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WikiLeaks+Interwebs+religious/economic feudalism = REVOLT! Technolution!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on February 24, 2011 by weshagen

Very quick post today. I’m going to rant on technology and revolution. Technolution!

I find it fascinating to see how Middle East countries are using the internet (spurred by the WikiLeaks pieces that added some fuel to the fire) to catch up to the modern world.

Twitter, FaceBook, et al are accessible and virtually omnipresent in the palms of our hands, and the ability for despots to control the flow of information in their own countries is becoming increasingly impossible. Truth hurts the corrupt. When the machine becomes visible, those who lubricate it with their blood are less likely to line up offering a donation. Oh shit, I’m beginning to sound like Marx. What he didn’t consider in his Theory of Surplus Value is how important technology could be as the poor realize their position through the free flow of information. This is a revolution few saw coming. It’s tech/socialism/populism. He who can rattle sabres in the street loud enough are worthy for a post in the new government! Scary and fabulous stuff. And can you imagine the conversations happening right now in China? North Korea is fairly safe without electricity.

Multi-cultural literacy and a broad, worldly education has never been the strong suit of Muslim countries. Many are trying very hard to stay in the 12th Century, knowing that a modern perspective will certainly suck the soul right out of fundamental Islam just as it has to fundamental religion in most parts of the educated world. Certainly the facts exist that atheism rates increase with the level of education in the individual, with a full 90% of the American Academy of Sciences declaring themselves either non-believers or not religious. Perhaps Europe did a better job of exploiting the printing press and launching a renaissance, even though the Arabic world was the beginning of most of astronomy, science, math and culture. We took over in the 16th Century, they stuck their heads in the sand, and the leaders took advantage of a Submissive (Qu’ran stresses submission above all else) and ignorant population to feed their obscenely large fortunes, and ironically, western debauchery to match.

You think WikiLeaks telling the world that Qaddafi goes nowhere without his ‘bombshell’ Nordic nurse didn’t have an effect?

The head of the Middle Eastern world is emerging from the political sand to make a statement for the future. My next question is will that temper the fundamental instinct of Islam, or launch a new wave of Islamic Republics that will shift power from corrupt politicians to corrupt Imams.

The secularization of the Islamic world will happen. It seems the pious and submissive ignored the transfer of information spurred by Gutenberg–but it is becoming clear that the internet will change all cultures in a way that will make the printing press seem insignificant.

Moving these countries from despotic and self-serving monarchies and what I call economic and religious feudalism into a modern world will take more than a baseball bat and a cell phone. Look what happened to Russia when they tried to move from feudalism into a more modern (some would say premature) socialist state. I, for one, am thrilled to watch this play out on the world stage. I think of the timeless wisdom of Parliament/Funkadelic at times like these: ‘Free Your Mind, and Your Ass Will Follow.’ In the terms of the Middle East I hope this can be modified to read: ‘Free Your Country and Fundamentalism Will Seem Less Attractive’. You’ll rarely meet a happy, well-adjusted fundamentalist, unless its the guy at the top who’s banking the tithes and the taxes. Information and education are the only currencies that pay for the future, and both combat fundamentalism with brutal efficiency.

The Revolution will not only be televised, it will play on our phones and our computers, and it has already toppled regimes.

Let’s hope the web will tame fundamentalism wherever it rears it’s ugly head, political, religious, ideological, intellectual.

For it is fundamentalism, itself (not the philosophy driving it), that is the most insidious force in the Universe.

