Ron Washam’s satyr: sexuality, satire, and self-projection in 21st-century wine blogging

From the department of ostentatio genitalium… id est, NSFW…

satyr-penisAbove: an ithyphallic satyr as depicted in a Roman mosaic in Naples (image via Tyler Bell’s Flickr Creative Commons).

Ithyphallophobia or ithyphallophilia? It’s hard to put your finger on it. Before you can, you have to get it up.

It’s only natural that the Hosemaster of Wine would resort to puerile sexual violence in a pseudo-satire of Alice Feiring, his debut piece for Robert Parkerization, Jr.’s venerated Wine Advocate. It’s behind a paywall that keeps “free for all,” I’ve been told, even the hoi polloi out. Read it if you must. Just be sure to don a doily doused in eau de toilette.

And it’s only logical that he would have no better arrow from his quill to loose… or to release, as it were.

As he wrote in his peppy post announcing his new brave collaboration, “nothing is more deadly to a satirist than becoming part of the establishment.” In the wake of Washam’s self-castration and the fulfillment of his Oedipal reversal, the now blinded however once beloved satirist now found himself in a conundrum: whom to attack when the platform whence he casts his missiles is that of the king?

Pietro Aretino, arguably the greatest of all satirists, self-fashioned himself the flagellum prinicipi (literally the flagellator [the scourge] of princes, for those like Washam who arrived tardy to Latin class). And as the whipper of kings taught us, satire has no balls (pardon the pun) when it resides in rich men’s halls. By virtue of its very nature, its vice is that used to squeeze the powerful and lustful, not the meek and just.

He’s parodied Alice, her writing, and advocacy before (5 or 6 times now? I’ve lost count). But when those feathers were launched from his Heraldsburg treehouse, they were lithe “as vines among the trees.” Today, they are as lugubrious as the masthead from which they were cast.

I can’t say that I was a follower or lover of his writing in the past. But respect and honor were due to the man for the outsider role of flagellator that he played so well in the enoblogosphere. I mean that most sincerely.

To attack Alice from Parker’s mansion on the hill, with crude sexual innuendo no less, is by no hand of a man. It’s from the palm of a puer.

Below: caps off to you, Ron! Cheers! It’s all in good pun… (image via Wikipedia Commons).

hosemaster-of-wine-blog

On Charlie Hebdo’s tasteless satire of the Amatriciana for Amatrice campaign

charlie hebdo amatriciana amatriceAbove: a photograph of a dish of Amatriciana via the popular Rome-based food blog Puntarella Rossa. See its editors’ post (in Italian) for just a partial list of the many Italian restaurateurs and food producers who are raising money for victims of the August 24 earthquake in central Italy.

Across Italy, across the U.S., and even across France, restaurateurs are raising money for victims of the August 24 earthquake in central Italy by donating proceeds from every dish of Amatriciana served (see the Austin American-Statesman coverage of Austinite participation). The township of Amatrice was one of the hardest hit and its world-famous dish has become a rallying cry for relief efforts.

Late last week and over the weekend, after the French weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo published a satire of the grassroots Amatriciana for Amatrice campaign, a lot of friends and readers have asked me about the cartoon in question (you can view it here).

Beyond the natural indignation, more than one person revealed that she/he didn’t fully understand the quote-unquote humor in it.

“Earthquake Italian style,” reads the top caption. A reference to the many “Italian style” comic films of the 1960s and 70s (like “Divorce Italian Style”).

Below the leading caption, there are three figures, each with their own caption.

The first is a bloodied man. “Penne with tomato sauce,” reads the caption.

The second is a woman who appears to be burned, with her hair standing up as if it had been singed. “Baked penne,” reads the caption.

The last image depicts earthquake victims and crumbled buildings layered on one another. “Lasagne.”

The cartoon plays to commonplace French attitudes that France’s transalpine cousins are rustics and that their cuisine is unsophisticated.

For insight into why the editors would publish such an atrocious send-up, I reached out to one of my dearest friends, a Parisian woman who went to high school with the daughter of one of the higher-profile contributors to the magazine.

The magazine’s readership is very small, she told me. “We only ever pay attention to it when they make fun of something we really care about,” she said.

