Gareth Edwards and the Court of Master Sommeliers

Sounds like a Harry Potter novel.

But in actual fact it is my next, and what I feel, the greatest challenge. One that I expect to take between 5 to 10 years to achieve.

“What?” I hear you ask, “Are you heading off to Hogwarts?”

No, dear reader. It is nothing as simple as that.

I have a goal to become a Master Sommelier. It’s known as the toughest test in the world – it’s easier to become a brain surgeon. Check out the movie “Somm”, to understand what a Master Sommelier is if you are too lazy to continue reading.

1

 

I don’t actually intend to be employed as a Sommelier, this is simply a challenge I’ve set for myself, in line with my love and appreciation of fine wine. A bucket list item, if you will. Or perhaps a “spittoon list”, so as to keep on trend.

somm-movie1

The Court of Master Sommeliers was established to “encourage improved standards of beverage knowledge and service in hotels and restaurants”. Since 1977, the Court of Master Sommeliers has been widely regarded as the premier international examining body.

There are four examination stages to attain the top qualifications of Master Sommelier:

  • Level I is the Introductory Course and Exam
  • Level II is the Certified Sommelier Exam
  • Level III is the Advanced Sommelier Course and Exam.
  • Level IV is the pièce de résistance – The Master Sommelier Diploma Exam.

Each level must be successfully completed before attempting the next. Since 1977, only 219 candidates have earned the Master Sommelier Diploma. I intend to be number 250-ish. I believe there are fewer than 5 that were born in Australia. I would very much like to be a “single digit”.

The final Master Sommelier Diploma exam is broken down into three main sections: Theory, Service and Blind Tasting.

You might pass the first two, only to stumble on the third, which means returning a year later to be re-tested on the missed section. You have three years to pass all three parts. If you don’t succeed within three years you have to start over again with all three sections. Apparently you need to achieve 75% or higher to pass each section. Where I will likely struggle, is the service component, ostensibly due to my well-known, and well-held hatred of people. The Court of Master Sommelier’s mantra is “Integrity, Hospitality, Humility”. If I can fake that, I’ll be sitting pretty…

I know you’re thinking to yourself “surely this can’t be too hard”. I assure you, it is no walk in the park.

In terms of theory, it’s not just enough to know every wine region, village and district in the world. You also need to know which years were better than others for each region. The blind tasting of six wines requires not only identifying the grape varietal, but the region it came from and the year it was made. So basically, you need to know 400,000+ wines by TASTE and SMELL! During the service portion you also have to recall facts about sake, spirits, distilling methods, aperitifs – and of course ideal food pairings.

While this may sound daunting to your average punter, I really dig this shit, so I am confident I will enjoy the study component. While “hitting the books” is a common study term, it is rare in academic circles to sanction “hitting the bottle”. I look forward to undertaking extensive field work, although I may need to carry a Dictaphone with me at all times and make observations as I go, because I daresay there is a high chance that any key learnings could easily be lost in a post-study stupor.

I also relish the chance to own a tastevin – a “tasse de dégustation”, or “tasting cup” if you will.

2

 

I may never use it, but it will allow me to reach Level 7 Nerd. I intend to wear it on a silver chain around my neck, Snoop Doggy-style. Wait. That didn’t come out quite right…

Until then good people, I welcome the opportunity for you to join me as study buddies. Only one caveat.

Must like wine.

Something’s Missing, In My Life…

Maybe it’s you?

Nah, you’re still here, so it can’t be that.

I was hit by a pang of nostalgia this week. And it started with Perkins Paste.

Perkins Paste was a product I used during my childhood. I don’t know why it popped into my head, but I started wondering why I hadn’t seen it around lately.

Looking into it got me thinking about other things that had been prevalent in my youth, but had disappeared from popular use in ensuing years (ok, ok, decades) for a plethora of reasons – many of which are self-evident.

Let’s start with the catalyst for this nostalgia:

 

Perkins Paste

The spreadable, edible, craft glue. How I miss you.

12

 

The “original” cut-and-paste function, “Perkins Paste” was the classier (and more palatable) alternative to the watery “Clag Glue” used in paper craft during my early school years.