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Chardonnay is a Schizophrenic Bitch

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on June 1, 2010 by weshagen

Chardonnay is a grape varietal that is provably schizophrenic. She is both a rock star and a charlatan, a soft spoken ballerina and a brazen harlot, generic as a white label with a blue stripe across it and as expressive as a zealot. Why is this varietal so likely to cause both passionate debate and bored indifference? I’m going to try to make the suggestion in the text of this short article on growing Chardonnay in your backyard, that it has to do with where its grown and how it is made.
Americans were some of the last to plant Chardonnay, and some of the first to take it for granted. In the 1960’s there was less than 1000 acres planted in California, and most of it was mislabeled as ‘Chablis’, which of course is a region, not a varietal. So from the get go Californians screwed it up, doing more damage to the noble wines of Chablis with our unfair mislabeling as any devious ad campaign could have. Innocuous, cheap, uninteresting, flat Chardonnays from California stole the name from Chablis—and Chablis is still used as a name for the generic white wines that come out of large grape production areas of the Central Valley of California. Shame, as the REAL Chablis produces some of the most beautiful, long lived, and expressive white wines (100% Chardonnay, as always) in the world. There is currently about 100,000 acres of Chardonnay under cultivation in California, three times the amount that is bearing in Burgundy and Chablis, the Homeland of Chardonnay, and arguably the world’s greatest terroir for producing white wine. (Notice I only use the term terroir when it applies to French wine regions with Centuries of history and pedigree. We don’t have the history to use the term yet, in my never-to-be-humble opinion.)
Other regions (besides California, and specifically Sonoma Coast, Santa Cruz, Anderson Valley, Mendocino, Chalone, Monterey County, Santa Barbara County, and specifically the Santa Rita Hills) that have shown great promise with the Chardonnay grape include Margaret River, Australia, Oregon, Washington (especially in the Columbia River Gorge), New Zealand and New York . Of course as soon as I think I’ve tried wines from all the areas that can grow world-class Chardonnay, a wine arrives in my glass showing me just how generous the varietal it can be. Like Pinot Noir, I believe Chardonnay suffers no fools, but unlike Pinot Noir (a very distant relative of Chardonnay), Chardonnay can take a lot of manipulation by the winemaker. It’s a varietal, as a famous winemaker once told me, that ‘you can hang a lot of clothes on’.
That means that the treatment in the winery can dictate the wine’s final style almost as much as the appellation of the sourced fruit. Oak treatment is famous in Chardonnay production. During America’s undeniable love affair with oaky Chardonnay in the 1980’s and 1990’s (a trend I’m happy to say is dying slowly in most regions), some producers (even in France!) bragged that they were using 200% new French oak in their Chardonnays. That means the wine would be fermented and aged 6 months in a brand new barrel, and then racked into another brand new French oak barrel. While some would call this a ‘luxury cuvee’, putting almost $10 of new oak in every bottle of Chardonnay is like drenching a beautiful prime ribeye in A1 sauce. It may taste good to some, but to most of us it seems a waste of quality base product, and will surely obliterate the uniqueness of flavor either in a well-bred Angus steer or some nice coastal Chardonnay fruit. Malolactic fermentation (which is not a true fermentation but more accurately a bacterial process of decarboxylating malic acid into lactic acid by leuconostoc oenos) is another process by which Chardonnay can be stylized, and the buttery style (as distinct or combined with oak treatment) still has many fans in the white wine world. It can be argued that the combination of malolactic treatment and oakiness made Chardonnay in the 1980’s and 1990’s so recognizable, that Chardonnay, as Jancis Robinson once famously quipped, “Virtually became it’s own brand”. It became synonymous with white wine.
So now that the tide is turning stylistically in Chardonnay, what is the varietal today and what direction is it moving? Of the hundreds of Chardonnays I taste judging international wine competitions each year, few remain the big, buttery monsters of the late twentieth century. Chardonnay is losing weight in the new Millennia, becoming more yoga and less elephant, more like a crisp green apple rolling on earthy river pebbles than caramel and butter popcorn absorbing the aromas of a French lumbermill. As a true believer in the varietal, I couldn’t me more pleased. Chardonnay has a flavor of its own—one of the few wine varietals that screams place and represents the vineyard where it was grown, and seeing the wines become more transparent to the pedigree is always a step in the right direction from my perspective as a wine lover and educator.

