1. Shaving for a Rainy DayWe at the Five Dumbest Things Research Lab don't often get depressed by new product introductions. We know that companies must innovate or die. But as far as Energizer Holdings ( ENR) is concerned, we wish there were a happy medium. What's bringing this on is this week's report, based on comments made during a Gillette ( G) conference call, that rival Energizer's Schick-Wilkinson Sword unit is about to introduce a four-bladed razor -- a move that may prompt Gillette to debut its own four-bladed model. Uh-oh. We're having a weird flashback to the U.S.-Soviet arms race. It all started innocently enough -- first we got the bomb, then they got the bomb. Then we got another bomb, and so on. Pretty soon we had a few thousand nuclear missiles pointed at one another. So we see where this is going. In a few years, your razor will have so many blades, it will set off alarms at the airport X-ray machine. Jackie Chan will use it as a weapon in Rush Hour 9. Stop the insanity! Then we calmed down a little, especially after we saw The Wall Street Journal's report that Schick's new razor will be named the Quattro (that's Italian for "four"). Quattro, Quattro ... for some reason that rang a bell. Then it occurred to us. Former Credit Suisse First Boston banker Frank Quattrone. The perfect celebrity pitchman for the Quattro razor. A commercial marriage made in heaven. Everybody wins here. First of all, Quattrone can make big bucks shaving off his moustache for a Quattro commercial. If he needs to shore up his defense fund, that's got to be a more dignified approach than pulling a Lewinsky and hosting a reality show.
Plus, shaving can only help Quattrone if and when he goes to trial. His moustache -- a vintage 1970s porn-star model -- would likely lose him points with the jury. For Schick, any commercial must be better than the bizarre ads Gillette aired when it launched the three-blade Mach 3. Remember those? Try this razor and you'll fly through the air naked?
2. There's No Tech Like NanotechSpeaking of too silly to deal with, nanotechnology reared its ugly head again this week. Yes, nanotech -- the science of itty-bitty things. As we pointed out a few weeks ago,
Now to everyone who wrote to us after we made fun of nanotech the last time around, let's clarify one thing. We aren't antitechnology here. (Heck, we're a research lab, for gosh sakes.) We're sure people are doing cool things in the lab with molecular-level stuff, and we're sure that it will translate into innovative products in a few years, like five-bladed razors that won't set off a metal detector. But why do nanotech's boosters insist on sounding like the people Warren Buffett warned you about? Just as with email ads for weight-loss products, we figure that the grander the claim, the smaller the return on our investment. When we hear Forbes say nanotech will reduce the Library of Congress to the size of a sugar cube, we lock up our wallets.
3. Everything New Economy Is Old Economy AgainLike everyone else who lived through the 1970s, occasionally we look at old pictures of ourselves in bell-bottoms and say, "What were we thinking?" That same process is going on in boardrooms all across America, as once-hip New Economy companies examine themselves, corporate identitywise, and try to burn their old clothes. By this we mean they're forsaking their technology-boom-era names in favor of the classic label. A few weeks ago, WorldCom morphed back into the more respectable sounding MCI, for example.
4. What Goes Down May Come UpAt Accredo Health ( ACDO), there appears to be no accounting for accounting. As ace reporter Rebecca Byrne
5. Iraq SteadyA few weeks ago we made the bold prediction that you would stop getting scam spam emails from correspondents alleging to be wealthy widows and children of African potentates, and
We were half right. The son of the late President Mobutu Sese Seko indeed continues to email us, but we are getting additional notes from bit players in the Iraqi war. Today's letter comes from one Hamid Ali Junior, the eldest son of the late Ali Hassan Al Majeed, known more popularly to Fox News audiences as Chemical Ali. In return for helping him retrieve $85 million his father saved in an offshore account, he promises us 30% of the loot. (That's precisely $25.5 million.) "We have other projects to embark on as soon as this very project is completed," writes Mr. Ali. We assume he'll want us to invest in nanotech.