25 February 2011

The art of wine

I happened across a discussion at vinography.com, "A Short Conversation Between Wine Writers About Wine as Art. Or Not." Not all that is created amazes me, but to the extent that the process is creative wine-makers are artists by definition.

Are the folks who create the images hung over hotel beds artists? You may not appreciate their craft, choices, or seek their work, but they create and synthesize which is my definition of art. Let me be clear: the definition of art has nothing to do with critics, but if there are critics judging the style and substance of a thing or the category it's in then the odds are good that somewhere in the mix there's at least some art.

Ah, but what about that mass-produced wine - the cases of yellowtail and similar products cranked out in nearly mind-boggling quantities?

...in the glass of the beholder?
One way to look at this is in comparison to what I'll call bulk art (usually in frames, but there's a certain amount of sculpture, etc., that I'd classify this way, too,) such as you find in hotels, or for sale at department stores and online retailers. Among all that, we must still acknowledge certain pieces widely considered more impressive, or more artistic, reproduced extensively, and sold to appreciative consumers. A postcard-sized rendition of a Monet painting may not do the original justice, but it's art even when and if it appeals to the masses.

Some wine companies are indisputably in the business of replicating a mass-consumed commodity via a less-creative process precisely because their product appeals to many. Is it still art? Is the entrepreneur who guided the growth of a popular wine brand an artist? Is the winemaker striving to maintain a consistent, familiar taste despite the vagaries and variations across vintages less an artist than, say, the potter trying to make a set of cups that match?

The fruit of the winemakers' labor at Kistler, Graziano, Sea Smoke, Banfi, etc., is fine art, more worthy of exploring and savoring in my opinion (and perhaps yours) than bulk wines that may be decent representations of the varietal, yet lack the grace, the subtlety of craft typically imparted to smaller batches by attentive winemakers more focused on the excellence of the finished product than the absolute quantity that will be sent to the markets.
"Art is indeed not the bread but the wine of life."
~Jean Paul Richter
In the end how much wine is - or is not - art cannot be reduced to a "black versus white" sort of yes/no question; the truth spreads along a continuum. The value of art is in the appreciative eye of the beholder. What is created is usually considered "more artful" if it's done in smaller quantites, which by their nature are subject to greater variation. Anything is more likely to be perceived and recognized as art in inverse proportion to the amount it is re-produced; reproduction - in the form of technicians or production lines - distances the original artist from the final product.

Still, like it or not, the products of creative processes are art.

Thomas Hayes is an entrepreneur, former Congressional Campaign Manager, strategist, journalist, and photographer who writes about topics ranging from economics and politics to culture and community.

You can follow him as @kabiu on twitter.

22 February 2011

Are WI Governor's Consequences Really Unintended?

The storyline from Madison has featured everything from pizza for the protesters being ordered and paid for by people in Egypt to revelations about Scott Walker's curious spending decisions to precipitate the "crisis" and State Troopers in search of wayward state Senators. There are countless pictures, inflammatory comparisons between Walker and Hosni Mubarak, videos of members of the Firefighters Union, and stories of infiltrators hoping to discredit the participants. The eyes of the nation are on the struggle in Wisconsin, even as similar events unfold in other state capitols.

Leaving the children behind
But what about tomorrow's teachers? What about those dedicated young men and women just launching their careers, the ones who are student teachers right now? Why would any recent college graduate want to go into teaching now, particularly in a state that might defund pension plans and/or remove collective bargaining rights from public employees? Teaching has never been the way to get rich quick: it's a path rife with long hours, low pay, and in most cases even shelling out your own cash to provide classroom supplies.

GOP abandons NCLB?
Unlike the 5 states that don't allow collective bargaining for public employees, Wisconsin has historically turned out very accomplished, academically superior students, at least as measured by SAT/ACT scores. Sure, the students obviously get a lot of credit, but they're blessed by excellent school systems and teachers, too. Wisconsin has created a great education system, but Scott Walker has new priorities, and new spending plans, and his values clearly don't include looking out for children.

If, somehow, Wisconsin's new Governor pulls off this rollback of not just salaries and pensions but even the right of teachers and firefighters to rely on unions to negotiate for them, where will he find the next generation of public servants?

There are more creative ways to plug budget gaps; Scott Walker is steadfastly refusing to negotiate, holding the future of the children of Wisconsin hostage and threatening the standard of living of his entire state.

Two questions:
Just who is Governor Scott Walker really representing?

What would Laura Bush say?
“The question we must answer now is how do we nurture the development of the next generation...

The answer begins with education.

...Educated children grow up to be adults who have more opportunities to work, to support their families, and to fully participate in the life of their communities.”

Former First Lady Laura Bush

Let's not settle for ruining education and public service jobs in a rush to adjust spending priorities. We can do better than that. We are better than that.

Thomas Hayes is an entrepreneur, former Congressional Campaign Manager, strategist, journalist, and photographer who writes about topics ranging from economics and politics to culture and community.
You can follow him as @kabiu on twitter.