Saturday, January 31, 2009

Moronic me

Recently, I came to the same conclusion that my colleague, Lyle Fass, came to about wine-centric forum Web sites. There’s a major level of futility connected to the many discussions that take place over and over on those sites.

As a result, I find myself gravitating more and more toward commenting on blogs, which, it turns out, isn’t always smooth sailing either.

A little while ago, one of the columns that I write for a newspaper’s magazine managed to migrate to the newspaper’s Web site—this happens not with all the columns, but with a few columns that the editors seem to think worthy of Internet exposure.

The column was about pairing dessert wine with dessert. I didn’t know that it was online until one of those Google Alerts came to me to tell me whenever my name is mentioned in an online post. The alert sent me to a blog by Kathleen Lisson, who talks about wine and food pairings. In her blog entry Ms. Lisson referenced my column and so I clicked on the link to see where it appeared online.

I won’t go into the extent of the column; you can read it by clicking the link below. But I was struck by the one comment to the column that appeared right under it.

People with nothing constructive to say often post anonymously or with a fictitious screen name. In this case, the reason for hiding one’s identity likely has to do with the nature of the name calling, not to mention the general vacuous nature of the overall post.

The writer starts by calling my column moronic and then proceeds to point out myriad misunderstandings, lack of knowledge, and general lack of civility not displayed by me but by the writer’s rebuttal.

Just in case this person follows this blog: they are called dessert wines because they often ARE the dessert and because you don’t consume them until the end of the main meal—get it?

At first, my heart raced when I read the inane comment. It’s that instinctual fight or flight reaction that so often takes over our sense of reason. I made ready to post a heated response, but then I stopped to do what matters—to think.

Over my lifetime and especially ever since I started to teach wine classes, I’ve learned that one’s efforts at educating have the best effects on those who seek to learn. You can’t teach those who already know everything. Ego makes no room for rationality. Of course, this particular writer’s dripping sarcasm makes a feeble attempt at covering up a lack of knowledge, but isn’t that what making noise is all about?

In my view, one of the hallmarks of intelligence is a sense of irony and humor; in a reference to something I wrote about Port, the writer could not have been any clearer about his or her lack of either. Therefore, I chose not to engage the recalcitrant know-it-all but instead to vent here, where I use my real name and invite the comments of real people unafraid to tell me who they are.

I do wish that those interested in spewing venom would turn to talk radio where it belongs.

You can make your evaluation of both my column and that person’s response. If you want to comment here on the matter, tell me who you are and I’ll engage in the conversation—the same goes to my secret admirer, should he or she be reading this blog.



Copyright Thomas Pellechia
January 2009. All rights reserved.


  1. I have for the most part given up commenting, that is unless something strikes me as very funny or creative. Facebook is somewhat useful here too. Of course Facebook is loaded with stupid app's which I avoid and ad's which I never click on.

  2. Thomas,
    Regarding you and Lyle stopping the wine board posts:
    -I think everybody goes through times of frustration or boredom or malaise, regardless of its source, about particular activities in their life. That's cool; we all get to get and get out whenever we want.
    -As you know, I enjoy the wine boards and post just about everywhere. For me, it has been a way to meet people, learn about a subject I love and to gain some measure of notoriety. Simply put, I like them and just don't read what I don't wnat to.

    I also enjoy reading your, Lyle's and several other blogs but I find them to be more about a single person than the boards - not that such a thing is bad but I like the variety of the boards.

    Heaven knows there's enough opetty nonsense out there, whther on the boards or in day to day life. But I choose to ignore most of it and respond only gently to that which I can't - at least, most of the time.

    Glass half full . . .
    Best Jim

  3. Jim,

    Yes, there is no community-like functioning in a blog. But there's also no intrigue.

    Granted, I've met some wonderful wine people through forum sites--you included, even though you made me work! But the direction that many forum sites seem to take is akin to what I remember from high school cliques. Not for me.

  4. There is another compelling reason for commenting; that is, when someone writes something touching or very moving. I also like to commiserate in our quandry to speak or remain silent.

    “When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”
    Audre Lorde

  5. Thomas,
    I did not MAKE you work; you were kind enough to pitch in. If that ain't community, I don't know what is.
    I understand your beef (perhaps better than most) but I'll continue to stay out there cyber-wineland and see what floats by.
    Best, Jim

  6. Ditto, when I said that to my signif-spouse she said there are times when one should not speak. I said yes dear, I agree.

  7. The paste function didn't paste the whole quote for some reason. The last line should read: "So it is better to speak remembering that we were never meant to survive."

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Jim,

    That was a lite-MAKE. I didn't mind at all. In fact, it reminded me of why I no longer own a winery...

    When you are in the business, you need to be selective about how open or closed you want to be to attacks that may or may not have an effect on your professional life.

    Unfortunately, some vindictive pros in the biz have fangs to match their madness and that won't let go. Best to simply avoid them and concentrate on the positive things--like doing your own work and letting others do theirs.

  10. Thomas. I agree that the comment on your article was a bit over the top. Calling someone's work moronic is silly and never necessary. I have to say though, that some interesting points were raised, even if the poster used excessively harsh language. I agree that a lack of civility saps energy from people who put it out there (which is a good thing).

