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#Mondayblogs – It’s a Ramble. Just Go With

12 Jan

I was taught, in my rather Victorian childhood home, that there is a right way and there are other ways – which are all wrong. I’ve mellowed over the years. I’ve seen and accepted that there are different points of view, different ways of doing things. Diversity is good. We need fewer rules not more. Marrying a woman that tolerates a man that breaks as many ‘rules’ as I do might be part of that growth. In that spirit, I’ve held off rambling on the current state of the Queen’s English. I wanted to tolerate it, not rail against it. But, I don’t know about you. I think the written and spoken word are in dire shape (grammar check says that I should have written ‘is in dire shape’. That just sounds wrong). I’ve read similar rants. And, I want to get it all out too. I realize that I risk the wrath of mean spirited people with red pencils forever scouring my blog for mistakes and pointing them out. Knock yourselves out. Here goes.

letseatgrandmaI admit that I sometimes have a pretty fast and loose relationship with proper written English on these pages including “some; sketchy punctuation! on my blogs. I plead for an exemption – this merely reflects a ‘style’ of communication. It’s more artistic or stylistic than wrong. No? Doesn’t sell it? Maybe it’s just that bloggers should get some slack due to the freedom that blogging, by its very nature, demands. No? Well, let’s just say that I am allowed conflicting behaviours on my own blog. So, in no particular order, here are my worst offending culprits:

  1. Loss of the adverb. I remember long ago in a land far away, the adverb roamed the earth shaking frequently and enthusiastically it’s ‘ly’. Now, it’s all but left common usage. The loss is most pronounced in the sports writing and reporting fields. Sports reporters cover the game excellent. I’m not trying to say that they don’t do good. Just that they must have skipped Spoken English 101 when they completed their basket weaving degree at OFU (Only Football University). Please, “Save The Adverb!”
  2. If you are asking someone if they wish to accompany you, it’s quite acceptable to include the appropriate pronoun at the end of ‘go with’. Trust me, it’s OK.
  3. “My bad”. Enough said…………. OK, not enough said. What is a bad? Why do grown adults need to sound like hip young people? It’s as wrong as wearing your baseball cap backwards after cresting 40. Come on. Talk and dress your age.
  4. As I walked home late the other night, I was passed by two teen girls on bikes having a conversation. One of them said, “He was like sayin’ what do you want? And, I said like whatever.” What? What does that actually mean? What did she really want? Or is it speech designed to simply fill the air with words? And, don’t say, “Sort of like this blog.” Back when they taught grammar, I learned that you would use ‘like’ in a simile. I realize that ‘like’ is also accepted as a “nonvolitional interjection”. I know this because I read it on But please not with every friggin’ breath you take (apologies to The Police). Here’s how we fix this. If your child has a speech problem, you get it tended to. For example, I couldn’t say r’s when I was little. So I know first hand what happens. You further humiliate your child by having him publicly excused from class to spend time with the speech pathologist twying to WEAWY WEAWY IMPWOVE. Phew, didn’t know that anger was still there. The point? If your child says ‘like’ after every other word, you get him to a speech pathologist. The only way to stomp this out is to embarrass the perpetrators.
  5. Use of non-words and acronyms. Yes, people use non-words all the time. I can see using ‘u’ as a pronoun in a tweet due to character restrictions, maybe a text? No, not a text – lazy. How lazy do you have to b to save your fingers by maybe a couple letters a text? Same goes with the ubiquitous LOL. Really? You were laughing out loud? What it really means is, “Hey, this is the end of the text and like……whatever.”
  6. I hate that biz-speak phrases or words are creeping into common usage. I heard an interesting phrase the other day. I was told that on a conference call, a participant suggested that they ‘socialize the concept’. What? How effective is communication that leaves most people on the call shaking their heads and wondering, “What the hell did he just say? Socialize the concept? Are you shitting me?” Bureaucratese and biz-speak have been around for years. Years ago, I worked for a very bureaucratic organization that used so much biz-speak, I circulated Bingo cards that had words instead of numbers. It was called Bullshit Bingo. Then, participants on conference calls or at meetings would furtively cross out these words/phrases as they were used and whisper, “Bingo” when they had a line filled. That went on until one day the boss on a call heard the “Bingo” and asked what that was about. Silence. We were unable to clarify the environment for her. Clarify The Environment? Hey. Bingo! Stomp out biz-speak!
  7. Another culprit is print media. I’m not sure who proofreads proofreads their stuff. But, it’s brutal. Words are mispeled, sentences disconnected. Out of the blue, they introduce the last names of people who they haven’t even told us about. Taylor commented on this and the sloppy use of proofreading as a means to edit out content to fit items into available space.
  8. Using the present tense in a story about the past as in, “He goes. Then I go” This took place in the past; so use the past tense. “He went. Then I went.” I’d like to talk about using ‘goes’ in the first place but another time for that.

