Flame war
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The Cirkus is coming to town! Wide-eyed children enjoying cotton candy and popcorn, columns of exotic animals dancing to the strains of festive music and everyone's favorite, clowns! Right?

Wrong. The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, performing at Variety Playhouse April 13, is more likely to feature the Donniker Brothers, juggling flaming toilet plungers; SXIP, the one-man band playing homemade instruments like a tampon applicator and mutant harmonica; Rocket Johnny, the pyro-buffoon riding a pogo stick to the moon; or any of another dozen more rotating cast members of seditious stagehounds. Their clowns, Kinko or Kinkette, are more likely to whip out a gun or rubber phallus than a squirting flower. Bring the kids? Hell, no.

"We put a contemporary spin on things, but a lot of these acts are hundreds of years old," says Stephanie Monseu, also known as Philomena the ringmistress. And they do pay homage to classic circus and sideshow acts, like the human blockhead, sword-swallowing, firebreathing and more. But some the scenes and characters are distinctly The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus's own, like Kinkette the Clown, Scotty the Blue Bunny and an X-rated plate-spinning routine.

"We seek to create the kind of entertainment that we'd want to see, that isn't there for us," says Monseu. "Our show is fun, it's intimate, it's live entertainment — we're hoping live entertainment will prevail over TV and shlocky movies."

In addition to the touring company, the troupe has performed at Coney Island and other old-school sideshow spots. "We worked with [long-time sideshow mogul] Ward Hall last year at the New Jersey State Fair. Keith did sword-swallowing and fire-eating and blockheading, I did the girl-to-gorilla illusion. We got a real taste of what it meant to do 60 or 70 shows a day."

They're not just putting on a shockfest for the pierced-and-inked set — Monseu and Keith Nelson (aka Kinkette, the sword-swallowing Mr. Pennygaff and others), who founded the Cirkus six years ago and share ringmaster duties, recently have incorporated as a non-profit organization and plan to form educational, research and publishing branches to help promote and record the circus arts. Their "Autonomadic Bookmobile" showcases worthy but under-distributed books, comics and magazines that might not otherwise see the light of day. And all of their performers are multi-talented entertainers, in the tradition of classic burlesque and vaudeville acts.

They tailor their show to local venues, skipping the more provocative acts when necessary, and even do kid's performances back home in Brooklyn. "From the beginning, we sought to perform family and all-ages shows. We modify our costumes and our characters, but we're still eating fire, swallowing swords, walking on glass for these kids," says Monseu.

A typical evening with the Bindlestiff Family can get pretty loose, and a recent New Orleans show was filmed by HBO for an upcoming "Real Sex" episode. "During intermission, the show that went on in the audience was wilder than anything that was going on onstage. There were plenty of people getting naked."

Previous tours have been booked in more intimate clubs, and upgrading to larger venues has given them the ability to expand their show. "This last summer, we played several old vaudeville houses that have been restored. We can use bigger props, and it feels like we're carrying on a piece of history," says Monseu. Some of those props include a full-blown aerial routine and an unknown quantity of pyrotechnics.

Monseu recently acquired a set of throwing knives, but she's not quite ready to start pitching them at people. Thursday's show should include all of the above acts, plus psychic surgery, a blood-spilling magician and more. With drag queens and kerosene, thrills and spills, and fun for adults of all ages, the Bindlestiff Cirkus is playing with fire. Literally.

The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus performs April 13 at 9 p.m. at the Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points. $12-$15. 404-521-1786.

N'hood
Ironic age
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Though the three Milwaukee artists in POP! Goes the ... at City Gallery East are being presented in terms of their relationship to their '60s Pop precursors — Lichtenstein, Warhol, Johns, Oldenburg and Indiana — their work just as often taps into the retro fascination of the more contemporary comics anthologized in Raw, Kenny Scharf, style-heavy yuks like "Ren and Stimpy," graffiti art and the hackneyed Squaresville iconography of Dick and Jane.

The Pop obsession with deconstructing the daily visual barrage of advertisements, products and other cacophonous 20th-century drek also is evident in works like Chris Niver's minimalist acid-colored frames for a non-existent picture or punchline and Ariana Huggett's kitschy wooden plaques. With their playful intersection of pattern and festive color, Huggett's punchy minis feature line drawings of ordinary objects: onions, kitty, bananas, hairdryer, which replace the brand name specificity of Brillo and Campbells and identifiable Marilyns and Jackies with a fanciful but vague interest in pattern and whimsical illustration.

Recalling Lichtenstein's benday-baring enlargements of romance comics, Niver's neat, smartly drawn black-and-white woodcuts break down both the form of the comic and the content. A regular Joe in nerd spectacles and gray flannel suit, the figure in Niver's drawings undergoes mild psychological disturbance far calmer than the comic repertoire of "Socko!" and "Pow!" In Niver's introspective vignettes, dramatic action is more of the stammering Woody Allen "Opps" and "Uhmmm ..." variety. "Seethe," "Nod," "Curse" and that old damper on the workday "Bud" (in which Niver's Everyman's skull goes pinhead) define the small-scale imbroglios of this comic nebbish. Such crises of masculinity, in which fellas also have a tendency to watch their heads burst into flames, seem reaffirmed by Niver's assertion across the gallery way of Superman's comparably introspective moods. In one especially funny piece, the still hunky but much more tender Man of Steel has a little cuddle with a deer on the forest floor, displaying PETA sensitivity beneath Crime Fighter physique.

With his comic-inspired thought bubbles left confoundingly blank, migrating patterns and amorphously blobbish objects, Niver seems interested in scrambling the codes of comic strip storytelling. That element of Niver's work — boiling down visual plotlines to their constituent parts — plays nicely next to painter Ericks Johnson's use of a vaguely Popish image bank broken down into painterly abstraction. In place of Mondrian's cool grids or Ellsworth Kelly's disciplined color fields, there is Johnson's primal framework of zany, hallucinogenic color, glossy surface and ameboid form. Johnson's abstraction-flirting-with-representation anthropomorphic squiggles bend, warp, puddle and flow into objects suggesting puzzle pieces, game boards, '50s coffee tables, wads of bubble gum and the jutting madcapped elbows and knobby knees of cartoon characters on a softshoe jag. Perhaps the best illustration of Johnson's application of a can't-quite-put-your-finger-on-it Pop iconography and formalist investigation is his phantasmagorical whatzit "Meso" (a large panel of glossy enamel painted on vinyl suggesting Philip Guston and Elizabeth Murray by way of Kenny Scharf and Twister) in which corpuscular forms and fleshy blobs play against a trouble-making Drano-blue background. Little mini-golf islands of organic shape and numbers further "Meso's" resemblance to some Martian party game.

Johnson's works are most enticing when they appear ready to break free from the rigors of amorphous goo-dom into representation, as in "Ecto" where a churning, mechanical form at the image's center looks like some Michelin Man superhero struggling for articulation. Across the wall, Johnson has allowed those representational impulses their day with a series of four large, approximately 4-by-8-foot woodcuts painted with enamel, featuring quirky takes on the still life with madcapped lemons and other strange fruit or a vase of posies all rendered in fun-house delirious, jitterbugging shapes. The images are instantaneously pleasing for their interplay of juicy fruit shades and animated angles, though by pushing through with representation, they lose some of the conceptual thrust of Johnson's deliciously mutating forms.

A friendly, approachable show, POP! factors out the smart-ass adolescent sneer of Scharf or Peter Saul, and the mildly condescending sting of Lichtenstein or Richard Hamilton. But that lack of bite and a shallow pool of ideas also make some of the work feel superficial. POP! presents three artists whose expression is perhaps a little tongue-tied by their use of a familiar Pop vocabulary, and who often serve to illustrate how quickly a subversive movement can metamorphose into canonized old guard.

POP! Goes the..., introducing the work of Ariana Huggett, Chris Niver and Ericks Johnson, runs through May 28 at City Gallery East in City Hall East, 675 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-817-6815. Open Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

N'hood
Biennial 2000
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The New Yorkpress has proclaimed a collective ho-hum over Biennial 2000, now on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art. True, the exhibition of 55 works by those considered the best contemporary artists in the country lacks a certain substantive quality. Despite detailed wall texts that go great lengths to explain the significance of each individual work, several pieces are little more than amusing curiosities.

There's Kim Dingle's "63MG 4ME," a real sports car that's been girl-babified. Its body is painted a pale pink, its wheels are tricked out in white lace and it sits upon a white baby blanket. Underneath, where a pool of oil might collect, is a patch of dark red blood, as if it has experienced its first period.

Though initially intriguing, Leandro Erlich's "Rain" is ultimately so sterile, it leaves a void lingering where the emotional impact should be. The installation features a series of real windows, complete with interior treatments on one side of a wall and exterior treatments on the other side. In between, it's raining and lightning. Interesting, but that's all

Then of course there's Hans Haacke's ridiculous response to New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's condemnation of the Sensation exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art last year. Behind a black curtain is a room filled with large, plastic garbage cans. On the wall are inflammatory quotes by Giuliani, Jesse Helms and Pat Robertson, written in a gothic script associated with the Third Reich. The sound of booted troops can be heard marching, marching, marching. Subtlety is not Haacke's strong suit.

Despite its faults, one thing Biennial 2000 does is definitively establish the Age of Technology in the art world. One elaborate installation, "Aegis: Equipment for a City of Strangers" by Polish-born artist Krzysztof Wodiczko, features a mannequin wearing on its shoulders a contraption comprised of two video monitors, two speakers and a miked headseat. The monitors display head-shots of the same person, one making conversation and answering questions asked by an unseen inquisitor, the other reacting. A small room to the left of the mannequin features videotapes made by different people while wearing the contraption. Though it proposes to explore identity, it involves a supremely convoluted process and renders a pretty limited payoff.

There is also a sound installation by M.W. Burns, featuring what sounds like a thousand conversations taking place at once, and a whole array of computer art which is projected directly from a computer monitor onto a wall screen. During my visit there was some sort of technical difficulty. A few of us stood around watching the screen while a technician fiddled around making what appeared to be aborted Internet searches, which reminded me too much of work so I lost interest.

The highlight of Biennial 2000 are the video installations, of which there are many. The finest of the bunch I saw was a sublime, poetic piece called "Rapture" by Iranian-born Shirin Neshat. A high-contrast, black-and-white video shown on two side-by-side screens, it conveys without dialogue the isolation of Muslim women. Combined with Sussan Deyhim's evocative soundtrack, it is a powerfully mesmerizing work that had museum-goers packed into the small screening room.

Also notable is Doug Aitken's "Electric Earth," which relates bits and pieces from the life of a street kid in Los Angeles on a half-dozen or so screens, which surround the viewer. The piece is comprised of about three short video loops, which play over and over again, all at the same time. Together they compose a fleeting piece of narrative. Standing amidst it all, an initial feeling of sensory overload gives way to a curious sense of calm.

And finally, there are Paul Pfeiffer's petite video pieces, which are projected on the wall in a space not much bigger than a pack of cigarettes. Of the two on exhibit, the best is "Crucifixion (After Francis Bacon)," a brief, silent video loop of a professional basketball player stomping around the court, his hands balled up in tight fists, shouting presumably in joy. But as you watch the short snippet play over and over again, he appears to morph into a tortured soul, trapped in arena purgatory for eternity.

If Biennial 2000 is any indication, painting has gone the way of the manual typewriter. The future's in electrodes, baby.

Biennial 2000 continues through June 4 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 945 Madison Ave., NYC. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tues.-Wed.; 1-9 p.m. Thurs.; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

N'hood
Woman warrior
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Coming from abackground in classical theater — her first theatrical role was in Euripedes' The Trojan Women — experimental choreographer Paul Josa-Jones says she's had a long-standing fascination with the character of Antigone.

Her new piece, Antigone's Dream, which will be performed at Agnes Scott April 14 and 15, takes the story of Antigone as its root. The dance captures fragments of Antigone's story as it is told in the Sophoclean drama, but also traces the subtext of her dreams, dreams which draw parallels between the Greek heroine and the everyday heroines of our time.

"We're not going to walk you through it," says Jones. "You have to dive into the poetry of the language and swim in it. Our idea in making this piece and calling it Antigone's Dream was to not locate it in her day-to-day life but to locate it in the life of her dreams and the life of her psyche. There are references to elements of her story, references to her relationship with Oedipus her father. But primarily it's dream language."

The performance at Agnes Scott represents the first time Jones' company will perform in the Atlanta area. The poetic text is by playwright Laurie Carlos, and the score by composer Pauline Olivieros, currently in residence at Agnes Scott, is an evocative and densely layered soundscape, a mix of digital and sampled sounds with an emphasis on vocals, cello and percussion. The piece is performed by six dancers and an actress.

Jones says that Oliviero's concept of deep listening — a method of concentration that attempts to use the entire body and consciousness — has influenced her work tremendously. "Pauline's deep listening strategies are an integral part of my way of working," she says. "I think her deep listening strategies create in my company a way of working as an ensemble, which gives the movement a particular tautness and a charge because the quality of the tension between the performers is so focused and specific. She's a terrific inspiration in my work."

Jones began her work in the theater 25 years ago. After several years in classical and experimental theater, she began an eclectic, wide-ranging study in dance, beginning with African master teacher Charles Moore and including intensive work with Japanese modern dance, Eiko, Koma and Authentic Movement.

Jones' style of choreography is similar to classical modern dance but is strongly influenced by contemporary Japanese dance. "The movement has much more nuance and subtlety and complexity than a lot of classical-modern dance, which is more rooted in ballet," she says. "I think of the movement as being more stressed, more decayed, more frayed, more pulled."

As a choreographer, Jones says she never arrives at rehearsal with steps in mind but keeps the emphasis on improvisation instead. Her dancers are classically trained, but the work that goes on in rehearsal and on stage has very little to do with that training. The movement emerges out of improv and imagery and what she calls body research. "It's really about trying to uncover a physical and emotional truth that gives the movement a reason to be there, not just that the choreographer said do that step."

The choice of Antigone was a natural one for the three women artists, Jones says.. "I think she's important to us now because she raises questions about heroism and honor and identity that I think are poignant and pressing questions," she says. "I think it raises important questions to kids who are struggling with who they are. Personally I've been struck by the disconnectedness I see among youth, that whole thing of feeling disenfranchised, disconnected, not feeling a sense of history or community. Her life is important and her action is inspiring."

Paula Josa-Jones/Performance Works presents Antigone's Dream at Agnes Scott College April 14-15 at 8 p.m. in Presser Hall, Maclean Auditorium. Paula Josa-Jones and Pauline Olivieros participate in a panel discussion April 12 at 10 a.m. in Presser Hall. Admission is free and open to the public. 404-471-6430

N'hood
Cell-abration
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Taking a tripthrough Ross Bleckner's slick new paintings is one fantastic voyage. They get under the skin, literally. The 14 works on view at Vaknin Schwartz this month are layered studies of cells as they might be seen under a microscope or diagrammed for scientific illustration.

Gorgeous and scary, the largest paintings are 60 inches square while the smallest square off at 18 inches. Names like "Characteristic," "Protein" and "Bonding Pattern" reveal their biological nature. Bleckner's compositions are only slightly nuanced repetitions; endless off-color cells align themselves in infinite rows, separate into strands and submit to magnification. In fact, overlapping shapes that resemble cell walls are interrupted with occasional round-edged close-ups of cells as if seen in cross section. Sometimes, rough brushwork peeks through breaks in the walls. Chains of cells, like beaded necklaces, intertwine and overlay the bubbled surface. The effect is three-dimensional.

On opening night at Vaknin Schwartz, some viewers felt queasy, while others could not get close enough to the almost maddening intricacies of Bleckner's oeuvre. There's a visible tension in the paintings that threatens to overwhelm. Their content is as fascinating as it is repelling. Unsettling colors — sickly green and sulfurous yellow, burnt red, filmy white and frothy gray — don't help. In a dreamlike fashion, they evoke the inner body, the core of its genesis and demise.

Technically, the paintings are a marvel. The urge is to deconstruct each one. The viewer can't help but try to figure out how Bleckner achieves such photo-realist illusions. He creates the small orbs by air-brushing dots of paint into smooth round spots, creating round shapes with glowing, almost transparent centers and dark edges. In a labor intensive process, he generates obsessive clusters that cover the canvas edge-to-edge. Seemingly at random, he then breaks into those patterns with other equally dense configurations.

From across the room, the lustrous cells appear as seductive as a mesh of pearls brought up from the deepest sea. Upon closer inspection, they take on the clinical aspect of an intensifying illness; the necklaces become twisted intestines or digital renderings of unearthly molecules. Luminous and opaque, a simple matter of oil on canvas spawns vast ideas about energy and connections, about building life and breaking it down. The smaller works seem more cheerful, and like smaller doses of medicine, might be easier to take in. At the same time, their composition feels more contrived. It's as if on a larger scale the artist's concept has room to develop more profound metaphoric qualities.

Fay Gold has a concurrent show of eight recent Bleckner prints. They illustrate the same preoccupation with a structured surface, though his color aquatints are pale and lifeless compared to the dynamic visions at Vaknin Schwartz. "Antibody Diversity" and "Dome" have the most in common with images on view in South Buckhead. The first looks like a field of red-eyed fish eggs, the second makes the same zygotic impression in beige and brown tints.

Bleckner has 25 years of international exhibition history, his principal showcase being New York's Mary Boone Gallery. The 51-year-old painter was honored with a mid-career retrospective at the NYC Guggenheim in 1995. His patterned style has proved trendy enough to shape itself into a bottle of Absolut.

Fifteen years ago, he was one of the first artists to professionally acknowledge the sorrow and loss of the AIDS epidemic. Earlier images of luminescent Victorian objects — urns, birds, flowers and candelabras — established a sense of memento mori in Bleckner's work. Figuration has segued to these fascinating biological abstractions. Where Bleckner peels back the skin, there may be a fetishistic effect; by exposing the depth of our inner fragility, the artist conjures up an unexpected notion of immortality.

Ross Bleckner: New Paintings is on view through May 11 at Vaknin Schwartz, 1831 Peachtree Road. 404-351-0035. New prints by Bleckner are on view through April 29 at Fay Gold Gallery, 247 Buckhead Ave. 404-233-3843.

N'hood
Southern belles
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Brad Bailey's Womenfolkstakes the raw material of "tacky" Southern comedies like Steel Magnolias and shatters the structure. Directed by Mike Beechum for Stone Mountain's ART Station, Womenfolks consists of four monologues (with a little left over) that go for both pathos and kitschy humor. Portions of Bailey's play can feel dated and overly familiar, but it occasionally finds poignancy in its confrontations with aging and mortality.

Hairstylist Annette (Karen Howell) reflects on her life and how she finds styling hair a spiritual calling, seeming to refer to hair about as often as Moby Dick mentions whaling. If you don't find hairspray funny in and of itself, you're not likely to have much patience with this section, and Howell's studied performance has the most conspicuous dialect, mentioning clients who get their hair done "onceta week" and generally making "hair" a two-syllable word.

Womenfolks' strangest sequence has frazzled, churchgoing Dora (Karen Beyer) repeatedly calling her cable company when her service goes out, as she's desperate to have her "Doppler." The evening's most satisfying monologue has a prim schoolteacher (Judy Leavell) addressing the audience while standing next to her comatose body. Leavell is every inch a class instructor, pausing to define "caesura" or quote "The Lady of Shallott" as she speaks of being terminally ill and brain-dead, wishing someone would pull her plug and put "punctuation" at the end of her life.

The last character, Dee-Dee (Lorilyn Harper), plans to audition for the Up With People dance revue, even though she acknowledges that it's "like a two-hour milk commercial featuring the Hitler Youth." Her speech hinges on nostalgia for the early 1980s and the loss of three friends to AIDS. Grief may have no expiration date, but the Dee-Dee segment, with its Reagan-bashing, seems to belong in a play from a decade ago. Still, Harper conveys the right blend of melancholia and never-say-die showmanship, whether dancing, twirling a baton or wrapping herself in a feather boa.

Womenfolks plays through April 23 at ART Station, 5384 Manor Drive, Stone Mountain, with performances at 8 p.m. Wed.-Sat. and 3 p.m. Sun. $15-$21. 770-469-1105.

http://www.artstation.org/

N'hood
The insider
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Shirley Franklin's greatest personal pleasure is a movie marathon. She might see several movies at a stretch, spending the day in the dark anonymity of a theatre. Sad movies make her cry. Her laughter, always easy, gets full reign at comedies. It's a nice break from her usual self-restraint. She can relax, watch the actors play out plots that will have no real impact on anyone. She can be herself, eat her popcorn, walk out blinking into daylight and no one knows who she is.

You probably don't know who she is, either, but Franklin, that African-American woman with white-blonde hair who drank in "Erin Brockovich" a couple of Saturdays ago, is the odds-on favorite to become Atlanta's next mayor.

In fact, Franklin, as CL went to press, was expected to resign from her position as vice chair of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority at its board meeting April 12 so that she could kick off her campaign in May.

No one was more startled by her decision to run than her own family.

"I'm actually really surprised about the mayoral campaign because she's a really private person," says her 26-year-old son, Cabral. "She really enjoys being behind the scenes. But for the past couple of years, all anybody has said to her is that she should run for mayor. I think people have said it so much that she believes it."

Franklin's ex-husband, airport concessions mogul David Franklin, finds it particularly amusing and yet inevitable that she's running. Atlanta's black power structure has been urging her to run for several years. She helped them run City Hall for more than a decade. Now they are helping her — by pushing her toward the office she used to support.

"To have Shirley Franklin running for mayor is just so delicious because it's the first true draft I've ever seen," says David Franklin.

Councilman Rob Pitts, who is also running for mayor, was surprised too. Last year, he asked Franklin, whom he considers a friend, if she was going to enter the fray and, he says, she told him no. "Apparently she changed her mind," he says. "There are people who probably convinced her to run."

Who those "people" are is all you need to know about why a woman who has never run for office is likely to be the next mayor.

Two names: Andrew Young. John Lewis.

One more name that has not been linked with any candidate yet but has been politically linked to Franklin since 1973: Maynard Jackson.

It was with Young, Lewis and Jackson's help that City Councilman Bill Campbell became Mayor Bill Campbell in 1994. They make up a well-connected gang-of-three who don't always agree with each other but who share the loyalty of the city's largest voting bloc, Democrats. Black or white, even in a non-partisan election like the mayor's race, the city's Dems flock together and they are usually herded by Young, Lewis and Jackson.

And they all owe Franklin.

She campaigned for Maynard Jackson in 1973. At the time, David Franklin was Jackson's law partner.

When Jackson was elected he formed an ad-hoc committee on cultural affairs that was headed by Michael Lomax, a teacher at Spelman College. Lomax says Shirley Franklin was fiercely involved in the ad-hoc committee which would eventually become the city's first Bureau of Cultural Affairs. In his second term, Jackson again offered the directorship of the bureau to Lomax, but Lomax deferred to Franklin. She campaigned for Congressman Lewis who now says enthusiastically: "Shirley Franklin would make a wonderful mayor. I would be happy to support her."

When Andrew Young was elected mayor in 1981, Franklin's star continued to rise. Young appointed her as chief administrative officer, a position that would allow her to run the city's daily operations while Young flew around the world shoring-up Atlanta's international business relationships.

"The truth is, I was traveling a lot," says Young. "Shirley ran the city."

When Young left office, Franklin remained busy. She has been at the heart of almost everything major that's hit the City of Atlanta since 1990.

The Olympics. Franklin served as senior policy advisor and managing director for local government and community relations for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. She was an official with the Equal Economic Opportunity Program for ACOG as well.

Water privatization. Franklin, through her consulting company, Urban Environmental Solutions, represented U.S. Filter, one of the companies vying for Atlanta's private contract. (Her client lost out to United Water, but there are apparently no hard feelings: United Water's public relations representative, Phyllis Fraley is now volunteering as a PR rep for Franklin.)

State control of metro sprawl. Gov. Roy Barnes appointed Franklin as vice chair of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority in June of 1999. [page]

Her ex-husband credits Franklin, with whom he remains good friends, with achieving by the grace of God what others couldn't if they spent their days toadying up to fat cats and attending every luncheon from Buckhead to Hartsfield.

"Shirley and Andrew Young are two of the only people I know who are truly blessed," he says. "Things just come to both of them. They don't go after the things they get. They just come to them."

Lomax, a former Fulton County Commission Chairman who is now president of Dillard University in New Orleans, explains in more secular terms how first-time candidate Franklin has secured her favored position: "There is most definitely a black political establishment in Atlanta and Shirley is certainly a card-carrying member of that establishment. She's worked for, or with, every mayoral administration for the last 30 years and now she has the support of the icons of the African-American community. At least with the black voters, I don't think that's a negative."

More of the same might not be so bad if you like the status quo, but there are residents who aren't happy with Campbell's administration which they consider the scion of Jackson and Young's administrations.

During the last mayoral campaign the 7th and 8th Council districts overwhelmingly supported Marvin Arrington, a conservative alternative to Campbell. Many people in affluent, mostly white areas on the north side feel under-served by city government. They were disappointed to see Campbell elected for a second term. Their concerns range from having adequate police protection to City Hall's lack of a nurturing attitude toward Buckhead businesses.

Toby Watts, a Buckhead attorney who wants to make it clear that he is speaking for himself and not Neighborhood Planning Unit B, of which he is president, doesn't want more of the same.

"The rumor is that she's sort of had the magic wand waved over her by Young and Jackson and Campbell," says Watts. "I think the Campbell administration has been marked by ineptitude. It would concern me if her campaign promised to carry out the policies of former administrations."

Watts' city councilman, Lee Morris, explains what is meant by "ineptitude." He points to city policies that spend taxpayers' money on social causes rather than the basics that he says should be the sole concern of local government: public safety, police, fire-fighters, well-maintained streets and water systems, a healthy infrastructure.

"While Shirley Franklin was in high, appointed offices, she helped forge the present policies and procedures and she put people in charge who are still in place," says Morris, who adds his belief that if Franklin is backed by Jackson, Young and Campbell, their support will be her kiss of death in the 7th District.

When Franklin lists her achievements, they do, in fact, come down a little more heavily on the social side of things: she was a key planner in the city's arts support programs, her planning resulted in the founding of the Nexus Contemporary Art Center ( since renamed the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center), she pushed for free symphony concerts in city parks and public art at the airport.

"Only New York City was funding the arts more than Atlanta at that time," says Franklin.

It was Franklin who conceived of a revamped city employees' health insurance program that would expand coverage to include mammograms, dental care and newborn care. Under her administration the city instituted a one-percent sales tax that she explains is a more fair way — rather than relying on property taxes — to raise money for capital improvements. The one-time windfall of that particular tax, she says, provided partial funding for the Georgia Dome.

She also instituted an internal audit team that monitored the city's finances. That team has since disbanded.

But Morris views some of Franklin's experience — like her stint with ACOG — as a negative.

"Although Atlantans are proud of the Olympics, people are now aware of the flow of money and favors it takes for a city to obtain the Olympics, and they don't want that in their city government," says Morris.

Franklin has never, in any way, been connected with allegations of bribery surrounding Atlanta's Olympic bid.

She also managed to come out of ACOG's altercation with Olympics Out of Cobb, the gay rights group formed in response to Cobb County's anti-gay resolution, unsmudged.

"She was the finest example of integrity and willingness to converse on a civil level of the whole bunch at the Olympic committee," says Larry Pelligrini a gay rights activist. "We feel that she understood the underlying issues."

Pelligrini believes that Franklin was at least instrumental in having Olympic events moved to new venues outside of Cobb County. [page]

Pelligrini's kudos might be problematic for more conservative residents.

Voters may also look askance at her familial relationship with airport concessions, long viewed as a feeding trough for political insiders in Atlanta.

When Shirley and David Franklin divorced in 1986, the break allowed David to take advantage of a sweet deal offered to him by his client Ed Elson, owner of airport concessions super-chain, Elson News and Gifts. Elson wanted David to become a partner in the business, rather than just its attorney. With David on his team, (according to David) Elson could meet Atlanta's newly-emerging minority participation requirements. However, with Shirley in the office of chief administrative officer, there would have been a glaring conflict of interest. The city had to approve Hartsfield International Airport concession licenses and regulate rent at the airport. When her husband first took Elson as a client, Shirley Franklin filed a disclosure of conflict of interest and, she says, recused herself from any discussion of policy that may have had a bearing on his business. But with Shirley no longer his wife, David Franklin could accept 20 percent of the $3 billion business.

David Franklin's partnership with Elson split in 1994. Of the company's 18 Atlanta stores, Franklin got six that are worth, he says, about $25 million. He owns the FWAC (Franklin $ Wilson Airport Concessions) stores in Concourse A at Hartsfield. He also owns the W.H. Smith store in the International Concourse. A plaque on the store explains that despite the name, it's an FWAC store. Today, David Franklin employs his two oldest children, Kai, 27, and Cabral in the family business. The Franklins' youngest child, a daughter named Kali, is a student at Georgia State University.

Shirley Franklin says that she plans to "hold at arms-length" any city dealings with the airport, recusing herself as much as possible from issues that would impinge on her children's livelihood.

Joel Cowan, who chairs GRTA, doesn't doubt that Franklin will be able to do that. He, like Pelligrini, refers to her integrity. He praises her organized and forthright approach to working on issues related to sprawl. He lauds her ability to deal with sensitive topics like race.

"She does not wear her race on her sleeve, but she's very firm about the fact that [African Americans] are an under-represented minority."

George Berry, senior vice president of mega-developer Cousins Properties, shares Cowan's view of Franklin.

"Race is the overwhelming reality of city politics," says Berry. "But she is an African American who does not put white people on edge. She has the Andy Young knack for tact and bridge-building."

Besides, says Berry, who served as chief administrative officer under Jackson, Franklin has a proven track record for making city government work. She believes in returning phone calls and answering letters. She'll bring responsiveness back to City Hall.

Cousins' namesake and president, Tom Cousins recently sent a letter out to some of his business associates asking them to meet with Franklin before deciding who they will support for mayor. Berry believes meeting her may dispel some peoples' notion that Franklin will be a puppet for former administrations.

"I've talked to her about that," he says. "She has convinced me that she is her own person and will be no one's running dog."

The fact that she's getting support from people like Berry and Cousins is a warning flag for the Rev. Juner Norris, a longtime campaign watcher and active Democrat in the West End.

"That's where she's making a mistake," says Norris. "She should be coming to the neighborhoods to ask for support, not them. That's going to hurt her."

If Atlanta's traditionally black neighborhoods are not often coupled with Franklin's name, it's probably because she was not produced by them. She grew up in a middle-class neighborhood of row houses near the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Her parents divorced when she was of pre-school age and her father, who graduated from law school at age 21, "dropped off the face of the earth" until Shirley was 18. He turned his life around. She attended a girls-only public school. Her mother was a teacher.

It takes four or five questions to get her to finally say what it was that got her father, Eugene Clarke, to do a 180 and become a state court judge in Philadelphia, but she finally says it and when she does, her voice betrays her annoyance at being asked.

"He was an alcoholic. He was a member of a 'bottle gang,' you know? I'm talking about the guys in the gutter. It was that bad." Her intense, dark eyes are flickering like warning flares on a highway. "When he was finally in a public hospital, bleeding from every opening, he made a promise with God, that if He would just get him out of that, he would turn himself around and he did." [page]

She is leaning forward in her chair, her right hand is open, palm-up, in supplication, a non-verbal "please-understand-me." She begins again to explain how she got her father back at age 18, how thorough his redemption was: "He died two years ago. John Street, the mayor of Philadelphia, went to the funeral."

When he sobered up, Clarke was able to bid his daughter farewell as she left for Howard University — his alma mater. He was a quiet man who believed that being loud or using profanity shows that a person is not intelligent enough to articulate ideas in an acceptable tone of voice. Franklin's own voice has sunk a few decibels as she says this.

Soon after her arrival at Howard, she met and married a student named Sam Brown. It was a brief marriage. While she worked a summer job at the federal office of contract compliance she got to know David Franklin, a law student who worked there, whom she'd already met through friends at Morehouse College. She divorced, graduated and attended graduate school at Penn.

She took a job teaching at Talladega College in Alabama and she traveled to Atlanta to visit relatives and to meet up with David. When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, she and Lomax and several other students got together in a nightclub after the King funeral and talked about what was beginning to emerge as a social imperative: to continue the work of Dr. King.

Lomax describes it as a watershed moment. Franklin remembers that the feeling of responsibility for changing the world was endemic to her generation. They were too young to go on the famous marches, but old enough to understand and feel the consequences of those marches. They were coming of age in a world where the legal protection of segregation was gone, but the cultural freight of it remained.

Franklin did everything she could to carry out the political mandate of her time, maybe never even thinking that one day her turn would come. But it has. In the words of Lomax: "We were too young for the sit-ins. We didn't cross the Pettis Bridge. But we made sure that the vote which people died for resulted and we engaged an agenda for our lifetime. Shirley, certainly, will continue to engage that agenda."

N'hood
But none of it to drink
Phone Number not listed.
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Thirsty? You're not alone. Metro Atlanta's water consumption is at an all-time high and not projected to decrease any time soon. But the twin threats of scarcity and pollution are menacing Atlanta's demand for water, as evidenced by two reports released this week.

The Tri-State River Basins, the river networks that reach throughout Alabama, Georgia and Florida, are ranked fifth among rivers facing serious environmental degradation this year, according to the environmental organization American Rivers. The two areas at risk are the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin and the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, both already the source of considerable conflict. The three states continue at a standoff in their ongoing battle over how to share their mutual water resources, and facing a May 1 deadline to develop a plan that will meet water demands while complying with environmental regulations.

"The natural heritage of the Southeast hangs in the balance as these three states battle over water," says Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers. "The governors of the three states must deliver a plan that meets reasonable human needs and protects water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and the recreation opportunities that the region enjoys." The solution must address issues like overconsumption, warns Wodder, or else "citizens will be stuck with increasingly expensive water treatment."

In addition to American Rivers, an April report from the National Wildlife Federation says Georgia, one of 21 states to receive a grade of "failing" in the NWF's survey, is shirking compliance with the federal Clean Water Act. The act targets two major types of water pollution: so-called "point" and "nonpoint" source pollution. Point source pollution is emitted from a definable, isolated entity, such as a factory. Nonpoint source pollution, which comes from agricultural runoffs, soil erosion and the like is seldom traceable and difficult to regulate.

The Clean Water Act includes a regulatory mechanism intended to stymie diffuse pollutants: the Total Maximum Daily Load watershed restoration plan. According to the act, a body of water has a TMDL which represents the maximum amount of pollution that water can handle. States are supposed to determine the TMDLs of their waters, then clean up those waters by forcing all polluters to reduce their emissions within the allowable pollution cap.

The Federation report shows that although Georgia has 921 "impaired" waters, it has developed TMDL plans for only 116 of those waters. And of those 116 plans, 114 were instigated only after court orders forced the state to start the cleanup.

"They have just not done very much," says Federation Center Director Andrew Schock. "The Clean Water Act has been out there for 30-plus years, but we still don't know how our water's doing because we don't have enough data."

Despite several false starts toward water protection, says Schock, "the state has not established it as a priority, because it's not really a sexy thing to spend money to figure out how polluted the water is."

In Georgia, nonpoint source pollutants are increasingly threatening fragile water supplies and the ecosystems they support. Agribusiness runoff is the primary source for nonpoint source pollution. The typical poultry house produces 225 tons of manure a year. That manure is rich in nitrogen and phosphorous, nutrients which cause algae blooms when leached into water, killing fish by reducing oxygen levels. In urban areas, lawn runoffs, air pollution and waste take their own tolls on water quality.

Pollution woes have long been exemplified by the plight of the Chattahoochee River. The Hooch was ranked seventh on a list of the nation's most endangered rivers in 1998, and its condition has not improved substantially since then. Continued growth in Atlanta subjects the river to toxins and periodic sewage overflows. High silt levels in the river make it an inimical environment for fish, whose gills are easily clogged.

The primary pollutant in the Chattahoochee is fecal coliform bacteria. The river also contains levels of herbicides and insecticides high enough to threaten its aquatic life. South of Atlanta, people eat fish out of the Chattahoochee at their own risk, as they are often loaded with chlordane and PCBs. The segment of river between Atlanta and West Point Lake has been labeled by the EPA as one of the five most toxic stretches of river in the nation.

In 1995, the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper took the City of Atlanta to court, where a federal judge found the city in violation of the Clean Water Act. In 1996, Judge Marvin Shoob ordered the EPA and the State of Georgia to clean the Chattahoochee by June 1997. His orders have as yet gone largely unfulfilled.

Even the mighty Chattahoochee's problems are really just a drop in the bucket. The endangered ACT/ACF river basins, which include the Chattahoochee, cover 40,000 square miles and provide drinking water and hydroelectric power for over five million people. The rivers in these areas are polluted, diverted and overdrawn. To make matters worse, their users can't even agree on a water management plan to ensure fair water access.

Ten years ago, Alabama filed a lawsuit trying to secure its rights to water. The suit was postponed in 1992 in favor of a negotiated settlement among the states. The deadline for a result has been pushed back for years. Meanwhile, Georgia consumers have anted up about $25 million in costs as the talks drag on. If negotiators don't reach a solution, the three states will litigate at staggering costs and years of delay. Rep. Bob Barr has said that if the case ends up in court, the "economic loss to Georgia could be in the billions of dollars."

Prepare to empty your wallets: litigation may be inevitable. Alabama's Gov. Don Siegelman said this year of Georgia's negotiators: "We'll see them in court," and his negotiators accused Georgia's team of unreasonable demands for water.

At the same time, Georgia's negotiators worry that Alabama's requests for minimum flows will jeopardize Lake Lanier and hurt the growth and prosperity of metro Atlanta and north Georgia.

Harry West, the former director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, warned chief Georgia negotiator Bob Kerr, the state's director of pollution prevention assistance, that Alabama's plans would mean "perpetual drought" for Atlanta as Lake Lanier becomes drained and unable to supply the metro area.

West isn't alone in his disgruntlement. Jim Campbell, Alabama's chief negotiator, has said Georgia's approach resembles, "We'll take all the water we want, and if there's anything left, you can have it."

Meanwhile, the rivers of the Southeast are held hostage in a regional squabble for drinking rights. Some are worried that negotiations have lost sight of critical ecological concerns. The worry is that parties involved are prioritizing their own growth opportunities over ecological sustainability.

"We do not see the wisdom in sacrificing the future viability of these rivers, and all they support, simply to perpetuate rampant urbanization and short-term economic gain," says Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Program Manager Matt Kales. "We are convinced that there exists ways in which the basin can be managed for both human and biological purposes."

N'hood
Four years, and still no city auditor
Phone Number not listed.
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New York City has one. So does Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Houston, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Dallas and Chicago. Atlanta does not.

Four years after Georgia's General Assembly revised Atlanta's city charter and created the position of city internal auditor, the position remains vacant. This void makes Atlanta one of the largest municipalities in the country to lack a city-employed sentry, a person to guard a budget that consistently has exceeded $400 million since 1995.

And after last Monday's City Council meeting, Atlanta may have lost its best candidate.

During an eight-hour meeting April 3, the Council voted 8-4 to approve legislation that would have established a special retirement benefits plan for the leading city auditor candidate. The adoption removed the last negotiating hurdle, according to councilman Lee Morris, and did so before the candidate's April 15 deadline.

The legislation, however, was scuttled by councilman Derrick Boazman, who later moved to reconsider the ordinance. Boazman's parliamentary maneuver could not be challenged, and effectively tabled the legislation until the next City Council meeting May 8. (The Council is in recess April 17-30, with committees meeting during the first week in May.)

Boazman, who with councilors Cleta Winslow, Sherry Dorsey and Jim Maddox voted against the ordinance, said his motion does not reflect a reluctance to have an auditor, but rather indicates a fear of a slippery slope.

"I have supported the auditor position from day one," Boazman said from his office. "The issue I raised is simply an issue of the compensation package. We're being asked to create a special pension plan for one individual. If you do that for her, then all 8,000 city employees will say 'I need a plan too.'" The position is slated to pay $105,972 per year.

The candidate's name is being withheld pending her acceptance or rejection of the offer. All Council members agreed during Monday's meeting, however, that the candidate is eminently qualified.

Morris, who authored the ordinance, strongly disagreed with the thought that Boazman's motion was simply about not placing one above all. "We've been struggling for the last four years to make it a reality and we're half an inch away, and suddenly there are hurdles," he said, explaining that the candidate would not vest under the city's existing retirement package, a problem viewed as the reason the city lost two prior candidates. "Intentionally or unintentionally, I think the people who voted against this are casting a vote against a city auditor."

The issue facing the city is one that many businesses are facing: how far does an employer deviate from policy so it can attract talent for senior executive positions? During the Council meeting, many members debated whether the city made special compensation arrangements for Benjamin R. DeCosta, the general manager of Hartsfield International Airport.

When Mayor Bill Campbell appointed him in April 1998 to Hartsfield's top post, DeCosta was a manager at Newark International Airport in New Jersey. In 1998, Campbell and the Council approved for DeCosta a compensation package worth more than $160,000 annually, including more than $13,000 in annual benefits. Zee Bradford, the city's media relations manager, confirmed that the city is paying DeCosta's benefits through his former employer, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, instead of into the City of Atlanta's defined pension plan.

"Both the Mayor and City Council approved the unique situation for three reasons," Bradford wrote in a response to CL's questions. "One, this [arrangement] did not require creating a whole new pension plan. Two, [there was] no opposition by employee groups or the Pension Board. And three, with all due respect to a city auditor, one cannot equate the position of general manager of Hartsfield and that of a city auditor."

Bradford added that while Campbell has no concerns with the candidate and that he would approve her nomination upon City Council confirmation, the city fears that making a concession here would set a precedent for future hires, and is unnecessary to attract a qualified city auditor.

N'hood
Workers demand 'poultry justice'
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"They're throwing out human beings with the chicken waste," said the Rev. Bennie Mitchell, moderator for a Congressional fact-finding meeting in Atlanta Monday.

Several hundred growers, catchers, plant workers and faith community members gathered at Epworth Methodist Church in Candler Park to tell stories of systematic abuses by the largest and fastest-growing segment of agriculture in Georgia, the poultry industry. They're asking Congress to institute a fair living wage, ensure safe processing plants, allow workers to organize without reprisal, enforce and strengthen state and federal laws and take responsibility for the environmental impact of the poultry industry.

Rep. John Lewis flew into town for the hearing, accompanied by Maryland Congressman Wayne Gilchrest. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, Sen. Max Cleland and the Rev. Jesse Jackson sent representatives.

Thirty-three plants call Georgia home, tying us for first-place in the nation with Arkansas in poultry processing. Five of the top 10 producers are located here. The industry reached the $13 billion a year mark in 1999, and the workers testifying said it was as a result of cheating growers, endangering catchers and truck drivers and intimidating plant workers,

"We've been trying to reform the industry for years," said attorney Justine Thompson, a member of the Georgia Poultry Justice Alliance. "They're too strong."

While industry profits have risen over 300 percent since 1987, the people who help put chicken on the dinner table have not shared in the prosperity, panelists were told. With domination of market share by a few companies like Tyson, Perdue, ConAgra and Goldkist (none of whom returned our calls), said those testifying, growers have little choice when presented with take-it-or-leave-it contracts.

At $130,000 per chicken house, amortized over 10 years to pay off mortgages, retired grower and math professor Herb Robinson said it is now impossible to make money.

Patrick Nugent saw 10 years of his family's hard work go by without a profit when, he said, Goldkist canceled his contract without warning or reason. "I feel grossly inadequate as a man," said Nugent. "I saw this happen to other farmers and they walked away. I can't do that."

Those assembled said that catchers who collect the chickens and load them into trucks fare no better. Often rising at 2 a.m., the catchers receive no overtime or benefits. Industry pay averages $2 for each 1,000 chickens caught. While hours and responsibilities have increased over the past decade, pay has decreased from $112 a day to $94. Over 60 percent of catchers eventually suffer from respiratory infections.

With long days of waiting on catchers to load the trucks and multiple trips, truck driver Curates Holcomb said exhausted drivers aren't allowed breaks or even a stop for a drink.

And at the plants, said the workers, the labor abuses continue.

Carol Hubbard has worked at the ConAgra plant in Athens for 23 years. "You stand on your feet 10 hours a day, in the cold, snapping chicken parts between your fists 90 times a minute," she said. "I've seen the line go from 60 to 70 to 90 chickens a minute. Now they're talking about 140. I might be fired tomorrow, but it's not about me anymore, it's not about ConAgra, it's about the workers' safety."

When Billie James' foot was hit by a pallet jack at Tyson, she says the doctor told her to elevate it but was transferred to picking up trash in the parking lot. "I couldn't do it, and I lost my job," cried the mother of two. "If it wasn't for God and my mother, I don't know what I would do."

Robin Dills worked in Goldkist's Ellijay plant skinning chicken breasts. With 25 fellow employees all reportedly fired for pro-union activity standing behind her, she recounted how she developed carpal tunnel syndrome and was immediately let go.

It is no accident that half of the industry's employees nationwide are Hispanic, said Jose Commacho. "They cheat us because we can't speak English."

When he broke his left foot and suffered a serious head injury at Tyson, he says he was fired before he left the emergency room.

"Why aren't you helping us?" shouted one grower to the congressional panel.

Responded Lewis, "I'm going to talk with my colleagues and see what we have to do to come up with the proper legislation. Never ever give up, never ever give in. I pledge to you I will try to do something to help."

N'hood
Tree fights back
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If a tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear, it's not nearly as worrisome as when a tree falls in Piedmont Park and injures 13 people.

Although officials with the City of Atlanta's Parks and Recreation Department reportedly couldn't find any more trees likely to fall after one crashed into tents and a golf cart at the Dogwood Festival April 8, tree experts say the park provides the perfect place for this kind of mishap to repeat itself.

Marcia Bansley, executive director of Trees Atlanta, explains that in Atlanta tree roots encounter airtight clay about three feet below the ground, so trees here aren't anchored by a massive tap root. Instead, they spread a broad network of roots across the surface of the ground. Consequently, in Piedmont Park where about 100,000 people go to play on any given sunny day, oxygen-seeking tree roots get trampled. Deprived of air, the roots dry up and the tree falls over. Without an ongoing maintenance program, she says, this could happen again.

Karl McCray, director of the city's department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, however, points out that the city has an ongoing program. In February, a company hired by the city identified 12 dangerous trees that were then removed. The tree that fell last weekend was not on the list.

Although it's not uncommon for trees in parks to fall, according to McCray this is the first such Atlanta accident with injuries in at least 27 years.

N'hood
HUD lays out 'worst cases'
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In Atlanta, 51,900 households had what the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development labels "worst case" needs for rental housing assistance, according to a report released last week.

Households are considered to have worst case needs for housing assistance when they are renters with incomes below 50 percent of area median income (which, in Atlanta, was $27,400 for a four-person household in 1998); either pay over half their income for rent or live in severely inadequate housing; and, are not assisted by federal, state or local housing assistance programs.

www.hud.gov/news.html.

N'hood
Freeloading on the feds
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Georgians rely heavily on federal funding and bonded indebtedness to pay for transportation improvements, according to a recent study by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia.

Nationally, the state average for bonded indebtedness to pay for transportation improvements is 4.3 percent, but Georgia's indebtedness is almost twice that, 8.4 percent.

Other states get about 27 percent of their transportation funding from federal money. But more than 35 percent of Georgia's transportation funding comes from the federal government. More info: www.cviog.uga.edu or Carl Vinson Institute of Government, Athens, GA, 30602.

N'hood
Passover in Minsk
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For the second year in a row, seven members of the Young Leadership Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta will experience Passover in the former Soviet Union. The trip will take place April 16-23.

YLC Director Stacy Garland says the Atlanta group and Israeli counterparts hope to gain a better understanding of Jewish life abroad by meeting with city officials, visiting local Jewish organizations and participating in Seders, the Jewish Passover celebration.

"It's such an honor for me to be able to share my experience as a free Jew, something we take for granted, with people over there who are starving for Judaism," said Garland. "Some will say prayers for the first time. It's amazing."

Highlights of the trip include visiting the Hesed Yehuda (the Jewish welfare organization), the homes of elderly Jews and the Minsk Jewish Community.

N'hood
Cultural district in downtown?
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A mecca of sorts would be found in the Fairlie-Poplar and Auburn Avenue corridors of downtown Atlanta if Research Atlanta gets its way.

"A place where performing and visual arts venues coexist with studios, housing and arts-related retail and hospitality enterprises" is how Central Atlanta Progress acting president Paul Kelman sees the area if a Research Atlanta study, commissioned by the Fulton County Arts Council, is implemented.

More info: www.researchatlanta.org.

N'hood
A striking resemblance
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His blue jeans - brown belt hooked through the loops — are the first thing you notice when you approach pitcher John Burkett's locker in the Atlanta Braves clubhouse. There are no fancy creams or colognes to be found in his area, only a Sure roll-on peeks through the top of his open gym bag. He's a testament to the common man. A common man who happens to have thrown five perfect games.

OK, so the perfect games were in bowling, not in baseball. But as anyone who's ever stood at the top of an alley, 12- to 16-pound hard-plastic ball in hand, knows, bowling is not as easy as it looks. Being perfect is even harder.

"A lot of it's luck," said the 35-year-old right-hander, who grew up in New Brighton, Pa., and honed his skills in the same lanes used in the bowling farce Kingpin. "I think it's concentration, trying to repeat your mechanics. It's the same with pitching. The better you are at repeating, the better your results are."

Burkett's results on the mound haven't exactly been spectacular — his last winning season was 1993, when he won a career-high 22 games against seven losses. But he's been one of those durable pitchers who eat up innings. Not counting his rookie year (1987), the 11-year veteran has appeared in fewer than 30 games only once — the strike-shortened 1994 — and has averaged 176.1 innings per season.

He was claimed by Atlanta, hours after being released by Tampa Bay, in hopes that he'd help fill the void created by this spring's season-ending injury to John Smoltz. Burkett, who's made the daunting 7-10 split twice, was equally up to the challenge of making the Braves' staff.

So where is it easier to throw strikes: in the alley or on the mound?

"I'd say it's about the same," Burkett says with a chuckle. "It may be a little easier in baseball. But throwing a strike doesn't mean you're successful in baseball. That's the part that makes it tougher."

One thing he knows for sure is that being perfect is a lot tougher in baseball than in bowling. There's less pressure in throwing three strikes to complete a perfect 10th frame than in throwing three strikes against San Diego Padres hitting-machine Tony Gwynn with the bases loaded in the ninth. But he'll take his chances with the latter.

Sometimes being good is better than being perfect.

N'hood
Hot Shots
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1. Singh a victory song: Vijay Singh showed a lot of class in winning his first green jacket, despite having to play four carryover holes Sunday.

2. Nicklaus and dimed: Why was more fuss made about Jack Nicklaus' two-over 74 on Saturday, which took him out of contention, than about the fact that the 60-year-old Golden Bear had actually been in contention that day?

3. Fan appreciation day: Whether you call them gluttons for punishment or simply dedicated supporters, Thrashers fans deserve credit for setting an NHL record for expansion-team attendance. They witnessed only nine successful outings all year.

4. Thanks, Don: Previous hitting coach Don Baylor appears to have left a legacy. The Braves have been hit by pitches five times in the first six games. Baylor, who was hit by 267 pitches in his career, should have taught them how to bail out.

5. No. 1 with a bullet: Keep an eye on the Braves' speedy 19-year-old middle infielder, Rafael Furcal — if you can.

6. Still going ... : The Hawks are proving that the NBA season is indeed a marathon.

7. What if ... : With the NFL Draft coming up this Saturday, Falcons fans can only imagine how the best college players in the nation would have looked in an Atlanta uniform. The Falcons don't have a first-round pick, as theirs (No. 5 overall) belongs to Baltimore.

N'hood
Last Week
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Wilder than Six Flags: Reacting to a federal judge's ruling that Microsoft broke antitrust laws, major stock markets plunge by hundreds of points before recovering by the 4 p.m. close. ... Keeping cash on the mountaintop: Martin Luther King III commemorates his father's assassination by threatening to boycott Georgia if the state doesn't remove the Confederate symbol from its state flag. ... On ice: UGA administrators suspend the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity while they investigate whether hazing played any role in a pledge's death.

Wednesday

5

Owning the air: BellSouth and SBC announce plans to merge their wireless operations into the nation's second-largest carrier. ... The Bigger Stinger: Georgia Tech announces Paul Hewitt as the Yellow Jackets' 12th men's basketball coach, replacing Bobby Cremins. ... Continuing the fight: Fulton County's Board of Commissioners votes to appeal a ruling that determined Sheriff Jackie Barrett had discriminated against white sheriff's deputies.

Thursday

6

Protecting the young: Gov. Roy Barnes signs into law Terrell's Law and two other bills that seek to guard children from abuse. ... Saving face: Former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich and his former wife, Marianne, formally divorce after 18 years of marriage, as a judge seals the divorce agreement. ... Feeling gassy: OPEC's increased production won't matter this summer, as the Energy Department says gas prices will average about $1.46 per gallon, about 25 percent higher than last year.

Friday

7

And for the defense: Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin retains death penalty defense specialists Jack Martin and Bruce Harvey to defend him against murder charges. ... But Ted takes a limo: Local officials rail against the results of a study that determines that the neighborhoods around Turner Field are the most violent in the country. ... Covered: The lawyer for Duane Fassett, Ray Lewis' limousine driver on Super Bowl Sunday, announces his client has received immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony.

Saturday

8

Taking their money elsewhere: After years of conflict, black college students rush to Texas and Florida for spring break, suggesting that this year's Freaknik may be a bust. ... Danger at the Dogwood: Thirteen people are injured in Piedmont Park after a tree topples in heavy wind. ... Para presidente: First baseman Andres Galarraga hits a grand slam in a 7-5 Braves win, and fans call for the Big Cat's entry in the Oval Office race.

Sunday

9

Masterful: Vijay Singh holds off a raft of contenders to earn the green jacket in Augusta. ... The big chill: Atlanta temperatures hit a record-low of 32 degrees ... Bowing out: Roswell Street Baptist Church pastor the Rev. Nelson Price, who leads a 9,000 person congregation and supported a 1993 anti-gay resolution passed by Cobb County, announces he will retire in November on his 35th anniversary with the church.

Signposts

Security or sexism?: The General Accounting Office reports that customs officials are twice as likely to strip search black women as either white men or women on suspicion of drug smuggling.

Soon to be without a sip?: Two river basins at the heart of a riparian rights struggle between Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida are listed as two of America's 10 most endangered water bodies.

Cake and court: Rapper Da Brat is scheduled to answer assault charges in court Thursday, a day before her 26th birthday.

N'hood
Streetalk
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What bothers you most about Piedmont Park?

Sunya, Atlanta: Some people and dogs don't like me, because I like to chase them. I like kids, but I like to nibble and chase them; some of them get scared. I'm just playing. It's a game. I know I'm annoying, but I'm not going to harm any little kid. I'm just a little 5-month-old pug.


Reyna, Atlanta: The "pet run" we run around in should be fenced, so we don't interfere with the rollerbladers. Most of them are cool, but when we run a little too far and trip them or they have to stop, a few will yell at us to "get on a leash." We also need "poop-scoop" stations for our owners.


Oscar, Atlanta: The Animal Control people are really aggressive and obnoxious. They wait over the hill and sneak in to placate the kennel (Canine Academy), which calls to complain about us running around having fun. We're not a problem to anyone. It's the only place in town where we can run.

N'hood
Yuppie rage
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Director Mary Harron's(I Shot Andy Warhol) adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' controversial novel American Psycho is an often witheringly snide black comedy. Graced with a smart, pathos-laden meditation on male competition and the blood-drawing ferocity of a money-centered culture, along with screenwriter Guinevere Turner, Harron does a transformative voodoo on an often repugnant source. If there was critique beneath all of Ellis' shallow, brand-name nihilism and graphic rhapsodies on the bloody, baroque tortures of women, most critics and editors failed to miss it beneath Ellis' pruriently heavy-handed bloodletting.

The document of a wealthy Wall Streeter, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), surveying the world from inside his chicly minimalist apartment and a string of exclusive bars and restaurants, Ellis' American Psycho followed Bateman's plunge into an extreme form of misanthropy as he brutally and meticulously tortures and kills a succession of men and women.

But Harron has, thankfully, cleaned up the crime scene of Ellis' regrettable novel, sucking up a great proportion of the blood, better to convey the lifeless, bloodless despair of a pristinely coiffed but emotionally flat-line yuppie who hangs with a pack of fellow corporate sharks.

Harron's mise-en-scene has the frigid, vaguely otherworldly look of Prada advertisements. Ellis' excruciatingly drawn-out torture scenes (focused on the sexual torture of women, which got Ellis into so much trouble with, well, women) are replaced with a laboratory ambiance that mirrors Bateman's own hollow, echo-filled conscience.

Bateman and his fellow yuppies are meticulously groomed and germ-free, and the blue-yellow color range of Andrzej Sekula's cinematography endows flesh with a putty-toned flatness more molded than human. Surface dominates in Harron's finely calibrated Manhattan, where the measure of a man is the lettering and color of his business card and his ability to bag a good table at a top-notch restaurant. Conversation is so slick and slippery, it ricochets in dead air. Insults, gossip and reams of received information from news items and music reviews are volleyed back and forth between the characters, but the words and packaged "opinions" become as much of a mask as the Armani suit or Walkman Bateman uses to block out his fiancee's prattling. Harron cuts to the heart of the often vicious, bloody nature of social intercourse and status-jockeying, which can feel as primal and cruel as any real battle.

In this mano a mano world, it's the men, with their brand name obsession and bloodthirsty status wars, who are the peacocks, the minimalist dandies who tolerate female intrusion only as a means to one end ... sex. Harron offers a hilarious encapsulation of the ferociously narcissistic and obsessive Bateman mindset in an early scene where his voice-over account takes us through the multiple gels, masks, creams and lotions that arm the modern Master of the Universe for a day at the office. Harron lingers on an image of Bateman peeling off his morning mint face mask, and that image of a skin peeled off and discarded haunts the film, a visual summation of the disembodied circumstance of its protagonist, whose detachment from others — as well as himself — allows him to begin his murder spree. As the bodies stack up — a couple of hookers, a Sarah Lawrence alum, a fellow Wall Streeter — there are frequent doubts cast as to whether the events are real or only imagined or whether Bateman is even Bateman. Such confusion over identity seems Harron's effort to show a character so disembodied and rootless in his own skin, he truly isn't anyone but the Cerruti suit on his back and the Clinique mask on his skin.

Bale is exceptional in the lead, keeping a reserve of repugnant character traits (not limited to horrendous taste in music), including a grotesque narcissism that has him watching his own body in the mirror during sex, that prevents us from relishing his juicy, nihilistic skew on his corrupt world too fully.

In a cast of suitably carnivorous types, the only real false note is Reese Witherspoon as Bateman's fiancee, too chirpy, corn-fed and state university to pull off the required Seven Sisters deb sophistication. Every scene between Bale and the pitifully underage and out-of-place Witherspoon strains dramatic possibility.

At a certain point in American Psycho, after Bateman's bloodsport is well under way, Harron loses hold of the film, adding more and more murder scenes to the brew, which never further develop or complicate either Bateman or the plot. A seriously misjudged moment of slasher film, chainsaw lunacy threatens to completely dismantle Harron's previous cool, sinister precision. Fortunately, Bateman's soullessness and amoral solitude reassert themselves by the film's satisfyingly ambiguous, chilling end, but this rough patch of conventional thrills and chills shatters Harron's witty, intellectual approach and moves the film from its rarefied plane dangerously close to crowd-pleasing schlock.

N'hood
Extreme cinema
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Filmmaking from the fringe featuring marginal subjects off even the Russian cinematic radar, Kazakhstan director Sergey Dvortsevoy's Highway and Paradise are documentary portraits bristling with life and imagination beneath their apparently flat, dry surface. In the 52-minute Highway, Dvortsevoy chronicles a family of dirt poor Kazakhstan circus performers who travel with their six children from one dismal backwater to another on a desperate strip of highway linking Central Asia and Russia.

Paradise is a 25-minute survey of the not entirely enviable lot of nomadic sheep herders whose opening "scene" of a toddler eating a bowl of gruel either hooks you or sends you running for the exit doors.

With a filmmaking style whose most distinctive feature is the director's camera shots that mimic the blank stare into the middle distance of a fatigued subway commuter, Dvortsevoy's films will be endurance tests for the majority of viewers. But for documentary devotees and fans of contemplative, off-the-beaten-path cinema, these are often hypnotically watchable, visual meditations on a way of life so extreme it seems extraterrestrial.

Highway opens with a definitive moment of poverty's degradation as the Tadjibajev family perform their act, while Dad intones to an audience of anxious kiddies, "Let's see if he'll get crushed and if the glass will rip his back!" "He" is the oldest son, whose bare stomach Dad drops a 70-pound weight onto, in the Third World version of family dysfunction.

The act is one of the more flashy in the family's rather grim repertoire, which consists mostly of some sloppy, half-hearted somersaults and tumbling and the Dickensian "trick" where Dad has two of his toddler-age children walk barefoot across broken glass. These tricks are followed by Dad's command to his audience to "Applaud!" The level of incompetency in this family circus, including a dad who interrupts his emceeing duties to wipe one of his "talent's" snotty nose, would be hilarious if not soon overshadowed by the depressing poverty that makes the laughter go down a little hard.

Crying babies, bickering siblings, a mother at her wit's end threatening to slap every child in sight, a rickety breakdown-prone bus, dirt and parched earth as far as the eye can see, it's a Saturday afternoon at Super Kmart or just another day on the road with the Tadjibajevs.

Returning to life among the forlorn and isolated is Dvortsevoy's Paradise, a succession of vignettes meant to convey something of the end-of-the-Earth peculiarity of life on the bleak steppes of South Kazakhstan. The experiment pays off. The film's only real musical score is the infernal screeching buzz of flies and the maddening bleating of a couple hundred sheep to form the A and B side of Hell's soundtrack. Paradise is a rollickingly sexy adventure story compared to the Highway saga, featuring one scene of a cow getting its head stuck in a milk pail and another of an ornery, moonshine-high nomad youth having an understandable moment of where-in-God's-name-am-I? panic. "Do I have to spend all my life on the steppe with sheep?" the poor boy wails, followed with a threatening, "I'm going to town!" One is unlikely to come across such a level of engulfing despair in many films today. The boy's gaze at the edge of the existential abyss is well illustrated by Dvortsevoy's shots of wilderness so barren and bone-dry it makes America's godforsaken strip malls look like things of beauty.

Highway and Paradise undoubtedly will be too grueling for most, but for fearless cinematic adventurers willing to step outside the four walls of the familiar, these films are truly transporting and eye-opening.

N'hood
All-time low
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An ever-mounting catalog of human degradation makes the French film I Stand Alonefeel like Camus interpreted by a snuff filmmaker. Thirty-five-year-old Gaspar Noé's first feature film opens as a viciously tongue-in-cheek anthem to individual self-determination of the most grotesque sort. A rousing patriotic march sounds out from the soundtrack as his film's recitation of the two virtues: "Morality!" and "Justice!" are introduced, only to be given Noé's own warped interpretation as the drama progresses. Such high-flying nationalistic phrasing makes a rude joke of the fatuous sense of higher cause underlying the most abysmal projects, including a jobless butcher's base motivations. Through its racist, defeated butcher "hero," I Stand Alone often feels like a carefully rigged joke: How much can we root for individualism and self-determination when such high-minded principles are used to such self-serving and amoral ends?

In the first 10 minutes of the film, Noé gives us the full flavor of its butcher antihero's (Philippe Nahon) life — from his early abandonment by his mother, a father swallowed up by a death camp, the suggestion of virginity lost via homosexual rape and other life-defining nasties. Flash forward several decades to the nameless butcher's abandonment of his own mute daughter as he (here a dreamy notion of beginning anew gets a brutal twist) starts his life over with a doughy, vile bar owner he's knocked up and who's promising to finance his butcher shop. A couple of Francis Bacon lumps of cold flesh, the relationship between the butcher and his money bag-with-legs is a repressed stream of vicious invective contained beneath a placid exterior.

I Stand Alone captures a kind of degradation that is probably not too uncommon — the kind of sociopathy that allows the butcher to, as the plot thickens, beat his enormously pregnant girlfriend into a certain abortion, thus setting off a chain of hard times culminating in an act you can't say Noé doesn't warn us about. Just before this final shock, a counter flashes onscreen and an announcement appears, warning of more unpleasant things ahead on the narrative horizon.

Noé's surgical editing style makes you jump out of your skin, as assaultive and relentless as his grim content. His favorite technique is a loud clap on the soundtrack and a sudden jolting zoom, which zeroes in on some detail — a pathetic, junkie hooker fondling a tiny stuffed animal, the ratty expression of a neighbor with black-rimmed eyes and evilly fried red hair as she prepares to tattle on the butcher.

I Stand Alone is an entirely plausible, authentic-feeling journey through one man's polluted consciousness. The butcher lives his entire existence rationalizing his abhorrent actions as his justice for the cards dealt him, and Noé captures bluntly, scabrously, a man whose existence comes with no other drive than self-preservation. Coupled with its idiosyncratic style — with scenes bathed in sulphurous light and astounding compositions that tend to place the butcher's scrappy meatball form against acres of concrete buildings in the depressing outer boroughs of Paris - such psychological verité might create enough of a lining to keep Noé's acidic film from eating away at your stomach lining.

The most troubling aspect of a film like I Stand Alone is how, every 10 years or so, a comparable film outrage comes down the pike: Salo, A Clockwork Orange, Taxi Driver Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer, always upping the ante of what we think we can tolerate. In a matter of years, maybe less, I Stand Alone will look pitifully mild as it replays again and again in the cultural consciousness's desensitization machine. But for now, Noé's film leaves a guilty and unpleasant pang at watching something so accurate in depicting matters of stream-of-consciousness hatred and the vast, dark secrets of people's thoughts and deeds that it may provide more enlightenment than many of us desire.

N'hood
Holy trinity
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Men of the cloth are the protagonists of Keeping the Faith, but the film itself suggests a deal with the devil. Rising young actor Edward Norton, a compelling presence in such films as Primal Fear, Fight Club and American History X, seems to have struck a Faustian bargain for the chance to direct and star in a big, commercial movie.

But Keeping the Faith is as squishy and strained as Norton's acting is usually forceful and natural. There's plenty of potential in a story about the friendship between a young priest and a rabbi, but Faith's unlikely love triangle merely drapes spiritual trappings around the cliches of a toothless Hollywood romantic comedy.

Only occasionally does Stuart Blumberg's screenplay convey the complexities of the spiritual life. In one of the rare, insightful exchanges, Rabbi Jake Schram (Ben Stiller) says that as a rabbi, he's perceived as the kind of Jew other Jews would be if they had the time. Father Brian Finn (Norton) replies that he's the kind of Catholic other Catholics would be if they had the discipline.

But mostly the film trades in predictable stereotypes. In the first scene, Father Brian gets drunk in an Irish bar, while Jake, as an eligible bachelor, is forever fending off match-making mothers at his synagogue. "They're like the Kosher Nostra," he remarks in one of the film's typical puns. In the early montage of Jake and Brian's respective religious instruction, we see the slapstick given away by the movie's trailers: Jake fainting at a bris, Brian catching his robes on fire in church, etc.

Since this is an A-list movie, it's not enough for Brian and Jake to be smart, savvy religious leaders, they are celebrities as well. They pack in their congregations and in their sermons josh like stand-up comics. They're even partners in an odd venture, collaborating on an inter-faith, Jewish/Catholic senior citizen's center and karaoke bar. (Ken Leung has a scene-stealing moment mangling "Jessie's Girl" as a karaoke machine salesman.) If only they were roommates, Keeping the Faith would be a weekly TV sitcom.

Things change with a visit from Anna (Jenna Elfman), the boys' eighth-grade pal, "like a magical cross between Johnny Quest and Tatum O'Neal in Foxes." A corporate executive in town for a deal, Anna renews their long-lost friendship and then complicates it. Anna and Jake become lovers, but keep it a secret. Since she's a gentile, the relationship could offend Jake's synagogue, not to mention his prying mother (Anne Bancroft). They also keep Brian in the dark, and the priest begins to question his vow of chastity whenever Anna's around.

Elfman seems to be the actress you cast when Lisa Kudrow turns you down, and she seems the wrong choice for Anna. Everyone talks about how much Anna's changed since she was a girl, having become a corporate workaholic, but Elfman, with her husky voice and chipmunk twinkle, is the quintessential tomboy — she seems about as financially driven as one of the Teletubbies.

Watching the film, you wouldn't imagine Norton was as deftly humorous as he appeared in Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You. For most of the actors, the comic performances rely on exaggerated double-takes and dropped jaws, not to mention sacrilegious epithets like, "Holy shit" and "Oh. My. God." Stiller is a bit subtler, but as in many of his movies, he seems to be holding himself back, as if unwilling to appear vulnerable.

Faith brings in some old pros as religious father-figures, with Eli Wallach and Ron Rifkin as rabbis and Milos Forman (who directed Norton in The People vs. Larry Flynt) as an avuncular priest. But he doesn't use their characters as a means of exploring religious traditions, instead offering repetitive, post-card shots of New York skylines, parks and sculpture gardens, padding the film to more than two hours.

Like many romantic comedies set in New York, Faith stages confrontation and reconciliation scenes in front of colorful strangers. The film also shows some strange glimmers of misogyny. On a date with Jake, Lisa Edelstein's aerobicizing man-trap gets punched in the stomach and shoved onto the sidewalk for laughs.

Keeping the Faith ultimately seems like the kind of project an actor agrees to in order to get leverage for a more edgy and personal project. Perhaps Norton intended the film to tweak both the sacred and the profane, but There's Something About the Virgin Mary it's not.

N'hood
Femme fatale
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At long last, Linda Fiorentino's mother can say her daughter has "made it." Never mind that Fiorentino has been plugging away at an acting career for some 15 years now, with a couple dozen films to her credit. That her latest, the caper comedy Where the Money Is (opening April 14), happens to star Paul Newman may not give the actress much pause, but it certainly got a rise out of her mom. In the movie, Newman plays a convicted bank robber whose scheme to fake a stroke hits a snag when he's reassigned to a nursing home, under the watchful eye of Fiorentino's canny nurse. Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend's Wedding) plays her husband; Marek Kanievska (Less Than Zero) directs.

Small roles in Martin Scorsese's After Hours and Alan Rudolph's The Moderns led to Fiorentino's critically acclaimed breakthrough as a vicious femme fatale in the noirish indie thriller The Last Seduction (1994). Wasted in a series of negligible studio pictures (e.g., the David Caruso cop drama Jade, the Bill Murray circus comedy Larger Than Life), she eventually hit it big with the bona fide blockbuster Men in Black (1997), admirably holding her own opposite alien-busting buddies Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Most recently, the actress starred in the apocalyptic comedy Dogma, and she had a small role in the extra-terrestrial romance What Planet Are You From?

Fiorentino, 40, spoke about her career and her new movie during a recent interview.

CL: What's the first thing that goes through your mind when you realize you're going to be working with Paul Newman?

LF: The first thing I thought was, "All right, I have a job!" It's true. You know, he's a great actor. People think of him as this great movie star, but he really is a terrific actor. He brings with him an experience and a wealth of information that I'd never seen before. I guess I was supposed to be in awe, but the fact that I wasn't actually made it easier for him. I don't know. My mother was in awe that I was working with him. After 15 years of making movies, she said to me, "Finally, you've made it. You're working with a real movie star!" To me, though, he's just an actor, and I think he appreciated that I didn't bow to him. I couldn't. I had to work with him every day, so we had to be partners.

Is that your attitude toward all actors?

Yeah. I mean, we're not brain surgeons. It's not that difficult a job, so I don't hold anybody in any higher regard. I'm in awe of anyone who can get up at that hour of the morning and work for 18 hours. [Pause.] I'm trying to think of who I'd be in awe of. Maybe if I'd met Albert Einstein, you know?

You left a lasting impression with your performance in The Last Seduction. Do you still struggle with being typecast in those kinds of hard-edged roles?

I'm not the sort of actor who consciously thinks of my image or what I'm going to do next. I just take things as they come and try to do the best I can. I try to take risks, if I have the option to, but let's face it. There are only a handful of actresses out there who can say they want to do this project or that project and then get paid really well to do it. I really just live in the moment. It's like I said, I'm always just happy to have a job. There is no divine plan. You can't really plan a career in this business. There's no such thing.

But after the phenomenal commercial success of something like Men in Black, couldn't you have consciously decided to go after more mainstream studio films?

Just the opposite was true. I didn't cash in on that aspect of it. I mean, the next film I did was Dogma, right? For me, a lot of my job offers come out of Europe, like the Georgia O'Keeffe movie I'm getting ready to shoot [opposite Ben Kingsley as Alfred Stieglitz], which was totally financed overseas. What Men in Black did for me was give a different kind of presence in the international market. It made me more viable to do the films I want to do.

Are you a fan of O'Keeffe's work?

Not really, but what I liked about the script was it's more of a love story than it is a linear biography. If anything, I'm probably more a fan of Stieglitz, because photography is a serious hobby of mine. I love it because it's about capturing a moment instead of living in the moment as an actor. It's me looking at the world instead of the world looking at me.

You don't enjoy your celebrity?

I don't like to have attention paid to me all the time. Not only do I find it strange, I think it's a dangerous way to live your life. Why would anybody want to perpetuate that? If you become so famous you have to take jobs that keep you rich, just so you can afford to hire security and protect yourself, then what's the point? I live relatively obscurely, in a little house with no giant gates or walls, and I like it that way. I can give my money to charity or to my mom, you know? I mean, I don't make that much money, but every little bit helps. I like what fame has afforded me, discounts at certain stores or great seats at a basketball game. I try not to abuse the privilege, but it's not like I have that much to abuse.

N'hood
Let it all hang out
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Those of us expectantly awaiting the Atlanta premiere of David Schisgall's wife-swapping documentary The Lifestyle may be appeased in the interim by a ground-breaking piece of sexual verité recently released for the first time on video. Milton Moses Ginsberg's 1969 Coming Apart chronicles the sexual exploits and subsequent crack-up of lady-killing Manhattan psychiatrist Joe Glazer (Rip Torn), who films his erotic adventures via a hidden camera trained on his living room couch.

Long before Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris or Soderbergh's sex, lies, and videotape recorded sexual dissolution and linked obsessive filming with psychological alienation, Ginsberg's by turns clunky, dated and pretentious but utterly engrossing, raw film captured the misery and miscommunications of sex with verité candor.

Shot predominately from a single stationary camera angle, in Ginsberg's deconstructive approach to the cinematic apparatus, the machine, not the man, seems to wield all the power. And the camera's fixed, penetrating gaze appears to somehow contribute to Joe's eventual mental breakdown as if goading him to greater and greater self-destruction.

Rip Torn is a bundle of nervy intensity and the consummate cagey, swinging bachelor, a burly roue with sleeves rolled up to show off his meaty biceps and shirtfront unbuttoned to reveal a hairy torso. Playing out his ennui with a revolving door of chicks, Joe's camera records a parade of Manhattan's loveliest — and nuttiest — who sit on his white couch describing their dissatisfactions, sexual exploits and fantasies, coming on to Joe, and shimmying to frenzied guitar rock.

Coming Apart is a composite of the era's sexual zeitgeist and mores, with characters assuming the position and spouting the canned jargon of sexual liberation. From today's perspective, all the talk of freedom, free love and assorted groovyisms can look hopelessly corny. Joe, and his most neurotic playmate, former patient Joann (in a career-defining, brave performance from Sally Kirkland) live on the edge of sexual one-upmanship. Joe picks up door-to-door teenage political workers and seduces a shockingly Lolita-ish mother in front of her baby carriage while Joann recounts her latest orgy and wanton promiscuity. Such semblance of sexual freedom seems contradicted by their misery — both Method-trained actors bring a harrowing, often unnerving frankness to their parts.

Coming Apart is about the elaborate psychological scenarios and role-playing that occurs behind closed doors but which Joe's camera captures in often painful, disconcerting detail. Though some have called Coming Apart pornographic for its admittedly radical, surgical survey of sex, the film rarely resembles either pornography or Hollywood's typically choreographed, strategic grapplings.

Though shot from a decidedly guy's-eye vantage (the film is often a literalization of feminist film theory, which equates the camera's gaze with a male perspective), Coming Apart feels penetratingly honest and perceptive for recording the difference between male and female approaches to sex. While most of the film demands total nudity from the women and keeps Torn protected in his skivvies, Joann's eventual put-down of Joe's passive-aggressive brutality carries the decided sting of authentic self-analysis by the film's end.

Joe's mystification as he gropes his way through the dark corridors of female desire is at times humorously opposed to the women he encounters. One, a chic, husky-voiced Videodrome-style masochist sporting a chestful of cigarette burns pleads with Joe, "do anything you want to me," to which the guileless lunk shrugs, "there's only three or four things we could do, baby."

Coming Apart opened to violently divided reviews, and seemed to bode the end of then 33-year-old Ginsberg's filmmaking career. Though his film could be faulted for a lot of things — an often embarrassingly pretentious focus on actorly meltdowns and a joking, often silly, macho skew on a female sexuality distinguished by game-playing — Ginsberg's film is thoroughly original. For all its pop psychology affectations and histrionics, the film seems earnestly committed to breaking through the masks of human behavior and self-deception. Three decades later, this tumultuous comedown from '60s Warholian sexual revolution to '70s Looking for Mr. Goodbar self-analysis, still has the power to shock.

N'hood
Short Subjectives
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FF is Felicia Feaster, CH is Curt Holman, RJ is Richard Joseph, EM is Eddy Von Mueller, SW is Steve Warren.


Opened Friday


DETERRENCE (R) *** Film critic Rod Lurie's first feature has divided the critics. I'm on the pro side. In a stroke of casting genius, Kevin Pollak stars as an unpopular US president who grows into his role - as Pollak does — before our eyes. Snowbound in a Colorado diner, the president responds to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait by threatening to nuke Baghdad. The story unfolds in virtual real time. What might have been a rack to hang political arguments on is a gripping, entertaining drama (and a strong candidate for stage adaptation) first and foremost. Don't let politics deter you from seeing it. — SW

GOSSIP (R) Inspired by their journalism class project about the nature of gossip, three college students decide to put their theories to the test by spreading a rumor about a beautiful, wealthy and chaste freshman, whom they claim had sex with her boyfriend after a wild party. Things quickly get out of hand when the girl's boyfriend is arrested for date rape and one of the three instigators is revealed to have a deep, dark secret.

JOE GOULD'S SECRET (R)** In this nostalgic period piece, Big Night's Stanley Tucci directs himself as a New Yorker writer who makes a temporary celebrity of an eloquent, mercurial Greenwich Village street person (Ian Holm). While Holm gives a pleasingly cantankerous performance, Tucci never gets under the skin of his character (the bogus Southern accent doesn't help), and despite a genuine affection for mid-century Manhattan, the film leaves you feeling like you saw the slides of someone else's visit. — CH

LOVE AND BASKETBALL (PG-13) *1/2 Love and Basketball stars Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps as two gifted basketball-playing neighbors who begin a relationship as children, which may or may not blossom into love as adults. Nope, the ending isn't a surprise. Nope, it's not directed very well. Nope, it's not written very well. Nope, co-star Alfre Woodard never gets to reveal the talent we've come to appreciate. And nope, it's not really worth your time. — RJ

MIFUNE (R) *** The cinema vérité style of Denmark's Dogma 95 filmmakers continues to pay off, with this idiosyncratic comedy of familial dysfunction suggesting Flannery O'Connor penning a draft of Rain Man. Never predictable and always alive, Mifune is only diminished by a weak, confusing conclusion. — CH

U-571 (R) Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton and Harvey Keitel costar in this WWII drama about a daring feat of heroism in which the Americans become trapped in a German submarine and are unable to make contact with American forces. Their mission is to sneak the vessel back into US waters without being mistaken for the enemy.


