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April 24, 2003

Target market

Hey, we SDSers are apparently at the forefront of a new wine trend. That, or we're the unwitting dupes of clever marketing. Yeah, the wine drinker of the 21st century, as envisioned by today's wine makers and described in today's Wall Street Journal (sorry, you'll need a subscription to actually read this article, but I've saved a copy of it if anyone is interested), is hip, under 35, and willing to pay more than their older, wiser parents for some fermented grape. Well, yeah, so there's a $12 a bottle limit for SDS, but my older and (arguably) wiser father--who is an elitist in his own right, but definitely not in wine consumption--defines "expensive" wine as any juice that requires an implement other than one's bare hand and a paper bag to consume, so in that we're definitely upping the ante on defining an affordable bottle.

Also, according to this article, it seems to be the British and the Australians who are pushing the trend toward marketing wines to a younger crowd. This, of course, leaves me suspicious of the Aussie product manager in our midst who has done so much to introduce at least one cohort of young Seattle imbibers to the vast array of Southeast Australian shirazes.

Well, my concerns that David is a spy for the wine marketing industry aside, it would appear that in addition to drinking more and more expensive wines than our forebears, we junior vinophiles are also eschewing the formality generally associated with wine tasting and consumption. "Other wine groups are eschewing the formal sit-down dinners that have long been the mainstay of building wine cachet and instead staging "wine raves," as well as tastings in trendy nightclubs and bars." Yes, groups such as Wine Brats, a much less evocatively titled wine club than ours, that do something mixing wine tasting with music and fashion are suddenly all the rage.

With apologies to Pete, I'm going to guess that these little wine raves involve quite a bit of swallowing and very little spitting, as well they should. Of course, blogging the tasting process puts us into a whole new realm of bringing elitism and drinking into the brave new world that the marketing department at Jacob's Creek is opening up before us.

Oh, and before I forget! Our ringmaster Jay tasked me earlier this week with creating some sort of rating system for the wines we'll be tasting. I'll solicit comments and objections on the following scoring categories:

  • I should bring this to the next dinner at 843, 233, or 1321.
  • I should bring this to the next dinner party (anywhere else) I'm invited to.
  • I'll keep a bottle of this around for some unexpected company.
  • I'll keep a bottle of this around for pizza and a movie night.
  • I guess Paulette's father would probably drink it.
  • I don't think even Paulette's father could hold this down.

Bash away, my dears.

Taking Back The Streets

I think it is important that in these heightened times of security and defense we, as a people realize that each and every one of us has a duty and a responsibility to this great nation in which we live. It is with this in mind that I feel I must compel my fellow compatriots to take bold action and help the join cause of rising up against tyranny. Am I asking for blatant vigilantism? No, nothing so drastic but, I would like to remind those that think such defeating thoughts as "what difference can I make?" that everyone CAN make a difference. To champion the cause of justice we must remember that if one of us stands up, we must all stand up. I have come across a great site showing just how easy it is to make a difference and to prove that even the meekest of us can indeed protect ourselves, our loved ones, and this great land as it so deserves. If you get a moment, I urge you my friends to stop by and check it out. Thank you. God Bless.

April 23, 2003

"Cellar Marketing LLC"

The CEO of a new client is also working on CellarMarketing.com as something of a hobby. It is not a slick site like Wine.com but I like the approach. Especially interesting is the "wine-tasting assistant" accessible by the left nav; it actually brought up some wines I've enjoyed. As we all look for the wines that will kick ass in SDS competition, this may be a good resource.

Snobs Unite!

Yeah, I suppose it's the Yalie in me coming out--that is, the inherent Yalie, the one who knew she was going to be an Eli from about 3rd grade on--but I really like this article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Some things really are better than others, and if believing that it's just a sin to waste perfectly good calories on say, pasteurized brie or Hershey's chocolate instead of Valrhona, makes me an elitist, then I suppose I'll wear the Scarlet E.

Finally! A source for potted possum sauce!

Actually, if there had been a "spit, don't swallow" category, it would be a lot more appropriate to some of the exhibits in the Potted Meat Museum than "yum" but I work within the constraints I am given. At least it's not nearly as frightening as Pete's hats of meat last week.

Now admittedly, there is a place for potted meat (and saying "potted meat" gives me a weird little pleasure--perhaps something akin to how Perry feels about "toast points"). I mean, we would have no tuna sandwiches without potted meat, and, hmmm...ok, well, maybe that's the only one I can think of that doesn't really spook me. Because, yeah, I'm kinda spooked by beef and iron wine and pork brains with milk gravy. Actually, I'm more than a little spooked by those. Spooked we'll leave to the realm of canned steak and kidney pie, which seems something iffy enough in its fresh form that it really oughtn't to be consumed from a can. I'd say the same goes for turtle soup.