Perkins Paste was far superior to Clag, both in taste, texture, and adhesive abilities. Perkins Paste was made from boiled potato dextrin, was fast drying and had a plastic spatula built into the lid for ease of application (and consumption).

Clag was made from wheat starch dissolved in water – and it retained that wateriness. It warped the paper and it smudged the ink. Perkins did neither of those things.

Yet despite its iconic status, Perkins Paste was sadly ousted from the market with the advent of glue sticks. Somehow, Clag survived, to the detriment of today’s children’s palates and craftwork.

 

Overhead Projectors

Forget Powerpoint presentations. Forget slideshows. Forget interactive whiteboards.

For most of my early schooling teachers used overhead projectors. Ol’ Teach used to handwrite the class notes on a series of clear, overhead transparency sheets, continuously replacing each sheet on the projector as the lesson went on (in lieu of today’s simple click of a laser pointer). It was always a challenge for the teacher to keep the stack in order.

It would also be a challenge for the teacher to prevent us from sneaking in a strategic “dick-’n-balls” halfway through his lesson stack. It’s much more difficult to infiltrate a PowerPoint presentation.

3

 

But oh how we’d laugh.

And oh how we’d get caned…

But it was totally worth it. “Where’s Willy” was the highlight of our week.

 

Spokey Dokeys

Spokey Dokeys were little multi-coloured plastic beads that clipped onto your bicycle wheel spokes. They didn’t really do much at high speed except provide a blur of colour, but at lower speeds they used to slide up and down the shaft (that’s what she said) and make a clacking noise.

4

 

The glow-in-the-dark ones used to make my 12-speed arc up like I was in Tron…

5

 

I think you can still get them, but sadly you don’t see them around much anymore.

 

Tab Cola and Mello Yellow

When Diet Coke hit Australian shores in the early 80’s, it pretty much smashed Tab out of the market.  And Mello Yellow lost its battle with the creatively upcycled horse urine that is Mountain Dew, and was reinvented as the uninspiring, and uni-citrus “Lift Lemon”.

Tab not only launched the career of a young Elle Macpherson, but also launched the ice bucket challenge, if this 1982 commercial is anything to go by:

6

And Alex Wileman, the bouffant, blonde beauty in this early 80’s Australian Mello Yellow commercial is now spruiking incontinence pads:

7

 

I think the key learning here is that too much Mello Yellow leads to urinary leakage.

“Look out mouth, watch out thirst. This second Mello Yellow will cause my bladder to burst”.

You really should have stopped after the first, Alex.

But despite all that, it would appear that both products are good for your physique. They’re both in their 50’s, but Elle and Alex still have it.

89

 

Sadly however, aside from a few short, sentimental re-runs, neither Tab nor Mello Yellow have been readily available in Australia since the 80’s and 90’s. *wistful sigh*

 

Troll dolls

Those little naked, fluorescent-haired, demon-eyed bastards. They were everywhere when I was a kid. The only trolls I encounter now, are the ones flaming on online forums.

10

 

I miss the former ones. They remind me of the Olsen twins, when they were toddlers on Full House. Man they were creepy lookin’ kids.

11

 

I don’t rightly recall what the point of Trolls Dolls was – they never had any particular storyline attached to them – unlike my mighty Smurfs.  But for a time, I could always recall seeing them on bookshelves, or on people’s dashboards, or keyrings.  And a part of me misses them.

 

Hypercolor T-Shirts

Now that was a passing fad.  The amazing material that changed colour with heat.

Remember its sexual assault inducing catchphrase?

12

 

13

 

It was pretty cool at the time, but I do remember it disconcertingly highlighted to the casual observer, just how much my armpit temperature differed from that of my chest.

It was a fleeting phenomenon though. Amazingly, they sold over $50M in product in the first 3 months.

Sadly though, after just a handful of washes, the magic powers faded and the shirt froze permanently into a mushy purply-brown.

And that, as they say, was that.

 

Music Cassette Tapes

Well, I don’t really miss them in the literal sense, but I do feel nostalgic about them. The first cassette tape I can recall purchasing was Savage Garden. Man, I so used to rock.

