Monday, June 11, 2012

Why I Do Whatever It Is I Do


What’s wonderful about blogging is that it is so self-absorbing. There is nothing more interesting than the self, not even wine, or Plato’s Cave (which is what I call the female sex organs, and explains why I wear a miner’s hat when in bed). I try to write two or three times a week, and in those hours I can say anything I want about wine, express any opinion, and be comfortable knowing that I am always right. It’s very liberating.

I can’t imagine why anyone reads wine blogs. Of course, the truth is, not that many people do. More people read mattress tags. Which, in general, are better written. HoseMaster of Wine, on a good day, gets about 1000 hits. That’s 2000 fewer than Roberto Clemente, and he’s been dead for 40 years. So why the hell do I do it? Why do I put myself out there twice a week trying to make people laugh? There’s nothing in it for me, aside from the undying admiration of my self. Which is why everyone blogs. Why do I find it so compelling to belittle, lampoon, satirize, lambaste, mock, parody and ridicule all the wine biz types that I think deserve it? I get asked this question a lot, mostly by people who dislike my work.

Maybe because wine is like comedy. The minute you try to explain it, it ceases to have any meaning. Also, most of the time it sucks. And both wine and comedy are subjective, as they should be. They’re both art forms. I think I fell in love with wine because it makes me laugh. Wine is joy in its simplest form—liquid. Yet the pursuit of wine, the endless quest to try to explain it, guarantees that its meaning will elude you. In that way, wine is exactly like happiness.

I’ve forgotten more about wine than I’ll ever know again. I find this Wine Alzheimer's of great comfort. (For years I thought “WA” stood for “Wine Alzheimer’s,” and that the numbers that followed it in wine reviews were the age of the people reviewing it. So “WA 96” meant that some old, senile fart really liked that stupid, overpriced Cabernet, which makes sense when you think about it. I thought "WE" stood for "Wine Exaggerated.") I find it satisfying that I’ve forgotten something I used to know, and that’s a long list of wine stuff. But it’s far better to have forgotten some trivial knowledge about wine than to pretend you actually know it.

Or maybe I Hose so many people and things in the wine biz because we are suddenly living in a culture that despises dialogue, and that sort of narcissism offends me. We FaceBook and Tweet and blog, but we rarely hear each other. When a fresh, hot, steaming pile of topic hits the blogosphere, it generates an avalanche of opinion, little of it insightful, almost none of it interesting, and almost all of it written in a desperate attempt to fill space. Which makes it inherently funny. There are so many people who believe their own self-constructed fantasies, the ones they create on their FaceBook page, or the ones they promote on their blogs--which, after all, are self-promotion first, and self-expression second. Many who are not actually believe they’re wine experts. They’ve begun to believe their self-proclaimed interest has suddenly and remarkably turned to valuable insight. It’s wonderfully comic, and I cannot seem to resist it. For the record, I know a lot about wine, but I’m about as much of a wine expert on the scale of things as Kevin Costner is an actor. And I’m a third-rate satirist, but I’m here in the minor leagues, so that’s appropriate.

And then there are the people in power, the influential few whose opinions and scores lead to what almost everyone in the wine business is after—money. Whether they admit it or not, most everyone who takes the time to write seriously about wine wants to be one of those few—Parker or Laube or Hold Me Closer, Tiny Tanzer or Asimov or, God Forbid, McInerney. Those wine Gods live in the rarefied air of Mount Olympus, of Valhalla, or, really, of Brobdingnag. We mortals need to outrage them once in a while, attempt to bring their wrath down upon us, and point out that they suffer from the same hubris, jealousy, greed, dishonesty and gluttony that we are prone to. I’m good at that. Though, as Gods will so often do, they simply ignore me.

It is my assumption that everyone who regularly visits HoseMaster of Wine comes to laugh. I write it to make myself laugh, though I fail at that miserably. I am grateful for all those who drop by. I think one could write poetry alone, or compose music in one’s head, or keep a diary, but writing comedy basically demands an audience, no matter how small. I can delude myself that people are laughing at my posts as well as any wine blogger who deludes himself that people care what he thinks about the latest simulated wine from Diageo. It’s a gift we humans possess. I never run out of ideas, and I never have writer’s block, which, by the way, proves that prayer doesn’t work. And I certainly never run out of opinions. So I just do whatever it is I do.

Yet I do not know why I do whatever it is I do. I often quote from Sabatini’s Scaramouche, a quote I’ve always wanted as my epitaph (if I were going to die), the opening line of that wonderful novel, “He was born with the gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad.”