Duly Noted


FIGHT CLUB (R) *** 1/2 A spoof of cures for millennial malaise evolves into something darker, then takes a turn of Sixth Sense proportions. Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) loosens and toughens Edward Norton's unnamed character, and spectators at their Saturday night fights want to participate. Burned-out punkette Helena Bonham Carter isn't much to fight over, but she'll do. Director David Fincher may have overestimated the intelligence of American moviegoers, and isn't that refreshing! GSU's cinéfest, April 17-20.SW

I STAND ALONE (NR) *** And you thought the French were all Derrida, tiny coffees, smart ensembles and disdain-filled looks. The debut film from Gaspar Noe, about a jobless butcher on a hateful, racist, misogynist bender is a sojourn to the other side of the tracks — the France of rampant unemployment, an influx of immigrants, lumpen people and barren, postindustrial boulevards without a touch of Vigo fairy dust. Relentlessly brutal, Noe's film suggests a more formally rigorous, intellectually tight Abel Ferrara. Moments of nasty humor (if castration, impotency and marital despair strike you as amusing) peek through the desolation, in this nevertheless engrossing study of a contemporary, very ordinary sociopath. GSU's cinéfest, April 14-20.FF


Continuing


ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (R) *** 1/2 A lovely mix of campy humor and heartfelt affection for the sacrifices made by the women who made us, Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar's film follows a bereaved mother (Cecilia Roth) who's just lost her teenage son on her odyssey to Barcelona, to inform the boy's father of his death. Fierce performances by a cast of high-octane women, including Roth, Marisa Paredes as a flinty stage actress and Antonia San Juan as a goofy, loveable transvestite, enhance this fiery, earnest meditation on the multiple roles women play, and the thin, permeable divide between film and life. — FF

AMERICAN BEAUTY (R) *** Full of arch, sardonic dialogue and shot with real style, this tale of anomie and sexual frustration in the suburbs and the snide, brow-beaten husband (Kevin Spacey) who defies it is a slick but occasionally thoughtful social skewering. The film falls short of greatness for its fuzzy moral perspective, hokey ending and a very teen boy point-of-view that casts the girls and women as vacuous and the men as cultural seers in a peculiar vision that feels halfway between Risky Business and Ordinary People. — FF [page]

AMERICAN PSYCHO ***1/2 (R) Director Mary Harron has salvaged a seemingly unredeemable, minor shock-novel by Bret Easton Ellis and turned it into a whipsmart funny satire and pungent critique of male competition, money lust and a world of appearances. Christian Bale delivers an entirely credible and compelling take on Ellis's Wall Street yuppie who turns killer, and, commendably, never glamorizes his virulent misanthropy. A coolly, stylishly shot piece of cultural commentary, American Psycho has some regrettable slasher-film hack touches but remains an admirable alchemic transformation of rubbish into, if not gold, then a pretty shiny likeness. — FF

BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE (R) ** An Altmanesque dramady about the intersecting lives of a hodgepodge of troubled Londoners, all of whom are in some way touched by the Bosnian war, this first film from Bosnian-born, England-based Jasmin Dizdar is intentionally far-fetched and zany, but this glib approach to what ails the modern mind grows as tiresome as the director's falsely feel-good effort to symbolically "fix" the world's problems in the end. — FF

BLACK AND WHITE (R) ** The likes of Brooke Shields, Robert Downey Jr., Claudia Schiffer, Mike Tyson and members of the Wu-Tang Clan mix it up in James Toback's heavily improvised depiction of the connection between white youths and black hip-hop culture. It's ambitious, inclusive and never boring, but it never explores its racial thesis in much depth. Toback seems more interested in the gray areas of sexuality and criminality, featuring a youth-gone-astray subplot worthy of a 1950s juvenile delinquent film. — CH

BOILER ROOM (R) *** Like Glengarry Glen Ross, Junior, the first film from 27-year-old writer-director Ben Younger offers a tour of the high-stakes, high-testosterone would of sleazy, twentysomething stock brokers. It lacks dramatic polish but knows its world inside and out. CH

BOYS DON'T CRY (R) **** Directed with uncommon style and consideration for its white trash milieu, Kimberly Peirce's true crime art film concerns the 21-year-old Nebraska woman who tried to pass herself off as a man, Brandon Teena, and paid dearly for her gender subversion. A meaty, intense evocation of this badlands crime scene, Boys splits the film into two vantages, making us dread the escalating danger closing in around Brandon and also feel the ecstatic hopefulness of the dreamy drag king imagining he's finally found love and a home amongst the wasted teen miscreants of Falls City. — FF

THE CIDER HOUSE RULES (PG-13) ** 1/2. John Irving adapts his own weighty novel about love, orphans, abortion and apples, and the results are true to the letter of the book without catching fire as a film. Despite an inconsistent New England accent, Michael Caine does a nice job as a sad-eyed, ether-addicted abortionist, while Tobey Maguire continues to look like a young Dustin Hoffman as an orphan trying to find his place in the world. Directed by Sweden's Lasse Hallström, Cider House Rules ultimately comes across as overly pretty and even-keeled, with every outcome seeming preordained. — CH

COTTON MARY ** (R) Like the member of a successful band recording a solo album, Ismail Merchant of the Merchant-Ivory production team directs this glimpse at East-West tensions in India of 1954. The title character is a Ango-Indian nurse (Madhur Jaffrey) with delusions of being English, and when she sneakily ingratiates herself into the troubled British family of Greta Scacchi, she accelerates its difficulties. The Indian locales look both exotic and lived-in, but Merchant's characters are uniformly passive and unsympathetic. — CH

THE CUP *** The Cup is a lovely, unpretentious family film full of unintended ironies. Superficially a simple story, the film concerns the minor disruption of routine at an expatriate Tibetan Buddhist monastery in India when a particularly rambunctious lad develops a passion for World Cup soccer and wants to watch the final match. That's it, whole story. In and of itself, the narrative flows comfortably, if languidly, and possesses an accessible charm. It is the kind of film parents should drag their pre- and early teenagers to for they will appreciate its colorful yet universal characters and comprehend the moral lessons within. — RJ

ERIN BROCKOVICH (R) *** A true populist movie that deserves its inevitable popularity, Steven Soderbergh's film is a perfect vehicle for Julia Roberts. In this true story, she's a working-class woman who dresses like a working girl. In a menial job at Albert Finney's law firm, she stumbles on PG&E's involvement in pollution that poisons an entire community. She builds a case and persuades Finney to take it. That's not funny, but Susannah Grant's screenplay finds copious humor in the characters while treating the story with the seriousness it deserves. But for the March release, this could have been Roberts' Oscar role. — SW [page]

FANTASIA 2000 *** 1/2 . The technology of animation, sound recording and film projection gloriously catch up with the Fantasia concept of cartoons inspired by classical music. As if overly concerned about avoiding the original film's moments of leaden pace, the segments move by at a rapid clip, with a piece involving Donald Duck, Noah's Ark and "Pomp & Circumstance" being especially rushed. But though the celebrity introductions are disastrous, the rest of the film is an intoxicating experience. IMAX theater at Mall of GeorgiaCH

FINAL DESTINATION (R) ** 1/2 This "Twilight Zone" for teens may be schlocky, but bursts of directorial genius from debuting James Wong generate some of the most suspenseful moments in teen slasher history. It's not technically a slasher movie, but degenerates into that format — the killer being Death itself — after a vision of disaster leads Devon Sawa to run off his plane destined for a class trip to Paris. Five classmates and a teacher follow him; then the plane blows up. Weeks later the survivors start dying in bizarre accidents, explained as Death's "new design." Wong adds masterful touches to a genre film that could have been far worse. — SW

GHOST DOG (R) ***1/2 A typically quirky, soulful Jarmuschian idyll, Ghost Dog features Forest Whitaker as an inner-city hit man whose life is defined by an ancient Japanese code of samurai ethics. Whitaker is perfectly cast and very affecting as the stoic killer in this idiosyncratic blend of Eastern philosophy, hip hop, Italian mafioso slapstick. A surprisingly tender film about poetry sprouting between the cracks of a dismal urban wasteland. — FF

HIGH FIDELITY (R)***1/2 John Cusack and director Stephen Frears, 10 years after collaborating on The Grifters, show high fidelity to Nick Hornby's terrific novel about a lovelorn record shop owner. The film effectively echoes Annie Hall as Cusack engagingly chats to the camera and looks back on his relationships with women to understand why his latest girlfriend (Iben Hjejle) left him. But its spot-on depiction of music geeks and fanboys (led by Tenacious D's Jack Black as a disdainful record store clerk) gives it its biggest laughs and truest observations. The excellent cast includes Tim Robbins, Catherine Zeta Jones, Lili Taylor and Joan Cusack. — CH

KEEPING THE FAITH (PG-13) ** Edward Norton, directing himself as a priest and Ben Stiller as a rabbi, in an likely romantic triangle with a daffy blonde (Jenna Elfman), belabors themes of love and faith with the obviousness of a Sunday School sermon. There's Something About the Virgin Mary it's not. — CH

MISSION TO MARS (R) ** 1/2 Brian De Palma starts with some of Stanley Kubrick's famed interstellar effects and ends with the lame cosmic therapy themes that diminished Contact and The Abyss. In depicting a rescue mission to the red planet, De Palma brings his usual love of the craft of filmmaking, constructing some breathless, intricate set pieces. But he also brings a rank indifference to telling compelling stories, and the familiar epiphanies at the climax leave audiences snickering. — CH

MY DOG SKIP (PG) ** 1/2 Lassie's dead. Today it's wimpy dogs for wimpy kids. No one gets out without weeping at Willie Morris' childhood memoir of the summer of '42 in Yazoo, Miss. It pushes sentimental buttons about coming of age, nostalgia, race relations and physically and emotionally crippled veterans. Only-child Willie (Frankie Muniz) is the target of bullies. His only friend, athlete-next-door Luke Wilson, goes off to the Army; so his mother (Diane Lane) gives him a dog. I'm not a dog person, but if I ran over one in the parking lot after seeing My Dog Skip I would have felt real bad. — SW

PRICE OF GLORY (PG-13) ** Price of Glory seems torn from the faded script pages of a Hollywood long past. This story of a Mexican-American family may take place in the present day, but its spirit is a projection of the second and third tier potboilers that were the staple fare of Saturday matinees a half-century ago. — RJ

REINDEER GAMES (R) * It's hard to know what's to blame: the lackluster direction, the trite, cliché-jammed script, a bland cast, but there's no denying, this John Frankenheimer mistaken identity "thriller" about decent guy ex-con Ben Affleck, who's forced into helping a band of ne'er-do-well truck drivers led by Gary Sinise as they try to knock over an American Indian casino is a good two months past Christmas and probably no one's idea of a gift worth getting. — FF [page]

READY TO RUMBLE (PG-13) ** David Arquette and Scott Caan live for wrestling. When WCW honcho Joe Pantoliano pulls the plug on their hero, Jimmy King's (Oliver Platt; other wrestlers play themselves) career they devote themselves to restoring his crown. The predictable plot strings together copious brutal bouts and scatological humor. Wrestling fans will enjoy a record number of crotch kicks — more nutcrackers than a year of Christmases — but I wonder if they'll appreciate the emphasis on the phoniness of it all. On the way out another critic said, "I wouldn't recommend it for anyone over 25," and I asked, "Years or months?" — SW

RETURN TO ME *** (PG-13) Return To Me is a lovely creation, full of life, not dramatic re-enactments of heartwarming moments designed to temporarily alleviate the fears of the insipid. It is also a story about risk. The risk of putting your soul on the line in the daring willingness to love. But ultimately, Return To Me is a film about human relationships and their ability to fill the heart with the effervescence of life. Stars Minnie Driver and David Duchovny. — RJ

THE ROAD TO EL DORADO (PG) **1/2 Getting there is most of the fun in this animated history lesson that begins in Spain in 1519 as a rollicking romp. Once Tulio (Kevin Kline) and Miguel (Kenneth Branagh) reach the "New World" as stowaways on Cortes' ship they're hailed as gods in El Dorado, "the city of gold." Kindred spirit Chel (Rosie Perez) provides the only amusement there as the film shifts into neutral and coasts for about an hour until gathering momentum for an exciting climax. Kline and Perez do a wonderful job of projecting their personalities onto their characters, unlike Branagh, who has no personality. — SW

ROMEO MUST DIE (R) ** 1/2 There's room at the top for an action star and Hong Kong martial artist Jet Li deserves the position once held by the late Bruce Lee. Like a '70s B movie but faster and louder, this one's about a supposed war between Asian and African-American gangs in Oakland and a developing romance between Li, the son of the Asian gang boss, and Aaliyah, the daughter of his black rival. It takes a bit too long to reach the unsurprising conclusion but there are plenty of fights along the way and Jet makes Romeo a winner - tru-Li, mad-Li, deep-Li. — SW

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT (R) *** A few good points short of A Few Good Men, this military courtroom drama's stars make it well worth watching. Old friends and Marine Cols. Tommy Lee Jones defends Samuel L. Jackson when he's court-martialed for ordering troops to fire on civilians in Yemen. Inconsistently drawn prosecutor Maj. Guy Pearce is established as an idealist but winds up playing dirty. Director William Friedkin manipulates us skillfully if not always honestly, and the camaraderie of the stars goes a long way toward glossing over the film's minor flaws. Jones and Jackson rule and make Rules of Engagement damned engaging. — SW

THE SKULLS (PG-13) ** 1/2 This popcorn potboiler about an Ivy League society so secret that if you see the movie they'll have to kill you, held my interest despite plot implausibilities. Joshua Jackson is on a scholarship but has such drive the elitist Skulls induct him. When they have a death to cover up — and the power to do it — Jackson must decide where his loyalties lie and how much an assured future is worth. A potential political exposé or satire, the film emphasizes thriller elements instead, with some intellect used to resolve matters (between the car chase and the shootout). — SW

STUART LITTLE (PG) ** 1/2 Villains' roles are traditionally better than heroes', so the cat runs away with the season's big mouse movie. Nathan Lane as Snowbell mops up the floor with Michael J. Fox, who voices the title rodent, adopted by the Littles (Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie) as a brother for Jonathan Lipnicki. Besides, Stuart is computer-generated while the cats are mostly real (except their lip movements). Blatantly celebrating diversity and elective families, Stuart Little is as predictable as holiday movies should be. I'll cut it some seasonal slack and give Lane, who makes it all tolerable, the Snowbell Prize for his performance. — SW

3 STRIKES (R) * 1/2 It's another Friday in the hood, with more energy but no momentum connecting sketches about bland Brian Hooks doing everything (except turning himself in and explaining the misunderstanding) to avoid going to prison for the third time (a mandatory 25-to-life in California). — SW [page]

THE TIGGER MOVIE (G) ** 1/2 Obviously motivated more by maximizing marketing and merchandising Pooh-tential than artistic vision, the latest visit to A.A. Milne's characters in the Hundred-Acre Wood has a thin plot padded to feature-length. Although most of his friends (Rabbit, Owl, Piglet, Winnie the Pooh bear and Eeyore the donkey) seem to be the only ones of their species, Tigger suddenly develops an acute need for roots. The others jump through hoops to make him realize they're all he needs. Coming from Disney Animation's Television Division, it's no artistic match for Tarzan but better than most of what the kids see on TV. — SW

TITUS (R) ** Julie Taymor, the bold stylist behind the hit stage version of The Lion King, tackles Shakespeare's bloodiest, silliest play with results that are visually remarkable but exhausting and preposterous. Anthony Hopkins gets to hark back to Hannibal Lecter as the tormented Roman general, while a breast-plated Jessica Lange, as a vengeful Goth queen, gives her most ferocious work in years. — CH

28 DAYS (PG-13) ** 1/2 Sandra Bullock romps through rehab as the funniest drunk since Arthur in her personal best acting showcase. The writer of Erin Brockovich, Susannah Grant again finds considerable humor without trivializing a serious subject and also hits all the dramatic cliches of the genre, including leaving us with the feeling our heroine will be one of the 30 percent that's able to make it on the outside. — SW

WHERE THE MONEY IS (PG-13) ** Paul Newman's good but he can't save this slender caper about two losers and a lifer hijacking an armored car. Professional bank robber Newman fakes a stroke to get sent from prison to a nursing home where nurse Linda Fiorentino gets wise to him and persuades him to work with her and her husband (Dermot Mulroney). Because he's Paul Newman, he's a sexual threat, despite being 35 years older than Fiorentino. Thankfully they don't have any love scenes, yet we're always aware of their supposed mutual attraction, which is less like Romeo and Juliet than a reverse Harold and Maude. — SW

THE WHOLE NINE YARDS (R) ** 1/2 Jonathan Lynn makes unsubtle comedies with stereotypical characters (e.g., My Cousin Vinny). In this one, some half-dozen people are trying to kill each other and the dentist (Matthew Perry) who's trying to avoid bloodshed. There's Perry's unloving wife (Rosanna Arquette), the hitman next door (Bruce Willis), Willis' estranged wife (Natasha Henstridge), Perry's assistant (Amanda Peet), the mobster whose father Willis ratted out (Kevin Pollak) and Pollak's muscle (Michael Clarke Duncan). Perry does well by the pratfalls that compensate for the lack of wit in the script. — SW

WONDER BOYS (R). ** 1/2. Michael Douglas and L.A. Confidential director Curtis Hanson each try to prove that they can handle light, mature comedy, but this sad-eyed academic satire doesn't make a very compelling case. Adapted from Michael Chabon's novel about a blocked writer, Wonder Boys moves at a pokey pace and the relationship between Douglas' accident-prone professor and Tobey Maguire's dour but wise student compares unfavorably to American Beauty. — CH

N'hood
Techno-twang!
Phone Number not listed.
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"Look out honey, cause I'm using technology" — Iggy Pop, "Search and Destroy"

It's no secret that for many years record producers have relied on various types of electronic equipment to enhance, modify and transform the natural sound of music and the human voice into something that it's not. As a matter of fact, some of the most significant recordings of the last century may never have existed if it weren't for the artificial manipulation of sound in the studio. Consider guitarist Les Paul's innovative multi-track layering, George Martin's magical cut-and-paste construction on the Beatles' albums and the unique sonic aura of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. All of these are considered classics, and yet all are defined as much by the technology involved in the recording process as by the music itself.

These days, the widespread use of digital technology allows producers to manipulate recorded sound in unprecedented ways. Never before in the history of pop (and country, for that matter) has it been so easy to manufacture stars, finding first the look then tweaking the music to fit the image. Sound-enhancing software such as Pro Tools and Sonic Solutions have made it possible to take a recording of the most tone-deaf singer and bend each bad note into perfect pitch. Producers can also sample a perfect note or riff, and insert it into the accompanying music as many times as necessary to create an instrumental back-up that's completely error-free; not a beat out of synch. Conveniently, this allows the "talent" to get away with less talent, and focus more on the visual appeal that drives the celebrity industry.

Of course, there's also a positive side to the new technology. As in the past, many artists look at innovations not as corrective tools, but as opportunities to create new sound, to use technology as an instrument in itself. While this has long been the case with some of the more creative dance music, digital technology has begun to make inroads into the conventionally traditional and rootsy world of Americana. In the past several years, artists such as Greg Garing and Parlor James have incorporated sampling and programming into the framework of country and bluegrass, with somewhat mixed results. More recently, new releases by the longtime Austin band the Bad Livers, New York (by way of Atlanta) songwriter Robert Burke Warren, Michigan rootsy artist Jim Roll and former Green on Red jangle-rocker Chuck Prophet cover similar stylistic ground with various applications of modern studio technology.

The Bad Livers' Danny Barnes is a staunch defender of the new technology. On his group's new CD Blood & Mood (Sugar Hill), Barnes and bassist Mark Rubin make a radical departure from their traditional gothic bluegrass sound by using extensive studio manipulation. "Everything you hear was sampled and screwed with," Barnes writes in an email. "Why do I use these techniques? Because this technology is available to me. ... Sampling is another name for recording, don't forget."

Blood & Mood is a sonic bombardment of drum machines, samples, sequencing and treated voices surrounding Barnes' acoustic guitar and banjo, with a small dose of Rubin's steady upright bass. The songs are semi-twisted tales of small town life, oddballs and stilted snapshots that somehow gel into a cogent listening experience. Barnes, clearly adverse to the use of labels, sees his music as non-categorical. "Modern examples of the styles you describe (alt-country, bluegrass, roots rock) bore me shitless. It isn't an 'idea' to go and play a lame version of something else. It's a cop-out, and the records that adhere to these dogmas make me want to puke."

Robert Burke Warren, who incorporates studio technology into his new and otherwise acoustic-based album ... To This Day (Jackpot Records), also sees the machination as a positive. "I feel the new technologies are, for the most part, a beneficial thing," he writes, also by e-mail. "I've always liked the mixture of synthetic and organic sounds. As I was putting the album together, I liked the way the folk and country elements sounded with the machines in there."

Warren debates the issue of analog versus digital recording in terms of his own work, and looks for a reconciliation based on personal taste. "I've used both vintage analog equipment and cutting edge digital — usually both at the same time. There are plusses and negatives to both mediums. The ever-heightening sensitivity of both digital and analog make it possible to capture low-fi sounds in such a high tech way that they sound more palatable than ever before. The Alan Lomax field recordings, the Beatles Anthology ... great examples of the marriage of the two."

Jim Roll's debut CD Lunette (New West Records) is a fine product with limited but still noticeable technological augmentation. Produced by the Silos' Walter Salas-Humara, the album is a pleasant collection of diverse and captivating tunes. "I hired Salas-Humara to produce my disc because I respected his past dedication to simplicity and tone — and was intrigued by his recent tasteful experimentation with sampling, etc. on the last Silos' record," Roll emails.

While the focus on Lunette remains on the songs themselves, Roll acknowledges and justifies the use of programming to enhance a couple of tracks, and more extensive use of correction through sampling to fix minor audio errors. He recalls, "We used it [programming] on two songs as far as I can remember. We just picked out those two songs as ones that we thought could benefit from some ethereal techno noise."

Californian Chuck Prophet has added even a newer dimension of techological enhancement on his latest release, The Hurting Business (Hightone), with the incorporation of a DJ on several tracks. Throughout the CD, Prophet relies heavily on sampling and programming effects to create a masterful collection of tunes right on the cutting edge of today's innovative musical hybrids. It's a logical step forward in his path from a basic roots rocker to one of Americana's most creative artists.

While each artists' approach vary slightly, all agree on two particular benefits to new studio technology. Barnes writes, "Artists can work at home, without money flying out the window every second. Then we can take things into a studio, bump it up to 24 track and work for a week instead of a month."

Warren echoes Barnes, writing, "As a singer/songwriter living in a tenement, I look to machines that I can use with headphones. Also — it's cost effective. When you're on the clock, it adds up."

Roll supports the use of sampling as a financial deterrent and as a quick fix-it. "In many cases human error correction is okay," he writes. "If you have a limited budget and a wrong note can be fixed in 10 minutes (instead of paying the musicians for three more hours), then that is a blessing." Both Barnes and Warren agreed with Roll; they felt the final product is ultimately what matters in recording music.

The debate will continue over the use of studio technology, particularly in the tradition-based world of Americana, where "real" music is seen as a virtue. But in the end it boils down to the individual choice of the listener. Some people will claim fraud when producers enhance and correct the vocal tracks of their next big thing; others will simply enjoy what they hear. And until CDs start being labeled with the percentage of studio enhancements on them (which, face it, will never happen), the only recourse is to separate the creative use of technology from the corrective, and beyond that, to let the buyer beware.

The Bad Livers play the Star Bar Fri., April 14. For more information, call 404-681-9018. Jim Roll performs at The Earl Wed., April 19. For more information, call 404-522-3950.

N'hood
Accidental tourers
Phone Number not listed.
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"My hand seems to just fall to the A chord when I hold a guitar, so it just feels natural for me," explains Japancakes leader Eric Berg. The unnatural aspect of Berg's fondness for the chord is that he used it for the entirety of Japancakes first show. "Yeah, it was all in A, and I don't mean the key of A, I mean the chord," he laughs.

The seven member Athens-based band plays what Berg calls "ambient-pop rock." But when pressed to explain, the talkative guitarist is at a loss for words. "It's not jangly and there's no catchy hooks or vocals. We actually started out with a 4/4 beat but we moved away from that. Our music can actually piss some people off. If you don't like 10 minute long songs, you are not gonna like us. We're not gonna rock ya; it's gonna be pretty mellow — but loud, too."

Relaxing at an Athens coffeehouse, Berg is joined by 'Cakes keyboardist Todd Kelly, who adds, "You really have to have a patience for our music. With most bands the people in it are all thinking, 'We want to sound like whatever or whoever.' This is not quite that, um, directed. But a lot of people are more open now about instrumental music, which is good because our music requires an open mind."

Since the group's start, Japancakes have been anything but conventional. In fact, the band was formed with a built-in expiration date. "We had recorded enough just to do a single, so we had two songs, and that was it. We decided to do one show, break up and that would be that."

The band then made T-shirts and invited friends to their debut — and final — show. "We played those songs we had and one more, I think," recalls Berg. "We opened for [like-minded experimental pop band] Macha at the 40 Watt. The next day, people started calling and asking us to play more shows."

Encouraged, Berg added more friends to the original trio and listened to the tape of the first show to remember what was performed. "That was the first time I really heard us. I am still surprised how good it all comes out." Their one- and two-chord songs originated "mostly from our lack of playing skills. Todd had just started playing keyboards that summer and I don't like vocals that much. I can't sing, I can't write lyrics. And that A chord was easy to hit," Berg shrugs. "I like a lot of Indian music, a lot of Ravi Shankar, so I kinda liked the idea of a 10-minute piece. It seemed to work within our limited range."

The unusual three-year-old band never rehearse and quite often never see each other until show time. "There's really four bands going on inside of this one," explains Berg. "Basically we meet only to do a show or record. It takes about 17 phone calls to round up everybody. Its just an of-the-moment thing."

"We had people playing with us," Kelly says, "that didn't play stuff like we were trying to do at all. It was hard for them at first to sit down and play this kind of simple music, especially when they were used to playing hard rock or country." But, in the creative spirit of the Athens scene of the '80s, that "try anything" combination seemed to work. Berg ran into John Neff, the Star Room Boys' steel guitarist, in a bar and asked if he would sit in with the band. "I promised him he could record three songs with us and that would be it," says Berg. "Turns out, he was great for us , even tough he's used to pure country songs. And now he's our lead player. The pedal steel has such drama in it, such emotion. And with Heather McIntosh on cello, it's just incredible."

McIntosh frequently guests with several Athens-area bands for recording or live projects, including Kelly's other band, the brooding Great Lakes. Bassist Nick Bielli is a full-time member of the hard-rocking Hayride, while guitarist Orenda Fink and drummer Scott Sosebee are in the pure pop-oriented Little Red Rocket. Berg is the only performer without other musical commitments.

Typically, the diverse musicians write songs as the tape is rolling in the studio. Then they relearn the song in order to present it live. A Japancakes concert is equally spontaneous. "On the set list," says Kelly, "We'll just write 'A' or 'D' or 'Song 2 in A,' and we'll just pick up the time signature and figure it out from there." This process sounds simple, but the results are complex and breathtaking in cinematic scope and texture. "We are constantly surprised at what we sound like," Berg says. "There's not a lot of traditional jammin' going on, but there's a ton of tonal differences in each players performance of those same chords."

Songs from the group's full-length debut, last year's If I Could See Dallas, have evolved from their five-minute versions on the album to become live epics that go on for 10 minutes or more. "To me, it would be boring to play the same songs the same way over and over," Berg says. "I couldn't do it. I'm not a very good guitar player, anyway. I play about once a month. I mean, if you catch me tomorrow, I'll be makin' pizzas, not sitting around and writing songs."

Surprisingly, for such seemingly apathetic artists, the band has already released two CDs, including the brand new EP Down the Elements, and regularly garners praise worldwide. Just back from headlining an evening at Austin's SXSW music conference, Berg seems a little overwhelmed. "I mean, here we are, bartenders and pizza cooks and clerks. Never had real songs, and never had any kind of career plans, really. We really haven't paid many dues. We'd like to tour and do all that, but we just don't have time."

Japancakes new EP Down the Elements is out now on Kindercore Records.

N'hood
Kiss and sell
Phone Number not listed.
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There is no doubt Kiss once provided the greatest rock 'n' roll show on earth. Sure, all the lights, explosions, fire-breathing and blood-spitting mayhem will still provide a fantasy illusion that no other band around can provide. Upon closer inspection, though, this is one farewell tour that's an illusion of an illusion.

Anyone who saw VH1's "Opening Night Live" of this tour from Phoenix might have noticed some of the glaring cracks in the Kiss fantasy that no amount of kabuki make-up and flashy outfits could hide. Paul Stanley, once the high energy theatrical focal point of any Kiss show, seemed out of breath and quite stationary. His once proud mane, which he shamelessly used to shake, looks suspiciously like a weave or a wig. Gene Simmons looked as though he had to be packed into his outfit with a giant shoe horn. Ace Frehley mangled his solos and Peter Criss played with as much verve as a Thorazine patient.

For a writer whose own closet is filled with the childhood fantasy relics Kiss once provided, this is not easy to write. It appears the fantasy is truly over. Don't call this the Farewell Tour. It's more like the 401K tour.

Kiss has always been thoroughly thrashed by the critics. Their fans never seemed to care, though, because they always delivered on album and stage. But the real truth is that the Kiss chameleon side-show of gimmickry has been more about merchandise than music for more than 20 years. They haven't delivered a truly excellent Kiss album since 1977's Love Gun.

Hints and flashes of the Kiss musical magic have only subsequently appeared long enough to fuel the sales of comic books, dolls, lunch boxes, sheets — even a Kiss MasterCard — and anything else that would handle a Kiss logo. Now, this isn't a sudden critical exposé of Kiss' merchandising strategy. This band has always unashamedly decried their love of money and more of it. As long as someone is willing to pay $150 for a Kiss coffee table book, why the hell not put it out? And no one has ever questioned the quality of the merchandise.

But what about the music? Stack "Kiss," "Hotter Than Hell," "Dressed to Kill," "Alive," "Destroyer" and "Love Gun" next to any classic rock of the 1970s and they hold up extremely well. Many of the riffs and songwriting structures are inspired for the time and laid the groundwork for many metal bands to follow.

When Kiss first announced they would reform with original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, there was a genuinely joyful reclamation of youth's fantasy by their legions of aging fans. The "MTV Unplugged" project had been a critical and musical success and seemed to fuel Gene Simmons' contention that "the magic is back."

The subsequent tour set out to prove the old myths were real and, to a large extent, it did. Kiss rehearsed musically and physically to produce an outstanding representation of the band's glorified past. It was a deserved sell-out all over the globe. But when it came time to record new music, they lost it and truly let their fans down. Instead of simply writing and recording with Peter and Ace again, Gene and Paul brought in a myriad of studio musicians (including guitarist Bruce Kulick, from the band's make-up-less days) to produce an uninspired '80s-sounding rip-off of themselves.

Peter and Ace were presumably getting coffee and waiting to hit the road again during the sessions. Smelling fraud, die-hard fans let the band know how disappointed they were. The stale Psycho Circus was critically panned, as usual, but this time, even fans stayed away. And amazingly, the tour stiffed too.

Forced off the road, Kiss regrouped with a new marketing strategy. While Paul was off crooning Phantom of the Opera, the rest of the Kiss machine poured their minds into Pepsi commercials, new dolls, new comics and a new shtick. But while taking the make-up off saved their careers in 1983 and putting it back on saved it in 1998, what's left to do now? The Farewell Tour, it seems, is the band's last raping. Of course, there's no guarantee this is really the last of Kiss. Latter-day members Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer will probably return from Kiss convention limbo for another album at some point. Hopefully, it will be better than Psycho Circus.

After finally seeing my childhood heroes in all their glory on the first reunion tour, I'm content to let that be the memory of Kiss that sticks with me. But plunking down $67 for a pale reflection of that? No thanks.

Kiss performs at Philips Arena Sat. April 15. Tickets are $47-$67, available through Ticketmaster.

N'hood
Duck tape
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When LL Cool J was battling in the park, and Whodini's freaks came out at dark, the mix tape was hip-hop's calling card. Even in the mid-'90s rave scene, there was still a brisk trade in mix tapes, spurred by, among other factors: tradition, URB magazine's mix tape round up and sources such as Dr. Freecloud's Mixing Lab (formerly a newsprint mailing, now a full-fledged online storefront, www.drfreeclouds.com).

Without a doubt, CDs stack more neatly on your shelf than mix tapes, and the spines are easier to read than handwritten labels. And they are less likely to be strewn about your car, warping in the heat (yes, even ravers have to go out in the daylight to buy their glowsticks and big pants). Still, there's something nostalgic about rummaging through a box of tapes, cases long lost, looking for cryptically titled tapes like "2-10-94," "Ascension" and "Zenith 1/2."

But with the advent of digital technologies, among them CD-R, MP3 and streaming audio, the zenith of the tape looks to have passed, with the 90-minute Maxell a dying breed of expression. After all, why would a DJ make a mix tape their calling card when there are services and software that will create a personalized CD-ROM, complete with cover, label and interactive dossier. Yes, some places will even do custom-shaped CDs. Sure beats Kinko's color printer. And stereos don't eat CDs.

These days, even when Funkmaster Flex presents another curiously titled Mix Tape Volume XXX, it sells more units on CD than on tape. With more and more cars coming factory equipped with CD players, and "boom boxes" as archaic as shaving the Batman symbol in the back of your fade, the means by which DJs get their messages to the masses has been remixed.

"Last time I did a tape most people told me they didn't have a tape player," admits Patrick Scott, resident DJ at Cobalt. "I haven't made a tape since."

Scott isn't alone. Tape decks have become increasingly rare as the writeable (and rewriteable) CD-ROM drive prices have put them within the reach of most. CD-R drives are standard on many new computers. This new climate is becoming a significant influence on the ever-changing face of both DJing and DJ culture.

The industry is providing even more promotional material on freshly burnt CD-R, since it is much cheaper to produce than a small run of promotional discs or acetates, quickly-wearing records produced in limited quantities for DJs. This change in format, spurred by economics and efficiency, has also forced a change in a lot of DJs' attitudes toward mixing CDs alongside vinyl while performing or recording, formerly a much-maligned practice.

"I'm very confident in my CD mixing skills and I put them to good use more than once in a set," claims Gene Carbonell, resident DJ at the Vault. "Mostly because all very advanced material is given to me in the form of a CD-R. Acetates cost $60 and CD-R's cost $1. Simple math shows acetate isn't the way to go."

More math reveals that, when it comes to mixes, CDs offer 74-minute representations of a DJ's style, as opposed to the 45 minutes on one side of a tape. So what's lost in warmth and width of signal is gained in finding a wider audience. For the price — a mere dollar or two a disc in bulk for non-rewriteable CDs — it's not much of an investment for a DJ to waste a few CDs until he or she gets a mix right. Meanwhile, the gains of making mixes, regardless of the means, benefit both the DJ and the fan.

"I make a mixed CD about every eight weeks," says Carbonell. "It consists mostly of tracks that haven't come out yet and new material of mine or my friends that I want to promote. The main reason I make them every eight weeks is that I like to present something as current a possible to prospective promoters who want to book me. More or less, for promotional reasons."

Scott runs on a similar schedule. "I do a mix CD about three to four times a year. I simply label them by month and year. I mainly use them for audition purposes, but I won't do a mix unless I have ideas I'm very excited about. I keep most of the mixes I've done throughout my career. It's fun to look back on where the music was and where my skills were at various stages."

No matter the format, making mixes also allows regular DJs a chance to perfect their technique, and their track selection. Even though practice can't take into account live factors like crowd response, mixes provide practice and planning, thus providing fans with a more satisfying performance in person, as well as something more than a memory to take home to fuel those flashbacks. But with the higher cost of CDs compared to cassettes, the sometimes controversial question of whether or not DJs should plan out mixes beforehand becomes more relevant than ever.

"No one way of doing a mix tape is better than the other," says Shannon Burke, aka Shortee, partner to Faust and a DJ of both hip-hop and hard house. "It just depends on the person mixing and what's right for them. Anyone who has 'ethical' problems with someone planning a mix tape or a set for a special show is an idiot. As long as they plan something different every time, and it sounds good, who the fuck cares?

"I always plan my tapes out first," continues Shortee, whose most recent release is volume two of her and Faust's Dream Theory series. "I feel it's just more professional that way, and if you screw up, you can just do it again; you don't have to just rely on luck. I like to create a story with my sets. Take people from point A to point B, you know, a beginning, middle and end. Planning my mix tapes helps me do this rather than just randomly spinning records."

Whatever side of the debate you're on, analog or digital; whether mixing vinyl, CD-R or MP3s; or whether you're just a fan looking for your favorite DJ's latest set, maybe instead of lamenting the passing of one format to another, it's time to check out the new ways of using the technology for yourself. Sites such as www.raveworld.net, among others, offer free sets by International DJs like Paul Oakenfold and Carl Cox.

On the local level, one member of the extended Madlove crew, Todd Rutherford (aka DJ Ender), has set up a site at www.headphonic.com that offers several mixes from transplanted Atlanta DJs, members of the Space Kadets, in streaming audio, and is looking for submissions. Two more Madlove DJs, Starboy and Molly, will play the part of EJs for the Mixing Room of wetair.com, an underdevelopment website based in Atlanta concentrating on utilizing newly developed methods of streaming media to spotlight popular culture.

In addition to these technological advances, currently available around town are tapes (!) or CD-Rs by Carbonell, Shortee, Eve (who recently got a write-up in URB), as well as a host of others. You can call Satellite 404-880-3-9746 or Rewind 404-827-9463, for more information.

Tony Ware has no tape deck. Anyone looking to donate CD-Rs or vinyl for review should drop him a line at tony.ware@creativeloafing.com.

N'hood
Record Reviews
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Sometime in the early- to mid-'90s, emo separated from its hardcore. Since then, however, the genre has, for the most part, consisted of pop punksters whose only connection to the Rites of Spring was getting worked up on a Green Day. If emo only meant getting worked up, '90s emo bands were definitely doing that. But along comes (for the most part) confessionally acoustic Pedro the Lion, and suddenly, stripped of anything resembling complex arrangements, emo is about working toward a goal, about perseverance and the emotional baggage that comes with doubting whether you'll reach that goal.

No coward, but no conqueror, Pedro the Lion's David Bazan has a tone that recalls, at times, Evan Dando, Ben Lee and lo-fi electronica rawkers Grandaddy. On the faster songs that feature full instrumentation, such as "Simple Economics," Bazan even sounds slightly like labelmate Davey vonBohlen of Promise Ring. But Bazan's voice is unique in its singular mission to contemplate faith, in Bazan's naked ambition to succeed in following the straight and narrow path, openly reflected in song titles such as "Slow and Steady Wins the Race," "Eye on the Finish Line" and the title track "Winners Never Quit." And that determination succeeds in making Pedro The Lion one of the most emotional bands in the genre.

Pedro the Lion performs at the Echo Lounge Thursday, April 13.

N'hood
Record Reviews
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Ian Moore presents something of a problem to the way things are supposed to be done. After all, shouldn't an Austin-bred guitarist with a soulful voice be bending out blues notes like falling rain and lapping up acclaim as heir apparent to Stevie Ray Vaughn's blues-rock throne? It's not that Moore doesn't have the licks to pull off what the legions of SRV wannabes wish they could do; his muse simply lies more with guitarists/songwriters Curtis Mayfield or Richard Thompson than gutbucket blues rock.

If anything, Moore's fourth album, And All the Colors (his second since the acrimonious split with Capricorn Records), strengthens his ties to the Mayfield/Thompson axis of guitarists. Sure, Moore can play some mind-bending solos and he does throughout the record. However, the solos are less an excuse to show how badass a guitarist Moore is and more to further the song in particular. Either way, Moore's skill on the guitar packs plenty of punch.

More importantly, Moore's skill as a songwriter has grown leaps and bounds since his previous release, Ian Moore's Got the Green Grass. "Closer" is a wonderfully swirling tune, and the quirky "Johnny Cash and His Electric Bible" is probably the most sympathetic tale of the Man in Black to date. Tunes like "Magdelena" and "Angelyne" are pure pop beauty, and the propulsive "Leary's Gate" is one of the most powerful tunes in Moore's diverse repertoire.

And All the Colors is a powerful and affecting record; it'll be interesting to hear what colors Moore uses to paints his next tapestry.

Ian Moore plays Smith's Olde Bar on Thursday, April 13.

N'hood
Record Reviews
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Chip Taylor is probably the most famous unknown songwriter in America. A recording/writing deal in the '60s resulted in several big hits, including "Wild Thing," "Angel of the Morning" and "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)," then Taylor left music to pursue other interests. In the past decade, he has re-emerged and released a series of independent recordings, featuring his own unique brand of storytelling. Experiencing a burst of creativity during a recent U.K. tour, Taylor cut a batch of new material with a full band, and then almost immediately followed up with an acoustic recording session concentrating on even more new tunes.

The London Sessions is a bit of a misnomer, as 16 of the 25 songs on this double disc actually were recorded in New York. The first disc consists of the nine tracks done in London, and feature a pick-up band that was able to cut most of the songs in one day. Even though it is described as the "Electric" disc, the music is subtle and thoughtful, and Taylor's lyrics paint poignant pictures of the down-and-outers of the world. The second "Acoustic" disc includes 16 tracks, featuring guest vocals by Lucinda Williams, fiddle by Tammy Rogers and Anton Fig on percussion. While slower and less musically dynamic than the first disc, Taylor maintains an edge in the words of his songs. The total package is an interesting view into the world of a well-traveled man, and shows that singer/songwriters don't have to be self-centered and boring.

N'hood
Record Reviews
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As the old cliché goes, Tommy Womack has paid his dues in full. The singer/songwriter spent the better part of the '80s in the infamous rock outfit Government Cheese, later telling the tale in the excellent book Cheese Chronicles: The True Story of a Band You Never Heard Of. He fronted the roots-rock Bis-Quits and his first solo release, Positively Na Na, was an incredible collection of smartly written songs, biting commentary and clever character sketches.

The undiscovered treasure of the singer/songwriter set returns with Stubborn, another excellent collection of heartbroken heroes and lovable losers. With the same dry wit Dylan flashed on Highway 61 Revisited, Womack deconstructs blues and songwriter forms with a self-depreciating humor and melancholic twinge. Like he did on Positively Na Na, Womack fires off emotions like a .30-06, from rage ("I Don't Have a Gun") to crippling desperation ("The Urge to Call") to warning ("Tellin' You What You Want to Hear"). Again, the excellent character sketches of everyday people populate Stubborn's "Willie Perdue" and "For the Battered." The songs don't judge or condemn either the individual or society; they simply tell the tale with a sense of detachment reminiscent of Tom T. Hall's best work.

Cap it off with an excellent Kinks cover, "Berkeley Mews," and collaboration with Jason of the Scorchers, "Going Nowhere" (originally on the Scorchers' Clear Impetuous Morning), and Stubborn is a fantastic listen, front-to-back. Like running partner Todd Snider, Womack is a much-under-appreciated talent and one of the brightest lights of the nuevo-singer/songwriter scene.

N'hood
Record Reviews
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Apparently Apollo 440 and Tony Montana have a lot in common. Neither heeded the advice to "never get high on their own supply" — and you know how "Scarface" ended. This U.K.-based sextet claims to be direct descendants of Kraftwerk, Aphrodite and the Beastie Boys. However, their rock based techno-pop lite comes across more like "Mr. Roboto"-era Styx set to a dance beat.

Now all the news isn't bad. Some of the ethereal piano and effect-laden tracks, such as "For Forty Days" and "Machine in the Ghost," do create the proper late night ambiance. The theme from "Lost In Space" makes an amusing side-phrase for the partying state of mind. This CD is better suited to the car or the black-light hangout room than the clubs. Rock-lite infused tracks like "Can't Stop the Rock," "Cold Rock the Mike" and "High on Your Own Supply" carry sufficient peaks and valleys, but never really blow up the way one would hope.

Much of the intensity seems to have been filtered through a sieve, leaving the listener feeling like they've just got the diet plate instead of that double burger with the works. Aside from the interesting arrangement of the reggae-ish "Heart Go Boom," most of the tracks never quite get to their promised destinations. There is a lot of promise on this CD and is worth the $8.99 introductory price, given the right mood. The real difference for true technophiles, though, is like choosing to rent Go over Pulp Fiction.

N'hood
Record Reviews
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Situated somewhere between old-guard techies like John Michel Jarre and the ambient excursions of the Orb's Dr. Alex Paterson, Melbourne's New Waver bring psychosis, monotony and the common man's anxiety to their debut CD. By piecing together bits of real world sound from self-help sources, talk radio and documentaries, the trio and assorted friends work at illustrating the clinically uncomfortable side of loser culture. Set to spacey, analog oscillations, "The Realist" frames the delusions of one schizophrenic calmly (and disturbingly.) explaining that he is the unwilling subject of government experiments. "Life Force" is existentialist dogma set to a classic TB-303 synth backdrop. And while the rest of the tracks herein are downcast and cleverly designed to venerate elements of fringe psychiatry, "We're Gonna Get You After School" plays as something more humorous (intentionally or not) with it's use of sampled threats from schoolyard bullies. Through dated keyboard sounds and rhythms that don't generally mirror the ultra-diced, heart attack pace of the day, New Waver's styling suits the band's refreshing agenda of canvassing grim realism à la vintage Throbbing Gristle while making the occasional nod towards Tangerine Dream. (Available from www.mbnet.mb.ca/~endear)
N'hood
Wednesday 12
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THE HIGHLANDER 8TH ANNIVERSARY — The rather nondescript Midtown musician's hangout celebrates its eighth year in business with a rare live show featuring Super X-13, the El Caminos and Edgewood. The Highlander/931 Monroe (Sarig)

MIXMASTER MIKE, RAHZEL, CHOCLAIR — Anyone who claims to have knowledge of turntablism knows MixMaster Mike is one of the baddest dudes to ever step to a Technics SL-1200 and rock the party. Beyond his recent notoriety as Beastie Boys' DJ, the Sacramento native has an impeccable resume that includes two full-lengths, four DMC world championship titles, otherworldly scratch techniques and a lifetime membership in the most feared turntablist crew in the land — Invisibl Skratch Piklz. Human beatbox Rahzel of the Roots, a man who only needs a mic to rock the party, opens this evening of hip-hop flavored fun. Toronto-based rapper Choclair opens the show. Variety Playhouse (Arieh)

PAPA ROACH — Rage Against the Xerox Machine? Aggro-rock-rap copycats Papa Roach are getting set to release a new CD, Infest, this week, and then take off on the Warped Tour. They're what we like to call "living loud." Cotton Club (Sarig)

DAVE SUTHERLAND, MICHELLE PENN, KRISTIAN BUSH — This Writers-in-the-Round event features a delightfully diverse trio: Penn is a powerful blonde bluesrocker, Bush is one half of the beloved local acoustic duo Billy Pilgrim, and Sutherland is a visiting English songsmith whose checkered past includes serving as artist-in-residence at the 12 Bar Club in London's West End and opening for Squeeze's Glenn Tilbrook on a sold-out tour. Eddie's Attic (Nicoll)

TINA TURNER, LIONEL RICHIE — Though one might be hard pressed to remember much of what she's done since her meteoric, mid-'80s comeback, it's impossible to deny Turner's throaty, passionate voice. Even pushing past 60 she remains a spirited performer who could teach contemporary R&B warblers a thing or two. For a trip farther down memory lane, check out opener Lionel Richie, former Commodore and one-time king of the mawkish ballad. Philips Arena (Robertson)

X-IMPOSSIBLES, FIEND WITHOUT A FACE — Unreconstructed slam-dancing fury meets unrepentant head-butting furry. Star Bar (Nicoll)

N'hood
Thursday 13
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BINDLESTIFF FAMILY CIRKUS — A demented and offbeat performance art troupe in the tradition of the Jim Rose Sideshow. You must be 18 or older to attend, since this act is about as "family" as the Manson Family. Variety Playhouse (Nicoll)

GENTLE READERS — Gearing up for another CD release, these breezy-sounding scene survivors bring their refreshingly modern "girls-play-guitars" alternapop to the Attic tonight, with support from the Suzy French Connection and Kenny "Mr. Ubiquitous" Howes, whose bushy jawline betokens chops which are more than mere mutton. Showtime's 8 p.m. Eddie's Attic (Nicoll)

KEOKI — A star DJ in New York for over a decade, and more recently in L.A., Keoki has released a bunch of mix CD as well as Ego Trip, an album of original music. He heads South to inaugurate Deux Plex's Invisible Thursdays club night. Deux Plex (Sarig)

KORN — Like it or lump it, Korn seems destined to be around for a bit longer. Their canny meld of bleak, post-grunge metal (very heavy, minimally melodic) and hip-hop repartee is all the rage with the kids these days. And rage is the key word here. Korn have tapped into the "teen angst" market niche very effectively. That the band members are all well into their twenties indicates either a severe case of arrested development or an extremely shrewd marketing sense. Philips Arena (Robertson)

MICHAEL McDONALD — The voice of the Doobie Brothers during their adult contemporary period brings his microphone snugglin' self to the Roxy tonight. Expect "What a Fool Believes" and other late '70s and early '80s Doobies retreads. Expect a long line at the bathroom as he showcases his recent solo material. Roxy (Smith)

D.L. MENARD — Often referred to as the "Cajun Hank Williams," Menard is one of the more interesting acts to come out of the bayou state. He's been at it for a long time, and his blend of classic country and Cajun styles is unique. His trips to Atlanta have decreased in recent years, so it might be worth your while to catch him at one of two shows this time around. Blind Willie's (Kelly)

IAN MOORE, GIBB DROLL — See Ian Moore review on p. XX. Virginia jazz-rock guitarist Gibb Droll opens. Smith's Olde Bar (Thompson)

MY COUSIN TROY, JUSTIN HALE, RAMADAMAFIA, FRACTIONS — White-boy rapper Johnny Davidson, who might well be the Adam Sandler of Atlanta pop, celebrates the release of a CD by his laid-back trip-hop project My Cousin Troy. Fellow rappers Justin Hale, Ramadamafia and various other members of the Kaleidoscope/Cicada Sings posse join in. Opening up: Augusta hip-hop duo Fractions, still going strong and in relative obscurity after 13 years. The Earl (Nicoll/Sarig)

PEDRO THE LION — See review on p. XX. Echo Lounge (Ware)

SKYLARKS, ESKIMOS — The Skylarks are Byrds of many colors, with a sound that ranges from hard-driving rock to Gram Parsons twang. The Eskimos are Athenian boys whose laidback rock evokes Dylan and The Band. Star Bar (Nicoll)

STEREOPHONICS — The Welshmen return on the second U.S. leg of a never-ending tour supporting their internationally-acclaimed Performance and Cocktails album. Those who've never heard Kelly Jones' scratchy vocals (think Rod Stewart) or the band's kick-ass riffs (think Stones or even AC/DC) and infectious, sloppy refrains (think Replacements) are in for a royal treat. Cotton Club (York)

N'hood
Friday 14
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BAD LIVERS — See article featuring the Bad Livers on p. 93. Star Bar (Kelly)

BILLIONAIRE, YOUNG ANTIQUES, METROSCENE — Atlanta's best young representatives of glam-rock, pop/rock and alt-rock face off in a three-way battle to see who might be the next Tender Idols. See the Young Antiques in Earshot, p. 99. Metroscene debuts their new bassist, BJ Alden, at tonight's show. Echo Lounge (Nicoll/Sarig)

JUNIOR BROWN — A demon picker with more than a passing physical and vocal resemblance to country legend Earnest Tubb, string-slinger Junior Brown has made quite a splash on the neo-country movement. Partly due to his unique blend of gutbucket honky tonk and rock 'n' roll, but most of his acclaim lies with his mind-boggling prowess with his self-made "guit-steel." An odd looking gadget, the double-necked steel/electric guitar hybrid allows Brown to hitch blindingly fast runs with sweet steel bends. His latest album is Long Walk Back. Variety Playhouse (Thompson)

DONNIE — The golden-throated prince of local retro-soul movement, Donnie is unrepentantly stuck in an era when Hathaway, Wonder and Gaye set the tone for black pop arts. He kicks off tonight's Beat Parlor event, which will evolve into a late-night of dancing. Yin Yang Café (Sarig)

JOSH JOPLIN BAND, FIVE WAY FRIDAY, TARA MACLEAN — Joplin's command of the stage never falters amid the wide (and wild) range of humor and pathos in his dynamic performances. Tonight he's paired off with North Carolina buzz band Five Way Friday, whose sound is polished to a brilliant made-for-99X gleam. Also on the bill: From the same label (Nettwerk), country (Canada) and ethnicity (Scottish) as Sarah McLachlan comes Tara MacLean, who'd fit fine on the Lilith stage but brings a more tech-savvy contemporary feel to her songs. Smith's Olde Bar (Nicoll)

LIL' BRIAN & THE ZYDECO TRAVELLERS — From his home in Barrett Station, east Texas, 27-year-old accordionist Lil' Brian has emerged as the great hope for zydeco's survival in the new millennium. Well-versed in hip-hop and funk styles, Brian brings a contemporary feel to his music that he hopes will appeal to a younger audience. Pull the kids away from "TRL" and bring 'em out to Winder tonight to test it for yourself. Chip's (Sarig)

D.L. MENARD — See listing for April 13. Menard and band headline "Louisiana Lagniappe," the fourth program in the "Nothin' But the Blues 2000" series. Atlanta History Center/130 W. Paces Ferry (Kelly)

GARY MOTLEY TRIO — Acclaimed pianist Motley and his trio perform "Jazz on the Lawn" at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call 404-872-5338, x.233. Callanwolde Fine Arts Center (Sarig)

PARADOX TRIO — Multi-instrumentalist Matt Darriau's collection of saxophone, clarinet, kavel, gaida (Bulgarian bagpipe), cello, guitar and dumbek/percussion performs some interesting Eastern European/Balkan arrangements with a klezmer influence. Darriau's work with Les Miserables Brass Band and the Klezmatics pretty much speaks for itself. The group has put out three recordings on the Knitting Factory label, the first one nominated for the German Critics' prize. Look out for that "Who stole the Keeshka?" solo on the Bulgarian bagpipes. Red Light Café (Khalid)

FRANCINE REED, PHIL DUTRA — Two very different local performers comes together for the first of two in-store performances/CD signings this week. Reed, the much-beloved hometown jazz/blues diva, will sing and sell her latest release, Shades of Blues, while Phil Dutra, a catchy pop singer/songwriter with vaguely New Age leanings, does the same for his latest, See the World. Barnes & Noble/Buckhead (Sarig)

N'hood
Saturday 15
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ALISON BROWN QUARTET — Longtime bluegrass star Alison Brown puts her magnificent banjo skills to a much jazzier use with her quartet. The group's latest release, Out of the Blue, is a surprising crisp and eloquent run through contemporary jazz flavors. Atlanta's River Bottom Band opens tonight's show. Red Light Café (Sarig)

BRITISH ROCK SYMPHONY — Packaged and processed trip through late-'60s bombast with a touring symphony, choir and guests singing the music of the Beatles, the Who, Led Zeppelin and others. Featuring cameo spots by Simon Townshend, Darlene Love and Billy Preston. Robert Ferst Center/Georgia Tech(Smith)

PETER CORNELL, ROCK*A*TEENS, ULTRABABYFAT — Chris Cornell's little bro Peter didn't waste all that time his big bro did with Soundgarden. Still unsigned and largely unknown, Chris split from his band Grace at the first sign of success. Now on his own, he's branching out of Seattle with a national tour. At this stop he's joined by local rock bigshots the Rock*A*Teens and Ultrababyfat. Cotton Club (Sarig)

DASH RIP ROCK — Despite all the odds, those crazy Cajun rockers Dash Rip Rock are still at it. Sixteen years in the making, DRR plays a hyped-up, high-octane brand of punkabilly with a live show that has to be experienced to be believed. C.J.'s Landing (Thompson)

PHILIP GLASS — Philip Glass has established himself as a modern classical music creator of distinctive minimalist compositions with strong non-Western influences: He still seems to remain accessible and innovative after almost 25 years in the spotlight. Known as much for his soundtrack and crossover work as for his classical compositions and operas, Glass is undoubtedly one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century. He performs a solo piano recital tonight. Performing Arts Studio/Emory (Alexander)

GRETA LEE BAND — A roots country act which wears its heart on its sleeve as proudly as a buckskin fringe. Showtime's 9:30 p.m. Eddie's Attic (Nicoll)

INTERGALACTIC COWBOY — Max Holliman (ex-Knobz) has a bizarre but engaging one-man band act. Dressed in a Stetson hat and western boots, he performs Eno-esque ambient music via an acoustic guitar, accompanied only by tape devices which repeat what he plays, creating layer after layer of sound. The Earl (Nicoll)

WANDA JACKSON, CAROLINE & THE RAMBLERS — This one's the show to see this week, rockabilly fans! Jackson is the original '50s Queen of Rock, sometimes known as "the Female Elvis." Nobody belts out "Hard Headed Woman" quite like she does. You've heard Caroline & the Ramblers' loving renditions of Jackson's songs (including "Let's Have a Party") for years — tonight you get to compare these two rockin' ladies back to back. Star Bar (Nicoll)

JOSH JOPLIN BAND, FIVE-EIGHT — Wildman Joplin squares off tonight against the only regional rocker who may have more manic energy than himself, Mike Mantione of the enduring Athens rock ensemble Five-Eight. Mantione's group is getting ready to release a new CD, which they say is a sort of concept record. Smith's Olde Bar (Nicoll/Sarig)

KISS, TED NUGENT, SKID ROW — See Kiss article on p. 97. The Nuge is many things to many people. To some he is the guitarist on the Amboy Dukes' psychedelic epic "Journey to the Center of Your Mind." To others he is the author of such delicate mid-'70s tear jerkers as "Cat Scratch Fever" and "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang." And to others he is the man most likely to follow in Charlton Heston's gun-totin' footsteps as the president of the NRA. Me, I'm waiting for the inevitable Damn Yankees reunion. Opening act Skid Row also do a late-night show at the Masquerade (see separate item). Phillips Arena (Robertson)

JOE McPHEE/DAVEY WILLIAMS DUO — For three decades, Multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee and guitarist Davey Williams have been pushing the limits of their respective musical talents: McPhee adding pocket trumpet, piano and electronics to his repertoire with the tenor saxophone; Williams with his participation in a wide variety of musical projects including TransMuseq Duo, Rev. Fred Lane's Orchestra and collaborations with John Zorn and Shaking Ray Levis. McPhee astounded the local audience last year, and so did Williams with Abbey Radar. Their collective returns should produce an interesting collaboration. Earthshaking Music/543 Stokeswood Ave (Khalid)

RIGHTEOUS VIBES — The April edition of the monthly urban music/poetry event features last month's supporting act Jjasonblackwell headlining with their sparse experimental hip-hop sound and intelligent, poetic lyrical flow. There's also a dance set by DJ Ausar and spoken word poetry by Yohannes Shariff Smith. Doors open at 8 p.m. For more info, call 404-752-5194. Return to Royalty Ballroom/879 Ralph Abernathy Blvd. (Trammell)

SKID ROW — Skid Row without the "benefit" of the eternally loud-mouthed, obnoxious hair-guy Sebastian Bach? And you thought they were boring before. Some folks just don't know when to pack it in. Masquerade (Robertson)

VERBENA, SONNY SIXKILLER — Southern grunge revivalists provide an evening of catchy yet sometimes sludgy hard-pop. The Alabama-based rockers are touring to preview some work-in-progress songs live before recording their new album this summer. Philadelphia-based indie-pop band Sonny Sixkiller opens. Echo Lounge (Smith)

THE WAILERS — Everything's pretty much the way Bob Marley left it, with eight of the original backing group still cranking out "Buffalo Soldier" and "No Woman No Cry." The group still sounds pretty much the same too, only backup singer Marcia Griffiths is now singing most of the songs. Hard to imagine this is what Marley would have wanted, but who knows? Variety Playhouse (Trammell)

N'hood
Sunday 16
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BLONDE REDHEAD, BROTHER JT — Blonde Redhead's last album In an Expression of the Inexpressible saw the band take a decisive step away from the ignominious Sonic Youth Jr. tag that has dogged the band. Dropping bass completely, the band opted for a two-guitar/drum attack that roars with a raw intensity that SY hasn't approached since their Bad Moon Rising days. A band to keep an eye on. Royal Trux kindred spirit Brother JT opens. Echo Lounge (Robertson)

JOHN DUNCAN — Audio/visual artist John Duncan can be described in many ways: He's a painter of electroacoustical collages; a maker and documenter of "events"; an installation artist; researcher; actor; pirate of radio and television; emotional census taker; film prankster; and musician. How does all this translate to live performance? Find out, as Duncan presents his "Palace of Mind" show. Eyedrum (Khalid)

FAT WRECK CHORDS SHOWCASE — Representing the north Cali pop-punk scene that brought us so much MTV fodder in the '90s, San Fran indie label Fat Wreck Chords brings up three more purveyors of melody and bar chords. The big boys on the bill are No Use For a Name; along for the ride are ska-core band the Mad Caddies and hardcore act Good Riddance. Masquerade (Sarig)

ROGER CLYNE AND THE PEACEMAKERS — Clyne's rockin' honky tonk has more in common with Steve Earl or Lyle Lovette than Hank Williams; still, his hell raisin' drunk poetry seems better suited for the Star Bar crowd than the Cotton Club. Cotton Club (Trammell)

TOM RUSSELL — He is one of the most gifted songwriters around today, and over the past 25 or so years has made some incredible records. Russell's most recent work is a story-song cycle describing his family heritage, from its roots in Ireland and Norway to his father's adventures in the new country. Without a doubt, he's one of the best. Blind Willie's (Kelly)

RICHARD SHINDELL — As the male third of Cry Cry Cry, Shindell is a fairly innocuous singer/songwriter with an ear for melody and a bit of a soft touch in the vocal area. He tends to lean a bit toward the sensitive folkie side of the fence, but on his recent release Somewere Near Paterson, he actually kicks up a bit of dust here and there. Red Light Café (Kelly)

ELISE WITT, KATHLEEN HATFIELD, JOYCE & JACQUE — Any one of these four fine vocalists could hold a crowd enthralled with the sound of her own voice, especially Hatfield (aka Cowboy Envy's "Buffalo K"); but tonight the pleasure is quadrupled — they're all teaming up to perform as the mostly a cappella quartet, JJKE! Eddie's Attic (Nicoll)

N'hood
Monday 17
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TONY LEVIN, CALIFORNIA GUITAR TRIO — With a resume that includes playing with King Crimson, Peter Gabriel and Pink Floyd, bassist Tony Levin is obviously among the most creative and sought-after masters of the four- or five-stringed axe. Tonight he performs with the California Guitar Trio, classically trained disciples of Robert Fripp who are renowned for innovative acoustic arrangements of everything from Beethoven to surf/pop favorites. Variety Playhouse (Nicoll)

SPRAGUE BROTHERS, DITCHDIGGERS — A double serving of raw 'n' raunchy corn-fed country/punkabilly, greased with equal parts Brillcream and bacon fat. The Spragues really are brothers, and the vocal harmonies prove it. They deliver a retro-influenced conglomerate of sounds that incorporate everything from Surf riffs to the Mersey Beat, and from Buddy Holly melodies to Everly Brothers singing. It's fun stuff, and a good way to spend a Monday night. Smith's Old Bar (Nicoll/Kelly)

N'hood
Tuesday 18
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BLOODHOUND GANG, NERF HERDER — Despite limited commercial success, Bloodhound Gang have kept it going through much of the last decade based on the unlikely charm of being a bunch of knuckleheads with a sense of humor so dumb it makes you laugh. Their latest, Hooray for Boobies, finds BG on a major (Interscope), and going for the big-time with their most moronic and offensive record yet. If anything, they seem out to prove the old adage that you'll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. Nerf Herder's pop-punk sound has more in common with NoFX than Blink182, but they lace their funny songs with trash culture zingers about Courtney Love and Van Halen. Roxy (Trammell)

MELISSA FERRICK, SCOTT E. MOORE, JESSICA SCHOENBERG — Three very capable singer/songwriters from the Northeast share a bill tonight, for anyone who thinks we don't have enough people doing exactly the same thing as this in town already. Eddie's Attic (Sarig)

FRANCINE REED, PHIL DUTRA — See listing for April 14. Barnes & Noble/Alpharetta (Sarig)

WESLEY WILLIS, THE CAUSEY WAY — Berserk fuzztone musical humorist (to put it very kindly) Willis headlines tonight over the Causeys, a Florida combo who sound like a deeper, darker version of early Devo. Are they not men? Well, there is a gal in the band. Echo Lounge (Nicoll)

N'hood
Wednesday 19
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DANIELLE HOWLE, MIKE WINGER — The wonderfully comic and entertaining Howle (a Daemon artist from South Carolina who recently had an indie hit in Alaska, of all places) shares the stage tonight with Mike Winger, formerly of — no, not metal band Winger — but Athens pop band Dayroom. Eddie's Attic (Nicoll)

KINA — A powerful new soul-rock singer, in the vein of Dionne Farris and Macy Gray, makes her local debut tonight. She's got her debut CD coming out on DreamWorks in May, so now's the time to get a jump on this very promising up-and-comer. Yin Yang Café (Sarig)

JIM ROLL, AMY PIKE — See article featuring Jim Roll on p. 93. Opening is the former Continentals vocalist Pike, who's taking a radical change of direction with her new unhinged "Legendary Stardust Cowgirl" persona. The Earl (Nicoll)

SHIVAREE, KING LEER JET — Shivaree is a smart, compact little combo fronted by songstress Ambrosia Parsley, who has clearly absorbed influences as diverse as Rickie Lee Jones, Nina Persson (Cardigans), Sheryl Crow and Patsy Cline — not to mention Vic Chesnutt, Tom Waits and Tricky. The band's debut album, largely produced by Joe Henry, displays a delightfully trippy/edgy/murky/scratchy ambiance and, just as importantly, a healthy disregard for formula. Shivaree headline tonight's early show, starting at 7 p.m. Local pop quartet King Lear Jet headline a separate late show, starting at 9 p.m. Smith's Olde Bar (Falstaff)

COOPER TISDALE, HOWARD SHAFT — Jazz-inflected local popster Tisdale and his band share the stage tonight with the tasty tunes of Louisiana export Shaft. Brandyhouse (Nicoll)

X-IMPOSSIBLES, EL CAMINOS — The X-Imps are riding high these days, having accomplished the considerable feat of besting the mighty El Caminos at their own game a couple weeks ago on this club's stage. Tonight, however, comes the spectacular re-match. Star Bar (Nicoll)

N'hood
Free to be the Young Antiques
Phone Number not listed.
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"We call it Euro-cana," says drummer Mason Brazelle of the Young Antiques' unique mix of pure pop and traditional country found on their debut album, due out this summer. "We have plenty of British pop and punk influences," adds bassist Blake Parris.

"But," continues Antiques singer/guitarist and songwriter Blake Rainey, "I'm from Cedartown, and I grew up hearing country music, so it's natural for elements of that to be in my songs. And I also love the Kinks and '60s music. Back then, bands would have a country song and then a rock song on the same album. Then New Wave came along and people like Elvis Costello or Nick Lowe would do some country stuff, too."

Together since the fall of '97, the band's momentum was briefly arrested while Parris served a three-month stint in jail for a probation violation. "I'm grateful to these guys," adds Parris, who was temporarily replaced by Kyle Harris of the Yeah! "They could have let me go."

"No way," says Rainey. "We've had a few practices since Parris has been out and I think we are even stronger now than back when we recorded the album. We're really ready to play out as the full band again."

Parris is especially anticipating getting back on stage with the Antiques. "While I was in jail," the bassist admits." I had time to sort out my life. I did a lot of writing. A lot of lyrics, poems and letters. Mostly a lot of thinking. I had gotten out of control, but I realize that my music is the most important thing."

Brazille seems relieved for that. "Yeah," he says, "we told him we can't make the VH-1, 'Behind the Music' Special before the album comes out!"

The Young Antiques play the Echo Lounge Fri., April 14.

N'hood
Save the music
Phone Number not listed.
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As a result of the recent shootings in Buckhead, the City Council of Atlanta believes all nightclubs inside the city of Atlanta should close at 2 a.m. instead of 4 a.m., seven days a week. As stated by council member Lee Morris in City Ordinance 00-O-0186, this is to cure the "serious public safety concern associated with many establishments which are licensed to sell alcoholic beverages ... and their failure to adequately monitor and supervise their premises ... particularly after 2 a.m." But should all Atlanta clubs and patrons be held responsible for isolated incidents?

I am appalled at the instantaneous, thoughtless and dispassionate response of our city council in dealing with this issue. They grossly underestimate the amount of tax revenue these clubs generate between 2 and 4 a.m., as well as the welfare of commerce in revitalizing communities. The city council also overestimates the amount of disturbance these clubs produce. I welcome safety, but this political effort is not worth the detrimental expense of small businesses across the board. History shows that new laws rarely alleviate the root of the problem and only cause inequitable inconvenience for law-abiding citizens.

Atlanta is already making clubs and venues suffer through exorbitant fees for alcohol licenses and taxes. A new law would surely send many businesses packing. Many clubs continue live music past 2 a.m., even on weekdays. These clubs are the backbone of our music scene. If the clubs go, the music goes.

I recently attended a meeting with some local club owners and managers to determine how we can prevent this injustice. We drafted an appeal to the City Council of Atlanta that concluded: "We believe the integrity and dignity of Atlanta's neighborhoods are important. ... The interest of all of Atlanta can be best served by clear, unemotional assessment of problems. ... A poorly defined problem is likely to lead to a poorly crafted solution that does nothing ... except create the illusion of having done something purposeful. If the problem is parking, loud noise, lewd behavior or violence, the proposed ordinances indeed offer the wrong solution."

I am urging everyone to visit their local hangout and sign a petition that states, "I strongly oppose the proposed ordinances #00-O-0185 and #00-O-0186 to amend the city code of ordinances Chapter 10, Article II, Section 10-209." Your support is needed to win a battle for local music's survival. If we, the musicians, do not speak up now, we will surely become a part of Atlanta's history rather than it's future.

Don't let politics kill our art.

Pete Knapp, president of Shut Eye Records

Got a rant or a rave? Send it to us at localmusic@creativeloafing.com.

N'hood
Blake's Fake News
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* Local punksters the Anti-Heroes, who are currently embroiled in a legal battle with New Line Cinema over the misuse of the band's logo in the film "American History X," are now suing the makers of the film "SLC Punk" for not including a false representation of them in that movie. But, since hardly anybody saw "SLC Punk," hardly anybody cares.

* Steve Craig, the host of 99X's "Locals Only" show, was hospitalized last week when the enormous stack of CDs from local bands vying to hear themselves on the radio fell over on him. The show has been pulled from the air while he recuperates.

* Blacklist revealed! In their annual secret gathering at the Super 8 downtown, local DJs and music critics conspired once again to make sure that 98 percent of all local bands receive no press or airplay in the coming year. In a related story, those same 98 percent of bands held their weekly conference to complain about grease burns.

Don't believe everything you read!

N'hood
Sharp Notes
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Kelly Shane, drummer for Kenny Howes & the Yeah!, and his wife Jeannie Shane are celebrating the birth of daughter Phoebe Rose Shane. Daddy is taking "baby time" off from the band.

Scary rockers Pineal Ventana contribute to the soundtrack of a new, yet-to-be-titled horror movie directed by Atlanta filmmaker Chad Rullman. The movie features PV members Clara Clamp as an evil nurse and Mitchell Foy (also a CL contributor), as "the personification of an inner demon." The band has also been working in New York on a new CD, scheduled for August release.

Singer/songwriter Sonya Vetra and band recently played two shows at the Twelve Bar Club in London with both shows broadcast live on the web at www.onlinetvuk.com. Vetra also met with British music publishers and attorneys while in London. Also making waves in the U.K.: The Drive-By Truckers' CD Pizza Deliverance has been getting some play across the ocean, after being released in Europe on Zane Records. A recent review in the London Times said the record was full of "bullnecked but beautiful trailer-trash epiphanies."

Lester's Farm has just filmed a music video for their song "Bad." The video was directed by Kip Ericksen of Kipling Films at Universal Studios. According to the band, the video is set for release at the end of April, but no word on where it will air. Lester's Farm has also been in the studio working on a new single with new guitarist Tammy Gordon. Band keyboardist Brooks Smith can also be seen playing around town with his side project Yeti with guitarist Vaylor Trucks, son of Butch Trucks.

Sudden craving for nicotine: Jam band Soup are in the finals of the Lucky Strike "Band to Band Combat" competition, pitted against 14 bands from around the country with a first place prize of $15,000. The contest is a nationwide new music talent search with an initial group of 100 bands now narrowed down to the 15 finalists after showcase competitions around the country. The winner will be selected by votes to a toll free number contained within the sealed plastic of the companion Band to Band Combat CD. No comment from Soup on which brand they smoke. For more info on the competition visit www.freshtracks.net.

N'hood
Local Releases
Phone Number not listed.
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D-DAY, Survivors (Iroko); dancehall/highlife duo of Nigerian-born brothers Chukwuka and Gwamnishu Okwumabua; produced by Eric Slaughter; contact: gatewa@aol.com

EJ DA WITCH DOCTOR, 9th Wonder of the World (Dezonly 1/SMD); second CD by Dungeon Family member; features local rapper Back Bone; "Year of the Dragon" produced by Organized Noize; contact: somudist@mindspring.com

LITTLE RED ROCKET, It's in the Sound (Monolyth); second CD by Athens indie pop quartet; recorded and mixed by Andy Baker and John Keane; website: www.littleredrocket.com

PINK, Can't Take Me Home (LaFace); debut CD by LaFace vocalist; label's first white signing; production and songwriting by Babyface, She'kspere; recorded in various Atlanta studios; website: www.peeps.com/pink

N'hood
Bulletin Board
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* High hopes: The Ninth Annual Great Atlanta Pot Festival, scheduled for May 6 at Centennial Park, is looking for bands with "extreme talent" and/or the drawing power to bring in 10,000 people. For more info, call 404-522-2267.

* Electronica: A Benefit for Amnesty International is a first-year free event set for June 17 in Candler Park with a promising lineup of artists employing a varying ratio of sequencers to guitars. Scheduled performers include Sam Prekop (of indie pop band Sea and the Cake), bedroom krautrock/bedroom trip-hop band IQU (on noted indie K Records), local experimental electronic artist Prefuse 73 (aka Scott Herren, signed to Aphex Twin label Warp) and local groups Underwater and Aerial. For more info, email 3M's Promotion and Productions at shoshin55@hotmail.com.

N'hood
In The Studio
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CEILING FAN, at Magic Foot Studio with Jason NeSmith, for a planned self-released CD to be called either Movements, Soundscapes for Times of Wonder and Reflection or What's up Yer Craw?

THE STIMULANTS, at Snack 'n' Shack with Rob Gal, for their yet-to-be-named second full-length CD due in early summer.

DIESTRA ACUSTICA, at Exocet Studios with producer Bruce Bennett on their yet-to-be-named debut full-length CD due in May.

N'hood
Hefty portions
Phone Number not listed.
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Decatur Square's lunchtime crowd is lucky to have Sage. With no pretensions beyond generic American-bistro food and ambience, the baby sister to Le Giverny offers hefty portions, modest prices, decent if spotty cooking and warm, welcoming service by a mostly female staff.

Sporty types, legal beagles and expense-account specialists can meet at the bar, consult the wide-ranging wine list and loosen up. Same story only more so after 5 p.m., when entrée prices rise from $7-$10 to around $21 (for filet mignon).

Wood paneling, mirrors and a TV monitor tuned to CNBC financial news add up to buttoned-down informality and an adult (though moderately kid-friendly) atmosphere. Office workers on tight noontime schedules can get in and out in under an hour. One caveat, however: Given the time it took me to get the check and pay, folks in a rush may want to flash plastic as soon as the main courses appear.

A chicken, onion and pepper quesadilla — topped with guacamole and sour cream, cut into triangles and arranged on field greens — was big enough for two light eaters to share at lunch ($7.95; an appetizer at night, $6.50). The chicken was tasty, the greens fresh, the dip rich and spicy, the swirled sour cream entirely unnecessary except as an Applebee's-style gesture.

The Sage burger — grilled Black Angus ground chuck on a potato roll with lettuce and shoestring fries — was cooked as ordered, naturally flavored and not gunked up with silly seasonings ($6.95). Our mound of fries arrived hot and reasonably crisp. Various extras can be added at surcharges ranging from 75 cents (Swiss or cheddar cheese) to $2.50 (sautéed mushrooms or creamed spinach).

To start, we split a plate of cornmeal-crusted onion rings with ancho-cilantro vinaigrette ($4.25 for about six). Although the breading tended to fall off in sheets, the flavor was appealing and the dressing a nice match, so we ate every crisp morsel. It was not a huge portion for the money.

Flank steak, rainbow trout, crab cake and several pastas and sandwiches round out the lunchtime list. Beverages are refilled early and often. Soups and bar-food starters are offered day and night.

A huge appetizer portion of fried baby calamari with undistinguished cocktail sauce — and a couple of fried lemon slices a la Anne Quatrano, but not sliced thin enough — costs $6.95. Though slightly greasy, the flavorful squid were worth eating.

Creamy roast-garlic and onion soup, not quite what I expected, turned out OK, too ($3.95). The menu mentions basil oil, cheese and croutons. As served, the soup was closer to a lightly thickened cheese soup with sliced onions, scant garlic flavor and a few small croutons decorating the center.

Pan-seared monkfish on green olive and potato pancakes with fried leeks — served at night on a pool of clear, butter-flavored sauce and set beside an unripe, half-cooked winter tomato crowned with breadcrumbs — was Betty Crocker provincial in highest drag ($15.95). The fish and potato cakes were actually quite delicious. The whole thing probably would be satisfying for, say, an airline mechanic with a high tolerance for cholesterol and no patience with culinary subtlety.

Veal meatloaf with mushrooms, dried tomatoes and peppers — topped with mushroom sauce and slapped on mashed potatoes — resembled a tray meal on the mechanic's airline — in economy class ($9.95). Not served hot enough, the mound of mystery meat wasn't worth even the bit of money asked. Quitting after two bites, I asked myself: Did an innocent cow have to die for this? To which I answered: Why am I not yet a vegetarian?

Créme brulee, a small portion for $5.50, with nearly all its flavor residing in the caramelized sugar crust, improved my spirits only somewhat.

Sage is no Watershed, or even Buckhead Diner. But then Le Giverny is no Brasserie Le Coze. On its own modest terms, the addition to the Courthouse/MARTA Station neighborhood is worth checking into. Just avoid the meatloaf. And don't make a special trip across town.

N'hood
Indian soul
Phone Number not listed.
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I love ethnic food. I've thought a lot about why. Given the choice, I would usually rather eat something ethnic and cheap than something expensive and gourmet.

I think it's because of the context, actually. Ethnic minorities bring something important to our cultural experience. Because, typically, minorities are oppressed, they often learn to make something beautiful out of what the general culture regards as humble or evidence of suffering. That's what soul food is, for example: a cuisine developed by African Americans to transform humble ingredients into something wonderful. When the rest of us eat it, it takes us beyond ourselves and reminds us of the universal plight of the human condition — to make something beautiful out of life's inevitable suffering. We are all outsiders at some level.

Of course, I don't think this experience is completely conscious. Instead, we experience it in terms of heritage, tradition, memory, taste. The way memory gets attached to taste is fascinating and you can see this operating at deep collective and cultural levels in rituals of feasting around holidays and other special occasions. But we can have this experience of beauty, of remembering our natures, any time we sit down to an ethnic meal.

In some ways — at least in my experience — the more alien the ethnic cuisine is, the more compelling. The food of India, although common in America now, is surely one of the most difficult for us to relate to our own. For years, the food of northern India was best known to us. It features a good bit of meat and, although exotically flavored, isn't particularly hot. In recent years, we've had an influx of southern Indian food, though. It is largely vegetarian and can be fiery hot. To my palate, the best vegetarian food in our city is at restaurants like Indian Delights, Madras and Woodland. Vegetarian Indian cuisine is part of a long tradition, unlike our own, which often tastes like an apology for the meat it lacks. You don't hear Indians saying, "This tofu tastes just like chicken!" But it is definitely something beautiful made of the humble.

My favorite south Indian restaurant of late has been Udipi Café (1850 Lawrenceville Highway, 404-325-1933). That's in Decatur, next to the also wonderful Istanbul Café. Udipi is immensely popular with the Indian community, as well as American vegetarians and gourmands, so I warn you that parking is difficult. That's my only caveat.

The moment you walk into this restaurant, you feel welcome. The hostess is a non-hurried, smiling woman who tolerates endless questions as you point to something on your plate (or at a stranger's), inquire about origins and Indian geography, and ask exactly how you are supposed to eat a dish. The entire staff is likewise congenial and helpful.

Concentrate on the food. The dining room itself is the usual ethnic puzzle. Big brass chandeliers hang in a large boxy room with a closed-off loft and an orange balustrade. It's not very pretty but you won't care. Everyone is totally entranced with the food, which is gorgeous. All around the room you will see huge dosai — great conical, glossy, rice crepes that look like cornucopias stuffed with curried potatoes. A football-sized puff of batura bread is breathtaking — tear it apart and it somehow retains its shape. It's wonderful dipped in lentils or whatever mysterious soup or curry is at the table.

The easiest thing to do here is order one of the multi-course dinners, like the mysore royal thali —$13.95 and enough to disprove any notion that a vegetarian meal means restraint. This, like the south Indian thali ($11.50), is a circle of little dishes served on a platter around rice. This gives you the chance to sample a number of dishes but, honestly, I prefer ordering a la carte.