A Skeptic/Atheist Critic of the Bestseller ‘Many Lives, Many Masters’ by Brian Weiss

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on May 25, 2010 by weshagen

Critique: “Many Lives, Many Masters” by Dr. Brian L. Weiss

Written by Wes Hagen, 5/24/10 (I was amazed that i couldn’t find a single article discussing this book critically on the internet.  So I gave it a shot after reading the entire book carefully.)
Thesis: While constituting a beautiful modern religious parable describing a physician’s relationship with an anonymous, angelic patient, the book ‘Many Lives, Many Masters’ can only be appreciated in a poetic sense. Just like the Bible, when read as a newspaper instead of a poem, the story becomes ridiculous and meaningless.
A Word from the Critic:
First, I found the story in Many Lives, Many Masters meaningful from a poetic sense. I have a strong background in Jungian Archetypal Criticism as well as a deep interest and life-long scholarship focusing on comparative mythology. I have finished the four book series of Masks of God by Joseph Campbell as well as James Gordon Frazer’s The Golden Bough, which I’ve been studying for longer than a decade. I have also read every major work of western and eastern religion: The Bible (although I needed an extra cup of coffee to get through Deuteronomy), am currently reading the Qu’ran, have read the Book of Mormon, the Upanishads, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Taoist and Buddhist manuals. I even read the Necronomicon. Interestingly, I found more similarities between MLMM and both modern and ancient religious texts than I expected.
If I had to define MLMM, I would call it a series of dream-parables aimed at assuaging man’s fear of death in a a modern society by replacing faith with a quasi-pyschological assertion that the transcendent can be defined. Taken loosely and poetically, as I implied above, there is nothing wrong with the message. This life is one of many physical tests for an immortal spirit…tests that promote : “balance and harmony” , and suggests that “We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
The revelations are purely retold in a persistent mythical archetype evident in most religious traditions: the Anunciation. Like Moroni to Joseph Smith, Gabriel to Mohammed, Gabriel to the Virgin Mary (see a pattern here?), Catherine is presented in Weiss’ book in purely angelic terms. Even though she is a philandering bathing suit model, she becomes more and more angelic through MLMM, and Weiss himself becomes more of the prophet/messenger archetype. Catherine is unfailingly described in terms of her other-worldy beauty after the first two chapters, and never treated as a human with frailty of failings after she begins anunciating her mystical wisdom.
Each chapter begins with a description of Catherine as she comes into the office for her hypnosis:
“Beautiful to begin with, she was more radiant than ever.”
“Her face was peaceful and she was enveloped with serenity.”
“..she was radiant, serene and happy beyond my wildest hopes.”
“The inner diamond that was her true personality was shining brilliantly for all to see.”
And their relationship becomes the clear connection of an angel with his/her prophet:
“I had a vision of Catherine’s face, several times larger than life sized.”
Before I make this critique as long as the book itself, I would like to point out my general criticisms of the book: some inconsistencies and some commentary that I found inescapable on a careful reading.
• Many Lives, Many Masters follows the traditional religious structure of a relationship between an angel and a prophet: the angel speaking secrets to a prophet who can offer no concrete proof of his convictions. Whether it’s the missing tablets of Joseph Smith or the protection of doctor/patient confidentiality, the process is the same. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and without any peer reviewed and scholarly review of the evidence presented in MLMM, the book relies greatly on faith to be believed.
• While it’s easier to believe a doctor than a prophet of old for most modern humans, the text of MLMM are very similar to ancient religious texts.
• The angel can only recount her wisdom after sacrificing his/her previous life, by going through a sacrificial death through regression hypnosis. After the Jesus-esque sacrifice of recounting pain and giving the universe its due, the ‘spirits’ speak through her as a conduit to the prophet, Dr. Weiss.
• Each description of a previous life by the ‘Angel’ Catherine is a spiritual parable that serves as an introduction to the lesson that follows, given to the Prophet Weiss by the ‘Masters’.
• Religion evolves like all life: MLMM is an example of a purely post-Freudian spirituality, where the scientist/doctor becomes the prophet and we have a quasi-scientific basis for believing on the surface, but this is only related to the messenger. The lack of any type of peer-reviewed evidence, or the fact that the session/regression tapes are not able to be studied, makes this just another religion of faith.
