Friday, July 24, 2015

Traffic -- wine notes -- Socrates -- and a supreme beauty (Genevieve Bujold)

2013 Champalou dry Vouvray; a fleshy but not creamy mouthfeel. Drinking the wine is like drinking the flesh of peaches, only in a bracing, stony sort of way. No sweetness. Very good and very gulpable, Retail, about $15.

Just a few other things, my fatheads. I am puzzled to know what explains traffic patterns and traffic congestion. We are driving home, let's say from a professional wine tasting. Let's say also we're driving an expressway crammed full of cars all traveling at 10 miles per hour when they should be going sixty. We see no problems or construction delays in sight. Sometimes the traffic breaks up and we speed along smoothly. Why? More often, we are bumper to bumper, and we speed nowhere. Why not? Do those of us heading to 'Indiana' just huddle in the left lanes, because we fear missing an exit amid all the trucks? Do we thus create congestion ourselves?

Alone in your car you sigh, resigning yourself to the two hour "rush." You look forward to a peaceful patio and a cocktail very soon. My most recent favorite, cocktail that is, is a simple little something that I will call "The Smallest Cocktail in the World." It's equal parts -- let us say, a jigger each -- of iced tea, which you have made yourself from scratch properly of course, and gin. Ransom "old Tom" has a fine effect.

After you get home and sit on the patio savoring your Smallest Cocktail in the World, you begin to look about you. You keep pondering the plot twists of that mystery novel you have determined to write. Why would the murderer sneak into the wine shop in the middle of the night, to correct the grammar of a note left by the stock kid, asking for the next day off? 

And should a magnolia tree throw off freak, April-worthy blossoms in July? It did.

Now, my fatheads, one more thing. About the Socratic method. Our instructor at the wine tasting used it, to ill effect I am sorry to say. This sort of thing aggravated me even in high school, but since I am encountering it more than thirty years later, I feel I must protest.

The Socratic method of teaching -- asking questions of the people around you, in the collegial search for truth -- is fine if you are Socrates, and if you are exploring huge topics. Socrates' point in using it was that the truth exists and it can be found out by anyone, by any group of people honestly thinking questions through and puzzling answers out with friends and fellows. Or among the household slaves, for that matter. This was significant: to get a slave to expound philosophy simply by answering questions was proof of cosmic truths being with the rational reach of all. At the close of one of his "dialogues" Socrates says that whatever answer he and his friends have found for query x, today, might be a very different one from the answer that satisfies them on query x tomorrow. This is not because the truth changes or is unknowable, but because faulty human beings may not be able to arrive at the truth on such and such a day or with such and such companions. Tomorrow, they may do so. It is the questioning that matters, and the understanding -- we'll repeat this -- that truth exists and can be discovered. In our own age of total moral relativism and its accompanying horrors, that must never be forgotten.

The problem is that far too many teachers use the Socratic method, not to unveil truth, but to tease an unprepared audience into spitting out minor information which they, the teachers, have crammed for. Their questions stun the audience and make everyone feel stupid and shy. When Teacher gives the answer, it only seems, in retrospect, that since he knew all along, he has only been withholding information out of spite. This is what annoyed me in high school. Also, I came to know much later, this is not Socratic. This is ... well, fill in the blank. Ever wonder why your classrooms are full of sullen teens glancing at their phones? You must all stop it.

2012 Domaine Serge Dagueneau et Filles Pouilly-Fume. Nutty, almost sherry-like. "Nervy"? I wouldn't say that, but a colleague I met at the wine tasting introduced me to that word, nervy, as a wine descriptor. He claimed that all pinot noirs fall into two categories, and are "trying to do" either of two things. (Before we go on, we remark that of course the Pouilly-Fume in the photo above is not a pinot noir. This colleague just happened to start talking about them, because we tasted them next. Also "Jack" tended to ignore Teacher's pointed and pointless questions.) "Jack" nearly broke my hand in his handshake, and then said, "Pinot noirs are my passion." He has worked retail liquor for fifteen years, lives within walking distance of his job, and worked in a California vineyard before that.

What are pinot noirs trying to do? One of two things, Jack said. Either they want to be linear, seamless, seductive, or they want to be slightly unfocused and "nervy." I'm flattered the man spoke to me as if I had experience of that, too. I suppose my reaction means my own "trickle-down," as he put it, from our conversation was basic human self-absorption. Gee, he must think I know wine. And how long is it going to take me to get home?

2013 Stoneleigh Latitude sauvignon blanc. Just what New Zealand delights in being: Steely, limey, and kiwi-like all at once. Few California examples compare, in my view, although French ones certainly do. Remember the time I actually tasted the famed "cat p -- " in a French sauvignon blanc?

Sometimes, you know, when you get home from a long day or a long commute and maybe some frustrations about being delivered the Socratic method by people who don't understand what it ever was, you just relax any old how. The Internet has made it possible to do that, and how. I happened to follow some favorite Tudor-themed links to the old movie Anne of the Thousand Days, and from there to considering Genevieve Bujold.

What a supreme beauty she was in youth. Not only her dark eyes and hair and lovely pert face, but her slight French burr, and that demeanor of bright fearlessness, were all perfect for Anne Boleyn. No other actress has come close to her portrayal in any other production, except the late Dorothy Tutin in the BBC program of the early 1970s -- and though she was fine, Dorothy Tutin was already too old (past 40 I believe) for the part. And nowadays you will see blue-eyed actresses in the role! What, does no one in the "Continuity" department think to budget for brown contact lenses?

Anyway I read in a movie encyclopedia once the assessment that Genevieve Bujold is an under-appreciated actress, and that I believe. She continues to work, year after year "in small independent films," and God bless her for it. If her career has not been all she had hoped after the banner year of 1969, I hope she has been well adjusted and happy nevertheless. Given what Hollywood is, I imagine there is an inverse relationship between surface success and inner peace within the "TMZ."

Image from fanpop

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