    That said, one invites criticism when we publish an opinion and I personally find complaints about complaints exceptionally boring. Especially long ones, so please don't take your work down to that level as you have much better thoughts to share. Certainly none of us are saints.

    For example, I personally did not enjoy much the tone of your several rather condescending comments made about a friend of mine's blog having to do with wine and chocolate pairings. It was pretty clear where he was coming from and you got very nitpicky yourself. Anyone who reads that space knows that the author offers punchy short bits with strong opinion, well laced with humor. The short bit was openly stated as a warning to the naive wine taster and was not designed as a long-winded education session and your response was not flattering.

    I am glad though that the comment thread led me to your blog, which I will add to my list to check out occasionally, to hear more of what you have to say. I am not in the industry, but appretiate thoughtful opinions. Keep posting.

  11. Steve,

    Thanks for openly criticizing by name--'sall I ask.

    The more you read my ramblings, the more you may find that the two things I strive to address are the many myths and fictions that float about the subject of wine, and also the flaw in the idea that everyone is entitled to an opinion: opinions are relatively useless information if they are

    1. unsupported by at least one fact 2. put forward anonymously

    In the case of the moronic post, I admitted that I was venting. In my view, better to vent on my own blog than to go crazy on someone else's. Unfortunately, even though I try to fight it, I have the human gene. ;)

    In the case of the chocolate and wine thing, I probably would have not commented at all about what were blatant definitive attacks on wine people for foisting on consumers what the blogger said was merely a sales gimmick--I know that is wrong. I know that chocolate can and is paired well with certain wines. Perhaps a technical fact to prove the blogger's point would have either shut me up or engaged me in a better conversation.

    But the blogger takes others to task, and in this case I believe wrongly, and then ads insult by doing it anonymously.

    The two incidents that you cite have one thing in common: anonymous posting.

    I grew up in a Brooklyn neighborhood that was filled with bullies, some of whom got someone else to do their dirty work, so that the victims wouldn't know who was behind the attacks.

    I suppose my old impulse to react raises its ugly head more than a calm, quiet, secure adult should allow, but hey, I never said that I am perfect--yet.

    Having said all that, I take your point. In fact, after serious thought, I've decided to drop out of posting reactionary comments. Instead, when I am riled, I am going to simply ask questions and hope that the questions either will open the discussion or end it.

    I have my doubts about the effectiveness of such a tactic, and I've already been called names for having tried it.

    Can't friggin' win.

    Please, keep reading and keep commenting. When someone catches me in a mistake, I'll gladly correct it, and I'll gladly converse with dissenters--but by name, please.

  12. Steve,

    What is the issue in anonymous' original post? That much of marketing and promotion is disgusting? No argument form me there. But if that was the point of that post, it was put forward badly or confusingly.

    The blogger made an outright and direct statement that wine and chocolate do not pair, and offered no proof to back it up.

    Further, there is a blanket statement that every winery that tries to sell the consumer on the wine and chocolate pairing is scamming them. Again, where's the evidence?

    Making claims or definitive pronouncements requires a fact or two to back them up.

    The blogger and I have emailed privately. He (or she) says we know each other. If so, he (or she) also knows that I love a good debate, but I am not a fan of opinion just for its sake. I like to discuss the things behind the opinions--the facts, the evidence, the first-hand experience, et al.

    Again, the marketing you refer to is yucky, and you'd never catch me taking part in that. But consumers are supposedly adults. They can make their own decisions about what they want to participate in and what they do or don't like.

    We should just try to give them the facts.

  13. Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I know the original poster, so I can confirm he is both knowledgeable and strongly opinionated. If you read the rest of the blog's content I think it would help put the tone of the very brief posting within context.

    Regarding the wine and chocolate pairing debate, you disagree. That is cool, but you should not assume an opinion is not formed from experience just because the post is short. Also, there are always exceptions to a rule, but should we defend the exceptions or correct the flawed rule?

    From my experience it is fairly apparent that many chocolate-wine pairings simply fail. Sure some few succeed, but the arguement boils down to differences in opinion and communication style. A good topic for debate. In defense of the strong opinion to offset a growing trend "camp," the day after I read your comments, I read this...

    ...This is not a style of wine appretiation we should encourage, in my opinion. Something to think about.

    Regarding making anonymous posts, some professionals may need to protect their identity for legitimate reasons which allows for debate on controversial topics. I think (we agree?) that it should be a non issue and the content is more important.

    Thanks again for the thoughtful reply. I wish we had spoken before my recent family trip to the finger lakes region for hiking and wine tasting. We could have hit you up for recommendations. As it was, we had a great time. Some nice wines, particularly at Dr. Frank's.

  14. Steve,

    Too bad, re, the Finger Lakes. If you were at Dr Franks' you were a stone's throw from my place.

    This is a great place--except this winter ;)

    We can definitely agree to disagree on certain matters. That's what thinking people do. One of the things I don't do is to tell people what to think--there's already too much of that in this world!

    As for the anonymous thing: If you don't back opinions with evidence, and you can't back them up with your name, why should anyone take the opinions seriously?

    How does anyone know the experience and knowledge of the unidentified opinionated?

    What is the reason for an opinion blog?