Monday, June 10, 2013

What I Learned About Blogging in Walla Walla


I wrote this piece in July of 2010 and, at the time, it caused quite a stir. I think it was mostly the photo. The conceit was that this particularly unattractive wine blogger wrote a list of what he learned at the Wine Bloggers Conference, held in Walla Walla that year. After every Poodle Conference, the blogosphere is alive with mediocrity, list after list of "What I Learned at...," and I guess I'd been having a bad week. Apparently, I have a lot of those. And the piece seem appropriate given the recent WBC in Canada. Anyway, it's always a joy to see THIS guy again, and revisit obscure cultural jokes about vuvuzelas.



ABOUT ME

I learned so much at the Wine Bloggers Conference, and I had this totally original idea to list the Top Ten Things I Learned! It just came to me. I swear, I don't know where it came from. Maybe I'm channeling one of the many geniuses I met in Walla Walla. You would not believe how many geniuses were there. Steve Heimoff was there (he's like a SuperGenius! He sounds just like Stephen Hawking! Not the physicist, just some guy named Stephen, hawking.), Lettie Teague was there (she's such a genius she writes for the Wall Street Journal, which is a newspaper just for geniuses and doesn't even have comic strips!), Andrea Robinson was there (she's such a genius she's got these wine glasses that make wine taste so good you think you're drinking out of Riedel instead of a Riedel ripoff! Wow, how smart is that?), there were geniuses everywhere! I haven't met that many really, really smart people since I applied at the DMV. I learned so much about blogging, and I'm really excited to share it with you. I know a lot of you couldn't really afford to go to the WBC, so I'm hoping these insights will be helpful. I wouldn't have been able to go either if I hadn't sold all of those samples wineries have sent me the past six months. Oh, don't worry, wineries, I'll still post tasting notes on the wines! I'm not stupid. I wrote down all the back labels and I'll go from there. It will be just like I actually tasted them. Anyway, here are the Top Ten Things I Learned at the WBC!


1. To be a good wine blogger, you not only have to learn about wine, you also have to learn how to write! Not sure I signed up for this. Isn't it enough that I know a little bit about wine and took typing in high school? Those seem like solid wine blogger credentials to me. Now it turns out I have to find my "voice." I don't even know what that means. People can't hear me on this blog. I don't need a voice. I have Twitter. Which is like vuvuzelas--if you played them with your asshole.

2. Just reviewing wines doesn't make for a good wine blog. Then why do they give an award to Best Reviews on a Wine Blog? I'm going to go with this lesson, but I still think people are really interested in my reviews. And why wouldn't they be? Nobody knows more about Wines under Eight Dollars than me. I think the problem is bloggers who talk about really expensive wine and about wines from grapes nobody has heard of, like Mourvedre. Who the hell has heard of Mourvedre? Wasn't that the guy who created "Jeopardy"'s real first name? What turns people off is talking about great wines. Come on, people, let's stick to what wine bloggers do best--recommending reliably mediocre wine!

3. I'm really famous. Everywhere I went around the hotel, people knew me. It's like I had a name tag. Oh.

4. There were wine writers before Robert Parker. Apparently, this is true. But most of them were British and white and had a hairy wah and a huge Johnson. But they are the past and we are the future, and somehow we're supposed to feel good about this.

5. Marketing people are really nice, but you can't trust them. This is kind of hard to believe. All the ones at the conference were really, really nice to me and only said good things about my blog and how good I am at matching wines with reality TV shows, which is something I thought of myself and is really way more clever than matching wine with music or old movies. Like with "Biggest Loser" I said you should drink K-J Vintner's Select Chardonnay because it's really fat and hopeless. And why wouldn't I trust marketing people when it's marketing people who gave the Best Writing on a Wine Blog to marketing people who write fluff about wineries and wines they represent and are major sponsors of the WBC and also sponsor the European Wine Blog Conference (where I hear the girls go topless!)? That seems fine to me. Theirs really was the Best Blog. And it's not just a blog, it's paid advertising! It's a blogger ideal. I guess they mean don't trust marketing people who don't have a blog.


