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.

Nonetheless, ethical 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.

Free Stuff

This 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.


Again, 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


Unknown said...

Mr. HoseMaster,

You forgot to point out that bloggers should only accept really good free stuff. For example, the Mondavi t shirt with the Jazz series, that is not acceptable.

The Mondavi polo shirt made by Ralph Lauren or Chemise we are talking.

Never accept second labels. Say no to Alta Gracia and Cain Cuvee...say yes to Cain Five and Araujo.

There is a place for ethics and standards.

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
While still hilarious and fun to read, (not to mention true on so many levels, still) it is way cool as a long time fan to read the difference in your voice and tone from them to now. I don't think I noticed it happening but this older piece reads so much angrier than the pieces you write now. Sort of makes me want to flip you over and rub your belly until you calm down.
Fun walk down memory lane love. I adore you!

Andy Perdue said...

Angry Hosemaster is my favorite Hosemaster. I came to you during the height of your "pooodles" screeds, and they were delicious.

There is so much win here.

Marcia Macomber said...

A Classic HoseMaster, indeed! All of it was true, of course. Gee, those little badgers look kinda cute! But if they're a problem, I've got a little dog who can help you out with those problems...

Charlie Olken said...

Not sure that maturity and even-handedness is exactly the trait we want in our Hosemaster.

But, of course, so many of the good topics have been explored that it takes a real bonafide boner (not the kind in a can) to warrant an all out ass-kicking. Still, there is room, I hope, for some of those because, as you have said on more than one occasion, there are folks and topics that need the shit kicked out of them.

But, there is this as well. Some of your targets have shown their senses of humor and gone on to be your friends. It is a little harder to pick on people you like.

But, like Andy Perdue, I wait in hope for another angry Hosemaster rant because they really dig in.

Charlie Olken said...

I should have added, they really dig in "because good comedy likes an edge".

Lynn said...

It appears all of the 2010 Best New Wine Blog Nominees were European, which are indeed, East of the Mississippi.

A bit of a correction from the offended European badgers out there, they are part of the Mustelidae family. More specifically, European badgers are in the subfamily Melinae. Weasels are in the subfamily Mustelinae. Got that straight?!

Us (we) badgers living in Wisconsin are Taxidea taxus. That's very appropriate! (No, I didn't make that up.)

Bob Henry said...

Invoking Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr's epigram:

"plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"

(The more things change, the more they stay the same.)

1987. 2010. 2014. Can you tell the difference?

Excerpt from Los Angeles Times “Main News” Section
(August 23, 1987, Page A1ff):

“Wine Writers: Squeezing the Grape for News”

(Series: First of Two Articles)

By David Shaw
Times Staff Writer

Two years ago, Craig Goldwyn -- publisher of International Wine Review magazine -- spoke to a couple of East Coast audiences about people who write on wine for American newspapers and magazines.

Goldwyn, who also writes a monthly wine column in the Washington Post, began by asking, "What is a wine writer?" Then he answered his own question:

"A wine writer is a physician or a lawyer with a bottle of wine and a typewriter, looking to see his or her name in print, looking for an invitation to a free lunch and a way to write off the wine cellar."

Colman Andrews, who writes about wine for Los Angeles magazine, offered an even more acerbic observation in a recent interview:

"Any jerk can call himself a wine critic and get published."

Unknown said...

At first I thought this blog was about Ethnics, which are also in short-supply in the wineblogosphere

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Common Taters,
When it's going to be a Holiday, I usually decide on a rerun. I glance through old posts looking for something that speaks to me now, three years later, and that's what I republish.

As I've often said here, the exercise for me when writing HoseMaster is to change tone and pace and styles of comedy and satire. Samantha's right, I can hear how genuinely perturbed I was at the time I wrote this post, but it's also hugely exaggerated for comic effect.

I spent much of my early days lambasting wine bloggers, aka Poodles. It was fun, but they were ridiculously easy targets and I grew tired of it. Once I acquired a larger audience, I decided to go after more famous wine folk. Curiously, or maybe not, the famous wine folk don't take the satire any better than the amateur bloggers. I don't care. But it's more satisfying to lampoon Parker or Wine Spectator or Bonne or Alderpated and Blinky. Truly, the wine business isn't used to disrespect and mockery, even when they've earned it.

Charlie is right that it's hard to satirize friends. Satire requires distance. I set out simply to make people laugh, sometimes with goofiness, sometimes with anger, sometimes with affection, but always with a deep love for wine, and a deep disgust with pretension, hypocrisy and dishonesty.

I've got lots of anger, and that's a style of humor that's in these days, from The Daily Show to Bill Maher. But I love stupid Wine Fairy Tales and ridiculous guides to wine, too. I have lots of voices in my head.

But thanks to everyone who puts up with the reruns. I like to think my HoseMaster Voice has improved over the past few years. But it probably hasn't.

Bob on Sonoma said...

They should license bloggers to make sure they can spel and do grammar and shit you know?

Samantha Dugan said...

Well I suck at spelling and I am a grammatical nightmare but, well I can shit with the best of them so maybe I shouldn't give up just yet?

enobytes said...

Um...Oregon charges $180 for wine dinners, not $150! Duh! ;)


Unknown said...

I was looking for a clip of Austin Powers asking the reporter "which is it baby, Spitz or Swallows?" when I came across this:

You're welcome.

Unknown said...


The other day a friend and I were discussing the old "pie in the face" gag, and the inventor of said gag, the great Fattie Arbuckle. For some reason, that made me think of you. The end.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey John,
Long time, no talk. That's a nice little clip. Subtle. And about as dramatic a spit as a classic Danny Thomas spit. Don't want her in my tasting room.

Yes, but it was Einstein invented the Pi in the face. The end.