It is here, in this virtual reality, on this mindless and meaningless blog, that I exercise, celebrate and pass along that gift. 

I guess that’s why.

Thank you for indulging my navel-gazing.

We now return to our regularly scheduled crap.


41 comments:

Samantha Dugan said...

Nice to know 'why' and as always, glad that you 'do'.

Brad Davis said...

Your blog is happily bookmarked on my computer. Next to the bookmark of watching botrytis grow, but it's bookmarked nonetheless....;-) I especially liked when you said "but it’s far better to have forgotten some trivial knowledge about wine than to pretend you actually know it." Amen! Always a pleasure to read your stuff. Still miss you too.

Thomas said...

"(if I were going to die)"

Ah so, Immortal, are you?

The best thing about your blog is not that it is funny--all blogs are. The best thing is that your blog is intended to be funny.

PaulG said...

Señor Hose - you write "For years I thought 'WA' stood for Wine Alzheimer’s..." WRONG WRONG WRONG!!! It stands for Washington - the other Washington - not the "which side of the Potomac are the vineyards on" Washington. This is the "No we are not a rain forest, we don't grow mushrooms in the Columbia valley, it's actually a desert" Washington. The place that all wine grapes - especially California wine grapes - wish they were from. Otherwise, this was an excellent post, a bit of a naval-gazer (orange you glad?) but delicious nonetheless. Now come visit the real WA and let us spoil you with wine with a soul.

Fun In The Sun Daddy said...

For years, I have wondered why I read this crap. Now, I know. It is supposed to be funny.

So much better than most winewriting, in blogs or not, that are not supposed to be funny but are.

Note to Paul Gregutt: They grow grapes in the dessert? Where are you? In Israel?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

Oh, really, I just do it for You.

Brad,

Something about "bookmark" and "computer" going together that has always annoyed me. There should be another name for it in the virtual world. No idea what, but just pointing out another one of my billions of peccadilloes.

Thomas,

Yeah, intended to be funny, like wine scores are intended to be accurate.

Pauldoz,

Oh, that explains it. Why I ignore WA. Thanks.

And one day I fully intend to traipse around your neighborhood and enjoy the great Columbia Valley. The wines there are every bit the wines Napa Valley has to offer, at far more sensible prices.

Charlie,

Oh, every now and then I feel this need to step out from behind the HoseMaster curtain and babble. That's the fun of having a blog, no editor, and no shame.

Thanks, as always, for hanging around my humble digs here.

Mockingbird said...

This sounds very much like that self-congratulatory, self-deceiving, self-important !STEVE! post where he talks about why he scores Chard and Sauv B differently...

Sad, really, to see author look right through the facts, truth and reality heaped up under his nose as if they were not there....

Thomas said...

Swiss chard should be scored differently, and I don't even know what Sauvb is.

I hate abbreviated words and phrases, which may be why I don not twitter my life away or make faux friends on Assbook.

Mockingbird said...

Speaking of Assbook... Check out the comments to the most recent announcement on Siduri's page about the WineSimpleton giving them a score of something or other on one of their wines....

Carolyn Blakeslee said...

Great blog; thanks for your unique jaded-eye view. I still think you and Samantha ought to win wine-blogger awards. (Don't hose me!) :-)

Dean Tudor said...

Ron, you will never die..guaranteed!!

Of course the self-induced coma will reappear in "Sleepers".

No matter how cynical I get, I can never keep up..

Samantha Dugan said...

Just wondering if anyone else gets a mental picture when Ron says things like, "Pointing out my peccadilloes"??

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Carolyn,

The longer I'm around playing the HoseMaster I've found that folks start to consider it an honor that I insult them. I shall endeavor not to honor you. As for winning a Poodle, I suspect that's pretty damned unlikely. People nominate me as a joke, and that's flattering in an odd way, but I'm utterly uninterested in the whole deal. Though if asked to judge, I could probably pull it off.

Samantha deserves every honor anyone decides to give her. Her talent dwarfs mine.

Dean,

We satirists have to stick together. Thank you.

"Sleepers"--not my favorite Woody Allen movie, but some damned funny stuff along the way. Though I can't carry his jock strap (maybe I should work out more), I always modeled some of my comedy writing after his work.

My Gorgeous Genius,

No, Love, only you get those mental pictures. Another reason I love you.

Samantha Dugan said...