“And they make fun of everyone,” she noted, emphasizing everyone.

It’s not hard to imagine how Italians have reacted to the caricature. Over the weekend, I read countless news reports and social media posts by writers and social media users who expressed their dismay.

I wrote to a good friend in Italy who pointed me to a Facebook post by journalist and television executive Enrico Mentana, who wrote (translation mine):

    I’m sorry but this is what Charlie Hebdo is! When you said “Je suis Charlie,” you were expressing solidarity with people who have always published similar cartoons. They have profaned everything and everyone. The caricatures of Mohammed had the same effect on most Muslims that the cartoon about the earthquake has provoked in us. It was forty years ago that [Charlie Hebdo contributor Georges] Wolinski, one of the victims of the January 2015 terrorist attack, taught his Italian colleagues that satire could be ugly, dirty, and mean. Should we break off our relations with France after we marched in their defense? All we need to do is to say that it disgusts us. And we should do so without being self-righteous.

The vignette may be tasteless. But the dish is as tasty as ever.

Here’s a link to my post on different channels for donating to relief efforts.

Why I am voting for Clinton and why Trump is a fascist

peter blume artistAbove: detail from “Eternal City,” oil on composition board by Peter Blume, American, 1934-37.

The arc of presumptive presidential candidate for the Democratic Party Hillary Clinton’s life and career has been marked by extraordinary achievement in public service and for public good.

As civil rights activist, first lady, senator, and secretary of state, she has consistently embraced and advocated for progressive, forward-looking policies that make our country a stronger and more just nation.

Her presumptive nomination is a historic moment for the American people: eight years after the election of Barack Obama, the first black president of the U.S.A., her now inevitable victory in the democratic primary represents a milestone in women’s and human rights that was unimaginable when she began her work as a young person. With her candidacy, again, America has given the world a new model and benchmark for inclusiveness and equal rights.

While there are many immensely skilled politicians in the U.S. who could have a risen to the challenge of becoming our country’s next president, she is the one who stood up for her party, stood by her beliefs and values, and earned the opportunity to run. Her credentials and qualifications are virtually peerless and she is the best prepared and most suited person to lead our nation forward.

With his overtly racist attitudes and his ill-conceived, uninformed, and perilous political platform, Donald Trump has already driven our country backward.
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Il miglior fabbro: mourning the passing of the great Italian translator William Weaver

pasolini ragazzi di vita

Above: William Weaver is remembered by many for his superb translations of popular writers like Eco and Calvino. But to many Italian literature cognoscenti, his masterworks are his renderings of experimental works by Carlo Emilio Gadda and Pier Paolo Pasolini (image via Barnes & Noble).

It was with great sadness that I read the news this morning (published over the weekend in the New York Times) that the greatest Italian translator of our generation William Weaver has passed at age 90.

I never had the opportunity to meet him but his work had a huge influence on my career as a translator and my intellectual life (and two of his students were mentors of mine).

Many American college graduates and literary buffs will remember him for his superb translations of popular writers like Eco and Calvino.

But his masterworks are his renderings of experimental works from the twentieth century by authors like Pier Paolo Pasolini and Carlo Emilio Gadda.

Weaver brilliantly translated the title of Pasolini’s 1956 Ragazzi di vita — a novel written in urban Roman dialect — as A Violent Life. The title alone (ragazzi di vita — which, slavishly, means the boys of life — is a colloquial expression that denotes street hustlers) marked a new era for Italian translation and translators. As in this case, he often abandoned accuracy for the verve and ethos of the original. And this bold approach set a new tone and a new benchmark for the generation of translators who would follow in his footsteps.

When I frequented literary circles during my New York years, Weaver’s name was invoked by translators from all fields — poetry, prose, French, Spanish, etc. He was a Virgil for many of us. And he taught us — in theory and practice — that the fact that translation can never be perfect does not stop translation from being great.

If you are so inclined, please read this essay (very short but indicative of Weaver’s work) which he published as an introduction to his translation of Gadda’s Acquainted with Grief (again, another brilliant rendering of a challenging title).