• Like all religions, belief requires us to shut off our critical faculties. When Catherine goes into one of her first hypnotized regressions (that she supposedly has no memory of afterwards), she says: “We live in a valley, there is no water. The year is 1863 BC.” Wow, I have to admit I’m impressed. Not 1864 or 1865. I’m amazed that she has the foresight to know when Christ will be born almost 2000 years before the event is said to have occurred. Either she is consciously lying under hypnosis, or her ‘Aronda’ character has an amazing ability to use BC dates more than 2000 years before they were brought into common usage. Whoops! Guess that didn’t get caught in the editing.
• All the details that Catherine provides are vague in a historic context of someone who is living there. Only first names are offered, and there are never details provided that could prove these lifetimes in a way that would satisfy any serious secular historian. There are no details provided that couldn’t have been studied and memorized between hypnosis sessions. The fact that she knew the Prophet’s father’s Jewish name and the fate of his first son could have been gleaned from a number of sources.
• Certain passages smack of the same type of manipulative, religious fervor that is common in religious texts such as the Qu’ran. Reading the Qu’ran was an exercise in patience. It seems the first 50 pages were mostly devoted to a repeated chorus of “Everywhere you go, people will test your faith. The devil and the infidels will tempt you at every opportunity.” Over and over the Prophet Mohammed’s warnings repeat: ‘Your faith will be tested.” In Chapter 6, Catherine admits that her life and death in the ‘body’ of an Eighteenth Century servant girl (no name given), helped her learn that she had no faith in the ‘Masters’. The reliance on religion to believe in an antiquated and disgusting Master/Slave relationship (which finds its highest poetic representation in the Holy Qu’ran), is not pruned out of the Prophet Weiss’ new quasi-religion, shown when Catherine the Anunciator tells the doctor/prophet: “I want control, but I don’t have any. I must have faith in the Masters. They will guide me throughout. But I did not have faith. I felt like I was doomed from the beginning.[…]We must have faith…we must have faith. And I doubt. I choose to doubt instead of believe.” This is pure Old Testament religion. Based on nothing but a belief that there are invisible Master(s) in the sky that will guide and judge us.
• For a ‘skeptic’ and a ‘man of science’ I find it very odd what Dr. Weiss’ first reaction to Catherine’s hypnotized regression. “Go back to the time from which your symptoms arise,” he tells Catherine. Catherine responds with a description that is in no way indicative of a past life experience. She describes a building and pillars, her long white dress, “My hair is braided, long blond hair.” Earlier the Dr. notes that Catherine has medium length blond hair. There is nothing in the passage that could not have been a simple memory from her own life. Why then does the doctor reply: “I asked her what the year was, what he name was.” Why would this skeptical man of science ask her who she was? That’s like a therapist asking someone under hypnosis: “Do you see hooded men standing in pentagrams, touching you in strange ways?” From the VERY beginning of this hypnosis, the Dr. SUGGESTS to a hypnotized patient that she may not be herself.
• Depending on what you prefer to believe, this book presents an unbelievable or at least a questionable narrative that could have been faked by Catherine, Doctor Weiss, or both. It is clear that Dr. Weiss has profited greatly from the book being on bestseller lists for 22 years, and from giving paid lectures on the subject past-life regression therapy. Perhaps it started as a=n attempt to rebuild a spiritual core in America by suggesting, pretending or inventing ‘evidence’, and then shoring up his defenses as the project took a life of its own, or was edited to be more exciting and compelling.
• I certainly do not impugn Dr. Weiss humanity, compassion, or his attempts to help his fellow humans. But by creating a quasi-religion based on clearly fallacious ‘recovered memories’, he destroys his own message by not providing any peer-review or replicable study of his outrageous claims.
• Read like poetry, Many Lives, Many Masters is a brilliant modern parable of humanism—it clearly wants to guide people down a path that will help society gain understanding, peace and harmony. The problem is that it tries to sell us a ghost story that is clearly fabricated. Whether it was done on purpose, or even if it was miraculously true, doesn’t matter. I don’t see a problem with people drinking the Kool Aid offered by this short, fun and easily consumed Fairy Tale—I don’t see those who believe in the Masters warring against Christians or Muslims. At least not yet, until the believers start to break into sects, fundamentalists. Seems unlikely until you read some history.

