27 July 2010

Videos I Think Are Funny.

I've been telling a lot of people about these videos lately, so I thought it was worth popping them up here-- if you've already seen 'em... well, watch them again. They're high-larious!

25 July 2010

Got My Visa!

Where are the weeks going? Despite the fact that I've gotten a lot done and seen so many dear friends and family, I feel like I've still got so much to do in Atlanta!

I was very lucky to visit my aunt, uncle, cousin and grandmother last weekend in DC. My cousin Amisha joined the army a few years to help with med school fees, and she is just about to start active duty! She had to go buy a combat uniform-- it even has a special medical patch. She was nervous the whole weekend about saluting properly and making sure she saluted the right people.

I know it's weird to find cuteness in camouflage, but she's my younger cousin, so I think she looks pretty cute in her uniform.

Especially when my Ba is hugging her. Adorable.

I've been driving a lot lately, so I thought I'd show you Southern Hemisphere-types what Atlanta really looks like to me.

This is the entrance to the Krog Street Tunnel. It's Atlanta's best-known illegal art gallery. Graffiti don't last long here, unless it's truly awesome. The FU BP paint has been up since I got to town, so you can tell it's hit a nerve.

Also, there is an abundance of adorable kittens in the Atlanta area these days. My friend Joe Tsambiras, who is a kick-ass drawer (not like a chest of, but more like with a pencil) recently adopted these little munchkins, named Ponyo and Fermina. I held them like babies and they both purred and fell asleep. I think I might be a Cat Whisperer.

And Joe and Judith came home the other day to find a 4-week-old kitten in their recycling box! They named him Wendall, and he's so little, it's exhausting.

Popsicle update: At the EAV Farmers' Market on Tuesday, I had a Watermelon Mojito popsicle, tasted an Avocado and Cream one, and tasted a Canary Melon and  Rose Syrup one. They were all awesome. I don't know what I'm going to do without that market.

Anthropology update: I have approximately 32 books to read. I have only read two so far. 30 left to go!! Argh. Oh, well. At least I got my student visa, right?

20 July 2010

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimerby Kai Bird

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The writing itself is a bit clunky throughout this book-- the word "exquisite" is used at least 3 times between pages 11-12.

But the story is, of course, amazing. Oppenheimer held genius, for poetry, for physics, for sheer nerdiness of the highest order, and a more appropriate icon for American intellectualism, with all its power and ambiguity, could not be imagined. And a more instructive tale about American ideals, and its destructive power against its better values, could not be written.

It is a detailed, thorough, well-researched book. Possibly too detailed and well-researched. Which is to say, I wouldn't call it a 'fascinating' read, because I often got whirled into details about Richard Dawkin's wife and other things that didn't seem to move the plot, or set the stage, or work on a larger metaphor, or convey anything other than the fact that the authors clearly did a lot of research not only on Oppenheimer, but on everyone around him, too.

But as I read the last chapters, of Oppie's losing battle with the FBI and then with cancer, I think about the "security concerns" that even today prevent intellectuals from entering this country, and I worried for the waste we have made of his story.

View all my reviews >>

16 July 2010

Um, I meant SHAKE SHAKE!

Right now, I'm up in Maryland, near DC visiting family. Specifically, my masi and masa (aunt and uncle), my ba (grandmother), and my cousin Amisha. After an 11-hour drive from the ATL yesterday, we were exhausted and all fell asleep around midnight.

Suddenly at 5am I woke up. For no good reason. My eyes shot open and I didn't know why. It sounded like a train was going by, and the house shook slightly. I'm fairly used to this, because my sister's house is near a track and the upper level shakes every time a train goes by.

Around noon, someone finally got around to reading the newspaper--

There was an earthquake in Maryland this morning at 5am.

3.6 and the epicenter was about 10 miles away from my Suchi Masi's house.

I just lived through my first earthquake! And I didn't even sleep through it!

I know, I get excited by the wrong things sometimes...

13 July 2010

Shake Shake!

That Coathangers song I like is available as a free mp3 from Spin magazine online:

I really liked this band live, but the magic is missing from their CD, which is a common enough phenomenon, I know.

Still, they're a fun band to listen to, and they're not afraid to be shrill, screaming, high-voiced girls, even possibly to the point of annoyance. And there's something I kind of like about that...

11 July 2010

East Atlanta Village Farmers' Market and Love Is Love Farm!

In my first two weeks in Atlanta, I heard the same questions at least six times, from separate people: "Have you seen King of Pops? Have you had a popsicle?"

There is a guy, you see –and he has a brother– and together, they make delicious, all-natural popsicles by hand, with genius flavours. Pineapple cilantro. Peach ginger. Arnold Palmer. Lemon basil. They set up outside a busy gas station on Moreland Avenue, and the hipsters queue up.

Because what wouldn't you do for a Blueberry Lemonade popsicle in Atlanta's 37 degree weather?

