Sunday, June 26, 2011

Deja View

Part of the joy of travel for me is taking photos of the places I go. I realize that the world really doesn't need any more shots of the Eiffel Tower and that mine stands no chance of being better in any discernible way from what professional photographers with far better equipment than I have done.

But there is still an air of creativity I like to linger on to. My shots may not be original but they are original to me.

An artist named Corrine Vionnet has turned other people's photos into art. She has rummaged through photobanks like Flickr and collaged pictures of world landmarks in a unique way. She superimposes hundreds of photos over each other. The results are hazy dreamlike montages. She takes concrete images and turns them into impressionistic memories.

A series of 23 of her images can be found here. I haven't been to every place in her gallery but I was shocked with how many I have. And how do my photos stack up against the collective soul of the photo taking public? Here are some examples:

We nearly missed the Brandenburg Gate on our visit to Germany last summer. Our tour guide had some last minute disruptions and asked us what we still wanted to see. We ended up taking a nice leisurely stroll along the path of the former Wall to arrive at the gate. It was the day of a World Cup match and the locals were streaming to an outdoor festival with video screens. The streets were alive with a united Berlin and I cannot imagine events that would force a scar down the center of such a beautiful city for so long.

The Colosseum in Rome is an amazing contradiction because of both how much of it is left and how much is gone. I was amazed to learn that after the fall of Rome, the ancient monuments of the city were used as an open air quarry for centuries. many of the gorgeous Christian churches have this ancient center of lavish entertainment in their roots.

There is no more iconic geological formation representing the American West than the Mittens in Monument Valley. But I imagine only the hardest core of fans of old westerns know where they are. Part of my trip last year to Arizona was planned to deliberately brush into Utah to see this area. The local Navajo tribes have done a wonderful job of making this remote area accessible while still letting its natural grandeur speak for itself.

Tienanmen Square is fraught with symbolism, both for Chinese Communists who are the current stewards to this enormous palace in the center of what was once the largest city on Earth as well as the freedom advocating protesters who have used this center to bring attention to their own struggle. Now the plaza is regularly patrolled for demonstrations, but unrest may someday return.

Every time I see the Golden Gate Bridge I marvel at how such a utilitarian piece of engineering can blend in so well with the surrounding natural beauty. The sheer challenge of such a structure demands awe and appreciation.

London has so many iconic views, but perhaps Big Ben is the best emblem of a Victorian sense of monumentalism and lavishness of detail which may never return.

Even older than the ruins of Rome or the pyramids of Egypt is Stonehenge which shows that our combined eagerness to build things and to look at the heavens predates the written history to explain what fascinates us so.

And finally, the Eiffel Tower is perhaps the most iconic structure in the world. There is a certain majesty which demands attention.

I guess my humble takes pale against the weight of thousands of others. But these photos are my memories of what I have found graceful and beautiful And if others have taken inspiration of the same views from the same locales so be it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Easiest 'Where Is Yellojkt Now?' Ever

Not to be too arch or beat around the bush, but I went to a baseball game tonight. Can you guess where?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bourbon Trail Day 2

The second day of my Bourbon Trail Tour in Kentucky back in April had a very ambitious itinerary. We had stayed in a bed and breakfast in Lexington because that was very close to the three distilleries seen on Day One as well as Woodford Reserve which we couldn't do on Sunday.

From there we had to dash over to Bardstown and finally south to Loretto before heading up to Louisville for the night. It was a lot of driving which kept the tasting to a minimum, but here is what I remember from the day:


Woodford Reserve

Heaven Hill

Makers Mark

Giant Conglomerate Which Actually Owns The Distillery

Brown-Forman Corporation, the same people who own the much larger Jack Daniels in Tennessee, which is also technically a bourbon but sold as Tennessee Whiskey.

Private family owned business which brands more than a dozen different bourbons including Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, and Henry McKenna

Fortune Brands which among many, many other liquors owns the much bigger bourbon brewer Jim Beam.

Photo Of Me Doing Something Silly


In a heavily wooded hilly area deep, deep into horse territory, Woodford Reserve is a boutique small batch distillery specializing in the rustic traditions. While the distillery was rebuilt on the inside in 1993, the building dates to 1838 and they look it.

Heaven Hill is large sprawling area filled with storage rickhouses on a breezy hilltop. The grounds are decorated with whimsical sculptures made from bourbon barrels.

Maker's Mark is way, way out of the way. It's over 45 minutes from Heaven Hill and it's all narrow country roads. The site was built as a tourist destination and it shows. All the buildings have a distinctive black and red decor.

Pre-Tour Movie

Fifteen minute movie emphasizing the age of the distillery and the old-fashioned techniques used.

We missed the movie so we could catch a tour that was just starting, but by now they were all looking the same.