IloveEnglishI just re-read the above and it sounds that I’m a bit uptight and the criticism is indeed a bit harsh. I’m sorry if I’ve offended friends and family. Oh, on the uptight part, I plead – guilty. Why do you think I drink so much wine? Wine: The Great Unuptightener! And, yes, unuptightener can be a word. We just all have to use it three times and it’s ours. Language evolves, you see.

There are many, many, many more examples presaging the end of the linguistic world as we know it. But, let’s leave those for another time. Or, we could socialize the concept by using the virtual interface at the bottom of the page where it says, “Leave a Comment”. Let me hear ur most egregious perpetrators. LOL.TTFN.


#MondayBlogs – Can I Get A Friend?

15 Sep

I didn’t contribute to the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge last month. I just couldn’t get my fingers moving to type out a treatise on “friend” – the theme. I thought that it would be too random, way too serious, and therefore fail to earn me any love from the voting community. Having been rejected several times already, I couldn’t risk the humiliation. And, it has nothing to do with a lack thereof – friends, that is. I am surrounded with some of the best friends a person could have. But, here’s the thing. I struggled with the word. See, how it works with bloggers like me is that to figure out what to write on a theme, I start with a little word association game. And I discovered that friend, as a word, has seemingly morphed into something…………..different. And I’m not sure that I like it. It’s a function, I think, of language’s constant evolution and social media’s impact. Here’s what I mean.

There are words that just so capture what they mean to you when you say them. For some that might be complex like ‘right’ or ‘left’. For others it might be something as simple as ‘green’ or as powerful as ‘hate’.

Well, that word for me is ‘friend’. There is only one meaning. Growing up, I knew exactly what a ‘friend’ was; what we’d do for each other and how much we meant to each other. Not only that, I knew all my friends. It’s not just that I knew their names or their profile (the essential deets – those having asterisks beside the text box). But, I knew the names of their siblings, their parents’ names and what those parents did for a living, and (when such things mattered to a young man) what cars their dads drove. I knew who they wanted to date, who they wanted to dump, and if they (or I) was buying the beer that weekend. And, yes I had a friend who seemed to never buy the beer. Didn’t we all? But he was a friend. I liked my friends a lot. Trusted them. People say, “In bad times, you learn who your real friends are”. Well, I’ve had some pretty dark times and I knew who my real friends were going in and they were the same ones I had coming out. I didn’t learn anything that I didn’t already know. I guess by now you get it – I really knew the people that I called ‘friends’. And, channeling Sally Fields, I really, really loved them. And nothing’s really changed in the intervening years, I still do – know them and love them.

friendship1Years ago as Facebook took off, I expounded obnoxiously. “Why do I care to “connect” (visualize me a la Dr.Evil using hand signals for parentheses) with people using Facebook that I don’t care to connect with in my real life?” You can see that I can assume an insufferable attitude, really. Not my best feature. But, and here’s the rub, Facebookists, Facebookers , or whatever the term you use for the buggers, had hundreds of friends. What? I’ll say that again – they had hundreds of friends! While poor Bill had eight to ten. OK, ten is a bit of a stretch. Hundreds of friends? How can that be? Unless ‘friends’ were no longer really friends, that is. My word ‘friends’ got high jacked to serve another master. Other words have been similarly repurposed. ‘Like’ has a new meaning – it happens, liking that is, when you click on an icon. That’s it. I do it all the time – I like stuff on-line. I truly like it but not in the same vein as someone going to the Kellogg’s website and liking them, whoever them is, so as to, perchance, win a trip to DisneyWorld. That ain’t a true ‘like’.

