Consistently one of WWE's most popular performers, Ghana's Kofi Kingston has grown accustomed to defending championships in high-pressure situations. And even though the main event at this Sunday's Hell in a Cell pay-per-view at Philips Arena features CM Punk (Kingston's one-time tag team partner) defending the WWE Championship against the wrestling machine known as Ryback inside the the gigantic steel cage, Kingston's Intercontinental Championship defense against former WWE Champion the Miz has quickly become one of the event's marquee match-ups. Considering that the happy-go-lucky Kingston spent his formative WWE stages at the now-defunct McDonough-based developmental promotion known as Deep South Wrestling, Hell in a Cell is also an odd sort of homecoming for the high-flying superstar. As he prepares for a match that could help push him into the main event picture, Kingston discusses his Deep South training, his history with the Miz and the unpredictable nature of WWE that led to this renewed rivalry.
What interested you about the project of adapting Marie Brenner's book for the stage?
It's a good book. I was called by Lynne Meadow who's artistic director of the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York, and she asked would I be interested in adapting this book. The book had just come out, and I'd read a review of it in the paper right around the time she called. I knew Marie's work—I didn't know her—but I knew her stuff, and she's good. So I read the book. It's about a dysfunctional relationship between a brother and a sister. The set-up was one brother and one sister and no other siblings. That happens to be my own set-up with my sister and me. While we're not dysfunctional, it seemed interesting to me because I'd never seen a piece of theater about the relationship between a brother and a sister. If they're same-sex siblings, there are easier ways to communicate, but when there are just two of you and you're of different sexes, you're programmed from childhood to go different ways, but you bear the same memories, the same scars, the same everything. It seemed interesting to me to write about that, so I said sure.
When I spoke with you almost a year ago, as TNA made its way to Macon, you were clearly unhappy with the way things were going for you under the Hulk Hogan/Eric Bischoff regime at that time. But you've since found yourself back in the spotlight as TNA moves in a much different direction. How do you feel about your place in the company and the new direction things have been going overall?
I think the new direction's good, man. We've done a lot of good stuff and the ratings are good, so there's not much to complain about.
You're returning to Georgia this Friday and Saturday before going into the No Surrender pay-per-view on Sunday, including a show in your hometown of Gainesville. What are some of your favorite things about coming back to wrestle in your home state?
It's always nice to hear the Georgia people get behind the hometown guys, and always nice to hear those fans going crazy for you. And when I'm directly in my hometown of Gainesville, we're just upping it a little bit more. And the fact that I get to go home and sleep in my own bed is fabulous.
Artist Ben Venom has returned to his home turf to exhibit a new collection of work at Get This! Gallery. His unique artistic practice combines the traditional aesthetics of quilting with the robust graphics of heavy metal and punk bands.
Venom cuts the graphics out of t-shirts from bands like the Misfits, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Poison, and others, then weaves them into intricate patterns onto quilts. These patterns often form the shapes of mystic creatures like griffins or the double-headed eagle. Upon a deeper examination, though, Venom's work contains amazing symmetry, with various graphics being placed thoughtfully throughout the form itself. He also gives nods to the brash music he grew up listening to by incorporating quotes and lyrics that only the most hardcore listeners could pick up on.
Originally from Marietta, San Francisco-based artist Venom earned his BFA in Painting and Drawing at Georgia State University. His show, I Make No Mistakes will be his first solo show at Get This! While ironing out (literally) all of his art before the show, Venom took some time to talk to CL about his new work and artistic practices.
Where did you get the idea for combining quilt-making and hardcore music?
In 2006 de Young Museum in San Francisco had an exhibition of the Gee's Bend Quilts and I saw that and was really blown away by that show. And then after that they had a collection of Amish quilts show too. I'd already been doing a lot of sewing while I was in grad school in San Francisco Art Institute, but I was making large flags and banners. I would screen print onto fabric, cutting that up, and then sewing it into large flags and banners, so I was already using a machine. Then fast forward two years to 2008, after I graduated, I had a show coming up in Berlin, Germany. I was trying to decide what I wanted to do because I wanted to do something big. And I've been a heavy metal and punk rock fan for a long time, I grew up in the Atlanta punk rock scene of the ’90s. I had a lot of shirts lying around, primarily heavy metal shirts, and some of them were just so threadbare I couldn't wear them anymore. So I thought back to those shows at the de Young Museum, and I thought what's the next logical step up from a flag or a banner, and a quilt is what came to mind.