Lucky for me, the King of Pops is a regular at the East Atlanta Village Farmers' Market. And he sets up directly across from the Love is Love Farm stall, where I've been volunteering on my dear friend Joe's stall; Joe's the farmer running Love is Love. So, in the last two weeks, I have (finally) enjoyed myself some delicious popsicles. Arnold Palmer, Blueberry Lemonade, Peach Ginger, Lemon Basil, and Pineapple Cilantro are only some of the delicious flavours these guys have. King of Pops is the Atlanta phenomenon of 2010. That's right: we're barely halfway through the year, and I'm calling it.

Joe's stall is stuffed with beautiful food at 4pm, and it nearly always sells out by around 6.30pm. He also runs Love is Love's Community-Supported-Agriculture program from behind the stall, so lots of Joe's friends/customers come by every week. He and his sweetheart Judith are well-loved in this town, and looking at how Joe feeds these folks, it's easy to know why. It's enough to make me miss Alfalfa...

Check out Love is Love's Facebook page, for some pictures of me with Joe and a sweet comment from Lynn, my mama-in-law.

This is about how helpful I am to Joe when I work at his market stall. At least the Australian necklace looks good! I also think this picture's great because there's a guy in the background who looks like he has a giant red circle-head.

Judith is, like Joe, also a total badass. She manages the East Atlanta Village farmers' market, and she's also the leader of Atlanta Slow Food, assistant maitre d' at Restaurant Eugene, and assistant program director of Wholesome Wave Georgia. Basically, if you want to talk food in Atlanta, you're talking to Judith. Under her leadership, the EAV farmers' market has developed a killer energy that's fun and exciting and buzzing, even in Atlanta's sticky heat. East Atlanta's already a cool, hip, just-sketchy-enough neighbourhood, and Judith's market has made it even better. She's so busy I haven't even gotten a decent picture of her yet. I'm on it! There's even a fresh-baked pizza stall; the cook brings bases and sauce, and tops the pizzas entirely with cheese and veggies and meats from the market stalls. One week, I had a pizza with Joe's fresh green beans on top-- crispy delicious.

These guys run "Crack in the Sidewalk Farmlet," which is basically a house garden. They don't quite seem to grow enough to last through the market's hours, but they supplement their harvest with foraged food. They had a whole basket of chanterelles last week, which I also regretfully didn't purchase, only to find they hadn't any this time. Never again.

They sell the most amazing wild sumac-ade. I never knew what wild sumac was before the EAV farmers' market. And in case you're wondering, sumac is native red berries, pictured here hanging above the smiling people. And sumac-ade is a traditionally Cherokee beverage called qualla. Exciting. And the taste? Really good.

This market's awesome: you can get your artisan bread here, your cheese and yogurt, goat's cheese, and your soap, cleaning products, honey besides. Scharko farm also sells lovely produce-- last week, they had some butternut pumpkin. I didn't buy any, as I ran out of cash, and they didn't have any this week. Regret! I can't wait to roast some up and pop 'em on a pizza! Oh, I miss the Hive's pumpkin pizza-- wait, I probably shouldn't get into the Sydney food I miss. Bonsoy latte. Chinese noodles. Oh, oh. Woe, woe. But I'm going out with Joe and Judith tomorrow night to try to find some Atlanta-style Chinese Szechuan...

Check out their tomatoes!

For the 4 of July, I did more 4 of July stuff than I ever have before; I attended not only Decatur's dusktime fireworks show (lovely and awesome), but I also watched Decatur's July 4th parade. Decatur is a city east of Atlanta where Craig and I lived for 5 years; it's a lovely town. The parade was ridiculous. Considering how rich Decatur is, and how many seriously over-the-top events this town regularly organizes, this parade suffered from some serious neglect. Consider the Decatur Beach Party, where they literally truck in 60 (60!) tons of sand and water to create a "beach" on the town square complete with kiddy pools and larger pools serving as "ocean," because remember I am currently landlocked. Now, leave aside the environmental implications of this event for just a moment, and think with me about the sheer organising effort this thing must take. In addition, Decatur also holds an annual Book Festival, an annual Beer Festival, an annual Wine Tasting Festival and countless other big yearly events. On the other hand, the parade was mostly kids wandering about, on bikes, on foot, or being pulled in wagons-- and these kids weren't even dressed up for the 4th. It is, of course, customary to wear red, white, and blue on America's Independence day, but IN FACT! One kid–who was way too old to be pulled in a wagon–and his parents, who were nevertheless pulling him in a wagon, were dressed as the Swedish flag. WTF??