And I'm assuming (or is hoping a more appropriate word here) that the armadillo meat--sundried and road tenderized--is a joke, which is why it's listed under "exotic and other." Now there's a category for you! Jay, can we add that one to nonfamous, for newsbits that just don't work in any of the other established genres?

April 16, 2003

North Korea's "Dear Leader" peeing his pants

I hate to sound like the characteristic triumphal American, but this article in The Economist nicely sums up the way that victory in Iraq has changed Kim Jong Il's tune. This guy is pretty much Dr. Evil on crack, and a far worse dictator than Saddam Hussein ever thought of being, but he's not stupid. He had been saying that Iraq's example proved the North Korea needed military might to resist the US; now he seems to realize that his many statues might not be safe if the US decided to turn up the heat under his starving population.

Having previously insisted on one-on-one talks with the U.S., he's now happy to talk with anyone and everyone-- including his neighbors, whom Washington wisely insists must be part of any deal. Bush came really close to setting off a serious conflict with his bellicose talk that left Kim with little room to save face. But now that it's apparent to him and everyone else that it's saving his ass that he should worry about, the outlook for a halt on NK's dangerous nuclear program looks much better.

A small victory for the environment

Anyone who can advance the cause of cleaner air from within the Bush administration deserves a little respect. As the NYT lauds today, Christie Todd Whitman achieved One Huge Step for Cleaner Air by toughening the rules on diesel emissions. This includes "non-road" equipment used in construction and farming. The regulations, when fully in place, will reduce these emissions by 90%. So we can all breathe easier-- somewhat comforted by the knowledge that not everyone in the Administration is willing to gut the planet for the sake of Q3 earnings.

April 15, 2003

"illegal art"

I found the illegal-art.org site as I was researching the Puma thing (and it was billable). The site is good, but it's pop-up EULA is freaking brilliant!

"performance sneakers" and the sub-viral revolution

We're all over viral marketing. So now there's "sub-viral marketing." Companies take an ad concept that is on-brand but off-color and leak it out anonymously onto the Web. The rougher the take, the bigger the hit. This practice evolved from the DIY hacks of ubiquitous campaigns like Mastercard's "priceless." Yeah, we've all seen those spoofs of someone's party pic with a rude caption.

Where these two trends collide, there is a lot of room for companies to make a big splash for cheap and still defend the chastity of their brands-- "Why, we'd never do that-- shame on you for thinking we would!" The latest, and possibly greatest Brand That Doth Protest Too Much is Puma.

To wit, Rob Walker's SlateAd Report Card on a naughty JPEG that looks awfully well-produced. You can (at the moment) see the ads here, but Puma's lawyers have been sending cease-and-desist letters to bloggers the world round--and funny enough, that means that everybody knows about it now.

The Guardian had this great piece last year on the "sub-viral" phenom; a UK "viral site" features this much more graphic "Levis" add that gives new meaning to "do-it-yourself"--and much, more more content of suspicious provenance.

This is one of the most interesting areas of mutant marketing, and it just goes to show how right Foucault was: the author is dead. But we've all downloaded his latest Photoshop text.

Grade-A Weird

This just in, from our exclusive correspondent Pete: Hats of Meat.

April 14, 2003

So proud of my Pulitzer pal

My freshman year resident advisor from Yale has just won a Pulitzer for her study of genocide, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. Marti called last week to tell me the news and The Judy tipped me off about this great USA Todayinterview. As you can see from the picture, she is as brilliant as she is gorgeous.

For those of you well-versed in my Yale misadventures, this is the very same RA who (with the help of smelly suitemate Ben) half-dragged me to undergraduate health after my very first weekend at Yale erupted into something dangerously close to alcohol poisoning. (This is a longer story that probably merits its own post, as it was not altogether my fault and, in retrospect, a pretty hilarious affair.)

But anyway, I'm so proud. I have been meaning to buy this book--I mean, 384 pp. on genocide will make you want to drink Hull Clean, no doubt--and now I'm gonna.

"The self-healing minefield"

DARPA, the people who thought up the Internet back in the '60s, have a new network they'd like you to know about: the "Self-Healing Minefield". Follow the link for a great Flash animation of what this means. The Register has this helpful story about the development, which is both more and less sinister than it sounds.

As it turns out, these are anti-tank mines, far less hated then anti-personnel mines by anti-mine activists worldwide. Anti-tank mines only trigger when a tank-- not a 5-year-old years after the conflict-- trips its trigger.

