Thursday, June 19, 2014
To Be or Not to Be
I’ve been struggling lately with whether I want to continue writing HoseMaster of Wine™. First of all, let me just say that this is not a plea to those of you who care to flatter me to chime in and tell me how brilliant I am, and how the wine world needs me. I’m not particularly good at accepting flattery. I do much better with vitriol. Rather, this is simply a peek behind my peculiar curtain, about how weary I am of this self-imposed gig, and also how I fear I’d miss it if I do quit. Those of you uninterested in this kind of navel-gazing, leave now. I’m sure there’s something really stupid to read over at PUNCH, the online drinks magazine for the dumbstruck.
I started writing HoseMaster to see how it would feel to write regularly again. I stumbled onto wine blogs, gazed upon their splendid mediocrity, and decided to jump in. So many wine blogs proclaim that wine is too pretentious a business, all the while adding layers to that pretentiousness with their own brand of solipsistic babbling. And in the seven years I’ve been at this, nothing has changed. Worst of all, HoseMaster hasn’t changed much either. Reading the “popular” wine blogs regularly is like eating the same damned food for lunch every single day. It’s depressing that you never get sick of it.
There are a lot of different motivations for writing a wine blog. For many, it has been a way into the business. The most successful of those bloggers have learned that self-promotion, social media skills, parroting disingenuous marketing stories, passing off Wikipedia entries as personal knowledge, and relentless buttkissing are a quicker way up the ladder than actual wine experience. These are the wine bloggers the trade adores. They are overwhelmed with wine samples and offers of free junkets. They’re the equivalent of the “reporters” for “Entertainment Tonight,” who pose as insiders, but really simply spew the copy handed them by actors’ press agents. It’s twaddle, it’s far more harmful than good for the wine business, but that’s what the Internet does best—give you the opportunity to lie about who you really are.
Then there are those wine bloggers who turn a one-sentence thought into an eight hundred word essay with a misleading blurb as a title. Most of these folks think of themselves as “journalists.” Because, hey, this is a journal, right? They climb the blog rankings with a talent for writing headlines, and nothing else. You click on the link because of the headline, you read the piece, and you think, “Fuck, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve read all day.” For them, you’re a stat, an endlessly stupid moth self-destructively flitting around their headline flame. Their contribution to the wine conversation is, “Me, Me, Me.” Though they think they’re really smart, and feel their contribution is, “Meme, Meme, Meme.”
There are aggregate blogs, the cheesy, overrated wine clubs of the genre. Why, every day our panel of experts sends you the finest dozen posts available at club prices! You’re free to cancel at any time, we’re just happy you’ve fallen for it for as long as you have! There are the sad little wine blogs started by people who just want to tell you about really good wines they’ve tasted. Oh, I know I’m not a wine expert, but I know what I like! And I think this has value. They’re like Poodle puppies leaving little puddles for you all over the house. Hard to hate them, but you wish they’d grow up.
All of them make me want to quit.
I’ve not been a popular guy with a lot of folks in the wine business. That doesn’t bother me in the least. I don’t see myself as a truth-teller, some kind of superhero dedicated to cleaning up all the hypocrisy and dishonesty I see. I write comedy. Where I succeed or fail is if I make you laugh—that’s my only criterion. I rarely choose my targets, my targets almost always choose themselves. The wine world is no different than the real world. It’s filled with buffoons, cowards, pretenders, blowhards, pinheads, idiots, stuffed shirts, sycophants, and assholes. I don’t use those words when I speak of them individually. I use satire, mockery, jokes, parody and ribaldry to make my points. I don’t have an agenda, except laughter. I’ve clearly screwed that up today.
I feel like I’ve run my course on HoseMaster of Wine™. I’m not out of ideas, far from it. But I may be out of motivation. Many days I fantasize about how nice it would be to never look at a wine blog again. Hell, I often fantasize about how nice it would be to never look at the Internet again. There’s a kind of peace in the very thought. No more wine blogs would be like moving to the country and discovering just how annoying and stressful all that fucking traffic noise was where you used to live—you were able to tune it out to a degree, but now that it’s gone you see how much it detracted from your life. I think about that. Which seems to imply that I’m ready to move away from the virtual world, all that incessant and meaningless noise, gain some peace and quiet.
I love wine, and I love the wine business. It’s why I write about them both. Out of love, not disdain. But maybe my passion for wine is better served in the privacy of my own thoughts. There’s nothing new to say about wine that hasn't been said more eloquently many times before. Wine outclasses us, and our feeble imaginations and vocabularies. I've tried to bring an interesting voice to the discussion, but it feels like that voice has worn thin. At least it feels that way to me. Oh, I’m still angry. I’m still angry about how we humans manage to trivialize, ruin and degrade just about everything precious in the world, wine being just one example. I’m angry that I’m a part of that myself. But comedy is about anger, its Creator is anger, it needs anger. But it can be tiring to channel all of that anger twice a week. I’m tired.
This isn’t a farewell piece. Or it might be. I don’t know. I’m wrestling with why I do this in the first place, and for what. For those of you who come here for the laughs and are still reading, my heartfelt apology. Every now and then I feel the need to be self-indulgent. From a career standpoint, wine has been my life. For too much of the past three years, HoseMaster has been my life. There’s the rub.