big brother

Yay! Amber's gone! I know that probably seems mean since she's a "good person" and all, and frankly, I think Zach's probably a bigger threat, ultimately, but at least he doesn't cry as much or attribute everything to God. Or bless God. "God bless you, God." How does that work exactly? And I think Jameka's smokin' something because there's no way Amber could make it on ANTM. I can't speak to her potential nursing skills, but I've watched enough cycles to know what it takes to be America's Next Top Model. She does kind of look like Mona Lisa, though...


neither here nor there: Nashville

Wow, those twelve or so weeks between London/Athens and Nashville simply flew by! Before I knew it, I was finished with my internship and sitting on a plane to Charlotte, North Carolina. Sitting somewhat sideways, that is, next to a ginormous man with a screaming toddler on his lap. For two hours. Needless to say, that was one of the most miserable flights I've ever been on and I couldn't have been happier to de-plane and spend a longer than anticipated layover in Charlotte's surprisingly large and well-endowed airport. The highlight had to be a cookie sandwich filled with pure buttercream frosting.

We arrived in Nashville several hours later than scheduled, but our journey from airport to hotel was immensely easier than in London or Athens. We rented a car at the airport, hopped on 40 west to 155 north and got off after maybe 15 minutes of driving, one exit past the Grand Ole Opry. We stayed at the Guest House International, whose claim to fame is DIY Belgian waffles included in its free continental breakfast. I think we could have easily found a cheaper room (or a nicer one for what we spent) in the Nashville area, but Neal suggested I wait until breakfast the next morning to come to any definitive conclusions about the place.

Arriving late, we weren't up for much other than a cruise through the massive Opry Mills mall, built on the former site of an amusement park that wasn't making enough money, and a late dinner of appetizers. The mall is an odd layout of typical storefronts, outlet shops, and family dining. Why do children need to be entertained so while they eat (think Rainforest Cafe and the Aquarium Restaurant)?

The Belgian waffles did not disappoint the next morning, along with a hard-boiled egg, yogurt, pastries, juice, coffee, and a banana that I took for the road (it sat in our bag, where it spent the next day and a half getting bruised and mushy before we tossed it at the DC airport on our way back to Boston). We were on our way to downtown Nashville by about 10 o'clock Saturday morning.

In the "Athens of the South" you can drive right up to the Parthenon.

That's our white Chevy Impala rental to the right. My first impression was kind of like seeing someone famous in person; it looked smaller than the original. How can that be? It has a roof and everything! But you approach it from more or less the same level...

...whereas the Parthenon in Athens is raised up a bit more and you approach it from the Propylaia, which is a bit lower than the portion of the rock that provides a base for the Parthenon itself. Plus, while it was equally hot out, we didn't have to hike up a hill and this structure is only 80 some odd years old, not 2500 or so.

But it was still pretty wild. I kept vacillating between comparing it to the original and appreciating it on its own terms, not unlike the somewhat ambiguous sentiment expressed in the dedication plaque near the stream.

Which is kind of the same thing, since the things that make this Parthenon different from the original are what make it a unique experience that kind of stands on its own. Kind of.

There weren't that many people around when we first arrived, which was actually pretty nice. I probably spent as much time, if not longer, outside recording the sounds, taking pictures from every angle and of every detail, including the parking lot:

the neighborhood:

the many lights that illuminate the Parthenon at night:

the creepy bench swings that are scattered around the Parthenon and throughout the park:

and the concrete:

On the one hand, I can appreciate the use of this sort of rocky, yellow (or "golden" depending on your perspective) concrete as a conscience choice to avoid attempting to completely replicate the original structure, but ultimately, I felt a little disappointed. And there were some blurbs here and there about the "golden glow" of the concrete being like that of aged marble. But aged marble is not that yellow. Or course.

Despite trying to take this particular Parthenon at face value, I couldn't help but try to recreate photos I'd taken at the original Parthenon. For example:

And here:

And again here:

There's a brief exhibit inside the museum about the replica, how it was created for the Centennial Expo and several decades later rebuilt with more permanent materials, as well as an exhibition from their permanent collection and two temporary exhibits. But the real highlight of the interior, of course, is the full-scale replica of the statue of Athena, the original of which no longer exists. Here she is, Goddess of wisdom, patroness of crafts, painted like a "lady of the night."

