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Hip-hop, art and genitalia 

Inventing new things to do

I fancy myself an inventor. I'm always coming up with ideas for gizmos that have the potential to dramatically improve all of our daily lives. Unfortunately, science, engineering and hard work have never been my strong suits, so you'll likely have to wait a little to enjoy my Lint-Eating Pocket MonkeysTM or Travelers CzechsTM.

Last week, I attended an exhibit about African-American inventors called What's the Big Idea? at downtown's Apex Museum. Unlike me, these inventors actually built things. The show was part of First Thursdays, a downtown multi-gallery hop sponsored by the Downtown Arts Coalition. Think of them as the Northern Alliance of downtown art, only less violent.

Anyway, Apex was crammed with inventions such as the golf tee, invented by George Grant in 1899. Appropriately for a golf accessory inventor, Grant was a dentist. Another African-American invention of note was the eggbeater, invented by Willie Johnson. Johnson's eggbeater is not to be confused with Egg Beaters, the no fat, no cholesterol egg product made almost entirely of whites.

I also stopped by Youth Art Connection Gallery. YAC is a sleek, modern space that presents art made by young people in an upscale, gallery setting. Mostly paintings and drawings, the art and decor were holiday-themed. After introducing myself as a columnist for this newspaper, gallery employees Diyah Rodgers and Elizabeth Dixon insisted with mock-earnestness that I write that "youth art is cool," "trendy" and that YAC is a "hot spot." Perhaps to tug at my animal-soluble heart, they then fetched a kitten named P.T. from the back room and let him roam the gallery and play with me. If anyone buys the Bosnian stuffed dolls and notices teeth marks, they're from P.T.

Around this time, a man walked into the gallery and, apropos of nothing, started discussing his connections to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York. His boasts might have been more convincing had he not repeatedly mispronounced the last name "Haley" instead of Ailey. He left shortly after filling his bag with grapes from the hors d'oeuvres table.

A family affair: Atlanta hip-hop collective the Dungeon Family, none of whom have the last name Dungeon, threw a carnival and barbecue at Turner Field Saturday afternoon as a thank you to fans and the community. The Dungeon Family consists of members of OutKast, Goodie Mob, production teams Organized Noise and Earthtone III, and others that I've no doubt missed. In fact, the Dungeon Family is so large that I may in fact be a member and not know it.

A crowd of mostly teens and young adults surrounded the artists' tent while V103's Magic Man entertained them with trivia questions, giveaways and repeated demands that they "represent." At one point, he gave the mic to some 11-year-old-looking identical twins in matching Fubu shirts who then rapped to the roaring approval of the crowd. I photographed them, and when I asked one of them if they had a parent in the crowd (so that I could ask permission to use the picture in this column), he said, "Hold on, I'll go get my manager." I didn't see them again.

Inside the tent, the artists graciously greeted any and all who managed to get in. They had a buffet and soft drinks as well. OutKast's Andre Benjamin -- who from what I've read, is a vegan -- had his own special lunch on the buffet table. It was in a brown paper bag with his stage name, Andre 3000, written on it in pen.

Have a ball: On Saturday, Estrofest Productions put on an old-fashioned carnival-themed party called The Twilight Moonbeam Ball at Art Farm in Reynoldstown. Upon walking in, a psychic duo offered to tell my fortune. One of them was wearing a blindfold. She held my hand and made squeaking noises while the other person "translated" the noises into English. My fortune included the puzzling, "Your friends may be lost in forests."

Another highlight was the insult booth, where you could get three insults for $1. I don't typically have to pay for insults, but trying to embrace the spirit of the evening, I paid insulter Z. Gillispie and got "Your success will never change you. You will always be a bastard."

I didn't purchase anything at the kissing booth, but I did overhear a short conversation between members of the kiss-staff about whether drinking wine after each kiss would reduce the likelihood of contracting diseases. Another conversation that I half overheard was between the souvenir photo booth photographer and a customer. The photographer was explaining that he is transgendered, but helping the women out because it's important to "honor your chromosomes." I'm not entirely sure what that comment meant, but I was reluctant to ask because I felt shy talking about genitalia with strangers.

Eye am grateful:I just wanted to express my thanks to the people at eyedrum gallery for canceling Sunday night's performance by Melted Men without indicating it on your answering machine or website. Sitting behind the fence of your parking lot at 10 p.m. gave me a chance to discover my genius as an avant garde sketch artist. Can I have my own show now?

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