King of Pops and the Yumbii food truck

25 09 2010


King of Pops, Yumbii food truck

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

The King of Pops couldn’t be hotter with his iced creations in the steamy heat of a “Hotlanta” summer. So much so that there are two Kings of Pops out in force today at the Midtown Festival of the Arts, the first one that I think we’ve ever had. (I skipped the more exotic flavors like orange basil and pineapple habanero in favor of a raspberry lime.)

Anyway, the event may not be super-huge, but it’s still a big deal for my neighborhood and surroundings. Peachtree Street’s main drag is closed to art and food booths. While smaller than the other festivals out, this one is decent and manageable, and of course a big milestone for our area. There’s even a mile run-walk, which I did not partake in but could have.

Besides the aforementioned Popsicle royalty, lots of food stands and trucks from local restaurants and food providers. Food trucks are a thing right now, you know, a Thing, and I spotted a Yumbii-mobile out serving Korean/Mexican/Southern fare. Ultimately we decided to try the YEAH! Burger stand just to say that we did. I had the beef, turkey and veggie sliders. The turkey and veggie were far better than the beef, but it was a bit odd to think that (arguably) Atlanta’s best burger joint was just a few yards away. I’m talking about the Vortex, yo. You know it. Word.

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Merry Christmas and shiznatts

25 12 2009


Red palm

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

Merry Christmas from Arizona! It’s a little warmer and a little less snowy than in some places. And the traditions are a little different. For example, lights on palm trees at Glendale Glitters.

That night we had some nice German food and beverage from Haus Murphy and got so full that
we just had to walk around.





You know what’s awesome about nine?

10 09 2009

It’s almost 10, but not quite. That’s why you see it at gas stations. It’s symmetrical, and it’s trite. Enjoy this blog post and happy 9/9/09!

I made a video documenting a snapshot of my day on the 9th. Check it out and enjoy. I had a creepier version with Nine Inch Nails but I had to block out the background conversations and ended up moving that to “friends only.”





Dragon*Con redux part I: My Con history

9 09 2009

Star Trek Experience
  

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

The wonderful magical microsociety of Dragon*Con, contained entirely within the mazelike confines of three connected hotels and one satellite a few blocks away, is something I think everyone should experience once. Do it, if only to get in touch with your inner geek and your secret furry. Everyone has one lurking inside, I like to think. There has to be a part of you that yearns to don a cape and prance around as if you were faster than a speeding bullet and able to leap freight trains in a single bound. If you don’t, you’re probably not much fun to be around anyway.

I remember being an outsider who had never been to a Con save for a couple Star Trek conventions when I was a preteen. It was all for research I was doing for a class, mind you. I remember stuffing myself into the circa-1970s orange bleachers inside the Phoenix Veterans Memorial Coliseum so I could listen to Garrett Wang from Star Trek: Voyager, and John DeLancey, who played Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I found both actors’ schpiels to be engaging and expected such from all cons afterward.

I also had high expectations from having seen “Star Trek: The Experience” at the Las Vegas Hilton hotel, long before the forces of economy and practicality took away one of these old holdovers from Sin City’s drunken flirtations with family-friendliness, whimsy and imagination.

Having long ago left my preteen years in another galaxy, seeing these geeks (an affectionate term) standing on the train platform took me back to those geeky days of my youth when I used to thumb through an encyclopedia of information about “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” There was a time when I could describe the plot of every episode in great detail and tell you all about the various quirks and life stories of each character. I don’t know what happened to that part of me, but I don’t have it anymore and I kind of want it back. Looking at these current-day con lovers made me wish I was one of them. Not to mention that marveling at powerful superheroes’ ordinary means of transit made me laugh. Hard.

Another thing that’s important to consider is that Labor Day weekend is a busy one in Atlanta, and it’s a time when you might find yourself with a decked-out football fanatic on one side and a storm trooper on the other. One year I passed the time on my 45-minute trip intown by making interesting conversation with a chatty pirate’s wench. She had a lot to say about piracy and about life in general. I wished I’d had the gumption to capture that moment on film.

At some point, I’d seen enough of this fantastic tomfoolery and decided I had to be part of it. I decided to give it a shot. The journey began by standing in line for about an hour to buy tickets onsite. Lucky me, I could by a second year’s membership to Dragon*Con for just $10 more (or some ridiculous sum like that). So I did, and by that point, I was locked in for two years of this wonderful nonsense.

My first year at Dragon*Con, I approached the scene with a lot of trepidation. I went by myself into the wild and wooly crowd, armed with a camera and the excuse that I was just a journalist passing through. I told myself, “This year I’m just documenting a scene.” I opted to remain a detached observer of the absurdity around me.

My second year was the best. I had a plan. I even brought an iReport kit with me and interviewed people. With the help of coworkers and friends, I saw quite a bit of things and had lots of fun. Not to mention, I took way too many pictures. Afterward, I made my television debut talking about the event with a viking hat on.

My third year’s expedition to Dragon*Con was predated by an exhausting run through San Diego Comic-Con, which is a totally different animal and yet much the same. The focus is on comics primarily and it’s about twice as big, but not necessarily as cool or fun. I think at some point I just got a little tired. I realized that the Con experience has its limits. I look forward to it, and at the same time, I know that I will be fatigued and frustrated by it.

I’ll want to kick myself, but I’ll go to another con, and I’ll enjoy it. That’s the way it goes. After all the lines and crowds and odoriffic science fiction costumes around you, the memories are what remain.

It’s a unique thing, something you can’t really get anywhere else, and a surreal exploration of that part of us that still likes to dress up and pretend to be someone else. I hope that we can all dig deep and find it within ourselves, even if we wouldn’t be caught dead in Spandex.