He was il miglior fabbro (the best smith [of the mother tongue])

Scenes from the “Pasolini in Rome” show at the Cinémathèque Française

Comrade Howard graciously sent me these images from the current “Pasolini in Rome” exhibition at the Cinémathèque Française where he toured the show last week with the museum’s director.

It runs through January 26.

La poésie, la politique, le sexe, l’amitié, le cinéma… The stuff that life is made of.

The track “Pasolini” in the slideshow comes from my band Nous Non Plus’ release Le sexe et la politique (Terrible Kids Music 2012).

pasolini

how to pronounce Xinomavro (and desperately seeking Zibibbo)

What a thrill to learn that the Greek Grape Name and Appellation Project was put to good use yesterday by the leading Italian wine blogger in the world today, Alfonso Cevola, who used the video above in his talk on Xinomavro at the annual Texas Sommelier Conference in Dallas (Texsom).

As the popularity of Greek wines and grapes like Assyrtiko and Xinomavro continues to explode in the U.S. (check out this brilliant post today by the hippest sommelier in America, the inimitable Levi Dalton), it’s remarkable how few know the correct pronunciation of Xinomavro.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I, myself, didn’t know how to pronounce it until I traveled to Naoussa and got a lesson from Constantine Boutari himself (he’s the owner of the Boutari winery group)!

He is such a sweet man and when I asked him if I could film him “speaking” Xinomavro, he improvised — on the spur of the moment — the talk he gave me (to the surprise of everyone in the tasting room at Boutari’s Naoussa winery).

You can listen to all the pronunciations over at the Boutari blog (where I have been posting for three years now).

naoussa

The Italian Grape Name and Pronunciation Project continues to expand and I have new videos to post this week.

I am looking for a native speaker to do Zibibbo. On Friday, a reader wrote me with a query about its pronunciation, which is trickier than it would appear. I’ll explain when I have a video ready.

But in the meantime, does anyone have any suggestions or requests for wineries/winemakers whom I should approach? Please let me know in the comments.

I greatly appreciate it.

And one last thing on this busy Monday morning: be sure to check out Alfonso’s superb post this morning on “Breaking the Code of Silence on Italian Wine.”

Now it’s time to put my nose to the grindstone. Buon lavoro, yall! Have a productive work week!

“Universe in a glass of wine”: who really said that? The answer…

galileo wine glass

Above: Portrait of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) by Justus Sustermans (1597-1681; image via the Wiki).

Reading the excellent Italian-language food and wine blog Porthos this morning, I was reminded by the authors of the famous and brilliantly topical lecture by U.S. physicist Richard Feynman, “The Universe in a Glass of Wine.”

“A poet once said,” it begins, “‘the whole universe is in a glass of wine.’ We will probably never know in what sense he said that, for poets do not write to be understood. But it is true that if we look in glass of wine closely enough we see the entire universe.”

Click here for the entire text (it’s very short) and the audio. If you’ve never heard it, it’s worth listening (in part because Feynman’s immense ability as orator).

(Today’s post on Porthos takes the form of a Socratic dialog on biodynamics and Natural wine and the interlocutors cite Feynman as an example of the powerful mythology of Nature as expressed through wine.)

Feynman doesn’t seem to know who the poet was. (And he notes — for comic effect but erroneously in my view — that poets “don’t write to be understood.”)

I believe that the imagery comes from a “scientific letter” by Italian philosopher Lorenzo Magalotti (1637-1712) who cites Galileo’s [attributed] maxim, wine is a compound [mixture] of moisture [humor] and light (il vino è un composto di umore e di luce).

Note that humor denoted moisture in seventeenth-century Europe (cfr. “1697 Dryden tr. Virgil Georgics i, ‘Redundant Humours thro’ the Pores expire,'” Oxford English Dictionary).

This celebrated observation of the physical world was transmitted anecdotally by Galileo’s student Raffaello Magiotti (1597-1656), who is quoted by Magalotti in the letter.

magalotti letters

In the text (the fifth letter in the collection), he uses the maxim as a thesis in his dissertation on the nature of light. The grape and its transformation, he writes, are a perfect example of light’s ability to “penetrate a body.”

