On The Importance Of Being Detached

 random photo series 2015

random photo series 2015

A couple of weeks ago, I encountered a link to a video created by the crew at Golden Road Brewing in Los Angeles. Ordinarily, it’s not the kind of thing that I’d bother with, but the owners recently sold the company for a lot-o dough to Anheuser-BuschInBev. The company's public face is its president, Meg Gill. She’s a smart, capable, ambitious, competent person. And young. (I was curious about her so I'd been reading about the sale and about her career.)

So I clicked through to the video. It was hilarious. And smart as hell. 

I said as much online and — Turned out that some of my beer friends and acquaintances disagreed. 

 random photo series 2015

random photo series 2015

They interpreted the video and its song, which had something to do with area codes, as a slam on other brewing companies. I went back and forth on Twitter about it with Jeremy Danner, of Boulevard Brewing. He wasn’t offended by the video, but he thought it was in poor taste. Unprofessional. Lacking in, shall we say, collegiality.

Jeremy’s a smart guy (capable, competent, intelligent, etc.). I’ve learned to trust his judgement so I conceded the point: After all, I don’t run a brewery; I don’t work in the beer biz; I wasn’t the video’s target.

But the episode kept niggling at my brain and last night, I finally figured out why Jeremy’s reaction surprised me and why I conceded his point:

Because I didn’t “see” the same video he did. When I’d watched it, I’d paid zero attention to the lyric; I had no clue that it was about area codes, etc. 

 random photo series 2015

random photo series 2015

What grabbed me was the imagery: Here was a group of young women using digital media to turn EVERY convention of music video and rap culture on its head, right down to the way they were dressed. It was genius. WHAT they were singing was irrelevant.

My brain/eye didn’t seen a slam on breweries. My brain/eye saw that the battles women have fought for decades have paid off. THIS is what feminism looks like: Smart, hard-working, ambitious women who aren’t afraid of themselves or existing power structures. Who have something to say and zero fear about saying it. No wonder Jeremy’s reaction and mine differed.

That realization was followed by a flush of relief. Huge relief:

As some of you know, I’m writing a new stand-alone, final chapter to Ambitious Brew. I’m excited about the project, but it has produced a fair amount of fear.

 random photo series 2015

random photo series 2015

This is the first time, ever, that I’ve undertaken a project based on material/topic with which I’m familiar. Typically I start with a blank slate. This time, that’s impossible. I wrote a history of beer, and in the ten years since its publication, I’ve spent considerable time observing and thinking about beer and beer culture. I’ve attended beer events; I’ve become friends with people in the industry. 

In short, I’m no longer a detached observer. 

 ramdom photo series 2015

ramdom photo series 2015

For a historian, that’s scary. That fear has niggled at my brain since I started this project. If I erode my distance from the top; if my outsider perspective goes astray,  I’m not sure I’ll have anything valuable to offer. Bare minimum, I fear losing the long view of the big picture.

But my reaction to the Golden Road video alleviated some of that fear. My reaction had nothing to do with beer. I interpreted the video as a cultural artifact rather than as a possible tidbit of beer history.

Whew! Apparently my objectivity and perspective are (relatively) intact.

Now all I gotta do is I keep it that way.