Then there’s the word, ‘influence’. Recently in the social media circles I travel in, there was a serious spat about whether a certain social media entity could be on a list that spoke to the influence certain other social media entities had in the wine social media world (stop and take a breath) as defined and measured by services that supposedly measure influence. Confused? I was too. It was like Dale Carnegie was on acid and trapped in cyberspace. It caused a little binge drinking in the wine blogging community. OK, maybe only in my little corner thereof and in Oz. And I know what you’re thinking. It doesn’t take much at my place. But, what it illustrated to me was that we haven’t quite found social media’s place in our intimate and personal world. The world where DuffsWines is Bill, not a social media entity. The world that matters and uses such words as influence, friend, follow, like. A world where those words are personal not virtual. At least, I haven’t. How Twitter and WordPress, for instance, play in my head, heart, and day-to-day life. I realize that people are working on it – somewhere there’s a strategy being developed to turn my social media Brand Awareness into buying Depends. But, that’s not what I mean. Now, before I dig a bigger hole with the above-mentioned influence listees, let me say that many people and services that made this list are influential to me. And, I don’t doubt to others. They really are, as per my personal definition of influence. I read them, trust them, believe them, and am comfortable acting on their recommendations and suggestions. It’s not the idea of a list that I’m talking about but the use of an algorithm to measure influence in the absence of ‘real’. It’s drone science and not something to squabble over. To my 17 followers, “No I did not make the list”.

For me, it isn’t quite ‘real’ yet – social media that is. Attempts to substitute it for the personal world or elevate it to matter to us all are a bit premature, I think. For example, having news segments like, “Let’s see what’s trending on Twitter” is just lazy 24-7 journalism. It’s like eavesdropping on me leaning over my fence and shooting the shit with my neighbour. It doesn’t matter to anyone but me and him. It’s not news. Please stop scrolling Twitter feeds masquerading as content!

How I’d suggest we deal with this at this point in time is to Stay Calm and Use a Little Restraint (T-shirts available). Have fun with it. This will all work itself out – this social media meeting real world expectations, accepted nomenclature, and the human condition. We are not there yet. At least, I don’t think we are. But, there will soon be an app. Cue: Scarlett Johansson.

For my part, I follow, comment, interact, and share within social media regularly in such a positive way for me that I ‘like’ these people with whom I exchange stuff. I like ’em a lot. But, to remain theoretically consistent with the above, I cannot call them ‘friends’. Not until we meet at the Wine Bloggers Conference next year in the Finger Lakes. And, then after sharing some real time drinking wine, getting to know each other, talking wine, and drinking some more wine, we’ll become BFF’s, I’m hoping. Which in my paradigm of friendship means that I can call them regularly late at night with little regard for time zones, borrow money from them during my weekly rough patch, stay in their apartment if I’m stuck, and, most importantly quaff those bottles of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche that they have in their cellar. Screw Facebook, that’s the kind of friends I’m talking about, baby!

Now that wasn’t too random and serious, was it?

#MondayBlogs : Age? It’s Only A Number

25 Aug

radiciWhat? No music? Sorry but I wanted desperately to plug in Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Riviera Paradise but couldn’t find it. And, I didn’t want to compromise.

I haven’t rambled in awhile. That’s not exactly true as I tend to ramble with every post. But, I haven’t dedicated a ramble-only post in a long time. So, to correct that oversight and to execute a bit of a brain dump, this is it. The ramble, that is.