A few advertising vehicles drove by, not dressed up like floats, not even dragging floats. They just had a balloon or two stuck to them. It's also about to be election season, so a lot of campaigners drove by, with kids handing out leaflets for Liz Carter and Hank Johnson. The best part of the whole parade, and I am not joking with you, was the fire truck. Though Hank Johnson did have two seemingly 40-year-old black men campaigning for him on rollerskates. They were doing all sorts of 70's disco moves. They were pretty awesome. But I'm still probably not going to vote for him... mostly because I don't know anything about Atlanta politics. All I do know is from Emma and Stefan-- Atlanta recently privatised its parking meters and the people are not happy about it.

I've been driving a lot in this town, and trying my hardest not to revert to my old Atlanta-driver habits, like shifting lanes twice back-and-forth in the same minute. But it is tempting to be a bad driver, especially because I seem to get lost every time I leave the house. This is fairly normal for me-- I was always getting lost in Atlanta when I lived here, and landmarks were essentially homing beacons. But these days, I've been getting lost in what used to be my best-known neighbourhoods. I was getting annoyed at myself, until I realised the other day just how many landmarks either weren't there anymore (damn GFC!) or had moved altogether (damn... reasons people move!). For example, a very distinctive youth-culture-type art gallery called Youngblood used to define East Atlanta to me. If I saw it, I knew I had ended up in East Atlanta somehow. But now, oh no, it's moved to Highland Ave, near Little Five Points, and I saw it and thought, "How the hell am I in East Atlanta?? Oh! I'm not! Hey, look! Youngblood moved! Crap, I missed my turn!"

One thing I had completely forgotten about in Sydney was this cultural norm amongst young African-American men wherein it is completely ok to hit on women you don't know, just anywhere. I realise that, considering my 'Ello, Black Magic post, it might seem that my blog is becoming a forum for me to discuss how often and how inappropriately I get hit on. Trust me, it doesn't happen that often. But this was egregious. You see, my guard has been down, weakened through lack of use in Australia. I wasn't ready for it. I was trying to buy some cherry tomatoes from a program that teaches (I believe) troubled kids about farming and good food. One of the young black guys selling the produce said I was "ripe for choosin'." I wonder if I got the punctuation right on that. Gregg? Please check and let me know. I looked at this guy, confused, picked up my tomatoes, and walked back to Joe's stand, laughing nervously and uncomfortable. I could not believe that I had forgotten about this. A few days later, I was in my car on Moreland Avenue, and two black guys honked their horn until I looked over at their car, just to wave, nod, and make generally lewd faces at me. Really? Does this ever work? I doubt it-- it's just part of the culture that I'd forgotten about. Though in Australia, people would often yell things on the street, they were more often offensive (like the c-word) rather than just straight-up sleazy (like ripe for choosin'). Judith has some really good stories about this custom-- she was sitting in a park, eating a sandwich. Every time she took a bite, some guy said, "I'd like to bite you just like you're biting on that sandwich." Or something like that. Perhaps she'll find time to clarify in the comments, if I'm incorrect... but probably not. As I wrote above, she has approximately 12 jobs.

Just this past Thursday, after the farmers' market, Joe, Judith and I headed over to the East Atlanta Restaurant and Lounge (the EARL) for a Gentleman Jesse and His Men show! GJHM is the band Craig used to be in, so I had to see the show. By the way, the EARL has a new wrist-stamp! Exciting, I know.

The show was opened by GRUMPY!, but I didn't hear them because I was too busy scarfing a much-missed EARL black bean burger and slurping a Newcastle beer. The second opening band was an all-girl act called the Coathangers-- they were great. The venue was dark and smoky, and the music went late, and these girls were drunk, cute, and good at the punk music. I think my favourite song was "Why does everything I love have to break, break?" Bought the CD. Intend to rock out on my drive down to Atlanta tomorrow.

Since we've been in Australia, Jesse's changed the lineup quite a bit. Not only is there a guy named Adrian pretending to be Craig, there's also a guy named Warren playing bass now, instead of Dustin. And there's now a keyboardist in the band! Jesse looks and sounds a little different from what I remember, but that could be memory playing tricks on me. Or, more likely, it's because while Craig and I were partying in Sydney, Jesse's girlfriend Karen had her bag snatched, and when Jesse gave chase, an accomplice to the robbery hit him in the face with a 2x4. Jesse needed plastic surgery, and his nose and voice are definitely a bit changed as a result. Jesus. Right. Atlanta's a bit violent-- though I guess Sydney's no slouch, what with regular glassings going down at the Cross...

I have to say, Gentleman Jesse is still a great band. They sound amazing. The show killed-- the new songs are heaps good, the old songs are comforting. And all very loud. But, somehow, without Dustin (who was short and tiny and really cute and who moved to NYC) and a certain Boy Wonder, the band's is a bit less handsome and adorable than it used to be.

I had forgotten what it was like to have my ears blown to pieces by really good punk rock. I had forgotten how much I like to wake up the next morning with my ears still ringing, my lungs flatironed by indoor smoking and my throat shredded from smoke and screaming over the EARL's general din. I missed it. I really missed it.