Eye Of The Beholder

So this Paris-based fitness blogger (no, I don’t know what that is either) decided to give us two views of herself — as men might see her and as she does. Here’s the object in question:

Here’s what I see: a reasonably-pretty woman, decent boobage (the bra doesn’t help), with the bandy legs and slightly large nose of the typical Parisienne. In a stone-cold sober state, I’d rank her somewhat above average: about a 7, maybe a 7.5 if she cleans up nicely. If she has a sexy walk or carries herself with confidence, she’s a definite 8, and I’d wager that most men would happily ask her out on a date.

Here, however, is the comparison she draws:

Good grief. This just goes to prove that there’s no fiercer critic of a woman’s body than the owner thereof.

Suddenly, she’s a lot less attractive. Ladies, take note: self-hatred is not sexy.

And if Miss Aubery is just doing this to attract attention to herself — what’s known today, cruelly, as “attention-whoring” — to build up her self-esteem, then that’s even less attractive.

Scotch

I’m on my way Up North to Scottishland today and don’t have time to post something current. By pure coincidence, however, a Longtime Reader asked me to rerun my old treatise on Scotch whiskies, which seems appropriate; so here it is, from March 2006, and as you may imagine, not much has changed since then:

I drink Scotch in three ways:

1. Single malts (sipping). Neat, no ice, with a glass of water consumed on alternate sips. This has less to do with style than it does with my frigging gout. I refuse to dilute the lovely stuff in my mouth, but I don’t mind diluting it in the stomach. My favorite single malts are typically from the Speyside region, and I’ll drink pretty much any single malt from those distilleries, but my absolute favorite is The Macallan 25-year-old, with Glenmorangie 10-yr-old as my “everyday” choice. For a “change”, I’ll drink The Dalmore 15-yr-old, which like Glenmorangie is a Highland malt.

Also in the cabinet right now are all the aforementioned, plus Glenfiddich 18-yr-old and Talisker 10-yr-old, for those with different tastes to mine. When Mr. FM comes to visit, I usually lay in a few bottles of Laphroiag, his favorite.

2. Blended (thirst quenching, or at parties). J&B, ice and water — and only J&B. Forget even offering me anything else. No J&B, and Kim drinks something else altogether, like gin. I actually dilute my J&B quite substantially — that gout thing again — and this also allows me to drink for longer periods of time before intoxication sets in.

3. As an after-dinner liqueur. Here I prefer the smoky, peatier singles like Laphroiag or Talisker, because I’m only going to drink one, and I can take my time in the drinking of it.

I’m not a Scotch snob, by the way, even though the above may make me sound like one. My tastes and favorites have come after some fairly extensive errrr trial and experimentation, and like in many areas of my life, I see no reason to change something with which I’m comfortable, and which has come about after considerable experience. I’ve tried most of the major single malts available internationally, and a couple available only in Scotland, but I’ve come to settle on the above because, well, I love their taste.

The wonderful thing about Scotch in general, and single malts in particular, is that it doesn’t matter how you drink it: that distinctive taste will always shine through. (However, I pretty much draw the line at drinking single malt with, say, Diet Coke, because that’s just barbaric — and once you mix any Scotch with Coke, the subtle differences between brands and types pretty much disappear, making the choice of a single malt under those circumstances just pretentious. But hey, if that’s how you want to drink that 40-yr-old Talisker…)

Just be aware that adding water to a single malt doesn’t just dilute the taste, it may change it completely. I find that this is especially true of some Highland malts. Some people happen upon such a taste, and thereafter prefer to drink their favorite single that way. Your call.

Still on the subject of taste, some say that coastal distilleries’ malts are different from those made by inland distilleries because of the salty sea air. I can’t taste it, myself, but I’m not a seasoned Scotch drinker, really.

Finally, it’s a common mistake to assume that the older the malt, the better the whisky. Some malts taste better in their “rawer” state — the malt becomes more bland as it ages — whereas others need the time to “mature” into smoothness. It’s all about your taste and preferences.

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Afterthought: It occurred to me that not everyone might be familiar with the Scotch thing, incredible as that may seem. So, for the benefit of anyone who might be interested in pursuing Scotch as a career (as so many have), here are a few pointers.

Single malts are the exclusive product of one distillery, made from barley. They will be bottled and sold as such, or else sold to other distillers to be blended with other malt- and grain whiskies (in closely-guarded secret and “proprietary” recipes) to produce “blended” Scotches such as J&B, Haig, White Horse, Bell’s, Cutty Sark and so on.