14

 

While the logistics of finding a song on a cassette tape was based upon precision guesswork, it was the technology of the time – and you made do with what you had.

But the thing I miss most about cassettes, is making Mixed Tapes. Sure, you can make a playlist. But you can’t gift a playlist to the potential love of your life, entitled “Roadtrip to my Heart” on your iPhone.

What if you never got it back? *shudders*

15

 

The Calculator Watch

While my fat fingers would struggle nowadays, I used to be the coolest nerd on the block, rocking my sweet Casio Databank Calculator Watch – the one with the pushbutton “Illuminator” function.

16

 

Go on, laugh you ignoramuses. Would you laugh at Walter White?!

17

 

Or Marty McFly?!

19

 

I rest my case.

Truthfully, back when I was at school it was the Rolls Royce of watches, and a high status symbol.  At least for a year or so.  Fads were fleeting in the 80’s.  “Bros”, “Tiffany” and “Milli Vanilli” will vouch for that.

Having a calculator watch really was akin to having the first-release iPhone.  Admittedly, I used it for little more than telling the time, and typing “5318008” for shits and giggles – but I was revered as a god by my Grade 4 peers. Not “The” God, but I was up there.

 

Speak and Spell

The original Speak and Spell was ostensibly a hand-held learning tool.  Effectively it was the first handheld computer.  Games inserted via cartridges provided different learning activities.

20

 

I must say I’m impressed with Nerd #3’s ability to sustain a mid-abdomen Harry Highpants without a belt. That’s a nerd god right there. It would also appear that James Franco has access to a time machine…

The Speak and Spell pretty much fizzled out by the 90’s, but I am however buoyed to report, that a Speak and Spell App exists, so its legacy lives on.

 

“Girlfriend”

The Aussie Girl Group “Girlfriend” was the first ever concert I attended. It was 1993, and Gaz was a pimply, testosterone-fuelled, twelve-year-old.

I don’t think it had much to do with the music. It was pretty awful. But I had a massive crush on Melanie Alexander.

21

 

Incidentally, she still rocks it.  Pimply Gaz had mad foresight…

22

 

 

“Alex Kidd”

Aaah, Alex Kidd. My first foray into video games. I had the classic Sega Master System II with the game in-built.

2324

 

Alex Kidd was a platform-based game, where you collect magical artifacts, medallions and “Baums” (Miracle Word’s equivalent to Bitcoins) while trying to locate and trounce the usurper, Janken the Great and his minions.

Alex was “Shellcore” trained, a technique which allowed him to alter the size and toughness of his hands – which explains his hamfistedness. It was pretty much the precursor to future platform games, and as a kid, it was pretty addictive.

By 1990 though, Sonic the Hedgehog took over Sega’s mantle, and Alex Kidd pretty much faded away into oblivion.

So anyway, that’s a snapshot of some of the things I miss from a child who spent his formative years growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I’m pretty sure I’ve missed some obvious ones, so if you think of any more, hit me up.

And before you start, no, I don’t miss fucking Pogs! I’m not some kind of Millhouse nerdlinger…

25

The Right to Arm Bears

Sorry “hunters”, but I’m going to have to support the animals on this one.

Trophy hunters really get my goat. Indeed they probably would be itching to get my goat, if I was speaking literally*, and not figuratively.

Every year, trophy hunters kill thousands of magnificent, exotic wild animals, representing hundreds of different species, in a host of countries. Trophy hunters most often prefer to kill the most beautiful, the largest, and the rarest of animals.

They also call it “Sport”. Calling such a lop-sided endeavour “Sport”, is akin to playing a 5-year old at tennis. No one is buying it, and you just come off as a massive wanker.

Look, it might classify as “Sport” if you were both equally equipped. And no, you can’t tie a rifle to a zebra’s back and call it evens. Mano a mano. Or mano a los dientes, if I had my way.

“Myth of Conservation”

Proponents of trophy hunting consistently argue that the revenues raised from trophy hunting in poorer countries supports conservation. Yes, good reader. Hunters actually claim they are conservationists. The irony is as thick as their skulls.

“Killing for conservation” is akin to “fighting for peace” or “fucking for virginity”…

The reality is very little, if any, of the revenue generated from hunting goes towards preservation.

