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Sarcozy, Obama and me


Next month, I’m going to be guest-lecturing at Rusty Eddy’s winery P.R. class at U.C Davis, as I have for the past several years. The first time he invited me was before I started blogging, and before blogs were a big deal in the wine industry. The next year was after I had started blogging, and it was amazing what a difference that year made. Where the previous session had been about the meat-and-potatoes of P.R. — press releases, pitches, the difference between a magazine column and an article — the next one was almost exclusively about blogging and the metamorphosis of wine writing. By 2008, Rusty’s students, as budding winery P.R. specialists, had absorbed the lesson that blogging and social media were going to be hugely important for them to understand.

Rusty called the other day and told me one of my co-speakers will be Jo Diaz, who writes the blog Juicy Tales. Jo and I are old friends; she was one of the people who inspired me to start blogging, and her husband, Jose, who’s her partner in their PR firm, Diaz Communications, often helps me with technical issues, at which I am hopelessly inept. I was glad to learn I’d be united with Jo, because we always have a good time together.

Later, when I thought about it, I thought: How weird it is that Jo Diaz and I, Baby Boomers who were reared on Howdy Doody and black and white T.V., have been invited to talk about blogs and social media to a roomful of young students. I mean, there are 12-year olds that know more about this stuff than I do. Wouldn’t you think Rusty would have gotten a Millennial to talk to Millennials? I concentrated on this paradox, trying to figure it out, but I couldn’t, until, the very next day, I was reading the Wall Street Journal and I came across an article that explained it all. It was called “The Relentless Rise of Power Jeans.”

Okay, I know you’re thinking, WTF? Where’s he going with this? Stay with me. The article (which has really cool photos) explained how Dmitry Medvedev (president of Russia), Nicolas Sarkozy (president of France), Tony Blair (former Prime Minister of Great Britain), Barack Obama (President of — well, you know) and Steve Jobs (Master of the Universe) all have turned to “jeans [as] a legitimate part of the global power-dress lexicon.” It seems that, when well-accessorized, a good pair of jeans signals that a leader is “serious — but not fussy — and innovative…There’s also something of a rebel in a pair of jeans” which “can be read as creative.”

What we have here, in other words, is what the WSJ called “gray-haired circles” embracing a “look [that] started with the young” and appropriating it for their own uses and meaning. Now, what other artifacts of the popular culture started with the young and are now being embraced by Boomers? Choose from the following list:

a. blogging
b. Facebook
c. Twitter
d. YouTube
e. cell cam
f. Lady Gaga

If you answered “a through e,” you’re right! (Your prize is in the mail.) You’re probably using most or all of these tools yourself. When it comes to them, age is irrelevant, which is precisely the point. Jo and I were invited by Rusty to describe for his young students how naturally and easily our (traditional, paper-based, telephone-centered) jobs have incorporated digital media as part of our modus operandi.

It’s not surprising that in our age of instantaneous everything, demographic worlds (old and young, print and digital) are colliding, like opposite tectonic plates fusing together in fiery concussion. Jo and I — on a Baby Boomer plate — and the Millennials, on their own slab of reality, are all being mooshed together by the tidal forces of history, by the relentless advances of technology and by paradigm-shattering cultural shocks, by events we’re not even aware of, can only barely discern and whose outcomes we certainly can’t predict. When you think of it that way, the occasional altercation between the generations — who’s entitled to what, who’s more ethical — seems pretty petty.

And maybe it’s just me

but is anyone else surprised that the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum is currently hosting an exhibit called “The Culture of Wine”?

The 43rd U.S. President was a notorious teetotler, after a callow youth allegedly spent abusing various substances, including alcohol. As part of the exhibit, the museum will have wine tastings, wine education classes, wine book author lectures and even a visit by Maximilian Riedel.  As one who’s always ready to find the irony in life, I can’t help but wonder if Bush’s tenure in office would not have been “kinder and gentler” — and less divisive — if he and Laura had permitted themselves a civilized, everyday glass of wine with their meals. I suppose the Texas wine industry had something to do with this.

  1. Steve,

    I actually like Lady Gaga as well……

    Adam Lee
    Siduri Wines

  2. Steve,

    There’s also something in the fact that us oldsters can teach those youngsters about the evergreen truths in life, the first being: while technology may be new, precious little else about life is new.

    You are old enough to remember when television was being sold as the greatest information tool; yada, yada, yada…

    As for GW and alcohol: remember that incident when he fell off the couch? Really, now.

  3. Uhm… uhhh….. ahhh……….. what was that about Bush again??? WTF?????

  4. Ha, the story you link to about the Bush museum wine exhibit is wrong. The exhibit isn’t at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum (which actually isn’t even open yet); it’s at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. That’s Bush The Elder. Bush The 41st President of the United States. Bush The Not A Teetotaler.

    As for your question, “Wouldn’t you think Rusty would have gotten a Millennial to talk to Millennials?” Have things changed? When I took UC Extension wine courses back in the ’90s the attendees were all Baby Boomer-age (and up!).

  5. I agree with Adam. I would actually choose Lady Gaga over Twitter any day of the week.

  6. Rusty Eddy says:

    Re millennials, it’s a fair question. As I have over the past few years, I asked people to speak because I admire what they’re doing and I’ve learned something from them. There have been a few millennials in the class over the past couple of years, and I hope to have more (and learn more from them) as time goes on.

    And Steve: don’t forget that PinotBlogger (Josh Hermsmeyer) will be there, as well.

  7. What I have noticed with social media/marketing in all industries it that it seems to me that older people who went through their careers when social media/marketing was not around are against people using it as a tool to get ahead. Specifically in the wine industry it seems like their is some animosity toward young guys like winelibrarytv and pardonthatvine who have become very successful from using viral marketing. It is very interesting to me.

  8. Dear ffazzinga: Speaking for myself, don’t be silly.

  9. Pete is right that the Culture of Wine exhibit is currently being hosted at the Bush 41 Library, not Bush 43. A very good family friend, Mark Burns, has been putting that exhibit together for over a year, and we’ve seen first hand the level of dedication he put into it to make it as effective an exhibit as possible. Our family has donated a pretty good amount of winemaking and vineyard equipment that Mark has diligently refurbished for the display. There have been donations of displays from barrel coopers, glass makers, and cork producers as well. A series of winemaker-hosted dinners next year will add to the educational aspect. My understanding is that if it is well received, they may move it around to other venues. It’s a cool exhibit that will let visitors get a sense of winemaking history. Politics aside, we can all appreciate the culture of wine!

  10. Facebook opened up to my college a month into the Fall semester of my freshman year. It was a network for college students. Forget parents, now there are grandparents on facebook.

  11. Thank you to Mr. Chris Corley for bringing it to our attention that
    The Culture of Wine Exhibit is, in fact, being hosted by George H.W. Bush (41st President) not George W. Bush (43rd president). You may also find it interesting to note that George H. W. Bush’s son-in-law is President of the California Wine Insitute.

  12. BTW… I LOVE Lady Gaga. She’s got a spirit that led me to where I am and keeps me going. (Guess I’m some kinda freak from the rest of the “a” through “f”ers, but it feels so right.

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