Archive for April, 2011

Good News from the NRA Convention

April 30, 2011 - 10:12 am Comments Off

Weerd has it.

This looks about the same as it did in Phoenix in ’09, though I don’t see the white-haired murder-supporter that looked like he was going to take a swing at me for asking about Deadeye Lon in his picture. Haven’t even changed their “Irony? What’s that?” slogan yet.

Good. The sooner a company that thinks using a murderer as a celebrity endorsement goes out of business, the better. HS Precision: Women and Children First.

Friday Lightweight Grab Bag

April 29, 2011 - 4:44 pm Comments Off

1. Has anyone else been getting a persistent error on all Blogger hosted/platformed blogs wherin opening the comment box gets you nothing but the error message?

2. What the hell, it worked last time, raids running on time make me shameless. Looking for a healer and one or two more DPS. Resto druid or holy pally would be completely ideal, as would hunter or boomkin for DPS, but anything is good outside another rogue/kitty. Raids run 8:45-11:00 server time. Apply within. (There is no actual application as we’re still trying to figure out how to edit the damn thing. Tag an officer.)

3. I knew Rob Liefeld had his laughably bad moments, but I had never fully digested HOW bad until this. Set aside a bit of time as each panel/cover takes a few to fully drink in all the things that are wrong with them. Often my first reaction was something completely other than the author covered, and I found the same was true of friends as I shared them around. Drink it in, folks; the most celebrated comics artist of the nineties, and he can’t cope with anatomy, perspective, hands gripping things, feet, women between the knees and head, or depth. At all.

Sam Keith was so much, much, very much better. Why isn’t HE a fraction as famous?

They Are My Peeves And I Will Pet Them As I See Fit.

April 28, 2011 - 4:23 pm Comments Off

There is no good goddamn reason for every single article/how-to/hey-look-at-this link on the internet these days to include an embedded video. 99 times out of 100, the information or joke would’ve been just as good, if not better, as text only, if only for the simple fact that the last time I had to wait for text to buffer, I was able to whistle the connection string to the modem on the far end of the line and leave it confused when I didn’t continue the conversation. If there’s an ad in front of the text, I can look below it and start reading without having to sit through 30 seconds of What’s Gonna Suck At The Theater Next, or some damn middle aged fuck’s idea of what is hip and edgy in graphics and styling assaulting my eyes to sell shoes or phones.

And speaking of phones, let me just throw this out into the wild: I don’t give two flying shits at a rolling donut how you got your message to my eyeballs. I think it really is nifty as all get-out that you can use your idroidberry to communicate with more power than they fucking had on Star Trek TNG in a smaller form factor. I get that the tech is cool. But again, I don’t fucking care that you posted using shovepress for your ipeen (omg there’s a new one that has VERY SLIGHT CHANGES coming out soon, and it’ll only be $500!). Great. That really added to what you were trying to communicate to me. Unfortunately it added the exclamation point that you’re either too dumb to turn off the default advertising, or you just HAVE to make sure everybody knows JUST HOW COOL your communicator is, or you just get down with giving free advertising to whoever makes the damn thing. Stoppit. Odds are if you’re reading this you’re a grown adult, now stop waving your little silicone chubby at me every time you want to communicate.

Paper based books are not dead. Kindle is not evil and without the soul of paper. If you’re reading, good. Full stop. If you just want to jihad on about how you just can’t stand ebooks because you don’t physically turn a page and can’t flip to just the right spot, stop it. Either go read something, or join in fighting with the people who argue that chili must/must never have beans in it. If you’re going on about how archaic paper is and it’s stupid to have 1000lbs of books when you can fit the same amount in one device, you get to go play with the glock vs. 1911 crowd. And yes, I’m sending you off to separate arguments for a reason. Think hard, you’ll get it.

Now go laugh at this video, check out this book for kindle or paper, and please note:
-Posted using a Zephyr Vibroplex Telegraph Key US Patent No. 767,303

(Update: Go watch this one too. Poor lady must not be very popular if she’s digging for links here. ;) )

Sadly Obligatory

April 27, 2011 - 5:32 pm Comments Off

…Or really, it’s not, but I’ve hit that point in my “looking for something to post” process where the part of my brain that knows dinner is soon has more sway over the next link I click on (foodblog! foodblog! foodblog!) than the part that says “nah, let’s post about ANYTHING but this”.