The mysore thali includes some fried appetizers, also available individually, and I should say the only disappointment in the restaurant's cuisine has been the samosa, too heavily crusted and made too long before serving. Much preferable are the vegetable cutlet and the fluffy, hot lentil dumpling (mysore bonda), rather like an Indian hushpuppy. If you dine on the weekend, you can order rava iddly — the popular snow white patties made of steamed lentils and wheat into which carrot shreds and nuts have been worked. All of these are served with spicy lentil soup (sambar), grated coconut chutney or hot mint sauce.

The thali dishes concentrate on curries. I can't begin to describe them all, but I laughed when one of them turned out to be made with black-eyed peas. It was totally delicious — southern Indian-southern American soul food. The curries contrast one another. Some are hot, some are creamy and some are broth-based and slightly acidic. There is mango chutney to add bitterness, pachadi (yogurt with cucumbers and coriander) to add coolness. There is rice to temper the chilies and hold the juices, wonderful breads to pick up morsels and to wrap chewy textures around soft ones.

Now, honestly, as much as I love the curries, I really prefer the dosai, all served with a little bowl of sambar and coconut chutney. These rice-flour crepes come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. They are slightly crunchy, slightly chewy. All tend to include potatoes in their filling, plus another vegetable or two and incorporate chilies of varying piquancy.

My favorite for taste (because others are more dramatic looking) is the spring dosai ($6.95). It looks like sections of a burrito. The crepe is cooked to a dark brown and filled with potatoes and minced onions and cauliflower. A hot chutney makes you sweat. You also can order uthappam here. These are thicker crepes, almost like pancakes, with the ingredients worked into the batter. I much prefer dosai because of its slightly crunchy texture.

Honestly, you can eat here for very little money, feel good about not eating flesh and have a beautiful experience of another culture. Happily, the restaurant is large enough that even when it's most busy, I've not had to wait longer than five or 10 minutes.

N'hood
Juicy juicy juicy juice
Phone Number not listed.
Website not listed.
I must start with a confession: I am sort of, well, a juicing fanatic. A few years ago, I got a Juice Man Jr. for Christmas and things have never been the same since. To make a long story short, I'm a smoothie snob. I've spent hours (accumulated over the years, mind you) developing the perfect smoothie. And what's worse, I like the Juice Man and his organic-minded ways.

Admittedly my criteria is pretty specific. So when it comes to these frosty drink places, Smoothie King and Planet Smoothie, where there's not a drop of fresh juice involved in the process, just don't make the cut. I mean, they're fine in a pinch, but ... It didn't take long for me to ascertain that Arden's is my favorite of local chains.

Mellow and minimalist, there's no tubs of "weight gain" or "turbo carb" on the shelves in any of Arden's three stores. Instead, the shelves are filled with wholistic nutrition books and information on juicing. Arden's deal is that they make their own juice, which is cold-pressed and bottled immediately, thereby preventing water soluble vitamins from breaking down. Though they have been bottled soon after being juiced, a certain amount of vitamins are inevitably lost in this process. Juicing in the stores would be the only ideal scenario.

Frozen smoothies at Arden's are made with a choice of three juices which, incidentally, do not come from a sealed bottle: orange, apple or pineapple. Then, you can opt to add in frozen fruits at will ($3 for 16 ounces and $3.75 for 24 ounces). Choices include banana, mango, papaya, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. For 50 cents, there's also the option of adding a supplement mix like "Complete Recovery," which includes bee propolis (a resinous, antibacterial substance collected by bees that comes from various plants), royal jelly (a substance secreted by nurse bees which contains all of the B-complex vitamins), bioflavinoids (which aid in the absorption of vitamin C), vitamin C and echinacea.

There's also a variety of juices like cranberry, tangerine and carrot. Simple combinations such as carrot apple or pineapple orange go for $2 per 16 ounces.

There are unfrozen smoothies in the bottle, too, and green vegetable mixes like "Green Energy Machine": a spicy blend of cucumber, celery, parsley, ginger and spinach. Wheatberry grass aficionados will find shots of their beloved wheatgrass juice ($1.75 per ounce). If you haven't tried it, imagine the taste of a half acre or so of mowed grass concentrated into a little green shot. It's intense, but ostensibly a worthwhile drink. Wheatgrass contains vitamins C and B, chlorophyll, plus 17 amino acids. According to Dr. Ann Wigmore, founder of the Hippocrates Health Institute in Boston, and the person responsible for popularizing the consumption of this substance, 1 pound of fresh wheatgrass is equal to 25 pounds of fresh produce.

Arden's appears to be a business with its heart in the right place. They serve simple, natural drinks and snacks. Nice to see a place that's offering products like these without trying to cash in on the synthesized power food and weight loss industry. It's just juice, and that's good.

N'hood
Good Eats
Phone Number not listed.
Website not listed.
CBB is Cliff Bostock, EM is Elliott Mackle, SSS is Shelley Skiles Sawyer, SL is Shelley Lawrence.


Seafood


Indigo Coastal Grill, 1397 N. Highland Ave., 404-876-0676. Reopened after yet another makeover, the restaurant's once funky décor has been smoothed to a near-corporate sheen. Fried seafood, big salads, comforting side dishes (couscous, cheese grits, shoestring fries) and gooey desserts are still tops. Service by a clean-cut, knowledgeable staff who's textbook sharp. — EM

Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, 2830 Windy Hill Road, Marietta, 770-984-8899 and other locations. Who'd have thought a chain serving enormous volumes of food could be this good? Spectacular etouffée, lovingly prepared gumbos, delicately broiled seafood and mountains of fried stuff are turning out crowds that cause 90-minute waits. Go early. Real early. — CBB


Cajun


Gumbo A Go-Go, 1405 Oxford Road, 404-687-0031; 736 Ponce de Leon Ave., 404-874-8620; 3256 Cobb Parkway, Marietta, 770-303-9970; and 11770 Haynes Bridge Road, Alpharetta, 770-777-1441. Head to the Emory Village location for a rough jewel where students wolf down dirt-cheap portions of the best jambalaya around. The second location on Ponce (by Tortilla's) offers the same Cajun-Creole dishes, like Big Chief Crazy Gumbo and, when it's in season, crawfish etouffée. — CBB

Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, 2830 Windy Hill Road, Marietta, 770-984-8899 and other metro locations. Who'd have thought a chain serving enormous volumes of food could be this good? Spectacular etouffée, lovingly prepared gumbos, delicately broiled seafood and mountains of fried stuff are turning out crowds that cause 90-minute waits. Go early. Real early. — CBB

Somber Reptile's Cajun Kitchen, 842 Marietta St., 404-881-9701. Snackery in a quirky music hall (walls black, smoking encouraged, no coffee) is westside headquarters for shrimp, oyster and andouille sausage po' boy sandwiches, fried okra and cold suds. Sonny bubbas in uniform and men in suits hit it hard at lunchtime on weekdays. — EM

Ya Ya's Cajun Cuisine, 426 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., 404-373-9292. David and Leslie Lester have hit the big time in Decatur. Lunch offers the best po' boys in town and dinner means very good (roux-less) etouffées and gumbos. Try the grilled boudin and "snapper courtbouillion." — CBB


Chinese


Chicken World, 5150 Buford Highway, 770-458-5164. Give your honey a choice of menudo, Buffalo chicken wings or moo goo gai pan here. Chino-Mexicano. It's not the best food in town, but it is most definitely a happening. — CBB

Chopstix, 4279 Roswell Road, 404-255-4868. One of the most popular Asian-style restaurants in Atlanta, where elegant Chinese fare is served by candlelight to a rather upscale audience. Gourmet classics from shrimp to lobster to sweetbreads are prepared Hong Kong style — everything's top-notch. — SSS

Chung Ha Chinese-Korean Buffet, 5979 Buford Highway, Doraville, 770-455-7370. Foodies with a taste for experimentation will appreciate the extensive display of Asian foods as well as a helpful, informative staff. Highlights include Korean barbecued meats and hors d'oeuvres, nuggets of marinated chicken, unusual soups and noodles. Very affordable. Sunday brunch draws after-church mobs.— EM

Doc Chey's Noodle House, 1424 N. Highland Ave., 404-888-0777; 1556 N. Decatur Road, 404-378-8188. A pan-Asian noodle house for yuppies. Great sense of humor, great style, great appetizers. — CBB

Grand Buffet II (Chinese), Buckhead Crossing, 2625 Piedmont Road at Sidney Marcus Boulevard, 404-760-9967. Grand Buffet II offers Buckhead location at Southside prices. The bountiful Chinese-American spread has notable "wow-golly" appeal. Much of the food tastes fresh. Grill cooks prepare many items in small batches just behind the serving line. Platters and trays are replenished often. — EM

Harmony Vegetarian Chinese Restaurant, 4897 Buford Highway, Chamblee, 770-457-7288. Curry flavors (noodles, dumplings) and moo shu vegetable wraps are tops at this minimally decorated newcomer. Stick with greenery and skip the imitation beef and fish. — EM

Kong Lang, Orient Center, 4897 Buford Highway, Suite 125, Chamblee, 770-986-9168. Classy Cantonese barbecue and roast pork specialist, with seafood an added attraction, spins off (and up) from affably grungy, always reliable Ming's BarB.Q. Restaurant nearby. Service, amenities and décor nearly match the delectable cuisine. — EM

Little Szechuan, Northwood Plaza, 5091-C Buford Highway, Doraville, 770-451-0192. There's no trick to dining well at the state's best Chinese restaurant. Order almost anything unusual. Balance unfamiliar dishes with a like number of the family's favorite dishes. Figure on one platter per guest. Relax and sip your tea. Of particular interest: stir-fried mo shu vegetables, sizzling beef brisket, eggplant with garlic sauce, Szechuan cold noodles. — EM

New Paradise Chinese Restaurant, 4795 Buford Highway, Chamblee, 770-936-0306. Located near the south end of the Chambodia business strip, this small, neat storefront offers affordable, authentic cuisine in simple surroundings. Foodies and similarly adventurous diners should order from the white Asian menu. A red tourist menu is available for those who prefer safer shopping-center fare. — EM [page]

P.F. Chang's China Bistro, 500 Ashwood Parkway, off Ashford Dunwoody Road, 770-352-0500. An only partially successful attempt to mate Chinese cookery with the American casual-chain concept, this is essentially a Bennigan's with egg rolls. Service and cuisine are thoroughly Americanized. Evocations of China consist almost entirely of Asian-style decorations. Orange peel shrimp is a safe choice. — EM

Pyng Ho, 1357 Clairmont Road, 404-634-4477. This is a popular and authentic Chinese restaurant outside the main Buford Highway corridor. Thus, many who find the ethnic experience intimidating will be more comfortable here. By all means, stick to the menu of evening specials. A whole fried red snapper drizzled in black bean sauce is amazing. — CBB

Royal China, 3295 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Chamblee, 770-216-9933. New owners have overhauled the former Honto to mostly good effect. Although the Cantonese cuisine is highly erratic, the elegant décor and new restrooms make a visit almost mandatory for old hands. On balance, try dinner rather than lunch, vegetables and seafood over meat. — EM


Continental


Babette's Cafe, 471 N. Highland Ave., 404-523-9121. Situated between Inman Park and Virginia-Highland, this lovely cafe escapes both glib trendiness and Martha Stewartness. The dining room is romantic and homey. Herb-crusted lamb chops, risotto specials, fried oysters atop a dill biscuit are recommended. Desserts are killer. — CBB

Eclipse di Luna, 764 Miami Circle, 404-846-0449. Paul Luna and James Ehrlich have created one of the most pleasant dining rooms in town. Lunch features delicious sandwiches, soups and quiches; evenings offer a tapas menu that is the best in town. Little Spanish-style marinated ribs, grilled octopus, skewered prawns and luscious Manilla clams are among the offerings. — CBB

Seeger's, 111 W. Paces Ferry Road NW, 404-846-9779. Beard Award-winning chef Guenter Seeger's new stand features resourceful contemporary-continental cuisine, small portions, prix fixe menus with big prices, elegant service and a minimalist postmodern decorative scheme that fits the food like sauce over fish. Reservations recommended on weekends. — EM


Italian


Aromi, 1025 Virginia Ave. NE, 404-607-0220. With a brightly lit neon store front just a few doors east of the Virginia-Highland intersection, Aromi has sweets, coffee, gelato crepes and panini. Gelato flavors include peach, raspberry, lemon, banana, chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut, chocolate chip and more. Lightly press-grilled panini are served on foccacia and come with chips. And as if all this weren't enough lure — the coffee's great, too. — SL

Ciao Bella, 309 Pharr Road, 404-261-6013. Simplicity is the approach here. Order big, white bowls of perfect pastas — with wild mushrooms or mussels and anchovies. Prices are low, the crowd is convivial and the staff is thoroughly Italian. — CBB

Cipollini, 1529 Piedmont Ave., 404-875-5001. John Carver, formerly of Pricci, has taken over saucy Ciboulette and its talented chef de cuisine, Ofer Ayal. The haute bistro dining room sports a clean, spare, faux marbre makeover that's in tune with modern Italian design. Cooking is updated Italian-American, with salads, pastas (especially strazzopreti — "priest stranglers," thin tubes with veal sauce) and meat entrées making the biggest impression. — EM

Eno, 800 Peachtree St. at Fifth, 404-685-3191. Conceived as an extremely comfortable laboratory where food and drink pairings may be explored, Doug Strickland's and Jamie Adams' Mediterranean bistro could raise the standards of corporate Atlanta's drinking classes. Food is fashionably Cal-Italian — lots of olives, olive oil, fruit, fresh fish and seasonal ingredients. The cooking is first rate, the crowd Midtown hot. Sidewalk tables, wine room, tastings featured. — EM

Fratelli di Napoli, 2101 Bennett St., 404-351-1533; 928 Canton St., Roswell, 770-642-9917. Big-deal, super-size takes on Little Italy specializing in homestyle platters serving two to four. Chicken with eggplant, spinach salad with gorgonzola dressing and tiramisu are standouts. Dinner nightly. Reservations for six or more. — EM

Grappa, 3097 Maple Drive, 404-262-9749. Soups and salads are best bets at this Tuscanized Buckhead bungalow inhabited by co-chefs Lynne Gigliotti (Gigliotti Culinary Concepts, Grapevine Café, Azio) and Christophe Vessaire (Resto des Amis, French Embassy, Washington, D.C.). Dinner only. — EM

La Grotta, 2637 Peachtree Road, 404-231-1368. This is one of Atlanta's longest-running fine dining experiences, evidenced by the '70s décor and Italian cuisine. Try the tuna carpaccio and the roasted quail stuffed with sausage. — SSS

Luna Si, 1931 Peachtree Road, 404-355-5993. Who'd think that "old faithful" and "cutting-edge" honestly could belong together? That's exactly so in this remarkably affordable restaurant with a strong contemporary Italian influence. Convivial and quirky themselves, the Luna brothers have created one of the city's most reliable choices. — CBB [page]

Pastificio Cameli, 1263 Glenwood Ave. SE, 404-622-9926. Retro pasta parlor in East Atlanta gentrification zone offers delectable fresh pastas, salads and soups in stripped-back, contemporary surroundings. Deck and sidewalk tables offered in nice weather. Dinner only. — EM

The Patio, 1029 Edgewood Ave. (across from the Inman Park MARTA station), 404-584-8945. A killer redo of the old Deacon Burton spot, with an especially wonderful patio. Pastas and pizzas are the main fare. Inexpensive. — CBB

Savage Pizza, 484 Moreland Ave., 404-523-0500. Among the best local sources of real, hand-thrown, honest-to-Palermo pizza, this slightly bent independent in L5P is notable for fresh ingredients, homemade sauces and clever, knowing service. Wide selection of pizza toppings and calzone fillings. Good for takeout. Smokers' porch. — EM

Sotto Sotto, 313 N. Highland Ave., 404-523-6678. As a place to dine extremely well, see friends and plug into what people are talking about, Riccardo Ullio's Italian outpost in Inman Park hardly can be beat. Pastas, risotti and desserts are winners, as is the high-energy factor. — EM


Thai


Little Bangkok, 2225 Cheshire Bridge Road near Lenox Road, 404-315-1530. Now it can be told: Some of the best Thai food in town is at this absurdly inexpensive hole in the wall. Pay close attention to evening specials like chicken with eggplant or spicy squid. Seasonings are fiery, portions are very large and ingredients always include a few surprises. The menu also features Chinese cuisine. — CBB

Northlake Thai Cuisine. 3939 LaVista Road, at Montreal Road, Tucker, 770-938-2223. A slightly less glamorous cousin to Midtown's spectacular Tamarind, the strip center showplace holds its own in tropical décor, Bangkok ambience and reassuring air of formality. Though the cooking shows less finesse, the cuisine, by the standards of the neighborhood, also is a standout. Starters (duck salad, fried squid, coconut-chicken soup) are worth particular attention. — EM

Satay Ria, 1861 Peachtree Road NE, 404-609-9990. An Intown find. The younger, SoBuck brother to Buford Highway's Little Malaysia offers mid-scale comforts, Malaysian-Thai cuisine (chicken satay, chicken curry, acar salad) and unusually good service. — EM


Vegetarian


Broadway Cafe, 2168 Briarcliff Road NE, 404-329-0888. Vegetarian fare, much of it kosher, can be inventive and quite tasty in this Druid Hills strip mall spot; who knew faux sausage could taste so good? — SSS

Harmony Vegetarian Chinese Restaurant, 4897 Buford Highway, Chamblee, 770-457-7288. Curry flavors (noodles, dumplings) and moo shu vegetable wraps are tops at this minimally decorated newcomer. Stick with greenery and skip the imitation beef and fish. — EM

Woodland Vegetarian Restaurant, 1080 Oaktree Road, Decatur, 404-321-6005. Larger and brighter than competing self-service Indian restaurants, this newcomer near Market Square Mall specializes in stuffed, topped and sauced pancakes and crepes. An affordable lunch buffet Tues.-Sun. is another good way to jump right in. — EM


Vietnamese


Song Long, 4166 Buford Highway, 404-320-9772. Bright star among a galaxy of Asian newcomers in Oriental Mall (the former Outlet Square), this Vietnamese specialist features eager-to-please staffers, budget prices, music videos and an extraordinarily complete menu. Don't miss the cha gio (Vietnamese fried spring rolls) with lettuce and herb leaf wrappers, or the various rice-noodle soups. No credit cards. — EM


Cuban


Havana Sandwich Shop, 2905 Buford Highway NE (at the corner of North Druid Hills and Buford Highway), 404-636-4094. This modest restaurant's delicious yellow rice is studded with green peas and covered with savory-sweet stewed tomatoes and onions (white rice is available as well), and its black bean "soup" with prominent onions and garlic, can easily make a meal. The mojo-marinated Cuban, served with pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickles, is delicious. There also are plenty of savory vegetarian dishes and Jumex juices (try the mango), plus a variety of unusual sodas (try the Coco Rico). Also don't miss out on the fabulous flan. — SL

Kool Korners grocery, 349 14th St. NW, 404-892-4424. Known for its Cuban Classic sandwich, this grocery/sandwich shop has been a source of food-induced euphoria for 13 years. Sandwich choices include ham, turkey, roast beef and pastrami with all the fixings, including jalapeño peppers. Press-grilled sandwiches have a crispy exterior where inside, the flavors emerge, mingle and melt together. — SL

Las Palmeras, 368 Fifth St. NE, 404-872-0846. Cuban neighborhood cafe is noted for black beans and rice, fried plantains, authentic entrées, friendly welcomes and faster service than might be expected. A smokers' deck is pleasant in nice weather. Purchase beer and wine at the grocery next door or BYOB. — EM [page]

Mambo Restaurante Cubano, 1402 N. Highland Ave., 404-876-2626. Lunch service is notable for Cuban Sloppy Joe sandwiches (grilled Cuban loaves stuffed with picadillo and ropa vieja). The regular menu offers traditional entrées, salads and other island delights. Outdoor tables available. — EM


French


Brasserie Le Coze, 3393 Peachtree Road (in Lenox Square), 404-266-1440. The next best thing to Paris, this upscale bistro is consistent and top-notch. Fresh seafood and desserts always are safe bets and the wine list is affordable. Tiled walls, mirrors and suave service make you forget you're in a mall. — SSS

Cafe Boheme, 453 Moreland Ave. NE, 404-522-4373. Sit-down bistro fare, with wines and beers to match. Low prices, hearty portions and French ambience make it worth the jaunt to L5P.— EM

Le Saint Amour, 1620 Piedmont Ave., 404-881-0300. New chef, traditional country French cooking. Blanquette de veau, rabbit pâté, soufflés, that kind of thing. — EM


Fusion


Fusebox, 3085 Piedmont Road NE, 404-233-3383. A slick Buckhead destination for the city's young, black-clad, New Yorker wannabe crowd, with a dazzling communal table right up front, sophisticated music, Y2K lighting, Asian antiques, attitude that's surprisingly soft and an East-West menu that's Fusion Lite rather than up-to-the-minute. — EM

SoHo, 4200 Paces Ferry Road, 770-801-0069. Cleverly conceived, albeit ding-dong loud, shopping center bistro with pricey fusion menu. — EM


German


Basket Bakery and Cafe at The Village Corner, 6655 James B. Rivers Drive, 770-498-0329. The best German food in our area, served in a delightful setting adjacent to Stone Mountain Village. Sauerbraten and rouladen are especially good. Enormous portions. — CBB


Indian


Planet Bombay, 451 Moreland Ave., 404-688-0005. L5P newcomer with thick, hearty soups (Mulligatawny, fresh mushroom), notable rice pilafs and Indian breads, good curried vegetable combinations and low prices. — EM

Udipi Cafe, 1850 Lawrenceville Highway, Decatur, 404-325-1933. Savory rice pilafs, spicy vegetable curries and spectacular stuffed crepes and pancakes are but four reasons to seek out the city's newest South Indian vegetarian outlet. Sophisticated carrot desserts, traditional beverages and crisp breads double the pleasure. Table service is a plus. — EM


Japanese


Nickiemoto's Midtown, Piedmont at 10th Street, 404- 253-2010. A clone of George Rohrig's Buckhead sushi bar, this fast-track watering hole is more remarkable for burnished metal décor and intown haircuts than for its Asian-American food. To dine well, keep two words in mind: fried (squid, soft-shell crab hotpot, catfish) and desserts (ginger creme brulee, Vietnamese coffee float). — EM

Stoney River, 10524 Alpharetta Highway at Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell, 678-461-7900. The mainstream runs through this steaks-and-sushi dinner house from the creators of Brookwood Grill. The wilderness lodge décor, upbeat service and decent sushi bar are much superior to the salty, overseasoned American food. No reservations. Expect long waits at prime hours. — EM

Yokohama, 2221 Peachtree Road NE, 404-603-5282. Reconstituted neighborhood sushi parlor with all-purpose Japanese-American menu (noodles, tonkatsu, teriyaki steak, ice cream) fills an independent niche on a busy intown strip. Tender tempura squid is a tasty treasure. — EM


Malaysian


Malaya, 857 Collier Road, 404-609-9991. A tiny room in a modest storefront belies the wondrous repertoire of traditional Malaysian dishes available. For an introduction to this spicy crossroads cuisine, don't miss coconut soup laced with shrimp and chicken, acar (pickled salad with peanuts), rendang (an aromatic beef stew), curried salmon with okra, and spinach sautéed with okra. Chinese menu also available. Good for takeout. Now serving beer and wine. — EM

Penang Malaysian Cuisine, Orient Center, 4897 Buford Highway, Chamblee, 770-220-0308. Clever, classy take on the crossroads cuisine of Malaysia, one of Asia's sleeping tigers. Whole fish with Thai sauce, pancakes with chicken curry, satays, noodles and crisp vegetables — all with a moderately spicy kick — are authentic, approachable and well prepared. The setting, a bamboo summer house with all the latest conveniences, matches the upbeat, sunny ambience. — EM


Mexican


Burrito Art, 1259 Glenwood Ave., 404-627-4433; Tower Walk, 3365 Piedmont Road, 404-237-0095; and 1451 Oxford Road, 404-377-7786. East Atlanta is the original home for this restaurant by Ryan Aiken, a young chef who trained at Indigo and Partners and developed the extraordinary opening menu at Terra Cotta. Now, the boy's cooking burritos! But these are amazing creations that feature the likes of barbecue chicken, roast pork and chile relleno. — CBB

El Portal, 2157 Briarcliff Road, 404-320-1888. Homestyle Mexican specialties (garlic shrimp, chilaquiles, quesadilla rellena) in a storefront in the north-of-Emory district. Prices are peso-low. — EM [page]

Frontera Mex-Mex Grill, 4606 Jimmy Carter Blvd., 770-493-8341; and 5070 Stone Mountain Highway, 770-972-3366. Sunday brunch at two locations of the local chain features energetic ranchera music, heady fiesta atmosphere and a succession of unusual Mexican specialties. Spice levels, thought toned down, are still lively enough to tickle gringo tongues. — EM

Noche, 1000 Virginia Ave., 404-815-9155. The nuevo New Mexican chow at this boutique cantina, while extremely inconsistent, combines campfire flavor with comfort food accessibility. Stylishly fitted out and moderately priced, with good service, it may be considered a flashier alternative to Sundown Cafe. — EM

Santa Fe Cafe, 123 E. Court Square, Decatur, 404-377-1399. Starter-kit New Mexican food, with upbeat service, in a vibrant center of intown redevelopment. Sidewalk tables recommended.— EM

Taqueria del Sol, 1200-B Howell Mill Road at Huff Road, 404-352-5811. Spin-off of popular Sundown Cafe is long on informality and comfortingly Americanized Mexican and Southwestern fare. It's decidedly short on glitz, and guests order at the bar and carry their own drinks. Seafood specials can be really special. Old favorites — spicy turnip greens, jalapeño slaw and carnita tacos — are still worth saying "Olé" to as well. — EM

Tortillas, 774 Ponce de Leon, 404-892-0193. So many burrito shops have opened in town that we tend to forget the original and, in many ways, still the best. Nobody's pinto beans come close to Tortillas. You don't have to endure oniony seasonings, you get flawless guac and green sauce, and you still get plenty of bad attitude and crummy ambiance. — CBB

Zocalo, 187 10th St., 404-249-7576. Midtown's former monument to mucho-Mexican mole has been mainstreamed and Americanized. The city's best stuffed peppers, the still-peppy chicken mole and a collection of 150 tequilas don't make up for greasy tacos, hard-edged service, hard-to-read menus, inappropriate music and uncomfortable chairs. Note that visitors with hotel room keys get a 10 percent discount. — EM


American


Aria, 490 E. Paces Ferry Road, 404-233-5208. After yet another redesign, the former Hedgerose Heights is being repositioned as a Buckhead-casual hangout for young, hot entrepreneurs and similarly questing fast-trackers. Gerry Klaskala's accomplished American cuisine - slow-cooked chicken and beef, soups, grilled meats - and Kathryn King's dreamy desserts more than make up for the half-baked, weirdly erotic décor by Bill Johnson Studio. —EM

Bacchanalia, 1198 Howell Mill Road. Atlanta's best restaurant has moved. Owner/chefs Anne Quatrono and Clifford Harrison have set up shop in the newly trendy Westside industrial district. Stay tuned. — EM

Big Bad Burger Daddy's, 307-B East College Ave., Decatur, 404-371-8700. Owner/chef Shaun Smithson's sunny, mom-and-pop storefront near Agnes Scott combines cuisine-school know-how and upbeat, informal atmosphere. Burgers with an abundance of trimmings, spuds in various delicious forms and bargain-basement prices are the reasons to go. Smoking not permitted. Good for takeout. — EM

Canoe, 4199 Paces Ferry Road NW, 770-432-2663. Oh, to be up a creek without a paddle here! Cozying up to the banks of the Chattahoochee, Canoe is one of the loveliest restaurants in town, and Chef Gary Mennie's New American fare is top-notch. Be sure to make reservations — this showboat's popular. — SSS

City Grill, 50 Hurt Plaza, 404-524-2489. Located in the historic Hurt building, this is one of the most beautiful dining rooms in the city. The New American fare at this most elegant Peasant Group restaurant has been up and down over the years. You could get lucky. — SSS

Corner Cafe - Buckhead Bread Co., 3070 Piedmont Road NE, 404-240-1978. Breads, muffins, pastries and service are better than ever. Sandwiches (egg salad, chicken club, portobello mushroom) are among the city's overstuffed best. Opens early for breakfast. — EM

The Earl, 488 Flat Shoals Road, East Atlanta, 404-522- 3950. This menu offers the traditional bar food assemblage, plus healthier alternatives including four vegetarian sandwiches. Burgers are big 'n' beefy and the steak sandwich can't be beat. All sandwiches come with a choice of house salad, red beans and rice, baked potato, fries, pasta salad or beer-battered onions rings. Try the addictive skinny fries. — SL

Five Sisters Cafe, 2743 LaVista Road, 404-636-6060. Storefront with rumpus-room décor is neighborhood hub for suave sandwiches served by smiling staffers. — EM

Floataway Cafe, 1123 Zonolite Road NE, 404-892-1414. A Southern Chez Panisse from the creators of superpopular Bacchanalia, with exquisite, inventive dishes made from fresh, often organic ingredients. The stylishly retro décor fits the former-factory setting too well. — E.M.

The Flying Biscuit Cafe, 1655 McLendon Ave., 404-687-8888. This Candler Park restaurant, offering affordable, highly uneven cuisine, had an enormous impact on the city's dining scene when it opened a few years ago. It is still one of the best values in town. The cuisine is New American with just the right touch of levity. — CBB [page]

Harvest, 853 N. Highland Ave., 404-876-8244. Matching arts-and-crafts furniture, vases, flowers, fireplaces, dramatic curtains and a comfy bar make the Craftsman-style bungalow the perfect venue for chef Justin Ward's weekday lunch service. Alas, as has been true since the restaurant's January 1996 debut, the contemporary American cooking is still wildly uneven.— EM

Heaping Bowl and Brew, 469 Flat Shoals Ave., 404-523-8030. This restaurant in East Atlanta prepares inexpensive, wholesome food with occasional outré touches. It almost always works. But dining here is enjoyable because of the convivial ambiance. Perogies and greens and beans stew are recommended. — CBB

Highland Wraps & Pizza Kitchen, 1250 Virginia Ave., 404-872-2562. A mostly takeout operation in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood, this storefront charmer produces decidedly Americanized, albeit notably tasty meat and vegetarian burritos and tacos. — EM

In the Shade Cafe, inside the Wish-Fulfilling Tree Bookstore, 2329 Cheshire Bridge Road, 404-634-7411. Juices, sandwiches and light noshes are all fresh and delicious. Plus you get your spiritual high from sniffing the nearby incense. — CBB

Insignia, Chastain Square, 4279 Roswell Road, 404-256-4040. Accomplished Pacific Rim and American regional cuisine, plus a useful wine list draws customers willing to pay healthy prices. Proprietor David Abes and chef Pete Pavesic are well-trained graduates of Horseradish Grill, Buckhead Diner and the Atlanta Fish Market. The new venture includes a smokers' porch and a cadre of knowledgeable, enthusiastic servers. — EM

Java Jive, 790 Ponce de Leon Ave., 404-876-6161. "The Cup That Pleases" definitely lives up to its name. The rich, faintly nutty cups of coffee accompany from-scratch biscuits, pecan or gingerbread waffles and well-stuffed omelets and veggie scrambles. Service is personable, reliable and unobtrusive. — SL

Mumbo Jumbo, 89 Park Place, 404-523-0330. Located in a treasure of a building, this bar/lounge/restaurant is a visual feast. And the New American cuisine, as interpreted by Chef Shaun Doty, ain't bad either. Globally and seasonally influenced, the menu always changes often. You also can rely on an interesting crowd, from oh-so-chic to far-out. — SSS

Murphy's, 997 Virginia Ave., 404-872-0904. This airy French-doored deli-and-beyond is always crowded — breakfast, lunch and dinner. Omelets and muffins are good, and soups and sandwiches are usually fresh. If the lines are too long, there's always takeout. — SSS

North Highland Pub, 469 N. Highland Ave., 404-522-4600. This Poncey-Highland joint features an impressively large menu, imported and on-tap beer and a plethora of tunes on the jukebox. Of note is the Bacon Swiss Guacamole Burger, cooked to a perfect medium and served on a sesame seed bun. Onion rings, beating out the fries, are a delicious companion. Sizable salads are worth a whirl, too. — SL

The Palm, 3391 Peachtree Road NE, 404-814-1955. Steak and lobster are the name of the game at this expense-account eatery in Buckhead's Swissôtel. Clubby attire is enhanced by the restaurant group's schtick — caricatures of famous faces peering down on those who go to see and be seen. — SSS

Park 75, Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta, 75 14th St. NE, 404-881-9898. Rich, well-constructed New American cuisine in a luxury setting with prices to match. Initial menus from executive chef Brooke Vosika — transplanted from the extraordinary Four Seasons Olympic Hotel in Seattle — are particularly strong on soups and seafood. — EM

The Roman Lily Cafe, 688 Highland Ave., 404-653-1155. Calavino Donati and her buzz-headed staff in overalls are serving killer contemporary American diner food and a great experience in this storefront restaurant. Meatloaf with a tequila-jalapeño gravy and scallops with baked polenta and wild mushrooms are fave dishes. But salads and sandwiches are tasty, too. Reservations are accepted (and necessary) on weekends. — CBB

Sage, 121 Sycamore St., Decatur, 404-373-5574. With no pretensions beyond generic American-bistro food and ambience, the Courthouse Square-area baby sister to Le Giverny offers hefty portions, modest prices, decent if spotty cooking, wide-ranging wine list and warm, welcoming service by a mostly female staff. — EM

San Francisco Wraps, 8725 Roswell Road, Dunwoody, 770-993-3999; 2160 N. Decatur Road, Decatur, 404-320-9111. Best local effort since Tortillas on Ponce (and, arguably, Great Western Burrito Co.) to produce a variety of burrito-style wraps with plenty of flavor and minimal attitude. — EM

Stoney River, 10524 Alpharetta Highway, at Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell, 678-461-7900. The mainstream runs through this steaks-and-sushi dinner house from the creators of Brookwood Grill. The wilderness lodge décor, upbeat service and decent sushi bar are much superior to the salty, overseasoned American food. No reservations. Expect long waits at prime hours. — EM [page]

Sweet Tomatoes, 6350 Peachtree Dunwoody Road, 770-913-0203; 1125 Barrett Parkway, Kennesaw, 770-429-5522; 3505 Mall Blvd., Duluth, 770-418-1148. Pizza, spuds, soups and about half the greenery are worth their weight in calories and cholesterol at units of this San Diego, Calif.-based buffet chain aimed at families and office workers. Atmosphere is bright and upbeat, prices reasonable. — EM

Vortex Bar and Grill, 438 Moreland Ave., L5P, 404-688-1828; and 878 Peachtree St., 404-875-1667. Funky atmosphere, loud music, enormous selection of bottled beers and some of the best and biggest burgers in town. Black bean soup and homestyle pimento cheese are excellent, too. — EM

Watershed, 406 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur, 404-378-4900. The combination restaurant, wine bar, package store, gift shop and takeout counter holds wonders aplenty. Offerings change daily. A slice of fish, a mound of creamed potatoes, a bowl of some unusual pasta may be heaven on toast points today, history tomorrow. Luckily the salads and sandwiches (beets, shrimp, roast pork) and desserts (pecan tart, apple cake, chocolate cake, macaroons) are fairly constant in both their excellence and availability. — EM


Barbecue


Dreamland Bar-B-Que, 10730 Alpharetta Highway at Mansell Road, Roswell, 678-352-7999. Hit the road to Tuscaloosa, Georgians. The imported cultural icon features Alabama-style pork barbecue with its characteristic charred edges, subdued seasoning and slathered sauce. It's accompanied by tangy slaw, crisp fries, rich pecan pie and logo T-shirts. Salads, sandwiches and such round out the menu. Good for takeout. — EM

Dusty's Barbecue, 1815 Briarcliff Road NE, 404-320-6264. There's nothing quite like starting out the day with barbecue for breakfast. The Chattahoochee Wake-Up features a three-egg omelet stuffed with tangy barbecue — pork, beef or chicken — and is served with home fries or grits and your choice of toast or a biscuit. There's plenty of lighter omelets, too, plus great yellow grits, light and fluffy pancakes and homemade pork sausage that's lightly spiced with chili flakes and sage. This is the place for the breakfast of champions. — SL

The Swallow at the Hollow, 1072 Green St., Roswell, 678-352-1975. The joint venture of Bill Greenwood and Paul and Doreen Doster is long on hefty portions and intelligent updates of country classics. From pit-cooked portobello mushrooms to traditionally flavored baby back ribs and mac-and-cheese, the cuisine has wide, if definitely Southern-style, appeal. — EM


Moroccan


Casbah, 465 N. Highland Ave. NE, 404-524-5777. A fun place to take yourself, and not just for a special occasion, this comfy, affordable North Highland harem features belly dancing, notable sweet-spicy salads, first-rate couscous and more-or-less traditional versions of Moroccan poultry pie and lamb with apricots and honey.— EM

Imperial Fez, 2285 Peachtree Road, 404-351-0870. Atlanta's most luxurious interpretation of the Casbah, this carpet-lined, pillow-strewn hideaway serves authentic prix fixe Moroccan in a five-course ceremony complete with hand-washing and belly dancing. Take your shoes off and stay awhile. — SSS


Southern


Atlanta Grill, the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta, 181 Peachtree St., 404-221-6550. A clubby, semi-casual Southern steakhouse has replaced the once fiercely formal restaurant. Expensive grilled beef and super-size spuds are perhaps the most reliable offerings at this corporate attempt to please road warriors, conventioneers and expense-account hosts seven days a week, three meals a day. — EM

Blue Ridge Grill, 1261 W. Paces Ferry Road, 404-233-5030. Southern haute cuisine is served in a Ralph Lauren-ish mountain lodge setting; fresh-picked organic vegetables are family-style, and the Iron Skillet Georgia Trout and steaks are sublime. Take note, though: Organic ain't cheap. — SSS

Horseradish Grill, 4320 Powers Ferry Road NW, 404-255-7277. First-rate fried chicken, pork barbecue, mashed potatoes, savory greens, hot biscuits and traditional Southern desserts from rising-star chef Dave Berry are served in an elegant trophy room masquerading as a Chastain Park stable. Lovely outdoor tables can be requested in nice weather. — EM

Justin's, 2200 Peachtree St. NW, 404-603-5353. Rap dinner theater in the former Sfuzzi and Coco Pazzo features big smiles, gorgeously draped staff, moderately loud musical background static, otherworldly prices and formularized soul food of the warm-and-serve persuasion. — EM

Holyfield's New South Grill, 6075 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs, 404-531-0300. Yeah, that Holyfield. Boxing champ Evander wrote the checks. Nigerian-born John Akhile (Azalea, Waverly Grill) designed a fusion menu that's heavily weighted toward the Thai, Chinese and Italian aspects of contemporary Southern cooking. Good service and inconsistent kitchen work make it worth half a try. Outdoor tables available.— EM

Thomas Marketplace, State Farmers Market, 16 Forest Parkway, Forest Park, 404-361-1367. Venerable purveyor of heirloom Southern cooking, hefty portions and down-home hospitality is among the Southside's best bets for traditional breakfasts, meat-and-two lunches and corn muffins. Fried chicken livers, grilled salmon, turnip greens and corn muffins recommended. Go elsewhere for barbecue. — EM

N'hood
The Blotter
Phone Number not listed.
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On Regis Road, a man in yellow pants got into an argument with a 26-year-old man and a woman over the volume of music playing.

During the argument, the man in yellow pants walked outside and started firing a gun in the driveway. The 26-year-old man and woman went into the driveway to tell the man to stop. But the man in yellow pants started firing at the couple. During this time, the 26-year-old man was shot in the right testicle.

Police arrived and went to the home of the sister of the man in yellow pants, to try to locate the suspect. But the man in yellow pants had fled.


A 54-year-old man flagged down an officer at the corner of Magnolia and Vine streets. The man said a stranger had broken into his apartment on Rhodes Avenue. He said the suspect was still inside his apartment.

The officer went to the apartment and found a 30-year-old man clutching a large piece of glass. The rear window had been broken, and the glass in the man's hand appeared to match the window glass.

The officer asked the 30-year-old man why he was inside the apartment.

"I needed to change clothes,"' replied the man.

The suspect was immediately taken to jail.


An officer heard loud music emitting from a '66 Buick Electra on Athens Avenue. The driver of the Buick was conversing with some girls in a neighboring car.

The officer asked the driver for his license and proof of insurance. The driver stepped out of the car and said he didn't have a license. Then, the driver ran across the street and behind a house.

The officer radioed in, to find out if the car was stolen. Then, another man approached the officer and said the car belonged to him. He said his vehicle had been on a rack, and he asked "this crackhead" to drive the vehicle off the rack. The man said he was too large to get into the vehicle and drive it off the rack. But after driving the car off the rack, the "crackhead" just kept driving away, said the man.

"What's the crackhead's name?" asked the officer.

"I don't know," replied the man.

The officer asked if the man regularly let people he didn't know drive his car. The man said the crackhead lived in the neighborhood.

The officer asked for the man's license and insurance card. The man produced his license and said the insurance card was in the car. The man looked inside the car, but couldn't find the card or the registration.

Then, a 40-year-old woman in black jeans approached the officer and questioned the officer's right to ask her husband for an insurance card.

"Bitch, I don't need to speak with you," said the woman to the officer.

A few minutes later, the officer asked the woman again for the insurance card. The woman became belligerent and called the officer a "bitch." The officer warned the woman that she would go to jail if she called her a "bitch" one more time. Then, the officer wrote in her report, "I became perturbed, at which time I asked [the woman] if she could spell 'obstruction.'"

"Fuck you, bitch" replied the woman.

She was promptly arrested and taken to jail.


A 38-year-old womanon Campellton Road said a woman named "Sugar Pie" hit her in the chest. The 38-year-old, who was drunk, said she then hit Sugar Pie in self-defense.

Sugar Pie said, "You don't hit me, girl." Next, Sugar Pie pulled a small revolver from her purse and pointed it at the 38-year-old. Then, Sugar Pie left.

The 38-year-old couldn't tell police Sugar Pie's real name. She did say that Sugar Pie was a heavyset woman with a ponytail, who was wearing a yellow summer dress.

After the police report was completed, officers noted that the 38-year-old did not go home or to a safe place; she kept walking around the area.

N'hood
Week at a Glance
Phone Number not listed.
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Events

One of the spring social and sporting events of the year, the 35th annual Atlanta Steeplechase, serves up an afternoon of mint juleps and thoroughbred races April 15. Pre-race activities begin at 10 a.m. with pig races, pony rides, skydivers and the traditional Parade of the Shamrock Hounds. $23. Kingston Downs, Hwy. 411 between Cartersville and Rome. Call 404-237-7436 for information.


Festivals


Bid adieu to the raucous revelry of Freakniks past, because the cruising and boozing days are over. Instead, the socially conscious and politically aware (and those who couldn't afford a trip to Cancun) converge in Atlanta for the Black College Unity Fest, a three-day festival featuring a gospel jam, sports carnival, health fair, census exhibit, job fair, technology expo and more April 14-16. Sweet Auburn Avenue. Call 404-523-2656 for information.


Performance


Freaky is as freaky does. The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus visits Variety Playhouse April 13 with a full evening of vaudeville variety side shows including a sword swallower, human blockhead, fire-eating duo, human cannonball and plate spinners like you've never seen before. The literary maven will also be on hand with the Autonomadic Bookmobile featuring a grand selection of subversion and perversion from many small-press publications. Show starts at 9 p.m. $15 or $12 for clowns in full make-up. 1099 Euclid Ave. Call 404-521-1786 for information.

For the insatiable observer, Somber Reptile presents Fifi's Follies, a variety showcase serving up spicy food and hot women sure to keep your mouth watering. This old-style burlesque show includes musical numbers, comedy skits, old-fashioned strip teases and more April 19 with performances by Atlanta-area dancers, comedians, jugglers, magicians, musicians and actors. Show starts at 9:30 p.m. $6. 842 Marietta St. Call 404-881-9701 for information.


Music


As part of Emory University's NextFest series, acclaimed composer and musician Philip Glass performs new arrangements in a solo piano concert April 15. The program includes Four Metamorphoses, Mad Rush and The Screens. 8:15 p.m. $25. Performing Arts Studio, Emory University, 1804 N. Decatur Road. Call 404-727-5050 for information.

The Atlanta College of Art presents an electracoustic/mulitmedia sound concert April 16 at 7 p.m. Composer and acoustic theorist Pauline Oliveros joins musicians Dick Robinson, Peer Bode and Andrew Deutsch in a concert using a "Chaos Machine," Vocoder and video tapes, Expanded Instrument System and Data Sets to create sounds ranging from ambient tones to total noise. $3-$5. Hill Auditorium, High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree St. Call 404-733-5008 for information.

Philips Arena treats you to a week of rock 'n' roll greatness beginning April 12 with a performance by the legendary soul goddess Tina Turner, accompanied by Lionel Richie and Janice Robinson. 7:30 p.m. $35-$79. For a tasty treat, check out Korn April 13 with cohorts Staind and Mindless Self Indulgence. 7:30 p.m. $29.50. Finish off the week with a bit of tongue and groove when KISS takes the stage with Ted Nugent and Skid Row April 15. 7 p.m. $47-$67. 100 Techwood Drive. Call 404-249-6400 for information.


Comedy


All of you Comedy Central junkies can get your fix April 18-19 when Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson, aka The Kids in the Hall, appear live at the Tabernacle. 8 p.m. $47.50. 152 Luckie St. Call 404-249-6400 for information.


Lecture


Former First Lady Barbara Bush speaks on life after the White House; the importance of family, faith and friends; and her plight to end illiteracy April 18 as part of the Unique Lives & Experiences lecture series. 7:30 p.m. $30-$50. Atlanta Civic Center, 395 Piedmont Ave. Call 404-817-8700 for information.

N'hood
Going Postal
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Sad song
Jimmy Ginn's dilemma hinges on one simple fact which he fails — or refuses — to grasp: there is a difference between a copyright for a musical work (a song) and for a sound recording. He bought the sound recordings, not the songs. Yes, it's that simple.

It's a shame that Jimmy didn't do a little homework before he shelled out half a mil for those master tapes, but it's clear that he is not a man who thinks things through. I mean hell, his first foray into music publishing cost him ninety grand, down the drain. What he did was, unfortunately, not smart. But that is hardly sufficient grounds for the government to hand to him something that he never bought. He got what he paid for — the tapes. It's a shame that he thought otherwise, but that does not give him legitimate claim to Mike Thevis' other assets.

Jimmy Ginn is not a victim of injustice. This story has nothing to do with "the twisted world of the Atlanta music industry." This is just the story of one man's life-long obsession and his refusal to take responsibility for his own mistake. It's a terribly sad story, not an outrage. Unfortunately, I'll bet your article gave fuel to his fire, which is perhaps the real injustice.

Michael Kates, Atlanta


Columnist errs in 'Lip' service
Lang Whitaker ( "From the Lip," CL, April, 8) was quite correct in his choice of companions and his paean to free Scotch whisky at a recent party. He was quite wrong, however, in the quote he attributed to me about the Citymag columnist Matt Towery. Since the only words I've spoken to Mr. Whitaker are "Nice to meet ya," I couldn't have uttered the insult. In fact, the words in question [He's got a voice for print and a face for radio.] have been used for years by Frederick Allen, the brilliant author, to describe CL's own Tom Houck. And they were used that evening to describe that same force of nature. Your columnist, unfortunately, assumed the wrong target for those remarks when they were relayed to him second- or third-hand. For my money, Mr. Allen is correct about my irrepressible friend, Mr. Houck. As for Mr. Towery, he actually has a face for print and a voice for politics.

Mr. Whitaker is allowed the last laugh, though. I paid for my cocktails, unaware that the Scotch whisky was free.

Dick Williams of "The Georgia Gang"


Rotten Tom
Tom Houck asserts ("The Rotten Apple," CL, April 1) that New York's anti-crime policies of hiring more undercover police need not be imitated by Atlanta because Atlanta has reduced crime just as successfully with less police brutality. Houck's article is based on three incorrect assumptions.

1: "Atlanta's crime rate ... has been dramatically reduced in almost all categories, certainly paralleling what we have witnessed in NYC."

In fact, New York's murder rate declined by over 2/3 from 1991 and 1998 (from 29 per 100,000 residents to 9 per 100,000) while Atlanta's declined by only 30 percent (from 50 per 100,000 to 35), about the same rate as the national decline.

2: Atlantans' concerns over crime are "just small-time gripes". In fact, Atlanta's murder rate is, as noted above, more than three times as high as New York City. Even muggings are more frequent in Atlanta: 1170 per 100,000 people as opposed to 540. To put it another way, if Atlanta had a murder rate as low as New York's, 107 fewer Atlantans would be murdered every year. I don't consider that a "small-time gripe."

3: New York's police are "gestapo forces". In fact, from 1995 to 1998, fatal police shootings there have declined from 30 to 19—hardly evidence of an out of control police force.

Michael Lewyn, Atlanta


Criminals with badges
Your Ted Rall cartoon "Black Americans Get Hip to Cocooning" (April 1) was brilliant. Police have almost no credibility with us Africans in America because of racist and/or trigger-happy cops. Tom Houck also wrote a brilliant article, "The Rotten Apple."

Incidentally, have you noticed that no one attends the funerals of law enforcement officers except other law officers, their families and politicians? I've noticed this for years. It speaks volumes about how the public feels about them. They can only ignore it for so long before it affects their morale.

Lewis Charles, Atlanta


Public enemies
First, I have to commend you guys for the 11th Annual Golden Sleaze Awards (CL, March 25), giving us CL readers the "legislative lowdown" on our supposed representatives. May they get the hell out of Dodge and head back to their thatched huts as soon as possible.

However, I also read with amazement the comments that the founder of Public Enemy, Chuck D., made about the arrest of Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, the accused shooter of two Fulton Co. Sheriff Deputies earlier this month (From the Lip, "Panther tracks: Public Enemy on the public enemy," CL, March 25). Everybody deserves their day in court and certainly Al-Amin, under our judicial system, does deserve to be considered innocent until proven guilty. However, the incendiary comments from Mr. D helps to worsen the racial divide that exists in this country, instead of helping those of us who struggle to try to understand the inequality that does exist in our urban areas. To wish that Al-Amin had fled to "Africa or somewhere" is not only insulting to the deputy who lost his life trying to serve a simple warrant to the alleged gunman, but Deputy Kinchen's family and rest of the law enforcement community in Metro Atlanta as well. Chuck D should have just said that he prefers lawlessness and anarchy in the streets rather than the rule of law that the rest of society expects on a daily basis. I also have to "congratulate" Lang Whitaker for taking the "gloves off" when he interviewed Chuck D. I guess you save your snide comments for "haughty" Canadian game show hosts who visit Atlanta. Rap stars who make Inflammatory, non-sensical musings get a free pass from good ol' Lang!

By the way, since Chuck D may have these noble, romantic images of Africa as a promised land, as the old saying goes, "Delta is ready" whenever he wants to go check it out. Then, Chuckie can find out first hand what its like to live in anarchy, chaos and lawlessness.

George R. Stenger, Carrollton


Bring it home
Thank you for the Billips column "Missing Atlanta" (CL, March 18)

I think the old, tired, well-paid, but very middle-aged staff of the Journal-Constitution gang just can't keep up with Atlanta. So they write about old sweet, memories — sweet homey Alabama and the great time in Old Mississippi. Now don't get me wrong, I like history but not in every other column. I tire of it. Hey, let's look at the all the new ethnic people coming into town. I think our fair city is number 12 in gateway immigration. Hispanics, Russians, Asians and a whole lot more. I see missed stories in a lot of areas, like why Atlanta is so popular with former white South Afferkans, former Serb Ph.D.s making $8 an hour working to rebuild their lives after the last war in Europe. Hispanic radio and businesses are booming in Atlanta.

The tired old AJC group has its pet projects. They love the Chattahoochee River but forget the South River or South DeKalb. So they run a story on New South cooking and ignore a bunch of great African-American restaurants. Then I read a story about goats in Boaz, Ala., — that's AJC news.

I know the price Billips will pay for penning his column, no lunch with the Geritol gang in downtown Atlanta. So Mike, call me up, I'll buy you a great bunch of tacos at a new Mexican joint and trade old Hinkelman columns. Now he could write Atlanta. Keep up the good work.

Scott Petersen, Atlanta


Kate Shuster's story about Coca-Cola implies that our streets and landfills will be clogged with plastic bottles because Coke doesn't use recycled plastic in its containers. But Shuster is confusing the terms "recycled" and "recyclable." A product may be capable of being recycled regardless of whether it contains virgin or recycled material. God knows I'm not defending Coke-certainly they should incorporate more post-consumer waste into their packaging-but if you're going to write a story slamming the company's policies, at least get your terms straight. The public has a tough enough time comprehending environmental issues as it is; don't confuse them further.

Debbie Gilbert, Cleveland

Cleveland, GA

706-219-3189 (night)

770-532-1234 (day)

N'hood
Monday night futbol
Phone Number not listed.
Website not listed.
The toilets at All-American Indoor Soccer Complex are clogged with paper towels, cigarette butts and a week-old pile of shit. The Astroturf is faded and torn. The roof leaks. And none of the water fountains or soda machines work.

But it's the best place in Atlanta to play indoor soccer.

For the past 109 Mondays, our scrappy six-man squad has been knocking it around at All-American. To make our weekly 7 p.m. games, I cut my afternoon classes short, and Evan, Andy, Ian and Adam sneak away from work early. Daniel, who was transferred to Alabama last year, drives two hours to play indoors with us each week.

We first met two years ago on an overcrowded house team — the leftover team assembled from non-roster players. After a few seasons, the six of us decided to form our own squad: "The Team Formerly Known as House." Later, we shortened it to "Formerly House," and thanks to the owner's misspelling on the schedule, we're now "Formally House."

We're anything but formal. We're a dirty, disheveled, rag-tag group of ball players without uniforms or shin guards. And tonight, we're playing the championship game against a well-groomed team from Reinhardt College. They're younger and faster than us, and they jump out to a 2-0 advantage.

"This is sloppy soccer, fellas," Andy mutters after the second goal. He's right. We're holding on to the ball too long, then desperately dumping it downfield. Nobody is making runs or opening up space. We're dogging it on defense.

And in the back of our minds, we're thinking about the past five sessions of early playoff exits. After winning every regular season game, Formally House has crumpled like wet toilet paper in the tournament. Ten minutes into tonight's match, we're showing signs of another championship choke.

Down two goals, we tense up and try too hard. Ian dribbles into a wall of defenders. Daniel forces a long pass through the midfield, which is quickly intercepted by Reinhardt. Evan jaws at the ref, who yells right back at him. On defense, I stab recklessly at the ball and get nutmegged by Reinhardt's forward.

It's Adam, our goalie, who is keeping us in the game. He turns away an upper-90 bomb, and makes a quick kick-save on the rebound. Seconds later, Reinhardt fires another far-post cannon. Adam dives and gets enough of his fingertips on the shot to deflect it off the boards. Then he springs cat-like to his feet and pounces on the ball.

On the alert, Adam heaves a long pass downfield to Andy, who is breaking along the left wing. Andy settles the ball with his chest, volleys it out of the air toward Reinhardt's goal and finds the back of the net.

It's a big goal for us, and the momentum seems to shift. Seconds later, Evan scores the equalizer on a one-touch pass from Daniel. Several bulbs have burned out on the scoreboard clock, so it's hard to distinguish between five, six and eight. But it looks like their's about 16 minutes remaining in the match.

With the score knotted at two, the game gets more physical. I chop at the ankles of a Reinhardt forward and shoulder him against the Plexiglas. He retaliates with an elbow to my chin on the next play. Ian's slide tackle stops a breakaway. Andy's shirt gets ripped as he is pulled down from behind by a Reinhardt midfielder. Play on, the ref says.

Then, with five (or six or eight) minutes left, Daniel is able to poke the ball away from a defender. The ball squirts out to Andy, who bends it past the outstretched arms of the Reinhardt keeper. We add another goal in the closing minute and hang on to win the Monday night league championship 4-2.

Afterward, the six of us sprawl out on the turf and listen to the faint hum of the scoreboard. Andy ices a swollen knee, Ian wraps his sprained ankles and Evan nurses a pulled right quadricep. Our legs are rug burned and our shins bruised. And we're already thinking about next week.

Why do we keep coming back? Why does Daniel drive two hours from Alabama for 50 minutes of soccer? Why do we return to this broken-down warehouse every Monday, when we could be digging our cleats into freshly cut outdoor fields or watching soccer on TV?

It only happens once or twice a season. Unexpectedly, in the middle of the game, the six of us find a rhythm and everything clicks. We thread together a stitchwork of wall passes and overlaps. Our one-touch passes are like pinball. Our runs off the ball are automatic. We dance downfield together in smooth synchronicity, orchestrating perfectly timed passes all the way to goal.

When it happens, it's art. The faded green carpet becomes our canvas and each pass is another brushstroke. And for a few moments, I feel closer to my teammates than any other human beings on Earth.

That's why.

You wanna play? Call All-American Indoor Soccer at 770-578-6001 for information or register online at www.aaisoccer.com.

N'hood
'Battery Park'
Phone Number not listed.
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It's pretty popular this year for critics to complain about the decline of even the "good" Thursday night shows on NBC. You know the spiel — "Friends" is repetitive and lacking any conflict (and what the hell is up with Phoebe's bangs, anyway?); "Frasier" is coasting along on slapstick instead of smarts; and "ER" is all stress and no emotion. Heck, we've written it ourselves.

But there's nothing like sitting through a half-hour of "Battery Park," with writing so juvenile it makes Teen Beat look like Granta, to make us take back all the nasty things we've ever said about the rest of the Must-See lineup. Compared to "Battery Park," "Friends" and "Frasier" are positively brilliant; hell, even "Veronica's Closet" starts to look pretty good.

"Battery Park" is the No. 2 offering in NBC's new Thursday night shows, No. 1 being Mr. Mom, er, "Daddio." It's a cop sitcom (sitcop? copcom?) set in New York with wacky, wacky cops from the Joe Bob School of Comedy Writing and Vending Machine Repair. And "Battery Park's" clearly not going for NYC realism — not one innocent person is shot, beaten or violated in the entire episode.

The only recognizable name involved, at least to us, is Elizabeth Perkins. Right now, you're probably going through the same thought process we followed: "No, not the skank in Showgirls — that's Elizabeth Berkley — and not that woman in all those awful made-for-TV movies — that's Elizabeth McGovern." No, Perkins you sorta kinda recognize from Big and He Said, She Said. She's now dropped down to Jennifer Grey-land, but at least She of the Disappearing Nose earned her TV stripes on a halfway decent show in "It's Like, You Know."

Instead, Perkins is stuck in this crud, playing a precinct captain who wants to be mayor. First, Perkins is about as convincing as a cop as she would be playing the Dalai Lama. Worse, the writers evidently wanted to eliminate any credibility she might somehow generate by making her character incredibly clueless about anything related to actual police work or what it might take to become mayor, instead just writing her as the ambitious, dumb woman.

Ridiculous characterizations and miscasting are just the beginning of "Battery Park's" problems. Notwithstanding the networks' purported intention to improve racial representation, there's exactly one black cop, and, sure enough, he's angry and feisty, just another in a long series of sitcom blacks being "so funny when they're angry." Italians are, of course, the mob, and "Battery Park" makes the extremely poor decision in that context to actually refer to "The Sopranos." Instead of making "Battery Park" seem hip, the gratuitous reference just made us want to get caught up on our "Sopranos" tapes.

"Battery Park" just doesn't do any of its parts well at all. The cops are better and, truth be told, funnier on either "NYPD Blue" or reruns of "Homicide," and the political ambition is funnier on "Spin City" and smarter on "The West Wing." "Battery Park" is all leftovers, and its only value is to make the skinny ones on "Friends" seem like comic geniuses.

N'hood
Free lunch
Phone Number not listed.
Website not listed.
People who write business plans for Internet companies obviously haven't taken the old cliché "There's no such thing as a free lunch" to heart. It's amazing the kinds of things you can get for free online — free music, free books, free information. Now it's becoming increasingly likely, and more reasonable, to even get online for free.

Free Internet service providers, or ISPs, are quickly becoming competitive. Sure, they require you to suffer the distraction of brightly colored ads shimmying in the corner of your screen. But isn't avoiding monthly service fees worth it?

Increasingly, Internet users are saying yes. Freeinternet.com, one of the top free ISPs, claims more than 1 million users. BlueLight.com added 1 million subscribers in six weeks this year. AltaVista's Free Access (altavista.com) is gobbling up customers, too. Free ISPs may not be sustainable businesses, but they certainly provide a useful service, especially if you're still in broadband limbo, waiting for BellSouth or your local cable company to finally bring fast access to your neighborhood. (Most of these services now are available in all 50 states, also making them useful to travelers).

But it's good to remember that there's a reason why clichés become clichéd: Free Internet access is no free lunch.

I decided to try out a number of the free ISPs available and had mixed results. The problems start early: My first question was how do people sign up for free ISPs unless they already have Internet access? I guess you have to call someone — or maybe write a letter, using paper and a pen — and then they'll send you a CD-ROM with the installation program on it. BlueLight.com has found one of the best solutions to this dilemma: The site, which is a joint venture of Kmart, Yahoo! and a national venture capital firm, gives away its sign-up CDs at the register at Kmart. With more than 2,000 retail locations around the country, Kmart has upwards of 30 million customers a day. That's a lot of open hands looking for something free.

Personally, I just downloaded the free ISP's software from the Internet, using my paid-for account. I started with AltaVista's service, which was slick and cute and very easy to download. It took less than three minutes to download the program and the sign-up process was, as they say in Internet parlance, intuitive. The program knew what area code I was calling from, probably based on the considerable amount of demographic information it collected from me earlier, and it guided me through the process like a well-trained Siberian husky during a snowstorm. I was online in about 10 minutes, happily surfing away with only the distraction of a day-glow advertisement bouncing around in the top corner of my screen (these ads are so forward, in fact, that they even appeared on my screen saver when I wasn't using the computer for a few minutes).

AltaVista does ask for a lot of personal information, so as to better target ads at you. Freeinternet.com, on the other hand, doesn't ask for much personal information at all — no address, no hobbies, nothing. But, it also didn't work when I tried to open the program. After I spent 10 minutes downloading the Freeinternet.com program (which is about 1.2MB), the application couldn't get me through the sign-up process and connected to the Internet. I tried at least a half-dozen times, but failed each time. The site's help page (which I accessed through AltaVista) offered no clues, beyond some bitter finger pointing at AOL for other problems users seem to have. I don't even use AOL, so that couldn't have been my problem.

I gave up pretty quickly and decided to try Juno.com, an ISP whose name I recognized from the e-mail addresses of a number of my friends. Juno offers both free and paid service; the paid service is $10 a month and presumably comes without ads.

I'm not sure how large Juno's user software is, but my computer told me it would take about 35 minutes — egad! — to download. I went to do some laundry, came back and it was still downloading. About halfway through the 35 minutes, my AltaVista connection pooped out. So much for Juno.

I spent the next 20 minutes or so trying to figure out what had happened to AltaVista. I redialed, tried an alternate number and redialed some more. Nothing. Then I did what every computer support person will tell you to do when you call them, desperately upset about some computer glitch: I restarted the computer. AltaVista worked like a charm, connecting immediately.

Finally, I gave BlueLight.com a shot. The 2.95MB download took my creepy-crawly connection 17 minutes to get through. But other than that, the program worked beautifully and I was connected through to "My Yahoo" quickly. They even had my horoscope waiting for me when I arrived (BlueLight also asked for a considerable amount of personal information.) BlueLight's ad banner was smaller than AltaVista's, though less useful (AltaVista lets you use their ad banner as a search engine, among other tools).

How are these free ISPs going to affect the traditional ISPs, like AOL, EarthLink and others? Basically, being an ISP is going to become as dull and unsexy as being a phone company. ISPs are going to have to branch out, try their hand at new games. The AOL-Time Warner merger is an obvious example, but smaller ones abound, too: EarthLink, for example, is marketing their services to businesses now, a new twist for a company that traditionally has focused on consumers. Businesses are better customers than individual consumers: Few businesses are going to be willing to put up with the unreliability and the inconvenience — however small — of a free ISP.

Also, ISPs are going to have to figure out how to carve out a space for themselves in the fast-access race. AOL now has a bunch of cable companies on its side, via its new bride, Time-Warner. MindSpring (which now is part of EarthLink) long ago formed a partnership with BellSouth to offer high-speed access using the phone company's DSL infrastructure. And keep your eyes open for even more of the same maneuverings. As we're still looking for that perfect free lunch, the ISPs are going to be tempting us with expensive appetizers and desserts.

Evelina Shmukler is a senior correspondent with dbusiness.com in Atlanta. She can be reached at eshmukler@dbusiness.com.

N'hood
Right speech
Phone Number not listed.
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This is a column about what the Buddhists call "right speech" and the mystery of the world's love.

Two weeks ago, I was at my gym when a complete stranger approached.

"Aren't you Cliff Bostock?" he asked.

I braced myself. I'm never sure what the answer will provoke. "I might be," I said.

"Well, I guess you're not, because you don't look like an [expletive]," he said, laughing.

"Um, OK," I muttered, pretty shocked by the obscenity from a stranger.

He explained that I should get a copy of a local alternative newspaper. I did and found that for the second year in a row, the editors had made an attack on me in a special issue. This one was personal, mysteriously ignorant of my actual person and, by many people's definition, obscene.

Over the next days, most of my friends expressed embarrassed concern. Some told me the remark was so far from describing me that I shouldn't let it bother me. Others told me I should sue. Others told me I should be flattered that I, a provocateur myself, am such an annoyance to the paper that they attack my person instead of my ideas. My most valued friends just supported me in my anger and hurt. They didn't try to tell me how I should feel. So right away, I began to get a lesson in what's important in friendship and love.

And, thus, the psychologist in me began immediately to look for the meaning in the experience. And the world answered.

The day after I read the newspaper item, I awoke wanting — of all things — to buy a canary. I had no idea why. When I was in Spain a few months ago, I often heard a canary warbling in the home of gypsies high on the cliffs. The sound was magical to me. Still, I dismissed this impulse to buy one. Nevertheless, the desire grew, especially after my angry interaction with the editor.

I drove to the pet store at Ansley Mall after lunch and, still clueless about my motivations, walked out of the store without buying a bird. On my way home, I suddenly remembered that it was the 18th anniversary of my last drink of alcohol. When I got home, I told my partner:

"I don't have any idea why, but I have this impulse to buy a canary. Since it's my 18th anniversary without a drink, I'm just going to buy one as a gift for myself and see what it's about." Wayne looked at me, looked at the cats and raised an eyebrow.

Later that afternoon, I bought the bird, a perky bit of warbling yellow and brown fluff. By this time, I had also decided to go to a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous — my first in at least five years. I went religiously to AA meetings for more than 10 years. I felt sheltered and loved there. Eventually, though, I drifted away, finding AA pretty irrelevant to my changing needs. I felt no enmity about this. It just seemed natural for me to discontinue meetings.

Canary in the car, I stopped at the Galano Club in Midtown and was stunned to see faces I hadn't seen in years. The room also was filled with ghosts of many friends who had died during my recovery. When the meeting began, the room became quiet. Wonderfully quiet. Soon, a man began talking about "the need for gentle speech." I suddenly became emotional.

It hit me like a bolt of lightning. That was the lesson in all of this. I am tired of hostile speech — my speech primarily, the speech of others too, the battles we have to conduct just to get through a damn day now, the fight to maintain simple integrity in a world where money and attention are what matter most and have created a kind of reflexive cynicism in all of us. And that, I realized instantly, was what the canary was about. I just wanted to hear something beautiful.

So, an hour later, I set the canary cage in my library and, almost as soon as the bird hit his perch, he began warbling — a long, gorgeous trill that caused me to throw my own head back and laugh, merging my voice with his.

The next few days were filled with coincidences, unplanned reconnections with old friends, the sound of the canary singing and the deep silence I was taught by my spiritual teacher, Mother Meera, to appreciate.

I have no idea yet how to handle hostile speech — my own taste for it and the taste of others. But I am grateful to be reminded again that I am not my anger.

N'hood
Drama queen
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I've been in a relationship with a great guy for six months. He's emotionally open, white-hot in bed and my best friend. He's the first man to love me for exactly the nut I am. The problem is me. I'm great at wooing and winning a man — especially one who's unavailable. But, when it seems like a man's going to stick around, I turn on the drama and force him out. Luckily, when my current boyfriend gets one of my out-of-control e-mails, he just laughs and thinks I have too much time on my hands. My therapist has helped me realize that the closer I get to him, the more scared I become about what I could lose. Because of this, I guess, I keep him at arm's length — I won't stay over at his place and I won't go away with him for the weekend. Can you give me some advice on how to go with the flow of being a couple and not resort to old habits of being a drama queen?

— Off Broadway

There is an alternative to opening yourself up to rejection. Unfortunately, it's opening yourself up to spending the next 40 years alone in your apartment with your 26 cats.

Getting rejected won't make your head pop off and land on your neighbor's car antenna or cause your arm-hair to spontaneously combust. It doesn't even cause bad breath. In worst-case scenarios, it rockets a rejectee into bed for a month (or six) with a vat (or 12) of Haagen-Daz and a chocolate-chocolate-almond-stained copy of Martha Stewart's new book, "Voodoo Dolls Anyone Can Make."

Only when you get down with the possibility of getting rejected can you maintain a relationship. Getting to that point is no simple thing. But, you already have a shrink helping you drag 6-year-old you out from under the bed so you can figure out what's bothering her. This is where transforming the adult drama queen begins. Once you understand your motivation, use your gift of drama to picture yourself getting dumped by your boyfriend. Yes, it will hurt — even when you're just acting it out. Yes, it will pale on the fun scale next to getting your front teeth pulled with pliers, sans novocaine. But you will survive. And once you believe that, your relationship might have a good chance of making it, too.

Here's where your boyfriend comes in: Explain to him the reasons behind your game of emotional hot potato (aka "I'm Gonna Reject You First, Sucka"), and ask that he continue to bear with you when you start carpet-bombing your relationship. With his assistance, challenge your limits and inch beyond them. If you're afraid to stay at his place past 3 a.m., set the alarm for 3:10 one night and a little later the next.

P.S. For a girl who tries to get herself rejected, you seem to have picked the wrong guy. Your boyfriend seems, well ... rejection proof. You e-mail him ... regularly ... to remind him that you're a psycho drama queen; one who might turn into a pumpkin if and when daylight strikes her in his apartment. He's still around. Frankly, my dear ... unless you suddenly reveal a collection of amputated body parts in garbage bags in your closet, he'll probably be a bit difficult to get rid of.


I met a girl I'm interested in dating. When I asked her out, she told me that she doesn't know me well enough to go out with me. The only way she will ever get to know my inner workings is to read my journals. I'm a little uncomfortable with that. Only one other person has ever read them, and she and I were in a relationship.

— The Unknown Poet

Nobody wants to know the "real" you — not even if they say so. If you don't believe me, go to the drug store. You'll notice that a sizable chunk of our country's economy is based upon covering up the "real" everyone. That's why there is maybe one small pile of journal-appropriate notebooks on the shelf, while there are at least five aisles of real-you-eradicating stuff like air fresheners, bowl fresheners and sprays, sticks and solids that make one's stinking pits smell like rotting Pine-Sol.

It's very possible that this girl is blowing you off. If she isn't, showing her bad poetry you've written at 3 a.m. — (the only kind written at 3 a.m.) — will not improve your chances. Instead, show her a little safety in numbers — a good time with you and a group of your friends who appear to find you amusing and fun, and don't seem to be under the impression that you're a danger to yourself or society.

N'hood
Glavin vs. the liberals
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Matt Glavin doesn't have the horns or pitchfork his political adversaries imagine him with, but he does have a devilish grin. And, why not? He loves what he does.

What Glavin does, as president of Atlanta's Southeastern Legal Foundation, is fight for constitutional government — and drive liberals crazy. "We are the liberal establishment's worst nightmare," he says, with only a touch of hyperbole.

In recent weeks, Glavin and his merry band of conservative lawyers have twice made national news.

On April 3, SLF said the Census Bureau should stop asking nosy questions and stick to counting noses. Blaming the tepid response to Census 2000 on a distrust of government, Glavin urged Congress to separate "the political aspects of the census" from the "head count for legislative apportionment."

On March 17, Glavin & Co. scored a big victory over Bill Clinton when the Arkansas Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct refused to delay disbarment proceedings against the president until he leaves office. Clinton now has until April 21 to respond to the complaints SLF has lodged against him.

As a lawyer, Clinton is prohibited from engaging "in dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation." Yet, by his own admission, Clinton misrepresented the truth of his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Clinton is also prohibited from engaging "in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice." Yet, a federal judge ruled Clinton did precisely that when he gave false and misleading testimony in the Paula Jones case.

The rules, violations and eventual outcome are clear. According to Glavin, Clinton "will end up without a law license, one way or the other."

With just nine months of his presidency remaining, some may ask why it's worth the bother to strip Clinton's license? The case, Glavin says, is not about Clinton, it's about protecting the judicial system for everyone else: "If you're ever in a lawsuit, you ought to be reasonably assured that the [opposing lawyer] isn't allowed to lie and obstruct justice."

Even with the April 21 deadline looming, Glavin doubts Clinton would surrender his license without a fight. Still, he says, listen to your radio late Friday afternoon. You might just learn our perjurer-in-chief has resigned the bar.

However it happens, it won't be the first time Atlanta's David has laid out Washington's Goliath.

"Taken on the Clinton White House three times," Glavin says, "Once [protecting the free speech rights of former FBI agent Gary] Aldrich. Whipped 'em. Once [opposing statistical sampling in] the census. Whipped 'em. And now with disbarment. Gonna whip 'em."

Of course, Clinton isn't the only liberal seeing red when he hears Glavin's name. In Atlanta, Glavin is best known for his crusade against the city's minority set-aside program, an effort that sends Mayor Bill Campbell into fits of — excuse the expression — white-hot rage. (The mayor, you may recall, came utterly unglued when SLF filed suit last summer, comparing the legal tussle to the "gunfight at the OK Corral" and likening SLF to the KKK. When it comes to talking ugly, John Rocker's got nothing on Bill Campbell.)

"The city of Atlanta is breaking the law," Glavin says flatly. Setting aside 34 percent of city contracts for minority-owned firms violates the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 14th Amendment's "equal protection" clause.

"The city is going to lose this case," he says, noting that "there is not a race preference program anywhere in America that has survived a court challenge since 1989."

Instead, Glavin says, "We should have programs that are race-neutral that provide opportunities for local businesses, for small businesses, for disadvantaged businesses." Considerations of business size and location should replace race.

This approach has worked well in Detroit, where minority participation in city contracts is roughly the same as it was in 1993, when the courts threw out a race-based program. Thus far, Campbell has refused to consider the Detroit model.

"This mayor has decided he would rather see this city go the route of Richmond, Va., where today they only have 2 percent minority participation," Glavin says, "That's flat-out wrong."

If Glavin and SLF have anything to say about it — and they do — Atlanta will follow Detroit, maintaining minority participation while respecting the law. And that's good news for all of us, black and white.

N'hood
Puncturing the 'liberal media' myth
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Truth betold, many of those who report or critique the news indeed tend to be more politically progressive than the population as a whole. (I guess liberals look better on the tube. Or maybe they're better reporters). Even so, it is a gross mischaracterization on the part of right-wing zealots to constantly weep and cry about the "liberal media." The messengers may have a more liberal bent, but the folks who dole out the paychecks — and, in many instances, call the shots on what makes the news — are anything but "liberal."

I'm tired of hearing about the supposed liberal domination of media. Just for fun, I decided to toss out a few names in local TV and try to apply a label to them. Remember, these observations are how I perceive the anchor/reporter or electronic news manager; you may agree or disagree (and I'll surely hear from those who think I've categorized them unfairly).

Although blood and guts still top Atlanta newscasts, the individuals you see every day reporting the news, weather or sports can be categorized politically. But I've never seen any attempt to break them down ideologically; this may be a first. Clip and save.

So let's get specific and examine mainstream local TV, leaving aside the loony local right-wing AM radio and print media.

Let's start with WSB-TV Channel 2, which usually tops the news ratings. Monica Kaufman may be neutral to most focus groups and viewers but, deep down inside, she's a liberal. Her co-anchor, John Pruitt, leans toward moderate, but he probably votes Republican. Bill Nigut is an arrogant liberal — he ticks off the left as much as the right. Investigative reporters Mark Winne and Richard Belcher are definitely on the right, as is sports anchor Chuck Dowdle. Weatherman David Chandley can be put in the liberal column. Andy Fisher, exec VP for Cox Television (which owns Channel 2) is probably a Democrat, while station GM Greg Stone thrusts his finger into the wind before leaping either way.

At WXIA-TV Channel 11, what you see is what you get in Wes Sarginson. He often looks angry, and is in my view the most conservative of Atlanta's anchors. On the other hand, Brenda Wood and Paul Ossmann are either in the center or drift to the left. Reporters Kevin Rosen and Paul Crowley are more right than left. The VP and GM Bob Walker looks and acts like a Republican, while news director Dave Roberts appears at times to be more sympathetic to the needs of those left out and left behind

Over at super-conservative Rupert Murdoch's WAGA-TV Fox 5, general manager Gene McHugh leans very much to the right, but news director Budd McAntee has, much to his credit, assembled a very diverse crew to report the news. Multilingual anchor Russ Spencer probably is a liberal. Sports anchor Jeff Hullinger is a sane voice of liberalism that's counterbalanced by his sports colleague Ken Rodrigues, who would fit well in Miami's Little Havana.

WGNX-TV Channel 46 is still in the midst of a remake, but Meredith Broadcasting, the new owner of the station, is regarded as a fair-minded and respected media corporation based in Des Moines, Iowa. So to the right-wingers they're probably considered lefties. News director Mike Cavender and VP Allen Shaklan seem, at this point, to be rather progressive.

I'll have to leave a lot unsaid, or save it for another column. I haven't touched on the supposedly liberal Atlanta newspapers, where the myth of liberalism reigns supreme. But when you think "liberal media" in Atlanta, let me remind you of the influential right-wing voices who play a daily role in our city's life: broadcasters Neal Boortz, Kim Peterson and Skip Caray, columnist Furman Bisher and Atlanta Business Chronicle publisher Ed Baker. And don't forget the suburban rags delivered free of charge under the guise of neighborhood newspapers.

Liberal media? Perhaps there are a few reporters and anchors that are smart enough to circumvent the decidedly conservative management of most media outlets in this city. But, by and large, Atlanta is a conservative media town.

Houckline: Call, 404-614-1886; e-mail, thouck@mindspring.com

N'hood
Forces of nature
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The weird week that was last week here in Atlanta came crashing to an end Saturday, April 8, in Piedmont Park at the Dogwood Festival, when a 60-foot-tall tree snapped, crushing three festival tents and a golf cart.

Like most of the crowd at the festival Saturday, I was bundled against the cold and had my back turned when I heard a series of pops that sounded like firecrackers. I spun and saw the enormous tree on the ground, its limbs and leaves trembling. Though my journalistic instincts told me to run to the accident and get the stories of those trapped under the tree, my human instincts told me to pray and stay out of the way while the medical staff did their thing. Thankfully, aside from a few broken bones, there turned out to be no serious injuries.

Providing a counterpoint to those chilling events was FunkJazzKafe, which went down Saturday night at the Tabernacle. Once again, local promoter Jason Orr managed to create an inclusive, eclectic atmosphere — reflective of the diversity that is Atlanta. Though the event was not as jam-packed as usual, having less people actually made for a more intimate affair: It was easier to mingle, meet and prattle.

The surprises of the evening were performances by soul diva Erykah Badu and rapper Common. Though Common's appearance was basically just that — a quick appearance — Badu showcased an extended set of tunes from her forthcoming record. With her hair hanging down to her shoulders, instead of hiding in her usual mile-high hair wrap, Badu appeared confident and assured. Probably because there were no 60-foot-tall trees around.

Chop Notes: Seriously though, it did remain clear enough for the Atlanta Braves to get it on at Turner Field all week. A few random notes from Opening Day Y2K: We can all rest peacefully now that Turner Beach is finally open for business. There's nothing like modern-day baseball. ... Nineteen-year-old rookie infielder Rafael Furcal makes me feel old. The Dominican speedster is going to be incredible, maybe sooner than later. ... Even though I was at the Braves classic game six against the Mets in last year's playoffs, the loudest ovation I've ever heard in Turner Field came when Andres Galarraga hit the game-winning home run against the Colorado Rockies, capping his return from his bout with cancer. The smile on Cat's face as he emerged from the dugout for his curtain call was worth every penny of my ticket price.