Dearest Ron,
I finally went over this afternoon and looked at the nominated blogs, because like you, I have no real interest in that nonsense, and I was given a very sweet nod but your blog was rightly nominated several times over. You are by far the best writer in the wine blog world, the fact that you may never win a Poodle says far more about the people doing the picking/voting than anything about your raw and...brilliant work. You are far better than any of us Love, I know it, and on some level, you do too. You honor me with your praise and unrelenting support and for that, I will forever adore you and be in your debt but...you are the talent in this little coupling of ours and I just feel lucky to be mentioned in the same friggin sentence. I love you My Brilliant and Funny Love...always.

Thomas said...

Is there a "Funniest Blog" category?

What a stupid question that is. How would anyone come up with a judgment like that.

Maybe it should be: Best Intended To Be Funniest Blog.

Cactus Daddy said...

Dear Jose--

I get a mental picture of you, but it is far different from those visions that fuel Sam's imagination.

In fact, I worry about Sam sometimes. She apparently is unaware that a peccadillo is something that grows in a dessert--sort of like Washington wine.

Careful, Sam, don't sit on one.

Samantha Dugan said...

Cactus Daddy,
You ought not be worried about me my adorable friend. I am smart enough to take the sage advice given to me from wise people like Ron and yourself. So don't sit on prickers in the dessert, got it!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

We write in a place that is desolate for talent and voice, the wine blog world. You are the rare voice that has grown over the past few years, improved, blossomed, expanded. That's what makes you extraordinary. The HoseMaster is just a way for me to vent all the weird stuff that lives in my head, it's a pressure valve for an angry old wine guy, and a way to fulfill my lifelong ambition to be the Fool.

I applaud the perspicacity of the poodles who have blogged consistently over the years. At any talent level, maintaining a blog is hard work. The vast majority of them weren't good to start with, and never changed. If, in fact, wine blogs are most like diaries, diaries where we prevaricate because we want people to read them and think us special, you'd think that personal growth would be important. It never is, it would seem from reading them now and then, and that's why, really, it is just the attention barking of lonely poodles.

And despite Mockingbird thinking this post is "self-deceiving, self-important" (which begs the question, what's more self-important than thinking you need to be anonymous on a wine blog?), it's really about occasionally stepping out from behind the HoseMaster curtain and examining my own motivations for bothering to do this twice a week. An awful lot of people wish I wouldn't. It is, as I wrote, self-absorbed to publish it. But that's true of every post on every wine blog. And most comments as well.

Charlie,

OK, that's twice you've confused dessert with desert. I doubt Mrs. Olken appreciates you remarking on things growing in desserts. And I know how much she loves a great desert wine like Yquem, which is not grown in the dessert of Washington.

I can only hope that one day I get my just deserts. Palm Springs would be nice.

Samantha Dugan said...

So I guess a Spotted Dick joke is too obvious right?

Thomas said...

To Cactus Daddy and Sam,

I wouldn't sit on anything in a dessert for fear what the sticky stuff would do to my clothing, and if it's ice cream--c-o-l-d.

I always thought that a peccadillo was an armadillo with a beak!

Ron, "

Perspicacity is one word I would not think to apply to bloggers.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thomas,

Yeah, perspicacity may be overstating it a bit. Good catch. I meant to imply shrewdness and tirelessness, and perspicacity is the wrong word. Maybe indefatigable is the root word I should have used.

I need to learn to write.

Thomas said...

Ron,

I like shrewness instead of shrewdness.

amy cleary said...

Given that there are 17 judges, one would think you could have joined in.
Signed,
Spending my weekend reading nominated posts

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hi Amy,

I'm a nominee, so I can't judge. Oh, wait, I forgot, that's OK with the Wine Blog Awards. Catavino got a Poodle when they were judging. And it didn't have an asterisk.

Sadly, I wasn't asked to judge. Though I do it on a regular basis anyway. While you're reading posts and turning your brain to mush, I'll be judging wine this weekend. Turning my liver to paste.

Have fun, Amy. Can't wait to see who you come up with.

Thomas said...

"Spending my weekend reading nominated posts"

Penance?

Richard Jennings said...

Ron,

I thought this was a lovely post, one of your most personal. I appreciate your sharing your semi-serious thoughts about why you (and many of us) do what you do.

BYE I'm a big fan of your writing in general, even though I think the vitriol sometimes gets a little thick.

BTW, I think you'd be a great judge for the wine bloggers awards. Like Amy, I was asked to judge this year (which rather surprised me, as I very much criticized the organization of last year's bloggers' conference, and they now own the awards). I agreed to do it after confirming that I can't be a judge in a category I'm nominated in. Seems like there are an awfully darn lot of nominated blogs, though, in the few categories I've been assigned. Sure wish we had your help.