Basically I’m an immediate gratification leaning man – waiting on stuff doesn’t suit me. Waiting on wine, in particular, makes me anxious. I want the best wine (that I can afford) at its best, right now. On the aging wine front, I’m a little uncomfortable with the term ‘predicted drinkability’. As in, “the drinking window for this sturdy Chateauneuf-du-Pape is 2014 to infinity.” Regardless of the pedigree of the suggester, I struggle to trust it. What happens if I wait too long? Open it too early? Second, I don’t really get aging. Let me explain.

I read all kinds of stuff about all kinds of stuff. It makes me a good conversationalist at a dinner party. Topic: the effects of pesticides on bee populations? I’ve got it canned, locked and loaded the moment it comes up. It never comes up, actually, if you need to know. Topic: A-Rod – bum or victim? Charming dissertation on the history of PED’s in sport. Topic: Mount Veeder viticulture as a metaphor for life? Don’t get me started. OK, that last one was bullshit – I have nothing on that one. But, my knowing, really knowing most stuff is a hoax. I don’t truly learn things through reading. I learn through doing, experiencing. So, someone telling me in a book that aging wine improves the depth, texture, balance, etc. doesn’t inform me in my core. It just gives my mind more stuff. I still won’t truly get it. Even if someone were to patiently tell me how it chemically changes – the #*****ases and the #****phenols, the unexplained changes brought on by French being spoken quietly in a dark cellar, I won’t truly understand it. And I really don’t want to understand it that way other than to use it as a party trick. Sorry.

There is a point to this story. A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I had dinner at my place. It’s a bit of a tradition that we have a bottle of his and a bottle of mine. And, you need to know that we have many of the same wines, having similar tastes. That night, he brought a 2003 Chateau Haut-Bages-Libéral. I contributed a 2006 Chateau Duhart-Milon. Yeah, yeah, I get it oenophiles, we both thought Pauillac, how intuitively in tune we are. I decanted the latter for……..ever. The ’03 – pretty well popped and poured. What did I learn? Well, I learned what happens to a wine that ages. Correction: I learned again what happens to red Bordeaux like ’03 Haut-Bages-Libéral when it’s aged a bit compared to a similarly structured newer wine. If I was at a dinner with unsuspecting people and this particular evening came up, I’d tell them the textbook stuff. I’d bullshit them or carefully toe the correct wine guy line. But, I don’t want to do that to you. I speak almost truths to you guys. My truthiness is unassailable! So, how were the two Bordeaux? The ’03 was sooooo much better. That’s it? Well, not exactly. My friend and I talked feminine versus masculine. Seriously, we did or maybe it was just me? But, what it boiled down to for me was that the older wine seemed more settled – more ready for prime time – more interesting. I could say that the tannins were a little softer, acidity a bit further in the background, fruit more focused, all more balanced because I think that’s true. But, what’s the point? You don’t need to know that exactly and you may have felt, tasted and experienced it a bit differently. What’s important is that I reinforced my belief that there are wines that just don’t do as well early as they do after some time in bottle. If I had a theory that allowed me to understand when exactly to open these wines, I’d be all set. But, I will continue to open many too early a la ’06 Chateau Duhart-Milon and others too late. ’94 Lazaretti BdM comes to mind. And, the way I learn that it’s too early or too late is by opening them. So, take my advice about aging wines with a pinch of salt, a jaundiced eye and any other old weird saying that comes to mind. When I taste a young wine, I do know if it needs time for me to truly enjoy it at its best. That’s for me to truly enjoy it. And, I’ll recommend when that’s my belief. But, I think that I’ll stay away from suggesting the exact month, week, and time of day.

So, why the ramble? Maybe just a nudge to readers to try the open-one-now-leave-one-for-later approach to wine. Or, it could be a veiled attempt to ensure that my friends reading this don’t try to lay some young Oregon pinot or 2010 Barolo on me when they drop over. I’m not having it. And, thinking this all through has contributed to a bit of angst about the ’98 and ’99 Taurasi Radici’s downstairs. What to do? Any advice?

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