Adios, mi amigo: Atlanta's Hispanic business community is reeling from the loss of Dayton Hedges, who died last Monday after a Cessna he was piloting crashed shortly after take-off. The Hedges Construction Co. is one of the nation's largest minority-owned contracting firms. A former board member of the Atlanta Hipanic Chamber of Commerce, Hedges was responsible for helping Atlanta secure the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce national convention, to be held here September 2001. Mayoral candidate Robb Pitts and former board chairwoman Anna Cablik were among those mourning the loss at a moving funeral service last Thursday in Peachtree City. Hedges was 35.

This and That: Mike Malloy, the former Atlanta radio host who most recently was on air in Chicago at WLS-AM, mentioned during his last Chi-town broadcast that he was planning on coming to Atlanta to campaign for a slot on air at WCNN, which is converting to an African-American-based talk format. ... Former LaFace Records executive Daryl Simmons wed the former Ms. Fitness America, Cindy Ludy, last Saturday at the couple's Alpharetta home. ... The former Hedgerose in Buckhead has been transformed into Aria by We're Cookin' Inc., owners of Canoe and Fishbone Piranha Bar. The transformation was overseen by the Johnson Studio, led by popular local architect Bill Johnson. ... Word is that the Domus International furniture store on Piedmont is going to add a coffee bar to help attract a hipper, younger audience. ... The Atlantis Music Conference has extended its deadline for urban music acts interested in being a part of Atlantis 2000. The new final deadline is April 30. For more information, call the Atlantis office at 770-499-8600, or visit www.atlantismusic.com. ... I'm out.

What's up, Atlanta? Let me know what you want to read and hear about. Hit me up at 404-688-5623, fax me at 404-420-1402, or e-mail me at lang@creativeloafing.com.

N'hood
Talk of the Town
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N'hood
Who's watching you?
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In Kelly White's case, it was a February phone call from a local Office Depot in Chamblee. "They said, 'You left your receipt for your computer purchase here. Since it's a such large purchase, we thought you'd like to come pick it up.'" she recalls. After an initial thrill ("What a nice Valentine's Day surprise!") Kelly and her husband quickly disabused each other of any notion that either had purchased a computer.

Instead, the Whites (who, perhaps understandably, wish not to use their real names) had joined the legions of Americans victimized by someone (in their case, someone still unknown) who'd gotten ahold of enough of their personal information to manufacture a phony Georgia driver's license and a stack of bogus checks.

"Essentially, whoever stole my information — my husband's name, our address, my Social Security number — had also gotten my checking account number. And whoever bought that information apparently created checks from the same sort of templates you would buy at Office Depot."

Over the next couple of weeks, more of the checks surfaced: a cell phone, clothing, almost $1,000 worth of jewelry — somewhere in the neighborhood of $4,000 in worthless paper, all of which had to be explained away. Kelly estimates she spent at least a week's worth of time canceling and creating checking accounts, filing police reports and making countless calls to check-verification services and merchants.

The White's case is a straightforward — and relatively minor — example of what's commonly known as "identity theft." But, in a larger sense, it also exemplifies just one facet (albeit a particularly nasty one) of information-age reality at the dawn of the 21st century.

The Internet-fueled growth of global information as a hot new market has already spurred fairly stringent regulation in some countries (notably, the European Union, which has implemented tough laws guarding an individual's personal data) and, to a lesser extent, here in the U.S. In Georgia, where laws guarding access to private information are virtually nonexistent, privacy advocates are expressing concerns over the easy availability of such information and the potential for its abuse.

Each day, it seems, new accounts emerge detailing the horrors of abused, misused or erroneously disclosed information. Whether it's telemarketers buying personal information from data-miners, "opposition researchers" combing the backgrounds and personal histories of political foes, law enforcement officials and licensed investigators ferreting out reams of purportedly "restricted" information, amateur investigators availing themselves of equally available black-market data, computer-savvy identity thieves, credit card crooks and hi-tech con artists, the ultimate conclusion is the same: The details of your life — financial, personal, educational and maybe even sexual — are an open book.

Many of us have already begun to take some common-sense precautions. We only use "secure" sites to buy stuff online with our credit cards; we stand real close to the phone and guard against prying eyes when we use our calling cards; maybe we even remember to tear up all those pre-printed credit applications that come in the mail. Then there's the Census, which a vocal segment of newly minted privacy mavens assures us is really just a way for the feds to snoop into things that don't concern 'em.

But in general, we're so accustomed to the idea of Big Brother and Big Business looking down our collars, through our wallets and underneath our bedclothes that few Americans over the age of 14 really think their own affairs are truly safe from prying eyes. Even so, the amount and depth of personal detail available to pretty much anyone with a little time — or a little cash — is truly extraordinary.

And despite increasingly vocal cautionary calls, it may already be too late to do anything but try to slow the flood of new data into an already swollen sea.

"In a sense, it is too late," says Gerald Weber, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. "The fact that government is constantly gathering information, as well as all these private companies, and they're all sharing databases and selling information ... there's very little left that one can call 'private.' I don't believe most citizens realize just how open it is. I don't even fully realize it, and I deal with this stuff every day."

Inarguably, the 800-pound gorilla of the information trade is government. From birth certificate to death certificate, our lives are tracked and traced at every level of officialdom. While the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration are by far the most pervasive and constant presences in every American's life, the list of supplementary data — school records, vaccinations, property deeds, juvenile and adult criminal records, driving license information and records, auto registration, gun permits — you name it, Uncle Sam (or any of his myriad nephews and nieces) have it. [page]

The most vital bit of federally mandated information for American citizens is the Social Security number. Although legally required only for purposes of reporting wages and obtaining benefits, the SSN has become the most ubiquitous identifier for a broad range of transactions, from opening a bank or credit account to buying a car to — in some cases — simply cashing a check. Thus, it is also the most widely sought bit of information for crooks and identity thieves.

Until recently, the main protection between Joe Citizen and the prying of eyes the world rested, at the federal level, with the Privacy Act of 1974. Essentially, the Act requires that all government agencies — federal, state and local — that request SSNs provide a "disclosure" statement on the form explaining whether the number is required or optional, how it will be used, and under what legal authority it is requested. It also decrees that government benefits or services may not be denied to someone who refuses to disclose the number, unless it's required by federal law.

Although many private businesses may request Social Security numbers, there is no legal mandate to provide them. On the other hand, such businesses may decline to serve individuals who choose not to disclose their numbers; the choice is up to you whether to take the risk, since there is little to prevent private companies from doing whatever they'd like with information they've been willingly provided.

And governments themselves are often in the data-selling business. In Georgia, for instance, the Secretary of State's office routinely sells lists of names and mailing addresses of individuals licensed by its examining boards, which oversee 43 professions from architects to wastewater treatment operators.

"For instance, somebody publishing a catalog of barbers' supplies might want a mailing list of all the barbers in Georgia," explains Secretary of State press secretary Chris Riggall. "It's pretty simple: name, address, business name. That's about it."

But sales of more detailed information, such as that contained in drivers license applications — which includes birth dates, addresses and, often, Social Security numbers — is more problematic. In 1994 Congress stepped in with the Drivers Protection Act, which aimed to end the practice many states have of selling drivers' information to private concerns. A wide variety of companies compile and retain massive databases for use by insurers, private investigators, bounty hunters and law enforcement; others sell lists to merchants, telemarketers and direct-mail operations. Such sales are highly lucrative, and South Carolina challenged the law, but the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in a January decision.

There are indications that Washington is focusing new attention on governmental information-gathering, and possible abuses. On April 6, a House subcommittee convened hearings on Internet privacy, specifically as it relates to governmental information gathering.

"Federal agencies — from the Securities and Exchange Commission to the Department of Justice — have recently shown a disturbing tendency to apply a vacuum-cleaner surveillance approach to the Internet, sucking in all kinds of irrelevant data, then isolating, storing and manipulating items of interest" said Georgia's 7th District Rep. Bob Barr, who sits on the subcommittee. "This approach rejects time-honored principles, enshrined in law, that have done a remarkably good job of balancing privacy and law enforcement."

Barr warned that unless Congress formulates "guidance for, and limitations on, government monitoring on the Internet, personal privacy will be an early casualty of this new century."

Among the potential abuses Barr fears: the release of information such as IRS tax data to third parties; an increasing tendency of governmental bodies to demand private or financial data without any legal authorization, such as a warrant or court order; and similar demands upon private institutions, such as the Bank Secrecy Act, which requires financial institutions to inform the Justice Department of any large cash transactions or even when relatively small sums are transferred out of the country. (After a national outcry, far more intrusive "Know your customer" regulations — which would have required banks to alert the feds anytime an "unusual" transaction took place, were rescinded.)

Barr and like-minded colleagues also share the concerns of Internet privacy advocates that a major push by the FBI to be allowed "master keys" to any new encryption software portends a new era of unlimited, warrantless invasions into private and corporate computer files.

But, even as federal and state governments have begun to craft legislation aimed at limiting government snooping, other avenues are opening for private information-seekers. A key example is the Banking Services Reform Act passed last year, which scrapped Depression-era laws prohibiting banks from merging with related businesses, such as insurers and stock brokerages. The law further allows such multi-service companies to freely share such information internally (i.e., a health insurer affiliated with a bank is free to inspect a bank client's records), and even allows them to sell such information to non-affiliated third parties — data miners, etc. — unless the client specifically requests otherwise, or "opts out." (Barr was among those voting in support of the bill, which passed overwhelmingly in both houses.) [page]

At the state level, control of information varies widely. In some states, lawmakers have clamped down on access to government records' availability to the press and public, although they often leave large loopholes for corporate data-miners.

In Georgia, the push seems to be in the other direction. Gov. Roy Barnes last year pushed through a law laying down a three-day deadline for compliance with Open Records requests and codifying sanctions for government officials who willfully disobey.

Even so, there's still uneasiness with the availability of some records. Last year, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution began demanding entire databases containing the employment records for several state agencies, the entire Department of Transportation drivers license records (which were denied under the federal Drivers Privacy Act), and the licensing records for the Secretary of State's examining boards. Particularly troubling to some state bureaucrats were demands for the birthdates and Social Security numbers on those records.

A September, 1999, internal memo from a Secretary of State staffer asserts that the AJC "is building a huge database of citizens' names addressees, and all available personal information (including Social Security numbers and dates of birth) by collecting the files maintained by several state agencies. (Dept. of Education, teachers' certification and school employees, all holders of drivers licenses in the state, all clerks' court records, all databases maintained by the Department of Human Resources ... ) They may be containing other databases as well, these are the ones they admit to."

Earlier that year, staffers in the Department of Education were similarly alarmed, and a lengthy back-and-forth exchange of e-mails finally resulted in a frosty missive from DOE legal director Melanie Stockwell to the AJC's computer-assisted reporting editor, David Milliron, stating "we will not release the Social Security numbers of certified personnel to you or to anybody."

The AJC backed off the request, accepting records from which the identifier had been expunged. But, according to Georgia Deputy Attorney General Daryl Robinson, only the records from the examining boards are actually protected, due to a provision in the particular law establishing such boards. If the DOE or agencies decide to divulge such information, they are well within the scope of current statutes.

"Currently, there's very little in state law dealing with open records [restrictions]," says Robinson, who says case law on such disclosures is virtually nonexistent. Although the Open Records law specifically exempts medical and personnel records — which will nearly always include Social Security numbers — other places where such information may appear are wide open.

"If you've got some licensing agency that maintains Social Security numbers as part of their records, that number may well be public ... " he says. "There's not any 'bright-line' litmus test as to what's covered; it's been on a case-by-case basis so far ... I suspect there are cases where people would be surprised to know how much of their information is open to the public."

As it turns out, the AJC's intentions are less Orwellian than they may have appeared. Although the newspaper's computer man, Milliron, declined to go on-record concerning his extensive mining of other people's records, it turns out that the databases had been sought as part of what has become standard computer-assisted reporting: Acquiring such databases, then cross-referencing them with Corrections Department data to see who's been convicted of crimes. (AJC readers may recall a series last year detailing teachers who had legal problem in their past, some of the fruits of that data-mining operation.)

Paul Overberg, database editor for USA Today, says access to such records by the press is vital.

"One of the things that's problematic for journalists is that the records are still open to all sorts of commercial purposes," he says. He views the Supreme Court decision placing drivers' records off-limits as just one of many shifts away from an open society. And it worries him.

"The trouble is, journalists can't get at those files because of that law. Bad guys can get at it, private investigators can get at it, marketers can suck those files out ... but journalists can't do good stuff with it."

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, an organization that tracks legislation as well as legal challenges involving the media, maintains a website containing an extensive file of laws and legal challenges to the media that is updated daily. A visit there reveals a tug-of-war between information seekers and various state legislatures — particularly those in Texas and California — which increasingly throw up barriers to public access. [page]

Early this month, a controversial 4-3 decision by the Georgia Supreme Court threw out a woman's drunken driving conviction, which was based on a blood test she'd undergone for medical reasons following a traffic accident. The decision seems to indicate that the state's highest court is also concerned with the ability of outside parties — even, in this case, law enforcement — invading areas that many believe should remain private.

In Georgia, the media — and the public — has so far remained relatively unshackled, particularly since the passage of last year's more expansive Open Records law and the Barnes administration's active defense of it.

And that's the way it should be, says attorney Hollie Manheimer, director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. "But I expect [more regulation] will be coming," she says. Manheimer hopes that any new restrictions will apply to such areas as the private selling of public information. As for computer data mining and the availability of online information, she doesn't see any particular boundaries in place, and doesn't think any are needed.

"I like to say the law always follows technology, so I'm not sure we really have a line yet; I certainly don't think we should treat electronic data any different than our hard copies. So the safeguards are in place; there should be no new exceptions."

While acknowledging that the ready availability of information can be troublesome, the alternative, she says, is worse.

"It's the same question that always comes up in any medium: the right of the individual to privacy versus the right of society to know," says Manheimer. "I remain firm in my belief that, in the end, to have a free and democratic community, the public's right to know has to outweigh some very good and important interests in privacy."

But journalists seeking out juicy stories are not the main concern of privacy buffs. Far more worrisome is the sale and exchange of personal data for commercial — or criminal — purposes. In addition to quandaries spawned by the legal sale of medical information to insurers and financial information to credit card vendors and employers, there are quasi-legal and black-market operations that have produced a whole new breed of Information Age highwaymen.

A coalition of credit-reporting and data-reselling agencies known as the Individual Reference Services Group has formulated a set of principles governing the collection of and access to their databanks. Among them are provisions restricting sales to authorized individuals or companies that sign contracts limiting the use of the data, mandating a review of subscriber bona fides, and establishing processes for individuals to correct erroneous data.

Peggy Eisenhauer, a local attorney who represents several IRSG member organizations, says there are both perceived and real conflicts at play.

"The Internet has made information very accessible. There are benefits associated with it, and costs as well ... " she says. "We need to make sure that people understand the value of information." For example, she cites the information restrictions in Europe as the reason there's no such thing as instant credit there. "You can't go into a store at six o'clock at night and open a line of credit," she says. "We have the ability to make those decisions instantly ... I don't want to downplay the risks of information, but you have to view them in proportion to the benefits."

Like Manheimer, she approves of the current regulations that impact her area of interest, and hopes lawmakers will guard against knee-jerk regulation.

"I'm very comfortable with the legislation that exists in preventing real harm," says Eisenhauer. "I am very uncomfortable with legislative attempts to address what I call 'yuch' harm. I mean, I don't like junk mail, for instance, but it's not a matter for legislation."

And many times, consumer awareness may be the most efficient regulator. One of the largest information services, Lexis-Nexis, was forced to kill a locator program that offered easy access to a person's most recent addresses, maiden names and Social Security numbers after a wave of protests. Not only could the information be easily abused by identity thieves, said critics, but stalkers and abusive husbands could easily track down targets attempting to preserve their safety.

But the proliferation of black-market data-miners is frightening. A recent e-mail to CL offered for sale a CD enabling a purchaser to "find out anything about anybody" by offering access to birth records, Social Security numbers, credit information, addresses, phone numbers, employment data — all for $10.

Some sources offer even more, and are decidedly more sinister. Consider How to Get Anything on Anybody: Book II, a manual including instruction on how to "dig out unlisted phone numbers, bypass computer passwords and assemble a complete dossier on anyone from the comfort of your own home." The cover art: A young woman with a rifle scope's cross-hair pattern over her face. [page]

A veteran FBI agent now employed by one of Atlanta's larger private detective firms (who, mindful of his professional interests, asks that his name and that of his company be withheld), frequently utilizes some of the scores of private information services available. He notes that the amount of information available through such legitimate, legal means is astounding — never mind the hundreds more websites that offer blatantly proscribed information, including credit card numbers, home addresses and Social Security numbers to anyone who'll pay a fee.

"There's a tremendous amount of data out there," he says. "They try to control it but, with all the data collection agencies out there, particularly with the Internet, there are groups and companies that know everything in the world about you. Let's face it: The state sells information to these companies, the credit card companies sell it to these companies — they might call it 'marketing' — even your health providers probably sell information."

The ACLU, which has taken a leading role both in efforts to curtail the intrusiveness of government as well as to keep public records open, finds itself in something of a bind.

"It's a struggle for the ACLU," says Weber, "because it deals with two conflicting issues. One is public information, which we feel belongs to the public, and should be available to everyone. At the same time, the government is gathering so much information on citizens that is — or should be — private, that if the citizens found out how much of that information is being sold to the highest bidder, they'd be outraged."

And, despite the best efforts of alert citizens and well-meaning lawmakers, society may well have to learn to live with the reality of having virtually all of its affairs subject to the scrutiny of anyone with the desire — and, maybe, the money — to take a look. The flood of data collected, bought and often willingly supplied by consumers, is just too torrential and profitable, it seems, to be impacted by a patchwork of regulation and a too-trusting public.

"Pandora's Box is already open," says Weber. "We can push it shut a little, but it will never be closed again."

N'hood
A grounded view of Atlanta
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Chalk up another golden reputation award for the city to busy to breathe.

"Atlanta is on everybody's short list as one of the places that has made some of the most unfortunate decisions as far as sprawl is concerned," Earth Day founder Denis Hayes says, when asked his impression of the city prior to Thursday's visit here. "It certainly says that without intelligent, smart-growth planning you can pretty much replicate Houston everywhere."

Ouch.

Perhaps, it's appropriate that Hayes, the lead organizer of Earth Day 2000, is dropping in on the driving capital of North America just before the big event, which falls on a Saturday. After all, the theme this year is clean energy - something Atlanta could use a dose of as it heads into yet another summer of ozone smog, asthma attacks and congested highways.

That single theme is a departure from the first Earth Day in 1970 and from the 20th anniversary celebration in 1990, both of which signaled a broad-based concern about the environment and featured events covering every conceivable tree-hugging issue.

This year in Atlanta, Earth Day events organized by the environmental community will be highlighted by voluntary activities Saturday morning all over the city organized by Hands On Atlanta and an Earth Day Unplugged festival Saturday afternoon in Piedmont Park that will focus on clean energy and energy conservation. Some businesses are organizing their own Earth Day events, as are area colleges.

Hayes says the universal energy theme, together with the grassroots organizing advantages of the Internet, will give this year's event a stronger presence in places like China and Africa. At the same time, he notes that Earth Day this year must compete for attention with Easter. And today's top environmental challenges, which involve global problems like overpopulation, widespread extinctions and the greenhouse effect, don't motivate Americans as easily as the leaking landfill or smelly smokestack on the edge of the neighborhood.

"We're now moving into issues that are much broader in their concern, and they're more difficult to relate to," he says.

On that score, however, Atlanta may be able to show a little leadership: Solutions to the region's air-quality problems are bound to be tied to conservation and clean energy, which environmentalists in turn tout as the most logical steps to reverse global warming brought about by the greenhouse effect.

Then, of course, there's the good news that Hayes sees as he looks from the outside at Atlanta. It's a city with a track record of success when it comes to grappling with difficult social issues; witness the civil rights movement.

"Atlanta," he notes hopefully, "is known for bold, dynamic leadership."

Dennis Hayes will make two public appearances Thursday, April 21, at Georgia Tech ... and will speak to the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Thursday

N'hood
Clean living in the dirty city
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Imagine finding a way to save all the energy and cut most of the pollution that comes from 10,000 cars each year. Imagine if the program cost absolutely nothing to either private enterprise or taxpayers. Imagine if it didn't require any new regulations or government mandates.

To good to be true?

Now consider that a program with the potential to achieve all that is being put in place right now by the most unlikely gang of environmentalists: homebuilders.

"Construction techniques have been handed down from generation to generation for years. So I think innovation has been a little bit foreign to us," concedes Pam Sessions, president of Hedgewood Properties Inc. and the driving force behind a homebuilding certification program called the Earth Craft House.

The idea of Earth Craft is to adapt to Atlanta's massive homebuilding industry the "smart building" principles that have taken hold over the last decade in the environmental and engineering communities.

Is this another of those high-profile, low-impact campaigns hatched by an industry that has a PR problem when it comes to the environment? Apparently not. Of course, the proof ultimately will be in the energy savings. But Earth Craft certainly seems motivated by sincere, even passionate, intentions.

"If it weren't a real program, if it were just greenwashing, it would do a lot of harm to our industry," says Sessions, who's been a homebuilder for 15 years. "We have quite a number of crises right now [in Atlanta's environment]. Homebuilding has a huge impact environmentally, so we're doing our share to make that impact positive."

Sessions isn't just any homebuilder. She's slated to be named president of the Greater Atlanta Homebuilders Association in October. And she's committed her company, which builds 400 houses a year from the Morningside neighborhood up the 400 corridor to Cumming, to construct only Earth Craft homes from now on.

Just a couple of years ago, that would seem a radical concept. Maybe, it still is. But Sessions' path was cleared indirectly by another business-leader-turned-passionate-environmentalist. Five years ago, Interface Inc. chairman Ray Anderson became an apostle of an environmental philosophy and organization called the Natural Step, which preaches that businesses should practice "systems thinking," focus on the causes and effects of their practices, and operate in harmony with the Earth's cyclical processes. Sessions found in Anderson's philosophy some answers to her own concerns about the environment and how she could have a positive impact on it.

"I don't think I even realized how much possibility there was to do things in a better way until then," Sessions says.

Her epiphany led her to Dennis Creech of the Southface Energy Institute, an nonprofit environmental organization that consults for businesses, utilities and government agencies on eco-friendly building techniques.

"There is a revolution going on in taking a systems approach to building," says Creech, who contrasts that with the idealistic days when young engineers would slap solar panels on a rooftop and declare the building environmentally friendly.

The two organizations — the homebuilders and Southface — and the two individuals — Sessions and Creech — worked together to develop a certification program for builders to be able to claim that their homes would be healthier for the environment, as well as for the people who live there. Its features run from siting, construction and tree-preservation techniques, to using non-toxic and energy-efficient materials. It's billed as "a blueprint for healthy, comfortable, affordable homes that cut energy and water bills and protect the environment."

But both Sessions and Creech say the most hopeful sign for the program is that it works financially. One reason is that a $3,000 boost in the house's cost can be offset by a federal "green mortgage" program, which helps homebuyers by reducing the required down payment on certified homes. While monthly mortgage payments may then be higher, they're theoretically canceled out by lower energy bills. Plus, of course, the higher quality house has a higher resale value.

Sessions says the company's projections have more than panned out in the first Earth Craft home to be occupied: The owner is reporting utility bills below half those of his previous home, which was 30 percent smaller. Using more conservative projections, Creech and Sessions figured that building all Atlanta homes using the full slate of Earth Craft housing techniques would result in a reduction of certain air pollutants equivalent to taking 10,000 cars off the road.

For more on the Earth Craft House, see www.southface.org.

N'hood
Earth Day in metro Atlanta
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Local organizations, businesses and governments are sponsoring activities all week leading up to the 30th annual celebration of Earth Day. Here's a roundup of the central "Down to Earth Day" activities on Saturday, April 22, which will include volunteer projects around Atlanta in the morning and a festival at Piedmont Park in the afternoon. For information on additional activities of the week, click to www.efg.org.


Green Day: Hands On Atlanta's Earth Day Volunteer Projects

9 a.m.-12 p.m. Throughout metro area.

More than 20 volunteer projects designed to honor Georgia's environment and to encourage public involvement. Individuals or teams can sign up to plant flowers, mulch and prune city trees, construct and maintain trails, stencil storm drains and clean up streams and parks. To register, call Hands On Atlanta at 404-872-2252 or sign-up online at www.handsonatlanta.org.


Earth Day 2000: Unplugged

Noon-3 p.m. Tennis center parking lot, Piedmont Park

Shifting Gears: Transportation Alternatives for Sustainable Communities

"I Can't Get There From Here: A Look at Public, Pedestrian and Rail Transit in Georgia." Noon. Presented by Alan Yorker, President of the Georgia Association of Rail Road Passengers.

"Sprawling All Over You: Smart Growth for Our Communities." 1 p.m. Presented by Bryan Hager, director, Georgia Sierra Club Challenge to Sprawl Campaign.

"Kids Bicycle Workshop: Getting Around in an Earth Friendly Way." 2 p.m. Presented by Dennis Hoffarth of the Atlanta Bicycle Campaign.

Zapping Your Energy: Reducing Energy Use at Your Home and Business

"Improving the Earth and the Bottom Line: Businesses Daring to Be Different." 12 p.m. Presented by Jennifer DuBose, Interface Research.

"Sunsations for Kids: How to Build Solar Ovens." 1 p.m. Presented by Gretchen Gigley, Southface Energy Institute.

"From Your Socket to Your Pocket: Saving Energy in Your Home." 2 p.m. Presented by Susie Spivey, technical assistant, Southface Energy Institute.

Positive Energy: New Energy for a New Era

"Energy Currents: A Play by the Campaign for a Prosperous Georgia." 12 p.m. Presented by area high school students and Campaign for a Prosperous Georgia.

"Living Off the Grid: A Sustainable Dwelling." 1 p.m. Presented by Randall White, President Georgia ForestWatch.

"Death by Degrees: The Emerging Health Crisis of Climate Change in Georgia." 2 p.m. Presented by Ed Arnold, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Atlanta


Earth Day 2000 Party in the Park

8 p.m.-1 p.m. Magnolia Hall, Piedmont Park

Music by the Nonessentials. Silent auction. Guest speakers. Sponsored by the Environmental Fund for Georgia and Bank of America. $15/person; $25/couple.

N'hood
Three energy-saving tips for your house
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We asked metro Atlanta's top advocate for energy efficiency what the average homeowner should do to save energy. His first answer: "Seal your ducts. Seal your ducts. Seal your ducts."

Southface Energy Institute's Dennis Creech is a gear-head among tree-huggers. His mission: Spread the gospel of clean energy and conservation to builders and utilities. With concerns heightening about Atlanta's dirty air, it's a gospel that's finally being heard.

Here, then, with the caution that the first of these tasks is by far the most important, are three easy tips toward saving money, energy and the environment:

* Seal your ducts: Leaky ducts account for up to 30 percent of heating and cooling costs — hundreds of dollars in the average home. But contractors often fail to seal ducts properly, and inspectors seldom enforce that portion of the building code. First, inspect for leaks; then, seal with a thick paste called mastic.

* Install five compact-fluorescent light bulbs: Standard incandescent bulbs waste most of their energy on heat, which has the doubly wasteful effect of increasing air-conditioning costs. Compact fluorescents are initially pricey but save tremendously over the long haul because they save energy and last longer. Pick five sockets that you use frequently, and that can handle the weight and shape of a compact fluorescent.

* Seal air leaks: Standard insulation has its place but doesn't prevent air from seeping from the home. The trick here is to find holes, cracks and other fissures, particularly in the ceiling and the floor. Caulk, spray foam and rigid foam boards are among the materials that can slow the outflow. Savings can run around $50 a month.

For free how-to sheets, go to www.southface.org or call 404-872-3549.

N'hood
All burned up over Southern Co.
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Georgia Power's parent company is yet again taking heat over its dirty-coal power plants.

Environmentalists have for years blasted the Southern Co. for extending the life of older power plants, including several near metro Atlanta, that generate more sulfur dioxide and other pollutants than would newer plants. The old plants emit more pollution than generally is allowed under the federal Clean Air Act, but a grandfather clause placed in the legislation at the behest of utility lobbyists allows the plants to continue operating.

Now, an environmental group is complaining that Southern Co. leads the nation in emissions of four key pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and carbon dioxide.

"While the public chokes on smog and soot pollution, eats toxic fish and faces the real-life consequences of global warming, Southern Co. refuses to clean up its act," argues Jennifer Giegerich, a Georgia-based staffer for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

U.S. PIRG arrived at its numbers by compounding preliminary reports from electric utilities to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for 1999. The aging plants, including two in Cobb County, emit 2.5 to nine times the amount allowed for newer plants, according to the report.

Southern Co. officials counter that they've invested heavily already — more than $4 billion in the 1990s — in pollution-reducing technologies. They also note that Southern Co. is a large utility, so naturally its emissions would be on the high side.

"What the report doesn't look at is pollution per megawatt hour," says company spokeswoman Janni Benson. "Southern Company is the largest electrical generator in the U.S. Any time you look at something in aggregate, it's going to be disproportionate."

N'hood
Energy and air pollution
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Four metro air pollution problems are closely linked to the region's high consumption of fossil fuel — most of which is burned on the region's long commutes or in Georgia Power's coal-burning plants:

* Ozone smog: Cars and the power plants are main sources for nitrous oxides and volatile organic compounds, key components in the chemical stew that creates smog, which has gotten the metro region in hot water with the feds. We're not getting federal road money because of that problem, and public health officials say poisonous ozone gas is relegating thousands of metro kids to life with asthma.

* Particulate pollution: One study found that some 900 people die prematurely each year in Atlanta due to small particles, partly kicked up by development but also by fossil-fuel burning.

* Global warming: While still controversial, the increasingly popular theory among scientists is that carbon dioxide and other gases burned by people are trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere. If so, Atlantans are contributing more than their share to that problem — and may reap their share of the problems in the form of more mosquitoes, subtropical diseases, bigger storms, a loss of wildlife and just plain nasty summers.

* Urban heat islands: NASA scientists in Huntsville, Ala., have found that tree-cutting, paving and fuel burning have increased the heat in Atlanta to such an extent that the region is creating its own hyped-up weather pattern featuring higher temperatures and bigger storms.

N'hood
Georgia a leader in Iron Pipeline
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On Aug. 30, 1998, two men walked into a gun show in Kennesaw and, between them, walked out with a total of 20 handguns. Six weeks later and nearly 900 miles away, one of the guns, a 9mm semi-automatic Bryco model-58, was allegedly used to murder 48-year-old pawnbroker Savinder Oberoi in a robbery attempt in Brooklyn, N.Y.

A few hours later, when police tracked the suspect, a member of the Bloods street gang, to a Brooklyn housing project, he allegedly started a shootout, wounding an officer in the hand.

A month earlier, the gun had been used in another bungled robbery attempt. The victim, a 20-year-old Brooklyn man, was shot four times. Ballistics also confirmed that the gun had been used in another homicide, that of a 16-year-old member of the Crips gang, just two days after the first shooting.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms traces all guns used in crimes to their point of purchase. Of the 20 guns that the two men purchased at that Kennesaw gun-show booth, 10 have been recovered on the streets of New York City and designated as "crime guns," used to commit, or used in association with, a crime, ATF officials say.

Because of its relaxed gun laws, Georgia is a major shopping destination along the "Iron Pipeline," the notorious route favored by gunrunners along the I-95 corridor that stretches from Florida through Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia to such northern cities as Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. The pipeline flows in one direction only, from Southern states with permissive gun laws, like Georgia, to states with much stronger restrictions on gun purchases and ownership.

As with the narcotics trade, guns are moved illegally from areas of high supply and easy accessibility to areas of high demand and difficult accessibility. Unlike drugs, the initial purchase of these guns can be done quite legally.

In New York, a potential gun buyer must apply for a gun permit before purchasing each weapon, as well as pass a background check. No permit is needed in Georgia, only proof of state residency and an instant Georgia Bureau of Investigation background check.

Georgia was named as the gunrunning capital of the country in 1994 by Richard Fox, then the ATF's top agent in Atlanta, who said the Peach State ranked as the top source for guns illegally transported to other states. One reason is that Georgia has no restriction on the number of guns that can be purchased at one time.

"More often than not, multiple sales of guns are an indicator of future criminal activity, especially if the guns tend to be cheap 'Saturday Night Special' type of guns," says Dr. Arthur Kellerman, director of the Center for Injury Control with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A study released last week by the Open Society Institute of New York ranked Georgia among the seven states with the least-restrictive gun laws, making our state a popular destination for buyers. There were so many gun shows in Georgia last year that Georgia ATF agents won't even hazard a guess as to the number. Joe Green, spokesman for the ATF in New York jokes, "I have heard that (Georgia has) more gun shows than gas stations."

But changing Georgia's laws has proven more than problematic, thanks to the power of the National Rifle Association.

The NRA remains one of the most powerful lobbies in the state among both Republicans and Democrats. The result is that Georgia is bucking a national trend toward more restrictive gun laws.

Last year, Georgia legislators rushed to make our state the first to pass a law making it illegal for cities to sue gun manufacturers to recover the cost of treating gun-related injuries. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Roy Barnes barely a week after such a lawsuit was filed by Atlanta.

Even moderate gun-control measures usually fail in Georgia, ensuring the state's continued prominence in the Iron Pipeline. Sen. David Scott, D-Atlanta, the annual leader of pro-gun control efforts, blames the NRA.

"In Georgia," he says, "there is such a fine line between the Republican minority and the Democratic majority that the NRA can play the two against one another and they usually get what they want."

N'hood
Congress strengthens citizen protection
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Congress last week acted to correct years of complaints about laws allowing police to seize private property and cash they believe may have been connected to criminal activity, even if no criminal charges were ever filed (see "Ungotten Gains," CL, Oct. 30, '99). The Civil Asset Forfeiture Act of 2000 does away with some of the harsher effects of '80s-era laws passed as part of the War on Drugs.

Years of stories about travelers being stripped of cash and innocent pilots, boat captains, hoteliers and homeowners losing their property spurred the bill, authored by Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill. Under the new law, the burden of proving that property is crime-related is shifted to law enforcement, as opposed to the old system. New protections for "innocent owners" are also in place, and the old practice of forcing owners contesting a seizure to post a bond equal to the property's value has been ended. Further, evidence that substantial hardship will result if the property is seized pending a hearing — for instance, if someone will be rendered homeless — will allow the owner to retain possession until the case is resolved.

N'hood
Face-off at Emory
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Members of a student group at Emory University were expected to meet with university President William Chace April 19 as CL went to press to demand the revocation of a fraternity chapter's charter following the discovery of a photo in last year's yearbook of a white frat boy in blackface.

Amos Jones, organizer of Students for a Unified Emory, rejected mediation plans presented last week by the administration because they fall short of disbanding the Emory chapter of Kappa Alpha altogether. Jones has said that he would be open to the idea of suspending the fraternity from campus for four years.

Jones objected to Dean of Students Darnita Killian's proposal that his group's concerns be included with a raft of complaints against KA that involve the fraternity's display of a Confederate battle flag. Emory's alumni organization voted to evict the fraternity from its on-campus house after a February 1999 hazing incident that involved subjecting pledges to frigid water in an outdoor swimming pool. In December, when the eviction was ordered, members hoisted the flag over their front door.

"Kappa Alpha is a catalyst for racial hostility," says Jones. "Their culture is one of intolerance and really of bigotry." But he doesn't want the blackface incident mixed with the other offenses. To do so, he says, would relieve Emory of dealing with it as a serious racial infraction in and of itself.

Jones discovered the photo when a new student moved onto his hall in March. Puzzled about why a student would be moving into the dorm at mid-semester, Jones reasoned that the student must be a displaced KA. He looked for the student's picture among those of KAs in the yearbook and didn't find it, discovering instead the controversial photo.

N'hood
AJC settles discrimination suit
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The Justice Department has announced that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has agreed to settle a pair of work-place discrimination claims levied against the paper in 1999.

Pursuant to the settlement, the AJC paid more than $81,000 in back pay and penalties and corrected its hiring practices to the satisfaction of Justice Department officials, said AJC general manager John Mellott. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had lodged complaints against the newspaper when it learned the publication had improperly rejected two applicants' identification documents when the pair had applied for positions within the company.

"We have a decentralized hiring structure here and we had a supervisor who, in the administration of the I-9 (immigration) form ... requested more documents than what were required," Mellott said. "It's not a complex violation, but a violation nonetheless."

Mellott said the newspaper has paid the civil penalty and the workers' back pay. Both applicants remain on the AJC staff.

N'hood
Millenium Marijuana March
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At high noon (when else?) on Saturday May 6, Atlanta's cannabis culture club will assemble at City Hall East, march west on Ponce de Leon Avenue to Peachtree Street, turn south to International Boulevard, passing CNN Center and the Chamber of Commerce en route to Centennial Park.

Once at the park, the marijuana-marketing masses will listen to speeches by hempologist Jack Herer, author of "The Emperor Wears No Clothes," an argument against the government's drug interdiction program, and Greens Party presidential candidate Steven Gaskin, who moved the would-be pot-collective, The Farm, from California to Tennessee in 1971.

The route was carefully planned to draw CNN's attention to the news value of the war against the War on Drugs.

"We'll be on instead of Elian, for a change," says Paul Cornwell, head of Coalition for the Abolition of Marijuana Prohibition. The Chamber of Commerce is also targeted because of its support of "Drugs Don't Work," a program that rewards companies that test workers for drug use.

More info: www.cannabis2000.com

N'hood
911 fee axed
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In a nod to the senior citizen bloc that forms a sizable part of his constituency, Mayor Bill Campbell signed on April 11 a City Council ordinance that repeals a proposed $300 fee for emergency medical services. The fee was slated to pay for firefighters' raises.
N'hood
Mobilizing for hip-hop
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Normally, Stone Mountain's Hip Hop Café is a place where one is more likely to discuss the latest Goodie Mob track than George W.'s position on gun control. On Sunday, however, the restaurant was the birthing ward for an organization that intends to leverage the industry's economic potency into an invitation to the next inauguration.

The Hip-Hop PAC bills itself as a political action committee "formed to unite the political power of the hip-hop generation." "Hip-hop is a billion-dollar-a-year industry," said Tambria Mitchell, the organization's publicist and organizer of the group's first event. "We have put all our money into music and fashion, but we don't have a political voice, and we should."

Mitchell indicated that a political group galvanized around a musical genre is not much different from coming together around another cultural dynamic or political issue. "If you consider yourself to be a part of hip-hop culture, you pretty much have the same social consciousness and you face many of the same issues," she said. Some of these issues — juvenile justice, welfare reform and education — are reflected in the group's platform, which will be pursued on the local, state and national level.

N'hood
Streetalk
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Why is the bunny the icon of Easter?

Fanchi, Atlanta: It started out with trying to find an image to make Easter more appealing to sell to children and adults, even though Easter is about the resurrection of Christ. That's not a sellable image. You can't sell chocolate candies in the shape of Christ rising from the dead. No one wants to eat that. That's gross. They could have just as easily chosen a frog.

Spike, Atlanta: The government is separating the whole church-and-state thing and perverting Christianity, so they have Santa Claus rather than Jesus and they have the Easter Bunny rather than the day when Christ died. They like to twist things and make money off of their evil things. The government gets kicks out of watching people do stupid stuff.

Jamie, Atlanta: A bunny is sexy and furry and women like it. Women like furry animals for touchin' and pettin'. Men like it because the women like it. Women are the leaders; we have to follow them. But the bunny can be evil. If you treat a bunny bad it can get evil on your ass. And if it's hyper it jumps off walls and everything.

N'hood
Why are you cheering?
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John Rocker returned from his official Major League Baseball two-week suspension and unofficial four-month public relations drubbing this week, to the boisterous and sustained cheers of Braves fans at Turner Field. One word for all of you so happily applauding:

Why?

Why are you cheering for John Rocker?

With which part of his rant do you yearn to be identified?

Do you hate non-English speaking American citizens? Resident aliens? International visitors? Any person of color? Any color?

Are you frightened because you don't speak a second language?

Do you resent bilingual signs?

Are you apprehensive because you've never traveled outside your home state?

Do you hate New York?

Are you standing up for the right to freely express bigotry in the workplace without consequence?

Do you resent paying taxes to support welfare that supports the children of unwed mothers and the men who desert their families?

Are you afraid of gays and lesbians?

Do you think a 25-year-old man is too young to know any better, and deserves a mulligan on this one?

Is difference so frightening to you?

Or is it simply that you hate the press?

If you, like many of the Braves' players who were offended and incensed by Rocker's remarks, have concluded that you forgive him, fine.

If you think this whole issue has been dragged out far too long — thanks to baseball's wishy-washy commissioner, Bud Selig — fine.

If you are amused that so much attention is being paid to the bad judgment of a baseball player, fine.

If you look at the National Football League's Rae Carruth and Ray Lewis — both currently charged with murder — and decide that a racist reliever doesn't warrant a second thought, fine.

If you note that Rocker has not fathered and abandoned six children by three different women — as in several highly publicized cases in the National Basketball Association — and consequently prefer him to those moral derelicts, fine.

If you wince at the memory of mistakes you made when you were 25 and are grateful that you were forgiven — or never the subject of a national magazine feature — fine.

Those are all reasons not to boo John Rocker. But there is no good reason to cheer for him. Unless, of course, you want to stand up and be counted as being as much a bigot as he is.

N'hood
Last Week
Phone Number not listed.
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Tuesday 11

It's like Salem: Cherokee Count woman Julie L. Divelbliss is arrested for making false police reports about a man stomping a kitten and three boys drowning another ... What in God's name are they doing?: After a nun resigns to protest alleged incompetence in the local Roman Catholic Office of Education, Atlanta's archbishop replaces two of the archdiocese's top officials ... Taking it to the people: The Georgia Supreme Court hears two cases at Therrell High School in an effort to spark interest in the law in students.


Wednesday 12

Last bus home: A MARTA passenger is killed and another, as well as a bus driver, are wounded during a shooting in a park-and-ride lot in southwest Atlanta ... Deferring to a higher power: A Fulton County Superior Court judge stops any further action in the City of Atlanta's lawsuit against gun manufacturers until the state Supreme Court rules on its constitutionality.


Thursday 13

Comin' atcha: The state school board sends Gov. Roy Barnes' education reform rules to schools, requiring lower teacher-pupil ratios and a tougher middle school curriculum ... Sentenced to life improvement: Atlanta's Community Court, modeled after a similar rehabilitation-based program in New York City, holds its first session ... Baby got juris: Telling the judge "I'm innocent, baby" and not being charged with contempt of court for it, rapper Shawntae Harris aka Da Brat, faces battery charges in Atlanta Municipal Court.


Friday 14

Scouting for interns?: President Bill Clinton visits Atlanta to stump for U.S. Reps. Cynthia McKinney and John Lewis and makes an impromptu stop at Holy Innocents Episcopal School ... Deer! A teenager is killed when a deer bounces off a car and lands on him as he rides his bike near Ga. 140 north of Atlanta ... Down home goes down under: The Australian company trying to buy the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers announces its intention of building a full-scale resort with cabins and an amphitheater ... Young love:A 19-year-old Riverdale woman dies of gun shot wounds inflicted by her 18-year-old husband.


Saturday 15

They always get their boy: Atlanta police arrest a 16-year-old boy in connection with a shooting at a MARTA park-and-ride earlier in the week ... Beware the ides of April:Taxpayers breathe a collective sigh of relief as the income tax filing deadline lands on a Saturday, giving Americans two extra days to dummy-up receipts for expenses and find forgotten relatives who can pose as dependents.


Sunday 16

Internal combustion: The Peachtree Broad building that opens onto Broad, Luckie and Forsyth Streets is imploded to make room for Georgia State University classroom buildings ... "Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match": 2,000 people turn out at a Dunwoody school to give blood samples in an effort to find a bone marrow match for two leukemia patients of Jewish ancestry ... Incredible shrinking party: The festival formerly known as Freaknik peters out with sparse numbers and no incidents.


Signposts

Mourned: Albert Turner Sr., 64, a leader of the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march known as "Bloody Sunday" dies of colon related complications in Selma, Ala.

Missed: Former Atlanta Journal reporter, CNN newswriter and historian and children's author John Raymond, 74, dies of cancer in Atlanta.

Remembered: Jennifer Thompson, 19, last year's basketball star at South Forsyth High School and a freshman this year at the University of Georgia, dies of car crash injuries near Athens.

N'hood
New York dolls: I
Phone Number not listed.
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Though it may not seem likely that a self-cloistered member of the intelligentsia — whose personal chronicles include being partially raised in communes, educational stints at both Harvard and NYU's film school and some professional dabblings in music journalism — could quietly seize the mantle of pop laureate, that's exactly what's happened. The Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt, a man who by several accounts prefers chronic solitude over any living thing (save his pet chihuahua Irving), has immoderately laid before the world a doctoral-sized musical treatise on l'amour.

Released last fall (as both a box set and three individual CD volumes), 69 Love Songs ended the century as one of the most critically lauded records of the pop era. Considering its heft (nearly three hours all told) and its pedigree (Merritt's previous work with the Magnetic Fields and a handful of other acclaimed indie projects), it's more than a considerable triumph. Merritt, himself, recognizes the sense of elevation in his cultural status. "Nowadays when the New York Times says I'm a genius," he remarks, "they're serious."

Audacious displays such as 69 Love Songs are usually reserved for distorted egos who have been coaxed along by twisted management, previously huge record sales or delusional levels of hype. Merritt has been victim of none of the above. Instead, he's the beneficiary of a creative force majeur that happened to gel with a largely whimsical aspiration. Convinced that no one was putting out love songs of any lasting worth, Merritt saw that it should fall to him to right such a glaring deficiency. Initially, he planned to write 100 love songs for a hypothetical musical revue, but he ultimately whittled the concept down to 69. In doing so, he increased the likelihood eyebrows would raise to the obvious sexual reference, and once aroused, that listeners would actually be able to wade through the material. The revue idea soon dropped off and Merritt woodshedded for an entire year, writing alone and then recording with a small group of friends.

All-consuming as it would seem, Merritt immersed himself in the venture. "My routine was and is to spend the early afternoon at my habitual café and then spend the wee hours at my habitual gay bar that has a great jukebox," he says of his work process. "The great jukebox was an indispensable part of writing 69 Love Songs. It was a good way of getting rid of the day's musical detritus while I was recording. ... I did research into love, love songs and love letters especially. I had these two books that were not particularly useful, but the idea that they might be useful was useful. One was called Forever Yours: Letters of Love, from St. Martin's Press. I opened at random to a two-page spread with one letter from Napoleon to Josephine and the other one from Beethoven to the Immortal Beloved. The other book is How to Write Love Letters by Michelle Lovric."

What Merritt emerged with on the other end is less manifesto or concept album than a dizzyingly sound collection of love songs that poke, prod and celebrate the love-song form itself. Barely a genre or device is left unexplored. There are love songs from the wanderer ("Papa Was a Rodeo"), the bitter redress ("Fido, Your Leash Is Too Long") and even the ever-poignant suicide note ("Xylophone Track"). While the exercise borders on the academic, by gathering the material in little clumps, you don't have to get far into the second disc before you realize that lovelorn odes win out almost two-to-one. Songs that speak to those initial blips of romantic delight don't really stand a chance in Merritt's world. But that may have a lot to do with how he got here.

Today an openly gay resident of New York City in his early 30s, as a child Stephin Merritt followed his itinerant Buddhist hippie mother as she moved around, both in and out of the U.S. His father, a folk-singer of sorts who recorded two LPs in the late '60s, has apparently never figured much in his son's life (though Merritt says he's heard the records). Instead, he has harsh childhood memories of being subjected to Pete Seeger and, in response, found solace in songs like "Yellow Submarine" and the confection of ABBA.

He grew up largely friendless until the time he went to high school, where music began to bridge his isolation from others. On his way to becoming a bedroom four-track hero, Merritt met his closest confidante, Claudia Gonson, who has since become his manager, bandmate and collaborator. En route to destiny, he studied an off-beat flavor of semiotics and did time as a copy editor at Spin magazine, which still haunts him. "There are howling alphabetization errors in the 'Indispensable 69 Love Songs Index' [featured in the back of volume three]," he says. "I'm really good at alphabetization, and it's really strange that I would make so many errors."

Since the Magnetic Fields' 1990 debut, Merritt has also dedicated time to living out his synth-pop fantasies with the Future Bible Heroes, writing music for guest voices under the heading of the 6ths and letting all his pop gloom hang out in the Gothic Archies. Whether any one of those projects had the earmarks of what is stellar about 69 Love Songs is subjective stuff, but today Merritt seems certain that his most recent work is an unparalleled accomplishment, incomparable to any mere 14-song single album. "I think it is a stellar-type release," he says. "It's never been done before and its size is everything."

Unchanged by his newfound fame, in interviews Merritt is notorious for ultra-droll, wry self-commentary punctuated by painful gaps in conversation. The luckier among the media have been able to sit down with him in person while he lovingly tends to Irving. NPR's Terry Gross was able to elicit a near-laugh from Merritt during their appropriately aired Valentine's Day conversation (Irving's whereabouts notwithstanding). Otherwise, Merritt's carefully doled-out words sound as if they are being censored by a remote publicist, who feeds him measured responses through an ear piece.

But if Merritt feels more comfortable obscuring the person whose tremendous force of will brought forth the classically-crafted songwriting of "I Don't Believe in the Sun" (from volume one), then so be it. The appreciation of the lovely piano work, Merritt's almost foghorn baritone and lyrical oomph remains the same: "The moon to whom the poets croon/Has given up and died/Astronomy will have to be revised." Whether he's biding times with silly efforts like "Punk Love" or creating nifty and shameless responses to our own mojo with a tune like "Underwear," we are always helplessly amused and enchanted.

As indie-styled pop (relatively low-fi and not geared for mainstream recognition), the record may refurbish your faith in college radio, but as songwriting it's a traditionalist's dream. Looking past the pop culture reference, "Busby Berkeley Dreams" is a key example of all that Merritt has absorbed structurally from theater music, master composers of the early 20th century (Berlin, Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart) and clever lyricists along the lines of Cole Porter. After all, when was the last time even Elvis Costello gave us lines as good as, "Acoustic Guitar, if you think I play hard/Well, you could have belonged to Steve Earle or Charo or Gwar/I could sell you tomorrow, so bring back my girl."

Now at work on a musical with a novelist friend, Merritt is supposedly ready to shed his indie-rock past. Will we all rush off to buy the eventual soundtrack? Perhaps not right off, but only because Merritt's musical intentions are not clear enough to be trusted. Whereas a fellow genius such as Prince is eight parts egotism riding on the back of prolific creativity, Merritt's work displays something of an inverse equation: prolific creativity spurred on by doubt, a touch of Nietzsche and a nothing-to-lose attitude. The challenges he faces now as an artist — with everyone from Rolling Stone to the New York Times confirming he's the one, the first true pop phenom of the new century — are uncertain. At least, they have to be somewhat tempting to squander.

The Magnetic Fields play the Variety Playhouse Thurs., April 20. Tickets are $12 in advance, $14 day of show. For ticket information, call 404-521-1786.

N'hood
New York dolls: II
Phone Number not listed.
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Many people dismiss Fiona Apple as a crazy bitch. She rants at the 1998 Grammys when she wins Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. She tramps around in the video for "Criminal" in panties and bed linens, then cries that it was a mistake. She storms off stage in New York after bitching about how the music hall sucks. At the Oscars, she claws at her beaux, the wordy freak who wrote and directed the porn-induced Boogie Nights. She's a vegan.

The problem isn't that she's disturbed but that she's hypersensitive in public, which people can't handle. They call her nuts and self-absorbed, and this just riles her up more. She fights back in lyrics and in interviews. But that prompts many Americans, who like to think of themselves as the original defenders of scrappy underdogs, to dismiss her all over again. In the meantime, Apple's peerless jazz-blues-pop music mires in the silly charade. And there she is, under-heard, a legitimate heir to Billie Holiday, Joni Mitchell and Carole King, while she expressively and daringly performs serious music devoid of irony.

It doesn't matter that Billie Holiday wasn't a paragon of happy shiny music, by the way. Everyone just thought she was crazy. Well, crazy and high.

Apple merges old-time crooning with new-school aggression. She grew up on early jazz and studied Tin Pan Alley songwriting on her own. She never had to sing cover tunes in smoky bars, not one time. She told me in an interview once that if she hadn't succeeded so quickly, she would've given up on music, become a slacker, hunted a get-rich-quick scheme and founded a charity. Instead, she became that miracle of fairy tales, the artist discovered by one demo tape placed in the right hands. It was, in fact, the only demo tape she ever handed to anyone. So now she is unencumbered by other people's music, but weighted down by what people say about her.

Through it all, she knits together smoky cobwebs from 1930s-'50s blues and jazz torch songs, '70s chanteuse earnestness and present-day, clenched-fisted, that-bitch-is-craziness.

Apple, 23, has said that maybe her psychotherapeutic-rich life actually helped form her musical deliverance. The familiar details are dramatic: She is raped at age 12 in the hallway of her mother's apartment building. Her parents divorce when she's 4 and they continue to fight, fight, fight. Daddy's an actor no one knows (he did a little work in an early HBO sitcom, plus Broadway). Her mother acts. School kids call her "Dog." And teenage Fiona, when not meeting stage types with her parents, sits in her Manhattan bedroom, writing about things like rape.

"Sullen Girl": "Days like this, I don't know what to do with myself, all day and all night. I wander the halls along the walls, and under my breath I say to myself, 'I need fuel to take flight.' And there's too much going on. But it's calm under the waves in the blue of my oblivion. ... Is that why they call me a sullen girl? They don't know I used to sail the deep and tranquil sea, but he washed me ashore, and he took my pearl, and left an empty shell of me."

Apple's regressive melodies are fresh because she didn't really listen to the contemporary music that most of us grew up on. Among female artists, she was notably not influenced by Alanis Morissette, nor Tori Amos, nor Madonna. But she was a New York girl, so she must have been influenced by society, which was influenced by Alanis and Madonna, at least. Now Apple strives to reinvent the wheel, and not just poke its spokes.

Apple is voice as power, and voice as instrument. She stretches single tones up and down octaves, with and without vibrato, never doing Celine Dion histrionics. Sometimes, Apple trills. She frequently dives in and out of key changes, but she blends them so smoothly she rarely sounds like she's left the original key. She knows sometimes the most climactic thing she can do is just move up or down a mere half note.

When Apple went into the studio to record her debut, Tidal, as a teenager, she kept telling the producer and the engineer that she wanted her music to be heavy and dark. She didn't mean Nine Inch Nails. She meant jazzy blues. She played contemplative, major-chord piano. Other musicians accompanied her on anti-pop instruments: the harp; the chamberlain (a pre-digital sampling keyboard); vibraphone. And virtually no guitar, which turned her into a pop rock star who didn't rock or pop. Every percussion and bass sang more melodically than in other musicians' work, because the instruments had to go upscale to meet Apple's fleshy, adult voice, which was aspiring to speak as sensitively as Frank Sinatra's and Ricky Lee Jones'.

Apple continues to deviate from pop hooks by writing as though Maya Angelou, John Irving and other literati were having some kind of weird group hug in her head. Apple is a therapist telling herself about herself. She's a grown-up girl, no college to speak of, writing short diary dissertations in stanzas, with big words and intense phrases, telling off lovers and herself. Her sophomore album, When the Pawn ... — a CD title that famously goes on for 87 more words — is altogether wordier than Tidal. Yet Apple — three or four years older — continues to distinguish herself lyrically.

In fact, she seems to be shaping up as something akin to Sting, the Police frontman and former school teacher who taught us with lines like, "You consider me the young apprentice, caught between the Scylla and Charybdis." (Scylla is a Greek nymph who terrorized sailors; Charybdis is a Sicilian whirlpool.) Like Sting, Apple likes to rhyme within lines, which are enriched by a dense polysyllable or two. But she doesn't teach us like Sting. She's learning, and we're in lit class with her.

"To Your Love": "My derring-do allows me to dance the rigadoon around you, but by the time I'm close to you, I lose my desideratum and now you. ... So baby, tell me what's the word? Am I your gal, or should I get out of town? I just need to be reassured." (The rigadoon was an old twosome dance; "desideratum" is akin to "desire"; "Desideratum" is also a poem by Vada F. Carlson, and the word also once described a mythical Indian's ascendancy.)

What Apple relishes most is cursing relationships with the wit of Dorothy Parker, but she flexes a frown and a scowl instead of a Parker smirk.

"Love Ridden": "No, not 'baby' anymore. If I need you, I'll just use your simple name. Only kisses on the cheek from now on, and in a little while, we'll only have to wave."

Out of the studio, Apple has been relatively quiet this year. Usually an easy interview, she has declined most promotional interviews for her 2000 tour, even though her shows aren't selling out. But slow sales may be a good thing, artistically. Many of her latest lyrics sound influenced not just by off-stage lovers, but by her reactions to people's reactions to her rising star: "Here's another speech you wish I'd swallow"; "No matter what I try, you'll beat me with your bitter lies, so call me crazy, hold me down, make me cry"; "I'm gonna make a mistake, I'm gonna do it on purpose ... so I'm gonna fuck it up again."

But her best work on When the Pawn ... sounds utterly removed from her struggle with society. She peaks beautifully in a complex little finale — typically, it loiters around arpeggios — called "I Know," in which all her anger has subsided. She sings as a mistress waiting for her man to give up another woman and a celebrity life: "So be it I'm your crowbar, if that's what I am so far, until you get out of this mess. And I will pretend that I don't know of your sins until you are ready to confess. But all the time, all the time, I'll know. And you can use my skin to bury secrets in, and I will settle you down ... I'll wait by the backstage door ... and if it gets too late for me to wait, for you to find you love me and tell me so, it's OK."

When she takes a break from defending herself against the crazy bitch offensive, she can be a real heartbreaker.

Fiona Apple plays the Tabernacle on Thurs., April 20 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $28.50; available through Ticketmaster.

N'hood
A pre-post-rock parable
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The much-maligned term post-rock is actually a fairly meaningful term that describes a largely Chicago-based rock often employing creative textures, unusual time signatures and experimental instrumentation in such a way that it may become something else entirely. Granted, it already carries more baggage than United Airlines. But it works as well as the taxonomies grunge, gangsta rap or ragtime ever did.

The only problem is that it might have been coined nearly 30 years too late. If bands such as Slint, Tortoise and Gastr del Sol exemplified the post-rock ethos, what does that make the Red Krayola, which began making its mark in Houston in the fall of 1966? Parable of Arable Land, released in 1967, and their recent handful of CDs on the Drag City label — which feature many of the younger, Chicago-based post-rock musicians — display haunting and heartening similarities. Pre-post-rock, anyone?

"We intended for it to be quite extreme. That's for sure," says singer, guitarist and songwriter Mayo Thompson, who founded the band as the Red Crayola with Frederick Barthelme and Steve Cunningham, and comes to town this week with a newer incarnation of the group. "We didn't know we were supposed to be trying to do this other thing by pleasing people and making hit records and stuff like that. We thought we were supposed to be making experimental pop music, so we went ahead and did that."

Considering the era, the Red Krayola's conception seems immaculate. There were no precursors for their electric-pop-noise-terrorism, though bands like the Godz, the Velvet Underground and the Silver Apples had already struck a discord by 1968, when the preciously malformed folk of the Krayola's second LP, God Bless the Red Crayola and All Who Sail With It, emerged.

Despite the times, the locales and the frequent accusations, the Krayola (with spelling appended when the crayon company came calling) were much more (or less) than a standard-issue psychedelic band. "It didn't 100 percent fit the self-image of youth of the time, or the image of magazines that were around," explains Thompson, the sole consistent member of Red Krayola, with some satisfaction. "It doesn't belong to the cozy explanations of the '60s."

Thompson released Corky's Debt to His Father, an astounding solo disc that best presents his soft, surrealist enunciations, in 1970. It didn't foreshadow much in the '70s, but it underscores Thompson's approach to pop as artistic expression rather than literal screed or political proviso. "One of the things I do is I write songs, not just pieces of music," says Thompson. "And that voice you hear there is the sound of a human being finding some kind of equilibrium in a space where things are strangely familiar and strangely unfamiliar at the same time."

Thanks in part to his work with the Art & Language collective in the late-'70s and early-'80s and some potentially misleading lyrics, Thompson is sometimes tagged a Marxist or, worse, transparent. "My father calling me a commie doesn't quite cover it," Thompson chuckles. Lenin's name does crop up in the Red Krayola's more punky, new wave work with Gina Birch (Raincoats), Lora Logic (X-Ray Spex) and Epic Soundtracks (Swell Maps). But straight-forward political declarations are far fewer in the Red Krayola box than lyrical devices with more poetic functions.

"I describe myself as a conservative. And I am, in the sense that certain institutions and ways of living make sense. The way the world is organized may not be just, it may be imperfect, but it's symptomatic of something interesting about us as a species," says Thompson, who obviously relishes cultural theorizing. "And I continue to support the social project in most of its forms. I begin to wonder if culture's not a drag on evolution."

Thompson, who also teaches at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, hints at a busy and changing future for the Red Krayola. That last year's Fingerpainting resembles Parable, for example, is telling: "The time structure is exactly the same," he explains, "and the layout is exactly the same." In addition to many of the usual younger suspects (including ex-Gastr del Sol guitarist David Grubbs, ex-Minutemen drummer George Hurley and Stephen Prina, who all appear with the group this week at the Earl), the personnel for Fingerpainting included original Crayola principals Barthelme, now a well-known author, and Cunningham, a technical writer living in Houston.

"There is a thought the three of us would get together exclusive of everybody else and see what happens," says Thompson optimistically. "I piss and whine a little bit about the number of records we sell, but basically I know how lucky I am."

Like any true artist, Thompson's motivation for making music has less to do with "the psychology of the need to express. By now it's 100 percent more perverse. I'm trying to figure out how to quit and I can't!"

Red Krayola performs at a benefit concert for WREK 91.1 FM, Fri., April 21, at 9 p.m. at The Earl (404-522-3950). Tickets are $8. Stephen Fenton with Krayolas also perform Sat., April 22, at 9 p.m. at Eyedrum (404-522-0655). Tickets are $5. For more information, visit www.wrek.org.

N'hood
Spectral passages
Phone Number not listed.
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"It was kind of like a joke that got bigger than all of us," says Macha's lead vocalist/instrumentalist Joshua McKay. What McKay is referring to is the tongue-in-cheek cover of Cher's hit "Believe," which appears as track 86 on the Athens quartet's new collaborative EP project, Macha Loved Bedhead, released under the name Bedhead Loved Macha. But even more interesting than the kitsch Cher cover, where McKay uses the numbers on a touch-tone phone to play the simple melody, is the development of the 34-minute EP itself.

"Basically this project had this kind of circular evolution to it, with us not knowing what was coming from Bedhead and them having no idea what was happening to the initial seedlings they'd sent off," says McKay. The project began last year when Bedhead's two core songwriters, brothers Bubba and Matt Kadane sent a very skeletal eight-track recording with drums and guitars to their friends in Macha. The Kadane brothers grew up with McKay and his bandmate/brother Mischo McKay in Wichita Falls, Texas, (which Joshua McKay describes as a "nowhere town") and attended junior high school together. The EP was a way for the brothers of Macha and Bedhead to manifest their mutual respect for one another's musicality, and a way to finally fulfill their vow to record something together.

Macha took the tapes from Bedhead and fleshed out the tracks with their signature instrumentation — vibes, maracas, zithers, Thai xylophone, drums, bass and their favorite organ, the Fun Machine. Materials crossed thousands of miles, from Athens to Dallas to Cambridge, Mass., including artwork and tapes of vocals and music, and neither group knew what was coming from the other. But before the EP was completed, Bedhead disbanded, and the theme of loss and letting go permeates the songs.

"During the time of making the record, finishing it up, I was definitely aware of the transience of things, and watching things pass," says Joshua McKay. This theme is especially evident on two tracks, the breathy, pop-oriented "Hey Goodbye," and the somber, ambient "Only the Bodies Survive." But the EP also shows the constant progress of Macha's songwriting, as the group adapts a sparse, almost trance-like sound on tracks such as "Never Underdose," which also demonstrates Bedhead's musical presence and influence on the project.

"I think the cool thing is that it really is like a spectral passage, with Macha on one end and Bedhead on the other," says McKay, as he reflects on the project as a whole. Macha Loved Bedhead by Bedhead Loved Macha is unique in that it's not a split EP, but rather a collaborative effort in which two bands constructed songs together by responding to one another's creative input without really spending studio time together.

McKay gushes when speaking of the collaboration as a capsule of the Macha/Bedhead relationship. "It was a really fun way to make a record with a surprise element that was capped off with Matt agreeing to sing the vocals for 'Believe.' We're no match for a pop song like that, no match for the song and what it does to your brain."

Jetset Records releases Macha Loved Bedhead by Bedhead Loved Macha Tues., April 25.

N'hood
Prestige-ous man, again
Phone Number not listed.
Website not listed.
Without the Prestige label, the jazz record industry never would have achieved proper documentation of an art form based on the otherwise fleeting sounds of improvisation. With the recently released four-CD box, The Prestige Records Story, parent label Fantasy presents a well-chosen overview of this illustrious era of jazz (1949-71). The second part of my recent interview with Prestige founder/producer Bob Weinstock follows:

Creative Loafing: It must have made life in the studio easier when you eventually hooked up with sound engineer Rudy Van Gelder.

Bob Weinstock: I was having terrible problems with my studios. I was very annoyed with them. Sometimes they would run sound tests for an hour. From the very first session, when Rudy used his parents' living room, to the very end, I never said a word about recording to Rudy. He was a genius at sound reproduction.

When do you feel Sonny Rollins came into his own as a player?

Sonny Rollins was too much! At that time, Sonny was a joke to all of the musicians. They loved him because he was a bebopper and he knew everybody, ... played with everybody in the neighborhood group up in Harlem. But he hit so many clinkers that they would crack up when he played. They would tease him, but his ideas were so great. Despite the clinkers, they all knew, just like I knew ... because I signed him to a contract ... that he'd be a force some day. And sure enough, he was. The session when he really hit was the one that produced Saxophone Colossus.

Prestige had a lot of commercial success with Stan Getz.

When I recorded Stan Getz, I did not do it with commercialism in mind, but I had a tiger by the tail, as they say. I was confused, actually. He kept recording all these simple tunes, playing the melody, like a formula. (Disc jockey) Symphony Sid was the one that started Getz selling. He had a jazz radio show that aired in 30 states east of the Mississippi. He made Stan Getz. He played the shit out of Stan Getz.

Who were some of your other more commercially viable artists?

Our first real hit record came with "Moody's Mood for Love." It was originally an instrumental of saxophonist James Moody improvising over the changes of "I'm in the Mood for Love," but Eddie Jefferson put words to it. When King Pleasure recorded it for us, that tune took right off. Most of our best-sellers were vocalists: H-Bomb Furgeson, King Pleasure, the Cabineers, Mose Allison, Etta Jones. Instrumental sellers were the "soul jazz" [players]. Miles Davis also sold very well.

Tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons must have had an impact on the soul jazz market.

Gene Ammons was the father of soul and funk. He started that music in 1950. I liked R&B. I heard a lot of bands play and I knew there had to be room for an update, a modernization of rhythm and blues with a jazz flavor. Everything we did had a good rhythm section and swung. Nothing was ever phony, to make sales. Even when we got heavy into the funk, with organ groups and guitar and all of that, they were like the blowing sessions we did before, but with a different groove. They cooked.

Was Miles Davis ever difficult to deal with?

No, not really, but we'd get into these staring sessions. He'd ask for more money and I wouldn't answer. Then I'd look at him and he'd look at me; we'd just stand there. We went through this a lot. I'd give him the money, but I'd always say, "OK, that means we have to do another album." He'd say, "I don't want to do another album." I'd say, "And I want better people than the last!" So, that's how those sessions with Milt Jackson and Monk came about. Those were some of our best sessions, because before he'd get the money ... this was part of the game ... I'd make him think real hard about who he was going to get. Everybody wanted to play with Miles.

How did John Coltrane end up on so many sessions?

The company was doing well, so for a certain period of time while I was supervising sessions, I had every Friday booked at Van Gelder's studio, often without anything in particular in mind. I had stopped going to clubs because I wasn't hearing what I wanted to hear. So, for my own gratification, I'd set up session personnel for the enjoyment of hearing certain musicians stretch out together. Most recordings were just loosely organized jam sessions. That's why most of the tunes are standards ... and blues, which sold the records. Our profits from big sellers like Miles and Gene Ammons subsidized the recording of not-so-well-known people. That's how Coltrane was able to record so much. But really, he was a beautiful person. That was the underlying thing ... he was a beautiful person.

What led to the sale of Prestige to Fantasy in 1971?

It was obvious at that point that good records didn't mean anything. Good jazz just stopped selling. People lost interest in Monk and Miles and musicians like that. All that was selling was the soul jazz. We were selling more records than at any time in the history of the company, but it had become more of a merchandising business than anything. One of the main reasons I sold Prestige was in disgust at three quarters of the records I was making at that time. I was pissed, man! We also had a problem with distribution. A lot of the independents were being consolidated into the bigger labels, which had their own distribution. Our distributors were going bankrupt left and right, and these people were the backbone of the industry for us. Another thing that bugged me was if Prestige or Blue Note discovered a musician and recorded him, bigger companies like Atlantic and CBS were waiting in the wings and would grab him away by offering more money than we ever could. I became totally disillusioned. Fantasy has done a very nice job of keeping my product on the market. It makes me feel good to know that anybody who wants a Prestige record with half a merit can find it available through Fantasy.

How do you feel about current trends in digital recording and remastering?

Well, I think nice sound is good, but good performance is better. What did it matter that all of these old records had a horrible sound? Do you have to hear some fusion with tremendous sound, with all kinds of crap going on, and eight mics on the drums? Just give me Max Roach, when you can hardly hear the drums, but you hear the cymbal going shhhhh. That other crap is all meaningless. Man, I don't care whether it's on sand paper or toilet paper! The important question is, is the music really there at all? If it's there, dig it, listen to it and be thankful it's been preserved.

Incoming/Upcoming: The Roxy hosts renowned rhythm section Medeski, Martin & Wood May 3. The Rialto Center features pianist Billy Taylor May 20. The Civic Center presents "Springtime Jazz 2000" with Kim Waters, Walter Beasley, Chuck Loeb and Tom Brown April 29. This year's Atlanta Jazz Festival (May 27-29) lineup includes Nina Simone, Freddy Cole, David S. Ware, Claudia Villela, Regina Carter, Steve Turre, Papo Vasquez, Cyrus Chestnut, Tuck & Patti, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, TS Monk's Monk on Monk Big Band Project, Cassandra Wilson and Herbie Hancock.

Inside Info: Atlanta-based musicians pianist Gary Motley and trumpeter Lester Walker will be featured musically throughout the Alliance Theatre's production of "Blues in the Night" April 20-May 21. Gold Sparkle Band performs at the First Existentialist Congregation May 3. The Music Midtown Festival May 5-7 includes Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Celia Cruz, Francine Reed, Jazz Mandolin Project, Koko Taylor & Her Blues Machine and Taj Mahal. This summer's Classic Chastain series features Ruth Brown with Duke Robillard and Herb Ellis; Boney James & Rick Braun; Jazz Explosion with Will Downing, Gerald Albright and Chant Moore; Tony Bennett and Diana Krall; Michael Feinstein and Linda Eder; Spyro Gyra; Natalie and Freddy Cole; Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri; Manhattan Transfer; and the Rippingtons.

Out There: Clubs/Restaurants/Venues: Roxy (404-233-7699); Rialto Center (404-651-1234); Civic Center (404-658-7159); First Existentialist Congregation (404-622-3355); Chastain (404-733-4800).

In Here: Your direct line to this column by e-mail: rozzi1625@aol.com — or voice mail: 404-296-1503. Venues, colleges, radio stations, musicians and readers are encouraged to submit listings, information and perspectives.

N'hood
Southern delicacies
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When Nelson Mandela made his triumphant appearance at Georgia Tech's Grant Field 10 years ago, finally savoring a freedom and adulation that was several decades overdue, trumpeter Hugh Masekela was there to warm up the crowd. Masekela is one of many South African Legends featured on the new Putumayo release of that name, and in many ways his story reflects the recent history of South Africa.

Masekela grew up in a township ghetto in the '40s and '50s, where he heard plenty of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, but it was Kirk Douglas as Bix Beiderdecke in the 1950 film Young Man With a Horn that first inspired him to pick up a trumpet. The music of Miles Davis also blew him away, and with the encouragement of Harry Belafonte and Dizzy Gillespie, he found his way to prestigious music schools, first in London, then in New York City.

While Masekela remained away from his native land throughout the long dark years of apartheid and Mandela's cruel incarceration, he spent the time exploring fusions of jazz, pop and world music, at times living elsewhere in Africa, and getting very involved in civil rights and anti-war activities. His "Mandela (Bring Him Back Home)" became a rallying cry for many over the years, and in 1991, he finally went back home himself, to a rapidly changing country and emerging democracy.

Masekala's slinky track on this taster album is pulled from his recent Black to the Future release. Johnny Clegg & Juluka and Ladysmith Black Mambazo are also highlighted here, along with mbaqanga masters the Soul Brothers and a band whose success outside of Africa strangely went largely unnoticed back home, the remarkable Mahotella Queens (with and without the late Mahlathini).

Miriam Makeba is another outspoken South African giant present here, and she also has an entire album, Homeland (Putumayo Artists), out to tie in with Freedom Day South Africa (April 27). Makeba first made it big in the United States in 1959-60 — among other things winning a Grammy for her role on a Harry Belafonte album — and soon found herself banned from ever returning to her own country. She was married to Hugh Masekela for a few years in the '60s, and the pair have worked together professionally many times over the years. Makeba spent some time in Guinea, even serving as that West African country's delegate to the United Nations. In 1990, she too got to go home at last, but her commitment to the eradication of evils such as discrimination, hunger, and police brutality remains undimmed.

Homeland is Makeba's first release in six years, and it includes an updating of her best known song, "Pata Pata," written with American Jerry Ragavoy (of "Stay With Me" fame) in 1959, which was a hit in the U.S. in 1967. This time around, it's a duet with Zenzi Lee, a young singer with American and South African parents who has toured extensively with both Makeba and Masekela. Lee also contributed the lyrics to the touching title track. The groove throughout this Cedric Samson-produced album is polished, seductive and thoroughly modern. It's hard to believe that this woman has been making great music since 1954. Like the remarkable Buena Vista Social Club singers, Makeba shows every sign of having energy and passion far beyond her years.

Not far away in Zimbabwe, another country not long freed from the yoke of colonialism, is Chiwoniso, a relative newcomer on the Afropop scene. Her debut Ancient Voices (Tinder) is dominated by the traditional Shona mbira style, named after the peculiar plinking, rippling thumb-piano native to that part of the continent. Chi, as she is known — her full name is Chiwoniso Maraire — plays mbira, as does Adam Chisvo, who helped pen much of the material. The songs, many of them in English, speak eloquently of poverty and struggle, hopes and dreams. Chiwoniso's singing, like that of sister African chanteuses Sally Nyolo and Angelique Kidjo, often strays close to American soul/R&B. Combined with some delicate funky touches on brass and harmonica, it all makes for a fascinating mix alongside the mbira.

For more World Beat information and archives, visit John Falstaff's website at www.pd.org/~jcf.

N'hood
Record Reviews
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An unexpected blast of horns ignites the sophomore mission of Athens' Little Red Rocket. As the brassy countdown nears zero, a second stage of voices propel "I Believe in What You Do," adding a delicate counterpoint to the swinging launch-pad of slide trombone and trumpet. The band, on traditional rock guitar, bass and drums, joins the crew of heavenly voices for a successful lift off.

Vocalists, guitarists and songwriters Orenda and Maria Rocket, along with bassist Jackie Rocket (as related to each other as the Ramones were) mix '60s girl-group chirp and '80s pop. "California" crackles with the punky energy of Veruca Salt. Fueled by drummer Scott Rocket, the band reach high-altitudes of pure pop flight that would've made Wernher von Braun proud and define the Rocket's science of breezy fun.

With "Wandering Eye," the Rocketeers soar on solid melodies and atmospheric guitars, sounding like the Southern siblings of Luscious Jackson.. "Star" is a heavenly body of celestial "ahhhs" and Bangles-esque vocals in one streamlined arc. "Italian Song" defies gravity through a time-warp of modern keyboards and retro soundtrack injections.

It's in the Sound's turbulent title track mixes sugary 4AD-like veiled aggression with the thrust of a rollicking piano, creating a breathy and bumpy re-entry. In the same orbit as Game Theory or Let's Active, yet appealingly current; this Rocket's red glare is hot.

Little Red Rocket open for the Jennifer Nettles Band April 21 at Variety Playhouse.

N'hood
Record Reviews
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Purveying that other New York sound (not the Velvet Underground/CBGB's-subway rumble kind, but rather the pointedly self-conscious, artfully eclectic variety) has long been Sue Garner and Rick Brown's specialty. Their collective musical pedigree, far too extensive to detail here, includes such seminal arty outfits as Fish & Roses and Run On. In both bands, Garner and Brown freely indulged their avant-garde tendencies within a decidedly indie rock framework. The results, while often intellectually pleasing, failed to capture much of that good ol' rock 'n' roll passion.

To some extent, Garner worked out these kinks with her 1998 solo debut To Run More Smoothly. By concentrating squarely on the songs and her ethereal voice, she proved that real warmth flowed beneath the cerebral sheen. Still is even better. An expansive testament to home recording and restless imaginations, the album exudes a warmly inviting made-next-door ambiance. And while it meanders all over the stylistic map, from the Roxy Music-esque "Synthbug" to the pulsating "Asphalt Road," to the organized racket of "Fussy Fuss," Garner and Brown never sacrifice song or melody for artistic indulgences. In short it is a real rarity: a smart album that's also actually fun to listen to.

Sue Garner and Rick Brown perform during WREK's benefit show, Fri., April 21, at the Earl.

N'hood
Record Reviews
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Foregoing the darker sounds of his last Eels effort (1998's Electro-shock Blues) and the post-grunge surge of his band's debut (1996's Beautiful Freak), Mark Oliver "E" Everett is up to his old tricks again on Daisies of the Galaxy. Using the studio talents of hip friends Grant Lee Phillips (on bass), R.E.M.'s Peter Buck (piano, guitar and bass) and longtime drummer Butch, E's tunes haven't sounded this fresh and lively since his toy-piano days back in the early-'90s.

Although he has yet to recapture the quaintness of "Are You and Me Gonna Happen," (from 1992's A Man Called E), E's sparse soundscapes, friendly melodies and menagerie of instruments are a fitting backdrop for his ironic, sometimes Dylanesque storytelling. ("If I lay my head down/I will see you in my dream/Wearing that polka dot dress/And sitting by the stream/I wish I could remember/But my selective memory won't let me," he sings in Daisies' "Selective Memory").

Tinged with black humor, many of E's songs are at once comical and full of melancholy. "It's a Mother#%*@#*" is sad and poignant, even though its title earned the band a parental advisory sticker; "Grace Kelly Blues," inspired by a Paris mime, is a hummable mandolin-and-horn number that could be a Tom Waits or even Kurt Weill composition (if either had been born past 1965).

In the end, the Eels' Daisies may earn the band a few new hits, but E, thank goodness, will never be an alterna-rocker has-been. For this clever writer, songs such as "Flyswatter" and "Tiger in My Tank" (rescued from their own accessibility by bells, organs and operatic female backing vocals) are just the tip of the iceberg.

The Eels perform at the Tabernable on Thurs. April 20.

N'hood
Record Reviews
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Chip Taylor is probably the most famous unknown songwriter in America. A recording/writing deal in the '60s resulted in several big hits, including "Wild Thing," "Angel of the Morning" and "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)," then Taylor left music to pursue other interests. In the past decade, he has re-emerged and released a series of independent recordings, featuring his own unique brand of storytelling. Experiencing a burst of creativity during a recent U.K. tour, Taylor cut a batch of new material with a full band, and then almost immediately followed up with an acoustic recording session concentrating on even more new tunes.

The London Sessions is a bit of a misnomer, as 16 of the 25 songs on this double disc actually were recorded in New York. The first disc consists of the nine tracks done in London, and feature a pick-up band that was able to cut most of the songs in one day. Even though it is described as the "Electric" disc, the music is subtle and thoughtful, and Taylor's lyrics paint poignant pictures of the down-and-outers of the world. The second "Acoustic" disc includes 16 tracks, featuring guest vocals by Lucinda Williams, fiddle by Tammy Rogers and Anton Fig on percussion. While slower and less musically dynamic than the first disc, Taylor maintains an edge in the words of his songs. The total package is an interesting view into the world of a well-traveled man, and shows that singer/songwriters don't have to be self-centered and boring.

