Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Keeping Debabelized

Keeping Symposium 2011 Debabelized

This is an article I wrote for Alltech's blog during their 27th Alltech Symposium, which was attended by over 2200 people from around the world and at least 400 non-English speakers. I was fascinated by Alltech's ongoing commitment to accomodate this segment of their client base by offering state-of-the-art translation services each year. So I wrote this article for their blog, thinking others might be similarly interested.

By Mick Jeffries

You don't have to know Carla Woodley to know that she speaks your language. And if not, she can definitely find somebody who does.

Woodley, the Bilingual Executive Assistant for Alltech's Director of Latin America is one of the principal coordinators of theSymposium's world class (literally) real-time translation services. A native of Panama who grew up in Texas, she's worked in this capacity for Alltech for over five years and helps coordinate a staff of nearly two dozen translators who keep the Symposium's international audience speaking the same language…. continue reading on Alltech's blog

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Importance of Being Mjolnir

(I hate when blogposts get lost in the draftosphere. That's what happened here. But I like what I wrote so, here it is, years late.)

For those who prefer the short version: Thor is great. I was surprised.

More thoughts follow.

I've said this to some of my kid friends, as we've gone, over the last several years to see big-screen renditions of things like Spiderman, Iron Man, and the X-Men: I have been waiting for these movies for my entire life. It is a feeling almost embarrassingly embued with emotion, a swelling in my throat.

That's because I grew up on Marvel Comics. At age 13 or so, my first magazine subscriptions (a custom I think of as fairly adult) were to The Uncanny X-Men and The Mighty Avengers. I can still clearly see the brown sleeves they would arrive in (the ads used the excited term "mailed flat!" which was so obvious that it was actually puzzling for a minute)

My imagination was cast in Kirby Dots, my curiosity enthralled by Marvel's fragile, flawed heros. DC's Superman? He was perfect, how boring. Marvel's Spiderman or Daredevil? They had humanity — expressed through frailty and flaws, an approach that has informed the fantastical canon ever since, from Buffy to Heroes to Kick Ass.

All along the way, through the years, the "bullpen" page (Marvel's popular term for a page containing fan letters, news updates, and the occasional awarding of a "no-prize" for astute readers who caught some continuity error in the mag) would frequently proclaim that Spiderman or The Avengers or countless other favorites were SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE! Or a TV SERIES!

And we "true believers" (again in the parlance of Stan Lee's institution) waited with excitement. And waited. And waited.

It rarely happened, and when it did — the short-lived TV series Spiderman, for instance — it was … pretty terrible. But we True Believers choked it down because we wanted — so badly — to see our heroes writ large. We KNEW they were great. The rest of the world would, too, if only somebody could  manage to not butcher the mythos.

And in the last decade that has finally happened. Why? I think it's simple. Among us true believers are brilliant writers, actors and producers who, like me, grew up loving Marvel Comics. Now those people are in a position to bring the Marvel Universe in all its intricate glory to life, and not muck it up in the process.

The latest chapter in this — and the most surprising to me — is Thor, which, again to cut to the chase, is great. This came as a great surprise to me. In my comic-reading days, I was fairly non-plussed by the God of Thunder. In fact, I thought he was fine, and a great member of The Avengers. But I was never much of a reader of "the title" (meaning: the comic book "Thor, God of Thunder"). I think I was somewhat exhausted by the "thou's" and "thee's" of Thor's Asgardian medieval-speak. But he seemed like a decent superhero, along with his fantastically powerful hammer mighty Mjolnir, which could destroy shit, whip up hurricanes, and fly him around, too.

But upon first hearing of a movie version of Thor, I thought it was the first misstep in what has generally been a movie golden age for Marvel.

I was wrong. Thor is great, for several reasons I discovered as the movie played out before my eyes.

Reason 1: Thor comes from Asgard. He's a demi-god. Translation: it's a pretty exciting place to look at, and the wonder of modern eye-goggling special effects left me thinking that Jack Kirby himself would be just creaming over the glorious city of the gods. If you'd seen it in comic books, seeing it in movie form — especially Real D — is like seeing a dream made flesh.