They dispense with the movie, instead the original family house has been converted to a museum with all sorts of interactive exhibits.

Production Area Tour
Bourbon is made by malting and then distilling a mixture of grains which must be at least 50% corn. The distilling process also has odd arcane rules.

The only tour to charge money, it costs $5 to take the standard tour. The production area is all vintage style equipment including cedar fermenters and pot stills.

After a massive fire in 1996 which destroyed the distillery and several warehouses to the point the nearby river caught on fire, production was moved into Louisville, so the actual distillery can't be toured.The production area is very polished with lots of copper and brass but they don't let you get close to much except the giant fermenting vats.

The other crucial definitive aspect of bourbon is that it MUST be barrel aged in virgin white oak for at least four years.

As a small batch distillery, they have only one storage warehouse and it is just as vintage as the rest of site.

The warehouse is just as old as the distillery and the rails they use to move the barrels between the two are very cool.

The landscape is littered with warehouses and the smell of the "angels' share" is overwhelming. Since the tour basically consists of just the warehouse it is very detailed with examples of the ramps and lifts that used to be used to move and rotate the barrels until modern machinery took over.

Most of Makers Mark is stored in off-site warehouses that litter the road as you drive up but they do have one display warehouse with a lot of tools and paraphernalia on display.

Bottling and Labeling
Bourbons would all just be fancy brown booze if there weren't cool labels and improbable stories about the founders for the fancy shaped bottles.

They were upgrading the equipment when we took the tour so it was closed but on a previous visit I had seen them empty a barrel into the trough for the small batch mixing.

While bottling and labeling are done on site, it is not part of the tour.

Bottling is done on site but was not in production the day we were there so they skipped it.

There is no reason to go to a distillery if you aren't going to get to sample the goods.

Since they really only have one brand, the sample is just one shot of the bourbon. That's pretty chintzy for a five dollar tour. They do have ice to add and bourbon balls to sample.

The gift shop also has a sandwich bar where you can buy picnic supplies to take or eat on the grounds. Surprisingly it was one of the few places which sold food. It seems the local laws often don't allow that.

The tasting room seats about two dozen people and is in the shape of an enormous barrel. The tasting consists of two premium bourbons including an 18-year-old Elijah Craig which was the second best bourbon we had.

The tour guide gives a very detailed and entertaining talk about the enjoyment of a fine sipping bourbon. It really evokes the genteel snobbery of bourbon drinking.

The tasting room is one corner of the gift shop with a large bar and seating area. Kids (and there were a surprising number of them on our tour) are kept across the room.

They sample Makers Mark and the specially flavored Makers 46. Since it was near Derby time they also gave a shot of their mint julep flavored special edition which was awful.
Gift Shop

As the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby, they had all sorts of Derby related special edition bottles. They will also emboss or engrave bottles for you. Most of the accessories for sale were very high end.

The gift shop is right outside the tasting room and is Disneyesque in its displays and merchandise. They had a very wide array of the brands they sell including some very expensive special batches. Also a lot of different bourbon flavored foods and sauces.

Lots of branded merchandise. Since their 'mark' is the wax sealed top, they have a special area where you can wax your own bottle (and that's not meant to sound dirty) but we didn't see anybody doing it.

Tour Highlights
There is a lot of repetition to the shpiels and patters from each tour, but they each do a good job getting across what is unique about their brands approach to making a product which is rather tightly defined.

The most vintage of the distilleries, if not really the oldest, it gives a good feel for the original methods and systems used. Definitely the most picturesque production area. They even have a cat who has the run of the plant.

While the warehouse is very generic, the tour talk was one of the better ones and the tasting talk really helps you appreciate fine bourbons.

The place is out of the way but worth the extra drive just for the overall picturesqueness. Personally I use Makers Mark as the dividing line between mixing bourbons and sipping bourbons. It's upscale but not wildly pretentious.
More Photos

Woodford Reserve

Heaven Hill

Makers Mark IMG_8730

A business junket which included a tour of Woodford Reserve was what inspired me to take the entire bourbon trail and if you can only visit one distillery, this would be the one to go to. But each of the others has its own merits as well. I wish Heaven Hill had more to their tour because the knowledge of the guides and the tasting experience was the best of all the stops. This is all getting me thirsty.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Women of AfterMaximEllen

You would not think the readers of Maxim magazine, typically hormonally flush and barely literate young men, and of, a lesbian entertainment site, have much in common but they do. They both appreciate incredibly hawt women. Each annually publishes a list of the hottest 100 women in the world.

The Maxim list typically includes a mix of movie and television stars as well as a bevy of models the normal person would not be familiar with unless they kept scrupulous records involving the Sport Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

AfterEllen's list tends to be more eclectic. The typical Maxim reader is not going to get that worked up over Rachel Maddow (#22) or the lesbian twin sister folk-rock duo Tegan and Sara (#12 and #11 respectively. The do have the courtesy of noting the 28 or so women on the list which are officially 'out' as bisexual or lesbian so readers know when to get their hopes up. Although hope can spring eternal.

