Thursday, September 24, 2015

EPHEMERA: Hugh Johnson and the HoseMaster of Wine™ at the 2016 Wine Writers' Symposium--Every King Needs a Fool


My brother in satire, Chris Kassel, recently wrote a piece on his blog (and if you don’t read his blog, you’re missing the funniest and smartest wine writing anywhere) featuring himself as Butch, from the Little Rascals, and me as Alfalfa—what I wouldn’t give for Alfalfa’s hair. His piece speaks wisely to the vicissitudes of writing wine satire. There are other bloggers writing comedy, though not many, and most not well, but satire, the art of being genuinely vicious, and unblinkingly honest, and, with any luck, funny, is rare in wine writing. And for good reason—it’s hard to do, it takes a bit of courage, and a lot of fearlessness. I can’t speak to Chris’ motivation, but my motivation boils down to the simple joy of being the kid who’s pointing to the naked emperor. Lots and lots of folk hate what Chris and I do, but I believe we’re necessary to any healthy conversation about wine and the wine business. There is far too much bullshit in wine writing. Not a little bit too much, but way, way, way too much. Not many people would argue against that point of view, but feel free.

All that to say that I’m surprised, and deeply disappointed, that Jim Gordon asked me, as the HoseMaster of Wine™, to speak at the 2016 Napa Valley Wine Writers’ Symposium at Meadowood next February. Yes, friends, I’m putting the “simp” in symposium, if not the “poseur.” Jim approached me with the idea that the HoseMaster might open the symposium and speak to the previous year’s worst wine journalism. Not just mine, but others, and in a satiric vein. I know how prestigious the Napa Valley Wine Writers’ Symposium is, and I knew the other people invited to teach and speak would be wine writer heavyweights. And, indeed, I am way out of my league.

Check out the press announcement. I think I’ve insulted almost everyone listed. So, yeah, this will be fun. Asimov, McInerney, Lee, Goode, Boone…where are Jancis Robinson and Natalie MacLean when I need them to lynch me? Not that a single one of those people has heard of me, but they just might Google my ass, which wouldn't bode well. Nevertheless, it’s important, and it’s wonderful, that Jim Gordon invited me to be part of the Symposium. Satire deserves a place at the table, even if it’s sitting in the folding chair next to the troubled kids. I’m far from a gifted public speaker. I wrote standup when I was young, but I’m not especially gifted at making people laugh as a performer. I’m scared Meomi-less. But I didn’t feel I could refuse. I felt I had to take one for the satire team.

The keynote speaker for the Symposium is Hugh Johnson, who I think I’ve heard of—he wrote the Dr. Doolittle books, right? Somehow, he got top billing. There are a handful of wine writers for whom I have great respect, and Mr. Johnson is one of them. He doesn’t care. I’ll be honored to meet him. He'll give me a puzzled look. When it comes right down to it, there isn’t a single other person speaking or teaching at Meadowood who is worthy of even carrying Mr. Johnson’s luggage when it comes to wine writing. My reward for my predictable humiliation and failure is I may get to meet him.

I’m bragging now. Read the press release again. I’m no longer the guy who “claims to be a satirist,” in the immortal words of a guy who claims to be a journalist, I’m “satirist Ron Washam.” It's on the intergnats, it has to be true. If you’re one of the wine writers who is lucky enough to attend the Napa Valley Wine Writer’s Symposium this February, and you read this stupid blog, please introduce yourself. I’m not a jackass in real life. OK, I can be, but I’ll try not to. And cut me some slack. I haven’t given a speech since I was best man at the Charles Manson wedding. Laugh like a bad sitcom sound track. I'd appreciate it.

Most of the recognition I get for my work here comes from attorneys. I’m honored by Jim Gordon’s invitation. And I won’t pull any punches. I intend to have a good time, and, perhaps, inspire someone else to join Our Gang of satire, Chris Kassel’s and mine. That would be my idea of a perfect outcome.


18 comments:

Eric V. Orange said...

Way to go Ron. What a great opportunity. Can't wait for the vid.

EVO

Jim Caudill said...

Uh oh, legitimacy, the beginning of the end....

Don Clemens said...

This has all the potential for disaster that I can imagine. Not yours, Ron, but for those who might not know your peculiar talent for dissection.

Francly Speaking said...

OMG, WTF, LOL, IMHO, - do you think they will teach you the secret handshake?

Dan Fishman said...

Awesome!

- insert joke that I would not be too tired to come up with if it weren't harvest here -

Mark Cochard said...