Eco-tourism on the other hand, where visitors observe and photograph animals in their natural habitat, does help conservation.

So which is better? The answer would appear obvious, but let’s do some simple math. Oh, stop groaning. I’ll do the math. You kick back and hum “The Old Grey Mare” until I’m done.

Let’s do the exercise based upon lions. On average, a lion kill brings in around $15,000 to the organisers.   That’s one visitor, one lion, and one singular injection of tourist dollars. Don’t get me wrong, this is significant income in a poor nation. But you’re left with a dead lion at the end of the deal.

In national parks, a single maned lion generates on average over $350,000 PER ANNUM through photographic tourism. And their average life expectancy in the wild is 10-15 years. That’s over $3.5M during its life span.

So although hunters pay quite large sums relative to the local economy, ordinary tourists are much more numerous, and not only do they inject much more into the economy, they provide revenues straight into the horse’s mouth. Or in this case lion’s mouth, because the proceeds go directly towards conservation parks.

Blood-hungry hunters can shoot an animal only once, but photo-hungry tourists can shoot it a thousand times and the animal is still there for the next group.

$15,000 vs $3.5M. Hmmm. Which is better… Which is better…

1

Serial “Conservationist” – Melissa Bachman

“Canned Hunting”

Because the numbers of lions in the wild are dwindling at such an alarming rate (an estimated 75% decrease in population in two decades), “Game Farms” in South Africa have sprouted to meet the demand of trophy hunters determined to “bag a lion”. Sadly, this is a legal practice in South Africa, and it generates a sizeable income for farm owners. Virtually none of the money generated goes towards conservation, despite shameless promotion to the contrary.

So what is “Canned Hunting”? There’s no dressing it up. Lions are bred and kept in captivity, and tourists are encouraged to visit and pet them when they are young cubs (more income on a pay-per-pat basis). When the lions are in their prime, a “hunt” is arranged in a confined area. The unsuspecting lion is released and can then be easily shot and killed, in some cases from the safety of a vehicle.

Incidentally, the magnificent male lion in the photo above was bravely killed by Melissa Bachman by way of canned hunting. Tally ho! How sporting!

Why am I hating on Melissa Bachman so much?

After completing her canned lion hunt in South Africa, she drew attention to herself by boasting about her kills on Twitter and Facebook. She wrote: “An incredible day hunting in South Africa! Stalked inside 60 yards on this beautiful male lion… what a hunt!” The words were accompanied by the photograph of a beaming Bachman posing next to the dead animal. Her apparent joy in killing the magnificent, and ostensibly defenceless lion sparked outrage in South Africa and all over the world.

Canned hunt. Take out the “anned h”, and you’ll glean my thoughts on the likes of Melissa Bachman…!!

Admittedly, social media abhorrence did go a little too far, when there was internet furore over this photo:

2

But it did spur a pretty awesome meme, so the Triceratops’s death wasn’t entirely in vain…

345

 

Trophy hunters’ desire to kill the biggest and strongest is also affecting natural selection. Some scientists say that systematically hunting of the most mature members of an animal population can adversely affect its gene pool. This will reduce the average size of future generations and threaten the ability of the species to thrive in its habitat. It is claimed that human hunting over many years has gradually diminished the size of the Kodiak bears of Alaska. I fail to see how this is a good thing, unless you’re a dweeby, socially-awkward Kodiak Bear…

But seriously hunters, if you desire a thrill from tracking an animal through the wilderness, sneaking up on it and pressing your finger – buy a fucking camera.

If your lust for killing leaves you unsatisfied with this, then I have one last suggestion that at least offers a more level playing field. Let’s call it, I don’t know… “The Hunter Games”. 24 hunters enter an arena, and, well, you get the picture…

* Gen Y take note…

Is Facebook Listening…?

… I mean to their users feedback, and not through the microphone!?

Facebook users, and mainstream media have been in a frenzy in the last few days about the Messenger product being separated, and the ridiculous and scary terms of service that surround them. It must be a big issue, as my rant on this yesterday has had over 75,000 views until now.