Of course, quilts have a long history of using recycled materials, so then the first quilt that I made was in 2008 and it was shown at the Neurotitan gallery in Berlin. It was cool because the piece was roughly 6 feet wide by 8 and a half feet tall — that's a pretty big piece, and I was able to just fold it up, stick it in a box, and put it in the overhead compartment on my flight and flew it over there with me. It ended up being the largest piece in the show because everyone else had to ship their work.
Journalist, scientific researcher, and famed skeptic Benjamin Radford has written numerous articles and six books on topics ranging from urban legends to various paranormal phenomena, all the while ruthlessly championing critical thought. On the heels of releasing two books last year (Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore and The Martians Have Landed!: A History of Media-Driven Panics and Hoaxes with Robert E. Bartholomew), Radford will make a handful of appearances at Dragon*Con this year bringing a much needed voice of reason and sanity when it comes to discussing urban legends and all things supernatural. Before making his way to Atlanta Radford took a few minutes to talk a little bit about what he does.
It's important to note that although we share same last name (and the same chin), to the best of my knowledge I am in no way related to Benjamin Radford.
Chad Radford: Will your “Monster Talk LIVE!” discussion touch on your experiences writing your book, Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore? Also who is Blake Smith who’s speaking on the panel with you?
Ben Radford: Yes, I'll talk a little bit about my chupacabra investigation, but it will mostly be about the events that led up to my appearance on “Good Morning America,” being interviewed about the Loch Ness Monster. Blake is my co-host on our MonsterTalk podcast, and a computer programmer living in Kennesaw. He shares my interest in ghosts and cryptozoology stories.
Your discussion titled “The Sex and the Spirits: Ghost Porn” sounds like it's gonna to be a memorable one as well. Can you tell me about the inspiration behind that one?
Sure... [he says with a laugh]: Well, I've been doing these investigations into ghosts, haunted houses, and ghost photographs for almost 15 years now, and over the years I've seen it all: "orbs" (white spots caused by camera flashes) as ghosts, faked ghost photos, all that sort of thing. But one day a few years ago I was sent an anonymous photo asking about a ghost-like spectre in what I will delicately describe as an "intimate photo" between a guy and his girlfriend. They didn't necessarily think it was a ghost, but they'd seen many ghost photos that looked identical, and they wondered about it. So I began researching and collecting examples of ghost porn — strange and unusual ghostly images in sex photos. So if anyone ever finds porn on my computer I can honestly say it's for important research.
What do you have planned for your event in Atlanta?
In Atlanta, I'll be visiting a monthly reading and performance series at Charis. They call it the open "no mic." I'm excited to be invited to offer my work in call and response with what others are working on.
Like a lot of your pieces, your performance in Atlanta will be out in public. You risk getting heckled, and people may shriek they don't get it and so on. Considering all that, why do you perform in public?
I enjoy performing out in the world best. You bring that strangeness of the performing persona and you marry it with the regular world. That to me makes sense as a way to be provocative and a way to live your life. You get hecklers. Even if they're not heckling, oftentimes they ask you over and over again what you're doing. That's part of performing. You make decisions. Do you want to answer, do you not want to answer. For me generally, I don't answer. That's how I stay in my space. When I'm doing it, it's not the right time to explain. I can't be like, "This is not a flash mob. I'm not a mime," to everybody. I can also understand it can be incredibly frustrating if you just want to know. I try to bring along a friend who can get asked the annoying questions. It's a bit of an entry point so it's not just, "Screw you, person who is asking questions." I think there is a place for questions.
