How to Be a Wine Blogger (and get free wine)

Free Wine but at what price?A couple weeks ago, the annual Wine Blogger Conference wrapped its fifth year, presumably in a puddle of plonk and pixels. According to their official release, there was a “dip in attendance” from previous years, which organizers attributed to the conference’s location – Penticton, Okanagan Valley of the Southern Interior of British Columbia, Canada. Which is to say, nowhere. At least not anywhere known for its bustling wine scene. Hockey – sure, but to a native Northern Californian wino like me, unless I can use the puck as a coaster for my Riedel glassware, it’s useless.
Aspiring wine bloggers have a year to revive their moribund WordPress account and get to some online whining before the conference reconstitutes in Santa Barbara in 2014. You will remember that SB is our sister wine country to the south, which is still basking in the afterglow of that pinot-pushing sleeper hit “Sideways” – hence the “As seen in ‘Sideways’” signage along Foxen Canyon Road in Santa Ynez.

If you missed the great wine blogger rush of ‘07 and have a yen to sip and tell about it (like everyone else within a 100-mile radius of The Sonoma Index-Tribune), here is some historical context to help guide the release of your inner Alder Yarrow (yeah, he’s a wine blogger). Continue reading “How to Be a Wine Blogger (and get free wine)”

Superman Has a Day Job. And That’s Why I Love Him

Super DaedalusSuperman has a day job and a bogus byline to boot. In his current iteration, he’s a stringer for the Daily Planet and thus a shoe-in to be the patron saint of journalists. Well, perhaps not all journalists – maybe just the ones in comics and those, like me, whose columns are quarantined to the funny pages to sidestep libel suits. This is fine with me, given my “truth vs. fact” credo, which has long leaned me in the direction of being a writer rather than a journalist despite the fact that most of my professional paychecks have come from newspapers.
When my yen to be pseudo-scholarly is at full rev, one might even say I’m into “fiction vs. fictionalism,” that latter of which, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy will have you know, is “the view that claims made within that discourse are not best seen as aiming at literal truth but are better regarded as a sort of ‘fiction.’” These are conversational conveniences, cultural assumptions like the fact we all know a pair of eyeglasses is sufficient to disguise one’s identity as a superhero.

It stands for reason then that my reporter-hero would not be a Woodward or Bernstein, say, but a 75-year-old figment of fiction. Sure, Watergate was a great story but the saga of a space alien with a Christ-complex and red underwear invented by a couple of outsider Jewish kids in Cleveland? You had me at Christ-complex. Continue reading “Superman Has a Day Job. And That’s Why I Love Him”

A Girl, a Gun and an iPhone: All You Need to Make a Movie

Girl and a gun.

Summer movie season is upon us. Well, it’s technically been here since May because, like climate change, Hollywood can adjust the seasons seemingly at will. At your local cinemas, iron-clad playboys flex computer-enhanced muscles whilst spaceships go where no man has gone before – again. It’s a dizzying display of predictable imagineering, so pixel-perfect that it’s hard to remember that cinema used to be a simpler affair.

To provide context for how relatively new movie making is, relative to the other arts, and how far it’s come, consider that there are turtles in the Galapagos older than the entire history of cinema. It’s difficult to imagine that movies were once little more than a point-and-shoot deal. According to two innovators in the medium, the basic requirements once were as follows:

A) “All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman, and a pretty girl.” – Charlie Chaplin

B) “All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.” – Jean-Luc Goddard

For convenience’s sake, we might equate “comedy” and “movie,” and likewise reduce the essence of the policeman (authority, force, death) to the gun. So, with some rhetorical contortions, Chaplin and Goddard, we might say, agree on the essentials of cinematic storytelling. What about the park, you ask? The one featured in Chaplin’s 1915 one-reeler, “In the Park,” is somewhere in San Francisco and has likely continued this tradition of tramps, cops and pretty girls the past 100 years, though the cameras are now used for surveillance and the pretty girls are professionals. And sometimes dudes.

In the above model, it seems the only constant in cinema is the girl. With her, three elementary aspects of storytelling reveal themselves: There is an object of desire, some sort of threat and someone in the middle of both. The person in the middle is our hero. Or, as screenwriters are apt to say whilst penning Act II, “the person in the hero is our middle.” Actually, no screenwriter has ever said that, but they should because it’s both true and just clever-sounding enough to buy one time to sneak out of the room.

But, you say, this might be all one needs for a story, but a movie requires moving pictures to tell that story. This entails at least a modicum of technology like, say, a camera, though as the following filmmaker quotes suggest, that camera needn’t be Chaplin’s hand-cranked Bell & Howell 2709 or Goddard’s Eclair Cameflex:

C) “The great hope is that … Some little fat girl in Ohio is going to make a beautiful movie with her father’s camcorder …” – Francis Ford Coppola

D) “Film will only become art when the materials are as inexpensive as pencil and paper.” – Jean Cocteau

Cameras have yet to become as cheap as pencil and paper (unless we’re talking about “The Graf von Faber-Castell Perfect Pencil,” available for a tidy $12,800) but with the right service plan subsidizing your purchase, you can pocket an iPhone for about a hundred bucks.

And I’ll bet you that hundo that the fat girl in Ohio would probably prefer her dad’s iPhone 5 that shoots 1080p HD video than ye olde camcorder.

Now, all you need is a pretty girl/guy, a gun/policeman, perhaps a park, a handful of other cliches (like a skin-tight super-suit) and a mega-computer to retrofit your crappy iPhone footage with CGI. There are theoretically three months left in summer (that is, unless the God of Weather gets angry and throws another tempest-tantrum), so you might be able to get your flick in under the wire and enjoy a summer release. Somewhere, an ancient tortoise is shaking its head.

Big Brother is watching – his royalties go up

1984Jenny Hendrix writes in today’s Los Angeles Times that the present National Security Administration surveillance scandal has led to an appreciable uptick in sales of George Orwell’s 1984 on Amazon. By appreciable, we’re talking a 5,771% surge as of this morning. At the time Hendrix filed, the totalitarian tome was appearing at No. 4 on Amazon’s list of “Movers and Shakers.” Presently, it’s at No. 18, which isn’t bad for a dystopian tale originally published in 1949 and under the pen-name of Eric Arthur Blair. It’s a good thing Orwell let his own name eventually crest the title, since the lit-crit term “Orwellian” has such a better ring to it than “Blairian,” which sounds like a hair product.
The novel celebrated its 64th anniversary on June 8 just in time for 29-year-old Edward Snowden, a NASA contractor to leak info about the NSA’s “massive collection of data from the phone and Internet records of Americans have given rise to concerns over loss of privacy…” write’s Hendrix. Now, Snowden the target of an international manhunt.

Now, I wouldn’t trust a Millennial-aged contractor with the company kitchen’s microwave let alone give him access to NSA secrets but the dude at least deserves a hat-tip for busting the administration’s merry trodding over your Fourth Amendment right to privacy. Here’s a refresher: Continue reading “Big Brother is watching – his royalties go up”