Reason 2: Loki, Thor's step brother. In the comics, I never really got Loki. He didn't seem too powerful (especially for a demi-god) and his specialty seemed to be brooding and tricking people into fighting each other from time to time. What the movie showed me that Loki had is probably the single greatest real-world evil power there is. Namely: He is a motherfucking liar to beat the band. What could be more timely in an age of spin-control? Years after I read the comic, Thor (the movie) helped me finally get Loki's awesome power. He is a master motherfucking liar.

Reason 3: Royalty. I have to chalk this up to the royal wedding. I didn't much care about it, and then when it happened, my omnivorous curiosity opened up in the direction of the British Royal Family, and the ideal of a sovereign lineage. Any mythology — in the case of Thor, Norse — is magnitudes beyond this. The amazing thing that I never would have expected is that the movie makes it work. It's partially a tribute to __________________, who does an amazing job of portraying a god among mortals and just how unnatural that would be. ____________ carries himself with this uncanny swagger that seems so very appropriate. He's not so much a dick, as he just has no idea how to behave any other way.

The parade has been — sorry — Marvelous: Spiderman. The X-Men. Iron Man. None without issue, of course, but all showing boundless love and passion for the source material, I think. And all bringing to life the heros, the villains, the cities and circumstances of the world that I grew up paying rapt attention to, often at the cost of coolness. This has changed.

Once being in a superhero movie would have been a Hollywood kiss of death. Now you can levitate with milked-over eyes one year and pile up award trophies the next. Way to go, Halle Berry. You can have claws pop out of your hands, and then host the Academy Awards, like Hugh Jackman.

And that's a Marvel.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Arco Arena (Midland Mix)

Some kitchen-sink studio good times with my man, Logan, the author of quite a few other such video songs. I officially deem this: A Fun Way to Spend One's Time.

Thanks, Logan!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

Leading Women 2011 outtakes and commentary

Robbie MorganMarnie HoloubekMarnie HoloubekLisa MintonLisa Minton"testing supermodel height…"
Soreyda BegleySoreyda Begleythe junior fashionistasFreda MeriweatherFreda MeriweatherSandra White
Sandra WhiteDebra HensleyDebra HensleyLaura D'AngeloLaura D'AngeloLeading Women Series background – Framing the shot
Cindy HeineCindy HeineEsther HurlbertEsther HurlbertWanda BertramWanda Bertram
The Flickr set pictured above collects images from one of my favorite photography projects for Business Lexington magazine: Leading Women of Central Kentucky, the 2011 edition.

It's always a hustle — arranging 20 shoots, conceiving frames, and sorting and choosing afterwards. Along the way I always meet some of the most amazing people, doing wonderful things in Kentucky. This is my 3rd year doing this series and it's more delightful every time.

See the published series with accompanying articles in Business Lexington magazine.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

One Door Opens…

I admire my friend Travis because he's such an incredible scrapper. He's always finding amazing cast-offs, salvage, etc. and then building even more amazing things out of what he finds. I was channeling Travis when I spotted these solid wood doors discarded into my neighbors' yard and headed for the landfill. The landfill! Some of them actually have glass knobs. 

But the real hope is that I can continue to channel my friend and turn this unexpected bounty into the walls of the über-cool yard shed that Lucy and I have been meaning to build for years. These doors are that shed!

Maybe something like this, perhaps? OK, maybe not quite that big.

Leading Women!

Mission accomplished! For the third year, I've been delighted to make 20 portraits for Business Lexington magazine. Please have a look at this year's Leading Women of Central Kentucky

Coming soon: a gallery of the shoots and a few alternate shots. ..

Thursday, May 05, 2011

my guest Kate & I gaze lovingly on her Apollo Mission collectors' glasses as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the US Space Program on Trivial Thursdays on WRFL!