Marching abominable

27 04 2009
 


Marching abominable

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

My birthday always coincides with the delightful Inman Park Festival, so there’s always lots of quirky goodness to go around without me even having to do anything. I got there just in the nick of time to watch this “marching abominable” give an impromptu concierto in the middle of the park and it was truly grand.

The rest of the day was spent having dinner at Agave in Cabbagetown and then catching a bizarre and almost intolerable performance by the Sleepytime Gorilla Museum at The Earl. Followed by drinks at Bazaar and then the newly opened “Firehouse” (formerly the Spotted Dog). Good times. Literally.





Waiting for the world to change

28 03 2009

I guess the frustrations that I’m feeling (and the world collectively is feeling) about the state of newspapers, journalism education, media literacy and academia have got to come to a head sometime. Maybe now. The tensions have always been there, and this bad economy is merely the tipping point that will catalyze further change.

It’s almost cliche now but Clay Shirky’s article about the uncertainty and possible troubles ahead (thinking the “unthinkable” so to speak) is a pretty sobering view of the challenges ahead. I’d like to think that things won’t be quite that bad, but we can definitely expect that things may never be the same. When I was studying journalism and walking the hallowed halls of academia, I always felt a little uneasy. Sort of like I was traveling back in time and not really in step with what was going on outside the newsroom and journalism classroom. (Granted, they were trying as hard as they could, and none of us really had the answer. We’re still learning.)

Especially in light of what you can see happening now, I can certainly relate to Shirky’s concept of being a “barking madman” about the future, although I can hardly blame my contemporaries for resisting in a time when finances weren’t so dire and there wasn’t such a stark division between success and failure. But going into college, I was terribly undecided and uninspired whenever I examined the reams and reams of schools and majors at my university. I simultaneously wanted to everything and nothing. So little information about what to do with information.

The job I do now didn’t exist then, and I couldn’t have conceived of it as I sat at desks listening to old war stories of reporting about criminals and city councils. Sure, we discussed the Web and experimented with it and did internships and made online magazines, but we viewed it with a certain distant reverence and simultaneous grateful pity toward the people making it happen. “Web producer” jobs at that time weren’t terribly exciting — little more than shuffling content from print to online. We knew that was the future, but we had horrific visions of being reduced to moles working odd hours to cut and paste someone else’s stories — nearly going blind from wading through a sea of poorly conceived HTML tags.

Overall, I am thrilled with the education I got. It steered me where I needed to go. But I got lucky, too, and I wonder if the time has come for everyone to think differently about things. (It’s not just me wondering.)

I remember how we used to think back then. Focus on the basics and then the technology will fall into place afterward. Turns out things are changing so fast that the basics themselves have changed.

What about the future? We all knew deep down the current newspaper model was unsustainable. I’m surprised it worked as long as it did. Are people really going to pay for what is essentially old and outdated news that wastes trees, when they can get the same thing for free? I love reading a newspaper and being able to hold it in my hand, but I don’t like dealing with the waste of paper or the mass of it, and I don’t want to pay for it every day. And this idea that newspapers should withhold news until the morning… that worked then, but what about now, when the rumor mill is so much more active? It will only be more so in the future. Sure, the “hold-for-release” concept has its appeal and its need, but for crucial information and breaking news, old news is no news.

Some folks from the now-beleaguered East Valley Tribune, once heralded as a great Phoenix-area paper, are trying to start online-only publications. Same with people who left the shuttered Rocky Mountain News. Lots of people are starting up as citizen journalists, and will be doing it. Heck, dealing with that stuff is my job now. Could we have imagined that someone like me would make a living like this just a few years ago? I never would have fathomed and yet here we are.

So… we’re certain now that the future is uncertain and people won’t have the big conglomerations that we once had. Things are going to be individually driven. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The question is, if it’s not your full-time job, will you have time to do the reporting? Will your employer allow you to be a reporter and can you maintain the distance required? Who’s going to keep an eye on City Hall?

From my limited experience doing traditional news reporting, I recall attempting to gain respect from sources and the community (and my editors) by building a sense of trust among people and having good relationships with area stakeholders. That’s not a whole lot different from what I’ve seen while experimenting with social media. You build a following on one of these sites by captivating interest, putting in work and reciprocating with other members. In other words, you “join the conversation,” one of the most overused phrases ever as of late. But that ain’t no bull.

Conversation and community give you something that content cannot. One important thing Shirky notes is that people on Usenet were making copies of Dave Barry’s work back when the Internet started, and publishers’ immediate guttural reaction was to attempt to stop the sharing and stifle human nature. It is human nature to want to share and even to take another’s idea and spread it around both because you like the idea and because you want a piece of that attention for yourself. In short, trying to fight this urge is counterproductive.

Content is reproducible in many cases, but you cannot take a human interaction or experience and replicate it.

At the same time, you well know that people tend to develop great interest in certain kinds of content and high levels of traffic can go to these places. Sites are very good at delivering this content. So this can be capitalized upon and even discussed. If you are the source of this discussion, all the better. But chances are you won’t be, given how information is shared at light speed. Take, for example the idea of people Twittering while in the middle of a plane crash. You can’t beat the speed of that.

What it comes down to is a complex dance not unlike to two awkward birds preparing to mate — not so much audience-performer but more like different voices talking to one another. At least, that’s what my college experiences eventually taught me.





Colors

14 02 2009
 


Colors

Originally uploaded by N-Sai

This is a picture I took at our Sidebar outing to celebrate iReport.com’s first birthday. I think it might be one of my best architectural photos ever.