Ron, I read the Press Release, and who appears in the list but, Tilar Mazzeo, author of The Widow Clicquot. I have hundreds of wine books, narratives, history and research technical tomes.
This is the worst and most poorly written book on a wine subject I have ever read of course I did not finish it, but a blind review might be in order. It was nice to get to meet Larry Anosmia, MS at Texsom, I hope he attends next year.
Mark

Bob Henry said...

"If you’re one of the wine writers who is lucky enough to attend the Napa Valley Wine Writer’s Symposium this February, and you read this stupid blog, please introduce yourself. I’m not a jackass in real life. OK, I can be, but I’ll try not to. And cut me some slack. I haven’t given a speech since I was best man at the Charles Manson wedding. Laugh like a bad sitcom sound track. I'd appreciate it."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rl_NpdAy3WY

Can't wait for Alder's smartphone video of your presentation to go viral.

https://vimeo.com/87443435

http://www.forbes.com/sites/katiebell/2014/02/24/robert-parker-faces-his-toughest-critics-wine-writers/

Aaron said...

Wait, someone else's writing who you actually admire and promote?! Time for me to subscribe to the RSS feed!

And Congrats are in order, I guess. Sounds like a good place to let lose and skewer them all, and hopefully get them to write a little better, and be a little less self-important :) Everybody needs someone standing at their shoulder whispering "Memento mori", remember that thou art a man (or woman in this progressive age).

Amy said...

Great news!!! All of those writers should feel honored about being insulted by you. Let's face it, you have not arrived as a wine writer if the HMW has not targeted you. I'm actually thinking of starting a wine blog just so that you can insult me. It would be a great honor. And I'll carry your luggage anytime :)

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Gang,
Thanks for all of the kind, and anticipatory, remarks.

I think there are two kinds of wine writers. There are people who were born to write who choose wine to write about--in that category, I'd put Hugh Johnson, Gerald Asher, Tim Atkin, Andrew Jefford, and a few others I can't think of right now. And then there are the folks who fall in love with wine and decide to write about it, but are better at wine than writing. They are too numerous to mention.

I'm afraid I love writing more than I love wine. So I have a hard time reading so much of what's published. Not because it's not articulate or informed, but because it, like an average wine, has little energy. Far too much published about wine is dull, and suffers from answering to the immediacy of the internet age.

I include that idiot HoseMaster of Wine™ in the last category.

David Pears said...

Congrats Ron - that idiot HoseMaster is impressing the insulted ones - and rightfully so!
I can't wait to read your comment on the "Success Stories" column on their website:
"I have never before had the pleasure to insult so many so fast - at least not since my latest blog post... [jibber-jabber]... People who despise me certainly know how to party."
BTW, Have you read the Ben Narasin success story on that same column? True HoseMaster Material, that is!

David

Ron Washam, HMW said...

David,
I've had a year of strange turns of event. The invite to speak in the company of such distinguished wine folks is incredibly flattering, if not outright silly. I'm very grateful to Jim Gordon for including me. There's always that risk, as Jim Caudill alludes to, of becoming part of that establishment. But I'm not talented enough, or ambitious enough, for that to happen. I'm just going to try to enjoy my few moments in the spotlight.

A "Ben Narasin success story" is an oxymoron, isn't it?

Divine Miss M said...

Ron - You're right about Hugh Johnson. Lovely fellow and a very fine writer.

I hope someone videotapes your talk for the rest of us.

Ziggy said...

Congrats Hose.

I'm guessing you are taking a limo to St Helena?
Make sure you arrive in shorts, tee shirt and flip flops. Cover the dome with something related to Sonoma County.

Ziggy (from Fla Keys)

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Miss M,
I'm genuinely pleased to be mentioned in the same paragraph as Mr. Johnson. And "videotapes?" Love, you're showing your age...

Ziggy,
Yeah, me in a limo. That sounds right. May as well drive the pig to the Loreal counter for some lipstick.

Ron (from the Flun Keys)

Charlie Olken said...

I am in London as I write this. February seems like an ideal time for a return visit to Olde Blighty.

Mike Dunne said...

Good grief, poet Billy Collins this year, satirist Ron Washam next year. Jim Gordon looks to be shaking up the image of wine writers as the least cultured of the wine culture. Sorry that I likely will miss your presentation but suspect that Napa Valley Vintners will tape it and sell it to Comedy Central, so I can catch it later. You will have fun, but don't you always?

Bodega Almaroja said...

I´d still wear the bullet-proof vest if I were you....