My friend and I were doing a performance where we were eating life-sized babies made of chocolate. It was part of a festival, so there was some signage somewhere. But come on. You needed somebody there to explain what was going on. We had someone recording it. When we watched the tape we heard things like... "Is that a baby? Or a sandwich?!?" There were pictures of people who were really grossed out. It was a pretty demented performance.
How did you first meet Michael Jackson?
The first time I met him was in a recording studio. I was sent by Soul magazine to photograph Stevie Wonder recording that single that criticized [then president] Richard Nixon called "You Haven't Done Nothin'" The Jacksons were doing back-up singing. I saw this kid with this huge afro, sort of hanging out in the corner of the studio, looking over Stevie Wonder's shoulder. I didn't even recognize him. I started taking pictures because it was just a waif-like image. That's when I realized, "Hey, that guy with the big fro and the ill-fitting pants. That's Michael Jackson." He was just studying the master. His full attention was on Stevie, what he was doing at the mixing board, the instructions he was giving the engineers. Everything. His brothers were not that engaged with the technical aspects of the recording process. They were singing, they were goofing around. But Michael, he was at school.
In addition to working regular full time jobs, Petterson and McConnell still find time to organize these events. Petterson and her friend Shannon Mulkey (of Patina) run the ICE event series in addition to her running their own crafting operations. McConnell, the co-owner of Beep Beep Gallery, juggles gallery responsibilities with ARTLANTIS duties (Beep Beep even has an opening for its new exhibit Create, Destroy, Rebuild the same night as ARTLANTIS.
Petterson and McConnell talked with CL about D.I.Y. and why Atlanta is supportive of these type of events.
What are the origins of your respective events, why did you feel the need to start them?
Petterson: Shannon and I met at the end of 2004 at Young Blood Gallery, and basically we both were aware of this growing craft/D.I.Y community that was becoming nationwide. We were familiar with an event in Chicago called Renegade Craft Fair and an event in Austin called Stitch, and we were inspired by these events in other cities and we though Atlanta needed an event like these. We started planning in January of 2005 and had our first event in June of 2005. So we thought basically if these other cities could have a cool craft fair we needed one here too. We are both crafters ourselves, so we were hoping to create an event for people like us, ironically we now don't have time to sell our crafts at our own event (laughs).
McConnell: ARTLANTIS comes from Beep Beep, really, when we started we were just showing local artists and that was our focus. And the festival honestly just started on accident, which is how the gallery started, but our focus was really just to do a festival where we enjoy the art. The reasoning was to create a place where local artists could sell art, we knew about ICE and they were covering the crafting side of things, we wanted to create something like Inman Park Arts Festival or SummerFest (in Virgina-Highlands) but specifically with art from locals and local bands performing too. The artists that participate might not normally buy a booth in an art festival, so its to provide a cheap place for artists to sell their art and we provide tents, tables, and walls to hang up work on.
How many people does the event draw each year and how has it grown in the last six years?
We draw in the range of 1,200 people. I've been involved since 2008, and definitely from the first year we've seen growth. But part of our mission and the idea around Mondohomo is not to make it like some big palooza music show. We like the smallness of it. We're not trying to reach out to 20,000 people.
The fest is always Memorial Day Weekend. Any reason for that besides the three-day weekend?
The reason that happened is because Kiki [festival founder Kiki Mercury] wanted to go to a queer fest in California called Homo A Go Go and could never go so she just said, "Well, I'll create one here." It happened during the U.S. Social Forum, which was on Memorial Day weekend, and then we just kept it there.
You've been the lead festival organizer for two years. Have you tried to do anything different or new in the position?
Our performance night has always been dedicated to burlesque and drag because it's such an integral part of gay/queer culture and burlesque is performance art that definitely deserves a spotlight. But this year we've actually oopeend up our performance night to a gigantic array of different performance art ranging from voguing, which is a huge scene here in Atlanta and we're glad to support that, a theater piece, a gay haunted house... so we've opened up the performance night and that is something that I'm glad we're doing this year.
What does it mean to be a gay haunted house?
Do you know Fred Phelps? Like, "God hates fags."
It's gonna be that kind of theme, making fun of Fred Phelps and his church.
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