N'hood
Record Reviews
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As the old cliché goes, Tommy Womack has paid his dues in full. The singer/songwriter spent the better part of the '80s in the infamous rock outfit Government Cheese, later telling the tale in the excellent book Cheese Chronicles: The True Story of a Band You Never Heard Of. He fronted the roots-rock Bis-Quits and his first solo release, Positively Na Na, was an incredible collection of smartly written songs, biting commentary and clever character sketches.

The undiscovered treasure of the singer/songwriter set returns with Stubborn, another excellent collection of heartbroken heroes and lovable losers. With the same dry wit Dylan flashed on Highway 61 Revisited, Womack deconstructs blues and songwriter forms with a self-depreciating humor and melancholic twinge. Like he did on Positively Na Na, Womack fires off emotions like a .30-06, from rage ("I Don't Have a Gun") to crippling desperation ("The Urge to Call") to warning ("Tellin' You What You Want to Hear"). Again, the excellent character sketches of everyday people populate Stubborn's "Willie Perdue" and "For the Battered." The songs don't judge or condemn either the individual or society; they simply tell the tale with a sense of detachment reminiscent of Tom T. Hall's best work.

Cap it off with an excellent Kinks cover, "Berkeley Mews," and collaboration with Jason of the Scorchers, "Going Nowhere" (originally on the Scorchers' Clear Impetuous Morning), and Stubborn is a fantastic listen, front-to-back. Like running partner Todd Snider, Womack is a much-under-appreciated talent and one of the brightest lights of the nuevo-singer/songwriter scene.

N'hood
Record Reviews
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Apparently Apollo 440 and Tony Montana have a lot in common. Neither heeded the advice to "never get high on their own supply" — and you know how "Scarface" ended. This U.K.-based sextet claims to be direct descendants of Kraftwerk, Aphrodite and the Beastie Boys. However, their rock based techno-pop lite comes across more like "Mr. Roboto"-era Styx set to a dance beat.

Now all the news isn't bad. Some of the ethereal piano and effect-laden tracks, such as "For Forty Days" and "Machine in the Ghost," do create the proper late night ambiance. The theme from "Lost In Space" makes an amusing side-phrase for the partying state of mind. This CD is better suited to the car or the black-light hangout room than the clubs. Rock-lite infused tracks like "Can't Stop the Rock," "Cold Rock the Mike" and "High on Your Own Supply" carry sufficient peaks and valleys, but never really blow up the way one would hope.

Much of the intensity seems to have been filtered through a sieve, leaving the listener feeling like they've just got the diet plate instead of that double burger with the works. Aside from the interesting arrangement of the reggae-ish "Heart Go Boom," most of the tracks never quite get to their promised destinations. There is a lot of promise on this CD and is worth the $8.99 introductory price, given the right mood. The real difference for true technophiles, though, is like choosing to rent Go over Pulp Fiction.

N'hood
Record Reviews
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Situated somewhere between old-guard techies like John Michel Jarre and the ambient excursions of the Orb's Dr. Alex Paterson, Melbourne's New Waver bring psychosis, monotony and the common man's anxiety to their debut CD. By piecing together bits of real world sound from self-help sources, talk radio and documentaries, the trio and assorted friends work at illustrating the clinically uncomfortable side of loser culture. Set to spacey, analog oscillations, "The Realist" frames the delusions of one schizophrenic calmly (and disturbingly.) explaining that he is the unwilling subject of government experiments. "Life Force" is existentialist dogma set to a classic TB-303 synth backdrop. And while the rest of the tracks herein are downcast and cleverly designed to venerate elements of fringe psychiatry, "We're Gonna Get You After School" plays as something more humorous (intentionally or not) with it's use of sampled threats from schoolyard bullies. Through dated keyboard sounds and rhythms that don't generally mirror the ultra-diced, heart attack pace of the day, New Waver's styling suits the band's refreshing agenda of canvassing grim realism à la vintage Throbbing Gristle while making the occasional nod toward Tangerine Dream. (Available from www.mbnet.mb.ca/~endear)
N'hood
Wednesday 19
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DANIELLE HOWLE, MIKE WINGER — The wonderfully comic and entertaining Howle (a Daemon artist from South Carolina who recently had an indie hit in Alaska, of all places) shares the stage tonight with Mike Winger, formerly of — no, not metal band Winger — but Athens pop band Dayroom. Eddie's Attic (Nicoll)

KINA — A powerful new soul-rock singer, in the vein of Dionne Farris and Macy Gray, makes her local debut tonight. She's got her debut CD coming out on DreamWorks in May, so now's the time to get a jump on this very promising up-and-comer. Yin Yang Café (Sarig)

JIM ROLL, AMY PIKE — Opening for singer/songwriter Jim Roll, whose latest CD Lunette is drawing favorable reviews, is the former Continentals vocalist Pike, who's taking a radical change of direction with her new, unhinged "Legendary Stardust Cowgirl" persona. The Earl (Nicoll)

SHIVAREE, KING LEER JET — Shivaree is a smart, compact little combo fronted by songstress Ambrosia Parsley, who has clearly absorbed influences as diverse as Rickie Lee Jones, Nina Persson (Cardigans), Sheryl Crow and Patsy Cline — not to mention Vic Chesnutt, Tom Waits and Tricky. The band's debut album, largely produced by Joe Henry, displays a delightfully trippy/edgy/murky/scratchy ambiance and, just as importantly, a healthy disregard for formula. Shivaree headline tonight's early show, starting at 7 p.m. Local pop quartet King Lear Jet headline a separate late show, starting at 9 p.m. Smith's Olde Bar (Falstaff)

COOPER TISDALE, HOWARD SHAFT — Jazz-inflected local popster Tisdale and his band share the stage tonight with the tasty tunes of Louisiana export Shaft. Brandyhouse (Nicoll)

TIME TRAVIL — With a tabla player at the center of the band's sound, tons of intricate rhythm play and influences that draw equally from classical Indian music and bebop, this is not your average jam band. Still, we're talking about a drummer, bass and tabla. Not a lot of high end, but probably way more interesting than half the stuff that passes for experimental improv. Eyedrum (Trammell)

X-IMPOSSIBLES, EL CAMINOS — The X-Imps are riding high these days, having accomplished the considerable feat of besting the mighty El Caminos at their own game a couple weeks ago on this club's stage. Tonight, however, comes the spectacular re-match. Star Bar (Nicoll)

N'hood
Thursday 20
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ALKALINE TRIO, PINEHURST KIDS, SHARKS AND MINNOWS — It's hardly like we haven't heard disaffected, suburbanites wailing about their girl troubles over a reasonably melodic punk-pop din before, but Chicago's Alkaline Trio bring their pain with a ferocity that makes it stand out. The Pinehurst Kids' soulful punk rock is a little too raw for the MTV/So-Cal brand of pop punk, and much more wizened and heartfelt than anything playing on the Warped Tour. Where does that leave them? Who knows, but it sounds sad and happy at the same time. Relatively new local emo/punk act Sharks and Minnows opens. Echo Lounge (Peisner/Trammell/Sarig)

FIONA APPLE, THE EELS — See Fiona Apple feature on p. 83, and Eels review on p. 105. Tabernacle (Elfman/York)

D-DAY — Nigerian-born Dagga and Medicine cold rock a party with their raw, bouncing blend of hip-hop, reggae and African pop. Their recent CD Survivors has more than a few rough and ready breakouts custom made for blasting out of Jeeps all summer long. In concert, they're backed with an eight-piece band including a DJ, so you know the brothers gonna work it out. 7:30 p.m. show time. Speakers Auditorium/GSU (Trammell)

GENITORTURERS — Piercingly loud metal with needle-point accuracy and enough shock-appeal to satisfy the curious. The Tampa-based band play rings around similar heavy outfits. Lead singer/Dominatrix Gen is a '90s Wendy O. Williams with a penchant for thumbing her nose (and anything else) at society. The 'Torturers always produce a riveting show. Exposed flesh, pain, tattoos and loud music. Ouch! Masquerade (Smith)

LIZ MELENDEZ BLUES EXCURSION — Sizzling electric blues that comes out like Melissa Etheridge possessed by the ghost of Stevie Ray Vaughn. Darwin's/Marietta (Nicoll)

MAGNETIC FIELDS, THE LOUD FAMILY — See Magnetic Fields article on p. 83. The Loud Family's mildly perverse, brainiac pop has been its leader Scott Miller's métier for almost two decades now. First with the Game Theory and now with Loud Family, Miller has demonstrated a definite flair for effervescent melodies, uber-literate lyrics and frequently distracting sound effects. Genius or over-intellectualized clap-trap? It all depends on your tolerance for liner notes that mention T.S. Eliot. Variety Playhouse (Robertson)

ROLLIN' MACHINE, THE NOW!, MARIANNE FAITHFULS — The '60s live on in the stompin' vintage rock sounds of these three local ensembles. The Faithfuls are led by Bruce Ciero of Bad Trip zine fame, The Now! includes members of the Hippycrickets and the Lizardmen (with much the same spirit of both) and Rollin' Machine is the plugged-in band fronted by Decatur singer/songwriter Adam Leland. Star Bar (Nicoll)

JENNIE STEARNS — The former member of Donna the Buffalo has a new solo album, Mourning Dove Songs, which she recorded live in an upstate New York church. Like other north country girl-led acts (10,000 Maniacs, Cowboy Junkies), Stearns presents rootsy originals with a warm and tuneful woodlands feel. Eddie's Attic (Sarig)

TIMONIUM — Comparisons to Codeine, My Bloody Valentine Mogwai and Low are nothing to complain about, and a good jumping off point for describing the band's sound. Slow, dreamy, crashing, rising, blissful, quiet, loud — and that's just song one. The Earl (Trammell)

TONY FURTADO BAND — A regular visitor to town, slide guitarist/banjoist Tony Furtado brings a full band to preview the group's rootsy new self-titled CD. The album, which isn't released nationally for another month, will also be for sale at the show. Smith's Olde Bar (Sarig)

N'hood
Friday 21
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APPLES IN STEREO, WEE TURTLES — The Denver-based Apples are a throwback to the time when records sounded good on transistor radios and Beach Boys-style harmonies with sunny pop melodies weren't "oldies," but current hits. Dreamy, colorful and hip. The Wee Turtles, from Athens, are like-minded Rubber Soul-mates of the Apples. Echo Lounge (Smith)

WENDY BUCKLEW — Singer/songwriter Wendy Bucklew returns to Decatur to preview songs from her forthcoming live album, Still 'Live. My Sister's Room/222 E. Howard Ave. (Sarig)

COUNTDOWN QUARTET, UBEREASY — Call this "offbeat lounge night!" The Countdowners are an excellent North Carolina-based jazz/free-rock group and UberEasy are Atlanta's own campy cabaret combo. Also appearing tonight are the Jet Set Six. Star Bar (Nicoll)

DIESTRA ACUSTICA — As they finish up work on their debut CD, local trio Diestra Acustica preview their Latin acoustic guitar sounds. Yin Yang Café (Sarig)

TISH HINOJOSA — Tex-Mex troubadour Tish Hinojosa has made a career hopping the borders that separate her roots, her home state and her time spent writing songs in Nashville. Her latest CD, the mostly-English Sign of Truth, elevates mainstream country songs with the addition of tejano accordion and horns, along with Texan pedal steel. Smith's Olde Bar (Sarig)

JIMMY'S CHICKEN SHACK, KATHLEEN TURNER OVERDRIVE — Jimmy Haha, founder of Jimmie's Chicken Shack, won't be tricked into labeling his music. "We're all pretty scatterbrained," he says of his band. "If we listen to music on our bus, it goes all over the place." The same can be said of JCS. Atlanta fans will hear the band spray from radio-friendly ("Do Right") to reggae-funk ("Lazy Boy Dash"). One of three opening acts is KTO, legendary Atlanta punkers re-united with their original 1994 lineup. See story in Earshot on p. 91. Cotton Club (Allen/Nicoll)

KING'S ENGLISH, MOTO-LITAS — The English are '60s-style garage rawkers who probably dream of growing up to become the Woggles. The Motos are an all-girl combo whose surfy/new wave sounds evoke both the Neptunas and Ultrababyfat, with a sweet dollop of Oh-OK and Pylon scooped on top. Dottie's (Nicoll)

JENNIFER NETTLES, LITTLE RED ROCKET — A double-whammy of a release show. Nettles, formerly of Soul Miner's Daughter, celebrates her debut solo release, while Athens' quartet Little Red Rocket present their second CD, It's in the Sound (see review on p. 105). Variety Playhouse (Sarig)

WREK 32ND ANNIVERSARY SHOW — Red Krayola headline the first night of this two-day event; see article on p. 92. Also on the bill: John Forbes, a noise rock icon who's served up guitar and vocals for Mount Shasta and Phantom 309 — as well as defunct local band Dirt — returns as part of Tijuana Bible. And New York no-wave veterans Sue Garner (ex-Run On) and Rick Brown, former Atlantans, return as well. The Earl (Hatcher)

N'hood
Saturday 22
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ATLANTA SWAMP OPERA — Local Cajun/zydeco six-piece perform at this regular dance party put on by the Atlanta Cajun Dance Association. A beginners' dance workshop is held at 7 p.m. For info, call 770-552-6041. Knights of Columbus Post 660/2620 Buford Hwy. (Sarig)

THE CHANGELINGS — The Echo Lounge does darkwave for a special dance show, featuring sets by goth deejays as well as live music from this haunting local pop combo. Echo Lounge (Nicoll)

CAT POWER — It could be said the test of a visionary artist is his or her ability to do covers. On her new CD, The Covers Record, Cat Power's Chan Marshall proves she can't do anything but be herself. Even songs written by others and covered millions of times sound like Cat Power originals in Marshall's hands. While it lacks the weight of her own songs, the CD is revealing nevertheless. But let's hope she breaks out some new material on stage this weekend. The Earl (Sarig)

CIGAR STORE INDIANS — Truck-drivin' country/rockabilly that's as tough as Firestone radials and as manfully appealing as new leather seats. Smith's Olde Bar (Nicoll)

GREG CONNORS — This local rocker claims his answering machine is clogged with messages from David T. Lindsay, telling him to grow his hair long and appeal to his own sense of feminine irony. Since Lindsay's a film critic and not a rock critic, we wonder what's been slipped into Connors' coffee lately. He's on stage at 9 p.m. tonight. If Coffeehouse (Nicoll)

PROJECT LOGIC — Best known as the DJ and "fourth member" of Medeski, Martin and Wood, DJ Logic also leads a live band that features himself on turntables, the Rollins Band's Melvin Gibbs on bass and former Arrested Development drummer Skoota Warner. Project Logic's recent self-titled release features appearances by MMW, Vernon Reid, Marc Ribot, Sex Mob and others. The core trio, however, will do their thing in Midtown tonight. Yin Yang Music Café (Sarig)

REDNECK GREECE, TORE UP! — GReece paint loopy musical pictures of low-rent Southern life, while Tore Up! blasts out earthy upbeat country that's tailor-made to rock yer trailer right off its cinderblocks. Star Bar (Nicoll)

U.S. BOMBS — Led by skateboard daredevil Duane Peters, the Bombs play the kind of old school anthemic beer-chuggin' working class punk rock that ties together their So-Cal hardcore roots with an old school class-of-'76 sound. Union 13, Bloody Sods and the Squares are also on the bill. 513 Club (Trammell)

BILL "THE SAUCE BOSS" WHARTON — Equal parts cooking demonstration and musical performance, the Sauce Boss cooks a pot of gumbo during the show, all the while playing slide guitar and singing. Wharton's belly jigglin' enthusiasm and kooky sense of fun raise his nursery rhyme blues above its fifth generation minstrel show shtick. It's all about the gumbo anyhow, and at the end of the show, everybody eats. 9 p.m. showtime. Sportsworld Bar and Grille/Marietta (Trammell)

WREK 32ND ANNIVERSARY SHOW — The second, more low-key night of this two-day celebration features Steven Fenton with Krayolas (apparently, members of the Red Krayola; see article on p. 92), as well as ninety-something-year-old local blues icon Frank Edwards and Some Soviet Station. Eyedrum (Sarig)

N'hood
Sunday 23
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CAT POWER — See listing for April 22. This is a 3 p.m. matinee show. The Earl (Sarig)

EVA JAMES — This is the final night of James' three-week Sunday residency, where she's joined by bandmate Eskil Wetterqvist for an acoustic set. Smith's Olde Bar (Sarig)

SON SEALS — It's a good thing Blind Willie's has expanded from the narrow little club it once was; the room needs its extra space to contain the giant, leonine presence of Chicago-blues legend Son Seals. Surrounded by the blues since the day he was born, in a house attached to his daddy's juke joint in Osceola, Ark., Seals was trained by his musician father and schooled by the blues greats all throughout his young life. Seals played with them all, and eventually became one of the greats himself. Forty years into it, his menacing vocals and profound emotion still mark the music of the Midnight Son. Blind Willie's (Kelly)

N'hood
Monday 24
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DEAD PREZ — Home to Luke and Big Pun, Loud Records is not exactly known as a home for progressive, politically-oriented hip-hop. But with its latest, signing, Brooklyn duo Dead Prez, that may be changing. And by blending Loud's hitmaking sound with lots of leftie signifiers, Dead Prez might find themselves in a comfortable middle-ground between the Coup and Rage Against the Machine. For more info on the show, call 404-628-9140. Liun's Lair/680 Murphy St. (Sarig)

GROOVE HOLMES BAND — GHB (presumably not a drug reference) are a very collegiate sounding Dave Matthews/Blues Traveler amalgam from Connecticut. Hey, the future George Dubyas of the world need to get funky too. Smith's Olde Bar (Sarig)

MOTOMASA & EVE — The tag team DJs spin a three-hour set of ambient jungle and deep house — including material featured on their new mix tapes, Let it Be and 2asOne. Joe Muggs/3275 Peachtree (Sarig)

N'hood
Tuesday 25
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THE GO — Obviously these Detroit boys' record collection begins with the MC5 and ends with the Stooges. They certainly have that old Motor City, rock-scuzz sound down pat. Luckily they also write succinct, hook-filled songs (OK, so maybe they have a few Ramones' albums lying around too) that demonstrate a nascent personality that's all their own. While their approach may be rather doctrinaire, that hardly seems to matter when they rock with such primal authority. Echo Lounge (Robertson)
N'hood
Wednesday 26
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COREY COKES — This Boston-based spoken word poet named his CD Coreyography, which implies a level of self-indulgence that tends to make less pretentious types cringe and wonder why they'd care to know about Corey's "ography?" But while he doesn't exactly rise above his genre, Cokes is more entertaining, musical and universal than most. Yin Yang Café (Sarig)

VINYL, ROBERT WALTER'S 20TH CONGRESS — With a tight horn line, tons of percussion and standout players on bass and keyboards, Vinyl has made a name for themselves in their native Bay Area as a hot ticket, drawing comparisons to Santana and War. The music is all instrumental and played with a measure of discipline and skill that's rare for a band tagged as a jam band. Bringing a similar aesthetic from the other end of California is the San Diego quartet led by jazz-funk keyboardist Robert Walter, groovemeister on the Hammond organ, Fender Rhodes, clavinet and other vintage gear. Smith's Olde Bar (Trammell/Sarig)

X-IMPOSSIBLES, TOM COLLINS, THE EVILS — The hard-rocking X-Impossibles finish up their Wednesday-nights-in-April residency with a bill that includes former residents, the guitar heroic Tom Collins and new kids in town, the Evils. Star Bar (Sarig)

N'hood
Death be not proud
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For a play about cancer and mortality, there are many laugh lines in Margaret Edson's Wit, but one in the Alliance Studio production is unintentional. The central character of Dr. Vivian Bearing, a John Donne scholar and cancer patient, bids the audience, "Consider what it feels like to play my part." Given the trouble the theater faced in filling the role, one can't help but hear actress Nancy Linehan Charles behind the line.

The Alliance Studio had no understudy on hand when a bout of diverticulitus forced actress Susan Kellerman to bow out, mere days before preview performances were to begin. After a frantic search, Charles, who understudied the role at Los Angeles' Geffen Playhouse, was brought in with only a few weeks of preparation time.

There's a reason why Bearing is such a bear to cast, not the least of which is that she's onstage talking, almost continuously, for nearly two uninterrupted hours and must master the jargon of both cancer treatment and literary analysis (not to mention shave her head and appear briefly nude). But with the right person in the lead, Wit takes both player and audience on a funny, wrenching and profound journey, and fortunately Charles is a pistol in the part.

Wearing a hospital gown and a red baseball cap over her hairless pate, Bearing becomes something of an archetypal figure of a patient bravely facing the worst from both disease and its treatment. As she walks the audience through her life and the changes she's weathered, she's not so much an Ivy League lecturer as a feisty emcee, at least the way Charles plays her.

When her physician (Jim Peck) diagnoses her with advanced ovarian cancer, Bearing's academic instincts take over, and she fixates on the use of words like "insidious" that characterize the disease. "Is anyone researching cancer?" she wonders in one of the first of the play's knowing jokes. The star literary researcher becomes an object of research as she submits to an experimental treatment of grueling chemotherapy.

As the chemo takes a toll on her immune system, Bearing sees her emotional defenses break down as well. Self-sufficient and almost imperious, she takes considerable pride in her career, getting prestigious honors and terrorizing her students. In Wit, not only does she chafe at her role as a patient, dependent on a hubbub of health care professionals, but she also bristles at her place in the play itself, at times critiquing the stage directions.

Edson so cunningly and confidently constructs the Pulitzer-winning play, it's nearly flawless. Nevertheless, some of its events are rather convenient. Research fellow Jason Posner (Jim Roof) turns out to be a former student from her Donne class, while another character makes a surprise reappearance at Bearing's hospital bed near the end of the play. But Edson makes so much use of the small contrivances that she gets away with them. Wit would be less witty without them, and the reunion scene sets off sniffles through the audience.

The play is far from being a tearjerker, though. It's more of a reassessment of a life in the face of a death, with Bearing going through a variation of the Kubler-Ross stages of dying (anger, denial, etc.). Bearing grows to appreciate the human touch, personified by her nurse, Susie (Brenda Porter), over the intellectual acrobatics of metaphysical poetry. Though sometimes the play has complex, poetic language and goes on scholarly tangents (like a debate over the punctuation in Donne's "Death Be Not Proud" sonnet), the ideas behind the action are simple and accessible.

Wit is not a play without precedent, as other scripts have used disease to hoist forceful intellects on their own petards. Such characters as William Hurt's title role in The Doctor, Roy Cohn in Angels in America and particularly C.S. Lewis in Shadowlands undergo similar transformations as Bearing. Edson stands out by relying so little on deathbed sentiment: We feel and identify with all aspects of Bearing's decline, not just the ones that work the tear ducts.

Director Jessica Phelps keeps the supporting cast constantly moving and gets some especially nice moments from Porter, Peck and Marcie Hubert as Bearing's mentor (who will be replaced by Viola Harris after May 7). In one of the play's most compelling speeches, Jim Roof's Jason rhapsodizes on the mysteries of cancer as a disease — as a researcher, he says, "Cancer's the only thing I ever wanted." His bad bedside manner and anxiety at performing a pelvic exam are played broadly for laughs, but Jason ultimately emerges as a young version of Bearing herself, a would-be genius who's all too human.

Wit is only as good as its Bearing, and the Studio lucked out in Nancy Linehan Charles. While Bearing is stern and forbidding in scenes with students and young people, she's rather light and likable with the audience, punctuating the latest absurdity or indignity with a sideways glance to the crowd. She may push the humor further than required, but she finds the fear and sadness in the role, too, conveying the heartbreaking feelings most effectively in the moments with no dialogue at all.

In retrospect, two January productions involving women and disease, Shadowlands and Theatre in the Square's The Waiting Room, seem like preliminaries to Wit as the main event. After the Studio's engaging production, Edson's decision not to write any more seems especially regrettable — with such an auspicious debut, who knows how much further she could develop her talent? With Wit, Edson hit one out of the park her first time at bat, and by retiring, to mix metaphors, at least she avoids the problem of what to do for an encore.

"Wit" plays through June 11 at the Alliance Studio Theatre, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St., with performances at 8 p.m. Tues.-Sat. and 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sun. $21-$27. 404-733-5000.

http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/donne/

N'hood
Body poetic
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An inventive photographer, Alvin Booth embodies hope and promise. Even his frazzled hair is spiked with a look of happy epiphany. For 14 years a hairdresser in England, Booth used to concoct exotic do's for the models on fashion shoots and begged the photographers to immortalize them. Less than 10 years ago, he decided to take a camera in hand and do it himself. That's when the slim sprite found out how difficult the whole process could be.

And how rewarding. He's been teaching himself ever since. Booth has developed a style that in the last six years has brought him critical success here and abroad. Most of the works on view at Jackson Fine Art are excerpts from a current series he calls "Osmosis." Rather than print on standard-sized photo paper, Booth buys it by the roll and prints in a 40-by-20-inch format. He tones and distresses the images by hand and displays each limited edition silver print in a sealed glass, copper-edged frame of his own making.

In "Osmosis," nude female figures are seen through a unique scrim. His models pose behind or press against a great sheet of latex, the kind used for dental dams, and he photographs their glowing backlit forms. The effect is ephemeral and otherworldly. With edges dissolving and facial features barely distinguishable, bodies become poetry. Sometimes, there's the consequence of static in their hair, an exclamatory halo not unlike their creator's coif. The top of a head pushed hard against the latex reveals the gleaming beauty of the skull. In one view of feet and legs, toes stretch up and feet curve to cup a space of light.

Fascinated with the female body, Booth translates it into a powerful, transcendent form. The latex works like a veil to romanticize and abstract the figure. Flesh is spirit; the body appears weightless and infinitely fluid.

Booth's interest in movement and the human form led him to invent his "Clockwork" series. Gold-bodied dancers shimmy, pirouette and flap their arms in his amusing kinetic sculptures, assemblages that make still images move. He places two different views of the same figure (arms up/arms down, hips to the left/hips to the right) back to back in a three-inch round frame. He suspends the copper-edged disk from a small glass-encased motor. When wound and released, the disk spins, creating the vintage fantasy of an animated photograph.

Also on view, Booth's new book Corpus is a gilded photo study in the aesthetics of bondage. Gleaming metallic figures are tightly bound in strips of latex or a front-lacing one-piece latex corset designed by the artist. Coated with oil and gold powder, they flex against their trusses, less erotic than reminiscent of recent high-fashion enslavement. Still, art-loving voyeurs may be titillated by Booth's obsession with bronzed exoticism, a faceless look at the perfect body all tied up.

Works by Alvin Booth are on view through May 13 at Jackson Fine Art, 3115 E. Shadowlawn Ave. Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. 404-233-3739.

N'hood
Simply complex
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Beautiful, vibrant and conceptual, Contact Paintings 1997-2000 by Rainer Gross at the Marcia Wood Gallery this month may well be the spring show to see. Nine sensual abstractions flood the space in a great rush of pure color.

There's more than meets the eye in the German-born artist's tactile unframed paintings. At birth, all of his works are twins, though for his first Atlanta exhibition, Gross shows only three in sets. His studied process is simple, yet incredibly complex. First, he spreads out different solid color layers of oil and pigments on two identically sized stretched linen canvasses. He then takes the two toiles and presses them together. When he pulls the pair apart, their paint has realigned itself randomly. Flakes of color impose one on another, pigment comes off on oil, oil covers pigment in an uneven transfer. When displayed in a pair, the second canvas is rotated 180 degrees from the first, adding a perceptual nuance to the diptych.

"Hooper" is a set of yellow on yellow twins. At 72-by-60 inches, the two canvases mounted side by side pulse with light. In "Biasco Twins," a smaller rectangular piece, the conversation between brilliant blue and rich aqua is flecked in purple. A painting that from a distance looks like a solid creamy white, "Paas," has underlayers of pink and rust. Bits of color emerge in tiny areas like corrosion breaking through the surface of painted metal.

"Davini" is a vast map. Infinitely more distressed than "Paas," the surface shifts from deep red to deep pink and back again. Optical illusions in this work are discrete, but puissant; in spots where the paint has pulled away to expose an almost bare canvas, the thicker pigment stands out in relief, taking on the texture of the linen canvas that kissed and left it. The viewer might expect the paint to come crumbling off.

Gross chooses names for his abstractions from a telephone book, hence titles like "Meiko," "Belzer" and "Hooper." Differing from his works that feature stripes of pigment, Contact Paintings are raw mottled color fields. Painted in almost edible orange, purple, yellow, pink, blue, red, white and taupe, the compositions transform when approached from different angles. They shift in hue and erupt in unexpected organic patterns.

Gross studied at the art academy of Cologne, West Germany, before heading west to London and later to the States. He's exhibited extensively in Europe and Canada as well as in New York, where he now lives. The artist says that Contact Paintings represent the distillation of 30 years of work pared away to the real essential.

Contact Paintings are the ultimate monoprints. They propose a dialogue about original and copy, loss and gain, control and release. Their textured depth and inner light prove that the search for meaning in abstraction may end in an emotional and visceral pool of beauty. In truth, the show is the perfect antidote to Ross Bleckner's uneasy biology lesson next door at Vaknin Schwartz.

Rainer Gross' Contact Paintings is on view through May 6 at Marcia Wood Gallery, 1831-B Peachtree Road. 404-351-3930.

N'hood
Dreamscape
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What if your living room rug dissolved into moss, your walls became a folding paper screen and a saffron tapestry dropped from the sky to embellish your most intimate conversation? Instead of MTV, sitcoms and commercials, what if your television emitted dappled idyllic reveries? Forget the idea of home as castle. With the proper ingredients, you could transport your digs into a cedar-scented Zen sanctuary. That's what happens in "quietude," Robin Bernat's newest work at Solomon Projects.

Perhaps it's the fact that the Atlanta artist is a stalwart romantic. Her earlier self-centered works often seemed too drawn out, cloying and sentimental. This time, though, there is more complexity in Bernat's multi-faceted installation. Four 19-inch monitors line the length of two console tables, which sit on a rectangle of moss. T-pinned to the wall behind them are 135 small penciled drawings of tiny pebbles from a Zen garden. A red viewing bench invites the viewer to enter Bernat's layered meditation.

In keeping with her self-conscious work, "quietude's" imagery is drawn from the artist's personal environment. To the far left, the views are of sun and sky glinting through a tall bamboo forest that sways in a breeze. (Bernat passes the exotic forest en route to a lake house near Atlanta.) The second video records the ritual of lighting the sea of glass votive candles on a rectangular wood table in her home. In this sequence, the candles are lit, then shimmer in light and darkness before being swept up in the artist's embracing arms. A third visual narrative shows, first Bernat dancing with her lover in front of a red orange tapestry, then her cat gliding around ceramic vases on a table in her living room. Her fourth vista is a lake (Lake Lanier). The camera follows the tree-edged shore line, then rests on the surface of the water in a spring rain.

Bernat's looped video vignettes play in concert with a three-element sound track. The most dominant tone is a jazz fusion of clarinet and traditional Japanese instruments. Then comes Bernat's voice reading "quietude," her sonnet on love and remorse that speaks of the pain and pleasure in what she calls "the useless dream of perfection." And finally, off to the right, a whispering Bernat reads a passage from an American Buddhist nun's writing about passion and patience.

The 34-year-old Bernat began writing poetry as a child. Her artmaking began less than a decade ago, and the meditative video works debuted in 1997. Her 1998 "effortless" caught the fancy of Whitney Biennial 2000 curators. The video is now screening weekly in New York at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The problem with "quietude" is its insistence on a still surround. To experience the work's resonant harmony, the viewer should be left entirely alone and undistracted. That might prove impossible in such a public setting, but remember: The thoughtful encounter Bernat proposes is all about taking a deep breath of artificial reality.

Robin Bernat's "quietude" is on view through May 13 at Solomon Projects, 1037 Monroe Drive, 404-875-7100. Wed.-Sat., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. "effortless" screens Thursdays at 2 p.m. through June 4 at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

N'hood
Toxic landscape
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Divided into four rooms loosely organized by theme, the High Museum's exhibition Building a Collection: Recent Photography Acquisitions gives Tom Southall an opportunity to display some of the work he's done over the past several years as the museum's latest photo curator.

In the first room are pieces from photography's old guard, including Edward Steichen, Dorothea Lange's "White Angel Breadline" and work by Edward Weston, most of which show a heavy curatorial emphasis on portraiture. The second room builds upon the High's 1996 Picturing the South exhibition with its focus on regional themes and Southern photographers. Along with images of folk artists and their environments, lost-in-time barbershops and Alain Desvergnes' familiar portrait of a baby belle in "Yoknapatawpha, Oxford, Mississippi," are nods to the usual suspects such as Coretta Scott King and George Wallace.

The third alcove is dominated by works that expand the parameters of photography both formally and conceptually. Carrie Mae Weems' use of framed text to flesh out the content of her photographs is illustrative, as is Amalia Amaki's and Guatemalan artist Luis Gonzalez Palma's incorporation of found objects into their images, which meld elements of collage, assemblage and photography.

Beyond these arrangements that seem more skewed to give out-of-towners a cursory read of the High's collection and a mini-tutorial on Southern identity, the real reason for locals to see Building a Collection is in the gallery's fourth room: an arresting, brutal series of works commissioned by the High by California landscape photographer Richard Misrach.

Misrach's work documents a depressing stretch of the Mississippi from Baton Rouge to New Orleans dubbed "Cancer Alley" that has been used as a corporate sewer by Union Carbide, Dow Chemicals and other industrial monoliths. Misrach defers to his specialty — landscape — and focuses on homes and graveyards, swamps and river's edges rather than the human victims of cancer. What might seem a cold and calculated denial of people is, in actuality, a shrewd and deeply evocative concentration on a landscape that becomes as haunted as the gauzy, contaminated antebellum homes and spoiled Eden of Sally Mann's "Deep South" and "Motherland" series. While photographs of cancer victims might allow us to dismiss suffering as discrete, Misrach's use of landscape demands we see it as a threat beyond the individual, seeping into the communal soil in the most nightmarish terms.

Using the ghostly, intrusive presence of the river licking at the water's banks as a stand in for an invisible pollutant, Misrach conveys a feeling of bodily engulfment. Rather than signaling freedom, the vast sky tinged with sulphurous yellow or steely gray only emphasizes the entrapment suffered on Earth below. Using a language of chilling displacement, the work gives an immediate impression of the inescapable creep of the river and with it the poisonous specter. The most potent image might be "Hazardous Waste Containment Site," in which a toxic chemical zone sits, ironically, in the center of a river that flows through the chain-link fence that pretends to "contain" it. Misrach's ever-present towers belching yellow smoke, smokestacks spouting chemical flames and landscapes colored in shades of rust, fungal green and ochre convey the inescapable toxicity of the physical world. In these images of barren Cyprus trees and cemeteries in the shadow of a chemical plant, we witness a ruined place, a world slowly dying along with its residents.

While much of the work in Building a Collection references a familiar photographic vocabulary, Misrach's does the photographer's most difficult work — transforming the commonplace to allow us access to something wholly new, taking its well-deserved place in the High's collection.

"Building a Collection: Recent Photography Acquisitions in the High Museum of Art" runs through June 24 at the High Museum of Folk Art and Photography, located in the Georgia-Pacific Center at 133 Peachtree St. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 404-577-6940. Free.

N'hood
Turn of the century
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In the late 1990s, the tenor of the times finally caught up with Ragtime, E.L. Doctorow's tapestry of America at the dawn of the 20th century. In tracing the disparities between the haves and have-nots, the struggles of immigrants, the cult of celebrity and racial tensions in this country, Doctorow's work has never lacked relevance — more's the pity — whether at its 1975 publication or its 1981 film release.

But recent years make Ragtime seem more immediate than ever, especially as interpreted by the musical version, featuring music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and a book by Terrence McNally (of Love! Valour! Compassion! fame). The beating of an African-American echoes the Rodney King tape, while the scandals underlying the song "Crime of the Century" seem even more pertinent with our fresh memories of O.J. Simpson and Monica Lewinsky.

The musical form is well suited to dramatize social changes, and Ragtime, currently at the Fox Theatre, excels at indicating the sweep of history. But you don't have to spend the play thinking about how Henry Ford (staccato-voiced Jay Bodin) parallels Bill Gates. The work places three families — white, black and immigrant Jew — at the center of major events, and sees how their lives are affected by famous figures like Harry Houdini (Eric Olson) and Booker T. Washington (Leon Williams).

The eponymous opening number sets the tone, as we see the nameless, patrician white family in their white clothes. Nostalgically they sing, "There were ladies with parasols, men with tennis balls / There were gazebos, and there were no Negroes..." upon which a jovial group of black singers intrudes. A huddled mass of immigrants joins in the number, which culminates with each group hewing tightly together, moving about the stage suspicious of the others, an amusing, telling image of separatism.

In one of the first scenes we see two ships literally pass in the night, as the white, wealthy Father (Stephen Zinnado), on a North Pole expedition, passes the ship containing Latvian immigrant Tateh (Jim Corti). The races begin coming together when Mother (Cathy Wydner) discovers an abandoned black baby and decides to offer sanctuary to the child and his desperate mother, Sarah (Lovena Fox). She's the estranged lover of successful ragtime pianist Coalhouse Walker (Lawrence Hamilton), and as Sarah and Coalhouse renew their courtship, Fox proves the production's most moving and powerful singer in songs like "Your Daddy's Son" and "Wheels of a Dream."

Mother's uptight Younger Brother (John Frenzer) illustrates how public personalities can affect ordinary citizens, as he goes from being a lovelorn groupie enamored with scandalous singer Evelyn Nesbitt (Jacqueline Bayne) to political activist, following a speech by socialist Emma Goldman (Cyndi Neal). Frenzer manages to perform forcefully while still conveying the role's nervy and anxious qualities.

Ragtime can seem plotless, but the first act accelerates with the wounded pride of Coalhouse, whose beloved Model T is vandalized by a group of racists. He finds no redress through the system, and then is horrified when Sarah is savagely beaten while trying to petition President Roosevelt. Coalhouse goes on a rampage that includes fire bombings and assassinations, and although Hamilton strikes a righteous, heroic pose and condemns an unjust system, it's hard to maintain much sympathy for such a wantonly destructive character.

The musical can suddenly shift emotional gears, going from the plights of Coalhouse or Tateh, which can approximate a home-grown Les Miserables, to far milder concerns of Mother, which can seem trivial despite Wydner's angelic singing voice. The second act dissipates the momentum of the first with its visits to baseball games and Atlantic City, and the songs sound increasingly like modern Broadway ballads. But the title song and "New Music" pleasingly and appropriately invoke Scott Joplin compositions, cleverly insinuated throughout the play.

You can call Ragtime "operatic" in that there's relatively little dialogue. The spoken exchanges generally provide simple links between the numerous songs, and usually have music playing underneath them. That becomes the production's greatest problem, as often the words and lyrics don't make it past the orchestra pit with much intelligibility. One frustrated patron even squawked "Bad sound!" during the second act. If you're not familiar with Ragtime or the period's history, you might find yourself lost during key moments. Of the individual performers, Zinnato can be the least audible.

With a cast of about 40, Ragtime has a lavish but unusual physical production, with gorgeous furnishings (especially the Model T) but no fixed set. Instead it uses backdrops, like the blueprint of the J.P. Morgan Library or blown-up photographs like New York tenement neighborhoods and the Atlantic city boardwalk. But often the rear screen is simply a cloudy sky, or left blank, with the characters thrown against them, in stark light or shadow, like emblematic, almost Brechtian figures.

Moving numbers like "Til We Reach That Day" can overcome the emotional distance of that kind of presentation, but generally Ragtime is most powerful at telling a stirring history lesson. The play has a framing device of Nicholas Boak's wise Little Boy looking at stereopticon photographs at the beginning, and reels of celluloid at the end. If the action jumped to the end of the 20th century, you just know he'd be looking at a Web Cam. At the Fox Theatre's compelling production, time — in this case, Ragtime — marches on.

"Ragtime" plays through April 20 at the Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree Street, with performances at 8 p.m. Tues.-Fri., 2 and 8 p.m. Sat. and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sun. $23-$45. 404-817-8700.

Atlanta Broadway series: www.broadwayseries.com

N'hood
Holy cow!
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The Onion's Finest News Reporting, Volume I, falls "a little short" of the satirical website and newspaper's standards, according to an area reviewer. "Having become the nation's hottest humor publication, and with the release of last year's near-masterpiece Our Dumb Century, The Onion may be suffering from overwork," wrote the book critic, who used an extended medical metaphor.

The anthology of The Onion's bogus news stories, editorials and infographics from the past four years "seems to suffer from chronic double vision, with traces of repetitive motion disorder," the reviewer "diagnosed." For examples he cited how the book has two stories each about such topics as oral sex ("Area Bassist Fellated" and "Coffeehouse Encounter Results in Conversation, Cunnilingus"), blues singer Willie "Skipbone" Jackson, ethnic stereotypes come to life and even viscosity.

"The Onion's Finest News Reporting also seems afflicted by morbid thoughts and depression," continued the reviewer, who has no medical or psychological training. "Several stories, like 'New York to Install Special "Infants Only" Dumpsters' involve dead children for 'shock value.' While you can appreciate the intent behind 'Ugly Girl Killed,' in which an unattractive child gets no outpouring of grief a la Jon Benet Ramsey, it's not any funnier than an Op-Ed piece allegedly written by Jon Benet about how nice it is in heaven. Maybe The Onion's writers need a vacation."

Noting that the book is labeled "Volume I," the reviewer wondered if The Onion's editors were sitting on better material for future books. He emphasized that fans of The Onion would find plenty to enjoy, such as "Civil War Enthusiasts Burn Atlanta to Ground" and "Christ Returns to the NBA." He singled out as "amusingly quirky" such editorials as "I Can't Stand My Filthy Hippie Owner" written by "Thunder the Ferret."

The reviewer concluded with the "prescription" that The Onion try not to overexert itself in the future and it might produce more consistently funny books. "After all, laughter is the best medicine."

N'hood
Interesting footnote
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British novelist Aldous Huxley, who wrote Brave New World, and U.S. dramatist Christopher Isherwood, who wrote Goodbye to Berlin, which later became the basis for the film and musical Cabaret, collaborated on several screenplays under contract while living in Hollywood in the 1930s and '40s. It was a time when many European writers came to America to escape the violence in Europe and ended up trying their hands at working for the burgeoning world of the Hollywood studios.

Isherwood and Huxley's screen treatment, Jacob's Hands, which reads as a novella, was published last year in hardback and has been recently released in paperback: After sitting undiscovered in a trunk on the Huxley estate for 50 years, the book was discovered — incredibly — by actress Sharon Stone, who was researching the author's work for a film based on one of his short stories.

Jacob's Hands is about a ranch hand and WWI vet who discovers, after miraculously saving a dying calf, that he has the power to heal with his hands. In turn, we learn that he also has an astonishing, almost supernatural sense about other people's emotional states. He reluctantly agrees to help Sharon, the young crippled ranch owner's daughter, and after his success, he becomes infatuated with her and follows her to Los Angeles, where she goes seeking stardom.

In California, the naive Jacob is confronted with a greedy and corrupt world when he is discovered by a con man who tries to turn him into a salable commodity.

The narrative employs the conventions of film treatments: the present tense, spare prose, the use of 'we' as in, "We sense the chronic bad feeling between these people." Surprisingly, the devices create a sense of immediacy and simplicity in the story, with strong emotional undercurrents. The allegorical nature of the story, the tone of the magic realism, the simplicity, the milieu of depression-era hucksters and isolated dust bowl ranches bring to mind the world of John Steinbeck. Jacob in his basic goodness and gentleness has a blood brother in Of Mice and Men's Lenny.

Jacob's Hands would have made a great film. It's been 50 years since it was written, and movies have changed since then — many would argue for the worse. Nonetheless, Jacob's Hands makes for an interesting footnote to two brilliant, and very different, literary careers.

N'hood
Not the last gasp
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When Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf narrowly won England's Whitbread Prize last year, edging out Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by one vote, English critics treated it as one of those apocalyptic moments foretelling the doom of high culture. The United States never sees controversies over that sort of thing any more, high culture presumably having died here decades ago.

Recently published in this country, Heaney's Beowulf occupies an interesting demographic niche, with an Irish Nobel Laureate translating an 8th century Anglo-Saxon epic poem extolling the exploits of a Scandinavian hero. In his introduction, Heaney explains his goal to render Beowulf's Old English in an accessible, spare vernacular. He uses as his model the speech of his relatives, whom he calls "big voiced Scullions," who could make statements like, "We cut the corn to-day," as Heaney puts it, "as if they were announcing verdicts rather than making small talk."

Heaney sets the tone with the very first syllable, eschewing a high-flown "Hark!" or "Lo!" for a no-nonsense "So." The poet can employ rustic words like "gumption" and instill a nearly biblical weight to lines like, "The shepherd of people was sheared of life." But he also takes pleasure in archaic, alliterative terms, as in the sentence, "He is hasped and hooped and hirpling with pain, limping and looped in it."

Beowulf is a cornerstone of Western Lit without exactly being one of its brightest gems, lacking the universal recognition of the Homeric epics. Beowulf lacks the complexities of Homer's Achilles or Odysseus, and the telling and retelling of his mighty deeds can sound like the missives from Beowulf's publicist. Still, it's hard to resist being caught up in Beowulf's mano-a-mano match with the savage ogre Grendel ("captain of evil") and later, his underwater battle with Grendel's mother.

But Heaney's most memorable and evocative passages come in the book's final section, when the aged Beowulf gives his life to stop the elemental menace of a fire-breathing dragon. Heaney's translation of Beowulf (no doubt assisted by some eye-catching cover art) has made a surprise appearance on the New York Times bestseller list, suggesting that high culture in America has yet to make its last gasp.

N'hood
Contrasts and Connections
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Works by more than 35 renowned photographers will be on display at the High Museum of Art Folk Art and Photography Galleries April 22-May 5 in a show titled Contrasts and Connections: Photographs from the High Museum of Art Collection. Alfred Stieglitz, Man Ray, Diane Arbus, Harry Callahan, Walker Evans, Edward Weston and William Eggleston (whose "Halloween, Outskirts of Morton, Miss." is pictured here) are among the photographers represented in the show, which attempts to illustrate the aesthetic choices artists make when photographing similar subjects. The museum is located in the Georgia Pacific Center, 30 John Wesley Dobbs Ave. Open Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Gallery tours are held every Saturday at 1 p.m. Admission is free. 404-577-6940.
N'hood
Toshiro, with love
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Gotta love films that come with their own manifestos.

Denmark's Dogme 95 directors not only have lofty ideals but so far have seen impressive results. Founded by Thomas Vinterberg and Breaking the Waves' Lars von Trier, Dogme 95 echoes the spirit of the French New Wave by strictly adhering to a specific kind of realism. In its vision of cinema verité, first demonstrated in Vinterberg's The Celebration, directors must sign a "vow of chastity" to shoot the films in color, on location, with hand-held cameras and no special lighting or sound recording after the fact.

Decrying artifice in the name of immediacy, the Dogme 95 approach de-emphasizes the ego of the director, who isn't allowed to be credited. Of course, by adhering to strict aesthetics, the films draw as much attention to their style as any studio film shot on a set. But the self-imposed limitations have been highly effective at inspiring engaging work, with The Celebration proving a winner at the Cannes Film Festival.

After von Trier's The Idiots, the third official Dogme 95 film is Soren Kragh-Jacobsen's Mifune. (In America, Harmony Korine made julien donkey-boy "unofficially" under the guidelines). Mifune's dark comedy of familial dysfunctions, despite being diminished by a weak conclusion, proves never predictable and always alive.

Kresten (Anders W. Berthelsen) seems on top of the world, having just married Claire (Sofie Grabol), the lovely daughter of his firm's boss. But some bad news takes him from the arms of his insatiable bride: His father has died, which comes as a surprise to Claire, who understood him to have no family. Kresten reveals that he also has an "idiot" brother and flees Copenhagen for the countryside to make the funeral arrangements.

We discover that Kresten's homestead is a dilapidated farm house in squalid condition, and his brother Rud (Jesper Asholt) is mentally disabled, giving a Rain Man dynamic to their renewed relationship. Concealing Rud's condition and the poverty of his childhood origins, Kresten passive-aggressively lies to his wife and stays in the country, seeking a housekeeper and a new home from Rud.

Kresten runs an ad, which catches the eye of Liva (Iben Hjejle), who works in the city as a prostitute to put her troubled teenage brother Bjarke, (Emil Tarding), through school. Eager to get away from her nasty pimp, sleazy clients and a sinister obscene caller, Liva takes up residence at the country house and later must send for Bjarke as well. With the house hosting a call-girl, a juvenile delinquent, a "cretin" and a liar, Mifune lightly plays like a Flannery O'Connor story in contemporary Denmark.

The title comes from a game the brothers play, wherein Kresten imitates actor Toshiro Mifune from Akira Kurosawa's classic samurai films. (That's exactly what John Belushi was doing in those "Saturday Night Live" sketches like "Samurai Delicatessen.") Berthelsen does a pretty good Mifune impression, capturing the guttural cries and the loping gait, suggesting that the game gives Kresten a chance to be demonstrative, as he normally keeps his secrets close to the vest.

With the family farm in a state of decay and hostile neighbors lurking in the shadows, Mifune hardly offers a romantic view of rural life (despite the nearby presence of an ostrich). Nor is Rud glorified into a saintly simpleton. Hero-worshipping his brother, mistaking Liva for a comic book character and obsessed with UFOs, he both burdens Kresten and humanizes him. Asholt conveys the childlike qualities without turning the role into a showcase for acting tics, and the scenes with Tarding's insolent Bjarke go from tense to unexpectedly warm.

Iben Hjejle, a bit icy in her English-language role as John Cusack's estranged girlfriend in High Fidelity, proves far more fiery and expressive here. With self-reliance concealing her anxieties, you can see Hjejle working the different angles in the situation, wondering if it's in her best interest to return Kresten's flirtations. Like Kresten, Liva tends to inflict her worst wounds herself, as the film suggests the need to trust other people.

Some gratuitous, out-of-nowhere violence at the end of Mifune strains the rule of "no superficial action" of the Dogme 95 films. With a nonjudgmental camera eye and seemingly random eruptions of cruelty and kindness, Mifune can resemble the films of Hal Hartley, only wide awake and horny. Liva keeps up with a gaggle of prostitute friends, and except for Rud, all the characters hint at an untamed sexuality barely below their surfaces.

Mifune mostly lives up to the goals of the Dogme 95 films. With its unglamorous settings, restless hand-held cameras and natural light, it takes the audience into its confidence, making us feel like co-conspirators or eavesdroppers in a strangely compelling domestic arrangement. If you're tired of glossy, formulaic Hollywood films, Mifune offers an amusing antidote.

Link (Dogme 95 homepage): http://www.dogme95.dk/

N'hood
Hoop nightmares
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There is an unspoken curse bedeviling the creative. The majority of society's minority is driven by a passion to express themselves in a voice all their own, yet the gods have denied them the talent to have anything meaningful to say.

While I would never judge a poet by a single poem or a painter by an individual canvas, I'm afraid my solitary exposure to the work of the writer and director of Love and Basketball, Gina Prince, is all I have to work with.

Frankly, the mediocre result achieves what little buoyancy it has through the charisma and chemistry established between its two principle characters, Monica Wright and Quincy McCall, who are romantically involved basketball stars.

The director's use of the camera at times leaves one lightheaded from its rapid motion and swirly imagery. Those prone to mal de mer might consider a Dramamine patch.

A second problem is the clumsiness of the sex scenes. There are lots of tongues and slurping and stuff, and it made me feel like a voyeur. The weird thing is, I am a voyeur, but I never felt creepy about it before.

At other times Prince employs the device to good purpose when shooting the adult Monica from a defensive perspective as the hoops' star, alive with passion, drives down the court. Perhaps Prince's significant talent — significant to her, not a talent of significance — lies in her ability to capture the excitement of athletic competition.

Alas, Prince the writer fares little better than Prince the director. The film lacks pace, often dawdling to the point of tedium between what few moments of interest there are. Additionally, the subject matter, a romance that began in childhood and continues into adult life, is burdened by a multiplicity of clichés.

There's Monica the tomboy being told she should be more ladylike. There's Monica the athlete being hounded by the coach, who tells her, "Do you think I would ride you so hard unless I thought you were worth it?" There's Quincy telling his father he is going to quit his promising basketball career and education at USC and turn pro. And finally, there's the issue of whether childhood sweethearts Monica and Quincy will finally find true love as adults.

Initially, the palpable appeal of preteen basketball players Monica and Quincy, played by Kyla Pratt and Glenndon Chatman, respectively, allows the audience an emotional involvement with the film. Later, as adults (played by Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps), they evince the same engaging quality and, while Epps manifests a modicum of talent, Lathan's got something that should stand her in good stead for a future in features.

The supporting cast incorporates Alfre Woodard, Debbi Morgan and Dennis Haysbert to varying effect. In one scene, Morgan's work is so amateurish I suspect they'd re-shoot it on a television "daytime drama." Prince uses it.

Haysbert displays a certain virile dignity as Morgan's husband — their life, too, carries the freight of daytime angst — struggling both with the temptations confronting an NBA star and the responsibility of being a good father to Quincy. OK, the scenes between Haysbert and Epps display a certain something, and I suppose Prince gets some credit.

Only Woodard, who plays Monica's mother, provides something extra, as one would expect, but even the majority of her talent remains unexposed. A gifted director should not only appreciate the capabilities of the actors at hand but also draw them out.

In an indicative scene Woodard and Lathan go through this mother/daughter thing — the film addresses any number of "women's issues" — and one sits there hoping for an explosion of talent.

God knows, impassioned basketball ace Lathan attacking her housewife mother for a lifetime spent in the background cooking and cleaning should lead to a spark or two. Nope.

N'hood
New York stories
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Stanley Tucci's third directorial effort is an oddly quiet and leisurely paced character study to be about someone as loud and high-strung as the indigent "genius" Ian Holm plays in Joe Gould's Secret.

Based on several stories by the late New Yorker essayist Joseph Mitchell, the film unfolds in post-WWII New York and chronicles the unlikely friendship between the mild-mannered Mitchell (played by Tucci) and the outgoing Gould (Holm) — who may or may not have written his own voluminous oral history of the world, and who may or may not be crazy.

While Holm chews the scenery, Tucci delivers a remarkably subdued (and much more interesting) performance. Whatever else you happen to think of his filmmaking track record, which also includes the nostalgic Big Night (1995) and the farcical The Impostors (1997), by giving himself three juicy and diverse starring roles, at least Tucci proves himself a capable leading man after years of thankless supporting parts in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, Deconstructing Harry and A Life Less Ordinary, among others.

CL: What was the initial appeal of this material?

ST:What I like about Mitchell's writing is that his stories are so simply poignant. They're about everyday people, and those are the kinds of movies I like to make. After I read Up in the Old Hotel [a compilation of Mitchell's short stories], I thought if I could make movies the way this guy writes, that would be an achievement. It's the kind of writing I love, non-judgmental, not about anything but about everything, you know?

Is there a risk with a character like Joe Gould that movie audiences may not like him enough to follow his story or care what happens to him? He's the sort of guy a lot of people would cross the street to avoid.

Yeah, but I think the performance is so beautifully orchestrated that I'm not too worried about it. As repulsive as Joe might be, he's fascinating, too, because you never know what's going to happen next. He's unpredictable. That's the key thing.

You'd worked with Ian Holm on Big Night. Was he your first choice to play Joe Gould?

He was my only choice.

You have an obvious knack for period pieces — Big Night took place in the '50s, The Impostors in the '30s, and this one is set in Greenwich Village during the '40s. What was the secret to recreating that time and place so effectively?

For the most part, it's about taking away as opposed to adding on, finding the right streets and then taking away whatever elements might call your attention away from the period. It's really that simple. Washington Park hasn't changed all that much, for example, but what's around the park has, so you just have to shoot those scenes from certain angles, stuff like that.

What should audiences come away from this film feeling or thinking about?

It's all about the creative process and how these two men go through their lives trying to create something. Ultimately, it's just about their relationship, how complicated and complex it is and yet how similar they are.

As an actor, you've worked with a lot of notable directors. In terms of your own directing style, which of them most influenced you or taught you the most?

I wouldn't say a lot of the ones that I've worked with, necessarily, but more of the ones that I've watched over the years, Jean Renoir and classic guys like that.

What do you get out of directing that you don't get out of acting, or vice versa?

First and foremost, I consider myself an actor, and acting is very satisfying to me. At the same time, though, directing allows you to utilize every part of yourself. It's exhausting work, but you get to create these whole worlds, you know?

So which comes first for you now — acting or directing?

Whichever comes first.

N'hood
Disappearing act
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The taut WWII submarine thriller U-571 is sort of like a "Where's Waldo?" game for the MTV crowd: "Where's Jon Bon Jovi?" There are any number of reasons why the 38-year-old singer/songwriter/fledgling actor might not easily register on the audience radar. It could be because so much of the film takes place in the dark, dank confines of an overcrowded sub (or else on deck at night during torrential rainstorms), where it's rather difficult making out specific faces in the first place. Maybe it's because, even in broad daylight, most of the men look pretty much the same in their standard Navy-issued uniforms and slickers. In any event, the fun of trying to pick him out of all the group shots quickly becomes a moot point when, halfway through the picture, his character suddenly vanishes without any explanation whatsoever.

During a recent interview, Bon Jovi smiles and shakes his head, replying, "I know. I know. What happened was unfortunate, but they had to make some compromises in order to get a PG-13 rating. There's that pivotal battle sequence in the middle of the movie, and the last time you see me I'm snapping Matthew McConaughey's picture on the deck of the sub, right? Well, what you were supposed to see was this great, slow-motion shot of my head being blown off by a piece of shrapnel. It was really cool. David Keith took one between the eyes, too, but those scenes had to go to avoid getting an R. What can I say? I tried to tell them it was going to be a problem, but nobody wanted to listen to me."

And there, in a nutshell, is what Bon Jovi describes as the biggest adjustment he has had to make in his transition from being a veteran musician who calls all his own shots to being an acting newcomer who's just starting to pay his dues. "With the band, it's the five of us against the world, you know? I mean, we've outlasted two buildings, three CEOs and nine presidents in our 17 years with our label, so I can afford to be much more of a control freak when it comes to the music. When I show up on a movie set, though, I'm basically just an independent contractor, one of a hundred people there. I do my work and then I don't see it for a year. I'm not involved in the editing or the marketing of it, and that's a big adjustment," he says.

Bon Jovi caught the acting bug several years ago. Between recording sessions and concert tours, he has revealed himself to be a likable screen presence with supporting roles opposite Gwyneth Paltrow in Moonlight and Valentino and in Edward Burns' No Looking Back, among others.

"Acting is just another way of expressing myself creatively, and at the same time it's really humbling, too," he says. "I'm essentially getting to be 21 again, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, starting over and yet able to bring with me all the life experiences I've had over the years with the band. I'm usually the first one on the set every day, you know? It's like, 'Yeah, bring it on!'

"I really enjoy the process of songwriting and I need to keep that outlet open, too, but what I don't need anymore is spending 16 months out on the road every time we have a new album to promote," he says. Speaking of which, the band's next album is due out Memorial Day weekend, and they'll kick off their world tour from Tokyo in July, but he notes, "it'll be 50 shows instead of the usual 250."

Bon Jovi is currently working in Las Vegas, where he's playing a "drunken, abusive redneck rat-fink" in the film Pay It Forward, alongside a couple of Academy Award winners (Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt) and the Oscar-nominated star of The Sixth Sense (Haley Joel Osment). "Isn't that kid great? He turned to me between takes yesterday and called me Jon Bon Not-So-Jovial," the actor recalls with a laugh.

He says there are worse ways to be addressed. "You know, with all the hoopla I keep hearing about our forthcoming album, I kind of like it that no one ever talks to me about music on the set. I'm just Jon, the actor, and that's nice," Bon Jovi says. "I don't know if people in Hollywood still have the perception of me as being this rock singer, but these roles aren't just given to me. I have to go out there and earn them. I wouldn't say I was a great actor or anything, but I'd like to think I'm getting better each time, and I have to admit feeling a little proud of myself, when I can play a scene in U-571 with Matthew McConaughey or Harvey Keitel or Bill Paxton and actually hold my own."

N'hood
Ant's-eye view
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More than 500 professional and would-be moviemakers, curious onlookers and innocent bystanders converged April 15 at the Cotton Club for the Atlanta launch of AntEye.com, a new Internet site where surfers can watch or post video clips. The gala, which was held in conjunction with parties in five other cities, also celebrated the winners of AntEye's first competition. After soliciting submissions in all six pilot cities, one project from each was awarded a production deal worth up to $100,000 for their next project.

The laurels in Atlanta went to Mike W. Anderson for a music video featuring the band Ph Balance called "Soothing," which was completed for around $1,200. The video was shot entirely against a home-made bluescreen and then composed on a desktop system by co-director, Frank Lopez, who also served as AntEye's local pipeline manager and helped line up entertainment for the event. The result is a no-overhead video that looks little different from big-ticket, mainstream productions — an indication of what new technology can do for people working outside the media establishment. It is, potentially, revolutionary. "Fuck Hollywood!" Anderson told partygoers all over North America in his acceptance speech. "Atlanta fuckin' kicks Hollywood's ass!"

That vaguely punk-y, pro-local, do-it-yourself spirit seems to be just what AntEye.com is looking to stir up. The ostensibly interactive party seemed to be trying for a fusion of alternative posturing, high-tech carnival and high-concept hucksterism, sort of a micro-palooza for the Internet set. The result was, like so many experiences in cyber-culture, a bit random, as if at this point AntEye is more about attitude than actual content. Many of the attendees seemed none too clear on the point of the affair, beyond the free drink tickets and performances by local bands. And what with the fire-twirlers, the body painters, the Mardi-Gras-esque puppets, the karaoke gorilla and the strangers with candy dressed in what appeared to be duct tape, moviemaking was pretty much lost in the shuffle.

For example, the Cotton Club crowd only got the briefest of glimpses of the victorious videos, all of which can now be viewed on AntEye's website. Winners in other cities like "Maid! Madonna! Whore!" (Kim Flores and Mike Swenson) from Austin, "Hulahoop" (Ethan Shaftel) from Kansas City, "Bird's-Eye Love Juice" (Paul Fuchs, Scott K. Nolin, Mike Grunder) from Madison, Wis., "It's Only Temporary" (Tamara Paris) from Seattle, and "E for Effort" (Colin Tattersall and Jay Williams) from way up in Toronto.

But on the plus side (and it's a big plus), AntEye.com appears to be making good on its promise to put some money into the media community. According to the online media news magazine indieWIRE, the company recently received $4 million in financing from, among others, MP3, the net's premier music moguls. CEO and MC Matti Leshem reaffirmed the site's commitment to directly facilitating production during the midnight hookup that briefly linked the Atlanta fete to other AntEye startup bashes in five other North American cities. Speaking from the Seattle AntEye event Leshem announced plans to cut similar deals with 24 more winners from similar contests, as well as bankrolling two digital feature projects this year.

N'hood
Short Subjectives
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Opening Friday

DETERRENCE (R) *** Film critic Rod Lurie's first feature has divided the critics. I'm on the pro side. In a stroke of casting genius, Kevin Pollak stars as an unpopular US president who grows into his role - as Pollak does — before our eyes. Snowbound in a Colorado diner, the president responds to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait by threatening to nuke Baghdad. The story unfolds in virtual real time. What might have been a rack to hang political arguments on is a gripping, entertaining drama (and a strong candidate for stage adaptation) first and foremost. Don't let politics deter you from seeing it. — SW

GOSSIP (R) ** 1/2 Until it turns silly at the end, this good-intentioned variation on Cruel Intentions spins a swell yarn about the potential danger of spreading rumors. Things get out of hand after charming cad James Marsden, intriguingly inconsistent Lena Headey and spacey artist Norman Reedus start the story that Kate Hudson's no longer the only virgin on campus. — SW

JOE GOULD'S SECRET (R)** In this nostalgic period piece, Big Night's Stanley Tucci directs himself as a New Yorker writer who makes a temporary celebrity of an eloquent, mercurial Greenwich Village street person (Ian Holm). While Holm gives a pleasingly cantankerous performance, Tucci never gets under the skin of his character (the bogus Southern accent doesn't help), and despite a genuine affection for mid-century Manhattan, the film leaves you feeling like you saw the slides of someone else's visit. — CH

LOVE AND BASKETBALL (PG-13) *1/2 Love and Basketball stars Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps as two gifted basketball-playing neighbors who begin a relationship as children, which may or may not blossom into love as adults. Nope, the ending isn't a surprise. Nope, it's not directed very well. Nope, it's not written very well. Nope, co-star Alfre Woodard never gets to reveal the talent we've come to appreciate. And nope, it's not really worth your time. — RJ

U-571 (PG-13) *** Lt. Matthew McConaughey proves his worth in battle as writer-director Jonathan Mostow (Breakdown) confirms his skill in the straight-ahead, kick-ass, nail-biting, action-suspense genre. Don't look for character development, or even characters — just a series of tense situations where WWII submarine jockeys go out of the frying pan onto the firing line on a fictional mission to secure Germany's Enigma code. Action fans may be put off by the opening 10 minutes of subtitled German aboard the title sub. — SW


Duly Noted

EVIL DEAD TRAP A Japanese cult classic that includes the immortal subtitle: "I was so scared my balls shrank with fear." GSU's cinéfest, April 21-27.

FIGHT CLUB (R) *** 1/2 A spoof of cures for millennial malaise evolves into something darker, then takes a turn of Sixth Sense proportions. Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) loosens and toughens Edward Norton's unnamed character, and spectators at their Saturday night fights want to participate. Burned-out punkette Helena Bonham Carter isn't much to fight over, but she'll do. Director David Fincher may have overestimated the intelligence of American moviegoers, and isn't that refreshing! GSU's cinéfest, April 17-20.SW

I STAND ALONE (NR) *** And you thought the French were all Derrida, tiny coffees, smart ensembles and disdain-filled looks. The debut film from Gaspar Noe, about a jobless butcher on a hateful, racist, misogynist bender is a sojourn to the other side of the tracks — the France of rampant unemployment, an influx of immigrants, lumpen people and barren, postindustrial boulevards without a touch of Vigo fairy dust. Relentlessly brutal, Noe's film suggests a more formally rigorous, intellectually tight Abel Ferrara. Moments of nasty humor (if castration, impotency and marital despair strike you as amusing) peek through the desolation, in this nevertheless engrossing study of a contemporary, very ordinary sociopath. GSU's cinéfest, April 14-20.FF

KALTE HEIMAT (COLD HOMELAND) (1995) Volker Koepp's documentary about Soviets who found a home in the northern part of East Prussia, which was German for 700 years but fell to the USSR at the end of WWII. German with English subtitles. Goethe Institut Atlanta, "A Look to the East," April 19 at 7 p.m., Colony Square, plaza level.


Continuing

ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (R) *** 1/2 A lovely mix of campy humor and heartfelt affection for the sacrifices made by the women who made us, Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar's film follows a bereaved mother (Cecilia Roth) who's just lost her teenage son on her odyssey to Barcelona, to inform the boy's father of his death. Fierce performances by a cast of high-octane women, including Roth, Marisa Paredes as a flinty stage actress and Antonia San Juan as a goofy, loveable transvestite, enhance this fiery, earnest meditation on the multiple roles women play, and the thin, permeable divide between film and life. — FF [page]

AMERICAN BEAUTY (R) *** Full of arch, sardonic dialogue and shot with real style, this tale of anomie and sexual frustration in the suburbs and the snide, brow-beaten husband (Kevin Spacey) who defies it is a slick but occasionally thoughtful social skewering. The film falls short of greatness for its fuzzy moral perspective, hokey ending and a very teen boy point-of-view that casts the girls and women as vacuous and the men as cultural seers in a peculiar vision that feels halfway between Risky Business and Ordinary People. — FF

AMERICAN PSYCHO ***1/2 (R) Director Mary Harron has salvaged a seemingly unredeemable, minor shock-novel by Bret Easton Ellis and turned it into a whipsmart funny satire and pungent critique of male competition, money lust and a world of appearances. Christian Bale delivers an entirely credible and compelling take on Ellis's Wall Street yuppie who turns killer, and, commendably, never glamorizes his virulent misanthropy. A coolly, stylishly shot piece of cultural commentary, American Psycho has some regrettable slasher-film hack touches but remains an admirable alchemic transformation of rubbish into, if not gold, then a pretty shiny likeness. — FF

BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE (R) ** An Altmanesque dramady about the intersecting lives of a hodgepodge of troubled Londoners, all of whom are in some way touched by the Bosnian war, this first film from Bosnian-born, England-based Jasmin Dizdar is intentionally far-fetched and zany, but this glib approach to what ails the modern mind grows as tiresome as the director's falsely feel-good effort to symbolically "fix" the world's problems in the end. — FF

BLACK AND WHITE (R) ** The likes of Brooke Shields, Robert Downey Jr., Claudia Schiffer, Mike Tyson and members of the Wu-Tang Clan mix it up in James Toback's heavily improvised depiction of the connection between white youths and black hip-hop culture. It's ambitious, inclusive and never boring, but it never explores its racial thesis in much depth. Toback seems more interested in the gray areas of sexuality and criminality, featuring a youth-gone-astray subplot worthy of a 1950s juvenile delinquent film. — CH

BOILER ROOM (R) *** Like Glengarry Glen Ross, Junior, the first film from 27-year-old writer-director Ben Younger offers a tour of the high-stakes, high-testosterone would of sleazy, twentysomething stock brokers. It lacks dramatic polish but knows its world inside and out. CH

BOYS DON'T CRY (R) **** Directed with uncommon style and consideration for its white trash milieu, Kimberly Peirce's true crime art film concerns the 21-year-old Nebraska woman who tried to pass herself off as a man, Brandon Teena, and paid dearly for her gender subversion. A meaty, intense evocation of this badlands crime scene, Boys splits the film into two vantages, making us dread the escalating danger closing in around Brandon and also feel the ecstatic hopefulness of the dreamy drag king imagining he's finally found love and a home amongst the wasted teen miscreants of Falls City. — FF

THE CIDER HOUSE RULES (PG-13) ** 1/2. John Irving adapts his own weighty novel about love, orphans, abortion and apples, and the results are true to the letter of the book without catching fire as a film. Despite an inconsistent New England accent, Michael Caine does a nice job as a sad-eyed, ether-addicted abortionist, while Tobey Maguire continues to look like a young Dustin Hoffman as an orphan trying to find his place in the world. Directed by Sweden's Lasse Hallström, Cider House Rules ultimately comes across as overly pretty and even-keeled, with every outcome seeming preordained. — CH

COTTON MARY ** (R) Like the member of a successful band recording a solo album, Ismail Merchant of the Merchant-Ivory production team directs this glimpse at East-West tensions in India of 1954. The title character is a Ango-Indian nurse (Madhur Jaffrey) with delusions of being English, and when she sneakily ingratiates herself into the troubled British family of Greta Scacchi, she accelerates its difficulties. The Indian locales look both exotic and lived-in, but Merchant's characters are uniformly passive and unsympathetic. — CH

THE CUP *** The Cup is a lovely, unpretentious family film full of unintended ironies. Superficially a simple story, the film concerns the minor disruption of routine at an expatriate Tibetan Buddhist monastery in India when a particularly rambunctious lad develops a passion for World Cup soccer and wants to watch the final match. That's it, whole story. In and of itself, the narrative flows comfortably, if languidly, and possesses an accessible charm. It is the kind of film parents should drag their pre- and early teenagers to for they will appreciate its colorful yet universal characters and comprehend the moral lessons within. — RJ

ERIN BROCKOVICH (R) *** A true populist movie that deserves its inevitable popularity, Steven Soderbergh's film is a perfect vehicle for Julia Roberts. In this true story, she's a working-class woman who dresses like a working girl. In a menial job at Albert Finney's law firm, she stumbles on PG&E's involvement in pollution that poisons an entire community. She builds a case and persuades Finney to take it. That's not funny, but Susannah Grant's screenplay finds copious humor in the characters while treating the story with the seriousness it deserves. But for the March release, this could have been Roberts' Oscar role. — SW [page]

FANTASIA 2000 *** 1/2 . The technology of animation, sound recording and film projection gloriously catch up with the Fantasia concept of cartoons inspired by classical music. As if overly concerned about avoiding the original film's moments of leaden pace, the segments move by at a rapid clip, with a piece involving Donald Duck, Noah's Ark and "Pomp & Circumstance" being especially rushed. But though the celebrity introductions are disastrous, the rest of the film is an intoxicating experience. IMAX theater at Mall of GeorgiaCH

FINAL DESTINATION (R) ** 1/2 This "Twilight Zone" for teens may be schlocky, but bursts of directorial genius from debuting James Wong generate some of the most suspenseful moments in teen slasher history. It's not technically a slasher movie, but degenerates into that format — the killer being Death itself — after a vision of disaster leads Devon Sawa to run off his plane destined for a class trip to Paris. Five classmates and a teacher follow him; then the plane blows up. Weeks later the survivors start dying in bizarre accidents, explained as Death's "new design." Wong adds masterful touches to a genre film that could have been far worse. — SW

GHOST DOG (R) ***1/2 A typically quirky, soulful Jarmuschian idyll, Ghost Dog features Forest Whitaker as an inner-city hit man whose life is defined by an ancient Japanese code of samurai ethics. Whitaker is perfectly cast and very affecting as the stoic killer in this idiosyncratic blend of Eastern philosophy, hip hop, Italian mafioso slapstick. A surprisingly tender film about poetry sprouting between the cracks of a dismal urban wasteland. — FF

HIGH FIDELITY (R)***1/2 John Cusack and director Stephen Frears, 10 years after collaborating on The Grifters, show high fidelity to Nick Hornby's terrific novel about a lovelorn record shop owner. The film effectively echoes Annie Hall as Cusack engagingly chats to the camera and looks back on his relationships with women to understand why his latest girlfriend (Iben Hjejle) left him. But its spot-on depiction of music geeks and fanboys (led by Tenacious D's Jack Black as a disdainful record store clerk) gives it its biggest laughs and truest observations. The excellent cast includes Tim Robbins, Catherine Zeta Jones, Lili Taylor and Joan Cusack. — CH

KEEPING THE FAITH (PG-13) ** Edward Norton, directing himself as a priest and Ben Stiller as a rabbi, in an likely romantic triangle with a daffy blonde (Jenna Elfman), belabors themes of love and faith with the obviousness of a Sunday School sermon. There's Something About the Virgin Mary it's not. — CH

MISSION TO MARS (R) ** 1/2 Brian De Palma starts with some of Stanley Kubrick's famed interstellar effects and ends with the lame cosmic therapy themes that diminished Contact and The Abyss. In depicting a rescue mission to the red planet, De Palma brings his usual love of the craft of filmmaking, constructing some breathless, intricate set pieces. But he also brings a rank indifference to telling compelling stories, and the familiar epiphanies at the climax leave audiences snickering. — CH

MY DOG SKIP (PG) ** 1/2 Lassie's dead. Today it's wimpy dogs for wimpy kids. No one gets out without weeping at Willie Morris' childhood memoir of the summer of '42 in Yazoo, Miss. It pushes sentimental buttons about coming of age, nostalgia, race relations and physically and emotionally crippled veterans. Only-child Willie (Frankie Muniz) is the target of bullies. His only friend, athlete-next-door Luke Wilson, goes off to the Army; so his mother (Diane Lane) gives him a dog. I'm not a dog person, but if I ran over one in the parking lot after seeing My Dog Skip I would have felt real bad. — SW

PRICE OF GLORY (PG-13) ** Price of Glory seems torn from the faded script pages of a Hollywood long past. This story of a Mexican-American family may take place in the present day, but its spirit is a projection of the second and third tier potboilers that were the staple fare of Saturday matinees a half-century ago. — RJ

REINDEER GAMES (R) * It's hard to know what's to blame: the lackluster direction, the trite, cliché-jammed script, a bland cast, but there's no denying, this John Frankenheimer mistaken identity "thriller" about decent guy ex-con Ben Affleck, who's forced into helping a band of ne'er-do-well truck drivers led by Gary Sinise as they try to knock over an American Indian casino is a good two months past Christmas and probably no one's idea of a gift worth getting. — FF [page]

READY TO RUMBLE (PG-13) ** David Arquette and Scott Caan live for wrestling. When WCW honcho Joe Pantoliano pulls the plug on their hero, Jimmy King's (Oliver Platt; other wrestlers play themselves) career they devote themselves to restoring his crown. The predictable plot strings together copious brutal bouts and scatological humor. Wrestling fans will enjoy a record number of crotch kicks — more nutcrackers than a year of Christmases — but I wonder if they'll appreciate the emphasis on the phoniness of it all. On the way out another critic said, "I wouldn't recommend it for anyone over 25," and I asked, "Years or months?" — SW

RETURN TO ME *** (PG-13) Return To Me is a lovely creation, full of life, not dramatic re-enactments of heartwarming moments designed to temporarily alleviate the fears of the insipid. It is also a story about risk. The risk of putting your soul on the line in the daring willingness to love. But ultimately, Return To Me is a film about human relationships and their ability to fill the heart with the effervescence of life. Stars Minnie Driver and David Duchovny. — RJ

THE ROAD TO EL DORADO (PG) **1/2 Getting there is most of the fun in this animated history lesson that begins in Spain in 1519 as a rollicking romp. Once Tulio (Kevin Kline) and Miguel (Kenneth Branagh) reach the "New World" as stowaways on Cortes' ship they're hailed as gods in El Dorado, "the city of gold." Kindred spirit Chel (Rosie Perez) provides the only amusement there as the film shifts into neutral and coasts for about an hour until gathering momentum for an exciting climax. Kline and Perez do a wonderful job of projecting their personalities onto their characters, unlike Branagh, who has no personality. — SW

ROMEO MUST DIE (R) ** 1/2 There's room at the top for an action star and Hong Kong martial artist Jet Li deserves the position once held by the late Bruce Lee. Like a '70s B movie but faster and louder, this one's about a supposed war between Asian and African-American gangs in Oakland and a developing romance between Li, the son of the Asian gang boss, and Aaliyah, the daughter of his black rival. It takes a bit too long to reach the unsurprising conclusion but there are plenty of fights along the way and Jet makes Romeo a winner - tru-Li, mad-Li, deep-Li. — SW

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT (R) *** A few good points short of A Few Good Men, this military courtroom drama's stars make it well worth watching. Old friends and Marine Cols. Tommy Lee Jones defends Samuel L. Jackson when he's court-martialed for ordering troops to fire on civilians in Yemen. Inconsistently drawn prosecutor Maj. Guy Pearce is established as an idealist but winds up playing dirty. Director William Friedkin manipulates us skillfully if not always honestly, and the camaraderie of the stars goes a long way toward glossing over the film's minor flaws. Jones and Jackson rule and make Rules of Engagement damned engaging. — SW

THE SKULLS (PG-13) ** 1/2 This popcorn potboiler about an Ivy League society so secret that if you see the movie they'll have to kill you, held my interest despite plot implausibilities. Joshua Jackson is on a scholarship but has such drive the elitist Skulls induct him. When they have a death to cover up — and the power to do it — Jackson must decide where his loyalties lie and how much an assured future is worth. A potential political exposé or satire, the film emphasizes thriller elements instead, with some intellect used to resolve matters (between the car chase and the shootout). — SW

STUART LITTLE (PG) ** 1/2 Villains' roles are traditionally better than heroes', so the cat runs away with the season's big mouse movie. Nathan Lane as Snowbell mops up the floor with Michael J. Fox, who voices the title rodent, adopted by the Littles (Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie) as a brother for Jonathan Lipnicki. Besides, Stuart is computer-generated while the cats are mostly real (except their lip movements). Blatantly celebrating diversity and elective families, Stuart Little is as predictable as holiday movies should be. I'll cut it some seasonal slack and give Lane, who makes it all tolerable, the Snowbell Prize for his performance. — SW

3 STRIKES (R) * 1/2 It's another Friday in the hood, with more energy but no momentum connecting sketches about bland Brian Hooks doing everything (except turning himself in and explaining the misunderstanding) to avoid going to prison for the third time (a mandatory 25-to-life in California). — SW [page]

THE TIGGER MOVIE (G) ** 1/2 Obviously motivated more by maximizing marketing and merchandising Pooh-tential than artistic vision, the latest visit to A.A. Milne's characters in the Hundred-Acre Wood has a thin plot padded to feature-length. Although most of his friends (Rabbit, Owl, Piglet, Winnie the Pooh bear and Eeyore the donkey) seem to be the only ones of their species, Tigger suddenly develops an acute need for roots. The others jump through hoops to make him realize they're all he needs. Coming from Disney Animation's Television Division, it's no artistic match for Tarzan but better than most of what the kids see on TV. — SW

TITUS (R) ** Julie Taymor, the bold stylist behind the hit stage version of The Lion King, tackles Shakespeare's bloodiest, silliest play with results that are visually remarkable but exhausting and preposterous. Anthony Hopkins gets to hark back to Hannibal Lecter as the tormented Roman general, while a breast-plated Jessica Lange, as a vengeful Goth queen, gives her most ferocious work in years. — CH

28 DAYS (PG-13) ** 1/2 Sandra Bullock romps through rehab as the funniest drunk since Arthur in her personal best acting showcase. The writer of Erin Brockovich, Susannah Grant again finds considerable humor without trivializing a serious subject and also hits all the dramatic cliches of the genre, including leaving us with the feeling our heroine will be one of the 30 percent that's able to make it on the outside. — SW

WHERE THE MONEY IS (PG-13) ** Paul Newman's good but he can't save this slender caper about two losers and a lifer hijacking an armored car. Professional bank robber Newman fakes a stroke to get sent from prison to a nursing home where nurse Linda Fiorentino gets wise to him and persuades him to work with her and her husband (Dermot Mulroney). Because he's Paul Newman, he's a sexual threat, despite being 35 years older than Fiorentino. Thankfully they don't have any love scenes, yet we're always aware of their supposed mutual attraction, which is less like Romeo and Juliet than a reverse Harold and Maude. — SW

THE WHOLE NINE YARDS (R) ** 1/2 Jonathan Lynn makes unsubtle comedies with stereotypical characters (e.g., My Cousin Vinny). In this one, some half-dozen people are trying to kill each other and the dentist (Matthew Perry) who's trying to avoid bloodshed. There's Perry's unloving wife (Rosanna Arquette), the hitman next door (Bruce Willis), Willis' estranged wife (Natasha Henstridge), Perry's assistant (Amanda Peet), the mobster whose father Willis ratted out (Kevin Pollak) and Pollak's muscle (Michael Clarke Duncan). Perry does well by the pratfalls that compensate for the lack of wit in the script. — SW

WONDER BOYS (R). ** 1/2. Michael Douglas and L.A. Confidential director Curtis Hanson each try to prove that they can handle light, mature comedy, but this sad-eyed academic satire doesn't make a very compelling case. Adapted from Michael Chabon's novel about a blocked writer, Wonder Boys moves at a pokey pace and the relationship between Douglas' accident-prone professor and Tobey Maguire's dour but wise student compares unfavorably to American Beauty. — CH

FF is Felicia Feaster, CH is Curt Holman, RJ is Richard Joseph, EM is Eddy Von Mueller, SW is Steve Warren.