--Richard (RJonWine.com)

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Richard,

I think we briefly met at the Napa Valley Wine Writer's conference where I appeared as Samantha's eye candy.

Thank you for being a fan of HoseMaster. This was a rare appearance as myself, and is a post that nagged and nagged at my consciousness to be written. I wasn't going to publish it, but decided to just toss it out there and see what people thought.

As to vitriol, the HoseMaster's voice is a satiric voice I've been honing since I was a teenager. When I write, I let him make the decisions as to what is appropriate or inappropriate. I may choose the tone and the style, but it's his voice that selects the language and the jokes. Over many decades of writing, I've found that there is always, always someone who will be offended or who will believe I've gone too far, been too cruel, taken too cheap a shot. The HoseMaster loves walking that line, and, believe me, he makes me cringe too. But I let him do what he wants to do because if I don't, he abandons me.

I'd never be asked to judge. If you want help, Richard, let me know via my private email what categories you're judging and I'll give you my opinions... The HoseMaster's opinions, well, I'm sure they'll show up after the nominations are announced.

You're a much more serious wine writer than me, a low bar to get over, but which makes me grateful to have you as a fan.

Richard Jennings said...

Ron,

I also met you at at least one of the Ridge bloggers tastings.

The HM definitely has a strong voice and point of view, and that's a good thing.

I'll figure out how to get you a list of the nominees and/or categories. I'd love to get your input.

--Richard

Samantha Dugan said...

Oh My God, did you guys just hear that?! I do believe half the wine blogosphere just crapped themselves.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Richard,

Yes, you're right, we met first at one of the Ridge events. Sorry, I have a lousy memory for people. Especially at blogger events where I have to hide.

If I have the time I'll glance through the Poodle nominees. That's the sound of me slipping into a coma.

My Gorgeous Samantha,

When they're not attention barking, Poodles often crap. Nothing to do with me. You were also with me at that Ridge event. I think I forgot meeting Richard because I was busy watching you taste Zin and make a fartyface.

Thomas said...

Scandal in the making: Richard Jennings is using Hosemaster as a guide to judge the poodles.

All I can say is that Richard must be a novice at this. I'm the guy who owns a bona fide standard poodle. I should be the one to pass judgment on the list of poodle award nominees.

I'm hurt, Deeply hurt. I think I'll go chase rabbits.

Samantha Dugan said...

Don't worry, I can fix this.

A recently crap dropping Poodles please send inquiries to Thomas via VinoFictions

http://vinofictions.blogspot.com/

Samantha Dugan said...

Dammit! Should have been "Any" or "All"

AC said...

you all are so dearly pathetic ;p

Thomas said...

AC, where's DC?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Alfonso,

You got that right.

Subhuman Ed said...

This is good. This is good.

I think most who come here get what you're trying to do. It is appreciated. We all need to be taken down a notch here and there (humans, in general, even subhumans, not just wine bloggers, who are below subhuman).

Humility is a good thing. I'll take humility and sense of humor over hubris and self-importance any day.

John Cesano said...

I'm late to the party, though rarely late to a meal. I don't have you bookmarked on my computer, but I would dial your number on my phone if I could. Anyway, I check in a couple of times each month and enjoy a protracted read, both of the HoseMaster post and the often very clever comments.

I have always enjoyed the what, it was nice to read the why.

Thanks for writing. While you write because you have to, to exorcise demons, to practice the craft of satire, to try to impress - or merely please - yourself, there are many (several, a noble few) of us who are greatly entertained, who experience genuine joy finding a new post, or several posts, from you to read.

Once again, simply, thanks.

Kathy said...

You walk the satire line - not unlike the guy who didn't die while walking over Niagara Falls. (Success probably damages ratings, his and yours).
I judged one round of Poodles early on. That, in fact, is how I found you and gave you first prize, or whatever it is, but it didn't show in the official ratings. It left me with access to great lines and laughs, so I give the Poodles one credit.
Thanks, Hose; thanks, Ron.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

John and Kathy,

I say a humble thank you for your kind words. I'm uncomfortable with praise, especially after a post that may seem to be soliciting it. And I hand out so little praise on HoseMaster that it seems especially embarrassing.

I think most everyone here seems to get what I'm doing, some of you even get it more than I do. It is 90% about fun, and 10% about being cheaper than psychotherapy.

Thanks again for your kind and generous sentiments.

Kathy said...

I didn't say I praise the Hose (well, sorta did) but I praise the guy holding the Hose. Better for all of us than psychotherapy.