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Let there be light 

And let there be cheese

While I certainly wasn't expecting an evening of sonnets, I was still shocked at how incredibly cheesy last Saturday's Mr. Hotlanta 2002 contest was. Any lactose-intolerant person within a 10-mile radius of Earthlink Live was probably buckled over in pain the moment the show started (two hours late, incidentally).

It was basically 20 or so guys competing to see who could most completely confuse muscles and smirks with charm. The tone was set by the introductions. The first "contestant" was a pair of twins named Jason and Victor Turner. I say "contestant" singular because I'm not sure if they completely realize they're two different people. They introduced themselves together, with one of them stating confusingly that, "We're trying to be the first Mr. Hotlanta." Then, in unison for fuck's sake, they declared themselves "America's Sexiest Twins." Twins speaking in unison is not sexy. It's creepy. And cheesy.

The madness didn't stop with them. It was one guy after another who saw the movie Zoolander but didn't realize it was a comedy. In place of waving to the audience, many of the men had perfected a greeting that involves holding out your index and middle fingers, kissing them, then pointing the kiss-anointed fingers at the audience. In stage parlance, it's called "showing love." Cheese.

Other highlights included a doctor contestant who suggested that he'd like to give "mouth-to-mouth resuscitation" to a female in the audience. Smooth one, doc. And let's not forget the martial arts instructor who walked with hands extended in a fight-ready pose during the casual wear contest!

If you go next year, bring Lactaid. Or at least some Triscuits.

Present at the Creation: On Friday evening, I attended the latest monthly installment of Mumbo Jumbo's Creation dinner series. Using lasers, high explosives, Cornish hens and a spherical pastry shell, the restaurant staff performed an edible re-enactment of the first chapter of Genesis. "Let the Earth put forth vegetation," then, boom, your salad arrives. Pretty cool.

OK, that's a lie. The wit displayed at Creation dinner is a tad more subtle, and more importantly, quite delicious. It's a themed dinner with art on display and DJ'd music. The witty part is the food. Friday's dinner was tomato-themed. All four courses had tomatoes, including the dessert, which was a balsamic vinegar ice cream served on a tomato tart with some mint leaves. It was marvelous. Really.

As for the art and music part, the restaurant is such a lovely space to begin with, I hardly noticed any art. The music, though, was great. Toward the end of the meal, the DJ played a bunch of Curtis Mayfield records. Mayfield makes everything good.

Tour De Kalb: If you ever catch me complaining about my job, just remind me that last Sunday my "job" included taking a leisurely bicycle ride around Atlanta with a friendly group of riders known as the Team Bike Gang. Every Sunday at 1 p.m., Team Bike Gang meets in front of Aurora Coffee in Little Five Points to begin. Though they are all pretty avid cyclists, I cannot emphasize just how leisurely the ride was. The ride's major crisis occurred when, taking a break at The Earl, rider Björn didn't receive utensils with his meal. With a little teamwork though, we were able to solve the problem. Björn ate his meal and the ride continued.

Riding on the street is a lot of fun with a group. From East Atlanta, the ride went to Decatur and then to Candler Park, with a stop to go swimming and another to watch soccer. With a pack of people taking up a lane, you don't have to fear aggressive drivers nearly as much. A lot of drivers are quite considerate and, for example, will pause to let the group turn or cross intersections. Now and then, an irate, non-road sharing jerky driver will honk, in which case he is are often greeted by the TBG salute -- kissing your pinky finger and twirling your arm around. Its cryptic nature makes it far more provocative than just flipping the bird. All are invited to join.

All festivals do not look alike: The Atlanta Botanical Garden hosted the Asian Cultural Experience festival last weekend. The event featured art, crafts, food and performances from local Asian organizations. And not a corndog vendor in sight, thank goodness. The performances included tai chi demonstrations and lots of traditional dancing (think Riverdance, only slower and with handheld fans). I missed it, but there was actually a dance and music performance called Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

Among the arts on display, my favorites were the Chinese paintings by Zhang Cui Ying. I can't explain what it is that makes a Chinese painting good, but like former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography, I know it when I see it. I like Zhang's way of using bright colors but still making paintings that seem cool and almost subdued. "Art is a spontaneous expression one's inner world," [sic] stated the text accompanying her work. Indeed.

My other favorite was the Thai fruit and vegetable carvings. While carving a radish into the shape of a flower, a Thai woman explained how food carving is an ancient tradition and that Thailand's queen has embarked on a program to make sure that tradition gets passed on to the next generation. I think Laura Bush should get out there with a sack of yams and a carving knife and start teaching Americans how to turn yams into dazzling bouquets of flowers. It'll be a pleasant distraction from the plummeting stock market.

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