A rededication; a short rant elaborated

There are few things more banal and trite, in this strange world of unpaid keyboard-rattling, than the ‘Apology For Not Posting More Often’ post. So let’s not have one of those. In any case, I’m not really sorry; the time off was more than called-for, in the circumstances, and oddly enjoyable, in its own way. Besides, I was hardly on another planet and out of the loop entirely; shorter-form stuff on Twitter and Facebook kept me entertained and let me vent when necessary. But the combination of the extended sabbatical and a recurring pattern of responses — that I both observed and (apparently) provoked — that left me wanting to plant a flag, of sorts, on my way back home; to point at something that’d been murmuring unpleasantly in the background a while and say down with this sort of thing. As I vented once, late last year, in lieu of a proper table-flip:

As a way to deflect negative attention, I’ve been seeing this (and its close relatives) quite a lot — i.e., way too much. To me personally, it happened most bewilderingly when I pointed out some pretty bloody basic grossness by the guys at WilliamsWarn; and a version of the same popped up, perhaps more inevitably, a few times when I’d given Moa a gentle prod for whatever was their nonsense de jour. Geoff Ross, their CEO, eventually retreated to some bizarre form of economic patriotism rather than listening to people who would perhaps quite like to buy his company’s beer but can no longer bring themselves to reward him with their money. The impulse to see criticism as an attack is apparently strong one in us humans,1 poor bewildered monkeys that we are.

Really, though, it’s your closest friends who’ll tell you when you have schmutz stuck in your teeth. Acquaintances and strangers probably couldn’t give enough of a fuck to bother, and usually can’t be relied upon to point out when you’re behaving like a bit of a dick. In a more-perfect world, your friends wouldn’t hesitate. In any particular domain, it is entirely possible — likely, even — that the infamously grumpy curmudgeon or recidivist ranty bastard is, at heart, a disappointed optimist, pissed off that some frustratingly tenacious crapness is marring something wonderful. The beer business / community / scene / whatever is an excellent place; there’s a reason I’m still here after a decade-and-change — I just can’t fathom why the fuck we’re still dragging along boring old sexism and other miscellaneous bullshit.

The world — the “beer world”, sure, but also, you know, the world-world — is a delightfully morally complex place. This bites in two interesting ways, for present purposes: 1) carping on about one action or aspect of a company while praising another is perfectly possible — I’ve raved about Yeastie Boys’ beers and business model for almost exactly as long as I’ve kept poking them in the ribs about better-labeling where everything comes from2 — and 2) you don’t have to back any particular dog in a fight to comment on the dust-up as it happens. Hell, you don’t even need to cheer for “your” dog, to the extent that you have one; in my time at Garage Project, I had my disagreements with decisions of theirs both minor and major and voiced them as best I could.3

Moa Pale Ale, in its aluminum bottle
Moa Pale Ale, in its misbegotten aluminum bottle — rather neat, but made (at silly expense) for the airline market and now suprlus to requirements

More generally, there just isn’t always a side worth cheering for. To take two recent examples from — who else?4 — Moa, their clashes with Air New Zealand and Cloudy Bay are perfect illustrations. When Moa’s contract to supply the national carrier’s flights was terminated early, their detractors had predictable Schadenfreude and could be seen engaging in few celebrations, but the airline’s decision wouldn’t have had anything to do with rejecting Moa’s longrunning grossness and instead everything to do with a dumptruck full of money from Lion and a sadly backwards way of thinking about how to put together a beer list; nothing praiseworthy, there. Likewise, it was impossible to have any sympathy for Moa in their struggle to get resource consent for their brewery expansion; they wailed about how key its location was to their identity (while happily contract-brewing their flagship beers elsewhere), aggressively pissed-away the money from their IPO that was earmarked for the project, constantly fudged the truth about its scope and made obviously-bogus comparisons to the winery up the road. But Cloudy Bay / Veuve Cliquot, in turn, acted a bit the bully and were also bullshitting pretty hard themselves about their operation and its neighbourhood — they’re hardly a quaint little Château in an unspoilt valley: this was two large-scale corporate booze-producers trying hard to play the underdog. Why pick sides?

There’s plenty of room left for more criticism and more optimism. They make a great pair, and together can do some real good. This is, like I said, an excellent little corner of the world — in terms of geography and market share — but pretending it’s perfect, that every actor has the best of intentions, and that we’re “all in this together” to an extent that people feel obligated to speak only in niceties just won’t help anyone. If you see something5 — good or bad — say something.

1: Us New Zealanders in particular, perhaps. It’s certainly a trait you hear speculated-upon quite often, and the Eleanor Catton Fiasco earlier this year would probably count as evidence. But I’m honestly too much of a Mongrel Cosmopolitan to much notice or comment on border-by-border variations among us. 
2: Serendipitously, I noticed yesterday that the new labels now wear their provenance proudly. I claim precisely zero credit for this. 
3: Although not well enough, I think, on reflection. At least not well enough in public. The incredible awkwardness of saying things against the people who sign your paycheck (even in the wider context of obviously being a fan) is my only real excuse, here, and I guess my meta-point is that awkwardness shouldn’t exist
4: Wait. Am I their nemesis, or are they mine? (Neither, of course, really; they’re just a seemingly never-ending source of Useful Lessons and Examples.) 
5: A phrase with unfortunate ties to an MTA / Homeland Security campaign that sits way too close to useless scaremongering and which carries an utterly insane trademark symbol everywhere, but still; is catchy. 

