I’m not talking about the conference itself—that’s pretty much standardized, annual good news, like the swallows returning to Capistrano or the onset of Christmas decorations in September or some random honky dingledouche getting gored by a bull in Pamplona.
I’m talking real good news.
For those unfamiliar with the Wine Blogger Conference concept, it is to wine bloggers what the Apalachin Summit of 1957 was to Mafia chieftains—a gathering of the crème de la crème. In this case, it isn’t gangsters, it’s folks who self-publish largely unread, frequently derivative, increasingly repetitious and nearly always unpaid opinions about fermented grape juice and (like any geek-a-rama) serves as a sort of communal font of self-validation—as if Googling your own name and finding a couple of links to your obscure opuscules beneath the half dozen people with real jobs who happen to share your name is not validation enough.
Attendees have hitherto been restricted to three categories: ‘Citizen Bloggers’ (Johnny Lunchbucket types who are not tied to the wine industry and who ‘own’ blogs—meaning they pay Word Press twenty bucks a year to spume and sputter at random pseudo-professional intervals, beholden to neither editors nor deadlines); ‘Industry Bloggers’ (snake-oil shills who have specific, financially-motivated agendas) and my favorite category, ‘All Other Attendees (people who have no conceivable reason to give a shite about wine, wine conferences, wine bloggers or one of the many blithering keynote speakers willing to teach them how to not do what they already don’t do even better).
To add to the situational surreality, this last group—the one with the least motivation to attend—comes with the highest entry fee ($395) and is (I can only assume) made up of blogger spouses who want to live the magic without doing any actual work and are content instead to sleep their way to the top.
Keeping in mind, of course, that in the larger scheme of things, the price-of-admission for Citizen Bloggers ($95) and Industry Bloggers ($295) is not actually less than that charged the do-nothings; a portion of the cost is simply subsidized by the event’s organizers. Whereupon, in order to express gratitude for their largesse, you are ‘respectfully’ requested to write between one and three blogs about the conference itself in advance of it even happening, which sounds journalistically preposterous until you figure that many of these bloggers are so desperate for column-inch fodder that they regularly cannibalize each other like chickens on a poultry farm.
Thus, being force-fed Idea Pabulum is probably like manna from Heaven and is even more filling than plagiarism.
About That Good News…?
If in reading this somewhat cynical disquisition you have concluded that the only variable currently separating the WBC2015 (as the conference will be henceforth known) from runaway, sellout success is actually filling the three-hundred conference seats with perspiring patooties, you are probably incorrect: If Star Trek conventions or Beach Boys concerts are any indication, there is never a shortage of bored people with disposable incomes willing to celebrate mediocrity.
No, the problem is (according to Mike Lakusta, CEO and Founding Partner of EthniFacts) that these sweaty blogger badonkadonks are overwhelmingly non-multicultural, non-diverse and non-representative of an America quickly approaching an ethnocentric majority.
Or, in language less diplomatic: They’re too fucking white.
Thus, a partnership was born between EthniFacts and WBC2015 with the noble intention of changing all that. On May 27, 2015, they announced the ‘EthniFacts Diversity in Wine Writing Scholarship’ to encourage ethnic, gender and cultural diversity in the North American Wine Bloggers Conference attendees, which this year will take place in Finger Lakes, New York—just down the street from Apalachin, by the way.
What this means is that if you are a wine writer with at least one year of wine bloggery under your belt and have never been paid for it—even at the embarrassing pay scale that most wine publications use, which makes minimum wage seem like a Powerball windfall—and find, when you glance in the mirror, more pigment than you bargained for, you may qualify.
Of course, it is also required that you prove legitimate financial need (since by the WBC’s own admission, the weekend can set you back a cool grand) but that should be a no-brainer since if you write a wine blog and can’t demonstrate financial need, you aren’t doing it right.
I do, however, confess confusion at the inclusion of ‘gender diversity’, because I honestly can’t guess what gender is underrepresented in contemporary wine writing. The field seems pretty evenly littered with X and Y chromosomes, and even gender-ambiguous bloggers (whose names I could share in a cocaine heartbeat) are more numerous than the zombies in that one episode of Walking Dead when they finally overrun the farm.
Not only that, but I have noticed that the very act of writing about wine month after month seems to have squeezed out much of the testosterone that once flowed freely through my veins, forcing me into the sort of sexual amorphism that causes me to purchase quinoa, download Dead Or Alive songs and take selfies at the gym. Frankly, if I was going to apply for a scholarship based on my sex, I would no longer even know what box to check. After twenty-five years of emasculating wine writing, I have—not unlike Bruce Jenner—pretty much become the spork of gender identity.
To some extent, though, the whole Affirmative Action angle to the scholarship is equally baffling. Despite Mike Lakusta’s pretty words, I’m not sure exactly what sociopolitical grievance he seeks to redress. Certainly not the dearth of persons of color writing wine blogs, since you already have to write a wine blog to qualify. And it can’t be to fill seats, because as the WBC website proudly points out, ‘space is limited to 300’.
So the only other rationale I can come up with is the scholarship was introduced so that group shots taken at the conference look less Rinso white and more ethnically heterogeneous—or in the case of sexual orientation candidates, more homogeneous, but in the Biblical sense—and if that requires shuttling in a bunch of poor black bloggers to sprinkle through the photo op, so be it. If all it costs is a plane ticket and a weekend in a fancy hotel, it is a small enough price to pay for multicultural bragging rights, right? Although it could actually do more harm than good, because as everyone knows, you can’t keep them down on the plantation after they’ve seen Finger Lakes… but I suppose we’ll cross that human protest chain when we come to it.
See, if I was running things, far more important to me than a multicultural blogger’s vow of poverty would be some review of said blogger’s oeuvre, to see if Juanita Lunchbucket actually has something unique to say to an ethnic readership; I’d read Jamal Lunchbucket’s work and see if he is approaching wine in a way that reflects ‘the diversity of the new mainstream consumer’, or, like most bloggers, if he is simply recycling old material; I’d look carefully at Jong Il Lunchbucket’s blog and base his inclusion in the scholarship sweepstakes on the content of his characterizations, not on the color of his skin.
Because otherwise, playing the race card without seeing the quality and raising it one relevancy is a transparent bluff; any shark worth his or her tournament seat can see through it.
In any case, since I won’t be applying for the scholarship (even though I’m a vampire on my mother’s side) or attending the bacchanalia, that’s neither here nor there. But I did mention some good news coming out of all this, and true to my word, here it is:
If you are a broke Afro-Cuban polysexual carrying around a Koran in a wheelchair—and happen to write a wine blog—I am announcing my own scholarship, forthwith and straightway. Not to attend the Wine Bloggers Conference, of course—who cares about that; let the EthniHacks worry about it. But instead, to attend this year’s Combo Star Trek and Beach Boys Conference 2015 (STBBC2015) to be held in Dildo, Newfoundland. Needless to say, last year’s conference was way, way too Caucasian.
The winning candidate will have all expenses to the conference paid, plus a backstage pass to rub Al Jardine’s humungous Talosian forehead and tickle Lt. Uhura’s nay nays, going where no man has gone before.
All I respectfully ask is that you write at least three blogs on why ‘Wish They All Could Be El-Aurian Girls’ is the greatest song every written.