I uninstalled Messenger yesterday, and since then if I got a Facebook message, I’d have to view it on PC (unless I reinstalled Messenger).

Well that was, until an hour or so ago. Now the Facbook iPhone app has the messaging built in again, without the dependency on the Messenger app! Woot woot!

Seems Facebook are rolling back the dependency (on server side)? Well they have for me and some friends I checked with. I am guessing if you remove Messenger, then messages will work inside the Facebook app again.

But what is this mysterious removal all about? Can we trust what’s going on here? No statement, or apology, or anything official to address the decisions made. Is this one just being swept under Gonzo’s rug?

I fear now that Facebook are going to to be more sneaky about permissions in apps and their terms of service agreements. I fear it will be like someone trying to cut your exceptional Cab Sauv with some Merlot. You might fool some, but not those who know better! Are Facebook assuming the world cannot taste their bullshit 2013 Merlot from Asshat Valley?

Facebook, we DEMAND to see the bottle!!

But even without a peep from Facebook, after yesterday’s rant, I am definitely happy to chalk this one up as a victory. Facebook, you get a space on my Gonzo trophy wall.

Anyone else want to fuck with us* this weekend?

*us, being me, and this weekend’s motivational coach to bring forward these injustices to the interwebs, Jodi Wieland.

Zuckerberg, You’re a Gonzo!

Seriously – Facebook’s decision to have a separate annoying application for Messenger, puts them right up there in the total cabbage category!

Switching between Facebook and Messenger apps has tilted me to no end, so much so, that it’s the end of Messenger for me on iPhone. If you want to message me on Facebook with blah blah drivel – rather than something email or iMessage worthy, then you’ll have to wait until I am at my MacBook. I am not putting up with this shit application from Facebook.

I call for an uprising from us 1,000,000,000 mere mortals that have installed this P.O.S. app (unwillingly in the most part)! (and I am not exaggerating on the number).

To make this situation even worse, it has recently been brought to my attention of what was in the terms and conditions we systematically agreed to by allowing the app to be installed. I actually think Apple is partly responsible for allowing these terms to make it through their App-Review process!

So here we go, look at this summary of some of the terms of installing Messenger and explanations of what they could mean. I pulled these from across a few sources on the internet as I am don’t have time to read all of it myself, but according to my quick skim, is alarmingly accurate. It’s a big bag of scary bullshit;

–       You are giving permission for Messenger to call phone numbers and send text (SMS messages); So if they want to, they can send messages and call people on your behalf. Oh that seems reasonable? WTF?!

–       You are giving permission for Messenger to record sound, take videos and take photos at ANY time; Let that sink in. You are agreeing for them to use your phones microphone or camera to listen and see whatever they want. Now who knows if there is actual any intention here of doing anything but providing the services we are expecting to see – but, this is scary stuff. Why write it this way rather than as specifics to what the applications need?

–       You are giving permission for Messenger to change the state of network connectivity; This one means that Facebook can change from Wifi to 4G/LTE at it’s discretion. I guess this one is legitimate reason of making sure that connectivity is good – BUT – if that’s something you want to agree to, it should be an APPLE option in your phone. I actually wonder if Apple actually do give Facebook (and other developers) the technical ability to do this, or if its just lawyer overkill.

–       You are giving permission for Messenger to read your phone call log, including all meta-data associated with at like who you call and how often; OMFG – so now we let them know who we communicate with outside the Facebook platforms?

–       You are giving permission for Messenger and Facebook to access a list of whatever other apps you have and use on your phone; Wow – collecting data on everything we do! I wonder of this is lawyer overkill again because if Apple are allowing access to that information in their interface, then again, Apple is co-conspirator in this as well! Time to look into that further. Sigh.

 

Facebook, pull your head in! If you want the world to be using your Messenger, I suggest to put it back in into the main Facebook application, address these insane terms and conditions issues, quickly, before the world wakes up and boycotts, AND add some much-called-for features into the messenger part of the app. Here are some free suggestions;

 

– Everyone wants a thumbs down.

– Everyone wants a middle finger.

– STOP BEING GONZOS!

 

My suggestion to all: UNINSTALL MESSENGER!

< end rant>