Friday, September 25, 2009

5:00 Fridays

I am honored to write this guest post for Dirt & Noise 5:00 Fridays cocktail. I met Ilina, your hostess of this web space, about a year ago, and I count her as one of my good friends. For readers that have never met her, you need to find some excuse to meet this great lady in person, but just don't loiter outside her home for fear of her not only calling 911 on you, but calling you out in a diatribe on her blog as an inconsiderate fan that just can't give people their privacy. So maybe you should just get by with knowing her through her writing. That's not a bad thing, as she is one of the most open and honest bloggers I have come across. I often relate to her parenting posts, laugh out loud at her "woman" posts and nod my head in agree at her observations of the contradictions in modern society. Sometimes I am even shocked by what she reveals to her readers, all of whom she considers friends.

Today's 5:00 Fridays post is not about a cocktail you can make at home, but about a kind of wine. Actually, it is less about a particular bottle of wine, than about what I have learned drinking wine. And how good is life if you can learn things by drinking wine? I do a wine show on the internet (see shameless plug below), which should make me qualified to write a guest post about wine. As it turns out, I am a co-host on a wine show, and I am the one who is learning about tasting and describing wine in our show about North Carolina wine. One of the best wines we have tried in nearly 50 episodes (one bottle per show) is from Raffaldini Vineyards in North Carolina's Yadkin Valley. This is our concentrated wine region with over 20 wineries and the first of North Carolina's American Viticultural Areas (AVA).

The Raffaldini 2008 Vermentino is a white wine made from an Italian grape that is not grown much in the United States. Raffaldini, which features a large Italian villa, exclusively grows Italian grapes and makes Italian wines. The best way to describe the Vermentino is that it is a red wine drinker's white wine. I am not going to get into the wine tasting terminology, except to say that this wine has a lot going on with a complex array of aromas and flavors. It is not a light summer sipper, but a wine that pairs very well with food. You can read the winery's description of the wine here (http://raffaldini.com/displayProduct.aspx?qryProdID=57), and you can also order it, but the point of this post is not to sell wine. Although I would like to note that this wine was chosen by the White House to present to the Italian president as representative US wine with an Italian heritage.

I have always enjoyed drinking wine, but in doing our wine show, I have learned to enjoy wine even more. And the reason for this is simple. As we try each wine, we talk about what we are smelling and tasting. This is not a snooty approach, but one that makes you reflect on what's in your glass. Taking more time with wine by describing it enhances the experience. I still have no idea how grapes can taste like lemons, grapefruit or honeydew, but I know that sometimes I can taste it. Other times I can't. I have learned that some of these tastes are subjective, and sometimes I just don't have enough experience to taste them. This is an acquired skill for most people, as I have gotten better at this the more I have done it.

The other thing that has increased my enjoyment of drinking wine is that we apply a rating to every wine we try. This means I need to put every wine in its place as compared to other wines we have tried. This is where we try to be objectively subjective. How does this white wine compare to other white wines? And not all white wines, but similar white wines. Again, this process of really thinking about the wine and deciding how it compares to other wines forces me to form an opinion. And give a reason for that opinion. Since we shoot our show in one take, and generally the first time we try a wine is on camera, this can sometimes be difficult. I have found myself stalling for time, while the whole internet is watching, as I form an opinion about a wine and have to explain and justify that opinion.

But what this process has done is allow me to really understand what kinds of wine I like, and why. The extra time of really tasting the wine, describing it and giving it a rating against other wines I have tried helps me remember what I thought of each wine. We eat a lot of food and drink a lot of beverages over the course of our lives, but if you take more time to savor these experiences, the standouts will stand out even more and the average will still be memorable.

Jeffrey L. Cohen is a Marketing and Social Media Strategist and Partner at OurHashtag (http://OurHashtag.com), which brings together the elements of community, marketing, business and technology to provide platforms for connection and engagement both online and off-line. Jeff is the Producer and Co-Host of http://NorthCarolinaWine.TV and blogs at http://SocialMediaB2B.com and http://DigitalPapercuts.com.
5:00 FridaysSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Monsters Among Us

My fair city of Raleigh has seen its share of shame lately. It is not even October, yet monsters lurk among us. They disguise themselves as our doctors, neighbors, bankers, teachers, pastors, colleagues, friends. Believe me when I tell you that there are indeed monsters underfoot. And you never know when one is going to send you in a tailspin.

A successful doctor killed a promising young ballerina just a week ago. He was drunk, careening his Mercedes at twice the posted speed limit and ran a red light. This case has me reeling, and I can't seem to shake it. Taste my venom on the story here.

And today, I read in the paper that someone I know awaits sentencing for child pornography. David Chatham. Someone I have broken bread with. Someone I respected. It makes the skin on my neck shiver into icicles just to write these words. As a mother, nightmares such as this are the fibers my worst fears are made of. One of the excruciating details of this story involves a six-year old boy.