6. Bloggers don't like criticism. That's what so great about blogging. We're all nice to each other. It's like we all have the same defective gene. Except that HoseMaster guy. But I'm guessing he's just mad about his hairy wah. Plus, I hear he's been in prison for identity theft. He stole Hitler's.

7. Publish as often as possible. I kind of knew this anyway, but it's good to have it reinforced. Content needs to be slapped together as quickly and as often as possible. It's quantity not quality. With enough quantity, quality will come. We know this from Harlequin Romances and Cook's Champagne and Orson Welles. So don't sweat the facts, don't worry about originality, just crank it out. Whew. This one I can do.


8. Walla Walla is the Lady GaGa of wine regions. I made this up, but it's really catchy. Walla Walla=GaGa. And there are so many other similarities. Lots of fancy packaging with basically nothing inside. And next year we won't be talking about either one of them.

9. Speed tasting wines and posting about them is fascinating and educational. For example, I learned that most red wines taste exactly the same. Kind of like spit does. And that tasting notes are best when written quickly because you can just use the same words over and over and nobody really notices. For fun, I often write descriptions, and then shuffle the descriptions and the wines so they don't match! Know what. It's hard to tell the difference. And it turns out that's what most wine bloggers do! Now they tell me. That's how you know you have good tasting notes, they're interchangeable. This is liberating and should cut the time I spend on my blog in half, so I'll have five extra minutes to read Catavino and thrill at the prose.

10. Credentials can be fabricated. This is the most important thing I learned at the WBC. Your readers know a lot less than you do, so knowing what you're talking about is irrelevant. It's that you say stuff often and with a unique voice. So now I'm going to be the Selma Diamond of wine bloggers! And if someone stops by your blog and does happen to know more than you, you can delete their comments. But how likely is that? With a stunning dearth of talent, just look around, wine bloggers don't get comments.

24 comments:

Bob Henry (Los Angeles wine industry professional) said...

Ron,

Who filled the role of Sacheen Littlefeather for you at the Wine Blog Awards ceremony this weekend?

~~ Bob

Marcia Macomber said...

2nd!

Congratulations, dear HoseMeister! Obviously all this funky learnin' has rubbed off during all those years toiling in blogging obscurity! ;-P

Can't believe I beat Samantha (but I probably didn't anyway). So this is "What I Learned in Penticton Penticton"? Funny, it just doesn't have the same ring to it...

Doin' the happy dance fer ya!

Samantha Dugan said...

For the record, I adore your hairy wah....

Lynn said...

Checked the Wine Blog Award Winners. Nobody I voted for, except you for Best Writing, won. Does that mean we might have something in common? Besides a sense of humor?

Isn't this a popularity contest anyway?

David Pierson said...

Did you happen to read the great Richard Jennings blog last week? He dumped all over the Vancouver wine scene.. How we didn't know wine, his hotel concierge didn't know anything, a restaurant paired a bold white with a delicate fish, quel horreur! such a terrible scene... blah blah blah.. can't see paying the expense to go to the WBC.. I said you got comped by the BC Tourism board and the only reason you're not going to WBC is you're not getting comped.. these stupid wine bloggers think the wine world revolves around them and what, most have, what, maybe a thousand people following them.. un-fuckin-believable..

Joe Roberts said...

My man, congratulations, and you are now quite officially Part of the Problem! :)

Great seeing you in Sacramento. But that town is still weird (just a bit less so since we left it, I suppose)...

Catie said...

Dear Mr Hose,

Have you thought about shaving that hairy wah with the newest in technology, Flowbee? Save money! Save time! And have some fun with the sucking action.
http://www.flowbee.com/

Congratulations on your win.
C~

Bob Henry (Los Angeles wine industry professional) said...

Will you invoke Groucho's quip to the Friar's Club of Beverly Hills?:

"Please accept my resignation. I don't want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member."

Dean Tudor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hi Gang,
The less said about the Poodles the better.

However...

In all the years I've lampooned the wine biz and the wine blogosphere, I've never exempted the HoseMaster from the scorn. I've been the loudest of the barking Poodles. And, 1WineDoody, I've always been part of the problem.