In Dante’s Commedia (Purg. 25, 76-78), the Latin poet Statius compares G-d’s creation of life to Nature’s transformation of moisture into wine by means of light:

    E perché meno ammiri la parola
    guarda il calor del sol che si fa vino,
    giunto a l’omor che de la vite cola.

    [And, that you may be less bewildered by my words,
    consider the sun’s heat, which, blended with the moisture
    pressed from the vine, turns into wine.]

(Some have translated Dante’s omor [umore] with the English sap but moisture is a more accurate translation, especially given the context.)

In the light of Dante’s popularity during Galileo’s time, it’s likely (guaranteed, really) that Galileo was familiar with these lines. Magalotti cites the Dantean verses as well in his letter.

So did a poet once say that you could see the whole universe in a glass of wine?

It’s possible but unlikely.

Did the poets, as far back as Statius, consider wine to be a substance that could reveal the nature of the universe? Yes, most definitely.

Like me (however small I am compared to those giants), they were negotiating the epistemological implications of oenophilia.

Thanks for reading…

Defending a diacritic in Cogno’s “Anas-Cëtta” TY @brittanieshey

cogno anas cetta

A note of thanks to my friend and colleague Brittanie Shey (Houston-based music and lifestyle writer) who brought this New Yorker piece to my attention: “The Curse of the Diaeresis.”

It interests me for three reasons: 1) my doctoral thesis on medieval & Renaissance prosody (meter/versification) and transcription included a chapter devoted in part to diaeresis; 2) I have always been annoyed by the New Yorker’s hypergrammatical (yes, that’s a term; I didn’t coin it) use of the umlaut (aka diaeresis); and 3) Valter Fissore uses a gratuitous umlaut in the proprietary designation for his Cogno Langhe Nascetta.

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The most brilliant wine blog post ever… period… by @hawk_wakawaka

morlacco

Above: Today, for lunch, Georgia P had tortelli stuffed with stinky Morlacco (cow’s milk cheese) and seasonal asparagus in the village of Rolle (in the heart of Proseccoland). She loved them.

Among the blogs I follow, there were a number of stand-out April’s fools day posts.

Pope Alfonso shared a vision of a harmonious world where some of the most litigious among us actually get along.

King Franco revealed that he’s closing up shop and going to work for Frescobaldi (and I actually fell for it; blame it on the sleep deprivation caused by traveling with a fifteen-month old and a mommy who is twenty-five weeks pregnant).

But… it was Hawk Wakawaka who wrote the best one. Indeed, she delivered what I consider the most brilliant — absolutely and of all times — wine blog post ever.

In it she recounts her visit to the winery of Jean-Luc Picard (former captain of the Federation Starship Enterprise).

It’s sci-fi meets wine blogging, Bradbury meets 1 Wine Dude. And it gives us a glimpse (just as Gene Rodenberry did) of a future just beyond our reach…

(For a little background on wine vs. synthehol, see here and here.)

most beautiful baby girl prosecco

Above: Remember the last time Tracie P and I were in Rolle? The view of the vineyards was gorgeous today (as well).

I can’t recommend Hawk Wakawaka’s post highly enough!

Buona lettura (happy reading)!

Bacalà ala visentina (baccalà alla vicentina) for Easter Sunday

baccala alla vicentina

Tracie P had a pregnancy craving for bacalà ala visentina and so my old friend Renato, manager and chef at the Villa Marcello Marinelli (Cison di Valmarino) where we’re staying, made some especially for us for our Easter lunch today.

carciofi in padella

He’d already been soaking some stockfish for himself and his family and so it was perfect. Man, was it good!

There was no room in the dining room (because the restaurant was already completely reserved for Easter). So we had “room service” in our apartment. He also made us some potatoes and artichokes saltati in padella (pan sautéed).

It couldn’t have been better. :)

villa marcello castelbrando cison

After lunch we took Georgia P for a stroll through the village. That’s the Villa on the left.

And then we went for a drive through misty Valdobbiadene and along the left bank of the Piave (my old stomping grounds)… It was so beautiful and peaceful. And as we drove back, all the folks were in the villages enjoying ice cream and their post-holiday passeggiata (stroll).

I hope everyone had a great Easter Sunday!