“Satire dramatizes better than any other use of it, the inherent contradiction of free speech that it functions best when what is being said is at its most outrageous”--Tony Hendra
Monday, February 17, 2014
Ethics? Ethics? We Don't Need No Stinking Ethics!
It's hard to remember, but I think this piece was written after a wine blog written by one of the anonymous (at the time) judges of the Wine Blog Awards won a Wine Blog Award. It doesn't matter. The piece, written in the Angry Young HoseMaster style, received a lot of comments. When I recently re-read it, I felt like it could have been written yesterday, though it was originally written in August 2010. I like the voice, well, as much as I ever like what I write, so here it is at the pinnacle of publication--a Best of HoseMaster!
Ask any wine blogger what the biggest roadblock to
success in the wine business is and he'll undoubtedly answer, "Ethics."
Stupid, useless ol' ethics. And not because he believes in ethics,
that's clearly a waste of time, much like reading wine blogs published
east of the Mississippi, but because there are not guidelines to these
imaginary ethics. Just where are the lines that one isn't supposed to
cross? And where are the lines one is supposed to obey? And the ones
they promised me I could snort? You start a wine blog for purposes of
personal gain, get a little bit of notoriety, and, BANG, someone goes
and ruins the whole thing by bringing up ethics. You win a Wine Blog
Award, an achievement equal to passing your driver's license exam
without the actual driving test, and some ethics cop, some
self-appointed moron of morality, some pompous penis of principles,
comes along and points out you were a judge in the competition. All
because of ethics! How stupid is that? What does it matter that you were
a judge? You won fair and square! There are no ethics on the Internet.
The Internet wasn't created so that the cretins of conscience could ruin
it for everybody! The Internet can't survive if you expect ethical
behavior. What sort of an idiot thinks that? No, the Internet was
created so that we can do anything we fucking want to do and not have to
answer for it. Christ, it's so obvious.
guidelines are sorely needed in the wine blog world, if only to know
what to ignore. It's tiresome to go to all the trouble of writing a wine
blog yet not get the satisfaction of knowing that you're absolutely
unethical. I've been giving this issue a lot of thought. OK, I'm
actually just making this up off the top of my head, but that's what
you're supposed to do when you're blogging--make shit up as you go
along. It's what all the top bloggers do. It's how they got to the top.
Once again, it's the Internet. What does it matter whether what I write
is thoughtful or original or, God forbid, accurate? Only the addlepated,
dimwitted, thunderstruck and the anencephalic believe what they read on
the Internet. Though that is the core group that reads Palate Press.
Anyhow, I have given this issue great thought and now present the core
set of Ethics for Wine Bloggers. I'll thank you to follow them.
is simple. You're entitled to it. You've got a wine blog, you work at
it every day, you're on your journey to discover wine, wineries are
supposed to send you samples. And if they don't, wineries can be
incredibly stupid about not sending out enough free wine to the people,
wine bloggers (duh), who will determine their very existence, just call
them up and ask them for it! It's your ethical responsibility to ASK THE GODDAM WINERIES TO SEND YOU YOUR WINE.
And don't make the egregious mistake of not telling them your shirt and
hat sizes--they'll want to send you swag and can be very pouty if you
don't seem to want any.
You are not
obligated to report to your readers that the wines you review on your
blog were sent to you for free. Who made that up? If you're using them,
get rid of your stupid disclaimers. It's no one's fucking business where
you got the wine from! The only things that matter are that you liked
the wine, that it paired well with the lavish dinner the winery treated
you to, and, above all, what kind of closure it had. No one needs to
know you didn't pay a nickel for it. What kind of a lousy world would
this be if we had to reveal every goddam thing we get for free? The
whole country would devolve into anarchy. The IRS would be buried in
paperwork. Hookers and pimps don't report their income! Explain to me
the difference between wine bloggers and hookers and pimps! Yeah, pimps
drive nicer cars, but other than that. Sure, unlike wine bloggers,
hookers spit, but other than that. It's outrageous. Your ethical obligation is to say nice things about the wineries that give you free stuff, and only nice things.
First off, you're not really qualified to judge wines, so why would you
risk appearing stupid and ridicule that Moscato d'Asti for having some
sort of chemical problem that makes it fizzy? Just say something nice,
you got it for free, didn't your mother teach you to say thank you? This
is so obvious, I wonder why it has to be said. Sheesh.
this is simple. Everything you can think of, especially you, to say
about wine has been said before and said far better than your miserable
vocabulary allows you to say. Oh, goody, you discovered Aglianico, a
wine that's been around for thousands of years but you're the first one
to notice it's pretty good wine if you like that Southern Italian crap
even though the ones they're starting to make in California are sooo
much better. Great. Fascinating. I'm quivering with excitement. Believe
me, everything you have to say about Aglianico, the grape and the free
bottle of wine you're talking about, and every other wine, has been said
more articulately and more eloquently. And
yet, it is your ethical responsibility to bring the level of discussion
down to where the kind of dolts who read wine blogs can understand it.