So Obama’s ensured that we could be conquered by the Mole People today and the only thing the media will be talking about is his OMG RELEASING THE BIRTH CERTIFICATE!!!

This has got to be the single most pointless political controversy I can remember from my entire life to date. I’m sure at some point it will be topped, but right now the precise details of that man’s birth certificate are so far from what I can imagine to be interesting that I would quite happily rather spend the rest of my immersed in soil geology rather than read another word of analysis.

Not only do I not care about the details of his birth certificate, I also do not care that HE WAITED SO LONG. I wouldn’t appreciate having a significant portion of the population that I considered to be unhinged demanding every last document of mine, either. I thought the same when Andrew Sullivan wanted Sarah Palin to PROVE Trig was her child or else WHY HIDE IT? WHERE’S THE EVIDENCE? None of your fucking business, nutbag. Go find a new hobby, maybe model trains.

Lastly, I really and honestly don’t care that much whether he WAS actually born in the US or not. I think he’s the same lousy leader whether he was born in Hawaii or Timbuktu, and that a really effective way to suck all the light and oxygen out of all credible opposition to his policies is to have some yahoo constantly popping up in the discussion to ask whether he was born Muslim or something equally retarded.

Oh, but if he wasn’t then he’s NOT LEGITIMATELY THE PRESIDENT? How much other crap have past presidents pulled that really wasn’t kosher and got away with not even the slightest threat of impeachment, or actual impeachment resulting in nothing much? Impeaching the sitting president on some sort of legal technicality has been the pipe dream of every party probably dating back to Founders, and it has never ever worked.

If you want to be rid of him, you’re going to have to do it at the polls, not in a basement with a magnifying glass. Take a cue from Rathergate: that wasn’t done in an attempt to get Bush impeached, it was done in an attempt to influence an election. The magnifying glass crowd defused a manufactured conspiracy, not created one, and let Bush win or lose on his own dubious merits.

And if you want to convince a population that does NOT reflexively hate Obama or really think the citizenship technicality is all that big of a deal? Continuing to chase documents is not going to cut it. Papers aren’t policy, and to the extent the public votes for anything outside of “because the moon people told me to”, it voes for policy.

Dueling Philosophies That Aren't

April 26, 2011 - 4:49 pm Comments Off

Fresh on the heels of the holiday celebrating arguably the most important event in Christianity, we have the lived spirit of Christ’s redemption: triumphalism of how much better Christians are than a disliked out-group. Specifically, the author is out to demonstrate that Easter somehow demonstrates the stupidity of atheism.

To an atheist, this comes off as “our zombie chocolate bunnies make you look stupid!”. Tongue less in cheek, it’s a pretty good demonstration of the number of cultural and philosophical assumptions, often unexamined, one acquires within what we think is a pretty specific belief system.

In a nation that once prided itself on its Judeo-Christian heritage, one out of every five Americans now claims no religious identity whatsoever; and the number of self-proclaimed Christians has declined by a whopping 15%.

Yes, those who believe in nothing seem to be winning more and more converts every year.

Not really. There’s a few bright-eyed souls, usually those that had a dramatic breakup with an evangelical background, who believe in “winning converts” to the side of atheism. Most of us really and truly don’t care. I’d say a much more realistic picture- especially that refusal to own a religious identity or call themselves Christian- is that the churches are losing people, not that we’re winning them.

Of course, it’s not quite fair to say that atheists believe in nothing. They do believe in something — the philosophical theory known as Materialism, which states that the only thing that exists is matter; that all substances and all phenomena in the universe are purely physical.

This is the first in a series of assumptions that do a rather impressive job of collapsing his own argument.

Atheism is the simple lack of belief in a god. Since it is a simple negative, it can and does have a lot of meanings depending on who’s using the term and why- everything from “none of the traditional gods exist” to “there is nothing supernatural whatsoever, anywhere”. In other words, atheism and philosophical materialism are related, but separate- philosophical materialism is the slightly harder and more concrete stance beyond “I really don’t think there’s an omnipotent cosmic entity that takes a personal interest in humans”, which is about as much as can really be applied to the vast bulk of atheists.

