Re-Evaluating Relevance in a Crowded Age of Gab

It’s 4:25am and I can’t sleep.

I’m burdened by the potent notion that the ideas and expressions that have filled up this blog for the past eight years aren’t worth the bits or bytes they consume. I’m worried that the Hosemaster of Wine’s parodies of me and this blog have been mistaken for parodies and are in fact accurate description of a self-made tool. I’m worried that in the new age of tumbled barriers to entry, my own attempts at commentary amount to a polished grain of sand where boulder once stood. The only thing that keeps me from waking up my wife from her sleep upstairs and unloading my nocturnal concerns to her is the realization that if I’m right about all this, at least I’m in good company.

I wonder if the critics of unbound publishing unleashed by the proliferation of cheap digital communications, social networks, and easy searching are right. I wonder if the level of harsh, inconsiderate noise began drowning out insightful observation at an exponential rate when the “return button” replaced the editor. I worry that 2,530 times I’ve hit my own return button could have been time better spent contemplating the invigorating impact of silence—or at least of listening and not talking.

How does an inveterate commentator/wine blogger push the needle when the needle is already pushing hard up against “11”.

I long ago failed to understand what motivates my friends on Facebook and Twitter to explain their obsessions with bacon or their conviction that their own boredom is interesting or why they always come back to the third track on the second Dixie Chicks album when they are blue (how did they conclude I care? Was it something I said?)  This questioning of motivations of others however never ends there. It always comes full circle and stops with my own.

Conceit? Desires for recognition? An unconscious (no longer, I guess) need to part with a seeming unending supply of two cents? All good examples of the inner cynic I love so much.

On the other hand—the good hand—it’s possible I care. It’s possible I mean what I write and write what I mean. It’s possible the motivation is simply a case of serving a long possessed guiding belief that if you are not in the game, if you are not seriously engaged in serious ideas, your time will have been wasted. And that’s a sin.

But wine? Really? And a wine blog? Good God! There are potholes in the streets that need filling, not to mention genocide in Africa. And for me and my good company it’s time spent on the virtues of wine criticism, natural vs synthetic cork, the value of egg shaped fermenting vessels, a debate over pH levels in Chardonnay and the righteousness of crowd sourcing wine reviews? Really? Yes. Really.

It makes you wonder if the value of an idea or opinion diminishes in direct relation to the space available for publishing that idea or opinion. It’s possible that post #2,530 could be proof of this simple idea.

But let’s reconsider the needle. That must be the cause, mustn’t it? Pushing it somewhere. Believing in a direction or a philosophy or a cause and pushing the needle over there. Without that direction, the noise is for naught. It’s for me alone and that’s just too depressing a conclusion to entertain. “I write for myself” is the kind of thing too often expressed by noisemakers like me. If you write for yourself then why am I reading it?

No, it seems to me that my wife gets to keep sleeping upstairs because I believe post #2,530 is the latest in a long series of purposeful acts that serve to more than put a mirror to good use. So what is that direction? That philosophy? That cause? Shouldn’t it always be a matter of leaving your realm better than you found it? My realm being wine, I tend to ask how I can leave it better. So for me, that begs the question: Can a wine blog help build the foundations for an industry’s greater success? Can a wine blog do anything to help move this needle?

I’ve always assumed it can. The fact is, consumers of wine ought to be responsibly served. Industry members ought to be provided with the conditions to pursue success responsibly. Yet, in my mind, long standing systems exist to hamper this goal. Retrograde ideas emerge or are sustained that hamper this goal. Public and industrial policies are pursued that hamper this goal. Expediency and protected power hamper this goal.

It’s wise, I think, to pursue the movement of the needle with the recognition that often it’s small, sometimes very small, acts in pursuit of a goal that constitute the extent of ones power in the area of public participation. And I think it’s wise to be satisfied with this, lest we find ourselves too regularly disappointed. But nonetheless, this small contribution allows us to forgo the clarion call of the ego that in blogging often sounds like, “I write for myself”.

Sometimes sleepless nights are the result of too much Thai food. Sometimes it’s clogged sinuses. Sometimes it’s the mundane troubles of daily life that keep us awake. And sometimes, it’s some sort of purposeful digression that drives us to re-evaluate the relevance of what we do and why we do it. This latter explanation works for me.