There are also several casts of the Elgin marbles housed in the British Museum. Again, I couldn't help but attempt to recreate some of the photos I took in London a couple of months earlier.

There's little in the Nashville Parthenon devoted to the famous frieze, just a few plaster fragments and some poster board piled in the corner.

In the gift shop I purchased some postcards and a glitter globe (like a snow globe but filled with gold glitter instead of fake snow) showing the Nashville Parthenon and the statue of Athena.

From the Parthenon we headed downtown, where we ate piles of meat (not completely unlike our post-Parthenon lunch in Athens) at Jack's Bar-B-Que. After that we headed to the Hatch Show Print, one of the oldest working letterpress print shops in the country.

There's lots to do in Nashville, lots of family fun organized around the darker moments in our country's history. Reading about the various mansions and plantations one can visit while in Nashville, I couldn't help but think of Sarah Vowell's essay God Will Give You Blood to Drink in a Souvenir Shot Glass, which is actually about Salem's history of witch trials, but at one point she compares the way that city openly capitalizes on that shameful period of history to the "creepier moments in cultural tourism when a site tries to rewrite its past," especially when that past includes slavery. Similar to the Dutch farm she writes about, slaves at the Nashville-area plantations are described as "enslaved Africans."

And aside from any misgivings you might have about visiting a plantation formerly occupied by "enslaved Africans," it's awfully hot in Nashville in August. After walking up and down the streets of the downtown area, we decided to stay indoors for the rest of the day, attempting at first to scope out the Grand Ole Opry, but balked at the $12 parking fee, and spent the rest of Saturday afternoon and evening shopping at the mall (and we saw Superbad, which was super funny). After a second dose of Belgian waffles Sunday morning, we checked out of our hotel and made it to one final historic site, The Hermitage, home of Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, before heading back to Boston.


neither here nor there: Nashville (preface)

Weird, huh? The lighting is definitely better in the British Museum than in Nashville's Parthenon. The full Nashville update begins tomorrow. I switched to tea yesterday morning and I still have a splitting coffee headache...


it's time to stop being nice and start gettin' real

Oh, wait, that was another reality t.v. show. But it kinda fits for this season of Big Brother. Actually, I think they've gone beyond real and right on into the wildly entertaining and volatile area of passive-aggression. I tend to always feel bad for the person who's evicted, even if they got on my last nerve the week before. But I genuinely felt bad for Jen. Okay, so maybe she went overboard by destroying Dick's cigarettes, but can you imagine being in a house with half a dozen people that despise you like that? Yikes. It was like watching a nature show and wishing the producers of the documentary would intervene already once the baby lemur falls off the tree.

I guess the thing that irks me just about every week this season is the self-righteousness of the folks that stay, as if any of them are completely innocent of the kind of stuff they claim Jen did week after week. Even Jameka has said and done a thing or two that made me wince. And Amber...good grief, somebody put her out of her misery. I was really hoping she'd leave. As entertaining as this season has been, I still find myself amazed at the players in the top six or so.

Anyway, I'm traveling to the "Athens of the South" this weekend, going here to see this.


keep God out of it

Here's the thing. I'll admit that this summer's Big Brother is the most entertaining in years. Even so, I seriously doubt God is watching, let alone rooting for Jameka and Amber. Like Evel Dick put it, God has more important things to do.

the kids are alright

I spent a few days hanging out with my 6 year old niece and 10 year old nephew a couple of weeks ago and this is what I learned:

Chocolate chip pancakes never get old (although you might want to have ziti for breakfast every once in awhile to mix things up); legos are cool again; Pokemon stuffed animals and sponges make nifty sun prints; children find Bob Saget funny; Sponge Bob's pet snail meows like a kitten; you must have at least three add-ons for your crocs; swing sets are so twenty years ago; and I'm not the only one who prefers ice cream for lunch.