The problem is that this really isn’t a theory at all. It’s a superstition; a myth that basically says that everything in life — our thoughts, our emotions, our hopes, our ambitions, our passions, our memories, our philosophies, our politics, our beliefs in God and salvation and damnation — that all of this is merely the result of biochemical reactions and the movement of molecules in our brain.

What nonsense.

Welcome to Argument From Because I Just Said So, That’s Why.

What he thinks he’s arguing is that one side has a lot more explanatory power and body of philosophy behind it and one doesn’t, and that this is a compelling argument. Technically speaking this is true; you can literally explain everything if you attribute anything you do not understand to “because God wants it that way”, and one has a body of philosophy behind it and the other doesn’t because one is a two thousand year old belief system upon which most of Western philosophy was built and one is a plain and simple lack of belief in the other’s starting premise. What atheists who are philosophical materialists are really saying is “there is nothing supernatural about life, there’s a lot we don’t know and may never will, but we might”.

Or, if I’m going to get snarky about how his argument reads from my chair:

“Atheists are stupid superstitious idiots because they can’t explain as many things as believing that an omnipotent cosmic entity created everything, spent several thousand years dinking around with humanity and being unsatisfied with it, then redeemed it with the blood sacrifice of a Jewish man who now serves as his intermediary can. What rubes.”

We can’t reduce the whole of reality to what our senses tell us for the simple reason that our senses are notorious for lying to us.

Therefore omnipotent cosmic entity/resurrected Jew.

Our senses tell us that the world is flat, and yet it’s not. Our senses tell us that the world is chaotic, and yet we know that on both a micro and a macro level, it’s incredibly organized. Our senses tell us that we’re stationary, and yet we’re really moving at incredible speeds. We just can’t see it.

Therefore… you see where I’m going with this.

If atheists were infamous for telling people that all you needed was the evidence of their senses and there weren’t no dad-blamed big-bearded guys in the sky ‘coz we looked, this line of argument might make some kind of sense, but as it stands it really, really doesn’t. The principles that we know explain the higher orders of organization of the world, and the general operations of natural law, weren’t discovered by theologians, but by people assuming whatever was being studied had a natural explanation consistent with other natural law.

But the most important things in life can’t be seen with the eyes. Ideas can’t be seen. Love can’t be seen. Honor can’t be seen.

See above, except now the argument seems to be “atheists don’t believe in anything that can’t be seen and touched and if they did they’d have to admit it was supernatural”. Ideas can’t be seen because they’re inherently abstract concepts, love can’t be seen because it’s an emotional state, and honor can’t be seen because it’s a cultural construct.

The apparent line of argument- anything you can’t touch must potentially be supernatural- is so far doing a rather good job of making the author look dim, not atheists.

This isn’t a new concept. Judaism and Christianity and Islam and Buddhism have all taught for thousands of years that the highest forms of reality are invisible and mysterious. And these realities will never be reducible to clear-cut scientific formulae for the simple reason that they will never be fully comprehensible to the human mind. God didn’t mean them to be.

Thank you for your rousing defense of unassailable anti-intellectualism. Anything we can’t understand today must obviously not have meant to be understood, and anything we understand today that we didn’t a hundred years ago obviously must have been an exception.

I think I see the point he’s trying to make, but again the problem comes from fundamentally misunderstanding the way atheists think. We don’t lock up like an artificial intelligence in a bad science fiction story trying to comprehend love or the beauty of a flower, we simply don’t assume that things and concepts that aren’t amenable to reduction and reconstruction must or could be supernatural. Reductionism isn’t a life philosophy, it’s just one tool in a toolbox to describe and try to understand the world.

Or, in far fewer words: emergent properties exist and this is not controversial.

Or, in fewer words with more internet snark: FUCKING MAGNETS, HOW DO THEY WORK?!

No less a genius than Albert Einstein once said: “The most beautiful thing we can experience in life is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: for his eyes are closed.”

I find quoting the discoverer of general relativity the very next paragraph after claiming that God doesn’t want the mysterious to be understood an absolute scream, I don’t know about you.

Again: atheists don’t disbelieve in wonder or mystery, they disbelieve in powerful supernatural entities with a direct interest in humanity, and think ascribing everything not understood to such entities just because it’s an explanation is silly.

Too many people go through life today with their eyes closed. They miss out on the mysterious because they’re so fixated on what they can see and smell and touch and taste and hear.

