It displaced a ton of liquid; I could just see sticking it in without thinking and ejecting wine all over the counter. And what do you do with the dripping spike each time you pour a glass?

O.K., so the Corkcicle is not going to make the Party Innovation Hall of Fame. But here are some ideas that should, for better or (more often) worse.

The Gentle Heat of a Chafing Dish
Using water to diffuse heat, from the French word chauffeur (to warm), chafing dishes have a noble culinary history dating back to the 16th century. The 1618 Diego Velazquez painting “Old Woman Frying Eggs” is almost certainly misidentified; she is poaching, in water, in a glazed earthenware pot over a fire. And in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, an elegant copper and brass edition from 1895 illustrates the apogee of the concept. But somewhere, probably here in the good old U.S.A., chafing dishes took a stylistic wrong turn. First there was the stainless-steel warming tray, next Sterno, et voila, today’s iteration, the steam table, playing locally at a deli near you. Sigh.

Yay for the DJ
There are so many reasons to be grateful for the rise of the DJ. While, yeah, I feel kind of bad about all those musicians who don’t get hired, aren’t we all relieved as hell that we don’t have to feed them? And better still, with a DJ you can turn down the volume.

Meat on a Stick, er, Skewer
The march of humanity toward civilization is often, sadly, a case of two steps forward and three steps back. The popularity of World Wrestling Entertainment and the Kardashian sisters (not to mention The Real Housewives of Atlanta) demonstrates this theory. As we know, primitive man, after discovering fire, began cooking meat speared on a piece of wood in his cave, finding the texture and flavor of warmed flesh far superior to the raw kind. But then the fork was invented, also the plate, and man abandoned meat on a stick. That is, until caterers everywhere realized that if you called a stick a “skewer,” you could pierce a four-inch-long piece of chicken satay and serve it to guests, despite smearing sauces, bits of dropped food, and the inevitable, inescapable remaining soiled wood lance, with nary a complaint. But remember, a skewer can also be a weapon, and one day we will fight back.

SBD: Silent But Deadly Auctions
The notion of selling items via auction to raise money for charity is a noble one, of course, appealing to mankind’s best instincts. Witness, for example, the outpouring of love and largesse displayed in the recent selling of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry, paintings, and fashions, which netted more than $183 million. (I’m not really sure how much of that is going to charity, but you get what I mean.)

Slightly less noble and way more annoying is the advent of the silent auction. A few years back, facing extinction thanks to the Internet, the clipboard and pencil industries banded together secretly to prop up this seemingly harmless fund-raiser staple. But they did not know the sleeping monsters they awoke. Out of nowhere, unscrupulous marketers realized they could empty their warehouses of unsellable merchandise by “donating” it to charity and taking the tax write-off. How else to explain the wildly uneven selections of merchandise proffered for sale via silent auction at virtually every nonprofit gathering taking place in modern-day America?

And the Winner Is
I’m not clear on who invented the award ceremony, but I hope in heaven—or wherever he/she ended up—an award is presented. Let’s face it: No matter what line of craft you toil in, you are nothing, nothing until you’ve won an award. That’s why there are so many! At the North American Hair Awards, presented annually in Las Vegas, there’s an award for “Texture.” Maybe that’s one you can win. Or you could join the Montana Air National Guard. Every member who leaves that unit gets an award, presented on the wing of an aircraft, which seems like a perfectly fine use of our national defense budget, right? But the award-ceremony inventor has an evil twin: the creator of the acceptance speech.

Step On It
Oh that I wish they would. The derivation of the term step-and-repeat comes from the instructions that celebrities are given when they walk a red carpet. They take a step, pose for a photographer, and then they repeat. [I’ve always heard it’s from the printing process of placing a logo and repeating. —Ed.] Then the logos of the sponsors and the image of the celebrity are united for eternity. Serves them both right.

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