There was always going to be a backlash against bloggers, for reasons David points out, and that backlash happened this year and probably caused folks to vote for the HoseMaster. Means almost nothing to me, and even less to the HoseMaster.

That said, I am very grateful to those who voted for my blog. I find it sad and unseemly to campaign for an Award, so I didn't. Yet I won. There is some satisfaction in that.

I write only for the joy of writing, of playing the Fool, of making people laugh, of making the right people angry. I don't write for awards, nor particularly desire them. Or deserve them. Awards are always far more about the people giving them than the people receiving them. I hope those people are proud.

gabriel jagle said...

Ron,

I recently went through an existential crisis of internalizing wine scores. You can say that the blog awards mean nothing to you, but reading your blog over the past shows that they did effect your writing, and so maybe they mean a little something. There's nothing wrong with that. At some point, you have to realize that you are more than just some schmo rambling about wine...you are a voice that people in the wine world listen to and respect. Not saying that blog awards make that true or untrue; they only confirm what we already know to be true. You are an important voice in the industry. I hope you can own that, and re-evaluate yourself in that light, and continue to grow as a writer.
And yes, I have been drinking.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Gabe,
When it comes down to it, HoseMaster might be read by all of a few thousand people. Do I have influence? It would be silly, and deeply egotistical, to think so. I don't see myself as an important voice, but I do see myself as a rare voice. And, with any luck, a funny voice. Like Truman Capote, only without the stupid hat.

Contrary to your distinguished literary criticism, the Poodles have not affected my writing in the least. I've been growing as a writer since I was ten years old. It's solitary work, and nearly thankless, and awards as small as the Poodles don't change anything. I'm bucking for a MacArthur "Genius" Grant, only I'm way underqualified. I'm hoping they have a MacArthur "Sorta Smart" Grant.

I'm not a schmo rambling about wine. I have some credentials. But I hate the tone of most of the conversation about wine on the Intergnats. It's incredibly, mind-numbingly, DULL. You'd think wine was uninspiring and insipid when it's anything but. That's what motivates this "Sorta Smart" schmo.

gabriel jagle said...

Well, I could be wrong. It happens all the time. I just noticed that you have written a few blogs about the poodle awards recently. As my wife likes to say, "Methinks the lady doth protest too much".

Anyway, having a few thousand readers is nothing to sneeze at. A lot of blogs would be happy with a few dozen readers. And if those readers are somms and distributors and wine critics, then your sphere of influence gets even larger. I'm not saying you're the next Robert Parker. But the fact that he knows your writing is pretty impressive. He's never commented on my ability to rack barrels. Taking a compliment is difficult for humble hard-working folks like yourself, but sometimes you gotta appreciate being appreciated.

Hopefully that came out better. I really should stop drinking wine while reading wine blogs.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Gabe,
Since I write rather "seat of the pants" (where all the assholes are), I tend to write about whatever the wine world, or blog world, is buzzing about. The Poodles, and all my nominations, were the subject of a lot of talk. So I had to chime in using my usual annoying Voice.

Drinking is about the only thing that makes blogs palatable. my friend. Don't stop.

Charlie Olken said...

You are neither Schmoe nor Ho, but as to radar, you are no longer below.

So, go in hopes of mo' better humor and be careful that you do not think that two Poodles is insignificant, Jo-say.

Oh, and Gabe, just back from two weeks in New England where we twice drank Illahe P. Gris 2012 at Ten Tables in Provincetown. Aside from some old CS that we lugged back and a bottle of Bolly to celebrate a birthday, your PG was the hit of the trip. Well done.

gabriel jagle said...

Thanks Charlie!

PaulG said...

Told ya! Not just one - TWO Poodles. So, what's next - going for the Master Somm pin? Ready, WSET, go! Well, whatever else you say or do, the awards were well-earned, and hopefully will do nothing to disarm your wit, mighty Fool!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Puff Daddy,
I'm really only happy that there is lots of dissension and unhappiness that I won. Other than that, I don't care about the Poodles. The joy of making the right sorts of petulant and mildly talented people miserable makes my old satirist's heart joyful.