People are generally oblivious unless temperamentally inclined otherwise. While I have met one or two atheists this describes, the vast majority of them were so secure in their religious certainties everything that deviated came as a surprise to immediately deny, even things the rest of the civilized world considers well-known facts.

They’re so steeped in the “superstition of materialism” that they’re totally blind to the existence of another world — a radically different world than the one they’re familiar with, but a world nonetheless: a world of miracles, a world of grace, a world of angels, a world of diabolical warfare, a world where the highest values are completely opposite from those of our secular society — where weakness equals strength, sacrifice equals salvation, and suffering equals unlimited power.

Schizophrenics inhabit an exciting world full of mysteries and entities the rest of us aren’t privy to as well.

The last half of that statement is a bit theologically problematic. Christianity says suffering can be redemptive, not that it always is or inherently elevates you, let alone grants “unlimited power” to anyone but Christ.

The third thing that strikes me as odd about this paragraph is the way he’s talking as though Christianity weren’t the dominant cultural influence in the Western world. Sure, there’s a pretty big gap between the church and the world, but most of the values “secular society” has are derived from Christianity and its attendant culture. Including the idea that something being painful or unpleasant must make you a better person if you do it or put up with it.

Atheists, of course, claim that all of this is absurd. Christianity, especially, they say, with its belief in Easter and the Resurrection, is nothing but “wishful thinking” — the product of weak human psychology; a psychology that is so afraid of death that it must create “delusional fantasies” in order to make life on Earth bearable.

Some of them do. Some of us just stop at “divine blood sacrifice, really?” Life on Earth nowadays is really pretty bearable with or without it for most of us.

But is it wishful thinking to believe in hell, the devil and demons? Is it wishful thinking to believe we’re going to be judged and held accountable for every sin we’ve ever committed? Is it wishful thinking to believe the best way to live our life is to sacrifice our own desires for the sake of others? Is it wishful thinking to believe that we should discipline our natural bodily urges for the sake of some unseen “kingdom”?

I’ll actually just grant him this point, which he continues over the next few paragraphs. Not all atheists have leveled this particular charge at the religious, but enough have it’s a valid and true counter-argument.

And yet, atheists persist in this ridiculous notion that human beings “invented” God merely because we’re afraid of death and want to see our dead relatives again. Amazing.

Again, not all of us. Some of us think we did because we’re a designing, pattern-finding species that is deeply uncomfortable with the unexplained, and because a personalized and externalized moral code the entire society can refer to and judge themselves against is a useful cultural adaptation.

The rest of it is pretty stock “our team’s awesome and you won’t beat us because we’re right”. Which, fair enough, the difference between what he takes on faith and what I doubt is the entire point, though I actually do agree that atheists will never stamp out religious belief for pretty much the reasons in the above paragraph.

So, there you have it: it is trivially obvious that all of Christianity’s premises are true because the world would be more boring if not, mysteries are unsolvable and more fun that way, abstract concepts exist, and atheists are poopheads.

I’m still not convinced, me, but if you’ve got any of those Reese’s peanut butter bunnies, we can try those.

Urk

April 25, 2011 - 7:25 pm Comments Off

Tabata: four to sixteen minutes that will reverberate through the next four hours of your day. (Eight in our case.) If you blog, blog before those minutes.

Real content tomorrow, I have a fisk lined up and everything.

That Is Not A Satire

April 22, 2011 - 3:23 pm Comments Off

In something of a companion to my earlier post regarding people who seem to have deliberately annoying people confused with some sort of high-order puppetmastery, a follow up to l’affaire Heyl.

It seems Sir Eric has been visiting the comment sections of blogs bitching him out and smirking that people simply don’t understand that his column was satire. Ignorant redneck broads that we are. Also that the job of a writer is to get a reaction, which… see the earlier post for what I think of that. Titling his column “Penis Penis Fargo” and spending the rest writing about Japanese flower arrangement would have drawn comment too, but that wouldn’t have made it good writing.

That he evidently meant to be ironic and edgy in some sort of vaguely satiric fashion wasn’t difficult to see; the reason I didn’t treat it as satire was that it was a complete and utter failure as a satire and simply read as a straight misogynist rant instead.