Your job is to educate the poor slobs who know less than you about
wine, the fools who've only been learning about wine for eight months
when you've been reading Lettie Teague for years, the sad group of
humans who don't know what to buy when they're shopping at BevMo and
someone has torn down the Wilfred Wong recommendations and put up
pictures of kitties instead, though the kitties would be more useful
than Wilfred for explaining the crap BevMo sells. Your job is to say, in
very simple phrases and poor English, what has been said before. This
is how wine blogs work. Don't go trying to be original. Really. This is
important. Just look at the top wine blogs. See anything original? No.
Take a hint. Figure it out. Genius.
And when you're not reviewing
wines or writing about your annoying children or filling your pointless
blog with more links than a Jimmy Dean warehouse, you can always plug
local events. After all, your eleven readers really want to know about
the $150 per ticket Insipid Producers of Oregon Tasting with music by
Celine Dion impersonator, Celine Dion. It it your ethical responsibility to post as often as possible without regard to meaningful content. Try to see your wine blog as spam. The meat, not the junk mail. You call that meat? You call that writing?
When reviewing wines that you don't really understand or you are incapable of describing, it is perfectly
ethical to simply quote from the fact sheet the winery provided, or
reword the back label. There's no need to try to make up descriptors
when the correct ones are right in front of you! The only ethical responsibility you have is to make certain no one knows you've borrowed from someone else's work.
That would be misguided and can only lead to uncertainty and chaos.
Better yet, why not just skip the stupid description and simply assign
the wine a score? Scores cannot be questioned, and make lovely graphics
besides. Lately, wine bloggers have begun to use badges instead of
scores. I am completely in favor of this trend. Poodles becoming
badgers. After all, both wine bloggers and badgers are in the weasel
family. Photo: Best New Wine Blog Nominess 2010
After 19 years as a Sommelier in Los Angeles, twice named Sommelier of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers' Association, I moved to Sonoma County to explore the other aspects of the wine business. I've spent, OK wasted, 35 years learning about and teaching about and swallowing wine. I am also a judge at the Sonoma Harvest Fair, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the San Francisco International Wine Competition--so I can spit like a rabid llama. I know more about wine than David Sedaris and I'm funnier than James Laube. Stay tuned for an informed but jaded view of everything wine and everything else.
I'm living proof that alcohol kills brain cells.
What the Critics Are Saying About HoseMaster of Wine
"If you want a great hoot and howl moment or two...go read the HoseMaster's year-end reflections...that guy is without a doubt the funniest SOB in the blog-world...and thank him for having the brains and balls to target his laser of laughter on anybody...HoseMaster for President...HoseMaster for Blogger of the Year...although he would be the first to say the bar is so damn low for that award, he should win it every year..." --Robert Parker
"No one is immune from California sommelier and wine judge Ron Washam's skewering. He polishes that skewer with boundless enthusiasm and acuity."
"As serious as the world of wine is, it does allow time for humor. Each Monday and Thursday, Ron Washam customarily posts a commentary on his needling wine blog HoseMaster of Wine. Washam, a former sommelier and comedy writer – he might say they are closely related – is the most opinionated, humorous and ribald observer in the wine world. His body of work is irreverent and remorseless. It’s almost always satire and parody, though he occasionally drifts into straight commentary, sometimes even with tasting notes. This past year, one of his posts was named the best of the year in the Wine Blog Awards. His success has spawned several imitations, which in their awkwardness show just how difficult satire is."
--Mike Dunne, Sacramento Bee
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/01/21/6089630/dunne-on-wine-wine-blogs-and-bloggers.html#storylink=cpy
"Please let this guy write the scripts for Saturday Night Live which has gotten so lame...his newest "wisdom" is worth an Emmy....I wonder if he is the genius behind all those Hitler/Parker,etc. clips? No one else is remotely as funny or as talented.And the wine world sure needs someone to poke fun at all the nonsense and phoney/baloney unsufferable crap out there."
"Washam uses his own blog, HoseMaster of Wine, to skewer the industry in general and wine blogs in particular. If your mouse scoots to your browser's close box while reading a wine blog, Washam may be the blogger for you."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"Ron Washam, former sommelier, is easily the most bitingly funny blogger/wine writer that we have ever come across. He is an equal opportunity crusader who pillories big wineries and amateur bloggers alike, as well as everything and everyone in between...One needs a sense of humor and a tolerance for earthiness to enjoy reading The Hosemaster. We must have both because this guy deserves a wider audience, in our humble opinion." --Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
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--Paul Gregutt, Seattle Times
"Washam is a skilled wine judge (I have judged with him) who is willing to judge wine double blind, in public. To my knowledge, Parker does not do this and never has. So Ron's credentials are in place, and so is his sense of the absurd."
--Dan Berger, VintageExperiences
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--Tyler Colman "Dr. Vino"
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--Jo Diaz "Juicy Tales by Jo Diaz"
"I must say you are an idiot. I've never liked you. I have no idea why people find you funny."