The same age as my Bird.

I taste bile and hate and disgust and repugnance when I think of it. My skin shivers, and my eyes get crossed at the back of my head. My heart races, and my fingers gnarl into stiff clenched fists.

To know this man, to have sat across the lunch table and the conference table from him on multiple occasions, makes the facts of the case surreal and more potent.

The reporter's coverage fuels my disgust. I don't know if Mandy Locke is a journalist, a tabloid reporter, or a public relations spinner. What I can tell you is she's likely not a mother. At least not the kind of mother I am.

Let's start with the headline:
"N. Carolina Man recalls how porn obsession cost him his life"

I don't give a damn about his life! He's a grown man who made choices. Don't play the victim fiddle here. This headline is all about the criminal, laying its case for the subsequent sympathetic angle the story unfolds. Nothing other than getting caught fueled his desire to seek help.

And here's the disclaimer that follows:
The following story contains explicit descriptions. Readers may find portions disturbing or offensive.

Is this what sells papers these days? Boy am I glad we canceled our News & Observer subscription a few weeks ago. The term "child pornography" is descriptor enough; readers do not need to visualize any more than the horrific images those words conjure up. It is unprofessional, insensitive, and plain blasphemous. The writer takes the cheap, shock approach here. The heinous details do not improve the story; they simply show that the writing is amateur tabloid journalism at best.

This is how Cornell University Law School defines child pornography. Suffice it to say I couldn't stomach reading past the first few lines. Even the legal mumbo jumbo is painful to read. We certainly don't need Locke's shock value details to complete a story here.

Read on to see how the writer paints this man in a victim's light:
"These children weren't real to him. They had no mothers or fathers, no baseball games to play, no school field trips. There, on a flat computer screen, Chatham convinced himself this was make-believe. He didn't hear their screams, didn't notice their vacant expressions. This was his personal, private fantasy, and they were actors."

Actors?! You have got to be kidding me! Even if they were actors, they were CHILDREN. Children acting in ways that no parent, not even the worst of the Toddlers in Tiara breed, would consent to. These kids were not acting, you dumb ass. They experienced horrific crimes of humanity acted upon them. Without their consent. Without a choice. Without a voice. These are someone's sons, daughters. Innocent no more. Hell on earth that will burn the flames eternal wherever people like Chatham and his ilk end up.

Transparent spinning:
Clearly admitting culpability, finding God, and promising to help others are the ingredients to spin a tale of forgiveness for any crime. No one knows this better than David Chatham, the consummate public relations spinner. And here he goes down spinning his own crisis management tale. He must have still had some press contacts on his side to yield a story like the one in the News & Observer.

Let's add to the cliche to show him in Bible study and toss in references to his discussions with his pastor. And is he welcomed and embraced by the same church that has banished homosexuals from its ranks? Let's hammer home the sad, pathetic story line of the supportive wife awaiting his return from jail by focusing on their whispered I love you's, frolicking in the waves over the summer, and forfeiting of the wedding ring as he's whisked off to jail while she raises her ring in a show of solidarity. Let's milk those cliches to play us all into seeing him as a do-gooder who's found God and wants to help others stricken with his "craving," as he puts it.

A craving is sneaking shots of Ready Whip in your mouth at 10:30 PM when you need a sugar fix, not amusing yourself with pornographic images of children being obscenely defiled.

This is how Mandy Locke describes Chatham:
"Chatham is a public relations specialist who knows the power of a compelling story and the need to get ahead of a negative one."

No shit. This article is nothing more than transparency at its finest. David Chatham turned to God and promises to repent simply because he got caught. I see nothing earnest and genuine here. What I see is someone monstrous.

And now a word to my local newspaper:
New & Observer, you failed. You failed your readers. And worse, you failed our children. It is incumbent upon every single one of us to protect our children. When we fail to protect them, we must step in to advocate for them. We owe our children every ounce and every breath we can muster to keep them from harm and punish those who harm them.

We must adopt a zero tolerance policy for such unspeakable crimes against children. We must equip parents to be vigilant. We must encourage parents to trust their instincts. We must serve our communities one child at a time.

Mandy Locke's article made no mention of the lifetime of pain these children endure. No mention of resources to seek help. No mention of empathy for the real victims here. The David Chathams of the earth do not deserve to be within reach of our heartstrings.

Since the newspaper provided no information or resources for parents and care givers (or even just concerned citizens), I will do so here. Here is the website for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. And here is where you can find more resources on the sexual exploitation of children. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also has a cyber tipline. You can access it at www.cybertipline.com or call 1.800.843.5678.
The Monsters Among UsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


Today I asked Deal, my four-year old son, what I was going to do without him and Bird for five days when I leave town on a little jaunt to New York and Asheville. He pondered my question a moment and then very matter-of-factly, replied, "You can dream about us, Mommy."

I am a Hershey's Kiss, while Deal brandishes the hot August sun.
MeltingSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend