Thursday, February 17, 2011

Exotic Delights

Running a global creative enterprise throws out challenges that travel across strategy, innovation, imagination, operation and execution (on a slow day!).

The most satisfying work is voracious for unconventional blends of insight and ingenuity. To expand the mindset, I keep a look out for anything far out on the edge, thoughts that run a mile from the ordinary, thoughts that can connect disparate strands, and thoughts that look to the brighter side of life.

Literary morsels are good for this, and I was quite taken by Encyclopedia of the Exquisite – An Anecdotal History of Elegant Delights by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins. This delectable compendium weaves curiosity, obscurity, luxury and story to uncover small pleasures down through time. Subjects range extraordinarily. Among the many gems:
  1. Blancmange: origins and travels of a heavenly sweet almond flavored pudding, recipe inclusive!
  2. Enthusiasm: historical impressions of the word from derision during the enlightenment to ‘enthusiasm’ itself by Authoress Germaine de Staël, who we learn described the emotion as offering the greatest happiness, “the only one able to sustain human destiny in whatever situation destiny places us.”
  3. Fireworks: pyrotechnics traditions from China to Europe, and their purpose.
  4. Obsidian: the supernatural fascinations of black volcanic glass.
  5. Pell Mell: the space between no order / rank / discrimination on one side and chaos on the other.
  6. Qabus Nama: “Book of Good Counsel”, an eleventh-century Islamic etiquette guide that’s ideal for young nobles preparing to rule.
  7. Quintessence: the alchemist’s search for the fifth element. Writes the author: “Some believed that stars were made of quintessence, as was the human soul. It was luminous, but invisible.”
  8. Shabby Chic: a portrait of unassuming dishevelled style, not least Arthur Rimbaud’s impact on the likes of Kurt Cobain and Patti Smith.
  9. Showstopper: anecdotes on bringing the action to a stop.
  10. Velocity: A story on Marcel Proust’s love of rapidity.