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GP7Jul04: Demonizing Yesterdays; In Praise of Corks

Upended.  On July 3, 17-year old, blonde and smashing Masha Sharapova trounced Serena Williams to take the women’s title at Wimbledon.  Wasn’t it just yesterday that the Williams sisters ruled all of tennis?  No more.  All of a sudden, women’s tennis is in the limelight, the men are in the shadows, and we have a new, radiant princess. 

For the Fourth of July, old world Greece, soon to be home of the Olympics, showed that it could recall its own victorious ancestry, surprising all of Europe by edging out Portugal in the Euro 2004 soccer championship.  More and more, in all sorts of competitions (not just athletics), the kings and queens of sport have been thrust to the sidelines, and somebody from out of left field is stealing the crown. 

Passé.  All about us, the mighty have fallen.  Careers we thought to be on the rise are no longer Topic A, as new, instant icons take over the stage.  In our culture of obsolescence, nothing is allowed to last for long, because the shelves must be cleared to make way for something equally transitory.  We have invited Miss Hancock, the pseudonym of our twenty something bloggist from the far reaches of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, way out past Ted Kennedy’s Chappaquidick, to tell us what’s in and what’s out. 

Watch out, Tina Brown, you’re becoming old hat, as Miss Hancock shows us the way.  Little did we know, for instance, that Burberry (miraculously revived by America’s Rose Marie Bravo, out of Saks Fifth Avenue, and Christopher Bailey, her design chief who is sort of a Tom Ford knockoff) is already over the hill.  Nor that Bill Clinton appealed to young America, while unwittingly helping middle-aged Republicans.  Nor that Graham Norton, who just did his first show on American cable, was already a made man.  Miss Hancock reports: 

Burberry: The New Fashion Faux Pas?  June 28, 2004 11:29 a.m.
Burberry dog beds, cell phone cases, and umbrellas….  When did Burberry become so prevalent in our society?  Maybe about the time when knockoffs began appearing in Wal-Mart.  When a particular product—say UGG boots—becomes popular, an over-saturation of said product quickly occurs and destroys the initial allure.  Frankly, pink UGGs just aren’t fun anymore when you can get knockoffs at the discount shoe store.  Some of the magic is gone.  In one episode of “Sex and the City,” Carrie Bradshaw can’t fall in love with a fake Fendi bag.  I completely understand. However, for some reason, I haven’t stopped buying knock-off Kate Spades in Soho, nor have I stopped wearing my fake Burberry scarf (bought in Paris at roughly the equivalent of 5 US dollars).  Maybe knockoffs ain’t all bad.  After all, it means you can indulge in the latest trend … and then throw it away without a twinge of guilt when it becomes too passé for words.  

Bill is Back June 30, 2004 3:18 p.m.
As the recent release of “My Life” by Bill Clinton has provoked rehashings of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and Whitewater, I wonder if Bill Clinton’s reemergence will help or hurt John Kerry’s chances in November.  It’s nice to have a strong Democrat back on the stage; however this is a Democrat tainted by scandal.  As “The New York Times” recently remarked in a critique of Clinton’s book, voters just may prefer Bush and the absence of “I did not have sex with that woman” speeches. Apparently, Bush still represents so-called family values to many.  

“Fahrenheit 9/11”  July 1, 2004 8:45 p.m.
While I wholeheartedly support the message of “Fahrenheit 9/11,” I wonder if it could have an effect on the presidential election, other than the one Michael Moore is hoping for.  It is undoubtedly a powerful film—One is overwhelmed by the presentation of the oil dealings between the Bush family and the Bin Ladens, by the gruesome footage of bloodied bodies in Iraq, and by priceless clips of Bush not only stumbling over his words, but also fishing and golfing—he had quite a penchant for vacations in the months leading up to September 11th.  Michael Moore deserves major kudos for unearthing dirty little secrets and for such creative visual and musical editing.  However, this film, with its decidedly partisan message, has the unfortunate ability to provoke Republicans to re-elect Bush.  In this day and age, when many accept party ideologies with blind faith, a movie like “Fahrenheit 9/11” could inflame the Right to defend the president’s misguided policies, rather than raise questions. Here’s hoping that this film lights a fire under the battookus of the Democratic party to take back the White House.   

Is America ready for Graham Norton? July 2, 2004 12:40 a.m.
“The Graham Norton Effect” (on Comedy Central) seems decidedly European to me—With its informal game show atmosphere, a techno theme song, naughty content, and a flamboyant host, it is clearly an European import (As a side note, I highly recommend watching European TV—much fun has been had watching an Italian detective show featuring a collie as the hero and the German version of “The Weakest Link” starring drag queens with names like Baby Diamond).  Last night, Norton had guys’ cheeks (not the ones on their faces) decorated to resemble three American icons (Michael Jackson, Pamela Anderson, and Bill Clinton) in honor of the 4th of July.  This talk show is definitely risqué (without being just plain gross) and might just shake up other late night comedians’ routines—Jay Leno and David Letterman are getting pretty stale. 

The Screwtops.  For a blob of a fellow Mr. Moore, who does not do much for us, is doing pretty well.  We suspect he’s sort of a next generation Larry Flynt, and we are busy wondering when he will announce his betrothal to Paris Hilton.  

There’s no accounting for taste.  We are reminded that a taste for the perverse has also crept into the wine establishment, which also has become incredibly trendy.  As you may remember, we have been unwilling to truck with anyone who embraces plastic stoppers for wine or who has gone on to the next fad—screwtops (see our Global Province letter of 9 July 2003, “Unbranding Next? The Rise of the Unlikely” and Global Wit and Worldly Wisdom, item 252).  We have consulted with a Scotsman who knows much about distilling practically everything, and he has some doubts about these new schemes. 

But the screwtop, screw- loose brigade is coming on strong and you can expect to see a lot more of these unseemly plugs in your vintage.  It’s all equivalent to drinking Coke out of cans or plastic containers, when it should only be served in glass bottles.  To wit, we just received this note from a Virginia wine critic, explaining to us why our wine would be infinitely more wonderful if we only would submit to this latest assault on the senses: 

Corks are the last century’s technology.  I don't think corks should be used for wines anymore, period.  But tell that to Chateau Lafite, or to most Burgundy estates, and they look at you like you’re crazy.  It’s not the 4% or 5% or so of obviously corked wines that are the problem for me (although that's bad enough), but the additional 4% or 5% that are less corked.  These wines are not obviously musty, but their aromas are muted, their richness stripped, their finishes dried out. The poor consumer simply thinks that the wine isn’t as good as he remembers it to be.
There are also lots of problems with the various solutions used to treat corks. Burgundy lovers today are finding that one-quarter to one-third of the superb 1996 white Burgundies are oxidizing or completely ruined.  Back then, a chlorine solution used to treat corks (without the growers knowing about it, in some cases) apparently absorbed the free sulfur in the finished bottles very quickly, leaving the wine essentially unprotected against oxidation.  In other words, a wine that would ordinarily have evolved slowly over a period of 12 to 15 years, or more, could have gone through the same evolution in bottle in three or four years. 

We suspect it’s the job of all the experts to sell us on new, bad, screwy ideas that save the mass producers lots of money.  Uncle Frank, a very fine Bordeaux wine merchant, is surely turning over in his grave over this debacle (at least I think he occasionally drank graves).  Well, our admonition to one and all is to put a cork in it.  And we hope you had a glorious Fourth. 

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