MLMM p.209
MLMM p.219
MLMM, p35
MLMM, p.162
MLMM, p.133
MLMM, p.115
MLMM, p.153
MLMM p.27
MLMM p.85
MLMM p.27
MLMM, p.27
MLMM p.15
MLMM p.27

Golf is a Hunting/Gathering Simulation

Posted in Uncategorized on October 26, 2009 by weshagen

I was out golfing last week and I came to an odd revelation. Golf is a simulation of classic human/early primate hunting/gathering.

Besides being invented by bored shepherds in Scotland, golf is a perfect simulator to help us practice hunting/gathering skills lost Millennia ago:

1) We go to a high viewing point and put a ball down and whack it. The simulation has bgun!

2) We carry a bag of weapons (clubs) a few hundred yards away, put down the bag, search frantically for our quarry (with a club in hand), and after we find it, we whack it with a club. Club goes in the bag and off we go, walking again to find our quarry.

3) We scan the horizon, the bushes, the grasslands, even the water for signs of our quarry, and when we think we see it we reach for the weapon to strike it.

4) Golf allows us to practice every aspect of the hunt: preparation, weapons practice, the hunt for quarry, the striking of quarry, the retrieval of quarry, the shit-talking between the striking and the retrieval, and of course the walk between strikes and retrieval is pure human exercise: weight bearing, mind-sharpening (using all senses).

My final summation is that golf, at least when walked, is about the best hunter/gatherer simulation a human can participate in. A 4-5 mile walk with about 100 weapon strikes. Good exercise and it informs our ancient warrior.

What do you think?

Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 18, 2009 by weshagen

This is a short post I did about the appropriateness of AVA’s in a developing wine region.

I’ve been thinking about this, and I think the key is to do a new AVA in a region about every 5 years…like a Boston album, well thought out, slow growth of regional identity.

People knew in 1972 that the santa Rita Hills were a very unique winegrowing coastal throat, but we waited until 1997 to submit. I knew in 1996 that there was some really nice Cabernet being grown on the east side of Santa Ynez, and Bryan Babcock told me about Happy Canyon where the red and green rock escarpments (chert and serpentine) had been breaking down for ages, and that the calcium/magnesium ratio would slightly stunt growth…hot weather, natural crop limitation. Babcock now believes HC is a bit too hot for some grapes, and is really bullish on the Figueroa Mountain area just to the west of HC of SB. Sounds like another AVA in 10 years. Los Alamos deserves one, as does Ballard Canyon. Premier Pacific may go for a Salsipuedes AVA west of Santa Rita Hills as well.

I also believe there may be climates too small for AVA’s, but extraordinarily exciting, west of Lompoc for sparkling wine, and between the SRH boundary and Buellton for Rhones and some white cal Ital, and perhaps Alsatians.

Hello world!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 18, 2009 by weshagen

Hello all.  This is the extension of my original ‘Year in the Vineyard’  Wine Blog.  I found the Thursday deadline to be a little depressing, so I’m going to write a little more often and not quite as in depth.

I’ll be talking about my life as a winegrower, wine maker, wine writer, and general bon vivant.

I may riff on my hobbies of wine, beer, spirits, live music ( Click Here for a treat of live music for you ) , comparative mythology, secular humanism, cultural issues, you name it!

My mind moves in strange and interesting ways–think of it as a wave to surf, and get ready for an unusual ride!