In order for a satire to work as a satire, you need a couple of ingredients. First, you need either a very clearly defined and well-known target, or you need to share a number of specific assumptions with your audience. You don’t actually need to be very clear that you are a satirist- some of the very best are very frequently confused with the real deal, simply because they’re living that far out in Poe’s Law territory. Christwire is a great example of this breed- it takes a good long look at their site to see their tongue tucked over in their cheek, and Christwire stories are frequently discussed and blogged as though they were serious. Their satire works because they’re only a bubble or two off of the least self-aware and most hardline American Christian fundamentalists, and such people have a very well-defined image that gets reinforced every day. (You’ll also note they also don’t need to go round in the comments sections of fooled blogs and make fun of people for not getting the joke.)

In order for Heyl’s piece to be a satire, the target of the satire would have to at least be broadly identifiable. As it is, it starts off as a fairly straight (if questionably motivated) piece of reporting on the NRA convention and its gender balance or lack thereof, then continues into a brief mention of some of the things they’re doing as an organization to attract more female membership- which are fairly bland and common-sense things at that. The “satire” part- all jokes based on grossly misogynist stereotypes- is next.

The problem is that there is zero hint who is meant to be satirized. Unless you assume that the reason the NRA convention has a skewed gender ratio because the NRA is stuffed to the gills with laughable knuckle-dragging sexists- and such is certainly not shown by any of the dry facts cited, or by the NRA spokesman’s statement-there is no satire, and it simply stands as “women are so silly and stupid, and the NRA thinks they can court them like adults, ha ha!”.

Of course, this is all fairly academic exercise, because I’m pretty sure Eric Heyl didn’t fail at satire on that advanced a level of premeditation. I’m pretty sure that, like the people who are fundamentally confused about what getting any sort of reaction means as to their mad writing skills (in whose company he also seems to be), he genuinely believes that “just kidding” absolves you of any responsibility for what you say or write, no matter how stupid, offensive, or both.

Open Letters

April 21, 2011 - 4:54 pm Comments Off

We reacquainted ourselves with Crossfit today for the first time in *mumblemumble*. We adopted the horrible sissy lowest of the Brand X scalings for our return, so as not to injure ourselves. (HA.) Nobody threw up, but it was a near thing. Things that have subsequently been unreasonably challenging include the four steps between our side door and the garage, putting clothes back on after showering, and shifting position in a chair. If tomorrow’s post is nothing but “OW!” in 50 pt type, well, we will have tried but neurological payback will be coming.

So, here, have some amusement elsewhere: Open Letters To People Or Entities Unlikely To Respond

My personal favorite was the one from the aggrieved archaeologist, but many of them are either screamingly funny or else just curiously absorbing.

Condescension: To Talk Down To

April 20, 2011 - 2:20 pm Comments Off

Today, boys and girls, we have an editorialist who is going to tell us what the NRA should do with women because he knows What Women Think! HOORAY!

I’m not trying to trigger trepidation among firearm enthusiasts.

Condescending alliteration: your story hook among smug journalists since Hearst.

But it seems that many preconceived notions must be overcome before the National Rifle Association attracts more women to its annual convention.

Only quoted because the rest of the article is a pretty damn comprehensive demonstration of the preconceived notions involved- the author’s.

Right now, it’s about as popular among women as fly fishing competitions, cigar tasting events and public executions.

I have never attended a public execution because there aren’t any anymore, but I’ve been to enough cigar tasting events to have a few wardrobe components from won raffles, and while the gender ratio does skew a bit male, it’s not all that big a skew. As for fly fishing, I have no personal experience, but women aren’t rare there either. There are about as many or more of them than there are lady gamers, at least in terms easily amenable to statistics.

Next section somewhat abridged due to taking a space-filling amount of words to say “NRA says lady membership up but 80% of the convention attendees were somehow men at the last con HOW CAN THIS BE?”

More than 75,000 Second Amendment celebrants are expected to descend on Pittsburgh next week for the NRA’s signature event. If traditional demographics hold true, the vast majority of attendees will be men….

Last month, NRA officials credited Sarah Palin, the TV talking head and caribou-killing former Alaska governor, with helping the group add tens of thousands of women members over the past few years.

If those numbers are accurate, why are the people who will fill every Holiday Inn Express between here and Erie next week most likely to be male?