So as a service to the lesbian-friendly but testosterone laden community I have painstakingly combed both lists and compiled all the overlaps between the two. In order to rank them I have added their place on the Maxim list with the AfterEllen count to come up with the PanSexualHotnessQuotient (PSHQ). So without further ado here are the hottest women regardless of the equipment you are wearing.

Rank Hottie Maxim AfterEllen
16 Zoe Saldana

37 93
15 Sofia Vergara

29 82
14 Emma Stone

42 68
13 Lindsay Lohan
38 67
12 Emma Watson

69 33
11 Anna Paquin

68 23
10Scarlett Johansson

14 71
9 Megan Fox

17 50
8 Evan Rachel Wood

31 36
7 Jordana Brewster

11 49
6 Sarah Shahi

24 28
5 Naya Rivera

43 1
4 Natalie Portman

8 35
3 Lea Michele

28 10
2 Mila Kunis

5 19
1 Olivia Wilde

16 5

So Olivia Wilde is the woman that cranks everybody crank. Just in case the name does not mean anything to you, here she is in her best known movie role as Hot Tron Girl Who Lounges Sexily On A Sofa.

So I will be looking for more from her in the future. Or perhaps looking for less.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Women Of Weiner

There are many angles to the latest news scandal about how Congressman Andrew Weiner allegedly sent a college co-ed a photo of his semi-turgid member underneath his underwear. Now the actual origin and vector of that photo will be Zaprudered for weeks to come, but one interesting point was made by recent college co-ed and Washington Post humor blogger Alexandra Petri about the composition of Rep. Weiner's twitter followees.
And of the 200 people @RepWeiner follows on Twitter, a surprising number (well, more than zero, at any rate) do seem to be what might be termed nubile out-of-state houris.
Deciding to not take her word for it, I conducted my own independent investigation. Here is a smorgasbord of the people Weiner finds interesting.

Representative Capps is a coworker and colleague. Nothing out of line here.

Another fellow congresscritter. Arguably cuter. And single.

A CNN anchor. A guy has to stay informed. Who cares if she's a newsbabe? It's the quality of the reporting that counts, right?

An up-and-coming journalist. Makes sense to have some friends in the Fourth Estate.

A New Yorker. Possibly a constituent. You have to keep up with the common people.

I gotta dispute the 'body of a trucker' description. She seems pretty cute and at least she's a New Yorker.

Another New Yorker. Who cares if she's in the fashion industry and blazing hott?

A woman with a strong opinion on an important issue.

Another political junkie. One who wears really cute hats.

A lot of enthusiasm, but it seems to be mostly for the internet start-up she's associated with as evidence by this tweet elliptically referencing the current kerfuffle:
I'm pretty sure I only have room for one Brooklyn Weiner in my life...@DoSomething CTO George Weiner. Follow him @GeorgecaWeiner #15minutes

Now we are moving into some dangerous territory. There is no obvious connection to politics or New York but she does rock the brainy glasses.

At least we are back to politics. Incidentally, Lady Fox Fyre's twitter feed is invite-only and she only has 30 followers, so our congressman is in pretty select company.

A college student from Pennsylvania. Tsk, tsk, these are the sort of follows that get you a reputation, Andrew. Ms DeVinney does have this to say:

I normally TRY not to generalize but anyone who thinks Weiner sent a picture from his TWITTER is an idiot. GOP care about something real.

At least she is a college professor but there is a little bit of a come hither tone in the profile.

A cutie with this to say as well:

Poverty, education, healthcare, corporate greed, & Snooki's car accident. Seriously, there are way more important things to report about.

Another invite-only feed, but once you have 'kitten' and 'X' in your handle, there some innuendo going on.

An anonymous woman with no profile photo but a twitter handle that is brainy and sexy.

When it comes to suggestive handles and profile photos, it doesn't get more risque that this.

And once you have hearts and a call-out to Anaïs Nin in your profile description, a line has been crossed.

Perhaps I'm following the wrong track. Maybe the issue shouldn't be who Weiner would like to tweet his wiener to, but who would appreciate such a tweet.

Weiner and Stewart are actual friends so it seems odd that he follows the gay parody twitter feed rather than the real thing.

Not sayin' a thing.

If you are tweeting crotch shots as a constituent service, this would be the place to send it.

Only because when you are discussing Weiner, there is a legal obligation to make a Boehner joke as well.

From this rather prejudiced and selectively organized sub-list feel free to draw your own conclusions. But, please, please, please, do not stalk these otherwise innocent bystanders and by all means don't try to frame any outspoken congressmen by faking a junk shot and framing them as the recipient.