Blended malts are malts from different distilleries, sometimes called “vatted” malt. (The wonderfully-named “Sheep Dip” is a blended malt. Also, if the brand contains the words “Pride of”, or “Poit”, chances are it’s a blended malt.)

Proprietary (blended) Scotches are also broken into blended grain (grains from other distilleries) and blended Scotch (malts and grains from different distilleries). The actual number of distilleries used can be large. J&B, for example, uses the product from forty distilleries (and almost none from Islay, which is why it’s one of the smoothest Scotches on the market). Johnny Walker Red contains malts from 35 distilleries, and grains from 5 others.

As a rule of thumb, the higher the malt proportion (30%+) in the blend, the more expensive the Scotch. The most expensive (sometimes called premium) blends are at least 40% malt (eg. Johnny Walker Black, Chivas Regal). The “premium” can also be a factor not of the malt/grain mix, but of the number of malts used — the lower the number of malts in a brand, the more expensive it will be.

Single-grain Scotch whisky is rare (Black Barrel and Loch Lomond being the most famous).

(For all the info on Scotch whisky brands you’re ever likely to need, go here.)

The age of a single malt is denoted by the time it spent maturing in its cask: once bottled, it ceases to age altogether. If you see “single cask” on a single malt’s label, it means it came from one cask exclusively and was not mixed with whisky from other casks within the same distillery. Usually, this variant is hideously expensive, for not much more flavor — we’re well up the curve of diminishing returns, here.

Now for some pointers on the distilleries and their brands. The list is by no means complete (there are dozens of distilleries in Scotland — here’s a map), but I have actually tried all the ones I’ve listed.

The malts differ by region (sometimes by even smaller geographic differences) because of the different waters used, and in the distilling processes. I’ve made a few generalizations, however, just to give people an idea.

One last note: when you see a “The” before a single malt’s name, it’s not generally an affectation. Sometimes, the name is an area, not just an actual distillery (eg. Glenlivet), and “The” is usually added to denote either that it’s a single malt, or that it comes from the distillery of that name.

Speyside whiskies have a smoother taste, lighter flavor and softer aroma than most other Scotches. They are distilled, as the name suggests, in distilleries which are found along the River Spey on the northeast side of Scotland. Some of those distilleries (there are at least twenty major ones) are: Knockando, Glenlivet, Aberlour, Balvenie, Glenfarclas and Macallan.

Island/Islay whiskies come from the islands on the west- and north coasts of Scotland. Typically, they are much heavier, more aromatic, peatier-flavored whiskies, and some of the distilleries are very well-known: Laphroiag (la-froy-yag, from Islay), Talisker (Skye), Ardbeg (Islay), Highland Park (Orkney) and Bowmore (Islay).

Highland whiskies come from the north of Scotland (sometimes split into northern and southern Highlands). They tend to be darker than the Speyside malts, but not as peaty as the Island ones. Brands include such names as Dalwhinnie, Glen Ord, Dalmore, and Glenmorangie.

Lowland whiskies come from points around the Edinburgh – Glasgow axis, and there are really only two major ones: Rosebank and Glenkinchie (which is the main ingredient of Dimple Haig). I’ve tried Rosebank and didn’t really like it that much, but others (not put off by the “Lowland” appellation) swear by it.

Some factoids:

  • Glenmorangie is the #1-selling single malt in Scotland.
  • Glenlivet is the #1-selling single malt in the world.
  • Glenfarclas is the strongest “production” single malt sold.
  • The Famous Grouse is the most popular Scotch in Scotland (it’s blended, not a single).
  • Johnny Walker Red (also a blend) is the most popular Scotch in the world.
  • Johnny Walker Black (also a blend) is the most popular “premium” Scotch in the world.
  • Chivas Regal (also a premium blend) is the most overrated Scotch in the world (okay, that’s just my opinion — OMD).

Feel free to add your comments and opinions in the regular place. Remember that taste in anything is highly personal, so no flame wars, please.

Now: on to Edinburgh.

Mourning Dress

In Britishland, there are groups of “travelers” (gypsies) a.k.a. “pikeys” who,as their name suggests, are of no fixed abode and who wander all over Europe in vans, RVs and mobile homes (caravans), and take over private land by simply squatting there and refusing to move. Being of no fixed abode, and apparently having no legal income, they survive essentially by being criminals, both petty and massive, and often violent.

I leave it to my Loyal Readers to ponder how they would be treated by both police and members of the public in various locales if they tried that squatting nonsense in the United States.

Anyway, a week or so ago two such groups of pikeys were apparently locked in a deadly feud with each other, and in one lovely incident a yoot belonging to one tribe was beaten to death with a shovel. Ordinarily, this would occasion little comment as it falls into the “Chicago drug dealers kill each other over turf” category, i.e. nobody cares.