N'hood
Get happy
Phone Number not listed.
Website not listed.
Change is good. Franchised mediocrity does not go unpunished.

Satay Ria, an independent, moderately upscale Malay-Thai restaurant, recently replaced the deservedly shuttered Miami Subs fast-food outlet on Peachtree between Palisades and Collier roads.

Ria means "happy" in Malay. Satay — well, you know what that means — marinated, skewered, charcoal-grilled bits of meat and seafood served with peanut sauce. Satays — chicken, beef, lamb, goat, seafood — are a favorite snack in markets and teahouses all over Southeast Asia.

Satay Ria's owners also operate Little Malaysia on Buford Highway. Buckhead, even South Buckhead, is a hard place to make a living. Dressed in dark suits, batik shirts, traditional caps and sympathetic smiles, the Satay Ria team seems determined to make the venture a success.

To judge by the best of the food, they're off to a fast start. Chicken satay served a week after the restaurant opened was the best I've had in Atlanta ($6.50 for four). The white meat was tender and juicy, the superb dipping sauce properly hot, rich and layered with flavor. On the side, rice cakes and a cucumber-onion salad added interest. Beef and shrimp versions are offered, the latter at a $1 supplement.

The shrimp sticks suggest the inconsistency of a new kitchen. Gray, greasy, wizened and apt to fall apart when pried off their skewers, these expensive appetizers need to be reconfigured or withdrawn from the menu.

Roti canai, a large, folded, Asian-style crepe served with a bland lentil curry for dipping and moistening ($3.50), though worth checking out, is less engaging than its chicken-curry cousin at Penang on Buford Highway. Curious culinarians can combine one or two of Satay Ria's roti with an order of its delicious kari ayam — chicken and potato curry ($9.25) — thereby creating the best of all possible sop-and-sup worlds. Taken alone, with its side of steamed rice, the curry is correctly oil-rich, the chicken skinless, the hunks of potato creamy inside and tasty throughout.

Acar, a traditional Malaysian salad with crushed peanuts, is composed of marinated green beans, carrots, zucchini and other vegetables ($3.95). The portion is large enough for two or three to share. Rojak salad, combining mung bean sprouts, crunchy jicama, sliced carrots, red cabbage, fried tofu, hard-cooked eggs and peanut-ginger dressing, is equally large and appealing ($4.95).

An appetizer listed as Thai shrimp cake, but which resembled Boston codfish cakes, failed the authenticity test but was fun to eat nonetheless ($6.25). Thin, crisp and deep-fried, with an interior closer to creamy than solid, the cakes were delectable but definitely non-traditional. Lobak roll, fried tofu skin stuffed with shrimp-and-meat paste, was heavy as monsoon mud and not saved by a sliced tomato garnish ($5.95).

Soups are served in pretty, covered crocks. Tom yum goong, a Thai hot-and-sour soup containing two shrimp and a few wisps of chicken, lacked subtlety ($3.25). After that discouraging introduction, my research went no further.

Best to skip such false starters and move right to Nasi goreng, a peppy, tomato-flavored fried rice entrée with seafood ($9.95). Most of the world's rice-based cuisines boast a dish like this, one incorporating onions, peppers, local seasonings and twice-cooked rice. Satay Ria's shrimp-laced pilaf, aside from the addition of tough, overcooked squid, reminds me of Carolina red rice cooked in a private home. There can be no higher compliment.

Keep in mind that Satay Ria's chefs are holding their spice spoons firmly in check. Do they fear that the tongues of SoBuck and Ansley Park are not attuned to a little pepper and garlic? That women will run screaming from the room at the hint of ginger and lemongrass? Whatever the case, when we observed that the meal lacked fire-power, our waiter rushed to the kitchen and returned with a small dish of green chili paste spiked with lemongrass and fish sauce. Dabs of it, mixed in with the nasi goreng, picked up and emphasized the garlic undertone in the rice. No, the dish didn't suddenly become objectionably garlicky or blazing hot, just more interesting. Try it.

Try the market-priced Asam sea bass with Asian eggplant in hot-and-sour sauce at your own risk. Mine cost $17.95. Some of the pieces of breaded and fried fillet tasted fishy and none too fresh. Ouch, ouch.

Everything is attractively served, including the Asam fish, which arrived in a flounder-shaped dish with eyes fashioned from Maraschino cherries.

Green tea ice cream (the menu says homemade) tastes right and is dipped with a generous hand ($2.50). Coconut and red bean ice creams also are offered as are more distinctly Asian desserts. Wine and beer, unavailable during the restaurant's first few weeks of operation, are now sold.

From the street, the former Miami Subs outpost still looks distressingly fast-foodie. Don't be fooled. Everything inside has changed for the better. Hand-blocked fabrics, Southeast Asian folk art, colorful kites, musical instruments, wedding baskets, bamboo room dividers and low-level lighting provide the desirable sense of mysterious otherness while remaining safely this side of kitsch.

Same for the service, which — aside from the suggestion that I invest in the sea bass — is helpful, friendly and deferential in equal measure.

N'hood
This little piggy went to market
Phone Number not listed.
Website not listed.
It's not every day you find a cafeteria that's worth its per-pound price. The DeKalb Farmer's Market cafeteria, located just out of the nose's reach from the wafting scents of whole fish, raw meat and rotisserie chickens spinning in their horizontal last dance, offers some much-needed dignity to the all-you-can eat milieu.

The market, which was opened in 1977 by a Rhode Islander named Robert Blazer, reports that nearly 75,000 people shop there every week, buying — among other things — more than 2 million pounds of produce in its double-football-field-sized-space. Two million per week. That's a lotta beans.

These days, of course, there's much more than just produce to be had. Along with extensive grocery goods from near and far, the largest meat-and-deli market in the Southeast, a colossal bakery (150 kinds of bread are on the bill) plus a coffee bar, there's the cafeteria-style restaurant.

With a sort of parking lot arrangement of grocery carts, the cafeteria sports two grub lines. The "dining room" itself has a prison mess hall effect going on, but appearances are pretty low key throughout the market anyway. The restaurant's repertoire includes a salad bar, meat, taters, tubers and vegetables, sandwiches, wraps, fresh breads, freshly made juices and soups.

At the front of the line, by the trays, you'll find lists of daily specials like Monday's pot roast, Saturday's stew and Wednesday's Creole jambalaya. Those dishes, plus just about everything you dish out on your own (except for vegetable and beef samosas, which run $1.50 each), goes for the pittance of $2.29 per pound.

The day I first visited, the salad bar started with five varieties of sprouts. After that came lots of the requisite salad bar vegetable stuff — many of the items organic — plus strawberries, avocados, pasta salads, chicken salad, curried potato salad, wild rice with peppers and water chestnuts, cold cuts and more.

On the hot side of the lunch line, I found the likes of steamed asparagus, fried sweet potatoes, vegetable stir fry, BBQ pork ribs (with a spectacular BBQ sauce), roasted duck, tender grilled chicken breast, buffalo wings, mashed potatoes (deep breath), linguine, vegetarian sausage, boiled cabbage and braised long beans — to name a few.

Further on down the line, you can find fresh juices. Among them are the tangy sweet Mean Green Pineapple Treat with organic parsley and romaine ($2.29 per half pint) or Organic Juiceman's Juice with beets, apples, carrots and parsley ($2.29), plus orange, grapefruit or grape juices (all $1.79).

Finally, the other big stop includes sandwiches, mix-and-match style (you choose the meat, bread and cheese, $3.50, and wraps, $3).

This is quite a rundown — and naturally, not everything is the very best it could be. Cafeteria eats are rarely known for their pizzazz, partly because it's made for the masses and the cafeteria method seems to dictate blandness. But, surprisingly, here, many things do have a kick. Spices, thankfully, are actually used. Also, you can think of it in the broader sense, too: Visiting the restaurant pre-shopping can save you from the costly perils of empty-stomach over-shopping. But really, it's worth its weight.

N'hood
Updates
Phone Number not listed.
Website not listed.
Restaurants get better. Restaurants get worse. This week, I've got some updates.

When the Food Network asked to interview me about Gladys Knight and Ron Winan's Chicken and Waffles, I thought I better pay a return visit. I had not eaten in the restaurant since it left its Ponce de Leon location and moved downtown to 529 Peachtree St. about a year ago.

The downtown location is fancier than the original. Nearly every inch of the place is covered in cherry-stained wood, giving it a clubby, almost gloomy ambiance. Unfortunately, it's a bit shabby around the edges. Here and there, tables are mysteriously missing from booths and an untidy service area is set up between the front and rear dining room. But the food and friendly service compensate well.

The peculiar specialty here — fried chicken served with waffles — is still the main reason to go. The dish originated in Harlem but is best known to me from visits to Roscoe's in Los Angeles, a landmark in the African-American community there.

The fried chicken is good. Though not pan-fried, it's still flavorful, thanks in part to a long session of marinating in a concoction apparently more secret than the Colonel's. I'm unable to detect if buttermilk is actually part of the chicken's bath, but it does have a slight sourness that is a nice counterpoint to the maple syrup you pour over the waffle on the side. The contrast is what makes the dish so appealing. The crunchy batter of the chicken is nice against the waffle, which turns custardy under the syrup.

Wayne and I also sampled good collard greens and macaroni and cheese. I'm not a fan of the latter in any version, but it was good enough. The next day, when I went for filming, I was presented two dishes that disturbed me — a vegetable sauté over oily rice and a sweet potato cheesecake. Both were unpleasant. I made the point, and I'll repeat it here since I doubt it will make it on the air, that when soul food gets too far from its roots, it loses authenticity and appeal. If you just have to play with recipes, I'd much rather eat hoppin' john and sweet potato pie that have been tweaked slightly with interesting garnishes than the dishes I was presented.

Still, the chicken and waffles remain delicious.

My friend Tom and I lunched recently at Violette (2948 Clairmont Road) to celebrate his new home purchase. Violette has a long and quirky history in our city. It used to be located in a former bank and was famous for its special meals served by a singing waitress. The chef/owner served Atlanta some of its first French bistro food and was unique for a few Alsatian dishes.

Then, a few years ago, the restaurant moved to its present and much prettier location. Lunch is dirt-cheap and quick, obviously catering to folks (like Tom) from nearby office buildings. I grazed on some perfectly fried potatoes with a heavy, herbed dip I confess I didn't like much, plus an order of delicious pâté. Tom, who eats at Violette weekly, had a chicken and spinach crepe with a mushroom sauce. It was good but the sauce was a mite heavy-handed.

I'm sorry to report, too, that service was harried and forgetful. We were seated at a tiny table and when the server couldn't fit the pâté's pointlessly enormous plate on the table, he just stood there helplessly until I slid the stuff onto a butter plate. Another server forgot our coffee and had to be begged for bread.

I suggest, unless you are in the area during the day, that you plan any special trip for dinner instead of lunch and always aim for the Alsatian dishes, if they're available.

On a recent gorgeous Saturday, I visited my friend Chris in Midtown and we walked to Nickiemoto's on 10th Street at Piedmont. This restaurant — sister to one in Buckhead — transformed this corner into a bustling commercial area that soon will be home to a huge condo development as well as the boutiques thriving there.

I was long a fan of the Buckhead Nickiemoto's, especially when Alena Pyles was chef there and produced some of our city's first and most interesting (Japanese-Southwestern) fusion cuisine. But my visits to the 10th Street location have not been good. Because of indifferent service, horrendously loud dance music and often unpleasant sushi, I imagined the place as something like a noodle bar inside Backstreet.

But on a beautiful day, sitting on the patio, listening to Chris go on about Lacan, I had a different experience. I lunched exclusively on sushi maki rolls and found most of them delicious — especially the salmon skin roll, which was a disaster in the past. True, a few of the rolls are totally bland and nothing comes close to the artistry of Soto. (One roll's pieces were annoyingly shaped to resemble a starburst.) But generally, I note a significant improvement. A server said a new sushi chef was at work there.

Rose D'Agostino and I lunched recently at Kim Vidal's Carroll Street Bakery on the main drag through Cabbagetown, in the late photographer Panama Ray's old studio. This is one of the quirkiest, most appealing spots in our city, serving absolutely killer sandwiches and baked goods. Erin, a new employee with low-country culinary roots, tried several recipes on us, including a fabulous cornbread stuffed with vegetables and good soup.

Sotto Sotto on North Highland, our favorite Italian restaurant, has added some new dishes to its spring menu and diners should try them pronto. My favorite is orecchiette, a handmade pasta with the chewy texture of gnocchi, cooked with rapini, garlic, anchovies, hot peppers and olive oil ($13). There's also incredibly rich tortelloni filled with mascarpone and artichokes in a butter and cream sauce ($13). A salad of asparagus, arugula, hazelnuts and parmigiano reggiano, in balsamic vinaigrette, has been added too ($6).

We were happy to spend some time with owner/chef Ricardo's new (beautiful) wife Madora at the restaurant last week. Madora is an artist with plans to study in Florence, Italy, leaving Ricardo behind to slave over the stove. "How do you feel about that, Ricardo?" I asked. He gestured at the air with his hands, silent a moment before exploding: "What? What am I going to do? Why does everyone ask me that? I think it's great she's going to study art in Italy." Amore! Modern marriage! Bella, already!

Contact Cliff Bostock at 404-688-5623, ext. 1504, or at grazer@mindspring.com.

N'hood
Good Eats
Phone Number not listed.
Website not listed.
Seafood

Indigo Coastal Grill, 1397 N. Highland Ave., 404-876-0676. Reopened after yet another makeover, the restaurant's once funky décor has been smoothed to a near-corporate sheen. Fried seafood, big salads, comforting side dishes (couscous, cheese grits, shoestring fries) and gooey desserts are still tops. Service by a clean-cut, knowledgeable staff who's textbook sharp. — EM

Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, 2830 Windy Hill Road, Marietta, 770-984-8899 and other locations. Who'd have thought a chain serving enormous volumes of food could be this good? Spectacular etouffée, lovingly prepared gumbos, delicately broiled seafood and mountains of fried stuff are turning out crowds that cause 90-minute waits. Go early. Real early. — CBB


Cajun


Gumbo A Go-Go, 1405 Oxford Road, 404-687-0031; 736 Ponce de Leon Ave., 404-874-8620; 3256 Cobb Parkway, Marietta, 770-303-9970; and 11770 Haynes Bridge Road, Alpharetta, 770-777-1441. Head to the Emory Village location for a rough jewel where students wolf down dirt-cheap portions of the best jambalaya around. The second location on Ponce (by Tortilla's) offers the same Cajun-Creole dishes, like Big Chief Crazy Gumbo and, when it's in season, crawfish etouffée. — CBB

Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, 2830 Windy Hill Road, Marietta, 770-984-8899 and other metro locations. Who'd have thought a chain serving enormous volumes of food could be this good? Spectacular etouffée, lovingly prepared gumbos, delicately broiled seafood and mountains of fried stuff are turning out crowds that cause 90-minute waits. Go early. Real early. — CBB

Somber Reptile's Cajun Kitchen, 842 Marietta St., 404-881-9701. Snackery in a quirky music hall (walls black, smoking encouraged, no coffee) is westside headquarters for shrimp, oyster and andouille sausage po' boy sandwiches, fried okra and cold suds. Sonny bubbas in uniform and men in suits hit it hard at lunchtime on weekdays. — EM

Ya Ya's Cajun Cuisine, 426 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., 404-373-9292. David and Leslie Lester have hit the big time in Decatur. Lunch offers the best po' boys in town and dinner means very good (roux-less) etouffées and gumbos. Try the grilled boudin and "snapper courtbouillion." — CBB


Chinese


Chicken World, 5150 Buford Highway, 770-458-5164. Give your honey a choice of menudo, Buffalo chicken wings or moo goo gai pan here. Chino-Mexicano. It's not the best food in town, but it is most definitely a happening. — CBB

Chopstix, 4279 Roswell Road, 404-255-4868. One of the most popular Asian-style restaurants in Atlanta, where elegant Chinese fare is served by candlelight to a rather upscale audience. Gourmet classics from shrimp to lobster to sweetbreads are prepared Hong Kong style — everything's top-notch. — SSS

Chung Ha Chinese-Korean Buffet, 5979 Buford Highway, Doraville, 770-455-7370. Foodies with a taste for experimentation will appreciate the extensive display of Asian foods as well as a helpful, informative staff. Highlights include Korean barbecued meats and hors d'oeuvres, nuggets of marinated chicken, unusual soups and noodles. Very affordable. Sunday brunch draws after-church mobs.— EM

Doc Chey's Noodle House, 1424 N. Highland Ave., 404-888-0777; 1556 N. Decatur Road, 404-378-8188. A pan-Asian noodle house for yuppies. Great sense of humor, great style, great appetizers. — CBB

Grand Buffet II (Chinese), Buckhead Crossing, 2625 Piedmont Road at Sidney Marcus Boulevard, 404-760-9967. Grand Buffet II offers Buckhead location at Southside prices. The bountiful Chinese-American spread has notable "wow-golly" appeal. Much of the food tastes fresh. Grill cooks prepare many items in small batches just behind the serving line. Platters and trays are replenished often. — EM

Harmony Vegetarian Chinese Restaurant, 4897 Buford Highway, Chamblee, 770-457-7288. Curry flavors (noodles, dumplings) and moo shu vegetable wraps are tops at this minimally decorated newcomer. Stick with greenery and skip the imitation beef and fish. — EM

Kong Lang, Orient Center, 4897 Buford Highway, Suite 125, Chamblee, 770-986-9168. Classy Cantonese barbecue and roast pork specialist, with seafood an added attraction, spins off (and up) from affably grungy, always reliable Ming's BarB.Q. Restaurant nearby. Service, amenities and décor nearly match the delectable cuisine. — EM

Little Szechuan, Northwood Plaza, 5091-C Buford Highway, Doraville, 770-451-0192. There's no trick to dining well at the state's best Chinese restaurant. Order almost anything unusual. Balance unfamiliar dishes with a like number of the family's favorite dishes. Figure on one platter per guest. Relax and sip your tea. Of particular interest: stir-fried mo shu vegetables, sizzling beef brisket, eggplant with garlic sauce, Szechuan cold noodles. — EM

New Paradise Chinese Restaurant, 4795 Buford Highway, Chamblee, 770-936-0306. Located near the south end of the Chambodia business strip, this small, neat storefront offers affordable, authentic cuisine in simple surroundings. Foodies and similarly adventurous diners should order from the white Asian menu. A red tourist menu is available for those who prefer safer shopping-center fare. — EM [page]

P.F. Chang's China Bistro, 500 Ashwood Parkway, off Ashford Dunwoody Road, 770-352-0500. An only partially successful attempt to mate Chinese cookery with the American casual-chain concept, this is essentially a Bennigan's with egg rolls. Service and cuisine are thoroughly Americanized. Evocations of China consist almost entirely of Asian-style decorations. Orange peel shrimp is a safe choice. — EM

Pyng Ho, 1357 Clairmont Road, 404-634-4477. This is a popular and authentic Chinese restaurant outside the main Buford Highway corridor. Thus, many who find the ethnic experience intimidating will be more comfortable here. By all means, stick to the menu of evening specials. A whole fried red snapper drizzled in black bean sauce is amazing. — CBB

Royal China, 3295 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Chamblee, 770-216-9933. New owners have overhauled the former Honto to mostly good effect. Although the Cantonese cuisine is highly erratic, the elegant décor and new restrooms make a visit almost mandatory for old hands. On balance, try dinner rather than lunch, vegetables and seafood over meat. — EM


Continental


Babette's Cafe, 471 N. Highland Ave., 404-523-9121. Situated between Inman Park and Virginia-Highland, this lovely cafe escapes both glib trendiness and Martha Stewartness. The dining room is romantic and homey. Herb-crusted lamb chops, risotto specials, fried oysters atop a dill biscuit are recommended. Desserts are killer. — CBB

Eclipse di Luna, 764 Miami Circle, 404-846-0449. Paul Luna and James Ehrlich have created one of the most pleasant dining rooms in town. Lunch features delicious sandwiches, soups and quiches; evenings offer a tapas menu that is the best in town. Little Spanish-style marinated ribs, grilled octopus, skewered prawns and luscious Manilla clams are among the offerings. — CBB

Seeger's, 111 W. Paces Ferry Road NW, 404-846-9779. Beard Award-winning chef Guenter Seeger's new stand features resourceful contemporary-continental cuisine, small portions, prix fixe menus with big prices, elegant service and a minimalist postmodern decorative scheme that fits the food like sauce over fish. Reservations recommended on weekends. — EM


Italian


Aromi, 1025 Virginia Ave. NE, 404-607-0220. With a brightly lit neon store front just a few doors east of the Virginia-Highland intersection, Aromi has sweets, coffee, gelato crepes and panini. Gelato flavors include peach, raspberry, lemon, banana, chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut, chocolate chip and more. Lightly press-grilled panini are served on foccacia and come with chips. And as if all this weren't enough lure — the coffee's great, too. — SL

Ciao Bella, 309 Pharr Road, 404-261-6013. Simplicity is the approach here. Order big, white bowls of perfect pastas — with wild mushrooms or mussels and anchovies. Prices are low, the crowd is convivial and the staff is thoroughly Italian. — CBB

Cipollini, 1529 Piedmont Ave., 404-875-5001. John Carver, formerly of Pricci, has taken over saucy Ciboulette and its talented chef de cuisine, Ofer Ayal. The haute bistro dining room sports a clean, spare, faux marbre makeover that's in tune with modern Italian design. Cooking is updated Italian-American, with salads, pastas (especially strazzopreti — "priest stranglers," thin tubes with veal sauce) and meat entrées making the biggest impression. — EM

Eno, 800 Peachtree St. at Fifth, 404-685-3191. Conceived as an extremely comfortable laboratory where food and drink pairings may be explored, Doug Strickland's and Jamie Adams' Mediterranean bistro could raise the standards of corporate Atlanta's drinking classes. Food is fashionably Cal-Italian — lots of olives, olive oil, fruit, fresh fish and seasonal ingredients. The cooking is first rate, the crowd Midtown hot. Sidewalk tables, wine room, tastings featured. — EM

Fratelli di Napoli, 2101 Bennett St., 404-351-1533; 928 Canton St., Roswell, 770-642-9917. Big-deal, super-size takes on Little Italy specializing in homestyle platters serving two to four. Chicken with eggplant, spinach salad with gorgonzola dressing and tiramisu are standouts. Dinner nightly. Reservations for six or more. — EM

Grappa, 3097 Maple Drive, 404-262-9749. Soups and salads are best bets at this Tuscanized Buckhead bungalow inhabited by co-chefs Lynne Gigliotti (Gigliotti Culinary Concepts, Grapevine Café, Azio) and Christophe Vessaire (Resto des Amis, French Embassy, Washington, D.C.). Dinner only. — EM

La Grotta, 2637 Peachtree Road, 404-231-1368. This is one of Atlanta's longest-running fine dining experiences, evidenced by the '70s décor and Italian cuisine. Try the tuna carpaccio and the roasted quail stuffed with sausage. — SSS

Luna Si, 1931 Peachtree Road, 404-355-5993. Who'd think that "old faithful" and "cutting-edge" honestly could belong together? That's exactly so in this remarkably affordable restaurant with a strong contemporary Italian influence. Convivial and quirky themselves, the Luna brothers have created one of the city's most reliable choices. — CBB

Pastificio Cameli, 1263 Glenwood Ave. SE, 404-622-9926. Retro pasta parlor in East Atlanta gentrification zone offers delectable fresh pastas, salads and soups in stripped-back, contemporary surroundings. Deck and sidewalk tables offered in nice weather. Dinner only. — EM [page]

The Patio, 1029 Edgewood Ave. (across from the Inman Park MARTA station), 404-584-8945. A killer redo of the old Deacon Burton spot, with an especially wonderful patio. Pastas and pizzas are the main fare. Inexpensive. — CBB

Savage Pizza, 484 Moreland Ave., 404-523-0500. Among the best local sources of real, hand-thrown, honest-to-Palermo pizza, this slightly bent independent in L5P is notable for fresh ingredients, homemade sauces and clever, knowing service. Wide selection of pizza toppings and calzone fillings. Good for takeout. Smokers' porch. — EM

Sotto Sotto, 313 N. Highland Ave., 404-523-6678. As a place to dine extremely well, see friends and plug into what people are talking about, Riccardo Ullio's Italian outpost in Inman Park hardly can be beat. Pastas, risotti and desserts are winners, as is the high-energy factor. — EM


Thai


Little Bangkok, 2225 Cheshire Bridge Road near Lenox Road, 404-315-1530. Now it can be told: Some of the best Thai food in town is at this absurdly inexpensive hole in the wall. Pay close attention to evening specials like chicken with eggplant or spicy squid. Seasonings are fiery, portions are very large and ingredients always include a few surprises. The menu also features Chinese cuisine. — CBB

Northlake Thai Cuisine. 3939 LaVista Road, at Montreal Road, Tucker, 770-938-2223. A slightly less glamorous cousin to Midtown's spectacular Tamarind, the strip center showplace holds its own in tropical décor, Bangkok ambience and reassuring air of formality. Though the cooking shows less finesse, the cuisine, by the standards of the neighborhood, also is a standout. Starters (duck salad, fried squid, coconut-chicken soup) are worth particular attention. — EM

Satay Ria, 1861 Peachtree Road NE, 404-609-9990. An Intown find. The younger, SoBuck brother to Buford Highway's Little Malaysia offers mid-scale comforts, Malaysian-Thai cuisine (chicken satay, chicken curry, acar salad) and unusually good service. — EM


Vegetarian


Broadway Cafe, 2168 Briarcliff Road NE, 404-329-0888. Vegetarian fare, much of it kosher, can be inventive and quite tasty in this Druid Hills strip mall spot; who knew faux sausage could taste so good? — SSS

Harmony Vegetarian Chinese Restaurant, 4897 Buford Highway, Chamblee, 770-457-7288. Curry flavors (noodles, dumplings) and moo shu vegetable wraps are tops at this minimally decorated newcomer. Stick with greenery and skip the imitation beef and fish. — EM

Woodland Vegetarian Restaurant, 1080 Oaktree Road, Decatur, 404-321-6005. Larger and brighter than competing self-service Indian restaurants, this newcomer near Market Square Mall specializes in stuffed, topped and sauced pancakes and crepes. An affordable lunch buffet Tues.-Sun. is another good way to jump right in. — EM


Vietnamese


Song Long, 4166 Buford Highway, 404-320-9772. Bright star among a galaxy of Asian newcomers in Oriental Mall (the former Outlet Square), this Vietnamese specialist features eager-to-please staffers, budget prices, music videos and an extraordinarily complete menu. Don't miss the cha gio (Vietnamese fried spring rolls) with lettuce and herb leaf wrappers, or the various rice-noodle soups. No credit cards. — EM


Cuban


Havana Sandwich Shop, 2905 Buford Highway NE (at the corner of North Druid Hills and Buford Highway), 404-636-4094. This modest restaurant's delicious yellow rice is studded with green peas and covered with savory-sweet stewed tomatoes and onions (white rice is available as well), and its black bean "soup" with prominent onions and garlic, can easily make a meal. The mojo-marinated Cuban, served with pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickles, is delicious. There also are plenty of savory vegetarian dishes and Jumex juices (try the mango), plus a variety of unusual sodas (try the Coco Rico). Also don't miss out on the fabulous flan. — SL

Kool Korners grocery, 349 14th St. NW, 404-892-4424. Known for its Cuban Classic sandwich, this grocery/sandwich shop has been a source of food-induced euphoria for 13 years. Sandwich choices include ham, turkey, roast beef and pastrami with all the fixings, including jalapeño peppers. Press-grilled sandwiches have a crispy exterior where inside, the flavors emerge, mingle and melt together. — SL

Las Palmeras, 368 Fifth St. NE, 404-872-0846. Cuban neighborhood cafe is noted for black beans and rice, fried plantains, authentic entrées, friendly welcomes and faster service than might be expected. A smokers' deck is pleasant in nice weather. Purchase beer and wine at the grocery next door or BYOB. — EM

Mambo Restaurante Cubano, 1402 N. Highland Ave., 404-876-2626. Lunch service is notable for Cuban Sloppy Joe sandwiches (grilled Cuban loaves stuffed with picadillo and ropa vieja). The regular menu offers traditional entrées, salads and other island delights. Outdoor tables available. — EM [page]


French


Brasserie Le Coze, 3393 Peachtree Road (in Lenox Square), 404-266-1440. The next best thing to Paris, this upscale bistro is consistent and top-notch. Fresh seafood and desserts always are safe bets and the wine list is affordable. Tiled walls, mirrors and suave service make you forget you're in a mall. — SSS

Cafe Boheme, 453 Moreland Ave. NE, 404-522-4373. Sit-down bistro fare, with wines and beers to match. Low prices, hearty portions and French ambience make it worth the jaunt to L5P.— EM

Le Saint Amour, 1620 Piedmont Ave., 404-881-0300. New chef, traditional country French cooking. Blanquette de veau, rabbit pâté, soufflés, that kind of thing. — EM


Fusion


Fusebox, 3085 Piedmont Road NE, 404-233-3383. A slick Buckhead destination for the city's young, black-clad, New Yorker wannabe crowd, with a dazzling communal table right up front, sophisticated music, Y2K lighting, Asian antiques, attitude that's surprisingly soft and an East-West menu that's Fusion Lite rather than up-to-the-minute. — EM

SoHo, 4200 Paces Ferry Road, 770-801-0069. Cleverly conceived, albeit ding-dong loud, shopping center bistro with pricey fusion menu. — EM


German


Basket Bakery and Cafe at The Village Corner, 6655 James B. Rivers Drive, 770-498-0329. The best German food in our area, served in a delightful setting adjacent to Stone Mountain Village. Sauerbraten and rouladen are especially good. Enormous portions. — CBB


Indian


Planet Bombay, 451 Moreland Ave., 404-688-0005. L5P newcomer with thick, hearty soups (Mulligatawny, fresh mushroom), notable rice pilafs and Indian breads, good curried vegetable combinations and low prices. — EM

Udipi Cafe, 1850 Lawrenceville Highway, Decatur, 404-325-1933. Savory rice pilafs, spicy vegetable curries and spectacular stuffed crepes and pancakes are but four reasons to seek out the city's newest South Indian vegetarian outlet. Sophisticated carrot desserts, traditional beverages and crisp breads double the pleasure. Table service is a plus. — EM


Japanese


Nickiemoto's Midtown, Piedmont at 10th Street, 404- 253-2010. A clone of George Rohrig's Buckhead sushi bar, this fast-track watering hole is more remarkable for burnished metal décor and intown haircuts than for its Asian-American food. To dine well, keep two words in mind: fried (squid, soft-shell crab hotpot, catfish) and desserts (ginger creme brulee, Vietnamese coffee float). — EM

Stoney River, 10524 Alpharetta Highway at Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell, 678-461-7900. The mainstream runs through this steaks-and-sushi dinner house from the creators of Brookwood Grill. The wilderness lodge décor, upbeat service and decent sushi bar are much superior to the salty, overseasoned American food. No reservations. Expect long waits at prime hours. — EM

Yokohama, 2221 Peachtree Road NE, 404-603-5282. Reconstituted neighborhood sushi parlor with all-purpose Japanese-American menu (noodles, tonkatsu, teriyaki steak, ice cream) fills an independent niche on a busy intown strip. Tender tempura squid is a tasty treasure. — EM


Malaysian


Malaya, 857 Collier Road, 404-609-9991. A tiny room in a modest storefront belies the wondrous repertoire of traditional Malaysian dishes available. For an introduction to this spicy crossroads cuisine, don't miss coconut soup laced with shrimp and chicken, acar (pickled salad with peanuts), rendang (an aromatic beef stew), curried salmon with okra, and spinach sautéed with okra. Chinese menu also available. Good for takeout. Now serving beer and wine. — EM

Penang Malaysian Cuisine, Orient Center, 4897 Buford Highway, Chamblee, 770-220-0308. Clever, classy take on the crossroads cuisine of Malaysia, one of Asia's sleeping tigers. Whole fish with Thai sauce, pancakes with chicken curry, satays, noodles and crisp vegetables — all with a moderately spicy kick — are authentic, approachable and well prepared. The setting, a bamboo summer house with all the latest conveniences, matches the upbeat, sunny ambience. — EM


Mexican


Burrito Art, 1259 Glenwood Ave., 404-627-4433; Tower Walk, 3365 Piedmont Road, 404-237-0095; and 1451 Oxford Road, 404-377-7786. East Atlanta is the original home for this restaurant by Ryan Aiken, a young chef who trained at Indigo and Partners and developed the extraordinary opening menu at Terra Cotta. Now, the boy's cooking burritos! But these are amazing creations that feature the likes of barbecue chicken, roast pork and chile relleno. — CBB

El Portal, 2157 Briarcliff Road, 404-320-1888. Homestyle Mexican specialties (garlic shrimp, chilaquiles, quesadilla rellena) in a storefront in the north-of-Emory district. Prices are peso-low. — EM [page]

Frontera Mex-Mex Grill, 4606 Jimmy Carter Blvd., 770-493-8341; and 5070 Stone Mountain Highway, 770-972-3366. Sunday brunch at two locations of the local chain features energetic ranchera music, heady fiesta atmosphere and a succession of unusual Mexican specialties. Spice levels, thought toned down, are still lively enough to tickle gringo tongues. — EM

Noche, 1000 Virginia Ave., 404-815-9155. The nuevo New Mexican chow at this boutique cantina, while extremely inconsistent, combines campfire flavor with comfort food accessibility. Stylishly fitted out and moderately priced, with good service, it may be considered a flashier alternative to Sundown Cafe. — EM

Santa Fe Cafe, 123 E. Court Square, Decatur, 404-377-1399. Starter-kit New Mexican food, with upbeat service, in a vibrant center of intown redevelopment. Sidewalk tables recommended.— EM

Taqueria del Sol, 1200-B Howell Mill Road at Huff Road, 404-352-5811. Spin-off of popular Sundown Cafe is long on informality and comfortingly Americanized Mexican and Southwestern fare. It's decidedly short on glitz, and guests order at the bar and carry their own drinks. Seafood specials can be really special. Old favorites — spicy turnip greens, jalapeño slaw and carnita tacos — are still worth saying "Olé" to as well. — EM

Tortillas, 774 Ponce de Leon, 404-892-0193. So many burrito shops have opened in town that we tend to forget the original and, in many ways, still the best. Nobody's pinto beans come close to Tortillas. You don't have to endure oniony seasonings, you get flawless guac and green sauce, and you still get plenty of bad attitude and crummy ambiance. — CBB

Zocalo, 187 10th St., 404-249-7576. Midtown's former monument to mucho-Mexican mole has been mainstreamed and Americanized. The city's best stuffed peppers, the still-peppy chicken mole and a collection of 150 tequilas don't make up for greasy tacos, hard-edged service, hard-to-read menus, inappropriate music and uncomfortable chairs. Note that visitors with hotel room keys get a 10 percent discount. — EM


American


Aria, 490 E. Paces Ferry Road, 404-233-5208. After yet another redesign, the former Hedgerose Heights is being repositioned as a Buckhead-casual hangout for young, hot entrepreneurs and similarly questing fast-trackers. Gerry Klaskala's accomplished American cuisine - slow-cooked chicken and beef, soups, grilled meats - and Kathryn King's dreamy desserts more than make up for the half-baked, weirdly erotic décor by Bill Johnson Studio. —EM

Bacchanalia, 1198 Howell Mill Road. Atlanta's best restaurant has moved. Owner/chefs Anne Quatrono and Clifford Harrison have set up shop in the newly trendy Westside industrial district. Stay tuned. — EM

Big Bad Burger Daddy's, 307-B East College Ave., Decatur, 404-371-8700. Owner/chef Shaun Smithson's sunny, mom-and-pop storefront near Agnes Scott combines cuisine-school know-how and upbeat, informal atmosphere. Burgers with an abundance of trimmings, spuds in various delicious forms and bargain-basement prices are the reasons to go. Smoking not permitted. Good for takeout. — EM

Canoe, 4199 Paces Ferry Road NW, 770-432-2663. Oh, to be up a creek without a paddle here! Cozying up to the banks of the Chattahoochee, Canoe is one of the loveliest restaurants in town, and Chef Gary Mennie's New American fare is top-notch. Be sure to make reservations — this showboat's popular. — SSS

City Grill, 50 Hurt Plaza, 404-524-2489. Located in the historic Hurt building, this is one of the most beautiful dining rooms in the city. The New American fare at this most elegant Peasant Group restaurant has been up and down over the years. You could get lucky. — SSS

Corner Cafe - Buckhead Bread Co., 3070 Piedmont Road NE, 404-240-1978. Breads, muffins, pastries and service are better than ever. Sandwiches (egg salad, chicken club, portobello mushroom) are among the city's overstuffed best. Opens early for breakfast. — EM

The Earl, 488 Flat Shoals Road, East Atlanta, 404-522- 3950. This menu offers the traditional bar food assemblage, plus healthier alternatives including four vegetarian sandwiches. Burgers are big 'n' beefy and the steak sandwich can't be beat. All sandwiches come with a choice of house salad, red beans and rice, baked potato, fries, pasta salad or beer-battered onions rings. Try the addictive skinny fries. — SL

Five Sisters Cafe, 2743 LaVista Road, 404-636-6060. Storefront with rumpus-room décor is neighborhood hub for suave sandwiches served by smiling staffers. — EM

Floataway Cafe, 1123 Zonolite Road NE, 404-892-1414. A Southern Chez Panisse from the creators of superpopular Bacchanalia, with exquisite, inventive dishes made from fresh, often organic ingredients. The stylishly retro décor fits the former-factory setting too well. — E.M.

The Flying Biscuit Cafe, 1655 McLendon Ave., 404-687-8888. This Candler Park restaurant, offering affordable, highly uneven cuisine, had an enormous impact on the city's dining scene when it opened a few years ago. It is still one of the best values in town. The cuisine is New American with just the right touch of levity. — CBB [page]

Harvest, 853 N. Highland Ave., 404-876-8244. Matching arts-and-crafts furniture, vases, flowers, fireplaces, dramatic curtains and a comfy bar make the Craftsman-style bungalow the perfect venue for chef Justin Ward's weekday lunch service. Alas, as has been true since the restaurant's January 1996 debut, the contemporary American cooking is still wildly uneven.— EM

Heaping Bowl and Brew, 469 Flat Shoals Ave., 404-523-8030. This restaurant in East Atlanta prepares inexpensive, wholesome food with occasional outré touches. It almost always works. But dining here is enjoyable because of the convivial ambiance. Perogies and greens and beans stew are recommended. — CBB

Highland Wraps & Pizza Kitchen, 1250 Virginia Ave., 404-872-2562. A mostly takeout operation in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood, this storefront charmer produces decidedly Americanized, albeit notably tasty meat and vegetarian burritos and tacos. — EM

In the Shade Cafe, inside the Wish-Fulfilling Tree Bookstore, 2329 Cheshire Bridge Road, 404-634-7411. Juices, sandwiches and light noshes are all fresh and delicious. Plus you get your spiritual high from sniffing the nearby incense. — CBB

Insignia, Chastain Square, 4279 Roswell Road, 404-256-4040. Accomplished Pacific Rim and American regional cuisine, plus a useful wine list draws customers willing to pay healthy prices. Proprietor David Abes and chef Pete Pavesic are well-trained graduates of Horseradish Grill, Buckhead Diner and the Atlanta Fish Market. The new venture includes a smokers' porch and a cadre of knowledgeable, enthusiastic servers. — EM

Java Jive, 790 Ponce de Leon Ave., 404-876-6161. "The Cup That Pleases" definitely lives up to its name. The rich, faintly nutty cups of coffee accompany from-scratch biscuits, pecan or gingerbread waffles and well-stuffed omelets and veggie scrambles. Service is personable, reliable and unobtrusive. — SL

Mumbo Jumbo, 89 Park Place, 404-523-0330. Located in a treasure of a building, this bar/lounge/restaurant is a visual feast. And the New American cuisine, as interpreted by Chef Shaun Doty, ain't bad either. Globally and seasonally influenced, the menu always changes often. You also can rely on an interesting crowd, from oh-so-chic to far-out. — SSS

Murphy's, 997 Virginia Ave., 404-872-0904. This airy French-doored deli-and-beyond is always crowded — breakfast, lunch and dinner. Omelets and muffins are good, and soups and sandwiches are usually fresh. If the lines are too long, there's always takeout. — SSS

North Highland Pub, 469 N. Highland Ave., 404-522-4600. This Poncey-Highland joint features an impressively large menu, imported and on-tap beer and a plethora of tunes on the jukebox. Of note is the Bacon Swiss Guacamole Burger, cooked to a perfect medium and served on a sesame seed bun. Onion rings, beating out the fries, are a delicious companion. Sizable salads are worth a whirl, too. — SL

The Palm, 3391 Peachtree Road NE, 404-814-1955. Steak and lobster are the name of the game at this expense-account eatery in Buckhead's Swissôtel. Clubby attire is enhanced by the restaurant group's schtick — caricatures of famous faces peering down on those who go to see and be seen. — SSS

Park 75, Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta, 75 14th St. NE, 404-881-9898. Rich, well-constructed New American cuisine in a luxury setting with prices to match. Initial menus from executive chef Brooke Vosika — transplanted from the extraordinary Four Seasons Olympic Hotel in Seattle — are particularly strong on soups and seafood. — EM

The Roman Lily Cafe, 688 Highland Ave., 404-653-1155. Calavino Donati and her buzz-headed staff in overalls are serving killer contemporary American diner food and a great experience in this storefront restaurant. Meatloaf with a tequila-jalapeño gravy and scallops with baked polenta and wild mushrooms are fave dishes. But salads and sandwiches are tasty, too. Reservations are accepted (and necessary) on weekends. — CBB

Sage, 121 Sycamore St., Decatur, 404-373-5574. With no pretensions beyond generic American-bistro food and ambience, the Courthouse Square-area baby sister to Le Giverny offers hefty portions, modest prices, decent if spotty cooking, wide-ranging wine list and warm, welcoming service by a mostly female staff. — EM

San Francisco Wraps, 8725 Roswell Road, Dunwoody, 770-993-3999; 2160 N. Decatur Road, Decatur, 404-320-9111. Best local effort since Tortillas on Ponce (and, arguably, Great Western Burrito Co.) to produce a variety of burrito-style wraps with plenty of flavor and minimal attitude. — EM

Stoney River, 10524 Alpharetta Highway, at Holcomb Bridge Road, Roswell, 678-461-7900. The mainstream runs through this steaks-and-sushi dinner house from the creators of Brookwood Grill. The wilderness lodge décor, upbeat service and decent sushi bar are much superior to the salty, overseasoned American food. No reservations. Expect long waits at prime hours. — EM

Sweet Tomatoes, 6350 Peachtree Dunwoody Road, 770-913-0203; 1125 Barrett Parkway, Kennesaw, 770-429-5522; 3505 Mall Blvd., Duluth, 770-418-1148. Pizza, spuds, soups and about half the greenery are worth their weight in calories and cholesterol at units of this San Diego, Calif.-based buffet chain aimed at families and office workers. Atmosphere is bright and upbeat, prices reasonable. — EM [page]

Vortex Bar and Grill, 438 Moreland Ave., L5P, 404-688-1828; and 878 Peachtree St., 404-875-1667. Funky atmosphere, loud music, enormous selection of bottled beers and some of the best and biggest burgers in town. Black bean soup and homestyle pimento cheese are excellent, too. — EM

Watershed, 406 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur, 404-378-4900. The combination restaurant, wine bar, package store, gift shop and takeout counter holds wonders aplenty. Offerings change daily. A slice of fish, a mound of creamed potatoes, a bowl of some unusual pasta may be heaven on toast points today, history tomorrow. Luckily the salads and sandwiches (beets, shrimp, roast pork) and desserts (pecan tart, apple cake, chocolate cake, macaroons) are fairly constant in both their excellence and availability. — EM


Barbecue


Dreamland Bar-B-Que, 10730 Alpharetta Highway at Mansell Road, Roswell, 678-352-7999. Hit the road to Tuscaloosa, Georgians. The imported cultural icon features Alabama-style pork barbecue with its characteristic charred edges, subdued seasoning and slathered sauce. It's accompanied by tangy slaw, crisp fries, rich pecan pie and logo T-shirts. Salads, sandwiches and such round out the menu. Good for takeout. — EM

Dusty's Barbecue, 1815 Briarcliff Road NE, 404-320-6264. There's nothing quite like starting out the day with barbecue for breakfast. The Chattahoochee Wake-Up features a three-egg omelet stuffed with tangy barbecue — pork, beef or chicken — and is served with home fries or grits and your choice of toast or a biscuit. There's plenty of lighter omelets, too, plus great yellow grits, light and fluffy pancakes and homemade pork sausage that's lightly spiced with chili flakes and sage. This is the place for the breakfast of champions. — SL

The Swallow at the Hollow, 1072 Green St., Roswell, 678-352-1975. The joint venture of Bill Greenwood and Paul and Doreen Doster is long on hefty portions and intelligent updates of country classics. From pit-cooked portobello mushrooms to traditionally flavored baby back ribs and mac-and-cheese, the cuisine has wide, if definitely Southern-style, appeal. — EM


Moroccan


Casbah, 465 N. Highland Ave. NE, 404-524-5777. A fun place to take yourself, and not just for a special occasion, this comfy, affordable North Highland harem features belly dancing, notable sweet-spicy salads, first-rate couscous and more-or-less traditional versions of Moroccan poultry pie and lamb with apricots and honey.— EM

Imperial Fez, 2285 Peachtree Road, 404-351-0870. Atlanta's most luxurious interpretation of the Casbah, this carpet-lined, pillow-strewn hideaway serves authentic prix fixe Moroccan in a five-course ceremony complete with hand-washing and belly dancing. Take your shoes off and stay awhile. — SSS


Southern


Atlanta Grill, the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta, 181 Peachtree St., 404-221-6550. A clubby, semi-casual Southern steakhouse has replaced the once fiercely formal restaurant. Expensive grilled beef and super-size spuds are perhaps the most reliable offerings at this corporate attempt to please road warriors, conventioneers and expense-account hosts seven days a week, three meals a day. — EM

Blue Ridge Grill, 1261 W. Paces Ferry Road, 404-233-5030. Southern haute cuisine is served in a Ralph Lauren-ish mountain lodge setting; fresh-picked organic vegetables are family-style, and the Iron Skillet Georgia Trout and steaks are sublime. Take note, though: Organic ain't cheap. — SSS

Horseradish Grill, 4320 Powers Ferry Road NW, 404-255-7277. First-rate fried chicken, pork barbecue, mashed potatoes, savory greens, hot biscuits and traditional Southern desserts from rising-star chef Dave Berry are served in an elegant trophy room masquerading as a Chastain Park stable. Lovely outdoor tables can be requested in nice weather. — EM

Justin's, 2200 Peachtree St. NW, 404-603-5353. Rap dinner theater in the former Sfuzzi and Coco Pazzo features big smiles, gorgeously draped staff, moderately loud musical background static, otherworldly prices and formularized soul food of the warm-and-serve persuasion. — EM

Holyfield's New South Grill, 6075 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs, 404-531-0300. Yeah, that Holyfield. Boxing champ Evander wrote the checks. Nigerian-born John Akhile (Azalea, Waverly Grill) designed a fusion menu that's heavily weighted toward the Thai, Chinese and Italian aspects of contemporary Southern cooking. Good service and inconsistent kitchen work make it worth half a try. Outdoor tables available.— EM

Thomas Marketplace, State Farmers Market, 16 Forest Parkway, Forest Park, 404-361-1367. Venerable purveyor of heirloom Southern cooking, hefty portions and down-home hospitality is among the Southside's best bets for traditional breakfasts, meat-and-two lunches and corn muffins. Fried chicken livers, grilled salmon, turnip greens and corn muffins recommended. Go elsewhere for barbecue. — EM

N'hood
The Beat down
Phone Number not listed.
Website not listed.
Atlanta's FM radio dial was staid for a while, until last fall when 95.5 The Beat hit the airwaves. Now, there's talk about yet another new player banging the teen drum.

Despite no initial ad campaign, the Beat WBTS-FM is proving that it knows what a (teenage) girl (and boy) wants. Its appearance in September was the first significant change since Hot 97.5 popped up to compete with V-103 nearly five years ago.

With a format lifted straight off MTV's "Total Request Live," spinning everything from Britney to Backstreet, word of mouth between teens has made 95.5 a hit, placing it third in last fall's Arbitron ratings for the 12-17 age group — ahead of 99X and Star 94, and behind V-103 and Hot 97.5.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that this kind of music format did not exist in this market," says Lori Rechin-Sheridan, vice-president and general manager at the Beat.

Of course, it may have helped that the station, which is owned by Cox Enterprises, got a front-page story in the AJC the day after it went on the air last fall. Go figure.

Now, there's another sign that Atlanta's surprisingly open FM market is attracting more players. According to a source at Hot 97.5, plans are in the works to start a station with a playlist's to the Beat's. Radio One, the empire that owns 97.5 and Magic 107.5, reportedly has a slot on the dial picked out, somewhere around 102, to drop its own teeny-bopper signal.

"We were going to launch in the summer," says the source, "but 95.5/The Beat beat us to it. Now, we're looking toward a fall launch." Mary Catherine Sneed, general manager of Hot 97.5, wasn't available for comment.

Now, the question among Atlanta's on-air talent is whether popular former Hot 97.5 jock DJ Nabs, currently touring with Da Brat and Mariah Carey, will ink a deal with the Beat. Stay tuned. ...

Alien Elian: With virtually the entire country talking about the Elian Gonzalez situation, NBC News turned for comment to Atlanta-based lawyer Don Keenan, widely recognized as one of the country's foremost child advocacy lawyers.

"My thing is that we need to appoint (Elian) an independent advocate," the garrulous Keenan told CL over the weekend. "Someone not linked to anybody; impartial. The Justice Department has a platoon of lawyers, and his father has these public interest groups, but we still don't have an independent voice for the child."

Keenan reports that he's "up to his alligators" representing children injured in mobile homes. His Keenan Kids Foundation recently distributed 2,000 gun locks to parents of latch-key kids.

It's your burfday: Two prominent Atlantans from wildly different worlds celebrated birthdays this week. David Tufts, owner of the Condo Store, hosted his own bash April 13, at his space on the 34th floor of the Four Seasons in Midtown. Partygoers, including developers Scott Dunn, John Ayers and Rob Meyer, stayed glued to the windows all night, checking out the view while munching funky Southern foods (pimento cheese and asparagus, anyone?).

Meanwhile, embattled rapper Da Brat was feted April 12 at a surprise party thrown by So So Def Records, downtown at Mumbo Jumbo. The party celebrated the release of her latest album, Unrestricted, and also noted her 26th birthday April 14. Label head Jermaine Dupri, his father (Michael Mauldin) and friends yelled "surprise" as Da Brat's manager, Lucy Raouff, brought her into the restaurant. Da Brat started crying.

This and that: I'm not naming names, but one NBA All-Star recently told me that he is relocating to Atlanta this off-season. He said he has an apartment downtown, and a house in "Vinings, you know, for sex." ... Guinness is trying to up its presence in Atlanta by installing home draught systems for several local celebs, to help them make it through the warm summer months. Hey guys, just let me know when you want to come set it up. ... The Atlantis Music Conference has extended its deadline for urban music acts interested in being a part of Atlantis 2000. The new final deadline is April 30. For more information, call the Atlantis office at 770-499-8600, or visit www.atlantismusic.com. ... I'm out.

What's up, Atlanta? Hit me up at 404-688-5623, fax me at 404-420-1402, or e-mail me at lang@creativeloafing.com.

N'hood
Conversion therapy
Phone Number not listed.
Website not listed.
The late, great Frank Zappa once said, "it takes a lot of pressure for people to become Republicans."

Truer words were never spoken. It is an insidious and slow-moving kind of pressure, one that slowly eats away at the brains of otherwise normal people and eventually causes them to dislike anyone who isn't white and to spend time trying to cram a twisted and hateful version of fundamentalist Christianity down everyone's throat.

And the pressure is on lately, especially here in Georgia, where middle-aged white men have been turning Republican in alarming numbers over the last few years. The latest to succumb to the dark side are former Democratic state Senators Steve Langford and Guy Middleton, both of whom are coming off failed attempts at statewide office. The pair became Republicans this year and are now trying to recapture the Senate seats they gave up in their unsuccessful quests for higher office.

Langford, an independent-minded maverick from LaGrange who placed a distant third in the 1998 Democratic Gubernatorial primary, reportedly switched parties after teaming up with the failed presidential campaign of Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain. Middleton, from Dahlonega, claims that the Democratic Party has "left him," whatever that means. Both have moderate political histories, and yet they have abandoned the party that made them leaders and have instead cozied up with the extreme right-wing party of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

Why?

God only knows. But this much is certain: Only God can help a legislative Democrat who bails on the party and goes over to the enemy team. Just ask Sen. Sonny Perdue.

The former President Pro Tem of the Senate and a loyal Democrat from Bonaire, Perdue changed parties in 1998 and campaigned vigorously for the Republicans during their quixotic quest to capture the entire legislature. But the foot marksmanship of the party's racist and mean-spirited leadership ended with the Republicans being whipped like dogs in the general election, and Perdue has since been sent to the back bench by Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, who now runs the state Senate with an iron Democratic hand. Perdue spends most of his days complaining to anyone who will listen that he is being treated unfairly, even though he can blame only himself for his political woes.

This is the sort of exile Langford and Middleton can expect should they prevail in their attempts to win back their old offices. They will be less powerful than if they had elected not to run at all, and they will likely be shuffled off to a sort of living oblivion, where Democratic traitors like Perdue spend their lives wishing they hadn't gambled prematurely on the prospects of Georgia's bumbling GOP.

Such risky schemes only cause heartbreak and political impotence — and that's if the offender manages to get elected. Langford and Middleton have yet accomplished that feat. But if they do, there will be no glory.

Accordingly, as a concerned Democrat, I have decided to try using the same tactic the religious right has begun foisting upon one of their greatest ideological nemeses: the gay community. Utilizing a controversial technique called "conversion therapy," homosexuals are urged to convert back into "normal," heterosexual people, usually through conservative Christian dogma. There's no evidence the bigoted tactic works, but they're still doing it.

In my own brand of conversion therapy, I intend to reach out to those poor, misguided Democrats who have forsaken their moral and political heritage and who are now engaging in an immoral and dangerous Republican lifestyle. I believe that through the power of prayer, these deviants will see the error of their ways and convert back into decent Democratic members of society.

I mean, after all, being a Republican is a "lifestyle choice," is it not?

N'hood
A man's guide
Phone Number not listed.
Website not listed.
"It may betime to rethink your wardrobe. You're upsetting some of your co-workers."

"Well, I think I look nice."

"Your ultra-revealing outfits are making many people in the office uncomfortable."

"Why is it any of their business?"

"Because nobody can keep their lunch down. You're making them nauseous. For the love of God, cover yourself up!"

A scene from the hit movie Erin Brockovich? Sadly, no. It's a scene from my so-called life.

My boss, an editor of a prestigious alternative newspaper which shall remain nameless (but you're reading it!), called me into his office and dressed me down for my tendency to undress up.

Inspired by the real life Erin Brockovich — a feisty single mother of three with a penchant for salty language and skimpy outfits — I am cultivating a sexy, more free-spirited look. Gone is my old uniform of jeans, pull-over sweaters and hiking boots. It's a fashionable new day. I look and feel da bomb. But apparently, there is a serious double standard for men and women when it comes to skin-tight revealing clothing in the workplace.

A female clerk in a small law office shows up every day wearing short skirts, dangerously high heels and plunging necklines, and she inspires a Hollywood blockbuster and becomes the darling of the talk show circuit, even a role model for other working women. But when a male reporter for a small newspaper shows up at the office in ass-less snakeskin chaps, see-through latex jumpsuits and man-culottes with sock garters, suddenly he's the bad guy. If Erin Brockovich had been Eric, the movie never would have gotten made.

Granted, I'm no Julia Roberts. But I work out, I keep myself in shape and am perfectly capable of pulling off a mesh tank top and spandex micro-kilt with fishnet scrotum caddie ensemble. (On sale this week at Target, by the way.)

There is still a little thing in this country known as freedom of expression. The only criteria I should be judged on is the quality of my work. Nothing else matters. Not my religious beliefs, not my political viewpoints, not my occasional theft of office supplies and certainly not my crotchless satin jodhpurs.

But this is about much more than just my own personal fashion awakening. This is about achieving a level playing field in the corporate world between the genders. Why are women who flash excessive cleavage afforded such respect by their peers and management, even offered the fast-track to promotions and benefit packages, yet men willing to expose an acre or two of butt crack are denied basic advancement opportunities? They are, after all, the same little smooshy gulf of flesh, one in front one in back. Yet décolletage opens doors and plumber's peak is considered utterly inappropriate anywhere cars aren't being worked on. Someone explain that to me.

In the end, we're all just people. How we choose to dress is a personal decision and one which should be respected. Intolerance can only be eliminated by individual effort. At least, that's what I read on some Internet porn site I was downloading at work.

And in case you're wondering, my wife is totally supportive of my new look. She is down with it. Or I assume she is. She's been visiting family for the past couple of weeks. But she's often encouraged me to update my wardrobe so I know she'll be in my corner on this.

I can't wait to see her face when I pick her up at the airport wearing nothing but pasties and a velvet tube thong, with my back hair done up in itty-bitty dreadlocks.

As for my narrow-minded boss, I tried to think what courageous and sassy Erin Brockovich would do if she were in my situation, defending her freedom and principles. Which, of course, she had been. (You rule, Erin/Julia!) And suddenly it was so obvious. I told my boss to not let the fucking door hit him in the fucking ass on his fucking way out of my cubicle.

So if anyone is looking to hire a smart, sexy former newspaper writer, please contact me. I'll be going through dumpsters near this building. You can't miss me. I'll be the one wearing cowboy boots, nipple rings and a girdle.

N'hood
Compromising position
Phone Number not listed.
Website not listed.
My 27-year-old daughter recently got engaged to a great guy from Ireland. They both live in the city. Her father and I live two-and-a-half hours north of them. My daughter wants to get married in the city, because it would be more convenient for her fiancé's friends and relatives, who are flying in from Ireland. Her father wants her to get married here in town, and says he will feel like a guest at his own daughter's wedding if he has to go to the city. Wedding size also is a conflict. My daughter wants a small, intimate wedding, limited to family and close friends. My husband wants the wedding to be on a much larger scale, with many of our friends and relatives in attendance. Her wedding would be about 70 people, and her dad's wedding idea is more like 150! My husband and I are paying for everything. He has even offered to send a bus or buses to the city to bring all of her fiancé's relatives here. But, there seems to be no compromise between the two.

— Middlewoman

It's high time you bent that spoiled brat of yours over your knee. Maybe you can spank some sense into him; namely, that he needn't worry about squeezing his beer gut into a white lace dress; hunt for size 13DDD white satin pumps; or slight his Tuesday night poker buddies by asking his Wednesday afternoon golf buddies to be his bridesmaids. He doesn't have to do any of these things ... because it's not his wedding.

This isn't to say that he has to give up on his dream — a wedding epic complete with a conveniently located cast of thousands dancing for days around a huge golden calf. In keeping with this biblical theme, Dad might try to persuade Chuck "guns don't kill people; 6-year-olds do" Heston to perform the ceremony. It's, as they say, "worth a shot" ... providing you're willing to take another walk down the aisle with the old coot ... sometime after your daughter has her (small, intimate) day in the big city.

It's funny how what people used to refer to as "the best day of one's life" is usually preceded by the most miserable year of one's life ... generally in the name of such life and death issues as which ice sculpture is "right" for the hors d'oeuvres table and whether to serve children (or stick with chicken piccata as the entrée). Of course, the real issue isn't children en croute over sautéed chicken, it's "What am I, pâté de foie de poulet?" (chopped liver, in wedding caterer-speak). That's what Dad's trying to say when he suggests (in all seriousness) that a bunch of jet-lagged transatlantic travelers go Greyhound for two-and-a-half hours after getting strip-searched at customs.

It's up to you to call in the U.N. Peacekeepers (look in the mirror and you'll find your troops). Tell Dad that it's time he grew up and let his daughter have her day, her way. Ask your daughter to indulge her dear old dad by having a second wedding fete in her hometown after the Irish head back across the Atlantic. Don't dally, or it shouldn't be long before Dad resorts to what I call "checkbook dictatorship," and your daughter starts referring to her father as "that husband of yours" ... all in the name of celebrating love.

* * *

After being out of the dating scene for a while, I started seeing a new man. We just went out on our second date, seven weeks after our first one. It frustrates him that I don't call him, but I like to keep him wondering. On our last date, I really enjoyed his company. I would like to pursue a relationship with him. The problem is that I sent him this really stupid e-mail after our date to let him know that I was home safely. I ended it by saying "Call me sometime ..." My friends think it sounds like I am blowing him off. What do you think?

— Debating

Whoa! Let the compliments fly any more fast and furious, and this guy might end up with a black eye. Contrary to the "wisdom" of that odious book, "The Rules" (aka "How to Erase Your Personality in Order to Trap a Wallet Attached to a Man's Body"), if you like a man, you shouldn't give him the impression that he's the next best thing to a wad of gum on the bottom of your shoe. Then again, I'm making the assumption that there's something more exciting to you than your ability to manipulate a man. If so, give this guy a jingle and invite him out for dinner (your treat) so he can see what exactly that might be.

N'hood
Archetypal advice
Phone Number not listed.
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I was a little surprised by your somewhat negative reporting of James Hillman's lectures in Santa Barbara. You seemed to be saying that there's an awful lot he won't look at even though you described him as a bricoleur — a "cobbler of the imagination" who pulls a lot together from different places. Can you expand on that idea?

I received more than a few e-mails about the column on Hillman. I think the practice of "bricolage" is both the source of Hillman's genius and his shortcomings. It also connects to the question of whether to situate him among the so-called postmodern thinkers.

The granddaddy of (postmodern) deconstruction, Jacques Derrida, speaks of bricolage as fundamental to his sense of "play." You take an idea from here, you take another from there, you put them together and you don't worry about the whole systems from which they were taken. What is gained — at least in my opinion — are some fascinating insights that do not arise in a more linear argument. What is sacrificed is the world of formal logic and predictability, the meta-narrative that explains everything — if life can be said ever to operate that way. Hillman, like many self-proclaimed postmoderns (including Roland Barthes and even Jacques Lacan), points to a kind of poetic knowing and sensing. Their own fascinating insights are the best proof of their claim.

Now, of course, the bricoleur by definition can ignore what disinterests him, as Hillman does with the question of gender. That's the main thing about postmodern thinking: It abandons any faith in meta-narratives. Most of us want a philosophy that coheres in every respect, covers everything. Hillman, like the postmoderns, says that's not possible — but then he gives us a platonic meta-narrative of the daimon, a personification of destiny, to explain nearly everything. As such he's an anti-bricoleur, in the sense that R.D. Laing was an anti-therapist. It's bricolage but not bricolage. Maddening!

A sticky problem with bricolage in Hillman's work, frankly, is the question of attribution. If you read the work of Henry Corbin and Gaston Bachelard, you find the genesis of nearly everything he writes and frankly I often feel he doesn't give enough credit in that respect. Similarly, when he riffs about the virtue of bricolage, it seems odd to me that he doesn't reference Derrida. In fact, he holds himself outside this tradition. That is why I wrote recently that calling him a postmodern in a formal sense is problematic.

But, in the end, no matter how you classify Hillman or object to the way he refuses to take up gender, what counts is the radiance of his insights. As a method, Hillman's bricolage — like Derrida's — challenges us to play with all our simple assumptions about ourselves and the world. By just playing with the idea a thing may not be as we assume it to be, we make new worlds of possibilities for ourselves.


Your column about the way your mother cruelly called you Charlie Brown struck a chord with me. But don't all children have difficult relationships with their parents?

Yes, I think so and I hope nobody read that column as an attack on my mother, whom I came to love eventually. I think my situation may have been a little unique in that the lines of battle between us were drawn so clearly so early. There is that wonderful scene in the film Magnolia, when the gifted boy wakes his father and tells him that he needs to begin treating him with more respect. The father naturally dismisses him. What's important is not whether the father's going to change — parents seldom do until late in life — but that the kid realizes he's not the problem, that the father has the problem. I had something of that same experience with my mother and I think the knowledge saved me from an even more neurotic fate.

Now, more generally, I think your comment addresses the question of how we regard children in our culture. I wish every psychologist would read George Boas' little book The Cult of Childhood (Spring Publications, 1966). Boas argues the notion that childhood is a state of innocence and superiority is a myth that arose as part of the valorization of "cultural primitivism."

In other words, as the myth of the noble savage died, all those qualities invested in him moved to children, who actually often were regarded as "little devils" prior to the change. Among these alleged perfections, that still persist in our imaginations, are: intuitive wisdom, a natural appreciation of beauty and an innate sensitivity to moral values. Jean Jacques Rousseau certainly brought this idea into its fullest flower in the 18th century and it was fully adopted by everyone from Wordsworth to Victor Hugo, Emerson and Blake. Interestingly, it arose as the natural sciences came into flower. And it migrated to the new study of psychology (which is rooted in romanticism). Boas contends that, having re-visioned the child from demon to angel, we had to invent a new set of demons: the forces of the unconscious.

Although I think Boas may omit a lot from his analysis, it has great merit. The wave of violence we are seeing among children now is a direct refutation of the myth of the innocent child at the mercy of civilization. No matter how much some psychologists would like to explain the violence as the result of poor parenting, everyone intuits deeply that it's a poor explanation for murder.

Perhaps the violence is instead a result of the failure to accord children respect for their actual natures — complex, haunted, angelic, cruel, sweet, demonic. Of course, the terrible irony is that when you expect a human being to behave as an angel, his transgressions become all the more reprehensible and intolerable, in this case giving rise to rampant child abuse — punishment for the child's failure to live up to his fictional nature. In that way, parenting does become significant.

N'hood
Free fallin'
Phone Number not listed.
Website not listed.
Marty dared me to do it.

Since junior high, neither of us has ever backed down from a dare. Marty placed a fountain of fireworks on top of a police car. I stripped down to my boxers at Neighbor's, stood on a bench and announced to the bar that I had a small penis.

So when he dared me to skydive, I didn't think twice about it.

That is, until I arrived at Skydive Monroe's hangar last Sunday morning.

First, I had to fill out five pages of waivers that repeated the phrase, "risk of serious injury or death" 26 times. Then I watched an instructional video that described in detail all the things that could go wrong — parachute malfunctions, plane crashes, entanglements and mid-air collisions. Afterward, I leafed through a parachuting magazine, which recounted the latest skydiving accidents. And it didn't help when a couple of veteran jumpmasters walked through the room discussing a near-fatal skydiving mishap that happened only a few days ago.

This wasn't daring at all, I thought to myself. This was just plain stupid.

Fortunately, I wasn't the only one having second thoughts. Another rookie skydiver named Jamilia sat in a plastic chair across the room, filling out paperwork. It was her 27th birthday, and she was celebrating by jumping out of an airplane.

"What have I gotten myself into?" she said out loud, and a few nervous tears squeezed out of her eyes as she tried to laugh.

But it was too late for either of us to turn back. An instructor walked into the room and began talking us through the tandem jump. He explained how each of us would be harnessed to an experienced skydiver, who would be responsible for pulling the ripcord and guiding our parachute to the ground.

I was about to hand over my life to a man I'd never met. His name was Bill Scott — a grizzly, gray-bearded skydiver who had logged more than 6,000 jumps. He quickly fitted me into a purple jumpsuit, leather frap-hat, goggles and crotch-cramping harness. Then we were sardine-packed into a twin-engine plane with 12 other jumpers, our legs spread eagle and our backs in the lap of the person behind us.

As the plane lifted, I thought about Marty, who was probably still asleep. I thought about my girlfriend, who didn't know I was skydiving this morning. I thought about my parents, who didn't want to know. Who would they call first if my chute didn't open? Who would scrape my splattered body off the runway?

The dial on Bill's hand-held altimeter climbed slowly toward 13,500 feet. I forced a tight-lipped smile and tried not to look scared. Beside me, Jamilia covered her face with her hands and whispered to herself.

"Door!" shouted the pilot. It was time.

The side hatch opened, and one by one, divers disappeared beneath the plane. With Bill strapped to my back, I kneeled at the edge and looked down. Right about then, my mind shut off and my body went on auto-pilot.

"One! Two!" I never heard three. Instantly, everything was swallowed up in wind. It blew the skin back on my cheeks and howled through my ears. I couldn't breathe the cold, thin air. And I couldn't make sense of anything.

Finally, my mind figured out what my body had done: It had belly-flopped out of a moving airplane and was free-falling at 120 mph back toward the Earth. A few seconds later, my body unclenched and I was able to breathe again.

We plunged two miles in less than a minute. But the whole time, the ground didn't seem to be getting any closer. I felt like I was floating on a pocket of air, timelessly suspended between Earth and sky. Like a mobile, I twisted and spiraled in the wind, hanging by an imaginary string.

Then the parachute opened and everything was quiet.

I began to take it all in — the smog-shrouded city skyline, the grid-like patchwork of farms and forest, the naked granite of Stone Mountain, and in the distance, the pimpled bumps of the north Georgia mountains. Everything looked green and peaceful.

Bill handed me the yellow toggles that steered the chute and we careened downward in wide spirals. The wind billowed through the burgundy-and-blue-striped parachute above us. When it was time to land, I pulled down firmly on the toggles, lifted my feet and slid gently into the runway grass.

On the ground, I hugged Bill and high-fived Jamilia. I felt close to everyone now — even skydiving strangers in pink and purple jumpsuits. And I felt so lucky to be alive. Marty's dare had revealed an unexpected truth: Size really does matter. In those 60 seconds of free fall, I saw the bigness of the world and the smallness of my petty problems. I saw how it all fit together. My skydive had given me a god-like glimpse of the Earth, and I felt bound to it now by more than gravity.

Afterward, I sat beside the runway eating a sliver of Jamilia's birthday cake and watching brightly colored angels fall from the sky.

Drop in to Skydive Monroe's website for information, www.skydivemonroe.com.

N'hood
Another dirty dozen
Phone Number not listed.
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The scene: pitch meeting, USA Networks.

Network Programmer: OK, what do you have for me?

Producer: Check this out: The Dirty Dozen ... with chicks!

NP: I'm listening ...

P: It's called "The Expendables." A hard-drinking bachelor army colonel is about to retire, but he's sent on one last mission. If he turns it down, he's dishonorably discharged, so he has no choice. He has to train a civilian task force to go to Cuba and rescue an operative from prison. Because it's Cuba, they can't use regular army.

NP: Cuba's in the news, that's good. Let's refer to Castro as "Big Daddy Fidel." Anyway, get to the chicks.

P: The task force has to be comprised of women, because the operative is a woman in a women's prison.

NP: A women's prison — nice, veeery nice.

P: Like in The Dirty Dozen, Col. Deacon creates his task force from women who have nothing to lose — they're all on death row. They're expendable, see? And if the mission succeeds, they get amnesty.

NP: Do we see them fighting?

P: Slow-motion boob-bouncing chick fights. In full make-up. And when they're training at the army base, they wear tight belly shirts in olive drab.

NP: Hot actresses?

P: Robin Givens.

NP: Nice.

P: And Idalis, the ex-MTV VJ. And the triumphant return of Tempest Bledsoe to television. The Lee Marvin role is played by Brett Cullen, who co-owns a production company with Meat Loaf. Anyway, each woman has a specialty — one's a psycho kindergarten teacher who builds bombs, one's a nurse, one's an ex-cop. Just like The Dirty Dozen. Only Charles Bronson never lured a guard to the barracks by doing a striptease in front of a window and pretending to have sex with George Kennedy. Telly Savalas never gave himself to Lee Marvin as a birthday present. And John Cassavettes, Jim Brown and Donald Sutherland never posed as hookers to infiltrate a prison.

NP: Very nice indeed. Are the characters sympathetic?

P: Clichés are always sympathetic. The hard-bitten, woman-hating colonel secretly prays and he softens from being around the women. And you know what happens to cops and soldiers who have one more mission before they "retire." There's the Hispanic prostitute who killed her husband, the black woman who runs a crack business — something for everyone! And though they start out fighting, they learn to work as a team. Oh, and you'll love this: When Deacon first goes to the prison to create his task force, a fight breaks out and the warden offers to break it up, but the colonel tells her no. He sits back and watches the hair-pulling and slapping, and mutters, "I'll take the last eight standing."

NP: Nice. Any other degrading, yet catchy, dialogue?

P: You bet. When the women are released from prison thinking they're free, Col. Deacon spits, "You're not free. You're barely even alive. You're just arms, legs and ears, and you belong to me."

NP: OK, I'm sold. We'll air it April 25 at 9 p.m.

N'hood
Talk of the Town
Phone Number not listed.
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N'hood
Combat duty
Phone Number not listed.
Website not listed.
I got the runs on my last trip through Mexico. Not the Mexico south of the Rio Grande ... this was the Mexico of Epcot, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, in Florida's Walt Disney World. This Mexico is part of Epcot's World Showcase, an archipelago of mini-countries strewn around a lagoon. Here, diversity and cultural imperialism are made one. Like Sam the Eagle says in the Muppets 3D show: "It's a celebration of all the nations of the world! ... but mostly America."

Every year, I join a commando team of travel writers that descends on Disney World to update our employer's best-selling guidebook. Some people actually buy the book every year and read it cover to cover. These people love Disney above all else, so to them it's a giant almanac of Mouse porn. Some hate the book, hate us, hate our mothers, friends and pets. Those people write us profanity-laced letters and leave indignant customer reviews on Amazon.com, which hurt us deeply and personally.

So we are responsible to an audience. Each trip, we visit the modern monolith of Walt Disney World incognito. We eat the food, or at least examine it clinically. We use the bathrooms. We time the buses. We finger the linens in the hotels. We count the people in line. We wheedle information out of unsuspecting Disney employees. We stalk the costumed characters as if it is "Wild Kingdom" instead of the Magic Kingdom.

And of course, we ride the rides. This is where the reader throws the paper away in disgust. "He gets to go on the rides! For his job! That's not a job! I'll show you a job, you pansy ... " Yes, it's true, I get to go on the rides. And I like the rides. But that's a very small part of the picture, sadly.

No, the rides are the easy part. For you see, most people who go to Disney World know there are rides; the rides are fun, and they want to get on them. But they want to ride quickly, without waiting too much in line, and without getting hungry, tired, hot, bored or listening to their children scream like hellspawn for the same reasons.

Because of those things, I have to approach Disney World like Disney Inc. does. It would be easy and fatuous to accuse Disney of having a black, evil heart. Nevertheless, in its black, evil heart, Disney knows the truth. Rides, or more broadly, "attractions," are the bait, the skeleton of a good theme park. Once the attraction has successfully attracted, the real work begins: the support system that keeps patrons happily circulating, recreating and spending. Which is where we come in.

For instance, I spent a 12-hour day in Epcot, from opening to closing. My primary mission was food. I circumnavigated the entire park and examined every single food-serving establishment. Thankfully, I didn't have to eat at all of them. We have a food critic for that, poor bastard. My job was to evaluate the menus and prices.

Since the menus at Epcot's World Showcase are so "cosmopolitan," this involves a lot more work than other parks. Each "nation" has a few basic items, like drinks, fries and the ubiquitous "veggie wrap." But Disney wants you to have an Authentic International Experience. So, if you don't want the veggie wrap, you can have schnitzel in Germany, an egg roll in China, and fish 'n' chips in Great Britain, all of which may lead to gastric distress in Mexico.

New establishments have to be thoroughly vetted, which sometimes entails eating there. I managed to avoid this at the Millennium Village's "Gifts of Cuisine," which presents food from regions around the globe (dining in all of North America is distilled to a barbecue beef sandwich and a turkey bagel). However, I couldn't resist the booth in Canada that promised "Beaver Tail — From Canada's Favorite Animal!" The product was a species of funnel cake shaped like a beaver tail, sort of a Canuck answer to the bear claw. Tasty, and oh-so-Canadian!

By the time of my involuntary siesta in Mexico, I was ready to call it a day. But I still had to meet the boss for dinner and debriefing in Morocco, and then we stuck around for the closing ceremonies. Don't get me wrong: I like theme parks, I like my job. I even like Disney and its black, evil heart. But do us guidebook grunts a favor the next time you avoid a long line, a crappy ride, or some extremely caustic chili as a result of our advice. Remember that someone had to find it all out, and the good ones (like us) endure it all over again every year. To paraphrase the famous scrubbing bubbles, we do the work so you don't have to. Have pity.

N'hood
Following a dream
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If you are familiar with the tragic events that unfolded on Mount Everest in May 1996, as chronicled in the best-selling book Into Thin Air, you probably wonder why anyone would want to climb Mount Everest. Not only is it horribly difficult, requiring weeks of oxygen-deprived suffering in the most inhospitable of landscapes, but the chances of success are extraordinarily small and the risk of death is extraordinarily high. Some say that for roughly every five climbers who make it to the summit, one dies in the attempt.

And so we find ourselves in Kathmandu, Nepal, with a rare opportunity to gain some insight into what compels someone to make an assault on the world's highest mountain.

We will be making a 20-day trek up to Everest Base Camp where, at over 17,500 feet, we will camp for three nights. As we trek into Base Camp, we will be joining an expedition making a summit bid. Among that expedition, is Mike Dunnahoo, a friend and fellow Atlantan who introduced us to the sport of mountaineering.

Dunnahoo recalls that his fascination with Everest began as a fourth-grader at Robert E. Lee Elementary School in Thomaston, Ga., where he saw photos of the first American ascent of Mount Everest in a copy of National Geographic. Since that day nearly 40 years ago, it has been a fermenting dream to come to the Himalayas and attempt to conquer this mountain.

To that end, he has become an accomplished mountaineer. Three years ago, when Dunnahoo successfully climbed Cho Oyu (located 20 miles west of Everest and one of the world's highest peaks), the possibility of achieving his dream began to take hold.

As we talk to Dunnahoo over dinner about why he is here in Nepal, he describes his Everest attempt as an "opportunity to accomplish an uncompromised dream." Dunnahoo is here because he has the chance to fulfill a childhood dream that he never abandoned and that he has worked mightily for many years to make happen.