Freedom 7 Fifty Years Later

I have always, my entire life, loved the US space program. Indeed, it's easily the closest that I could ever come to being construed as "a patriot." As a child, I spent untold hours poring over every word, every illustration, every World Book Encyclopedia entry I could find about astronauts and space exploration. That love has never particularly diminished and as far as I'm concerned the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions may well be the coolest things that the US has ever done, as an entity.

Fifty years ago today, all that magic started with a 15-minute journey by Alan Shepard, the first American (and second human) in space, perched atop a Redstone rocket in the Mercury capsule named Freedom 7. Which didn't have a window, by the way.

According to Gene Kranz in his book, Failure Is Not an Option, "When reporters asked Shepard what he thought about as he sat atop the Redstone rocket, waiting for liftoff, he had replied, 'The fact that every part of this ship was built by the low bidder.'"

Fortunately, the US space program has been well documented. One of the finest films I've seen is the Discovery Channel's 6-part series When We Left Earth, which is comprised entirely of NASA footage and interviews. It's awe-inspiring. Those looking for a more dramatic portrayal (though still largely accurate) need look no further than The Right Stuff, based on Tom Wolfe's book, and featuring some of the best casting imaginable. Finally, for a more cerebral take on the Apollo missions, the documentary For All Mankind (with a soundtrack by Brian Eno) is sublime, haunting, mysterious and beautiful.

I doubt I'll ever tire of these accounts of a time when our national goals and achievements were a little more — sorry — starry-eyed than they seem today. And really, John Kennedy said it much better, one year and one week after Freedom 7 at Rice University.

(the entire legendary 17-minute speech)

Monday, May 02, 2011

Not Making Pasta. Making Portrait.

My last shoot for Business Lexington's "Leading Women of Central Kentucky 2011" portrait series was a family kitchen shoot. If I hadn't been thoroughly occupied trying to frame a shot, I probably would have taken my subject, Laura Boison, up on her offer to try my hand at rolling out some pasta. Look for her — not me — and the complete series in the upcoming issue. )

Top of the Town Hard at Work

One of the things that I love about shooting the "Leading Women of Central KY" series (and really portraiture in general) is that the assignments take me to places I might otherwise never visit. Before last week, I'd been inside Lexington's skyline-defining Kincaid Tower once ever. Last week: Four times. It's absolutely mesmerizing to study this town's growth and architecture from the 23rd floor corner office. Pictured: looking for the light and setting a frame for Doris Bentson, President of the Langeley Group. Full series will appear in the next edition of Business Lexington magazine.

Begley & the Beast

An impromptu portrait of an old friend and his incredible vintage tried-and-true Land Rover. Hummer owners: this is your cue to exit with your tails between your legs.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Amazing Blanton's KY Derby "Easter Egg"

Blanton's bottles feature a random selection of racehorse tops which together form the path of a derby racehorse — from gate to finish line. Excellent design. And a very cool Easter Egg.

Buffalo Trace Warehouse

Fermentation: Weird and natural!

Had an absolutely delightful visit to Buffalo Trace Distillery for a tour — five years after having gotten married there. Lucy and I offered the tour as an option for guests at our wedding but … we never got to take it! And now I know that it's fantastic.

I was in awe of these epic fermentation tanks; this is where bourbon starts: as a froth of fizzing grains and water. It was fairly impressive to glance over, but it became astonishing when I came to understand that this froth was not being circulated mechanically and was not being heated. It was moving entirely on its own, due to a giant chemical reaction going on over the course of about five days.

To me this was inspirational, bordering on spiritual. For all the badmouthing booze gets, it's pretty nature-approved. Hell, it's easier and more holistic to make mead or wine than it is to make Coca-Cola. So people — shut up and have a drink.

Buffalo Trace uses these fermenting tanks to produce over a dozen celebrated brands of bourbon. If you're into bourbon, or spirits distillation, or if you just love a good "factory" tour, this one's well worth your time. I plan on doing the tour again and maybe again. It was that interesting to me. Oh — here's some photos.

Also, this reminded me that it's time to get busy reading Wild Fermentation and seeing what kinds of kitchen experiments can come of it.