The Science of Snobbery


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It has always been my contention that the conductor’s job is to tell the audience how to feel about the music.

What do you know!

I am also going to point out again that it is Fine Art that has the balls to talk about this stuff right in the work. I don’t think I have ever seen it dealt with in music or dance or . . . The three greatest artists of the 20th century, by wide acclaim, Duchamp, Warhol and Koons work is/was about how arbitrary or contingent what rises to the top is.

The air is thin in all the arts, though. It is enough to drive one away.


If it comes in a bottle and you paid more than $30 for it, you’re probably a sucker.

With exceptions for really big bottles and maple syrup.


If it comes in a bottle and you paid more than $30 for it, you’re probably a sucker.

A sucker for living in Canada, I guess. Two buck chuck costs about ten bucks here, for realz. Mind you, I still don’t spend more than about fifteen on wine - so, probably wine that would cost all of three or four bucks in California.

But, $30 is basically the minimum price for 750 mL of liquor that’s marginally fit to drink. There are “vodkas” as cheap as $20. They come in plastic bottles, and they are suitable for use as cleaning products or disinfectants, but I wouldn’t willingly ingest the stuff.

No, it’d apply to maple syrup too. Last year, I got a gallon (an Imperial Gallon, not those measly US gallons), of grade A syrup, tapped from NB’s finest trees, for twenty bucks.

I was thinking more for people outside syrup-producing lands. At least until the Glatun show up.

If it comes in a bottle and you paid more than $30 for it, you're probably a sucker.

With beer I’d set the limit at a sixth of that. I consider myself something of a beer snob, and have tried several fancy expensive microbrews, and have yet to find one that sold for more than $5 a bottle that exceeded some of its cheaper counterparts in any meaningful way. Or maybe I’m just so cheap I’m unable to appreciate that, say, Thomas Hardy’s Ale really lives up to the expectations set by its price tag.

If it comes in a bottle and you paid more than $30 for it, you’re probably a sucker.

Nonsense. You are ignoring all the non-taste-related pleasure that a bottle of expensive wine brings to many people, which indeed may far exceed the pleasure brought by the taste alone. Your comment veers close to reverse-snobbery territory.

As well, we’re ignoring the research that indicates that what we taste is affected by a myriad of environmental factors. Some MRI work suggests that telling someone that a wine is more expensive does, literally, make it taste better.

Next you’ll be criticizing people who spend hundreds on old stamps because you should never pay more than the face value :-).


So, you are saying that by over-charging they are doing the customer an enormous favor. OK, good to know.


Not to mention that high-grade maple syrup tastes less maple-y. If you really like the maple taste, get lower grade stuff for cheaper and enjoy! Incidentally, the same is true for olive oil; the low quality cheap stuff tends to have a much stronger olive taste. For both, the more you pay the less it tastes like anything special.


Just because a few critics are full of shit doesn’t mean a $10 bottle of wine is likely to be as good as a $50 bottle. If you seriously think that all wine tastes the same, then you’re either profoundly ignorant or actually have some sort of taste bud deficiency.


I get the general idea that we are influenced by a ton of factors that we don’t want to admit to. Of course that’s true, as any blind taste test in the coke vs pepsi format will attest to.

On the other hand, most of the music I listen to I am not watching on video or live. So there’s no way to judge it other than with my ears. I’m sure I’m still subject to many other factors- my mood, my energy level, etc. But still, there is a difference in quality between Mozart and… that guy who died 300 years ago that no one remembers.

Even more specific to classical music, a lot of musicians are actually reading the scores and listening in their head. They are judging the music itself at that point, not the performance or performer or anything else. You can’t really write that off.

I do think there’s a difference between the good stuff and the bad, in both music and food. But I also think that we are extremely susceptible creatures, and finding a person that comes remotely close to being “objective” is not easy. At all.


I used to hate beer, until I tasted something that wasn’t bud and coors. Now, you can call me a beer snob I guess, but I defy anyone to seriously argue that a bottle of re-fermented Belgian ale at $13 for 750 mls isn’t a better beer than most / any craft beers in 12oz bottles. You just can’t compare the richness of flavor!


I’ve never paid more than $30 for a bottle of wine, but I’ve definitely drank wines that cost a lot more than that. Some years ago, my in-laws got a bottle of Bordeaux Grand-Cru from an acquaintance who didn’t like wine but got it from a business relation. They gave it to us. It was a very special experience. Thick, velvety, unlike any wine I’d ever tasted. This happened twice more, first a different chateau, which was good but not spectacular, and once more with the same chateau and year as the first one (so it should be the same, right?), but it was totally different. Also excellent, but much lighter and fruitier.

But there are plenty of cheap wines that are great. Still, they’re not always easy to find. A random cheap wine is more likely to be crap than a random expensive wine, but some cheap wines are better than some expensive wines. It’s definitely worth it to know a bit about it (which I don’t; I always let my wife pick my wine for me).

Still, I think I’d be able to tell a coloured white wine from a true red wine. About a week ago, I tasted a rose that was as dark as a red wine, but tasted very different. But in the end, it’s all wine, so there’s bound to be some overlap and grey areas in taste in some cases.


Favor? No. But they are providing a service that people derive pleasure from.

There’s a recurring theme that just because something is not worth it for me, then it shouldn’t be worth it for anyone. It’s a form of ugliness that I discourage with the occasional comment in communities that I respect.

Besides, while not being an oenophile, I do know some for whom moderately expensive wines provide a great deal of pleasure. I see no reason to criticize them by calling them suckers, for the crime of having different standards of pleasure than I do.


You are ignoring the central idea here. That it is known that the same wine will taste better to near enough anyone if the price is higher.

This is not saying anything about whether there are good wines or that some people think its worth it and others do not. Those points are a different debate.

My point that the merchant charging the higher price is doing his customers a favor is meant to be a funny acknowledgement that we are all subject to these biases and might as well enjoy it.

“If it comes in a bottle and you paid more than $30 for it, you’re probably a sucker.”

A prime example of completely missing the point, throwing baby out with the bathwater and dare I say it, the reverse snobbery of a demagogue.


I think Rob is trolling. Only plausible conclusion, because he seems like an otherwise smart guy.

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A man walks into a bar and hands the bartender a fiver and says,“I’ll take a whiskey.” The bartender complies and the man takes a sip and says, “Hang on.” and hands the bartender another two bucks and sips again. “Ah, that’s better.”