Paul,
This is pretty much all your fault. I intend to direct my hate mail to you. And, come on, I'm the only living HMW, I don't need any more initials. OK, maybe DOA.

Bob Henry (Los Angeles wine industry professional) said...

Ron,

Regarding "I'm bucking for a MacArthur 'Genius' Grant, only I'm way underqualified. I'm hoping they have a MacArthur 'Sorta Smart' Grant."

How 'bout a Lake Wobegon Grant?

~~ Bob

Excerpts from The Wall Street Journal “Weekend Journal” Section
(October 27, 2000, Page W17):

“An Excess of Excellence;
These days, it seems, all must have prizes."

[Alternate link: https://math.temple.edu/~paulos/average.html]

By John Allen Paulos

[A professor of mathematics at Temple University, is the author of "Innumeracy" and "A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper."]

. . . American students often do poorly on international tests but seldom score poorly on measures of self-confidence. They sometimes seem to be saying, "We are the most bestest." Parents heaping encomiums on their preschool youngsters for coloring more or less within the lines, and teachers handing out ever-higher grades in high schools and colleges, are related evidence of this mania to declare us all extraordinary in every way.

[Subsection Headline:] Average Isn't Good Enough

These are only the most recent manifestations of the infamous Lake Wobegon syndrome, whereby everybody, or almost everybody, is deemed to be above average. . . .

The Wobegon syndrome extends to the supposedly hard-headed world of business. If one frequents online business sites, one will discover that almost all the stocks they are writing about are "buys" or "strong buys," with occasional "holds." Where are the "sells" and "strong sells"? . . .

Pick any social dimension along which people can differ and their attitude toward it often demonstrates some trace of Wobegonism. . . .

[Subsection Headline:] Stars Everywhere

The case can be made that reviews of movies, books and restaurants are similarly skewed upward, with only real dogs receiving the dreaded one star, or none. William Grimes, of the New York Times, got in trouble with local chefs last year [1999] when he took over the restaurant-reviewing position at the paper: He was seen to be stingy, compared with his generous predecessor, Ruth Reichl, about handing out two- and three-star ratings. He explained, to anyone who would listen, that he was merely trying to restore some standards. Naturally, the restaurateurs around town still preferred a starrier atmosphere in the Times's food columns.

Of course, I intend no offense to the underachievers of this world, most of whom seem to possess the same need for compliments as everyone else. Sharing this natural desire, I don't think that praise for others should always be stinting or that the social niceties of harmless exaggeration should be discouraged. What does make inflationary commendation worrisome is that by diminishing real achievements it can weaken our ability to discern quality and make distinctions.

A recent study suggests that most incompetent (in various senses of the word) people do not know that they are incompetent. Dr. David Dunning, a psychology professor at Cornell, found that people who do badly at different tasks are unaware of their incompetence because the skills needed to evaluate how well they're doing are often the same as those needed to do the job in the first place.

. . .

In short, some minimal skill and judgment are needed to recognize that we have little skill or judgment and that we may be, horrors, average or even below average. If most of us see ourselves as extraordinary, excellent, well above average and forever donning our stylish berets to buy strong stocks that only move up, the meaning of superlatives will begin to fade behind clouds of self-esteem, and critical evaluation will gradually become empty congratulation.

I could be wrong, but I think that would be a below-average development.

Samantha Dugan said...

Bob,
"In short" wait, there's a longer version?! Ho-ly smokes.

Fabio said...

Bob Henry, and the rest of y'all,

Yeah, but those of us who really are above average in everything we do in our fascinating and charismatic lives, already know that the losers and bores have to be made to feel happy even if they're actually totally useless at anything they attempt to do! (evil laughter...)

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Fabio,
Speak for yourself. I like losers and bores to feel like losers and bores.

Bob Henry (Los Angeles wine industry professional) said...

Touché, Samantha.

As someone raised on MAD magazine and Tom Lehrer, I accept some good-natured "ribbing" as the price of "being in the arena" (as Teddy Roosevelt said) of public and private discourse.

It's unfortunate that URLs can't be embedded in posts to take interested readers to cited article. Self-evidently, excerpts and "abstracts" can be unwieldy.

george kaplan said...

Nicely done.