Saturday, February 27, 2010

Alright, so, okay, and...or am I just crazy?

So I've been blogging for a long time--like eight years which in internet years is basically longer than the universe has existed, which is roughly 6000 years.

I've never made an assertion of being anything other than a knowledgeable person with a decent amount of experience and some opinions. That's it. I don't deny that experts exist, but I do believe that 99% of people who claim to be experts are charlatans. They're not deliberate charlatans, they probably do think that they're experts. They're just deluded.

Either that or I'm an expert, and I really can't believe that to be true. I forget my wallet and go the whole day with my undershirt on backwards way too often for that to be the case. We're all just people who can be knowledgeable and opinionated in certain areas and maybe we like to share our knowledge and opinions with others. Hopefully we can do this in a way that entertains and engages.

The problem with "experts" is that it creates a one-sided non-dialogue. The expert creates, by definition, an inequal relationship except in cases where there are two experts on the same topic talking with teach other. And that's often boring. The expert is talking, the sea of non-experts is listening. This would be fine except that almost all experts are, as I said, Charlatans.

And not the Charlatans U.K.

I much prefer two (or more) curious knowledgeable people talking to each other about something they're passionate about and, in so doing, move toward a dialectical truth.

As skeptical as I am of self-professed experts, I'm even more dubious of institutions that seek to certify expert-dom. The reason? These institutions are never free. An organization that truly seeks to acknowledge experts would be free, independent, and anonymously peer-reviewed. It should not be an organization of questionable provenance into which applicants pay large amounts of money to attempt to become inducted into an alleged elite.

This is why the Court of Master Sommeliers can suck my cork.

Every single thing that is "learned" in the program can be learned by reading approximately two books, tasting a whole fuck tonne of wine, and learning how to tie a necktie. That's it. If the CMS was legit, it would let applicants test into whatever tier was appropriate. But that wouldn't work, because it needs the hundreds of people failing the $400 basic test to run its dubious operation. In college I didn't have to take Introduction to College Writing because I scored high enough on my high school AP test. I was none the worse for it. This makes sense since it saves time, money, and sanity.

And I can't tell you how many fucking people I've met who've passed multiple levels of the CMS programs who haven't known wine from a flaming bag of Jancis Robinson's feces.

(Which I think is a wine. Or at least should be.)

This means that either:

1. The CMS program is horribly flawed and allows for ignorant and unaccomplished people to pass its exams--in the same way that kids who go to private college graduate in four years but public school kids don't (I did).

2. The CMS doesn't care who the fuck it passes in its first tier or two as long as it can collect its $$$$ so that the handful of actual Master Sommeliers can enjoy their platinum codpieces and vajazzled pudenda.

If it's the former, it should be done away with. If it's the latter, it's shrewd but cynical. I'm okay with that (the free market after all is about taking ignorant peoples' money by making them think that they aren't), but I don't respect it.

Because the fact is, wine is a lifestyle--it's something that is lived, not just learned. And no examination and no one hour seminar is going to make up for that. No intense study for a year is going to make up for that. So why flush your money down the toilet when all you need to do is just keep doing and keep learning for the rest of your life?

Don't spend money for someone else to tell you what you already know or can quickly learn from reading Wikipedia, Wine Grape Glossary, and tasting dozens and dozens of wine. It's 2010, the need for instant recall of arcane knowledge no longer exists.

We have iPhones. There's an app for that.


Whitney said...

well put. and yet, i am still taking my certified exam in may. for some reason, i need that certification in my life. call me a conformist/traditionalist/slightly naive/ ignorant/crazy. i want to be able to call myself a certified something. even though i know it doesn't really mean anything in the end and is not at all necessary for a thriving career in this business or a marker of "expert" knowledge. and yet...

p said...

apparently your blog won't let me code in a photo in the comments, so you'll just have to follow the link yourself.