Being true to his dreams and himself — that's why Dunnahoo is here.

Follow Kelly and Rich Willis' round-the-world travels by visiting their website at www.2goglobal.com. The globe-trotting couple files monthly updates on their adventures in Creative Loafing. Follow the progress of Mike Dunnahoo's Everest 2000 expedition at www.Quokka.com.

N'hood
Week at a Glance
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Nightlife

Hibernation season is over. Shed your dull winter skin and slip on a set of spots or a tail for Animal Magic, a beastly ball with tunes to make you slither and shake from DJs Eric Zheno, Brett Long, Stig, Chris and others spinning for you live from the patio jungle at Karma. The best creatures of the night win special door prizes, so go wild. April 21 at 9 p.m. $12 before 2 a.m. 79 Poplar St. Call 678-362-6465 or 404-577-6967 for information.


Workshops


More than 30 Georgia organizations and agencies have come together to highlight the 30th anniversary of Earth Day with Earth Day 2000 Unplugged: Workshops on Clean Energy Solutions, a series of workshops to educate the public on how energy use and conservation relates to the quality of our lives. It's not easy being green. Do your part. April 22 from noon-3 p.m. Magnolia Hall at Piedmont Park. Call 404-873-3173 for information.


Art


The Echo Lounge, under suspicion of hosting rock 'n' roll mayhem, pleads guilty as charged due to the discovery of over 50 posters and photographs documenting visits from bands such as Jucifer, the Dead Kennedys, Superchunk and Pavement. Methane Studios and Frank Mullen/Matteblack join forces to bring this evidence to light at the Rock & Roll Evidence: You Were There exhibit April 26. You're summoned to appear for a night of live music and complimentary refreshments from 7-9 p.m. Artwork on display through May 3. 551 Flat Shoals Road. Call 404-681-3600 for information.

Light up your night April 22 at Eclectic Electric's Chandelier Show. This high-wattage display of one-of-a-kind chandeliers includes pieces by artists Alice Nisbet, Edie Morton, Dennis Primm and others who get a kick out of getting lit. Illuminated fashion by Janet Hansen, including designs with lights that respond to sound and motion, will also be on display. 8-10 p.m. The Club at Deux Plex, 1789 Cheshire Bridge Road. Call 404-733-5900 for information.


Comedy


Actor, playwright and stand-up comedian Lewis Black brings his "Black humor" to the Punchline April 20-23. The political commentator from Comedy Central's The Daily Show is hot on the campaign trail, dissing presidential hopefuls with sarcastic fervor and ranting himself into a frenzy. Thurs. 8:30 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 8 and 10:30 p.m. $8-$14. The Punchline, 280 Hilderbrand Drive, Sandy Springs. Call 404-252-LAFF for information.


Music


To critics, she's a whiny, quick-tempered brat. To fans, she's a misinterpreted soul-searcher. Either way, this girl can sing. The willowy Fiona Apple brings her sultry self to the Tabernacle April 20 for a show including songs from her latest release, When the Pawn ... , as well as favorites such as "Shadowboxer" and "Criminal". The Eels open. 8 p.m. $28.50-$31.50. 152 Luckie St. Call 404-659-9022 for information.


Theater


Two women. An innocent first kiss. A brutal attack. Synchronicity Performance Group presents the 1999 Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Media Award-winning drama Stop Kiss, a dramatic tale that explores the complicated terrain of sexuality and identity, and examines the way lives are forever altered by love and violence. April 21-May 7. Wed.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. $12-$15. 7 Stages' Back Stage Theatre, 1105 Euclid Ave. Call 404-523-7647 for information.


Spoken Word


Thirteen of the Southeast's slamminest poets jump into the ring for Slam City!, the semifinal battle of words that will eliminate the tongue-tied from the loose of lip. Who will earn a spot on Atlanta's first National Poetry Slam Team? A black male flight attendant? A divorced mother of three? Roll with the punches April 20 under the stars at bluemilk's Paradigm Artspace. 8 p.m. 1123 Spring St. Call 404-815-6991 for information.

N'hood
Kathleen Turner Overdrive gets back in gear
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"It was a hard decision to make back then," says Tim Nielsen, remembering his 1994 departure from Kathleen Turner Overdrive, the Atlanta band he founded in 1993 and recently reformed. "I quite possibly made a huge mistake when I chose to go with Drivin' n' Cryin' instead."

At that time, KTO was widely considered the city's best rock group — a reputation solidified by their self-titled '94 CD. Combining the raw power of '70s punk with catchy songwriting and the effective use of strong all-male backing vocals, the band was viscerally exciting and musically credible.

It was also a magnet for bad luck. Never completely the same without Nielsen (despite several superb replacements), KTO endured constant misfortune — injuries, arrests, trouble with venues — climaxing in a van crash which kept frontman Ray Dafrico in court for years and convinced Dave Johnson (now in Beautiful) to quit. Their situation became so bad that the band's T-shirts depicted a black cat, poised under a ladder with a broken mirror and the number 13.

Reduced to a trio when guitarist Mac Carter left town, KTO played their final show in late '96. Their second album remained unreleased, and they seemed destined to live on only in Internet lists of silly band names, sandwiched between the Dead Sea Squirrels and Shirley Temple of Doom.

"But at end of the millennium," says Nielsen, "things changed. Drivin' n' Cryin' pretty much called it quits, Mac's back in town and Dave's still hungry. Ray's doing Kickstand — and cutting an album with Donal Jones — but he's in. Ray's always been rock star material, but has never had the chance to be one."

That chance is coming. In a dramatic turnaround of KTO's luck, the group — which had already been discussing a reunion — got a high-profile mention in the movie High Fidelity and received invitations to perform at both Music Midtown and the upcoming Atlantis Conference. They've even set up a website at www.kathleenturneroverdrive.com.

"KTO's got me a lot more excited than DNC ever has," Nielsen concludes. "I'm even excited about trying to get a record deal again."

Kathleen Turner Overdrive performs Fri., April 21 at the Cotton Club.

N'hood
Dancing about fallen rubble
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Fact one: Rock music is a commodity. Facts two through four: Rock stars are "cultural workers" (kind of like sex workers) who are, for the most part, not very bright, and mostly just plain boring. Fact five: Rock critics are the worst — scavengers, pathetic egomaniacs, writing about music 'cause they can't play music. Jim Hayes is sure of all these things. He's a rock critic who fancies himself the baddest bad boy in the Atlanta rock hierarchy, a DIY publisher of myth-making diatribes that examine his real and imagined place in the local scene.

Hayes, a writer for music magazine Flipside (and occasional CL contributor), has published his latest notes of insider gossip, drug-addled philosophy and I'm-just-being-honest cruelty called, Fuck me? No, Fuck you. Or: How I wrote certain of my books (Notes on the Atlanta Rock Scene). The pamphlet is a limited distribution collection of essays, complemented by a back cover quote by Lenin, a front cover image of Nixon and a few pages of altered Beetle Bailey comics.

Hayes' writing owes a heavy debt to Bukowski and Burroughs. He romanticizes the gutter, ruminates over his fuck-ups and castigates the self-righteous poseur phonies all around. But mostly the stories are about Hayes doing stuff: killing time waiting for a coke hook-up; throwing a drunken fit to get backstage at a Jucifer show; slagging off a local critic who reportedly had a violent encounter with a local musician. Hayes doesn't give out what he sees as brand name endorsements — refusing to name names of most scenemakers he skewers or even the bars he hangs out in — but for those with just a little background, it's all pretty clear.

With a tendency to flaunt his knowledge of arcane social theory and an admitted addiction to polysyllables, Hayes' writing can be difficult, but his self-indulgent tendencies are forgivable insofar as he's completely up-front about his contradictions, his shortcomings and his motivations in pursuing a profession he despises: "I have this need to explain my position on cultural products and ... why my position is so much more authentic. Y'know, there's just some shit about other criticks [sic.] that I just gotta say and it's a way to get cheap publicity."

"Fuck me? No, Fuck you" is available at Criminal Records.

N'hood
Spittin' out sparks with STB
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"This is not folk music," says singer/songwriter/guitarist Sonia Tetlow of her band STB."Sometimes, we get booked with folk acts, and the reaction is always the same. They go 'Wow, we didn't know you rockedthat hard!' And I say, 'Well, what did you expect?'"

Tetlow's fiery approach on STB's recently released CD, Spit, resembles that of Chrissy Hynde or Melissa Etheridge, but without imitation. "There still aren't a whole lot of female rockers around, I guess. People categorize, but I just don't think we can be labeled that easily. A lot of the acts we've been compared to, I've never even heard until recently."

Tetlow, a veteran of countless solo acoustic shows and a performer with two previous projects under her belt, says STB is a not just a vehicle for her own musical vision. "This is truly a band. We are more STB than the 'Sonia Tetlow Band,' you know? We totally feed off of each other." Together for over a year, and comprised of bassist Lee Kennedy and drummer Becky Shaw, Tetlow cites STB's "spontaneous inspiration" as the reason their music is so volatile. "It's passionate, and that raw energy translates very well to our live show."

To document their club sound, the band recorded Spit with the same intensity. Tetlow credits album producer Rob Gal, who encouraged her to turn up and play louder in the studio. "Anyone who's ever seen me live will not really be surprised by the intensity on the album," she says. "It's not that new for me. I'm just using an electric guitar, is all. I mean, I've always felt more at home rockin' at Dottie's than at Eddie's," she laughs.

STB plays Dottie's Fri., April 21.

N'hood
Sharp Notes
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Pushed back: Amanda Jones' appearance on Jenny Jones was rescheduled from April 7 to April 20. Local band leader/poet Kodac Harrison is featured as one of this month's storytellers at Southern folklore website The Moonlit Road. Harrison provided music and reads "The Sausage Ghost," an old Louisiana folk tale about a ghost inhabiting a sausage factory. To hear the tale, visit www.themoonlitroad.com/sausageghost.

Go white girl!Ramadamafia, featuring Brett Busch of the H.O.T.S. and Pam Howe of pH balance, will hold court on Wednesdays as the Star Bar's resident band for the month of May. Garage pop rockers the Woggles are hopefully working up new dance steps in preparation for their scheduled July residency.

Michael Winger, former lead singer and guitarist for Athens' Dayroom is performing as a solo acoustic artist in the Southeast and California. Go to www.michaelwinger.com, for tour dates, new songs and more info.

Athens/Atlanta jazz band Squat will be performing a live Internet broadcast from the Red Light Café Saturday, April 22. For more info, visit redlightcafe.com.

Congratulations to former LaFace Records writer/producer Daryl Simmons (who wrote songs for Boyz II Men and won a Grammy for his work with Toni Braxton) on his marriage to Cindy Ludy of Atlanta. The couple married April 8 at their home in Alpharetta.

N'hood
Local Releases
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COMES WITH THE FALL, self-titled (self-released); debut CD by rock quartet formerly known as Madfly; recorded at Tree Sound and Audio Art with Russ Fowler; website: www.comeswiththefall.com

GREAT LAKES, self-titled (Kindercore); Elephant Six trio's debut; mixed with Robert Schneider of Apples in Stereo; featuring Neutral Milk Hotel's Scott Spillane; website: www.kindercore.com

VARIOUS ARTISTS, Slicker Remixes (Hefty); six-track remix compilation featuring Scott Herren projects Savath+Savalas, Delarosa+Asora and, along with Richard Devine, Delarosa+Devine; website: www.heftyrecords.com

Two CDs we thought came out a long time ago, but have apparently just been released:

THE FORTY FIVES, Get It Together (Ng)

LAURNEá, Laurneá II (self-released)

N'hood
Bulletin Board
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* The Hip-Hop Political Action Committee, formed just a few months ago with the support of Afeni Shakur, former Black Panther and mother of the late Tupac Shakur, is holding a rally Sunday, April 16, 5 p.m. at the Hip Hop Café, 4909 Memorial Drive in Stone Mountain. Admission is free for the event, where the group will discuss their plans to organize support and endorse political candidates "who are down" with the hip-hop community. According to the group, the Hip-Hop PAC's primary issues are juvenile justice, education and welfare reform. For more info, call 770-507-9931.

* Tonos.com — the music website founded by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, along with David Foster and Carole Bayer Sager — presents a series of interactive online talent competitions including the "You Sing the Hit" challenge, with contestants performing Babyface's song "End of the Road," the Boyz II Men smash. There's also lyric writing and songwriting contests and interactive music software. For more info, visit www.tonos.com.

* Alternative Rock Soulutions, the late-night local music program on radio station WRFG 89.3 FM, is moving to late Saturday nights from 12-2 a.m. The show is accepting music for consideration. Send to: Talib Al-Kareem, "Alternative Rock Soulutions," 1270 Cross Keys Drive NE, Apt. 3, Atlanta, GA 30319-288, or e-mail: albert.johnson@turner.com.

* The Echo Lounge presents a photo/poster art show, "Rock & Roll Evidence: You Were There," from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, April 26. Local photographer Frank Mullen exhibits his shots of artists performing at the Echo Lounge, while local silkscreeners Methane Studios present original poster art commissioned by the venue.

N'hood
In The Studio
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* THE EVILS, just finished recording eight songs at Red Lab Studios, with no specific release plans at this point

* HERITAGE CHERRY, recording their as-yet-unnamed second album at Song House Studios in Newnan with engineer Alex McCollough, planned for summer release

N'hood
New Tune
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The record deal, circa 1998:

An aspiring Atlanta rock band rehearses deep into the night, perfecting its stage show for an upcoming Atlantis Music Conference showcase. Their vision: to impress one of the many record executives scouting talent at the conference and to sign a lucrative contract.

The band works diligently — propelled by the prospect of "getting discovered" and going on to sell millions of records. They perfect their vocals, tighten their chords, tweak their bios and dub copies of their demos. They're prepared to do whatever it takes to get noticed and realize their dream. And they'll keep trying until they get a break.

The record deal, circa 2000:

Hopeful band members have just recorded their first CD. They have no manager. No recording contract. No radio airplay and no retail distribution. And they don't think they need them.

They are certain they're destined for success. The world is their marketplace. At the CMJ/ChangeMusic Conference this week, they expect to learn how to release, market and sell their music over the Internet. They're not worried about impressing record executives. They'll simply build a website to sell their music and invite buyers to come.

Those divergent paths are being trod by musicians across the country as they maneuver between the old-school model of "getting discovered" and an emerging system through which artists market and distribute their own music on the Internet. They represent the kind of dramatic shift that is transforming other industries — from retail to visual arts to publishing — where websites, powerful software and well-capitalized corporate upstarts are challenging established institutions and the tried-and-true ways of doing things.

"I've actually completed licensing deals online without ever meeting the person, without ever seeing one piece of paper," says Atlanta musician and producer John Penn. "The deals I did traditionally took so much to negotiate, and we [the artists] get such a smaller fraction of the pie."

One small sign of the shift in the music industry can be viewed this summer in Atlanta, where two conferences — one resolute in the traditions of showcases and record deals; the other touting the high-tech model for releasing music — will court both artists and industry leaders.

When the locally-based Atlantis Music Conference debuted three summers ago, it wasn't the first time an event attempted to corral the music industry toward Atlanta. The now-defunct New South Music Showcase and the big urban-based Jack the Rapper conference had come and gone in the years preceding it. But when the coast was clear, Atlanta was ripe for a single big event that focuses attention on local and regional acts, draws record companies to sign bands and, in the process, earns organizers wide recognition and a tidy profit. Atlantis has largely done all that. Organizers say last year's showcases drew 40,000 fans while the panels drew about 2,000 artists, producers and music executives.

But Atlantis, set this year for Aug. 9-12, no longer is the only show in town. A giant from New York has come treading onto its turf, clearing the way for its own event this weekend. ChangeMusic Atlanta, powered by longtime college music publisher and conference organizer CMJ, is plucking from Atlantis' garden, showcasing local and regional acts in the city's best venues, and attracting some of the region's most promising alternative artists.

"I'm pretty flattered," quips Atlantis co-founder Mark Willis. "I feel like CMJ New York has been a great conference for a lot of years. In '97, when we started this thing, we couldn't have paid them to do it [in Atlanta]. I think we've proven it can be successful, and they're coming in, and they're using our venues and using our bands and using our media sponsors. I think it's the highest form of flattery."

Aware they might be perceived as corporate interlopers invading Atlantis' homebase, CMJ officials avoid such sardonic statements — just one reflection of the deeply different styles behind the two events.

Atlantis is a small, sort of grassroots operation run by its three owners (Willis, promoter Rich Levy and entertainment attorney Lee Beitchman) and three full-time employees who work out of the back half of a tiny office tucked away in Marietta. They've participated in the Atlanta music scene for many years and have an appreciation for live music. It's that appreciation that has earned them the support of the city's bands, venue owners and producers who believe that, while technology is significant and intriguing, it should never replace the organic development of an artist that comes from performing live. As local artist and producer Eric Stamile puts it: "It's not quite the same when you discover [a band's music] in your room, late at night, going through pages and pages on the Internet." [page]

New York-based ChangeMusic, on the other hand, is a corporate hybrid, the product of the recent merger of CMJ (publishers of CMJ New Music Report and CMJ Monthly) with ChangeMusic Network Inc., a subsidiary of the Rare Medium Group, a New York-based company that finances Internet ventures. The company has a staff of 90, and its 20-year-old CMJ Music Conference in New York draws about 9,000 attendees and some 50,000 concert goers. The company's series of micro conferences — the one in Atlanta being the first — is a way for CMJ to make good on its new Internet affiliations and, by touting new technology, coincides with its history of finding exposure opportunities for cutting-edge artists. Careful not to ignore the live component of music in Atlanta, CMJ also will feature performances by about 90 acts, approximately 80 percent of which, according to showcase manager Chris White, are from the area.

"What Atlantis is so good at and what they've really focused on is developing artists in the A&R way," says CMJ producer Michelle Thomas. "It's really a come-get-signed kind of festival. They're looking to bring in people from New York and L.A. and Nashville to see Atlanta musicians. Our thing is, 'Don't worry so much about being signed, but here's the Internet, and here's how you can use it. Do it yourself and broadcast your own stuff and don't worry about the majors anymore. It's a new model, it's a new day, it's a new business. Together, let's change it.'"

Those are welcome words to many artists, who already are adapting to the Internet's promise of an alternative route to success, which they view as challenging the filtering process that for decades allowed record companies to decide what was put out, when it was put out and how it was presented.

"You can decide whether you want to try the DIY approach versus the old way where basically somebody has you on a leash," says Stamile, a producer and co-owner of speakeasy-music.com. Stamile and his partner, singer Gaelle, turned to the Internet after getting out of what they say was a bad deal with a local record company. He says speakeasy-music.com, which features his and Gaelle's music, will be up in three to four weeks.

"If we sell 5,000 units of a full-length record over the Internet, let's say the packaging and shipping cost is about a buck-fifty and they give us 10 bucks for it, then we keep eight-fifty of that. So we make $40,000 off 5,000 records versus whatever the hell a percentage point is gonna be off your record [with a record label]. You're not only retaining complete control of your masters but you're also getting it out to the people in the way you want to get it out and you're retaining 80 percent of your revenue."

But making music on the Internet still isn't kink-free. In addition to his own admission that discovering a band on the Internet just isn't like stumbling onto their sound in a club, Stamile notes that many potential listeners still use dial-up connections that can take up to 45 minutes to download an album.

John Penn, whose acts include black alternative rock, dance and hip hop, points to concerns about the quality of sound on MP3, the Web's leading music software.

"MP3 quality is not CD quality but people are not just looking for quality nowadays," Penn says. "They're looking for convenience, they're looking for speed, they're looking for something on demand. Once the novelty wears off and people's tastes mature there will be more of a demand for quality."

Even if they develop a good, accessible site, less-established artists still face the monumental task of marketing their sites to potential fans — something that's difficult without the backing of a label.

"After your family finds out about it, after your friends find out about it, you've got the other 7.9 billion people on this Earth that need to find out about it," Stamile says. "You still need that kind of word of mouth thing going on. You still need that flyer on the coffeehouse table."

Thomas says CMJ is intended to address precisely the kinds of issues raised by artists struggling to harness the power of the Web. "People are really excited about the potential to use the Internet to further their careers in the business sense," she says. "There are all these new empowerment tools. You can distribute your music online now like a record label, you can have your music available to millions of people instantly. There are all these capabilities now that artists have that they didn't in the past, and I think that's very exciting to them. ... We're gonna sit down with artists and explain to them how to upload their music to the Internet, how to get digital distribution and what kind of companies offer it and what kind of offline distribution you can get in conjunction with that." [page]

As promising as that may sound, Atlantis organizers argue that, until listeners really find it practical to obtain most of their music on the Internet, it might be wise for musicians to keep at least one foot in the old A&R camp.

"It's kind of strange to me," Levy says. "I'm not sure I completely understand it. They've re-named this whole thing ChangeMusic and I don't know what they're trying to change music into. To me, it's just music. We're trying to keep music the same because we love it. Maybe they're trying to change it into math. Maybe they're trying to change it into ballet. I don't know. But when they get done changing music in June, we'll change it back in August."

It's not as if Atlantis is ignoring the possibilities of the Internet. In fact, several Atlantis panels this year deal with new music technology. One session will even seek to marry aspiring tech startups to venture capitalists. Still, co-founder Willis stresses that Atlantis' structure is based on the existing system by which labels sign artists.

"I think the greatest thing about us is we're the place to be discovered," Willis says. "The people that are involved in this conference I think have the best ears in the country. We've proven that by how many record companies have signed these acts."

Since Atlantis' debut in 1998, more than 20 bands featured at the conference have later been signed, including Marvelous 3 (Elektra), Billionaire (London), Peter Searcy (TimeBomb/Arista) and Double Drive (MCA). Whether the signings were a direct result of Atlantis appearances depends on who you ask. Levy admits that assigning exclusive credit to Atlantis for artist signings might be a bit of a stretch.

"When people talk about bands getting signed out of Atlantis, it's strange because it's not what people think it is," he says. "It's not like a band plays and the big record company executive walks up to them with cigar in mouth and says, 'Here's a contract boys. Let's sign.' It's a long, drawn-out process. ... Sometimes a deal happens, sometimes it doesn't."

Singer Peter Searcy, whose debut album Could You Please and Thank You was released earlier this year on Timebomb/Arista, gives some credit to Atlantis for helping him get signed. "I really took advantage of the situation of having all the different people there," he says.

Still relatively young and small, Atlantis is continuing to define its scope in other ways by, for example, extending a rather uncertain hand to the urban community — this, after turning away urban submissions the event's first year. Hip-hop and R&B oriented panels will jump from one last year to six this year, with two days of showcases at urban-oriented clubs Karma and Kaya.

Willis stresses that Atlantis' expanded emphasis on urban music came at the behest of the urban community. "All we heard after year one from the urban community was, 'Please, we want to be involved. ... ' But we were not going to take people's money under the pretense that there were going to be tons of urban acts and tons of urban panelists. We were very careful to say, 'We're just sticking our finger in the water to see if the urban community really wants to embrace what we're doing.'"

While Atlantis was busy gauging the temperature of the urban community and trying to reflect the city's complete music spectrum, CMJ was zeroed in on its more narrowly focused subject.

"We've always known that Atlanta is a particularly hot place in the Southeast, probably the most important market in the Southeast," says CMJ's Thomas, "and recently it was listed on Wired Magazine's Top 25 Internet-ready cities list. There's this whole convergence of music and technology right now, and it's happening very distinctly in different markets. Atlanta made a lot of sense for us because we know it to be kind of the music center of the Southeast and now it's been designated as kind of the technology center as well."

Atlantis' displeasure with CMJ's encroachment may have more to do with wanting to be the only game in town than with resistance to sweeping changes in the music industry. From a purely business standpoint, their differences may be more a matter of turf than philosophical approach. And organizers of both meetings are avoiding straight-out competition by working together on a trade agreement and stressing their differing roles.

But the differing approaches also reflect differing visions of the future of music. And the ramifications for artists are just as broad as they are for producers, labels and even conference organizers. [page]

Will the once brilliant glimmer of "discovery" grow dimmer as more artists pursue independence and financial control via the Internet? Is the new technology, as John Penn suggests, "like the California gold rush" luring artists with promises of freedom and prosperity? Is it a utopia or a mirage?

The wise musician, he asserts, will be open to new ideas and stay in tune with old ones. Penn already is using a combination of online and brick-and-mortar distribution.

"It's almost like you can't put your eggs all in one basket," he says. "You have to know how to utilize traditional ways of promoting artists and use a lot of grassroots, guerilla methods to get around the barriers that are already set up in the industry. You have to know how to utilize the Internet, how to develop market share for artists whether it be one e-mail at a time or one conference at a time."

N'hood
Black enough?

Atlanta s black elected officials often have a dual duty   to the positions they hold and to the communities that got them where they are.

BY K. MATTHEW DAMES

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My father's words were still with me: "hell to pay." I might be hated and vilified in the black community if I got into that mess. Only a fool would get involved. Maybe I should say no. But why? Because I was black?In Contempt, Christopher Darden.

Lewis Slaton never had to deal with this. The hell begins early, with whispers about ability and place, vague concerns about fitting in. Achievement usually quiets the dull roar of doubt. But when the profession is politics, and the politician is black, another type of "hell" comes into play. Then, all the awards, all the nights spent studying until 3 a.m., all the accommodations cease to matter because then the question — from your own folks — becomes "Are you black enough?"

It is the dual burden of the black elected official: duty not only to office, but also to race. Christopher Darden devoted a considerable portion of In Contempt to it. State Attorney General Thurbert Baker has been criticized in the name of it. And should Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. win re-election in November, he will confront the phenomenon in ways he can only begin to imagine when he prosecutes black activist Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin for murder.

Howard, who became Fulton County's first African-American district attorney when he succeeded Slaton in 1997, acknowledges the dual duty and embraces it. "In a way, it is a privilege; it's almost as if you're not simply an elected official handling the responsibility of your job, but you take upon a greater mantle of responsibility," he said last week, a day before he rested his case in the Buckhead murders trial. "It becomes quite significant, because it enlarges your influence over a certain area of the community."

But the competing responsibilities can quickly become burdensome when they careen into each other, a situation Howard faces daily as the person responsible for prosecuting a great number of people who look like him. "When you're the prosecutor, you're responsible for incarcerating a lot of African-American men," he says, "and you are faced with this dilemma: how do you satisfy both ends, and how do you do those fairly?"

Like Howard, Michael Bond considers the dual burden to be the price of being black and elected, and he would prefer it be no other way. "I know my father and his colleagues felt a dual responsibility, not only to be effective legislators, but to be effective African-American males to the community at large," says the second-term Atlanta City Council member and son of NAACP chairman Julian Bond. "And if it doesn't exist today in the mind in all African-American elected officials, it should."

Bond adds his white colleagues cannot possibly recognize the burden because of the many advantages they long have enjoyed. "I don't think they feel pressure to deliver to the same degree like I feel I have to deliver. And when you look at the north side of [Atlanta] as opposed to the west end of town, there's simply more to be done on the west side of town. The job is just different."

The paradox of the dual duty is a legacy of a now-mature civil rights movement, according to Charles E. Jones, chairman of Georgia State University's African-American Studies department. "When black people fought to put black people in office [in the '50s and '60s], there was an implicit understanding that black elected officials would be more sensitive and responsive to the black community," Dr. Jones says, explaining that people from other historically underrepresented communities, including women and gays, often have had similar expectations of their elected officials.

In this regard, Fulton County Sheriff Jackie Barrett claims a duty to yet another constituency: women. Elected in 1992 to be the nation's first African-American female sheriff, Barrett feels she won the position on the strength of her popularity with women, and has been able to hold the position since then due to consistently strong support from the same community.

Barrett concedes her recognition and acceptance of multiple duties can be a difficult balancing act. "It does not mean that any members of my constituency or any of my employees are given any less than any others are. But I think it's something that you keep in the back of your head, and it perhaps makes me more accessible as an elected official. Those who did so much to get me here and the sacrifices that were made, I think I owe. I don't have the luxury of getting tired."

And Barrett is particularly sensitive to striking a balance between acknowledging the burden — yet keeping its recognition from seeming like favoritism — since she and her agency have lost a reverse discrimination lawsuit lodged by 16 white former and current Fulton sheriff's deputies. The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the June 1996 verdict in March, and she says the accusation that she is racist hurts her deeply. "To my dying day, I will say the allegations are not true. As a member of the criminal justice community I have to respect the judicial process, but I am not going to allow that to define me. The verdict is what it is. I can say 'Gee the court says I'm a racist, I must be a racist,' but I know better," she explains. "There may be a sense in the community that that's what we [black elected officials] do in a place like Fulton County, because it is majority black, but that's so wrong." [page]

Forty years after the civil rights movement bore its first politicians of color, social and political conditions may have evolved to where the phenomenon and its public recognition could be the exception rather than the rule. There are a number of factors that may hamper a black elected official's ability to be as responsive toward the black community as its constituents feel he should be, Georgia State's Jones says, not the least of which is the urge to remain in office or advance a post-office career.

Further, the expectation may be outdated, according to Robert Brown, an assistant professor at Emory University who holds a dual appointment in the school's African-American studies and political science departments. With many African Americans having more prominent involvement in mainstream corporate, educational and political positions — the most vivid local example being LaFace Records founder Antonio Reid's ascendance to head Arista Records, where he not only will guide the careers of African-American artists such as Whitney Houston and Outkast, but white artists like Sarah McLachlan, the Eurythmics and Ace of Base - there is an increased need to think and act in ways that reflect more diverse constituencies. For example, the number of black elected officials soared from barely 100 to 10,000 after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, and the number of African Americans in Congress has increased eightfold.

As a result, Brown says, "I think it varies now, whether they feel the need to respond to it. With this later generation of blacks in these positions, I don't think they feel as beholden to the expectations as the leaders did a generation ago."

Yet strong expectations continue to resonate with some citizens. "I wouldn't say that the responsibility of a black elected official is a dual duty. I think that doing one's job and doing a service on behalf of the black community should be synonymous," says Lukata Mjumbe, an Atlanta community activist. "Certainly, black elected officials, more than many other people, experience and struggle with what Dr. W.E.B. DuBois described as a double consciousness — where they constantly have to wrestle with a dilemma of whether they will commit to their African-ness or their American-ness. But I don't think it should be a dilemma. If they look at their position as they are responsible to those who elected them into office, then their commitment should be to the black community."

And besides, Mjumbe continues, they owe. "Black elected officials always have to make certain that they don't buy into the game and think they are the same as white elected officials. They [black elected officials] have a different history, and they also have a duty to history. There is a legacy of struggle connected to why they even have the opportunity to sit where they sit, and therefore they have a responsibility to the history of struggle. Tragically, they too often accept the rules of the game and see themselves simply as players."

Opinions like Mjumbe's echoed loudly and publicly enough last year to place the state's first African-American attorney general at the center of this controversy. Thurbert Baker was called to task by a bevy of area black leaders after he chose to re-prosecute former state Sen. Ralph David Abernathy III on theft, forgery and witness tampering charges last year. A deadlocked Fulton County jury had forced a mistrial in September 1999 when they could not determine whether Abernathy was guilty of misappropriating approximately $13,000 in state expense account funds.

Baker prosecuted the son of the legendary civil rights leader again in December, and a jury found Abernathy guilty of 18 criminal counts of a revised 28-count indictment. Abernathy has been sentenced to a prison term of four years.

"That may have been a part of his strategy, to say to the public I will prosecute a well-known African-American.' But I'm waiting for him to say to the public 'I will prosecute a well-known white elected official. We haven't seen that," says state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, one of Baker's strongest critics in the Abernathy matter. Brooks and others accused Baker of selective prosecution. "He knows he has turned his eyes and ears away from many violations of the law because they involve well-known white public officials at the state level, and probably some at the county and municipal level." [page]

Baker denies he acted upon any motivation other than to prosecute a violation of the law. "We don't have a dual duty in the office of the attorney general; I certainly don't have a dual duty as the attorney general of this state," Baker said. "I've got a singular responsibility to uphold and apply the laws of this state equally among everybody within the confines of Georgia. If we ever get to a point where we're having to pick and choose how we prosecute cases based on factors other than the evidence before us, then we're on a slippery road that I'm afraid we would never recover from."

Baker adds he sleeps well at night following this code. "The only regret I ever have is not based on race or status, but when I see elected officials who violate the law. We're the ones sworn to uphold the laws; we're the lawmakers in a lot of instances. But other than that, it's not my responsibility or place to get into the other factors. I think that clouds your ability to analyze cases and to make the best decisions about them."

Georgia State's Jones observes that while Baker's color-blind stance may resonate in some quarters, it makes him an easy target for criticism from some blacks. "If you take away Baker's color and just listen to his rhetoric, he sounds like any other attorney general. And I think that's what people have some trouble with: the sort of policy he adheres to without pointing to the problematic nature of the criminal justice system, which incarcerates a disproportionate amount of African-Americans." And while all indications are that Baker's stance is genuine, cold, hard political reality — Baker's position is a statewide office, while Howard, Bond, Barrett and Brooks represent considerably smaller districts whose respective constituencies contain a significant proportion of African-American voters — may contribute to his adoption of it.

Should Howard and Fulton County Sheriff Jackie Barrett survive elections this year, they will be involved in an event that should bring this conflict forth with thunderous reverberations: the capital murder trial of Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin. A Fulton County grand jury indicted Al-Amin on March 28, charging him with being the shooter that killed sheriff's deputy Richard Kinchen and seriously injured another sheriff's deputy, Aldranon English. Howard notified Al-Amin and his attorneys last month that he intends to seek to execute Al-Amin if a jury finds him guilty.

This is the paradox: an African-American prosecutor is seeking the execution of an African-American male with a history of pro-black advocacy, doing so at a time when the criminal justice system both Howard and Barrett represent not only is seeking answers to why African-Americans are disproportionately held by the system, but also has begun questioning the wisdom of capital punishment, since there is strong evidence that many criminal defendants — again, disproportionately African-American — do not have access to adequate legal representation. And all this in a state that will soon suffer a potentially virulent debate over the Confederate battle symbol on its flag.

Atlanta's black activist community already has rung the bell of duty, partly by questioning both Howard's and Barrett's commitment to a fair criminal process because of the respective governmental positions they hold.

Howard calls this thinking irrational, noting that he is following the same course in the Al-Amin case that he followed in his office's prosecution of Gregory P. Lawler, who was convicted and sentenced to death in March for killing Atlanta police officer John Richard Sowa. Lawler is, and Sowa was, white.

"I think that as a black prosecutor, I have a distinct advantage in handling this case," Howard says of his role in prosecuting Al-Amin, noting that a lot of the controversy over capital punishment stems from evidence that shows black criminal defendants are executed at a much higher rate than white criminal defendants. "I would agree that much of the selection has been done in an unfair racial manner. In this case, my being prosecutor allows our community to not focus on the decision [to execute] but to look past that and look at the evidence."

Not that the decision makes him happy, and this is the other side of the responsibility. "When I walk into a courtroom and I see the vast numbers of African-American men, I am hurt, disappointed and angry," Howard adds. "What it says to me is, I've got to find a way to make this not happen." [page]

N'hood
Streetalk
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Anne, Atlanta: The only ones I see are these young fathers in Virginia-Highlands that are really taking part in their child's life. But that's just from a distance. For all I know, the kid could be just an object to flesh out the whole Va-Hi scene. Some people have children as status symbols. Then when they get the kid it's like, 'Wow!'

Andrea, Atlanta: The tooth fairy. She takes my teeth, no matter how bloody they are, and gives me money just like my dad. She supports me like my dad: I get $2.50 a tooth. My dad is a drag queen ... My dad is my role model for fatherhood even though he's a fairy.

Wanda, Atlanta: I always wished I had a father like Jimmy Stewart. I cried when he died. I think of him being a clever man in all those Hitchcock movies and, of course, the humble man in It's a Wonderful Life. He gave me comfort. He would sink his teeth into life rather than run off like my father.

N'hood
Local porn surfers finding themselves overseas
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Sometimes free sex turns out to be really expensive, especially if you're getting it from Chad. Georgia's Office of Consumer Affairs has received hundreds of complaints lately from phone customers who claim they've been billed for calls they never made to the African nation of Chad in the early, early a.m.

Turns out, nobody made those calls. Instead, someone logged onto Internet porn sites promising free sex or free hot young girls or some other "free" sex thing and unwittingly downloaded a "dialer." Although the sites almost always include a user's agreement explaining that the user will be billed about $8 per minute for the time he or she spends on the site, few users read the agreements. They click on the "I agree" button, automatically downloading a dialer which then drops the original Internet service provider connection and replaces it with a phone call dialed to a small nation, usually in Africa and quite often for reasons no one really knows, to the sub-Saharan nation of Chad.

"This is a problem and it's going to be a growing problem because there is so much money involved," says Bill Cloud, spokesman for the Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs. "Think about it. You could get a lot of services for $500 an hour."

In some cases, parents have reported that their children are spending time playing games on the Internet. But so far, investigations have revealed the "kids," if indeed it was the kids, were not racking up the bills by playing games.

"At least, not the kind of games you'd find at the BYU spring social," says Cloud, who adds. "Let's face it, some of these adults are blaming the kids when they're the ones doing it."

Not that it would matter. Right now, regardless of age or inhibitions, if you've been scammed by one of the sites, Cloud's office will, in most cases, contact your long-distance carrier and explain that you didn't know what you were doing. The long distance carriers usually credit the charge to customers. Usually.

"We don't automatically take the consumer's side against that of the company," says Cloud. "But if it's clear that this was an accident, we do."

Hard to tell exactly how many people have been duped by the sites because some people are probably too embarrassed to report their experiences. But, even the number reported is growing so rapidly that Cloud believes some kind of international regulation is in the near future. Local or state jurisdictions can't do much to fight this kind of fraud because most operators are overseas.

In May, the National Consumers League in Washington, D.C., issued an alert about "dangerous downloads" prompted by the large number of calls they had received about "calls to Africa."

The NCL determined that the scam was targeting males in their early 20s or late teens. NCL Spokeswoman Holly Anderson says people under age 30 make up the majority of consumers who get scammed on the Internet — 35 percent — mostly because they use it more than anyone else, but also because they haven't yet fully subscribed to the notion that if it sounds too good to be true (and what sounds better than "free sex"?), it probably is. Anderson says the most outstanding case she's heard of so far involved a couple who reported their sons had been playing Internet games and didn't know they were being charged for their time until a $3,000 phone bill came in. It showed a phone call to Chad that lasted several hours.

"We haven't found a game site yet with these dialers," says Anderson. "It's all been porn."

Anderson says Georgia ranks 16th in the nation for the number of Internet rip-offs reported. Georgians are more often taken-in by telephone cons. The state ranks 11th in the nation for those.

Ed Smith, spokesman for the Better Business Bureau in Atlanta, says his office hasn't gotten any "dialer" complaints yet, but he's expecting them. He says the same people who fell prey to an earlier incarnation of the dialer — a 1-800 phone-sex bait-and-switch that lured customers with a "free" call then charged them for a 1-900 call — will probably fall prey to the Internet version as well. His office has gotten a lot of complaints about 1-900 numbers.

Smith says little can be done to shut down these types of services, but consumers can exercise their own judgement in using them. Reading users agreements isn't necessarily an effective precaution because many are deceptive.

"If you pay for a service and you don't get it, or if the conditions of service are misleading, that's fraud," says Smith. "I hate to say this, but these charges and conditions should be laid bare so that people understand them."

N'hood
The harder they come...
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So the FBI's asking about Mitch Skandalakis in connection with the Fulton County bribery scandal, eh?

My God, the irony! Not to mention the distraction.

The distraction is so severe that a couple of weeks ago, I inadvertently wrote in this space that this year's Georgia Republican convention had taken place in Augusta, when it was actually held in Savannah. It was a minor mistake for which I apologize, but it was caused by the distraction of what appears to be a total corruption meltdown on Pryor Street — and the investigation's ties to Skandalakis.

But it's the irony that has immobilized me. Even now, I am unable to concentrate properly because of this ever-widening bribery scandal involving a minority contractor and the arch-nemesis of all minority set-asides, Mitch Skandalakis.

As everyone now knows, County Commissioner Michael Hightower, county contractor George Greene and former Skandalakis aide Josh Kenyon each pleaded guilty last week to a single federal charge of public corruption involving illegal cash payments made to ensure the delivery of a multi-million dollar computer contract to Greene's firm, Sable Communications.

What is most interesting about the charges is that Hightower, Greene and Kenyon all copped guilty pleas without actually being indicted, and each willingly acknowledged to reporters that they are "cooperating" with prosecutors in the investigation, which is said to be ongoing.

In the interest of fairness, it is important to note that no federal prosecutor or FBI agent has publicly named Skandalakis as a subject of the corruption investigation. But all the major Atlanta media outlets are blaring reports that suggest Hightower, Greene, and Kenyon have already turned state's evidence against one or more thus-far-unindicted individuals in exchange for lighter prison sentences. Keen speculation centers upon whether one of those fingered is, in fact, Skandalakis.

Kenyon and Skandalakis have a long history together. Kenyon, formerly an attorney on the staff of the rightwing Southeastern Legal Foundation (a leader in the battle against Fulton's affirmative action program), came to Fulton County government after Skandalakis won the commission chairman's race in 1992. As his aide, Kenyon helped Mitch wreak havoc upon the majority-black commission, with both of them reserving their harshest vitriol for the county's minority set-aside program.

In the mid-'90s, Skandalakis and Kenyon promoted themselves as examples of public integrity, boasting that they had foiled a prospective contractor's bribery attempt by contacting the FBI and setting up a sting operation, resulting in the contractor being convicted and sentenced to prison. (Ironically, that contractor is now asking that his conviction be tossed out because it was based partly upon the testimony of Kenyon, who is now a convicted felon himself.)

The whole thing is a godawful mess, and it's apparently far from over. Could it be that Mitch Skandalakis spent his years as chairman of the Fulton County Commission crusading against minority participation in county contracts at the same time that he was accepting money from minority contractors? Is it possible that the flamboyant right-wing darling of North Fulton's white Republican majority may be preparing for an informative interview with prosecutors himself?

No one knows yet. But the answers to these and many more questions are due to be answered in federal court. According to veteran political columnist Bill Shipp, Skandalakis has reportedly formulated a defense based on the fact that he declared all of the payments on his income tax returns, and will claim that any payments received from Mr. Greene were legitimate payments for "consulting work" performed on behalf of Sable Communications.

The problem is, such a consulting arrangement is, at best, unethical — and is likely to be far more serious, if the current crop of admitted felons is any indication.

Either way, the irony is killing me.

N'hood
Finding Father's love
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I felt like a child playing hide-and-seek only to discover, hours later, that no

one was looking for me — including myself. I had abandoned the child of my youth and all his secrets for far too long.

Some memories are hard to face, and growing up with Dad was one of them.

But, as painful as it was, I had to face my past.

The old familiar taunts — "not good enough," "only sissies cry" and "be a man" — rang in my ears. Despite my father's death more than 26 years ago, his voice was still clear.

I grew up thinking Dad wouldn't love me if he knew I was gay. Being gay was not a part of his plan for my life.

From an early age, my father knew I was different. While other toddlers clutched tightly to teddy bears and "blankies," I carried Grandmother's old purse and a well-worn fur piece I affectionately dubbed my "woo-woo."

Dad reluctantly permitted me to keep my "woo-woo," but the purse was more than he could stand. One morning I awoke to find the battered old handbag had disappeared.

During my pre-teen and adolescent years, I continued to swim upstream in the masculine mainstream. I chose the company of girls over boys, preferred aesthetics over athletics and detested competitive sports.

Compelled to try to protect me, my father felt he must shape me. To toughen me up, he enrolled me in after-school football. But youth sports did little for my self-esteem; as third-string right guard, I was on the bench far more than the field.

Once again, I had disappointed my father. Once again, I felt his shame.

And I wanted, above all, not to disappoint him. I wanted to win his love.

Like Pavlov, Dad doled out love based on a system of punishment and reward. To earn his love, I adopted the "heroic image": I was the altar boy, Eagle Scout and struggling student. I was positive, upbeat and above reproach. @body:Slipping into the armor of perfection, I strove to meet every one of my father's criteria for success.

I learned, as many gay men and women learn as children, it was not safe to be who I was. I masked my true self to conform to society's norms.

As a child, my bedroom closet was my secret sanctuary, a temple of safety. There, I retreated into a fantasy world, my imagination the only defense against the powerlessness I felt.

Dressing up in flowing red robes, crowns and crosses, I became a man of authority, power and control. In my closet, I was king to my father's pawn. I was lord over my destiny.

Flying through the house with a red robe tied around my neck, I was Superman.

But all my super powers I would have gladly traded for the power to create a world in which my personhood could thrive.

When I was 18, my father died.

And even after his death, he continued to control my life. Throughout college and into adulthood, I sought to earn his love.

I went to a school of which I knew approved, joined his old fraternity and majored in business. Upon graduation, I embarked on a successful career, became active in the community and married a woman I would shape into my mother. @body:I met every one of his goals and exceeded even his expectations. Yet it wasn't enough. I still didn't feel his love. I still didn't feel his approval. @body:At 39, I said, "Enough!" I exploded. I shook my fist at the sky and shouted, "I did it your way, you sonofabitch, and now it's my turn!"

Over the next four years, I came out, divorced, left my job and moved. Dropping the masks, I began to shed layer after layer of the heroic image like a snake sheds its skin.

I dreamed of Dad's old desk one night. Gone were all his papers. The drawers were pulled out, and each was clean and empty. Done.

I am still untangling my father's expectations from my own needs and desires. I am still searching for my authentic self.

But the more I accept myself, the more I feel Dad's approval. The more I love myself, the more I feel his love.

Randy Siegel is a writer, speaker and communications trainer in Asheville, N.C.

N'hood
Hightower exit could deadlock commission
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When Michael Hightower took the floor at a Fulton County Commission meeting to opine on the topic at hand, the ensuing rhetorical twists, turns, diversions and digressions usually resembled nothing so much as a polar bear rooting around for a fish in a fast moving stream.

After thrashing about from place to place, he eventually got to the fish. Anyone who watched was a little confused about how he did it. The fish was often some craftily worded and suitably confusing resolution that resulted in more county largess for his South Fulton district. And it usually passed before anyone totally grasped the ramifications.

Hightower's resignation last week, after pleading guilty to taking money from a county contractor, marks the end of a 13-year tenure on the commission. The fact that he wrecked a promising political career and risked prison for a measly $25,000 has mystified and disappointed his supporters.

The scandal centers around lucrative contracts for work on the county's information technology systems, including an effort to make computers Y2K compliant and to build a single, integrated information system for criminal justice agencies. The man who paid off Hightower, George Greene, was the founder of a firm hired as a minority subcontractor for the work.

County rules at the time required contractors to give a percentage of their work to minority subcontractors. A federal judge subsequently struck down those rules in an unrelated case.

Only Tom Lowe, the Republican who represents Buckhead and Sandy Springs, had been on the board longer than Hightower. And no one on the board was more effective at delivering goodies from the county treasury to his constituents.

South Fulton is the most rural, slowest growing part of the county. But to the frustration of people in North Fulton dealing with clogged roads, crowded libraries and a paucity of parkland, Hightower was able to steer copious amounts of county money to his district. He did it by effectively playing off the board's North Fulton Republicans against its Atlanta Democrats.

Hightower was ideologically aligned with Atlanta Commissioners Emma Darnell and Nancy Boxill, particularly when it came to maintaining the county's multi-million dollar subsidy for Grady Memorial Hospital. This was firm political ground for a man who reportedly wanted to sit in Rep. John Lewis' seat in Congress someday. But the affable Hightower was also willing to break with his fellow Democrats on occasion and join with the Republicans to reach a deal, particularly on budgetary matters.

This gave him tremendous bargaining power, which he used to his district's advantage — and, as the FBI discovered, his own.

Given the makeup of his district, Hightower's successor (to be chosen in a special election) will probably be another black Democrat, which would not change the party and racial balance on the commission. But should South Fulton voters decide to go with somebody who is more fiscally conservative and less sympathetic to inner city interests than was Hightower, North Fulton Republicans could gain an important ally on fiscal issues.

This is not beyond the realm of possibility. Remember that the 1991 tax revolt, which helped trigger a GOP takeover of the commission chairmanship, had a strong South Fulton component.

While only time will tell how his successor might tilt the apple cart, the more immediate change will be that Hightower will no longer be behind the scenes, wheeling and dealing in the art of the possible.

Until Hightower's successor is chosen this fall, the commission will be evenly divided between three white Republican men hailing from Alpharetta and Buckhead and three black Democratic women from intown Atlanta. It takes four votes to pass anything.

Hightower went away quietly. A guilty plea. A resignation. No noisy trial. No protestations that he was a black public official being singled out by a racist criminal justice system. But while his sudden departure was clean and smooth, it promises to shake up the dynamics of a body sharply divided by party, race and ideology.

N'hood
Goin' glossy
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DON'T QUOTE ME

Part 1: The Players

By Greg Fulton

An unprecedented magazine war is bubbling up in Atlanta, where readers have more glossies to choose from than ever before, but from titles largely fighting for the same advertising dollars.

War, though, could be an overstatement in the most-crowded field, the general interest, consumer-oriented glossies, where in the case of the thirtysomething Atlanta magazine and relative newcomers Atlanta Citymag and Jezebel, it's largely been a matter of the bland leading the bland. More a war of words and deeds and strategy and backbiting than one driven by strong content, an aspect that could break a magazine out but so far hasn't, readers are left to instead pick their brand of escapism based on escapism.

Inherent in all are soft covers and features, fashion, decor, travel, dining, upbeat or apologetic profiles, scenes and oft-repeated scenesters, guides, seasonals and the like, all tweaked to a target demographic. But, hey, that's what the glossies are about, right? Why expect more? Maybe so, but with the ad base increasingly saturated, content widely overlapping and so many niche publications already in the market, can three similar pubs have a future?

Veranda and Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles focus on just that. There are four glossy guide books in town and three thick wedding books. Southern Flair attempts high society. Business to Business and Georgia Trend target old business. Upscale and Atlanta Tribune magazine serve the black community. Southern Living, Southern Accent and Southern Lady, all out of Birmingham, tap into the gentle Old South ad market here. Even Atlanta Baby and Atlanta Parent have revenues over $750,000.

And last fall Atlanta Catalyst debuted targeting young business dotcom doers and similar entrepreneurs. From Business to Business-owner Leader Publishing, Catalyst has found a viable niche and has been getting some buzz, but it too is guilty of glowing features though it takes a nice approach to some topics and seems poised to take on some issues. But then there's the fashion pages.

Catalyst launched as a bimonthly, but ready to go monthly this September, plans to double its print run from 15K to 30K.

Also coming this fall is the tentatively-titled Southern Voice Magazine, a monthly glossy outgrowth of the weekly newspaper serving the gay and lesbian community. The magazine also will be lifestyle oriented, akin to the summer books Voice has been publishing.

So, where does that leave the general interest Atlanta,Jezebel and Citymag? For Atlanta, the challenge is whether to stand pat, broaden/strengthen its content to attract younger readers and not alienate its fiftysomethings, or attract those who don't read anything. In terms of content it's way ahead of the others, but when's the last time you heard someone say, "Hey, did you see that article in Atlanta magazine?"

Atlanta has made some tangible moves in the face of competition by recently buying out a competitor, launching a direct mail campaign to younger folks in the suburbs, and bringing in new Executive Editor Howard Lalli to add some needed cachet, buzz (at least in journalism circles) and big-cityness to the mindset.

A Tina Brown protegé, Lalli is a former staffer at Vanity Fair, assistant managing editor at The New Yorker and founding managing editor of Talk, all before personal and professional reasons led him south and ultimately to the, uh, Big Peach. Sources say he won't be vigorously shaking things up nor is he on a corporate-led mission to run off longtime Editor-in-Chief Lee Walburn, but his influence can be found in certain articles.

Since launching in 1996, the wonderfully-named but schizophrenic Jezebel has been through nearly as many editors as years of existence. Rightfully grabbing the unserved younger market, the folks at Jezebel have created a faux magazine for a faux celebrity scene via advertiser-driven content, all while burning many bridges in the process. But it's working. And the promise of a 244-page July issue will most likely concern its competitors.

Also launched in 1996 was Dossier, which became Atlanta Citymag in 1998, published eight times a year before going monthly this April and taking a big gamble by leaving the newsstands for "exclusive" distribution at Publix stores and aligning with CBS affiliate WGNX (whose call letters are about to change under new owner Meredith Corp.) for short on-air features once a week. (Citymag just lost Editor Isabel Gonzalez to Teen People in New York.)

So, the mags are circling, the market is tightening, and behind the scenes it's been pretty messy.

Next time, Goin' Glossy Part 2: The Sleaze

Greg Fulton can be reached at gfulton@mindspring.com

N'hood
Spinning my wheels
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My mom taught me two important lessons growing up: Always cover the entire slice of bread with peanut butter when making PB&Js; and never, ever doubt yourself. Both came in handy last weekend at the West Georgia 100, a century bike ride through the rolling hills and farmlands of the Georgia countryside.

About 70 cyclists showed up in Carrollton on a drizzly Sunday morning, most of them wearing brightly colored Spandex and fancy clip-in bike shoes. Their meaty quads and calves made my legs look like toothpicks. And my clunky, bottom-of-the-line bike seemed out of place beside their slim, streamlined cycles — fully equipped with aerobars, disk wheels and ultra-lightweight titanium frames. This is one sport where competitors can definitely buy speed.

But I wasn't out to beat them; I was trying to join them as a full-fledged member of the century club. Biking 100 miles topped my list of things to do before I die, and I was looking forward to cruising wide-open country roads without the cars and congestion of city cycling. On the long ride, I hoped to get out of my cerebrum for a few hours and clear away some mental pollution.

It was a symphony of sound at the starting line: first the blast of the start horn, then the percussion of thumb-clicking gears and shoes clipping into pedals, followed by the wind instruments spinning down the street. A steady rain pattered against the pavement, accompanied by thunderous bass drums rumbling overhead.

In the first few miles, I splashed past tandem cyclists, mountain bikers and even a couple of hand-pedaling cyclists cranking up the steep inclines. I jabbered with riders at the first rest stop while snacking on a chocolate Star Crunch. But for most of the ride, I was by myself. The only spectators along the course were a handful of farm dogs (including a Husky that gave chase for about a half-mile), pockets of wild, blood-red lilies crowding the shoulder and golden hay fields doing the wave in the wet wind.

To pass the time, I counted churches (11), tractors (18) and windmills (6). When that got boring, I hummed Mozart's Divertimento. I listed the names of all my grade school teachers, starting with kindergarten. I had a long talk with an ex-girl friend. I thought about this homeless guy named Brian, and how goddamn lucky I was to have legs and arms and good health. My mind roamed the pastures with the cows and lost itself in the green landscape.

Then, halfway through the ride, the rain started falling harder. Rooster tails sprayed from my back tire, and I could see my bike's watery reflection in the flooded road. As I hydroplaned down hills, raindrops felt like rock pebbles plinking against my forehead. In the downpour, I missed a turn and wandered four miles off course before backtracking. It was slow going, and by the time I reached Mile 60, I was knackered.

For the first time all morning, I thought about calling it quits. My chafed crotch ached in the stiff saddle, charley horses galloped through my calves and my hands were bruised and blistered from clasping the grips too tightly. I was completely waterlogged. I hated cycling and vowed never to ride again. But I knew my Mom's I'm-proud-of-you-anyway smile would hurt worse than cramped legs and crotch rot, so I kept on pedaling.

With 30 miles to go, I'd run out of things to think about, and I sure as hell didn't feel like singing anymore. So I concentrated on form: spinning my legs in circles, tucking down hills and maintaining a steady cadence on the climbs. Next, I tried shaking my legs loose and standing in my stirrups every few minutes. When that didn't work, I started bargaining with God: "If you get me through this one, I swear I'll start going to church. I'll even throw a few extra bucks in the collection basket to make up for the money I took from it when I was in second-grade."

My tongue was dragging in my spokes, my heart was about to jump out of my chest and I was sucking wind like a vacuum cleaner — when suddenly I saw an orange jersey up ahead, and I took off after it. Pretty soon, I caught up to another cyclist, and then another. I forgot about how much pain I was in and focused on the next pack of riders up ahead. Cycling was easy, once I stopped thinking so hard. I unclenched my grip on the handlebars and glided down the slick streets toward the finish, crossing the line in a little under six hours.

Saddle sore and stiff-legged, I hobbled back to the car and guzzled a bottle of Gatorade. The rain had finally tapered off, and sunlight glowed behind a veil of cloud. I loved cycling again. I unwrapped a homemade peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, sunk my teeth into a crusty corner, and thought about nothing. Nothing at all.

N'hood
Highland Inn fugitive caught out West
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Daniel Mark Gagliardo Jr., formerly a manager at the Highland Inn hotel in Atlanta's Poncey-Highland area and a fugitive from federal and Texas law enforcement authorities, is now in custody after being captured by FBI agents in San Francisco. Gagliardo, 35, had been sought by federal and Texas authorities after he jumped bail before an April 1995 sentencing on 10 felony counts of sexual assault. He was captured recently on the afternoon of June 2 inside an unidentified hotel, according to Andrea Horton, a spokeswoman for the Texas attorney general's office. Horton could not say whether Christopher Kimble, who was alleged to have been traveling with Gagliardo but who has not been charged with any crimes, was captured as well.

Gagliardo, also known as Russ Biles, was last seen in Atlanta on April 22, when he left the Inn soon after he saw himself profiled on the television program "America's Most Wanted." Horton had no details on when Gagliardo might be extradited to Texas to begin serving his 60 year prison sentence, which was handed down in his absence, but said the captured fugitive could face an additional 10 year sentence if he is successfully prosecuted for the additional felony crime of failing to appear. — K. Matthew Dames

 

N'hood
Report: Mercury rising in mackerel, mullet

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A new report detailing the amount of mercury contamination in U.S. fishing waters illustrates a growing national awareness of the problem, and spotlights possible adverse impacts on both the health and economies of affected areas.

"Casting Doubt: Mercury, Power Plants and the Fish We Eat" by the Georgia Airkeepers points out the dramatic increase in the number of "mercury advisories" issued by the states. Mercury is a tenacious environmental toxin particularly hazardous to the unborn and very young.

In 1993, 27 states had issued warnings against eating fish in certain state waters; by 1997, the number had jumped to 40. Georgia ranks fifth in the nation in issuing such warnings, with 85 advisories in place. In 1999, Georgians were advised to limit their intake of fish caught from 773 miles of rivers and 19,926 lakes because of high levels of mercury. Further, coastal fisheries along the southeastern U.S. shoreline from Texas to North Carolina are all under mercury advisories for king mackerel, a key salt-water sport fish.

The report estimates sports fishing in Georgia alone to pull in more than $2 billion a year, and calls for tighter restrictions on airborne mercury that eventually settles into the ecosystem. In particular, the study points to coal-burning power plants as a main culprit, and urges the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to enact new, tighter guidelines on coal emissions.

"Fishing is a cherished summer pastime for families in Georgia and a major contributor to our economy," says Felicia Davis-Gilmore of the Georgia Airkeepers Campaign. "The impact of mercury-contaminated fish is even more severe for low-income families, for whom fish constitutes a major portion of their diet."

The national trend of increasing mercury advisories is partly due to states' formulating their own, tougher standards for mercury content since the early '90s, says state Environmental Protection Division program manager Linda Harn.

"You'll see a lot of advisories in areas like the Great Lake states, where they've had a really exhaustive sampling program for a long time for a large number of fish," says Harn. "But it's not uniform across the country."

Harn recommends that anyone contemplating a fishing trip contact the state Department of Natural Resources to inquire about the safety of table-bound fish, or consult the DNR website at www.ganet.org/dnr. — Greg Land

N'hood
Some lawmakers leery of 'secret warrant' legislation
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A determined informational campaign that rallied liberals and conservatives in response to a perceived attack on Americans' 4th Amendment guarantees against warrantless searches may have paid off, according to sources in Washington, D.C.

The targeted legislation is contained in two bills currently well on the way to passage: the Methadrine Anti-Proliferation Act, which passed the Senate unanimously and is now under consideration by a House subcommittee; and the Bankruptcy Reform Act, which has passed both houses of Congress and is now in a conference committee to work out differences between House and Senate versions.

The provisions that have raised constitutional concerns relate to so-called "sneak and peek" warrants, which allow law enforcement officials to enter an unoccupied residence or business and search for documents or contraband, copy computer files or other data, and seize items such as computer hard-drives — without notifying the property's owner for several months, if ever.

Georgia's 7th District Rep. Bob Barr, a conservative Republican who sits on the House Judiciary and Banking committees, which heard the bills (and who co-sponsored the bankruptcy bill), has joined liberal Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee in leading a challenge to the provisions.

According to proponents of the measures, investigators looking to curtail the booming business in methamphetamine — a hard-edged, long-lasting stimulant sometimes known as "crank" or "redneck coke" which can be whipped up in a bathtub with a stockpile of relatively cheap (and highly explosive) chemicals and a minimal knowledge of chemistry — need the ability to surreptitiously gather information on suspected crank-lab operators. The use of delayed-notice warrants is already allowed in certain special cases, and Justice Department officials maintain that the new rules would only formalize the process for granting such warrants, which would still have to be approved by a judge.

But critics note that search warrant requests are seldom denied, and that neither the bankruptcy nor methamphetamine bills specifically limits such warrants to the purported targets of those bills — i.e., crank labs or those suspected of unlawfully stiffing creditors.

"These provisions would apply generally; they have nothing to do with drug laws," Barr told reporters last month in regard to the meth bill. "They are not limited in any way, shape or form."

Although Barr was initially silent concerning identical language tucked away in the bankruptcy package, he has since taken notice. Barr spokesman Brad Alexander says the measure has been "successfully removed" from the bankruptcy bill, "but that leaves it still in the House ands Senate versions of the meth bill. The Senate passed that bill without it really being noticed, but we're poised to remove it in House Judiciary when it comes over ... we're looking for the first opportunity to get it out of there."

The lingering concern among Capitol Hill opponents is that the measure, which has been introduced previously at Justice's behest and defeated, will be tacked onto other bills as lawmakers rush to adjourn and head home for election-year campaigning.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has also taken a leading role in opposing the provisions, has reservations not only about the no-notice warrants, but also about another facet of the meth bill which would levy prison terms of up to 10 years for anyone convicted of disseminating information concerning the manufacture or use of illicit drugs.

"This is not your garden variety expansion of the so-called war on drugs," said ACLU legal counsel Marvin Johnson in a prepared statement. "The legislation would vastly expand the government's power to search private homes and would shut down a vital source of information about topics like medical marijuana and hemp production by threatening web-site and book publishers with jail time."

With its possible First Amendment ramifications, the legislation also has publishers and drug-law reform advocates worried. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the American Booksellers Foundation have decried the bill, while a recent editorial in the Rev. Sun Moon's conservative Washington Times, written by American Spectator editor-in-chief R. Emmett Tyrell, blasted the secret warrant provisions and raised the specter of "unscrupulous law enforcement officials" seeking "opportunities to plant evidence or to spice it up pursuant to getting an easy conviction."

N'hood
News Feature
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This week's Question

Due to technical difficulties, there are no results for this week's question.

Next week's Question

Should "fathers" cleared of paternity by DNA testing still be required to pay child support?

N'hood
It's Miller time
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on sports

Since the Hawks are conducting this grand experiment with their coaching staff and turning over the keys to the kingdom to college coach Lon Kruger, why not do something truly groundbreaking when they sign that third assistant coach:

Hire Cheryl Miller.

Miller wants to be an NBA coach. Unlike a lot of people we could mention, she has the credentials for it. She expects to put in her time as an assistant first, even though she is already the head coach of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury, and even though she is already in a place most NBA players will never be — basketball's Hall of Fame.

Picture it: Bad Boy Rick Mahorn, basketball lifer Eric Musselman — the two assistants the Hawks hired last week — and the intense, loquacious Miller, kicking butt and taking names.

If there is one thing the Hawks have lacked in recent years (I mean something a coach could do something about) it is a collective work ethic.

Right now, Jason Terry is practicing every day on the court at Philips Arena. He's determined to take a leadership role this year, and setting the example of getting in the gym every day is part of that.

Terrific. But what does it tell you when Terry, with exactly one year in the NBA, is the role model here?

If you think the veteran Hawks haven't been challenged enough lately — and you would be right — imagine what Miller could do to them on the court. Imagine Miller alongside the tougher than tough Mahorn. Alongside Musselman, who served time in the L.A. Clippers' front office and lived to tell about it, honed his coaching skills in the CBA (where, at age 24, he was the youngest coach in the history of the league), then joined Doc Rivers' staff in Orlando last season.

I can hear you insecure guys out there:

The players won't pay attention to her. Isn't that what you were saying about Lenny Wilkens?

She doesn't know the pro game. Isn't that what you're saying about Kruger now?

Hawks general manager Pete Babcock has made a second career out of Doing the Right Thing. This is a man who insisted his bio page in the Hawks 1999-2000 media guide be used to print the winning entry in a Hawks essay contest. This is a man who takes players to a different Native American reservation every year to learn about their culture. Now, he wants to make radical changes to the current culture of the NBA.

So give a qualified woman her chance. Hire Cheryl Miller. There are worse things than having someone on your bench who can out-shoot Reggie.

N'hood
CL strip "Access Atlanta" snags national award
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Alex Burns' cartoon strip, Access Atlanta, which has appeared in CL for 10 years, won second place in the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies 2000 Editorial Awards.

CL submitted three of Burns' 'toons to AAN: a comparison of Zoo Atlanta's pandas, "Know the Difference;" a look at overblown weather coverage by local news teams featuring an anchor named Brad Kennedyhair; and a send-up of the Blair Witch Project tagged "The Blairsville Ditch Project." One of the judges for the competition was Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield.

Burns, 48, lives in Athens with his wife Denise, their cat Ginger and two dogs named Bear and Arthur. They have one child, Elijah, 19.

Burns graduated from UGA's art school and holds a masters in art from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Detroit. He works as a freelance illustrator and designer and, until recently, was working part-time for the U.S. Census. His next project, he says, will be crafting a less-localized strip for a broader audience. At present CL is the only place where readers can find Burns' cartoons. — Stephanie Ramage

N'hood
Hot Shots
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N'hood
Anything goes?
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They call themselves Democrats, but leaders of Georgia's majority party aren't making news championing democracy.

Instead, Democratic bosses have teamed up with party-hopping state Rep. Randy Sauder in a brazen bid to subvert the democratic process and deny voters a real choice in Cobb County's District 29.

Sauder got things rolling in late April, qualifying to seek re-election as a Republican, then jumping ship and signing up to run as a Democrat four days later — mere minutes before the qualifying deadline.

This tricky little two-step left Republicans without a candidate, Sauder without official opposition, and the legislator's Smyrna constituents without a two-party choice in November.

Sauder claims his last-second defection resulted from an honest change of heart, not a desire to dodge competition. And if you believe that, I've got a pair of pandas I want to sell you in Grant Park.

Sauder's explanation is, to use the proper legal term, baloney. He didn't just wake up on the last day of qualifying and decide to change parties; he bolted at the last minute in a deliberate, premeditated assault on the electoral process. Sauder's claims to the contrary insult his constituents' intelligence. What sort of pathetic suckers does he think they are? And who does he think he is, trying to deny them a choice? A member of the old Soviet Politburo?

The greasy fingerprints of Democratic state officials are all over Sauder's shameless switcheroo. This spring, Gov. Roy Barnes personally wooed Sauder and two other GOP legislators. Sources say Barnes put Sauder on the hot seat, promising him full support and no primary opposition if he defected, but threatening to go all out against him if he did not.

Barnes may even have suggested the late jump to Sauder. According to the Journal-Constitution, top Democrats were considering the idea before Sauder switched, requesting the opinion of Democratic Attorney General Thurbert Baker. The AG gave an effective green light to the last-minute monkey business, saying state law allowed a candidate to cancel a bid with one party and run for the same office with another.

On June 5, an administrative law judge disagreed, declaring Sauder's leap illegal and saying his name should be removed from the ballot. Two days later, in an unprecedented move, Democratic Secretary of State Cathy Cox rejected the judge's decision and put Sauder on the ballot anyway. Wrapping her bold partisanship in legal doublespeak, Cox made a fool of herself, playing Janet Reno to Barnes' Clinton. (If she had machine-gun-toting government agents backing her up, this might have really gotten ugly.)

At this writing, Republicans have kicked the ball back into the courts. While some aren't sad to see Sauder go, they're livid about the way he left, pledging his loyalty to the bitter end. As State GOP Chairman Chuck Clay told me, "The issue is not [Sauder] selecting a team; it's manipulating state law to eliminate opposition."

In this case, eliminating opposition includes shutting out other Democrats. Just ask Doug Stoner, a civic-minded Democratic businessman who filed to run for Sauder's seat when the incumbent was still a Republican.

When Sauder switched parties April 28, state Democrats asked Stoner to withdraw. As Stoner explains in a public letter, "I was in a state of shock." Leaning toward getting out, he told party bosses he needed to talk to his supporters over the weekend. He never got the chance. The next day, his party certified one, and only one, candidate: Sauder.

Stoner played by the rules, doing everything necessary to qualify. What he didn't count on was his own party stabbing him in the back. Disappointed but not disheartened, he's now collecting signatures to run as an independent, as is Republican Ginger Collins. However the legal fight ends, District 29 voters are likely to see one or both independents on the fall ballot. Either would be vastly preferable to the (un)Democratic incumbent.

Supporting Collins would also give voters a chance to tell state Democrats exactly what they think of their efforts to game the system. When it comes to maintaining political power, "Anything Goes" has been the theme song of the Clinton crowd for years. Looks like the Barnes gang is picking up the tune.

Contact Luke Boggs at lukeboggs@hotmail.com.

N'hood
News Feature
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"I'd like to thank all my wives and girlfriends." ­ Ted Turner at the Emmys where local stations WXIA and WAGA racked up.

Burning hot: A Newton County commissioner's home is shot at and an anonymous caller threatens to burn down the official's house unless Covington changes the way it bills for utilities ... Twenty-three possible cases out of 61,000 overnight patients: Doctors at Childrens Health Care of Atlanta defend their use of hidden cameras to nab mothers apparently acting out Munchausen's syndrome by proxy, a form of child abuse that involves intentionally making children sick ... Not in my back pasture: Douglas County officials refuse to sign a letter to federal authorities agreeing to limit sprawl and support mass transit.

7

Unused heritage for sale: Atlanta City Councilman Rob Pitts introduces a motion to re-name Hartsfield International Airport for whatever big-name corporate sponsor would like to buy the name rights for the right price. ... No longer with us: One day after Fulton County Commissioner Michael Hightower pleads guilty to federal corruption charges for taking a $25,000 bribe, the commission meets without him promising his constituents continued representation. ... Be who you are: Secretary of State Cathy Cox goes against the recommendation of an administrative law judge and rules that the name of Cobb County politician and state representative Randy Sauder will be on the July 15 Primary ballot.

8

Fur-fetched testimony?: With NFL linebacker Ray Lewis no longer a defendant in the trial, the buddies he testified against come up with another guy wearing a mink coat who allegedly stabbed two Decatur men in Buckhead. ... That's her boy: Despite the placement of his mother's tenants on a key review board, Marietta City Councilman Philip Goldstein is defeated in his efforts to get approval for the high-rise his mom wants to build just off the city's historic square. ... Nothing to fear but fear itself: Lawyers for Bautista Ramirez don't dispute that their client shot Doraville police detective Hugo Arango, but they say he acted out of fear.

9

Your turn: Word gets out that the FBI, after securing guilty pleas on corruption charges from county officials, is scrutinizing the relationship between fundraising and business contracts at Atlanta City Hall. ... James Earl Ray acted alone: The Department of Justice ends its 22-month-long investigation into the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. concluding that there was no conspiracy. ... "I want to talk about these two boys": Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard delivers his closing arguments in his case against Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting for the murders of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar.

10

Doink! An Atlanta police officer suffers a concussion when his car collides with a telephone pole on Marietta Street. ... It wouldn'a happened at Fenway Pahk: The Braves beat the Red Sox for the second night in a row 6-0 at Turner Field. ... Get it while it's not hot: The metro Atlanta outdoor water-use ban from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. apparently inspires Gwinnett Countians to douse their turf in the morning causing low pressure and water outages.

11

The cost of illness: A 21-year-old man whose family says was released from a mental hospital six years ago is sought in connection with the death of his father in Gwinnett County. ... Child tragedy: A Hall County toddler dies in a mobile home fire but his parents escape. ... Breaking, entering and killing: Cobb County police investigate the fatal shooting of a 20-year-old man in a bizarre home-invasion incident in Smyrna.

12

Acquitted: Joseph Sweeting and Reginald Oakley are found not guilty of the murders of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. ... Life or death: Columbia University Law School releases a study showing appeals courts found errors in 80 percent of Georgia's death penalty convictions between 1973 and 1995. ... A lesson in liability?: The Georgia Supreme Court hears cases against the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, AT&T, and two security companies brought by the families of those hurt and the one person killed in the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing.

Signposts:

Mourned:Earl T. Shinhoster, 49, who held a number of powerful positions with the NAACP, including acting executive director and CEO, dies in a car wreck in Alabama.

Signed off: Judd Rose, 45-year-old Emmy-award winning CNN reporter who covered Princess Diana's funeral and the Gulf War, dies of brain cancer.

Bought the farm:Ethel P. Lilley, one of Georgia's first women realtors and a Druid Hills legend, dies at age 95.

N'hood
Race wars hit City Council

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While the search for a city auditor continues, the politics of the issue has spilled over into an internecine Council battle that threatens to leave predominantly black Southwest Atlanta residents out in the cold.

At issue is councilman C.T. Martin's proposal to finance improvements for a series of city recreation facilities that includes the Washington Park natatorium. Many African-American Atlantans value the park and pool because it once was the only place in the city where African-Americans were allowed to swim.

The full Council almost never got to vote on the first part of Martin's proposal — which allows Mayor Bill Campbell to hire two underwriters to float a $21 million bond issue to finance the project — because it had not been approved by the Council's Finance/Executive Committee. Martin said committee chairman Lee Morris blocked the measure because he was angry that Martin did not vote to override Campbell's veto on the auditor retirement package. Morris denied any retributive motivation, saying that he did not support the resolution because scant details had accompanied its distribution.

Other Council members thought differently. The May 5 meeting quickly became raucous and divisive, with Southwest residents urging the Council to "do the right thing" and Council members suggesting that if payback wasn't the reason, race was. "It's only fiscally responsible when it's on one side of town," said Cleta Winslow, noting that building projects for Buckhead and Midtown often are approved with similarly scant background information.

Martin's bond resolution ultimately was adopted, but the rest of the project faces similar battles because the Council and finance committee still must approve remaining details, such as bond counsel. Meanwhile, the display did not endear many city residents to political hardball; one resident, exasperated at the scrum on display before her, sighed at one point "I'm so sick of this stuff." — K. Matthew Dames

N'hood
News Feature
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A 33-year-old Lithonia man told police that he had picked up a 20-year-old female hitchhiker on Lee Street and planned to give her a ride to Decatur.

The man said he got out of his '97 Ford Expedition on Sandtown road in Marietta and left the female in the car while he went inside a liquor store.

When he returned from the liquor store, both the woman and the care were gone.

Another officer spotted the 20-year-old woman driving the Ford Expedition near a gas station at Hill Street and Memorial Drive.

The first officer, who had spoken with the man, arrived at the gas station.

The woman promptly admitted that she had taken the man's car.

The first officer asked her why she took the man's car.

The woman said that the man wanted to have sexual relations with her, and she didn't want to have sex with him, so she took his car and drove home.

She was charged with auto theft.

the first officer called the man to tell him that the woman and his car had been located. The man wasn't home, so the officer left a message with his girlfriend.

A 20-year-old woman called police and said that she thought someone had been entering her apartment on Greensferry Street. On previous occasions, the woman has noticed items that have been moved around or furniture that has been tipped over. But on this occasion, the woman said, she believes she found a "miscarriage" on her floor. However, she had cleaned up and removed the debris before police arrived.

A female impersonator wearing a dress and high heels flagged down an undercover male officer at the intersection of Penn Avenue and 3rd Street.

The female impersonator approached the officer's unmarked car, hopped in and started a conversation. During the chat, the impersonator "asked how I would like 'a good blowjob' as he reached over with his left hand and began to fondle my genitals," the officer wrote in his report.

The officer, who hadn't yet identified himself, started driving toward an arrest location. The impersonator "expressed desire for compensation in return for the 'blowjob' however, he was hesitant to be specific because he was concerned I was a police officer."

The female impersonator was arrested for solicitation of sodomy.

An officer noticed a 28-year-old man, with two arm tattoos, sitting a the five Points MARTA station. A large plastic container was in front of the man.

The officer looked inside the container and noticed it was full of videocassettes of films.

"One caught my eye, MI2. This movie is still in the theater," the officer noted in his report. He was referring to Mission: Impossible 2

The officer left the MARTA station and called a field representative with the Motion Picture Association of America. The field rep told the officer he had a weak case.

The officer returned to the MARTA station and asked the man if he would like to give up his illegal tapes so that they could be destroyed.

The man said yes and signed a form that OK'd the destruction of his videotapes. The man was not arrested.

A 31-year-old man left his apartment on Hollywood Road. When he returned two days later at 2:45 a.m., he discovered that someone had stolen his VCR, three of his television sets and his Pioneer stereo set. The man said the only person who had access to his bedroom was his 26-year-old live-in boyfriend. The 31-year-old said his boyfriend was upset with him because he wanted him to either get a job or move out.

A 28-year-old woman said she was in the drive-thru lane at Zesto's on Ponce de Leon Avenue. The doors of her '94 Jeep Wrangler were unlocked. She said a man in tennis shoes and shorts opened her car door, took her purse, and then jumped the fence behind Zesto's.

N'hood
On Sports
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Non compos mentis: In April, doctors at Washington, D.C.'s St. Elizabeths Hospital said Tomar Cooper Locker, 25, was no longer mentally ill and should be unconditionally released. Just two months earlier, Locker had been found not guilty by reason of insanity (post-traumatic stress) in the murder of boxer Reuben Bell, whom Locker had fatally shot because he thought Bell had killed Locker's girlfriend. Though Locker thus escaped penalty for murder and the wounding of five bystanders, he was sentenced to 20 to 60 months for gun-possession (but since he was jailed pre-trial for 26 months, a judge at press time was considering whether to release Locker immediately).

Hunters find turkey tryst alluring: The hottest-selling item this spring for turkey hunters has been Delta Industries' male decoy that fits on top of its traditional hen decoy to give gobblers the illusion that a stranger is having his way with one of the gobbler's harem. According to a hunters' store manager in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (reported in the Cedar Rapids Gazette), the appeal to territorial jealousy is especially effective with older gobblers too wise to fall for hunters' simple mating-call lures.

Potential caretakers of democracy: Among this year's political candidates: For governor of West Virginia: Joseph Oliverio, who admitted in February that he's had 60 speeding tickets and been arrested 150 times. For Anderson County, Tenn., property assessor: Bobby E. Jones, who served time for 37 counts of making false statements to the federal government. For a seat in the Missouri General Assembly: Richard Tolbert, who recently filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy for the seventh time in three years. For Scottsdale, Ariz., City Council: Gary Tredway, on the lam for 30 years after a conviction for throwing a firecracker at firefighters during a student antiwar demonstration.

Frontiers of science: Dutch researchers, writing in a December issue of British Medical Journal, reported their findings on observing couples engaged in sexual intercourse while inside MRI machines (modified so the couple would fit inside), for example, that during missionary-position sex, the penis is not straight but actually takes the shape of a boomerang.

Recent language/brain scramblings: Wendy Hasnip, 47, told BBC Television in December that a minor stroke had given her the rare Foreign Accent Syndrome (in her case, a French accent, though she knows no words in French). Also in December, the Moscow (Russia) Times featured Willi Melnikov, 37, brain-injured by a landmine in the Soviet-Afghanistan war, who emerged from the hospital with an activated (previously dormant) facility for languages and has since become fluent in dozens and conversant in 93.

How they drive the females batty: Researchers from Boston University and Cornell, writing in a December journal article, said they have identified the behavior that the male bat uses to elicit mates for procreation (the equivalent, said a Science News writer, of a man's slapping on aftershave). At about the same time every afternoon for a half-hour, male bats transfer urine to sacs in their wings by alternately licking the penis and the sac. Later, the bat hovers in front of females and flutters his wings to spread what one researcher called the "very sweet and spicy" scent.

Fetus of relative found in male farmer: China's Xinhua News Agency reported in March that the 13-pound cyst removed from a 28-year-old farmer in the northern province of Shaanxi actually contained the ossified fetus of his identical twin brother. Physicians at Hanzhong Medical School and Xi'an University of Medical Science said the fetus had grown for a while after the farmer's birth, then stopped, with the result that it had hair, skin, and teeth similar to an adult's but other features that resembled a fetus'.