The self-healing bit is cool, but somehow terrifying: if the minefield is breached (i.e., a passable lane is created) the networked mines actually "hop" to new positions using rocket thrusters. In tech speak, the minefield "self-reconfigures on the fly and in real-time." IBM talks a lot about "self-healing computers" that fix their own bugs, but somehow these mines make me think of Terminator, with its warning about the day the computers wake up and decide to reconfigure humans out of the pictures.

she bop

Says Wired News: "Giving new meaning to the term phone sex, a British company is selling software that transforms a cell phone into a sex toy."

I hate to tell some of you it's not yet available here in the States.

April 11, 2003

Apple to buy Universal Music?

OK, so this is a weird story made more weird by the Google translation of this story from Der Spiegel: Purchase mood: Apple obviously offers for universal Music - economics - MIRROR ON-line ONE. I suppose I could have read the LA Times story that Slashdot linked to, but I didn't want to register.

I have followed Apple for a long time, and I can honestly say that if this is true it is the most surprising development in their business plans for a long time, maybe ever. In Jobs I trust, but not without scratching my head.

April 09, 2003

"Why wine costs what it does"

The NYT has an article this morning with the very straightforward headline Why Wine Costs What It Does. I've obviously been thinking about this a lot as I wonder just how much our little wine club might costs.

To that end, here is a good guideline:

Quality and perception are hard to separate. "You can get a really great bottle of wine for $40," Mr. Motto said. "Beyond that, it's something that depends on how discriminating you are, how important it is to your life, how much you can afford."

I'm going to suggest that we focus on wines under $20, and maybe do an occassional "splurge night" where we spend up to $40. Does that sound reasonable, or is all of this just completely outrageous in a world where children are starving?

April 08, 2003

Still waiting for Gaultier...

...but this stylish tie is a great start! I'm going to start wearing my "Freedom to Breath Safe Clothing" silk necktie with medical filtration fabric every day!!! I know all my ladyfriends will want the silk scarf variety for their own fashionalbe protection.

As the website says:


These products are unique because they are worn as fashionable clothing accessories such as scarves, ties, and other items until such time as the wearer finds themselves in an unusual situation where they fear for their safety. The clothing item can then be placed on their airway as a filtration device. The lingering image of people covering their airways with their clothing as they fled the World Trade Center is etched in all of our memories. The concern exists that bioterrorism or “dirty bombs” will spread radioactive dust and bacteria which will put our breathing and health at risk.

The ties and scarves are just $40 and available in red, blue, gold, and black. And my, aren't those models attractive people-- secure in the purity of their respiration!

Leading us to wine, and making us drink

Yes, Paulette let the cat out of the erstwhile bag with her mention of "Swallow Don't Spit," our new wine club. Our motto: "Tastes good going down." Whatever serious oenophiles suggest, we think it would be a sin just to taste and wine and then spit it out. To the dregs, baby! And then there's the bad-taste joy of the double entrendre--we can never pass that up.

It turns out that a lot of Americans do pass up the joy of the grape. I always knew we Yanks were behind the game, but until today I did not know how far. My new boss handed me a copy of Wine Enthusiast today, to (I'm not joking) research a possible pitch to a major wine and spirits conglomerate, and you can imagine my surprise to read in this article that there are only 19 million US once-a-week-plus wine drinkers. Per capita consumption is only 10 bottles a year, compared with 23 in the UK and 76 in France. Understandably, these businesses consider the US a major growth market, if only they can unleash some fairly seismic cultural shifts in our appreciation of that most varied and storied of all the alcohols (taking a page, no doubt, from the astounding creation of the "A Diamond is Forever" myth in the 1930s). [Thanks to David for the Atlantic link.]

It's a great article about the ways that winemakers have gotten savvy to branding as the best way to increase consumption and revenues. One of the biggest needs is to make wine more approachable to us Americans, given our natively democratic mistrust of frequently effette wine culture. (Translation: we're provincial hicks scared of foreign words.) One expert quoted says that US consumers want wine to be "fun, to be approachable, less of an intimidating beverage."

We at Swallow Don't Spit aren't intimidated by much of anything, and consider pretty much anything this side of Finnegan's Wake as approachable, but we will cop to wanting to up the fun factor. This will be no Frazier-esque Seattle salon des vins. We are re-writing the rules, and working on that per capita consumption at the same time. Maybe we can even turn our approach into a profitable marketing strategy for Wine Inc.

So when IS this first bacchanal going to happen? Paulette and I will have to take this one offline and figure something out. We'll keep you posted.

Oh my, what a large bouquet you have

In honor of the upcoming inauguration of Swallow Don't Spit's monthly or bimonthly (Have we decided this one? Maybe it should be scheduled to coincide with phases of the moon or meetings of the Federal Reserve Board), I thought we could all use a little primer in describing i vini that will be the focal point of these events.