I’m going back to bed.

Posted In: Uncategorized


24 Responses

  1. Thomas Pellechia - October 12, 2012

    Must be the season for blogger self-awareness.

    These kinds of pensive posts show up every so often. Anyone who writes for a living (or other creative professionals) go through the same introspection–or should.

    I am on the side of “there are too many wine blogs chasing too few interesting discussions.” But in your case, when you remain on-message, yours is a service blog. It’s when you slide off message that you begin to stretch to the “11,” as it were.

  2. Jim Caudill - October 12, 2012

    At least you had a little bourbon and John Coltrane to help you contemplate….that will keep you up too….

  3. 1WineDude - October 12, 2012

    Tom, 10 years ago we would never pick up the phone and tell our friends that we thought parmigiano was awesome. But MILLIONS do this on FB and twitter every day.


    Because it’s in our nature to share as human beings.

    Wine isn’t immune from that.

    if you think what we do doesn’t matter, consider this: is the wine world better off than it was ten years ago, for having so many more voices? Has the landscape changed.

    I’d say yes – irrevocably.

  4. Tom Wark - October 12, 2012

    If I didn’t think that what I do matters, I wouldn’t do it.

    However, though we do like to share, we don’t share everything. We never did. And we don’t know. Some things aren’t meant to be shared, and yet they are and we both know it when we see it.

    • 1WineDude - October 12, 2012

      Tom, I’ll take that stuff if it’s the “price” to pay for the really good stuff. After all, it’s not difficult to ignore the fluff, is it?

  5. Tom Wark - October 12, 2012

    What’s a “service” blog? And, when do you think I hit “11”?

  6. Marcia M - October 12, 2012

    Methinks you write (and think) waaaaay too lucidly in the wee hours of the morning. I also suspect there are some nasty potholes the city has yet to fill in your neighborhood! 🙂 Seems you were having one of those nights when the little gray cells won’t quit — and they don’t always have a solid topic to ponder and yet they’re on fire. So every doubt flashes through your head and also gets dismissed, making you wonder why it even rose to the surface in the first place. But that’s what 4:30 a.m. is all about!

  7. Michele Francisco - October 12, 2012


    It’s the 4:25am reflections that seem the most poignant and meaningful, eh? As a relatively new wine blogger, I haven’t yet had my “Why am I doing this and am I making a difference” moment. But I can say that writing for the love of wine keeps me going as I’m certain it does you too! I started my blog with a focus of educating new wine lovers and, while working in a winery tasting room, I meet my target audience each and every day. That reinforces that fact that writing about wine is important and can make a difference, especially as more and more people turn to the internet for information.

    I completely agree with your observation that small acts inch you toward your goal! So while a handful of posts may not seem like much, taken as a whole, you’ve created an entire library of work. You and others who began blogging years ago also serve as mentors for those of us just beginning our wine journeys. Doesn’t that count for something too?

    Keep your dial turned to 11 knowing you’re not creating “noise” but rather increasing your amplification to the world. Otherwise how would fellow wine bloggers and wine lovers find you? Your knowledge and passion influence others, including myself, to drink better wine and learn more about it in the process.

    Michele Francisco

  8. Alan Goldfarb - October 12, 2012

    Tom My Longtime Colleague & Friend: I know those early morning “terrors” all too well. My nightsweats segue from fending off personal demons to what-the-hell-a-I-doing? So, I’ll relate a personal anecdote that relates to our pursuit of wine:

    Once I was a sportswriter. I tell who all will listen (sometimes ad nauseam to those that have heard the line way too many times) that when I arrived on these shores (Cali) in ’73 I quickly realized that the No. 1 sport in SF was wine & food and I crossed over. The truth was, having listened to the sophomoric banter of world-class athletes, I naively believed, that if I wrote about wine (a subject I’d been interested in since I was piqued when I was a kid growing up in the wine country of Brooklyn), that pursuit would be more worthwhile and be respected.

    While upon hearing that I’m a wine journalist, most are intrigued and some even a little fascinated, wine is no different from sports. It’s yet another game to distract us, and bring some pleasure while we await the inevitable.

    Now, I love observing both.