But mostly, I realized that I did not watch the first High School Musical movie often or closely enough to have much chance of winning at the DVD game....any of the half-dozen times we played...even after watching the movie again. Of course, now I know all the lyrics and choreography and the soundtrack was stuck in my head for days. I just need to get to work on the sequel before the next game comes out. "Nah, nah, nah, nah...yeah..."


a new project-based portfolio

I finally found some time this weekend to update the shell of a page that was my new online portfolio, ever since my domain transfer of wazocafegallery.com finally went through and the temporary link I'd put on the new page went nowhere. Only half of the projects have links so far (first to a short blurb and from there you can check out a gallery of images) but I hope to have all the pages live by the time school resumes in just over two weeks (including a space for the very much in-progress thesis project).

As always, I am open to feedback and suggestions! About the website and the projects, for that matter!


Hey Jack Kerouac

I was running (really) late to work this morning so I got to listen to NPR's On Point on my drive in. Today's show was about the 50th anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac's On The Road. Host Tom Ashbrook spoke with guests Joyce Johnson and John Leland about the importance of the work, the relevance of the story today, etc. Most of the people who called in were older, having read the book as older teenagers or young adults when it was first published, or coming across the story later in life. The conversation seemed to focus at one point on how reluctant academia has been to embrace the novel, or the whole Beat scene in general, and when they do, how they tend to teach, say, Ginsberg over Kerouac. At one point the entire conversation became very nostalgic about, you know, the experience of reading a book back in the day versus today's mediated lifestyle, young folks spending hours and hours online, playing video games, and watching television.

I read On The Road when I was a junior in high school. The book became the subject of my term paper later that year. Maybe it's because I was 17, in high school, living on a military base overseas, but I'd have to say that whole experience was very mediated. I found much of the story to be fairly dark and grim, actually, but I remember being totally seduced by the very romantic notion of traveling west one day, just like Jack. So, sure, that experience became a thing in and of itself and it definitely resonated with my already itchy feet then and now, but reading that book was not all that different from the narrative experience of, say, following someone's travel blog. I almost called in to make this suggestion, that literature is media, too, but hardly lost on today's youngsters (hello, haven't you heard of Harry Potter?).


what?! no suspenders!

Sabra may have won, but the real star of tonight's SYTYCD finale was Sara, in at least three (I lost count) of the choreographers' favorite routines. Coincidence? I think not. That disco, that hot pink dress, that west coast swing, and even Wade Robson's cabaret hoover really showcased just how talented and versatile she really is.

That said, I could not have been happier when first Lacey and then Neil were sent home. Clearly, America read my blog and, as requested, put both Danny and Sabra in the top two. It was like a dream...And I guess I expected Danny to win because I was floored when Cat called Sabra's name. Shut the front door, indeed. As I wrote last night, I would have been pleased with either of them winning (if only there could've been a tie), and yeah, I guess I'm happy a gal won after guys took the title the first two seasons. And I'm not worried about Danny's career. I think Sabra and Danny should get married and have amazing dancing babies.

Sadly, it doesn't look like I'll make it to the tour when it comes to Boston. I think we were out of town last year, but I was really hoping somebody would buy me a ticket for my upcoming, not to mention fairly symbolic, birthday. But by the afternoon of August 11th, Boston tickets (at least in pairs of two) were already sold out. At least I have the memories...

I will remember you, SYTYCD. It's been fun.


shut the front door

I missed the SYTYCD results show on Monday (I was hanging out with my niece and nephew...more about that a bit later). I couldn't wait to watch the show to find out who had been eliminated but I watched the highlights tonight before the first part of the season finale began. Knowing Lauren had been sent home instead of Lacey, you can bet I was watching Wade Robson's opening act very carefully. I'm sorry, but Lauren is a way better dancer. You rabid Lacey fans, look what you've done! And what was that bit about showing her "bum"? Um, did she think it was a wholesome image she was projecting when she picked out that slinky little black number? Girl, please.