April 07, 2003

Birthdaze

Well, Friday night was fun. And so was Saturday. I'm now 30, Pete's 29, and the scandalous photos are all here at Aries Convergence.

April 04, 2003

Great PR charicature

Christopher Guest is at it again. The This is Spinal Tap and Best in Show auteur is at it again with A Mighty Wind. Click on "He'll make it a fire" for a great skewering of my new industry.

"Les masques SRAS"

"I want the one by Gaultier, in patent leather!"

Yes, the ticket agents at Charles de Gaulle have donned masks to ward off SARS, according to this report by the BBC. I have to say, probably not a bad idea, especially if you are a French wuss. No, seriously. Let's stop this thing. But wouldn't it make more sense for all the passengers to wear masks? They already give out eye masks for long flights... why don't we just go the full balaclava route. Oh, wait, those are for highjackers.

Le Figaro has an even more interesting story about the growing panic in Canada, which we're hearing almost nothing about thanks to the war. Of course that article is in French. Here's one from the Toronto Star that makes the Canadians sound (predictably) less panicked than the French make them out to be.

April 02, 2003

My desert-island all time top five presidential candidates

One of the best lines in Nick Hornby's High Fidelity is about how Rob, Hornby's avatar in the story, had determined some years ago that it wasn't so much what you were like that mattered, but what you like. To wit, you could judge a person by their musical taste well before you had to waste a lot of time getting to know them, only to find out they were the sort of dullard whose musical knowledge extended only as far back as Britney Spears' second top-ten single. He eventually recants this particular belief, realizing that there are people out there worth knowing who still have Spandau Ballet tapes in their actively played collection.

Now, I will freely admit I do it, too ("Hi, I'm Paulette...Oh, you want to see Swimfan again? Right. I'll be going over there now.") but that's because I'm a snob. I have also grudgingly admitted in the past that I don't have to give up all hope when someone tells me they don't get the Flaming Lips or that they really loved the last John Grisham novel. I just need to spend a little time educating them or steering them to other, less personally painful topics.

But the fact is that we are a nation that judges people on what they like, rather than what they are like, especially when it comes to competitions such as elections where it would be infinitely too difficult to spend time understanding the candidates' history and attitudes vis-a-vis the important issues of the day. But we can fool ourselves into believing that we have developed a keener understanding of them by judging their qualifications to lead us based on our interpretations of their preferences for certain important things such as boxers or briefs. Or, as Brent Kandall points out in Washington Monthly, on their stated choices of reading material.

Of course the candidates all know that we judge them based on what they say they like to read, so they try to come up with answers that convey the image they want us to have of them, thus rendering the entire cleverness of judging them on their tastes pointless because, well, stated preferences and actual preferences frequently bear little resemblance to one another. ("Uhm, yeah, my favorite movie was The Seven Samurai. No, I don't have a copy of it on DVD. Oh, yeah, I don't know how all those Adam Sandler movies got on that shelf there.")

So, perhaps we need to make this whole judging by preference thing a more sophisticated science. Rather than ask a question or two about prefereces, we need to confront them with a battery of carefully chosen preference questions and then look at their answers on the whole and have some statistically-minded (David?) folks cross-reference the answers and tell us how to interpret what the candidates actually like versus what they would like us to think they like.

I guess I'm envisioning something not unlike a dating questionnaire (uhm, not that I would actually know first hand what a dating questionnaire would look like, but you know, think of it as an educated guess) with questions about their favorite books, movies, songs, wines, whether they eat raw oysters and veal, five things they'd have to have with them if stranded on a desert island, and maybe something about what we'd find in their desk drawer. I don't feel much of a need to know the answer to the boxer or brief question, and frankly, for the most part, I'd really prefer not to know. Those are mental images I could do without. But maybe we could ask them their idea of the perfect Friday night and like, a sentence to complete, maybe along the lines of "[blank] is good for the economy; [blank] is even better for the economy."

Surely we can outinterpret them that way and best make our determination of the perfect candidate, no?

April 01, 2003

SARS gets closer

According to this article in the New York Times, a flight from Tokyo to San Jose was quarantined on the runway after 4 onboard complained of SARS-like symptoms. Oddly enough, only the 4 were kept for observation; you would think at least their seatmates might have been kept around for a few days as nobody really knows how easy it is to transmit. Other passengers were given information and told to contact their doctors if they experienced symptoms.

I'm wondering what David makes of this chart accompanying the story. It would be nice if the little dots could indicate who among the infected died.

It would also be nice if China would give the rest of the world the information about the epidemic they've been sitting on since January!


Get Ready America

Since we're at Orange Alert: please, please be sure to check out these handy pictograms from the Department of Homeland Security, indicating what to do in the event of a biological, nuclear, or other terrorist attack. You can never be too careful.