The short answer is a)Historical trends that have begun reversing don’t pull a 180 overnight, and b)Unless the convention is for knitting or a dog show, there are usually more men than women at almost any con. For whatever cultural reasons, there’s just more of a tradition for men enthused about a subject to get together in mass numbers about it once a year- that, and they’re less likely to need to arrange for a babysitter, or to fear getting harassed by other attendees, which is a perennial problem at geek-oriented cons.

An NRA spokesperson failed to respond to messages on Tuesday. So I asked Bruce Piendl, the general manager of Anthony Arms & Accessories in West Mifflin, about the NRA convention’s gender gap.

“That’s not surprising,” he said. “Firearm ownership has always been associated more with men than women, and the NRA has a reputation of being a traditional good-old-boys network.”

Which, it has been, though that is changing more and more in recent years.

The NRA seems to be attempting to alter that image. Its offerings at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center will include a ladies-only seminar teaching them how to become pistol instructors.

Strikes me as sensible. Women usually like to learn from other women when they’re stepping into a traditional boys’ club as big as shooting has historically been.

Now would be the point where author fail starts to creep in.

To most women, such a seminar probably wouldn’t have the same appeal as, say, a holistic facial at the day spa. But providing people with relaxed, radiant faces isn’t part of the NRA’s mission.

You know, I really wanted to provide a bit of specific, on-target snark here, but all I can really muster is this:

FUCK YOU in the ear, Eric Heyl. If you want to write articles proclaiming to be concerned about gender representation rather than just tweaking some group you think are paleolithic yahoos, try not being such a condescending fuck-knuckle.

It’s just a theory. But I think that before more women start attending the NRA convention, more of them will have to be armed.

Will that happen? Though gun sales to females increased significantly in recent years, Piendl said, “Sales to women remain the largest untapped growth market in the industry.”

It’s rather muddled but the point he appears to be trying to make is “trends that don’t instantly reverse historical gaps don’t count”.

The industry is unlikely to successfully tap that market until it conquers the pesky preconceived notions that likely turn off many females to the idea of gun ownership.

This is where the article gets really fucking bizarre, because the rest of it is just… Heyl spooling off a list of his own insulting stereotypes. It’s like he set out to demonstrate the racism of the NRA by making all the fried chicken and Jerry Curl jokes he could think of. The Enner’ay’s never gonna attract them brothas unless they start putting sideways sights on Glocks! Hyuk!

This is also, by the way, bearing out my overall impression that when someone uses the word “females” when they mean “women”, the odds of something unbelievably misogynist or sexist coming out of their mouths at some point go up about twenty percent.

Observe:

Women likely won’t consider packing pistols if they are concerned that:

– Spending several hundred dollars on a serviceable handgun might leave them without enough money to get the full treatment at that next visit to the day spa.

Lawls, you know chicks, they don’t know how to handle money and NOTHING is more important than a nice glow on their skin.

– Carrying a gun in a small purse would leave less room for more important items, such as lipstick or compact.

OH NOES HOW I CARRY STUFF IT IS A MYSTERY???!

– The baggy clothing required to successfully conceal most holsters would make them appear frumpy.

At this point all I’m picturing is that “Cathy” chick from the very unfunny newspaper comic in full “WAAAAAH” mode. The depressing part is I’m pretty sure that a)so is he, and b)he thinks it’s a documentary.

– Gunpowder residue might stain the new Karen Scott blouse they just bought at Macy’s.

Is it just me, or is he getting really oddly specific in his insulting stereotypes? Does he have an ex in mind here?

– The gunpowder smell when the weapon is fired could totally overwhelm the Chanel they’re wearing.

Or he’s putting an imaginary gun in the hands of an imaginary woman he hates/wants to fuck. Which is creepier? Vote in the comments.

– Most firearm accessories come only in one boring color: black.

This guy has clearly, clearly never gotten his hands on an actual firearms accessory catalogue, or seen a con booth for such.

– Target practice earplugs simply aren’t sexy.

Because that’s a woman’s sole reason for existence: to be sexy at all times.

Dumb old NRA, trying to draw in female membership by treating them like people and addressing specific concerns women might have both about guns and gun culture and concerns that might drive them to want to know how to handle a gun, or by setting up events to stimulate competition and fun. They just don’t get it, do they?

I really have no idea why the paper saw fit to publish this. It’s not about the NRA or guns, it’s a misogynist rant with a framing excuse.