15 thoughts on “A rededication; a short rant elaborated”

  1. We were always right, and you were wrong.

    We couldn’t print 50,000 labels with Invercargill on them if we didn’t know they could brew the beer (and it proved to be true, hence 12,000L of Harrington’s brewed PKB). Our one-offs always had Invercargill on them.

    Now we do know they have capacity for the regulars, so we do print it on the labels.

    But wrong or right, I love your work. You start conversations that should be had.

    1. Cheers, Stu!

      (I’ll always quibble on the labeling thing — as a person who used to help order labels for his day job, I’m still not convinced the math is prohibitive — but that’s for another time. And for another brewery, now!)

  2. Yay for criticism, critique, and curmudgeonly grumbling. Boo for incessant harping on a point, assuming malice instead of incompetence, or abuse for simply not marching in lock-step with a particular ideology no matter how “correct” the marchers believe it to be.

    Welcome back, Phil! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Greig. Nice to be back.

      I’m not sure which of those sins I’ve committed here, if any — but no one would want to please all of the people all of the time, right? And I look forward to more doses of your own variety of the three Cs!

      1. Oh, I didn’t necessarily mean you Phil. I’ve just noticed a similar-yet-divergent trend towards “piling on” lately, and I don’t much like it. Even when the targets are those who would seem to deserve it. What I’d like to see more of in general is optimism and positivity evenly tempered with reality and spade-calling when necessary, but never for the sake of it or to score points.

        Anyway, yeah, I hope to return to the bloggythings myself at some point. I might use your post (as I so often seem to do) as a jumping off point. 🙂

        1. I agree Greig and am happy to call it out early and often… sometimes I may even be wrong but I need the argument to check. I’m happy to make mistakes but I try hard to not be a dick about it.

          1. It’s OK Stu, you’re never wrong. Your opinion is though!

            Aside: someone came across me making the old “your opinion is wrong” call the other day, and sent me a stern email telling me I was arrogant and that by definition an opinion can’t be wrong, so I was also an idiot”. I wanted to reply, but “welcome to the joke” would seem like a dick answer. Ah well!

        2. Piling-on is an interesting one. I think there’s definitely a place for showing support and solidarity when someone takes the often-awkward step of calling someone out.

          Take when Dylan gave Jono Corfe a prod as a perfect example. That incident was actually an inspiration for this piece; I thought Dylan’s post was brilliant, and Jono’s was deserving of a stern poke in the ribs. To the extent that there was piling-on, afterwards, almost all of it was within bounds and amounted to a valuable kind of back-up to Dylan’s point. Lone critical voices are too-easily dismissed as crank viewpoints by people who should perhaps listen to what they have to say. If a good number of people are seen “seconding” the original criticism, that should be harder to do. Unless, of course, the dog-pile is felt as victimisation — or starts to include actual abuse (which apparently it did; I’m not going to call Jono a liar over that). A fine line, but it’s definitely not the case that all piling-on is about lockstep marching.

          1. Interesting you should bring that up. That’s precisely the event I felt was most repellent and indicative of the behaviour/mindset I’m talking about. I wasn’t going to get into it here, but while I support all human beings equally, I don’t much like the overwhelming tide of “if you’re not a feminist, you’re an evil member of the patriarchy” that seems to be dominating (and destroying) rational debate everywhere lately. I found the back-slapping, snide superiority, and general gang-type mentality around that event as ugly as hell. I stumbled upon a Facebook thread dedicated to it also, and it seemed like a bunch of smug, self-congratulatory bullies laughing at how they’d “put that guy in his place”. Ugly, and unpleasant. I actually felt in a hell of a funk for days after that, as the sniggering group included many people I consider friends, and I don’t like to see that crap in craft beer circles. The worst part was that I agree with Dylan et al. I definitely thought Jono’s post was in poor taste. But it’s just taste. He seems to be a fairly good writer otherwise.

            A good (or poor) point doesn’t need back-slappers or me-too-ers with nothing to add. It stands alone, and open to criticism itself. Discussion – cool. Me-too-ing? Nah. We can all do better than that.

          2. Jono proved singularly adept at missing the point, and I’m not convinced this is a mere matter of taste, so I think a round of public Plus Ones was warranted. For myself, the depressingly-still-present undercurrent of blokey sexism is much more “the crap I don’t like seeing in craft beer circles” than any condemnation of same, smug or not.

  3. Howdy All

    Thought I might pop in my two cents. I know it’s not nice to be coping a lot of flak, particularly if you’re convinced you don’t deserve it. And of course threats are not cool.

    Personally I feel I kept my interactions on the blolg, both in the original post and my comment were reasonable and courteous, unlike Jonathan’s, which compared me to sandy genitals and I’m still perplexed by the post he wrote where he accused me of hating the South Island (although to his credit, he did take that down and apologise when I made it clear I wasn’t interested in a shit-slinging match).

    Admittedly I was a lot less polite on FB, but a) I had to vent somewhere and b) it’s Facebook, it shouldn’t be taken seriously. On that note, if you go to Jono’s wall you’ll find a similarly smug and impolite thread. Is it worth getting worked up about? Not really because you know, it’s Facebook.

    The idea that we shouldn’t chip into a discussion because it’s one against many? Dunno, I’m sceptical. Seems a bit like internalised censorship to me. On the other hand, I kind of did exactly that, since as I said at the time: There’s nothing I could say that others haven’t already said better than I could and it hasn’t been taken on board.

    I guess what I’d like to see is most is a bit more courtesy in online discussions. That’s probably wishful thinking, since it’s the internet; but who knows, something to strive for.


    1. A lofty goal, Dylan, and one definitely worth aspiring. Courtesy in general is a good thing.

      Anyway… All your opinions are wrong! xo

Have at it: