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Category Archives: Not wine related

Windows 8 is like a bottle of crappy wine

The Wine Curmudgeon, proving just how fallible he really is, left his computer at home last week during a media tour of the Texas Hill Country. This meant I had to make do with periodic access to a computer, and one of them ran Windows 8.

Is there any way to be polite about this? Nope. Windows 8 is not only bad, but worse than Vista, Millennium, and Windows 98. And I didn’t think anything could be worse than Windows 98. Windows 8 is not only counter-intuitive, even for those of us who are kind of geeky, but slow and crash-y.

Think of Windows 8 as an overpriced bottle of wine that is not only corked, but oxidized. And did I mention that it’s overpriced?

Roger Ebert, 1942-2013

“You have to realize you’re not writing for the filmmakers, you’re writing for the potential film audience. And I would much rather hurt somebody’s feelings who made the picture then send somebody to see a movie and spend two hours of their life seeing a movie that I don’t think is worth seeing.”

                                                                     — Roger Ebert

What better credo could a critic – any kind of critic – live by? Would that more wine writers kept it in mind.

I never met Ebert, though he did decline to write the introduction for my book about the movie “Casablanca,” written for its 50th anniversary. My editor, who knew him a little, thought she could talk him into it, but without success.

I did, however, have a great moment with Gene Siskel, who was Ebert’s original co-host on their TV movie review show. I was a 17-year-old phone clerk in the sports department at a newspaper in suburban Chicago in 1975. One evening, I answered the phone, expecting to talk to a high school basketball coach.

“Is Temple Pouncey there?” Pouncey was one of the writers, and was hosting a party that was legendary at the paper.

“No, he’s not. Can I take a message?”

“Yes, this is Gene Siskel, Can you tell him that I’m coming to the party?”

I almost dropped the phone. Siskel was the film critic at the Chicago Tribune, and this particular 17-year-old phone clerk wanted nothing more than to one day work for a big city newspaper like the Tribune. I idolized reporters the way others did rock stars.

“Yes sir, Mr. Siskel. I’ll give him the message.”

”OK. Now, that’s Gene Siskel,” and then he spelled his name for me, “S-I-S-K-E-L.”

Which is another lesson wine writers should learn – no matter how famous you think you are, you probably aren’t. Humility never goes out of style.

A sip of dandelion wine

Anyone who grew up in the Midwest and cared about books and reading always had Ray Bradbury. He didn’t seem all that different from us – a Chicago-area boy whose books were full of awkward characters who always seemed out of place, and whose places were somehow both familiar and strange. How many 16-year-olds know how that feels?

Bradbury died Tuesday at the age of 91, and if it seems odd to write about him on a wine blog, then it’s no odder than the fireman who started fires in “Fahrenheit 451” or the colonists from Earth who made over Mars in their own horribly flawed image in “The Martian Chronicles.” And “Dandelion Wine” was his autobiographical novel, set in a fictionalized version of Waukegan, Ill., about a half hour from where I grew up and where my mom worked for the school district.

There’s a scene at the end of Fahrenheit, something that’s stuck with me for more than 30 years. The outcasts who took in the fireman return to the society that shunned them after a nuclear attack. “They’ll need us now,” says their leader, and he says it not with revenge, but with grace and redemption and forgiveness. Such is the power of books.

So a glass held high tonight for Ray Bradbury, and let’s all have a sip of dandelion wine.

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