Hat tip to Breda, who wasn’t where I found this but was sharing a brainwave.

Grain Snobs In Grapeland

April 18, 2011 - 4:49 pm Comments Off

So, as I think I’ve mentioned before, Stingray and I are pretty enthusiastic about beer, with a pretty wide range of styles and individual brews sampled. We’ve had enough to get picky about it, and to have developed very specific ideas on what we like and how to put those kinds of flavors into our own brew. We know what kind of beer to pick to go with food when we’re dining out, should the restaurant have any kind of beer selection, and in general we think fermented grains belong pretty much right alongside other fermented products when it comes to the range and sophistication of flavor you can get out of them.

Wine, however, we have always been less enthused about. I came to the general conclusion a long time ago that I just flat don’t like fermented grapes very much, and while I tested this assumption multiple times in multiple contexts- usually at some high-end restaurant or another- it pretty much always bore out that while I like champagne all right, wine ranges from “meh” to “BLEH!” for me no matter how much it costs and whose wine list it was on.

Time passed, and on some lark picking through Netflix or Hulu looking for afternoon entertainment, Stingray happened across John Cleese’s Wine For the Confused. Cleese is amusing in just about any context, so he felt blowing an hour of his afternoon with a cigar, a beer, and Cleese was worth sitting through potential wine snobbery. I was off amusing myself in some other context- probably gaming- so I was left out for the time being.

At least, until wine bottles started appearing on the kitchen counter and glasses of various dark red substances started appearing next to his mousepad on weekend evenings in place of the usual IPA, Manhattan, or gin and tonic. I mostly ignored this until invited to share the Pinot he was opening, which I drank a glass of and conceded was inoffensive. At which point I was also invited to hear the message of the Cleese, which boiled down to “wine often tastes good, what you will like will depend on what tastes you like rather than its source or price tag, and anyone who tries to sell you wine based on those characteristics is shitting you”. The rest outlined the basic families of wine and their likeliest characteristics so as to give an idea of how to look for something that tastes like things you like.

Fair enough, I conceded. Reasonable enough endeavor- find cheap with at least some approximation of cheap and tasty, try various things based on educated guessing, see if we can’t develop some sort of a palate for the stuff.

Here’s what we’ve learned so far:

- Wine snobs still drive us insane and make us want to punch them in the face. No change there. But of course not everyone who likes wine is an insufferable snot about it.

- Wine tastings in which perfectly good wine winds up spit somewhere baffle us utterly. Okay, we get that the point is to avoid being smashed, but if you’re spitting out something good, fer Chrissakes either turn in your car keys or taste fewer things! You don’t see beer people go around spitting perfectly good brew into buckets at parties.

- The reason I had so strongly disliked just about every spendy wine I’d been served in a restaurant is partly because I had no idea what I was ordering beyond “white or red, if it costs that much it’s got to be as good as the food”, partly because Stingray was usually doing the choosing and our preferences are extremely different, and partly because between the two of us we’d been managing to go after French reds that were roughly 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% tannins.

- So far we have discovered a complete non-relationship between how much something costs and how much either of us will like it. Zero, no correlation at all. This was at least a mild surprise. There does seem to be some relationship between the cost and the complexity of the flavor, however. Much to our chagrin, one of the best bets for a glass of plonk at dinner that will please both of us seems to be known as “Two-buck Chuck”. Much worse, Trader Joe’s seems to be one of the best places to scout out good bets. Wading through Santa Fe hippie nests every month is making us grouchy, at least until we open the results.

-However, we HAVE discovered that some wines not only pair well with food, they actually require food to be tasty. One bottle went from obnoxious to thoroughly likeable just by bringing out something with a bit of fat in it to snack on. No wonder wine and cheese are such a die-hard pairing. Beer is just not this picky.

- Naturally we have nearly opposite tastes. I like sharply tart whites with a slightly sweet finish, he only seems to like very dry whites. He likes big, aggressive reds that taste like someone’s been soaking their cigar in it; I only tend to like much mellower, fruitier reds. Probably not a surprise given our respective tastes in beer.

- The whole experience thus far has made this series an exercise in hilarious schadenfreude. (There seems to be a trend in British television for demystifying wine. I wonder which winery is donating to the BBC?)