However, pikeys, like the Italian crime families of yore, are known for their elaborate and costly funerals. This particular dead yoot brought forth an extraordinary one, even by pikey standards. You know you are respected in death when mourners dress in somber funeral attire such as this:

Among ordinary people, this creature could easily be classed as a Train Smash Woman, but I suspect that the term is probably generic for all female members of these tribes.

And lest I be accused of misrepresentation, here’s a wider view of the funeral procession:

Not the sort one would find at a Free Market Towers garden party on a Sunday afternoon, I suspect, and a game of “Spot The Virgin” would be pointless.

I’m frequently amused, on similar occasions, by the wails of the dead miscreants’ mothers: “He was taken too soon!” they scream before collapsing into some supporter’s arms.

“Not taken soon enough” would be my assertion, and I suspect that I’d most often be correct.


Afterthought: I have been told that the term “pikey” is disrespectful. Very well; henceforth, in the interests of accuracy I shall refer to these people as “shiftless criminal bastards”. Nah, that’s too long and too much hassle to type out. “Pikeys” it shall remain.

 

The Things We Do For Free

I’ve always thought of myself as a somewhat picky eater, but really, I’m only picky if there’s a choice. Example: if my choices are a Burger King, Applebee’s or local restaurant, I’ll always choose the local guy. If the choice is Italian, Greek or Indian, I’ll pick according to what I feel like eating. If none of the choices seem appealing, or the place looks dodgy, I’ll go without.

This morning I was having breakfast at the Fleabagge Inne, and it was… acceptable. Bacon was okay (better than the American “streaky” type), the fried eggs were likewise okay, if a tad rubbery, the baked beans come out of a can just like everywhere else, and the coffee was, well, British (poor). To my Stateside Readers, it was like breakfast at the Grandy’s chain, only with worse coffee — but I never eat at Grandy’s. So why was I eating such a canteen-style breakfast here in London? It’s not like you can’t find a decent Full English anywhere, of course; so why here?

At first, I thought I was eating it just because it was free, but on reflection, it wasn’t just that: it was also because it was convenient (just downstairs, as opposed to walking around looking for a place) and, as I realized while eating, it was actually no different from the many hundreds of breakfasts I’d had at boarding school as a boy. In other words, while I’ve become a fussy eater, I’ve had far worse breakfasts before. I don’t really mind compromising when it’s convenient — and I’m only here for a couple of days anyway before heading up to Scottishland, so what the hell.

And there’s nothing wrong with “free” either.

Right: I have an open day in my hands before meeting up with friends, so it’s off to the world’s best bookshop: Foyle’s, on Charing Cross Road.

They’ve modernized it, of course, [sigh] but somehow, I think I’ll manage. That’s not going to be free…

Beat Down

I came late to this little party because I was doing things like drinking with The Englishman and Mr. Free Market, and watching football with Mr. Sorenson — and also, because for some reason (ha!), the Miller/Acosta fracas never made the news Over Here — but I love it.

Basically, this is what happens when a grownup debates a foolish child: in this case, logical, factual and historical arguments applied to a peevish and foolish “open-borders” attitude complete with straw-man arguments. Miller achieved all this despite Acosta interrupting him constantly and changing the terms of the argument when he sensed he was losing.

Here’s what it’s like to debate liberals:

Acosta’s ass must be hurting like hell right now, because Miller metaphorically bent him over a desk and beat him like a red-headed stepchild. The only way this could have been any better was if he’d actually done so.

Bucket List Entry #7: Chelsea Football Club

I’ve been a fan of Chelsea since about 1972, so I can’t be accused of being a fan only after they became successful in recent years. Oh good grief, no: I remember all too well the Mediocre Years, when the Blues seemed simply content to be the perennial #5 in the league (after Man U, Liverpool, Arsenal etc). No, having suffered all that time, I’m enjoying their recent successes (European Champions League and English Premier League winners). Obviously, I’ve always wanted to watch The Lads play, and as such it’s very definitely on my Bucket List.

Today I’m going to Wembley Stadium as the guest of Longtime Brit Friend Mr. Sorenson to watch Chelsea play against hated north London rivals Arsenal in what is essentially a replay of this year’s F.A. Cup Final — which Chelsea lost (!) — so excuse me for being a little excited. I even have my old Chelsea hat, bought lo so many years ago.

Go The Blues!!!!

Update: We lost on penalties after a 1-1 tie at full-time. Ugh. But I captured a flag.

Actually, I don’t care about the result. A Bucket List Event with a good friend, with beer and good times: pure gold. Thanks, Sor.