Videos, VD and the Suckmaster II 

This column has nothing at all to do with Valentine's Day

This code orange terror alert stuff really screwed up my weekend. To cover all of these events for work, I have to enter and exit my house several times over the course of a weekend. You can't imagine what a pain in the ass it is to have to apply and remove the duct tape and plastic sheeting each time.

On Sunday, I went up to Cobb Galleria (that's like gallery, only fancier) to see the Baby & Kid Expo. There were tons of kids there, but despite the name, none of them appeared to be for sale. It was actually an event to sell baby- and kid-related products. There were booths for healthy kid foods, family insurance, Babies 'R' Us and, my favorite, La Petite Academy pre-school. I know nothing about the school's quality, but I would nevertheless cut off my hand before sending my kid (if I had one) to a school whose name is a bad Frenglish phrase meaning "place of pretentiousness." I'm sensing Un Letter To La Editor coming on.

Because of all the kids, the Expo's organizers had to make sure there was plenty to do. As a result, there was a carousel and several other carnival-type rides. For the non-walkers in the house, there was a baby crawl race. At the top of each hour, parents brought their infants and toddlers to a short racetrack where they would compete for prizes. From what I gathered, the most effective baby-racing technique is to have mom waiting at the finish line. Babies may seem sweet and innocent, but watch a few heats of baby racing and you'll rid yourself of that notion. Sportmanship (or should I say sportsbabyship?) is dead. Half the babies cheated by wandering into the wrong lane. I saw one baby climb on the back of another to prevent him from advancing. It's all very sad.

CODE ORANGE: SciTrek hosted Atlanta Hobby Robot Club's 2003 Robot Rally last Saturday. Robots were pitted against one another in several competitions, including wrestling and vacuuming. Vacuuming robots come in all shapes, sizes and names (like the Suckmaster II). Vacuuming robots mostly look like the child you'd get if you mated a small vacuum cleaner with a remote control car. One guy made a fantastic-looking one by simply putting wheels and a motor on a Dust Buster. When I say "simply," I don't mean to imply that I could do it, just that it was a relatively simple concept.

My favorite robot was the Spherion 2000, an R2D2-like thing that was demonstrated to me by the proud son of its builder. Spherion 2000 has a "bad attitude" setting that prompts him to blurt out mildly nasty talk about people who might dis him, along with movie dialogue snippets and bogus statistics about robots. Concerned that I might be taking the robot's pre-recorded "bad attitude" rant too seriously, one kid ran up to me and warned me, "He's not telling the truth."

The rest of SciTrek, I have to say, was a disappointment. In a world where kids are constantly exposed to cell phones, video games and personal computers, it's hard to imagine that vintage '70s science exhibits such as the one where you move a magnet over paper clips is really gonna get kids excited. The place isn't so much a trek through science as it is a trek through 1970s science education curriculums. SciTrek so reminded me of elementary school that I kept expecting Marlo Thomas to tap me on the shoulder and remind me that she's free to be her and I'm free to be me.

CODE ORANGE: Last weekend, Out of Hand Theater performed The VD Show at Midtown's Red Light Cafe. Short for Valentine's Day, the name is an intentional reference to the disease because the show has lots of "itching and discharge" humor. It was a wacky musical-comedy revue about the nature of love and sex. My favorite bits were the song about naming your penis (Anaconda, anyone?) and the "Cupid's Turn" mini-musical depicting Cupid's mother Aphrodite as a pushy Greek Jewish mother concerned about who her son will end up with. Members of the audience were also given sexual "purity" tests. People displayed their scores with stickers affixed to shirts. I had the third most impure score in the room. Not bad.

CODE ORANGE: For the last three weekends of February, The Contemporary is turning over its main gallery space to three artist/curators, allowing them to each put together an installation of their choosing for one weekend. Called A Shot in the Dark, the series began last Friday night with a Michael Oliveri-curated video installation. Though the show itself had nothing to do with Valentine's Day, love was in the air at the gallery. The ticket table had lovely roses in a vase and a concoction called Love Punch was being poured at the refreshments table.

Like I said, the show had nothing at all to do with Valentine's Day. The video projections included a psychedelic-looking ocean wave (think "Hawaii Five-0" opening sequence after taking drugs), birds swimming in a nuclear-green pond, footage from Gene Kelly's Anchors Aweigh superimposed with footage from Bollywood musicals and NASA moon missions. Come to think of it, "after taking drugs" would fit after each of those descriptions. It was all accompanied by droning music, the kind you only ever hear at modern art shows.

The best part of the show for me was the book of quotations handed to me by the gallery's assistant curator, Mary Walton. Actually, it isn't so much a book as it is a self-published pamphlet of quotations by Athens artist Paul Thomas. Some of his gems include: "I'm 30 seconds ahead of my time"; "There's my uncle. Everyone look sexy"; and my favorite, "Bjork told me I should never name drop ... Johnny Depp has told me the same thing." Genius.



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