I almost don't need to watch tonight's performance show since I know who's the best and I know who I'm voting for: Sabra and Danny. I honestly would be elated if either of them won. They're both spectacular. Neil has definitely improved significantly the last couple of weeks, but even so, he doesn't hold a candle to Danny. And, obviously, the same can be said of Lacey to Sabra. Lacey's good, don't get me wrong, but a.) she's a Schwimmer and a Schwimmer's already won, and b.) she's just not as superb, all-around, as Sabra.

If only both Sabra and Danny could win. Now that would be tight!


new website

Bird is my middle name.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I recently purchased a new domain name and I finally got around to redesigning my new website. It's really just an artist website now, since I wasn't exactly maintaining the virtual cafe (not really sure how that would have worked, anyway), gallery, or reading room portions of the old website. But I'm keeping the old domain name. Eventually, wazocafegallery.com will simply redirect to birdismymiddlename.com...as soon as my current registrar releases the domain so that the transfer I paid for last week can actually proceed. Sheesh, who knew domain transfers were so complicated?

Anyway, the portfolio section of the new site is still under construction. I think I'm going to go for a project-based organization rather than media-based. It seems silly to scatter one project over two or three media. As for this here blog, I think I'll keep it as is for now since I haven't figured out if and how to redirect folks from this address to say a custom domain blog.

I welcome your feedback! And any technical tips you might have on the blog switcheroo would be appreciated as well...


oh Sara, how I have failed you

Sara left SYTYCD tonight and it's all my fault for not voting last night!

BB + SYTYCD = big fat crocodile tears

After all that intense watching and note-taking on last night's SYTYCD I woke up this morning to realize I had completely forgotten to vote! Gasp! And I blame the summer job, as usual. I've had to work late the last few Wednesdays. By the time I get home the show is over, so I watch the recorded version, but even sans commercials, it's 11 or later by the time it's through. Wrap up the notes, publish a quick post, wash my face and brush my teeth and I can barely remember to make my calls. Whatever happens tonight, it's all my fault.

I've been tuning in to Big Brother this summer as well, after watching half-heartedly (if that) the past few summers. I think it's one of the more entertaining seasons ever, at least as far as I can remember. Both the exes and America's player (I never realized that you cannot, in fact, spell America without Eric) have been surprisingly interesting twists. But Amber, girlfriend, you've got to stop crying!


slow dancing SYTYCD style

What happens when you pair my favorite guy with my favorite gal? Magic...and an excellent use of props on tonight's SYTYCD. I was not disappointed with Sara and Danny's tango. The energy level was a bit lower than I usually like (that seemed to be a problem with many of the routines tonight...did somebody slip the choreographers some Valium?) but I think they pulled it off. Their second performance was an odd mix for me. I love Shane Sparks' old school choreography, which should be a perfect match for that Salt-n-Pepa track. Everything about that performance was 90s (including wardrobe - remember Flavor Flav?)...but maybe the worst of the 90s. I still love them.

I loved Li'l C's choreography a few weeks ago but I wasn't feeling tonight's krumping. Lauren is growing on me, though. And I thought Dominic did a lot better this week. Their tango, however, was pretty hot. The slow tempo actually worked here.

I didn't totally agree with the judges' take on Lacey and Neil's Latin Jazz, but maybe I was just smitten with the choreography. A topless Neil also caught my attention. Is it just me or did they fudge that lift a bit? Neal (my Neal) pointed out the pre-performance "package" builds up way too much anticipation on the trickier moves. What is this, figure skating? And I appreciate Mia's personal story and how it inspired their contemporary routine but not even a crying Mary Murphy (nor the random woman in the audience) can convince me that that was a great performance. Beautiful and touching idea, indeed. No hard feelings...you know I love you, Mia.

Pasha and Sabra...What can I possibly add to the judges' remarks and the glowing reviews of Sabra week after week? She's as delightful as seeing Tinkerbell for the first time when you watch Peter Pan as a little kid. What more can you ask for? And Pasha got lucky this week: he's got the character for Broadway and years of ballroom training. And man, the show needed a quick step to balance the low energy of the rest of the night's show.