  9. Tom Wark - October 12, 2012

    Is it really all just a distraction until the inevitable? Really? Perhaps, but that sounds a bit to materialist to me, thought you could be right. I guess my point is we all need to have a point or purpose or goal in what we do. And it’s best to understand it as quickly as possible.

    When can we eat and drink together??


  10. Ron Washam, HMW - October 12, 2012

    This post might be a better parody of you than the ones I write. Which is a low bar to get over.

    The navel-gazing post is a time-honored tradition now–my current post is one, though I have the excuse of turning 60 tomorrow, the official age when you can begin to bore the crap out of people with reminiscing. You seem to envision a “higher” cause for wine blogs. That’s mighty noble, but in the bigger world of blogging, it’s an exception and not the rule. There’s the press and there’s the vanity press. (There’s also the olive press, but it’s the pits.) Guess where most blogs fall.

    We’re all just raging against the dying of the light (which I stole from either Dylan Thomas or Danny Thomas, I can’t remember). We don’t need any other reason to blog. It is just social media, and folks read for the same reasons they read FaceBook–voyeurism and boredom. At least you relieve the boredom, not contribute to it.

    Keep fighting the good fight, my friend, Sisyphean though it might be. In the end, you certainly will leave it better than it was before you arrived. Which is more than most of us can say.

    • Todd - VT Wine Media - October 12, 2012

      I hope that you guys realize that as long as you keep it up, you’ll continue inspiring the rest of us to produce more mounds of manure that ye shall rise above.

  11. Tom Wark - October 12, 2012

    Don’t underestimate yourself. You’ve been boring the crap out of people well before that golden age you now reside in. : )

    Actually, it’s not just with Wine Blogs that I envision a higher cause for, it’s for anyone engaging publicly in some sort of formal way.

    And by the way, Sysiphus was a sissy and a punk.

    There…got that out of my sysiphustem!

    Thanks for chiming in Hosemaster!!

    • Ron Washam, HMW - October 13, 2012

      I thought the idea of wine blogs was to bore the crap out of people. Sure seems that way. You mean I’m supposed to enlightening and entertaining? Damn, time to retire again.

  12. Julie Ann Kodmur - October 12, 2012

    Tom—for all of our sakes long live an occasional sleepless night—your erudition is a pleasure to experience!

  13. Alfonso - October 12, 2012

    now you’re really gonna give the Hosemaster a big head. On second thought, that’s a bad visual image.

    scratch that..

    oh, never mind, you know what I mean

    • Ron Washam, HMW - October 13, 2012

      Oh, I have a big head, Mr. Poodle Award winner?! Sure, easy to say now that the Wine Road in Italy is paved with gold. Or is that spray paint?

  14. John Kelly - October 12, 2012

    Relevance, Tom? Moving the needle? This is the public relations guy speaking. Yours is a “service blog” because you approach it more as a journalist than as a writer. You put up commentary and polemic, with a consistent point of view. This has real value when so much of the internet logorrhea is just flatulent noise.

    • Ron Washam, HMW - October 13, 2012

      Hey, flatulent noise is my specialty, John. Man, cheap shot.

  15. Charlie Olken - October 12, 2012

    This is the first time that I can recall anyone being robbed of sleep by the Hosemaster. Truly, Tom, you deserve a better fate.

    • Ron Washam, HMW - October 13, 2012

      The flatulent noise that John mentions does keep my wife awake…and, after a lot of Gruner, my neighbors as well.

  16. Thomas Pellechia - October 12, 2012


    Sorry I’m late answering your questions. I’ve been out all day…yes, writers do get out of our chairs every so often.

    In any case, John answered the what-makes-yours-a-service blog” question.

    The times that you have gone to the 11, in my view, have been when you try to persuade that blogging is more than it is (for that definition, I cannot beat his Hosiness).

    As soon as you stop mixing plural subject with singular subject in one sentence I’ll concede that you also write quite well 😉

  17. Fredric Koeppel - October 12, 2012

    People who blog and say “I write for myself” should hang it up. Either develop a voice and an audience that relates to you and what you’re doing or just go sit in a corner and think your thoughts. That way you won’t bother anybody.

  18. george kaplan - October 15, 2012

    Maybe this is all one of those dreams we can’t get out of.

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