Jumbo paintings sell at Christie's: In March, Christie's Auction House of New York City unloaded all of the 60 paintings created by artists that happen also to be elephants, including Sao (a former log-hauler in Thailand's timber industry), whose work was likened by Yale art historian Mia Fineman to work of Paul Gauguin for its "broad, gentle, curvy brush strokes" and "a depth and maturity." Fineman said she is writing a book on the three distinct regional styles of Thai elephant art.

Artful dodger: Garbage artist Tom Deininger's one-person show opened at the Newport (R.I.) Art Museum in January, consisting of his sculptures made of discarded trash, including packaging, toys, clothes and computer parts. Deininger says fans feed him tips on particularly cool Dumpsters to raid and told the Providence Journal that he was working on a self-portrait made of cardboard boxes, with cheeks made of wads of Pokemon wrappers, teeth of Styrofoam, and a toy soldier forming a nostril.

Seeking artistic bovine balance: According to an April San Francisco Chronicle feature, a painting by local artist Catherine Anderson had been accepted for hanging, then rejected, by the fancy Lodge at Sonoma resort set to open later this year. Anderson specializes in paintings of cows, but the Lodge declined her first piece because the cows in the field included too many posteriors, and also declined a substitute because one cow was in what a Lodge representative allegedly said was a "provocative position."

In their own words: Madera, Calif., magazine publisher Kathy Masera, to a journalist investigating reports in May that Masera's office building's ventilation system was hosting several types of noxious molds, striking 26 of her 30 employees ill: "There isn't anything more frightening than sitting in a meeting and three people suddenly have blood running from their noses."

Update: A year ago, News of the Weird reported on Reading (England) University professor Kevin Warwick's forearm implant of a transponder to allow his whereabouts to be monitored remotely. Warwick's next implant, according to an April 2000 Cox News Service report, will give him the same "sonar" system that bats and porpoises use for navigation by sending signals from the air to a microchip, which will be "tapped into" a nerve bundle that runs from Warwick's arm to his brain. Warwick believes he can train himself to detect what's in front of him even if his eyes are closed.

Least competent criminals: Edward Hall, 50, was arrested in March and charged with thefts of trailers from a Home Depot in Albuquerque. According to police, Hall took a trailer from the store's lot early in the morning, hitched it to his truck, and drove it a few miles until it came loose and crashed. He returned to the store, hitched up another, and drove it on the same route, but it, too, came loose and crashed at the site of the first crash. He returned, hitched up a third trailer, and drove it on the same route. A police officer had stopped at the previous crash site to investigate, and as Hall drove by, he accidentally bumped the squad car, provoking the officer to chase Hall down, after which he discovered the thefts.

Also, in the Last Month ... : A lawsuit by a brother and sister, both schoolteachers, to defy the government and keep their mother's corpse permanently at home, in a glass-topped freezer, was rejected (Bordeaux, France). Japanese toymaker Bandai Corp., to help grow the market for its products, announced it would pay employees to have children, at $10,000 per child after their second. A theater-goer filed a lawsuit against the comic actor Dame Edna after one of the gladioli she throws to the audience at the end of her show poked him in the eye (Melbourne, Australia). A NATO elite training force of 116 Italian infantrymen landed at Kristianstad, Sweden (not a NATO country), instead of the assigned Kristiansand, Norway.

N'hood
A beautiful beast
Phone Number not listed.
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How is it that what is at first sight ugly often becomes more interesting, even lovable, than the conventionally beautiful?

During the last three weeks I have been examining the subject of the beautiful as a lost necessity of psychological life. I have intentionally avoided defining the beautiful, because that invites immediate debate about formal aesthetics, decoration, criticism and so forth.

When James Hillman speaks of the beautiful, he always makes reference to the etymological roots of the word "aesthetic." It refers to a Greek word meaning a "breathing in" of the world — the gasp we experience before certain sights. In this way, beauty is related more to what inspires awe than to what is prettily scenic.

Mythology and fairy tales are full of the confusions of the beautiful and the ugly. These confusions are sometimes expressed through "animal bridegroom" stories in which a (usually ugly) beast attempts to seduce a beauty. Most of these have been sanitized over the centuries as myth has been reduced to bedtime storytelling. For example, the original "Little Red Riding Hood" is a very adult story about a wolf's effort to seduce an underage girl into his bed by appealing to her childish wish to cuddle with her grandmother. Between childhood and adulthood, not fully sexual, she doesn't recognize him as a wolf until he asks her to urinate in the bed.

Although you certainly won't see that in the Disney version, movies have probably kept mythology alive in our time.

Frank Miller, Ph.D., is the author of four books on film, including Censored Hollywood: Sex, Sin & Violence on Screen. Miller, a participant in the June 16-18 symposium and workshop on "Beauty: The Soul's Obsession" (404-929-9030), is an adjunct faculty member in the Communications Department at Georgia State University. We recently chatted.

CB: I viewed Jean Cocteau's 1946 film Beauty and the Beast for this workshop. I think you remarked that you find the ending, when the beast transforms into the prince, unsatisfying. I am thinking of Garbo's comment when she saw the film: "Give me back my beautiful beast."

FM:It's a complete letdown! The prince is no longer the beautifully divine beast. They fly off into the heavens and it's all very dramatic and pretty, but it's a very big disappointment. We've spent the entire film, like Beauty herself, becoming enthralled with the Beast and then he's killed.

What in the world did Cocteau have in mind?

As a surrealist, of course, he was influenced by Freud and I'm guessing he psychoanalyzed the story. Remember that Beauty, before meeting the Beast, has been pursued by a kind of sexual predator whom she rejected. For her, according to the psychoanalytical interpretation, engaging in sex is to engage with a monster. But when she kisses the dying beast, it signifies her readiness for a sexual relationship. That's why the prince has the features of the earlier sexual predator. He's been transformed in Beauty's imagination from a threatening predator to a romanticized love object.

Well, to me this is an example of the way psychology, and the romantic movement out of which it arose, proposes socially acceptable solutions that lack resonance. Cocteau drew his inspiration from a 1756 rendition of the tale in a magazine for "young misses." But the actual original was very different in an important respect: the Beast was not a sympathetic character before his transformation, yet Beauty was drawn to him. One of the transformations in our own consciousness that occurred with the advent of romanticism was that childhood and nature became states of innocence. We feel that what is beastly, grotesque, must have a sublimated quality of innocence, of goodness, to explain our attraction.

I think I see what you mean. The truth may be that you just can't have the beautiful without the grotesque — that, scarily, the grotesque may be appealing on its own terms.

Right. In Cocteau's telling of the story, the beast is on his way to becoming a god. The ending is about transcendence of the ugly, the beastly, and yet, like Garbo, we are left with nostalgia for the sublimely grotesque.

Of course, mythology is full of the opposite story too — Jupiter transformed himself into an animal in order to have sex with beautiful women. So there is an acknowledgement, historically, of the seductive quality of the beast. The god himself is the beast, as is Dr. Frankenstein, not the monster.

This fairy tale is actually a retelling of the old myth of Cupid and Psyche. Even in that myth, what is originally represented as a winged serpent turns out to be the beautiful god of love. I know there is something archetypal in the idea that beauty and goodness are one. But it's also true that Venus, the goddess of love, torments Psyche out of jealousy of her beauty. So the myth has real complexity.

Which I think is present in much of Cocteau's film but is abandoned in the end. It is certainly completely abandoned in the recent awful Disney version of the story.

Isn't it interesting that the more psychologically sophisticated we supposedly become, the less we seem to value life for its mystery and complexity? What does the transformed Beast say? He became that awful beast because his parents lost their belief in magic. A good parent makes you a magical charming prince — not a divine beast! Nonsense!

Cliff Bostock, M.A., is a doctoral candidate in depth psychology in private practice. Contact him at 404-525-4774 or at his website, www.soulworks.net.

N'hood
Ebony and ivory
Phone Number not listed.
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Pianist Danilo Perez's performance at Spivey Hall June 3 yielded intensely dramatic music. Coming off a tour that tightened his trio to the nth, Perez and company covered terrain that surprised even them. "I assure you, we've never played that song that way before!" grinned a visibly tired Perez whose energetic piano belied his claim of no sleep. Using musical landmarks unbeknownst to the listening audience, the numerous rhythmic and harmonic variations employed within a single tune typified the progress of jazz music within the past decade.

Pianist Jessica Williams plays Spivey June 24 with a different agenda altogether. Unlike Perez — who depends on his trio's familiarity for cohesion of difficult original material — Williams visits Atlanta solo, using exemplary local talent (bassist Neal Starkey and drummer Rob Rushing) instead of a steady working band. Quite obviously, Williams will be playing a repertoire based on standards, but her quantitative choice of tunes should be well into the hundreds as she, Starkey and Rushing have broad knowledge in this realm. Williams is unquestionably one of jazz's best-kept secrets. Her two-fisted style, impeccable time, and left hand most other pianists would die for find Williams tackling standards with heated aggression. Talk about chops! A prime example of a typically notey Williams foray comes via her handling of Jerome Kern's "Why Do I Love You?" on the 1992 release, Jessica Williams at Maybeck (Concord). Albeit using a style emanating from the established school of bebop, technically and musically Williams' approach is astounding.

German saxophonist Peter Brotzmann fronts the Chicago Tentet + 2 at the Variety Playhouse June 28 in what may well be the Atlanta concert of the year for fans of freely improvised music. Among the luminaries performing are Ken Vandermark (reeds), a recent recipient of the MacArthur grant (aka "genius award"), stalwart multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee (trumpet/reeds), and influential bassist William Parker. This large ensemble contains la créme de la créme, most of whom are indeed based in Chicago — a city that duly supports the efforts of experimental music. Brotzmann's CD, Octet-Tentet (Okkadisk), made many a critics' "best of" list for 1998-1999.

When it comes to bebop, the question still stands, "Whose style developed first: Bird's or Sonny Stitt's?" When it comes to smooth jazz, one question remains a mystery, "Whose hair came first: Kenny G's or Boney James'?" When saxophonist James takes the stage with equally popular trumpeter Rick Braun at Chastain Park June 23rd, the results will be thoroughly titillating — certainly a means by which to entice the same audience into the Variety to hear Brotzmann five evenings later. See you there.

Put Out: Sylvain Luc & Bireli Lagrene, Duet (Dreyfus) — Duet pairings seem most interesting with two complementary yet contrasting styles. But in the case of two of Europe's finest guitarists, an exception is justifiably in order. Right down to the similarly stylized vibrato, both Luc and Lagrene display a consistent, discernible gypsy flare. Django Reinhardt would be proud. Both are startling technicians who take considerable harmonic and melodic risks while in mid-flight, even when covering simple pop tunes such as Lauper's "Time After Time" and Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely." In fact, no song in this set was written with complexity in mind, but the Luc-Lagrene jams over and around them are heavy-duty. This CD gives a lot more bang for the buck than one would consider when checking song titles. "Stompin' at the Savoy," and the sublime and melancholy ballad, "La Ballade Irandaise," are highlights. This is tasteful, extremely well played music.

Incoming/Upcoming: Churchill Grounds presents Loston Harris June 16-17. Smith's Olde Bar hosts the Dirty Dozen Brass Band June 20-22. Spivey Hall presents pianists Jessica Williams June 24, Geri Allen July 29 and Kenny Barron August 19. The Robert Ferst Center hosts Dave Koz June 16, Fattburger with Special EFX July 17, Gato Barbieri Aug. 4, Earl Klugh Sept. 9, Keiko Matsui Oct. 10, Patti Austin Nov. 11, Dave Koz's Christmas Show with Rick Braun, Peter White & Brenda Russell Dec. 9. This summer's Classic Chastain series (www.atlantasymphony.org/chastain/) features Ruth Brown with Duke Robillard & Herb Ellis July 5; Boney James & Rick Braun June 23; Jazz Explosion with Will Downing, Gerald Albright & Chante Moore July 12; Tony Bennett & Diana Krall Aug. 12; Michael Feinstein & Linda Eder July 8; John Lee Hooker June 24; BB King & Buddy Guy Aug. 19; Spyro Gyra July 14; the Brian Setzer Orchestra July 19; Natalie & Freddy Cole July 28; Eddie Palmieri Aug. 9; Manhattan Transfer Aug. 11; and the Rippingtons Aug. 23. The ASO presents trumpeter Doc Severinson Oct. 27-28, and guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli Dec. 21-22 (www.atlantasymphony.org).

Inside Info: A benefit concert for the International Women's House — a shelter for battered refugee women and their children — features the Tom Woods Quintet at the Unitarian Congregation of Atlanta June 25 from 2:30-4 p.m. (404-634-5134). In a ceremony held prior to Herbie Hancock's performance at the 23rd annual Atlanta Jazz Festival, the Atlanta International Jazz Society presented the pianist with their Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the art form of jazz. Atlanta-based Jam Master Records' premier fall release will feature trumpeter Eddie Davis. A long-awaited four-CD set of Louis Armstrong: The Complete Hot Five & Seven Recordings (Columbia) is due out in mid-August.

Speak Out: "Even if apocryphal, Louis Armstrong's oft-quoted remark to Jack Teagarden: 'You an ofay, I'm a spade. Let's blow!' enjoys a rich contextual resonance. The music was the thing. If it worked, the rest — including the races of the players — hardly mattered." — Richard M. Sudhalter (New York Times Jan. 3, 1999)

Out There: Clubs/Restaurants/Venues: Spivey Hall (770-961-3683); Variety Playhouse (404-521-1786); Chastain (404-733-4800); Churchill Grounds (404-876-3030); Smith's Olde Bar (404-875-1522); Robert Ferst Center (404-894-9600); Symphony Hall (404-733-5000).

In Here: Your direct line to this column by e-mail: rozzi1625@aol.com — or voice mail: 404-296-1503. Venues, colleges, radio stations, musicians and readers are encouraged to submit listings, information and perspectives.

N'hood
Empire State building
Phone Number not listed.
Website not listed.
On a quiet street in Athens, legendary for famous residents and parties in decades past, sits a nondescript house. Upstairs, the band Macha plot their latest sonic explorations. And around back is another doorway to sound experimentation, where the three members of Empire State have built their own den of creativity. The refurbished home/studio that the trio shares is literally filled with possibilities.

Musical instruments of every type and vintage lie everywhere you look: Roto-chimes, a pie-pan mounted on a microphone stand, a silver tree of spinning drum rotors on a light box and a cymbal-topped "China-man" percussive instrument sit peacefully among handmade guitars, basses, cellos and several keyboards, drum sets, tape recorders and assorted parts from all of the above. Paintings are scattered around as well, and books on everything from Plato to electric guitars line the walls.

Standing amidst it all, Empire State's Jay Nackashi holds a scrap of wood. "I found this in a house that I was rebuilding. It originally said 'Empire State Chemicals' or something, but I thought 'Empire State' was such a great name. I wrote it down and tossed the wood. Then, like a year and a half later, after we already had our band going, this guy comes over and weed-whacks the yard. I went out to pay him and I was standing there on a piece of wood that had been uncovered from under all the grass, and it was this same piece of wood!"

Adds his brother and bandmate Tim Nackashi, "The Empire State itself is the melting pot and we use so many different ideas and instruments, we just thought it was perfect."

Born in Atlanta and raised in Gainesville, Fla., the Nackashis grew up playing music and started writing songs in high school. While still in Florida, the brothers had a band called Beekeeper, which featured Joshua McKay, now living upstairs along with fellow Macha men. But soon, the members of Beekeeper found Gainesville stagnant and headed for Athens.

"We came to Athens for a new life, musically," Jay says. "There's so many more options in Athens for musicians than in Gainesville. We knew that just from visiting here. Just the way Athens is, with all the warehouses and basements and bands, it's much more inspiring."

Beekeeper played a handful of shows, but soon disbanded due to differing interests. "Our mindsets were — and still are — just different than most bands," Jay explains. "We appreciated all the other bands, but from a distance. We never became a part of any sort of scene or clique."

Parting ways with McKay, who formed Macha with his brother Mischo, the Nackashis embarked on their own experimental outfit. Within a year, two very distinct projects were underway: the Eastern-inspired art rock of Macha and the everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink stew of Empire State. Even as the Nackashis have settled into Athens with Empire State, though, the group has remained outsiders.

"Maybe it's because we have a side to us that uses samples and beats, plus we have this homemade thing going, too," Tim says. "We tend to think it sets us apart from everybody. We feel pretty unique everywhere, not just around here."

As much as playing together, the members of Empire State bond through a shared interest in building. In addition to working on houses, Jay also builds and sells handmade guitars and basses. While working on a house, Jay met Alex McManus and asked the Nebraska native to join him and his brother in Empire State. "We all love going to thrift stores and finding things to rebuild," says McManus, who also plays in the Nashville-based Lambchop. "Also going to junkyards to recycle and, um, liberate things."

Together, the three have invented a set of new instruments with which to play the Nackashis' compositions. For instance, the Horn Box. "I had this idea to use car horns," says McManus of the gizmo, a wooden box with doorbell buttons to press for various pitches, plus a chrome nameplate on the front. "We figured out that most car horns are in the key of G, but they are all slightly different sounds." Pointing out the differences between Yugo and Cadillac horns, Tim notes, "Cadillac horns rock."

The group's Rube Goldberg set-up comes alive when the band begins to play. Cinematic, pastoral and edgy at once, Empire State's music is like an updated Love Tractor with elements of modern samples and abstract vocals, mixed with the clang of a primitive makeshift orchestra. In a more traditional rock format, Empire State also backs Eric Bachmann, formerly of Archers of Loaf, in Crooked Fingers.

"We're always coming up with new things or pulling out different ideas and spontaneous changes," says Jay. "There are so many things that aren't 'normal' going on, yet there's still a core of pop and rock song structure that we build on. There's enough built-in freedom in this band for every song to be allowed to be its own thing."

That freedom, however, didn't extend itself to physical mobility when it came time to record the group's self-titled debut CD, released earlier this year on Athens' label Warm. Due to the complex nature of Empire State's set-up, Jay says, "We can't just go in and record in a regular studio very well. Here, it's ready when we are. The ideas come pretty quickly with us, so it's great to be able to act on the first thing that hits us."

To enable the live show, some modifications are required as well. That sometimes means playing along with samples of themselves, as they do on the song "Dog-Faced-Boy," which appears on the CD. "We sort of deconstruct it and learn it again," McManus says.

But samples aside, the band's visual impact during live shows comes seeing all the strange-looking instruments displayed onstage. "The biggest compliment we've gotten on that has been in L.A.," McManus says. "After we played, a guy came up and said, 'You've got all this shit on stage and you actually composed for it.' Its not like we're banging on tire rims or something, but we kind of are."

"But even with all the instruments involved," says Tim, "we still respect a strict simplicity in composition. It's very easy to get carried away and just bang away for the sake of being experimental."

Empire State play the Echo Lounge at 11 p.m. on Sat., June 17, during the ChangeMusic Atlanta conference. For more information, call 404-681-3600.

N'hood
Cat scratch fever
Phone Number not listed.
Website not listed.
"Let them eat pussy." Aaaah, the peasants never had it so good.

Mix some deep fried country punk rock, depravity, thundering Chevy engines, copious amounts of alcohol with a sense of humor and you've got an old-fashioned trailer park heart attack served with a smile. Better known as the Atlanta-based trash rockers Nashville Pussy, this volatile mixture of Americana's seedy side is whetting the appropriate lips and appetites of fans everywhere.

"It's a great message for the kids," says lead guitarist Ruyter Suys [pronounced rider sighs] of the crotch-themed mantra that was the title of their debut album.

What guy wouldn't be attracted to that call to arms? "And what girl wouldn't?" she adds. "And they say we don't have a message."

Wrapped in nothing but a pillow, Suys handles her 1 p.m. wake-up call with the kind of verve that could only come following an all-night excursion at the 24-hour bowling alley. She sends her husband, NP singer Blaine Cartwright — whom she calls "a one-night-stand gone wrong" — toddling off so she can wax un-philosophic on the finer points of being in a band named after an infamous Ted Nugent soundbite.

Originally operating as Hell's Half Acre, as an homage to the location of the first Kentucky Fried Chicken stand, the various members of Nashville Pussy fled their various home states to collect on fly-paper in January 1996. "We got together in a dry county in Kentucky and would play for like three or four days, record stuff, deep fry hamburgers and watch the Simpsons," Ruyter sighs. "We'd drive to the Wal-Mart for entertainment. There was no choice but to rock."

Once they realized that Hell's Half Acre was not an epiphany unique to them, the moniker Nashville Pussy emerged from the bleary-eyed skull of Cartwright. "It was like we'd come to a moment of clarity when Blaine came into the room," Suys recalls. "We'd been up really late. He said, 'How about Nashville Pussy?' We all just cracked up. It's perfect. And for some reason, with a goofy name like that, we had to become a bit more serious about what we were doing. You've got to back that shit up."

Easier said than done. Very little about Nashville Pussy can be taken too seriously. Songs like the 1999 Grammy nominated(!) "Fried Chicken and Coffee" (from their first CD Let Them Eat Pussy) to tracks such as "Blowjob From a Rattlesnake", "Piece of Ass" and "Struttin' Cock" from their brand-new High as Hell leave little doubt as to what this band is about.

One could make the argument that Nashville Pussy is a garage band gone wrong. When stroked, this pussy purrs in garbled strains that sound mainly like Bon Scott-era AC/DC and early Kiss poured into a dirty Deep South fryer. "If you can hear those things in there, good for you" Suys says. "Congratulations. On our first record, everybody was like 'it's AC/DC meets Skynyrd.' Are you out of your mind? This is like total punk rock. It's as ballistic as it gets.

"[High as Hell] sounds more like what people said our first album sounds like. There's the big heavy riffs and the Southern twang and there's definite Kiss references in there. Pretty much everything we listen to is circa 1970 to 1977. We don't listen to much past that decade."

Nor do they live much past it. Suys is only one-half of the female contingent living in the depraved white trash version of a "Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry" double feature. Corey Parks, a 6-foot 3-inch fire-breathing bombshell is more than enough to grab attention on her own. Put together with Suys, Cartwright and drummer Jeremy Thompson, Parks completes the frame.

Suys is merely the lightning rod. Named by "hippie Dutch parents" (yes, it's real), Suys seemed destined for this band. "They didn't realize half the sexual connotations that they were putting me through," she says. Her easygoing demeanor flips from informative to funny, to charming and sexual all in a single breathy, inflection-filled sentence. Through her, it's easy to tell this band is having lots of fun.

Playing live is no different. Exaggerated stories of sexual acts between the members on stage have become legendary. "They're all true," Suys admits coquettishly. "We might have used to do that, kinda, sometimes, occasionally. It's starting to take off Kiss-like stories, like, 'It's a cow tongue man.' It's just fucking rock. It's real basic. Our stage show fits in a bucket. Corey breathes fire. That's her big thing. Other than that, half the shit goes on in people's minds and in the audience."

With all but Parks currently living in Atlanta, it's time to meet your rowdy neighbors. "We're not from here," Ruyter says. "But we love Atlanta and we do believe that Atlanta likes us too. It's a cool town."

Nashville Pussy opens for Motorhead at the Tabernacle on Sun., June 18. Tickets are $21, available through Ticketmaster. For more information, call 404-659-9022.

N'hood
The lucky ones
Phone Number not listed.
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Envisioning store racks filled only with albums written, recorded and marketed by people who truly love music is nearly impossible. Imagining a world in which the music industry is a little less dominated by corporate conglomerates isn't. In fact, it's something Aimee Mann has thought long and hard about since she spent the better part of the '90s involved with highly publicized record company wranglings.

Whether it was Epic, Imago, Geffen or Interscope, Mann had some bad luck with labels. She was pushed, pulled, patronized — but never dropped. And never forgotten. It seems each time Mann finished an album, her label dissolved, merged or just plain screwed up. When her material was actually released, it consistently improved and inspired (critics salivated over 1996's I'm With Stupid, especially), but quality and acclaim weren't enough for her record company. For nearly a decade, Mann fought Goliath with small stones, sacrificing years of marketability to eventually buy back her freedom and release her music on her own label, SuperEgo Records.

Mann says if she'd given in to the hit-factory mentality of her former labels and pushy A&R types, she might've lost her musical vision. "Record companies' choice of bands have a real fail-safe vibe," she says. "With frat-boy heavy metal kinds of bands, A&R guys feel like they can't lose. I don't want to be in a community of bands like that. Our response to what's happening in the mainstream is to remove ourselves from it."

Recently, she and her husband and fellow singer/songwriter Michael Penn, along with her manager (and former 'Til Tuesday bandmate) Michael Hausman, formed United Musicians, a collective that will provide marketing, promotion and publicity services for artists, while allowing them to keep ownership of their music. Her Bachelor No.2 (purchased from Interscope in 1999) has just been released on a wide scale, on the heels of an Oscar nomination for her sound track to the Paul Thomas Anderson film Magnolia.

Now she and Penn, who has plans to buy his fourth solo album MP4 back from Epic, are on the road together for the next few months, spreading the gospel of finely-crafted pop music and D.I.Y. record-making. On the phone from their home in Los Angeles, the two joke about sharing hotel bathrooms, carpooling in vans and playing theaters across America together.

Penn describes their summer jaunt as an old-fashioned (albeit with less burlesque) "acoustic vaudeville" show, complete with a stand-up comedian who serves as the show's emcee. "The shows we've been doing are an outgrowth of shows we'd done at [the club] Largo in L.A. There was a circle of comedians we'd been friendly with. We both felt inept at the between-song entertainer/banter stuff, so we thought, 'Why don't we employ professionals in that role.' It entertains us and guarantees entertainment for the audience. It's like ginger or sorbet between meals or courses."

If comedy at an Aimee Mann show seems a bit of a stretch for those who've got her pegged as just another bitter songwriter, they're missing the subtlety of the clever cadences to be found on Bachelor No.2: "Nothing is good enough for people like you/Who have to have someone take the fall/And something to sabotage, determined to lose it all/Ladies and gentlemen, here's Exhibit A/Didn't I try again, and didn't the effort pay?/Wouldn't a smarter man simply walk away?" ("Nothing is Good Enough").

The record is far removed, and intentionally so, from the bubblegum boy bands and rap/metal hybrids that clutter the airwaves these days. Along Mann's continuum of musical growth, the album isn't as much a landmark as it is a personal milestone. As with Stupid, Whatever and all three of her underrated 'Til Tuesday albums, Mann again succeeds in her pursuit of literate, inherently tuneful anecdotes. She often sings about regret, but there's real joy in the rhymes and melodies of "Ghost World" and "Red Vines." On a certain level, her knack for poetic couplets even rivals Smokey Robinson's consummate timing.

While Mann and Penn don't want to be lumped together as a single unit musically, the similarities in their rhymes, lush-yet-organic production values, intelligent lyrics, intricate arrangements, classic instrumentation and melodies is obvious. And though the couple says their 1998 marriage hasn't changed their songwriting habits, Mann admits to being a Penn fan since the days of his initial 1989 hit, "No Myth." "Michael's songwriting influenced me before I met him. I don't know if I've influenced him," she laughs.

"I'm a big fan of Aimee's, too," Penn laughs in response. "We've both been on a specific track, for a while," he says. "It's evident we have similar tastes."

Penn, who claims his favorite Beatle is "the combination of Paul McCartney and [producer] George Martin," filled MP4 with traditional power pop that has wry twists and turns, both lyrically and melodically. It's the kind of record that goes unnoticed in the industry, perhaps because it's a little too close to perfect. Penn disagrees, claiming the record was mixed in a "guerrilla-like" fashion due to budget constraints.

There seems to be healthy competition between Mann and Penn, though Mann's profile has heightened since she performed her Oscar-nominated song "Save Me" at the Academy Awards show in March. The performance itself "wasn't that nerve-racking for me," Mann explains. "It's run with military precision and there were many rehearsals beforehand. Everybody knew what to do." Mann says she was backstage, just standing on the spot they told her to occupy and waiting for that awkward camera shot, when they announced the winner.

"Besides," she says matter-of-factly as Penn laughs along with her, "I pretty much knew Phil Collins would win."

It's clear from the conversation that Aimee Mann and Michael Penn share more than a fierce independent streak and a taste for classic pop music. Sharing the road for a summer is about as close as two musicians can get.

"It's helpful to just have a real friend along with you," Mann says. "And," Penn concurs, "someone to share your amazement at just how devoid of glamour it all really is."

Acoustic Vaudeville with Aimee Mann and Michael Penn comes to the Variety Playhouse on Sat., June 17, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $22.50 (free entry for a limited number of ChangeMusic badge holders). For more information, call 404-521-1786.

N'hood
Wednesday 14

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Wednesday 14

RUBY MANGO, LIVING WATER — Don't let the odd names fool you. Ruby Mango is a group featuring the fine vocals of local scene survivor Gerard McHugh, and Living Water is a showcase for the beautiful harmonies of noted Atlanta duo Joyce and Jacque. Eddie's Attic (Nicoll)

SASHA — Atlanta's favorite DJ import, Sasha returns to make up for his Halloween no-show. He'll be spinning a slightly truncated set (only four-plus hours) due to being separated from his partner-in-arms John Digweed (coming to the Riviera next week) because of "an important last-minute studio situation." Still, along with Kolia and 20 Hz Cartel, expect Sasha to play all those white labels you'd give your right nut for. The Chamber (Ware)

STIMULANTS, FABULOUS LOUNGE PUNKS — The Stimmies bring their edgy, over-the-top grrrl punk sound to the Star Bar for a Wednesdays in June residency. Tonight they get some very appropriate support from the Lounge Punks, who — true to their name — use the irreverence of punk rock to ridicule the absurdities and poseur-ism of lounge music. Star Bar (Nicoll)


Thursday 15

TYWANNA JO BASKETTE — Regional music publication Southeast Performer presents its first showcase, featuring local acts Sonya Vetra, Bully and the Moto-Litas. Headlining is Nashville singer Tywanna Jo Baskette, a Nashville celebrity of sorts who sings bizarre gothic nursery rhymes in a little girl voice, often emphasizing her naivete and atypical family history. Though she may be a true eccentric, what bothers me is that she may be using it to her advantage and overdoing it in the process. Plus her cousins killed Stringbean, and that really makes me sore. Star Bar (Kelly)

STEVE FORBERT & THE ROUGH SQUIRRELS, DAVID RYAN HARRIS — After making a grand entrance onto the music scene with "Romeo's Tune" back in the late '70s, Forbert sort of faded into cult status. He's able to make a living without compromising his integrity, and continues to put out thoughtful and melodic music; sometimes folky, sometimes rocking, always interesting. Forbert is touring behind a truly superb new album, Evergreen, and he comes to town backed by a full band, the Rough Squirrels. Soulful guitar wizard David Ryan Harris opens with a solo acoustic set at 8 p.m. Eddie's Attic (Kelly/Nicoll)

NEIL HALSTEAD — The ex-Slowdive and current Mojave 3 songwriter makes a rare stateside solo appearance. Over the years Halstead has demonstrated a knack for creating gorgeously narcotic pop songs. His most recent batch, found on the new Mojave 3 disc Excuses for Travelers, ranks among his best yet. Delivered in an appealing little-boy-lost whisper, Halstead's songs emanate a rich, arid beauty that does justice to his band's name. Also on the bill are the Good Math and Alison Kendra Hunt. For information, call 404-622-3355. First Existentialist Congregation/470 Candler Park Drive (Robertson)

MENDOZA LINE, SUPER XX MAN — While Super XX Man Scott Garred showcased a peppy fascination for melancholy with indie rockers Silver Scooter, and Mendoza Line moved their base of operations from Athens to New York, both bands' newest albums, Vol. IV and We're All in This Alone, respectively, have arrived safely back down home. Garred love for Neil Young comes out in his sweetly sulky, fragile finger picking and Mendoza Line shares the same earnest polish, but with a more intentionally poppy, jangly production. Bound to be the best night of contemplative slide guitar and weeping pedal steel in Atlanta until the Silver Jews jam with Bright Eyes. The Earl (Ware)

SOMETHING 5 — As generic as the name implies. Slick, uninspired hard rock that sounds so five minutes ago, it's difficult to imagine why they even bothered. For errant Silverchair fans only. Smith's Olde Bar (Robertson)

WEAKLAZYLIAR — A tour sponsored by a software application — how analog. Those folks at MP3.com are sponsoring this, featuring several acts, the best of which are local favorites, Weaklazyliar. Dishing out a savvy blend of folk-pop ballads and crunchy rock, the band distinguishes itself with energetic performances and Gerlinda Grimes' impassioned vocals. The bill also includes Atlanta duo Billy Pilgrim and new Vox recording artist Emily Richards. Echo Lounge (Robertson)


Friday 16

JOSH JOPLIN BAND, BRYAN KELLEY — Joplin and associates play three consecutive nights at Smith's as part of Club.MP3.com's Summer Tour. Their third album, Useful Music, reveals a slightly more somber side, with elegantly staid melodies, stately piano and Joplin's Stipe-ian vocals highlighting a modern folk-rock approach. On stage, the band's energy has earned them a well-deserved live reputation. Opening act Bryan Kelly used to hang with Pearl Jam, but his mannered folk-rock betrays no trace of that band's world-weary heaviness. Attracting attention with some fortuitous song placement (is "Dawson's Creek" the new MTV or what?), Kelly's debut Charming the Gods is an accomplished slice of adult alternative pop. Smith's Olde Bar (Robertson) [page]

MUSES GARDIN — This local chamber group, which uses period instruments to recreate the sound of the baroque and renaissance eras, performs its final concert before key members Patricia Nordstrom (viola da gamba) and Lyle Nordstrom (lutes, theorbo, baroque guitar) relocate to Texas. Show time is 8 p.m. Borders Books & Music/Dunwoody (Sarig)

NIGHT RANGER — Remember that pivotal scene in Boogie Nights where the whacked-out drug dealer air-guitars to the strains of "Sister Christian?" Well, it speaks volumes about that (thankfully) bygone era where hair mousse, parachute pants and the ubiquitous "power ballad" almost irrevocably neutered rock and roll. Anyone who actually misses Night Ranger must be so hopelessly nostalgic they consider high school the best years of their life. Riviera (Robertson)

TONY RICE, LARRY RICE, CHRIS HILLMAN, HERB PEDERSEN — Rice, Rice, Hillman and Pederson make a rare live appearance touring for their second album. With Hillman back from health problems, expect high energy levels from the band, who'll offer a generous helping of songs from the two albums, as well as some classic bluegrass, newgrass, country and country-rock chestnuts. Variety Playhouse (Prusin)

JILL SOBULE — She kissed a girl, you know, and whether or not you found that novelty hit cute or cloying, you can't deny the craftsmanship that infuses all of Sobule's work, especially evident on her terrific new Pink Pearl album. Mixing Ray Davies' intricate musical whimsy with Suzanne Vega vocal mannerisms and Elvis Costello-styled snappy wordplay, she's got a charming, self-effacing stage presence that'll win you over even if you can't handle that breathy schoolgirl voice. This is a 6 p.m. early show. Smith's Olde Bar (Horowitz)


ChangeMusic Atlanta: Friday

ROBERT BRADLEY'S BLACKWATER SURPRISE, BRAND NEW IMMORTALS, JOSEPH ARTHUR — Fifty-ish blind soul singer Bradley and Co.'s new sophomore album is a scraggly but crackling, funky blues-rock affair that doesn't need the guest appearance of fellow Detroiter Kid Rock on two tracks to kick out the jams just fine. Opening, ex-Atlanta resident, Grammy-nominated graphic artist and Peter Gabriel protégé Joseph Arthur is an introspective bohemian singer/songwriter who mixes the most riveting aspects of Beck, Nick Drake, Leonard Cohen and even Kurt Cobain into a downbeat, hypnotic stew that works its voodoo live much better than you'd expect. In between, local act Brand New Immortals — featuring frontman David Ryan Harris and former Black Crowes member Johnny Colt — do their thing. Masquerade (Horowitz)

ADOM, TRIA DI LUNA, DJS JAMAL & SWIVEL, DON TONIC — Fast rising local rock ensemble Adom headlines a varied bill mixing live bands and turntable sounds. Crescent Room (Sarig)

THE PLEASANTDALES, APPLESEED, INJECTED, VIRGINWOOL — Virginwool's promo materials compare them to the Holy Trinity of Modern Rock: Matchbox Twenty, Creed and Seven Mary Three. True, that pretty much sums up the listless contents of their agonizingly dull debut album, proving corporate rock didn't die when Steve Perry quit Journey, it just grew a goatee and changed its name to alternative. Also on the bill: Modern rock locals the Pleastantdales, Injected and Appleseed. Dark Horse Tavern (Robertson)

SEELY, SHANNON WRIGHT, MYSSOURI, KINGSBURY MANX — Rumor has it this could be one of the last times to catch local indie pop quartet Seely for a while. Sad, since their latest record, Winter Birds, hovers somewhere between emotional turmoil and melodic perfection, and proves they're one of Atlanta's premiere groups. Shannon Wright's sets revolve around her either at a Wurlitzer with a keyboard display screen and or with guitar, accompanied by drums. She seems obsessed with creating the perfect folk/punk neurosis every time she plays. Local dark and brooding rockers Myssouri take the stage in their current lineup for the last time tonight; following the show, front man Michael Bradley will be looking for some new musicians to fill out the group. North Carolina's Kingsbury Manx sound like they're singing under starry skies, contemplating their own fragility by fire, occasionally putting their hands a little too close. The Earl (Arieh/Ware)

SUBSONICS, DEXTERVILLE, WOGGLES, ULTRABABYFAT, TITANICS — The hottest lineup in the whole CMJ weekend, this wild show opens at 9 p.m. with the gritty '60s-style garage rawk of the Titanics, followed by the ferocious grrrl-pop of Ultrababyfat, and then hits critical mass with the Fleshtones-like bomp of the Woggles, the hardest working band in Georgia. At midnight, former Flat Duo Jets bandleader Dexter Romweber struts out his new Tom Waits-ian rock ensemble called Dexterville, and the Subsonics — Atlanta's own unholy trio of bang-and-clang — close the event down during the wee hours. Echo Lounge (Nicoll) [page]

JOHN MAYER — The tragedy of teen idol singer/songwriter Mayer's young life is that he's finally got a firm grasp on the solo singer/songwriter genre just when prettyboy groups have become the rage. He and Bobby Sherman can now commiserate together over the ascendancy of 'N Sync and the Monkees. Eddie's Attic (Nicoll)

RECESS: A RAVE — The lineup of DJs: Brisk and Storm, Angel Alanis, Faust and Shortee, Kid Dynamite, Beserker and MC Jumper, the Ill Crakah, Yonderboy, Goner, Guy Smilee, Pyro, Crazy Cat Lady and Ruckus. Globe Theatre (Sarig)

SPACE CADETS CREW — Pulling double duty tonight, the versatile and talented tag team duo of Faust and Shortee cut across town after (or before?) their appearance at the Globe Theatre's rave to headline an event with fellow Space Cadets crew members Eve and Motomasa. Karma (Sarig)

KOOL KEITH, KUT MASTER KURT, MICRANOTS, EL PUS — He's an eccentric studio genius, but that doesn't mean Kool Keith puts on a dope live show. This time in town, he appeared after midnight wearing a transparent plastic bubble on his head, and only played a 30-minute set while his DJ flirted with chicks. Opening up for Keith and Kut Master Kurt are two local acts to keep your eye on. Rap duo Micranots have been threatening to blow up for a while now, and with their upcoming release, Obelisk Movements, that time could be soon upon us. Five-piece band El Pus combine the manic energy of Fishbone, the sleepy groove of Basehead and the sing-song raps of underground heroes Blackalicious for a fun, dynamic stew. Masquerade (Arieh/Sarig)

DROPSONIC, CHAIN POETS, LESTER'S FARM, CHANNEL BLACK — A varied lineup of unsigned local bands, headlined by heavy/art rockers Dropsonic. 9 Lives Saloon (Sarig)

SAM PREKOP & ARCHER PREWITT — Thrill Jockey labelmates Prekop, of the Sea and Cake, and Prewitt team up to perform newer material, Sea and Cake music and songs from Prekop's '99 solo record. Expect a very intimate affair. Nomenclature Museum (Arieh)

DANIELLE HOWLE, MIKE WINGER — Howle is a singer/songwriter with a unique perspective on life and love. Her songs tend to ramble out in space and return with a powerful punchline. She can hold even the rudest crowd in the palm of her hand. The South Carolina native has been touring recently with Athenian Mick Winger, formerly of Dayroom. Now solo, Winger is much more subdued than in his band days. Warm and engaging, Winger shows maturity as a songwriter and performer. Fans of Dayroom won't be disappointed. Red Light Café (Smith)

STAR ROOM BOYS,JAPANCAKES, KING LEAR JET,JENNYANYKIND — The Star Room Boys hail from Athens, but perfectly personify the Bakersfield sound of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard — real country without the big hats and overblown love songs. Also from Athens, and sharing a pedal steel player, Japancakes' experimental sonic epics are a hypnotic treat. Featuring unusual chord progressions, or just a single chord for an entire song, Japancakes build on an idea until it has been fully examined. King Lear Jet's moody, angular guitar pop certainly has its antecedents, but the band follows its own inner logic. Their full-length debut, Press on Good Captain pleases by degrees, revealing its considerable melodic charms with a measured and deliberate intensity. Jennyanykind tend to take a heavier-handed approach, often with mixed results, but always with an eye toward pushing the envelope. Star Bar (Smith/Robertson)

L.O.A., THE PROPHETIX — The local live hip-hop band recently signed up with Da Brat's fledgling Thowin' Tantrums label. While they prepare for a new release, the group returns to the stage to do what it does best. The Prophetix opens. Yin Yang Music Café (Sarig)

BROWN-TOWN ENTERTAINMENT SHOWCASE — Starting at 9 p.m., Brown-Town presents these acts: Numerous Concepts, Dirty Money, Cash & Tango, Four-Five Click, Mount-Up, Fabulous Affiliates, Platinum Set and KDR. Somber Reptile (Sarig)


Saturday 17

ELECTRONICA: A FESTIVAL TO BENEFIT AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL — See Earshot on p. 97. Candler Park (Smith)

HOT 97.5 BIRTHDAY BASH — Larger-than-life is what hip-hop station Hot 97.5 is calling the soiree celebrating its fifth birthday. If you consider Trick Daddy, the Goodie Mob, Mya, the Cash Money Millionaires, Black Rob and Rah Digga the rulers of the hip-hop universe, it's no exaggeration. However, I'm most looking forward to the short/tall chemistry of party hosts Jermaine Dupri and MTV's Ananda Lewis. Lakewood Amphitheater (Jean-Louis)

JOSH JOPLIN BAND — See listing for June 16. Smith's Olde Bar (Robertson)

REGGAE 2000 — Dancehall star Spragga Benz, who recently released Fully Loaded on VP Records, headlines the reggae bill tonight, which also features Sean Paul and the Dutty Cup Crew. Tabernacle (Sarig)

THE SCREWED UP MUSIC OF ROBERT DUCKWORTH — Currently living in Japan, working with electronic composer T. Shimazu, Robert Duckworth returns to good ol' Georgia with some new compositions of his own. Duckworth's older pieces have been minimal, low bass frequencies with a rumbling quality, but word is he'll be presenting some pretty abrasive stuff tonight along with some possible contributions from I. Moon and the Noisettes. Eyedrum (Khalid) [page]

TOURETTE SYNDROME ASSOCIATION BENEFIT — Athens author and musician Rick Fowler is joined by members of the local music community, including Jack Logan and Redneck GReece, for a benefit concert to raise funds for the Tourette Syndrome Association of Georgia. Fowler has also organized a benefit CD which features contributions by Vigilantes of Love, Randall Bramblett and former R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry. Tonight's concert also features the group Where's Anita? For more information, visit www.fowlercd.com. Morton Theatre/Athens (Sarig)

UNCLE MARK REYNOLDS' HAVE-A-HEART FOUNDATION BENEFIT — See Earshot on p. 97. Eddie's Attic (Smith)

VISION — InnerSpace Productions presents Shannon Denise, the former vocalist for Orlando's K5 (most known for a song with an alarm siren for a hook), coming to town to perform with Prophecy, a funky breaks outfit who have played alongside Rabbit in the Moon and Deepsky. DJs Purple Have, Chris Bailey, Rob420 and Joco will also help guide your visions. Culture Club (Ware)


ChangeMusic Atlanta: Saturday

TENDER IDOLS, CHOCOLATE KISS, WINE FIELD — Local Brit-pop-oriented band the Tender Idols headlines a bill with up-and-coming local post-punk outfit Chocolate Kiss and openers Wine Field. Cotton Club (Sarig)

AERIAL, DRUMS & EFFECTS — A double bill featuring two acts at the head of a new crop of local groups mixing live elements with electronic beats and samples. Both acts also appear earlier in the day at the Electronica festival in Candler Park. Crescent Room (Sarig)

LITTLE RED ROCKET, METROSCENE, CRAVE, PERSONA — This slick, modern lineup of bands is capped with a midnight performance by Athens popsters Little Red Rocket, whose snarling fuzztone ditties are brightened by the clever and judicious addition of horns. Suzanne Hawn's band Crave is similar, minus the horns, and both Metroscene and Persona let loose with an Oasis-on-the-Chattahoochee vibe. Dark Horse (Nicoll)

THE DELTA 72, THE CAUSEY WAY , THE X-IMPOSSIBLES, THE RAPTURE — The Delta 72 are garage rawk with squawk to spare (see review on p. XX). The Causey Way are a different breed of retro mayhem, using personality cults as its core and frequently touring with Man Or Astro-Man? Dance music organized into its own religion. The X-Impossibles are one of Atlanta's best rock 'n' roll bands. Gritty and energetic, the X'ers will have the roof off the joint early so pray it doesn't rain. The Rapture, like the Biblical event, will gather up the most rocking souls and whisk 'em to heaven. The Earl (Smith)

ROCK*A*TEENS, THE TOM COLLINS, EMPIRE STATE, PLASTIC PLAN, THE PURKINJE SHIFT, OCELOT — The Rock*A*Teens are a raggedy band of angular rockers who shimmy and shamble through every set with a "who cares" attitude that's totally welcome in these days of showcase ass-kissing. The Tom Collins kiss no asses, but manage to kick quite a few with their furious Led Zep-inspired riffage. Athens' Empire State are one of the most creative bands on the scene (see article on p.88). Check out their unique hand-made instruments. Plastic Plan are a herky-jerky, Devo-kinda thing. Along with fellow Samizdat Records labemates, the Purkinje Shift and Ocelot, the Plan participates in a Samizdat showcase starting at 8 p.m. Get up close to witness the intricate arrangements of these interesting Atlanta bands. Echo Lounge (Smith)

IQU, DJ KEVIN-O, DJ J-LUV — Washington State trio IQU (formerly icu, still pronouced "eek-yoo") creates dynamic live instrumental sounds using keyboards, bass, guitar and turntables. DJs Kevin-O and J-Luv fill out the evening's lineup. Nomenclature (Sarig)

CHANGELINGS, KITTY SNYDER — Often mistakenly lumped in the "goth" category, the Changelings are in fact a very charming classical/pop group whose somber mood is more in tune with the Velvet Underground and Nico than Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Athens-based singer/songwriter Kitty Snyder opens the show at 9 p.m. with her own sweetly haunting sound. Red Light Café (Nicoll)

THE RENT BOYS, SYRUP, THE BLACKS, HELL MACH 4, HAYRIDE AND THE GLANDS — The action begins early today with Athenian wildmen Hayride and the Glands starting at 5 p.m. Hell Mach 4 breaks the sound barrier at 9 p.m., followed by the bizarre Blacks, who come off like the Windy City's answer to Nashville Pussy. The evening closes with over-the-top nuttiness, both from Florida-based rock lunatics Syrup and the completely insane Rent Boys — an Atlanta band who sound like Brooklyn hoodlums covering Strummer & Jones' reggae numbers, through a haze of Camel smoke and Guinness foam. Star Bar (Nicoll) [page]

ACOUSTIC VAUDEVILLE WITH AIMEE MANN AND MICHAEL PENN — A perfect marriage of melody and pop delights, husband and wife solo acts Mann and Penn have always bucked tradition while producing some of the most pleasing music of the '90s. Mann, who gained fame as the force behind Til Tuesday, and Penn of the talented show business family, have merged professionally and personally to form Acoustic Vaudeville. See article on p. 91. Variety Playhouse (Smith)


Sunday 18

SUSANA BACA — See review on p. XX. Red Light Café (Dominey)

INTERNATIONAL EXTREME MUSIC FESTIVAL — With heavy metal on the upswing, one need only stir the underground a little to find all manner of subgenre mutations lurking beneath the Stuck Mojos and Metallicas. Still, there are so many of these bands, it's a full-time job just separating the wheat from the chaff. Dismember, Shadows Fall, Kataklysm and Krisiun — from Sweden, the U.S., Canada and Brazil, respectively — look to be a good batch. Power and heaviness are primary as expected. Ample amounts of proficiency and variation are (for the most part) also thankfully present, making this a fresh break from the monotonous pummel of Florida death metal and the nostalgic crinkle of hair-metal reunionism. Masquerade (Foy)

JETHRO TULL — In retrospect, some Tull albums still hold the magic, while others are definitely dated. But while these seemingly nostalgic tours have virtually nothing new to offer, I'm still hard-pressed to dismiss a band that meant so much to me in my wasted youth. Christ, I'm getting old. Chastain Park (Kelly)

JOSH JOPLIN BAND — See listing for June 16. Smith's Olde Bar (Robertson)

MICHELLE MALONE — Local favorite Malone performs a free in-store show in connection with VH1's Save the Music program. Attendees are encouraged to donate their musical instruments, which will be collected and distributed to schools that need them. Border's Books and Music/Buckhead (Sarig)

MOTORHEAD, NASHVILLE PUSSY, SUPERSUCKERS — For those about to rock, rejoice. The godfathers of hard rock, Motorhead, are set two descend upon Atlanta along with two of their most worthy followers, the Supersuckers and Nashville Pussy. After 25 years of dirty, smelly, beautiful rock 'n' roll, Lemmy and his band of miscreants are back with a new album, the aptly titled We Are Motorhead. NP has a wicked new one out as well (see article on p. 90), while the 'Suckers are still riding high with last year's The Evil Powers of Rock & Roll. Don't forget your ear plugs. Tabernacle (Thompson)


ChangeMusic Atlanta: Sunday

MAN OR ASTRO-MAN, MACHA, ELF POWER, SILENT KIDS, WHITE LIGHTS — The confines of My Sister's Room will be a challenge for these bads, who utilize a variety of instruments and props. Man Or Astro-Man? are no strangers to the Atlanta scene, having been based here for years. Surf and '60s space-race elements blend in the quartet's multi-media event. Macha are the Athens-based, Eastern-influenced band of multi-instrumentalists who create a pleasing and often hypnotic soundscapes. Elf Power, also from Athens, produce a strange hybrid of '60s and '90s music with attempted Beach Boys harmonies and a modern fragmentation that's magically delicious. The Silent Kids are hardly quiet, rather a clangy, enthusiastic outfit. Buffi Aguero (Subsonics, Vendettas) leads the large ensemble White Lights, whose lush and haunting sound is filled out beautifully by violin, vibraphone and keyboards. They're smoother than early Velvet Undergound, but far cooler than any "lounge" act. My Sister's Room (Smith/Nicoll)


Monday 19

MARLEE MACLEOD — MacLeod sings with a voice and tone similar to Liz Phair's, but revved up with Syd Straw attitude. In a previous life she was an Athens-based music critic. (Back then, Maria McKee sang about "Ways to Be Wicked." Today, MacLeod sings on the soundtrack of the movie Wicked Ways). Star Bar (Nicoll)

SUE G. WILKINSON — Local singer/songwriter Wilkinson pounds the piano like Professor Longhair, sounds like a less frantic Janis Joplin and clearly has an affinity for classic, hard-edged R&B (more Stax/Volt than Motown). Smith's Olde Bar (Robertson)


Tuesday 20

FRANK BLACK AND THE CATHOLICS — Let's face it, the Pixies haven't aged that well. In retrospect, they sound a tad precious — more arty polemic than rock bliss. At first it looked like former Pixie Frank Black was destined to the same fate. Then, surprisingly, he hooked up with the Catholics, dropped the mealy-mouthed artifice, and delivered two cracking-good, raw nerved rock albums. I'm happy to report that these days ol' Frank seems to be at the top of his game. Cotton Club (Robertson) [page]

JOHN DIGWEED, JIMMY VAN M — Part two of the British Invasion. Partner to Sasha, John Digweed comes to finish Liquid Groove's promised engagement. Diggers (cause he digs deep in the crates for those phat grooves) is enjoying the publicity from the indie rave flick Groove and his Bedrock single "Heaven Scent," planned for a gazillion commercials. Catch him at a "small" club while you can. Along for the ride is Northern Exposure resident Jimmy Van M from New York's Twilo. Riviera (Ware)

DIRTY DOZEN BRASS BAND — Jazz, R&B, blues and soul have seldom been fused more effortlessly or explosively as when this eight-piece, New Orleans brass band digs in. High profile stints with the Black Crowes, Widespread Panic and Medeski Martin and Wood, as well as relentless touring, have goosed enough local butts to let this funky monster book a three day, mid-week residency at Smith's. Whether they're blowing through Thelonious Monk, Jellyroll Morton, Marvin Gaye or "Flintstones" theme covers, the DDBB keeps the energy high, the music spicy and the dance floor sweaty. Smith's Olde Bar (Horowitz)

THE JAYHAWKS — See review on p. XX. Variety Playhouse (Robertson)

JENGURL — Austin, Texas, singer-songwriter Jengurl (Jennifer Schossow) achieved a modicum of notoriety in a thoroughly '90s way: she serenaded customers at the 1999 Lilith Fair Starbucks booth. Eventually attracting enough notice, she was asked to stay on the tour playing the Emerging Artist stage. Her sound doesn't reflect the bluesy grit often associated with Austin, but she does possess a lovely voice (think a less melodramatic Kate Bush) and appropriately confessional lyrics. Certainly several rungs above Jewel, but a few below Ani Difranco. Tasty World/Athens (Robertson)

SOLEX — See review on p. XX. Eyedrum (Arieh)

SPEAK EAZY TUESDAY — The first of an ongoing series, this poetry slam features local spoken-worders backed by a DJ, percussionist Renard Jenkins and the band Sol Konfiscation, plus "celebrity" judges. Crescent Room (Sarig)


Wednesday 21

BUZBY — Hailing from Charlottesville, Vir., Buzby are a pleasantly diverting pop-rock quartet. Boasting sweet guy/girl vocals (she, in fact, is a former Broadway child star who played young Cosette in "Les Miserables"), credible chops and ingratiatingly clever lyrics, the band is a bit squeaky clean for their own good. But then what else to you expect from young Cosette, anyway? Brandyhouse (Robertson)

DIRTY DOZEN BRASS BAND — See listing for June 20. Smith's Olde Bar (Horowitz)

JULIANA HATFIELD — Touring behind two albums, released simultaneously last month, ex-Blake Baby and former Evan Dando gal pal Hatfield will have no shortage of new songs to blend in with her existing catalog. Never a particularly mesmerizing performer, Hatfield's distinctive yet thin voice and edgy jangle pop ought to get a jolt when she dives into the angry, overdriven guitar attack that propels Total System Failure, the noisier of the two new discs. Cotton Club (Horowitz)

INSANE CLOWN POSSE, ESHAM — Now up to minute 18 on their 15 minutes of fame, the clown-faced, journalist-threatening, soda-spraying duo wring the last drops of excitement from their "shocking" schtick. Opening is fellow Detroit rapper Esham, a Motor City underground pioneer who influenced hometown artists such as Eminem and Kid Rock. With a choppy flow and high-pitched voice combining the nasal raps of the Beastie Boys with old school beats, expect a showcase of high-energy, hard-delivery hip-hop. Masquerade (Sarig/Chen)

PATTY LOVELESS, GARY ALLEN — Loveless may be one of the best vocalists in country music, and when she finds the right material she's awesome. A recent attempt to make her more Shania-like fell flat, so let's hope she's back in honky tonk mode. Gary Allen is a relative newcomer whose recent release is a surprisingly good collection of hard country, Orbison-esque vocal styles and intelligent material. Who knows how this slipped out of Nashville these days. Chastain Park Amphitheater (Kelly)

Bands/performers wishing to be noted in Sound Menu may send recordings, press material and schedules to Creative Loafing c/o Roni Sarig, P.O. Box 54223, Atlanta, GA 30308, or email information to: roni.sarig@creativeloafing.com. To be included in the listings, email venue and band schedules to soundboard@creativeloafing.com.

Contributors to this week's Menu are Jeremy Arieh, Shindy Chen, Mitchell Foy, Hal Horowitz, Rosemary Jean-Louis, James Kelly, Omar Khalid, Gregory Nicoll, Todd Prusin, Justin Robertson, Roni Sarig, Lee Smith, Matt Thompson, Randy Trammell and Tony Ware.

[INCLUDE CLUB LIST IF SPACE PERMITS]

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Afro-Peruvian singer Susana Baca is part of a nueva generacion of non-Western female vocalists — including Cape Verde's queen of the morna Cesaria Evora and the operatic Virginia Rodrigues of Brazil — that are extending traditional folk songs about love and history into a highly sophisticated, trans-global aural art form. By building upon personal experience, musical sensibility and an ear for modern aesthetics, Baca and her fellow divas convincingly evoke the lyrical depth of the blues flanked by south-of-the-equator grooves. On Eco de Sombras, Baca's voice is restrained, cool and straightforward without excessive vibrato. Her smooth voice wavers, sighs and slides around the Peruvian melodies and rhythms supplied by her own quartet along with additional Western elements contributed by John Medeski (organ), guitarist Marc Ribot and David Byrne. Craig Street, a producer known for his spare, acoustically sensitive style, intelligently surrounds Baca's voice with light flourishes of percussion, bass and his usual bag of rhythmic tricks (cow bells, rain sticks, slide guitars). On songs like "Xanajari" and "Panalivio/Zancudito," the sound is supple and playful, yet like Ry Cooder's cosmic slide guitar treatments for the Buena Vista Social Club, features unusual but non-invasive instrumentation to create intrigue and mystery. Eco de Sombras is an intelligent, cross-cultural masterwork that cracks open a world of international possibility. — Todd Dominey

Susana Baca performs at the Red Light Café on Sun., June 18.

The Delta 72On their third album, 000, Philadelphia's the Delta 72 get a Stones throw closer to the Mississippi Delta by way of the Mersey, Minneapolis and the Monterey Pop Festival. 000 tones down the indie rock for an Isle of Wight-era showcase of blue-eyed soul. Opening with a gospel-tinge, "Are You Ready?" suggests Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" and Hendrix's "Message to Love." A breakdown in "Ten Lbs." has a little of Prince's "Sexy Motherfucker" in it. Slinky organs and less slide guitar help the Delta 72 find deeper grooves to mine. And, unlike somewhat similar outfits like Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and the Make-Up, these funky white boys don't have to rely on schtick (yelling "Delta Blooooos" in each song) or put style first to make up for any lack of substance. Anyone who has witnessed guitarist Gregg Foreman survey a club from a stage monitor before leading the Delta 72 into a frenzied breakdown knows these guys have got soul. — Tony Ware

The Delta 72 play the Earl on Sat., June 17.

Like fellow travelers Wilco or the Old 97's, the Jayhawks seem hell-bent on escaping alt-country's gilded cage for pop's greener pastures. Smile clearly declares its intent from the get-go with lush, elaborate production and breezily melodic songs. The album luxuriates in the genre's pervasive history (Brian Wilson and Alex Chilton are invoked by name for cryin' out loud!), and all told it works about half the time.

The first six songs are drop-dead gorgeous — steeped with ringing guitars and those sumptuous "high lonesome" vocals harmonies at which the Jayhawks excel. We're talking pure, '70s AM pop bliss here, especially on "A Break in the Clouds," which sounds like a long-lost Jimmy Webb/Glenn Campbell collaboration.

And then their producer gets the better of them. Knob-twiddler Bob Erzin (whose credits include Alice Cooper, Kiss and, er, Pink Floyd's The Wall) ups the guitar machismo and "big rock" sound effectively killing the mood. Add that in with some rather incongruous drum loops ("In My Wildest Dreams" is going to sound sooo dated in about 10 years), and what you are left with is an EP's worth of excellent material.

Smile is guardedly recommended to the long-time fan, but the mildly curious are urged to start with their 1997 release Sound of Lies, which also bears a strong pop flavor, but happily escapes Erzin's classic rock treatment. — Justin Robertson

The Jayhawks play the Variety Playhouse on Tues., June 20.

Dutch record store owner and mistress of the sample collage Elisabeth Esselink is more commonly known as Solex. Esselink proved her merits last year on tour with Cibo Matto, with captivating live shows augmented by a drummer and guitarist. Live, Solex cranks out beat-happy pop tunes that can be as vigorous as any three-chord rock or punk. But on her records, like last year's Pick Up or the new import EP remix project, Athens Ohio, Solex's sound is at times fun and digable, and other times downright irritating.

Esselink skillfully sampled some of the obscure records in her shop for Pick Up, but this time around she gave five tracks from that record to musicians such as ex-That Petrol Emotion member Damian O'Neill to work their knob-twiddling magic. Of the tracks, "That's What You Get With People Like This on Cruises Like These," remixed by The Sisterhood of Convoluted Thinkers (ex-Eggs member Rob Christianson), is the obvious winner with crickets, weird UFO noise and cartoon music all leading to a sweet breakbeat. Like Cornelius' or the High Llamas' EP project from last year, Athens Ohio is just another example of how scattered and mediocre remix projects end up sounding.

Ultimately, you'll have to see Solex live to comprehend just how creative she gets with her sampling and songwriting. — Jeremy Arieh

Solex plays Eyedrum on Tues., June 20.

Now here's a million-dollar idea: guitar-dominated house music. We're not just talking about plinky rhythm licks, either. Rinocerose goes in for fuzz guitar, acoustic guitar, talk-box guitar, bottleneck guitar, e-bow guitar, wah-wah guitar, even lap steel guitar — almost all the steel-string flavors house-resistant music lovers go for. The French group isn't coy about its crossover intentions, either, as titles such as "323 Secondes de Musique Repetitive avec Guitare Espangole" and "Rock Classics: Volume I" bear out. But like the Concorde that pokes its needle nose across the cover art, Installation Sonore is sleek, modern, continental and, despite its limitations, not completely a gimmick.

Over the course of 10 instrumental cuts, the group layers all sorts of traction-improving rhythm parts, spacey leads, acoustic pluckiness and textural six-string sounds over bumping basslines and basic 4/4 beats. While guitar dominates, Installation Sonore is still straight-up house. Opening track "La Guitaristic House Organisation" builds to a noisy, distorted frenzy, but half of the ruckus comes from a Roland 303, and it's the hand percussion, keyboards and flute (bane of guitar lovers everywhere) that give cuts like "Radiocapte" and the French hit "Le Mobilier" their pep and fashion-runway sashay. The hooks and tunes non-househeads might grasp for are fairly low-key, but anyone up for a potent new take on an old dance music fave will be glad they opened their wallets. — Lee Gardner

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WEDNESDAY, JUNE 14


40 WATT CLUB:Dance Night w/DJs Robin and Cameron

APRES DIEM :Dave Bass Ensemble

BLIND WILLIE'S:Chicago Bob Nelson

BRANDY HOUSE:Every Day People, Church of One

BUFFALO'S-KENNESAW:Keren Leppo

CJ'S LANDING:Jon Allmett Band

CHURCHILL GROUNDS JAZZ CAFÉ:The Mahluli Workshop

COBALT :Hacienda feat. Carlos Albeto and La Perfecta

COSMOPOLITAN:Bruce Crichton Acoustics

DARK HORSE TAVERN & GRILL:Mike Hartnett, The Aliens, The Tone Mutts, HAL 9000

DOTTIE'S:Elliot Michaels, Zen Pusher Gasoline, Lickety Split

ECLIPSE DI LUNA:Kim Rushing Jazz Trio

EDDIE'S ATTIC:Ruby Mango, Living Water

FAT MATT'S RIB SHACK:The Backburners

KAYA:Live jazz, poetry and spoken word, also WFRG's Mighty Samson spinning reggae, soca and hip-hop

MURPHY'S LAW:Karaoke

NOMENCLATURE MUSEUM:Reunion featuring Dark Wave and Trip-Hop w/DJs Phoenix, Nobody, Skippy and others

NORTHSIDE TAVERN:Daniel "Mudcat" Dudeck

THE PEASANT UPTOWN:The Steven Charles Duo

PEACHTREE CAFÉ:Mina

THE PUNCHLINE COMEDY CLUB:Tom Rhodes

RED LIGHT CAFÉ:Open mic

SAMBUCA JAZZ CAFÉ:The Jennifer Perry Combo

SEVEN SISTERS:Robbie Russell

SMITH'S OLDE BAR:Slackdaddy, Deacon Brody

STAR BAR-L5P:The Stimulants, Wonderlust and Fabulous Lounge Punks

TASTY WORLD-ATHENS:Menace D and guest DJs


THURSDAY, JUNE 15


9 LIVES SALOON:Bitch, Skerv, and Ex-Creations

40 WATT CLUB:Quietman Boulevard

ART STATION THEATRE-ST MTN:Tin Roof Blues

BILLY'S:Blue Collar All Stars

BLIND WILLIE'S:Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets feat. Sam Meyers

BORDER'S-DUNWOODY:Muses Gardin Atlanta Farewell Performance

BRANDY HOUSE:Ton O'Honey, Paper Sun

CJ'S LANDING :Hank & Mike

CAJUN KITCHEN: Grateful Dead Night hosted by Stella Bluegrass

CENTENNIAL OLYMPIC PARK:Ricky Fargo

CHURCHILL GROUNDS JAZZ CAFÉ:Latin Night w/Jerry Fields and Vecinos del Mundo

COBALT LOUNGE:Blue Room w/DJ Luv and guests spinning acid jazz and deep house, also Decadance with '90s club favorites

DARK HORSE TAVERN & GRILL:Blankety Blank, Eden, Johnny Hyde

DARWIN'S:Liz Melendez

DOTTIE'S:Cloak

THE EARL:Mendoza Line, Super XX Man

ECLIPSE DI LUNA:Duo Latino

EDDIE'S ATTIC:Steve Forbert & the Rough Squirrels, David Ryan Harris

FAT MATT'S RIB SHACK:Chickenshack

KAYA:Fiesta Latina, with salsa, merengue and Latin House

KILLER CREEK CHOP HOUSE:The Showtyme Jazz Duo

MASQUERADE:3-4-3 w/Fragile X, This Corpse Called Love and Sara's Greatest Fan

NOMENCLATURE MUSEUM:Strange Bedfellows feat. DJs Bobble and J-Luv spinning House and UK Garage, also DJs Smokey, Nu Logic spinning Nu Skool Breaks

NORTHSIDE TAVERN:The Breeze Kings

PEACHTREE CENTER:Bretheren

THE PUNCHLINE COMEDY CLUB:Tom Rhodes

RENDEZVOUS:The Zoots and The Swinging Suits

SAMBUCA JAZZ CAFÉ:Salsa Thursdays w/World Mambo Mission

SMITH'S OLDE BAR:Something 5, Mindseye

STAR BAR:Southeast Performer Night w/Sonja Vetra, Bully, Moto-Litas and Tywanna

TASTY WORLD-ATHENS:Soup, Ode to Abbey


FRIDAY, JUNE 16


9 LIVES SALOON:CMJ Change Music Conference w/Drop Sonic, Chain Poets, Lester's Farm and Channel Black

40 WATT CLUB:Delta 72, The Rapture and The Causey Way

513 CLUB:Spectremen, Breakaways, Criminal Ways and Burnups

AFTER DARK CABARET:The Hooplas

ANTHONY'S PIZZA & PASTA:Butch and The Buckheads

ART STATION THEATRE-ST MTN:Tin Roof Blues

BASIL'S NEIGHBORHOOD CAFÉ:The Steven Charles Jazz Duo

BILLY'S:Heather Lutrell

BLIND WILLIE'S:Houserocker Johnson, The Shadows

BRANDY HOUSE:Blueground Undergrass

BUFFALO'S-AKERS MILL:Keren Leppo

CJ'S LANDING:Intact, Michael Magno, and Clutch Cargo on the Deck

CAJUN KITCHEN:Infradig Ensemble

THE CHAMBER:Glitterdome

CHIP'S:Little Joey's Jumpin' Jive

COBALT LOUNGE:Parallel Universe with House and Trip-Hop

COSMOPOLITAN:Bruce Crichton Acoustics, Damien Cartier & His My Newt Orchestra

COTTON CLUB:Robert Bradley's Blackwater Surprise, Brand New Immortals and Joseph Arthur

THE CRESCENT ROOM:CMJ Music Conference w/Adom, Tria Di Luna and DJs Jamal and Swivel

DADDY D'Z:Sana Blues Band

DARK HORSE TAVERN & GRILL:CMJ Change Music Conference w/The Pleasantdales, Appleseed, Injected and Virgin Wool

DARWIN'S:Roger "Hurricaine" Wilson

DOTTIE'S:Soulshine, Operation Toes

THE EARL:CMJ Change Music Conference w/Seely, Myssouri, Shannon Wright, The Kingsbury Manx

ECHO LOUNGE:CMJ Change Music Conference w/Subsonics, Dexterville, Woggles, Ultrababyfat and The Titanics

ECLIPSE DI LUNA:Kim Rushing Jazz Quartet

EDDIE'S ATTIC:John Mayer

FAT MATT'S RIB SHACK:Ron Cooley & The Hard Times

FRONT PAGE NEWS:Lachez Les

GLOBE THEATRE:Rave feat. Brisk and Storm, Angel Alanis, Faust and Shortee, Kid Dynamite, Bezerker and MC Jumper, Tha Ill Crakah and others

THE HANGER:Trainwreck, Beorscipe, Dog Fashion Disco

JAVA HOUSE:Sugar Ego

KARMA:Space Kadets feat. Faust, Shortee, Eve, Motomasa

KAYA:Northern Exposure w/V-103's Frank Ski, also DJs Kemit, Bubby and J-Nice spinning house, classics and hip-hop

LAST GREAT WATERING HOLE:Uncle Ged, Stunt Midget

MJQ CONCOURSE:DJs Gnosis, Sinister and Spesh

MASQUERADE

:Kool Keith w/DJ Kutmaster Kurt, El Pus, Micranots, DJs Boombip and Spearhead X [page]

MEAN STREET ARTERY:Underground Party

MURPHY'S LAW:Work in Progress

NOMENCLATURE MUSEUM

:CMJ Change Music Conference feat. Sam Prekop and Archer Prewitt, also DJ CIC

NORTHSIDE TAVERN:The Electromatics

THE PUNCHLINE COMEDY CLUB:Tom Rhodes

RAY'S ON THE RIVER:The Tony Winston Jazz Trio

RED LIGHT CAFÉ:Danielle Howle and Mike Winger

RIVIERA:Night Ranger

SAMBUCA JAZZ CAFÉ:Marea Alta

SEVEN SISTERS:Mike Russell

SMITH'S OLDE BAR

:Josh Joplin Group, Emily Richards, Brian Kelly Band, also an early show w/Jill Sobule

SOMBER REPTILE:CMJ Music Conference w/Numerous Concepts, Dirty Money, Cash & Tango, The Four-Five Chick, Mount-Up, Fabulous Affiliates Platinum Set and KDR

STAR BAR

:CMJ Conference w/Star Room Boys, Japancakes, King Lear Jet and Jennyanykind

VARIETY PLAYHOUSE-L5P:Tony Rice, Larry Rice Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen

WILD WING CAFÉ:Gordon Shay

YIN YANG CAFÉ:LOA w/The Prophetix


SATURDAY, JUNE 17


9 LIVES SALOON:CMJ Change Music Conference w/Blacklight Posterboys, Buffalo Nickel, Bitch and Soul Driver

29 SOUTH MAIN:Liz Melendez

40 WATT CLUB:Masters of Hemisphere, Mendoza Line and Super XX Man

513 CLUB:Social Infestation, Hellnation, Dragbody, Guyana Punchline, Crucible, Face Down In It, Defacto and Fell a Victim

AFTER DARK CABARET:The Hooplas

ANTHONY'S PIZZA & PASTA:Butch and The Buckheads

ART STATION THEATRE-ST MTN:Tin Roof Blues

BASIL'S NEIGHBORHOOD CAFÉ

:The Steven Charles Jazz Duo

BILLY'S :The Icebreakers

BLIND WILLIE'S:Houserocker Johnson, The Shadows

BRANDY HOUSE:Blueground Undergrass

CJ'S LANDING:Hank & Mike, Hank & Anitra, and 2 Day Summer on the Deck

CANDLER PARK:Electronica festival to benefit Amnesty International

CHIP'S:John Liebman & The Electro Matics

COBALT LOUNGE:Supernova Saturdays w/Patrick Scott spinning progressive trance

COSMOPOLITAN:Purple House Party w/DJ Mike Keir

COTTON CLUB:Tender Idols, Chocolate Kiss, The Wine Field

CRESCENT ROOM:CMJ Music Conference w/Aerial, Drums & Effects and guest DJs

DARK HORSE TAVERN & GRILL:CMJ Change Music Conference w/Little Red Rocket, Metroscene, Crave and Persona

DARWIN'S:Roger "Hurricane Wilson

DOTTIE'S:Fragile X, Force of Habit, Wide Open

THE EARL:CMJ Change Music Conference w/The Delta 72, The Causey Way, The X-Impossibles, The Rapture

ECHO LOUNGE:CMJ Change Music Conference w/RockATeens, Empire State, Plastic Plan, Ocelot, The Tom Collins and Purkinje Shift

ECLIPSE DI LUNA:Trio Latino

EDDIE'S ATTIC:Uncle Mark Reynolds 40th Birthday Bash w/Ashley Wilson and special guests

FAT MATT'S RIB SHACK:BB & Doc Beatsure

FRONT PAGE NEWS:Kevin Lewis

GWINNETT UNDERGROUND:Mighty Fine Haggis

THE HANGER:Downside, Soulkill

KAYA:Hip Hop Saturdays w/album release party for Cash Money's Big Tymers, also DJs Mars, Shakim & Kemit spinning hip-hop, reggae, house and classics

KILLER CREEK CHOP HOUSE:The Showtyme Jazz Duo

LAKEWOOD AMPHITHEATRE:Hot 97.5 Birthday Bash w/Goodie Mob, Trina, Trick Daddy, Three-6-Mafia, Drama, Lil'John & Eastside Boyz, Rasheeda and more

LAST GREAT WATERING HOLE:Uncle Ged, Stunt Midget

MJQ CONCOURSE:DEEP w/DJs Kemit and Kai, Jovon

MASQUERADE:MDFMK

MORTON THEATRE:TSA Benefit Concert

MURPHY'S LAW:Work in Progress

NOMENCLATURE MUSEUM:CMJ Change Music Conference w/IQU and DJs Kevin-O and J-Luv

NORTHSIDE TAVERN:Lee Griffin Band

PINE LAKE CLUBHOUSE:Fiddler's Green Concert Series

THE PUNCHLINE COMEDY CLUB:Tom Rhodes

RED LIGHT CAFÉ:Kitty Snyder, The Changelings

SAMBUCA JAZZ CAFÉ:Marea Alta

SEVEN SISTERS:Mike Russell

SMITH'S OLDE BAR:Josh Joplin Group, Bach on a Hook

STAR BAR:CMJ Conference w/Rent Boys, Syrup, The Blacks and Hell Mach 4

TABERNACLE:Reggae 2000

TASTY WORLD-ATHENS:Mind's Eye, S.M.O.

VARIETY PLAYHOUSE:Aimee Mann and Michael Penn

YIN YANG CAFÉ:CMJ Music Conference w/Sirius B and DJs Ken Batie and Jamal Ahkmed


SUNDAY, JUNE 18


9 LIVES SALOON:"Scary-oke" w/host E Roc

ART STATION THEATRE-ST MTN:Tin Roof Blues

BILLY'S:Gong Crazy Karaoke

BLIND WILLIE'S:Blues Harp Contest, Chicago Bob & The BBQ Boys

BORDER'S BOOKS AND MUSIC-BUCKHEAD:Michelle Malone

BRANDY HOUSE

:Live Music

CJ'S LANDING:Tim Acres Duo, Sonia Lee Band

CHASTAIN PARK:Ian Anderson

EDDIE'S ATTIC:David Ryan Harris

FAT MATT'S RIB SHACK:Frankies Blues Mission

FRONT PAGE NEWS:Live Jazz Brunch

KAYA:The Earthtone Sound System

MASQUERADE

Dismember, Kataklysm, Krisiun and Shadows Fall MY SISTER'S ROOM:White Lights, Silent Kids, Elf Power, Macha, Man Or Astro-Man?

NORTHSIDE TAVERN:Stephen Talkovich and Friends

THE PUNCHLINE COMEDY CLUB:Tom Rhodes

RED LIGHT CAFÉ:Susana Baca

SAMBUCA JAZZ CAFÉ:Rita Graham

SMITH'S OLDE BAR:Josh Joplin Group, Straw Colored Light

SYLVIA'S:The Showtyme Jazz Duo

TABERNACLE:Motorhead, Nashville Pussy, Supersuckers and Karma to Burn


MONDAY, JUNE 19


BLIND WILLIE'S:Lotsa Poppa's Blues Party

CHURCHILL GROUNDS JAZZ CAFÉ:Joe Gransden Trio

ECHO LOUNGE:Acoustic open mic

FAT MATT'S RIB SHACK:The Electromatics

MJQ CONCOURSE:Ladies Night, Plastic Plan, Sound Device [page]

MARY'S:Britpop Music Video Night

MCDUFF'S IRISH PUB:Open Mic hosted by Vicki Salz

NORTHSIDE TAVERN:Northside Blues Jam hosted by Larry Griffith

NOMENCLATURE MUSEUM:Earthtone Sound System w/guest DJs and patio cookout

SAMBUCA JAZZ CAFÉ:Dan Coy Trio

SMITH'S OLDE BAR:Erica Dawn, Pigeon, Sue G. Wilkinson

STAR BAR:Marlee McCloud

TASTY WORLD-ATHENS:Jimmy on the Short Bus, The Goods


TUESDAY, JUNE 20


BILLY'S:Open mic w/Tom Seldon

BLIND WILLIE'S:Chicago Bob Nelson

BRANDY HOUSE:Live Music

CJ'S LANDING:Open Mic Night w/John Hopkins

CENTENNIAL OLYMPIC PARK:Fatt Bottom Blues Band

CHURCHILL GROUNDS JAZZ CAFÉ:The Jazz Jam Session

COBALT LOUNGE:Old School featuring live jazz, R&B and hip-hop

COSMOPOLITAN:Damien Cartier

COTTON CLUB:Fank Black & The Catholics, Reid Paley

CRESCENT ROOM:Speak Eazy Tuesday Poetry Slam

DOTTIE'S:Second Sight

EDDIE'S ATTIC:Charlie Chastain

FAT MATT'S RIB SHACK:Rough Draft

KAYA:House Arrest w/DJs Pascal and Subtle T, also a Mid-Eastern dinner buffet

KIVA:Moonlighters Jazz Band

MCDUFF'S IRISH PUB:Open Mic w/Vicki Salz

NOMENCLATURE MUSEUM:For the Love of Hip-Hop feat. DJ Shawn Swift

NORTHSIDE TAVERN:Sean Costello

THE PEASANT UPTOWN:The Steven Charles Duo

SAMBUCA JAZZ CAFÉ:Dan Coy Trio

SMITH'S OLDE BAR:Dirty Dozen Brass Band

TASTY WORLD-ATHENS:JenGurl, Marlee McCloud

VARIETY PLAYHOUSE-L5P:The Jayhawks

WILD WING CAFÉ:Intact


WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21


40 WATT CLUB:Frank Black and The Catholics, Reid Paley

APRES DIEM :Dave Bass Ensemble

BLIND WILLIE'S:Houserocker Johnson & The Shadows

BRANDY HOUSE:Buzby

BUFFALO'S-KENNESAW:Keren Leppo

CHIP'S:A.J. Croce

CHURCHILL GROUNDS:The Mahluli Workshop

COSMOPOLITAN:Hip City House Party

COTTON CLUB:Juliana Hatfield

DARK HORSE TAVERN & GRILL:The Wood and Jack West

DARWIN'S:Open Blues Jam hosted by Mothers & Sinners

DOTTIE'S:Elliot Michaels, Lickety Split

ECLIPSE DI LUNA:Kim Rushing Jazz Trio

EDDIE'S ATTIC

:Cafesitio, Damien Cartier

FAT MATT'S RIB SHACK:The Backburners

MASQUERADE:Ultraspank, Mindless Self Indulgence

NOMENCLATURE MUSEUM:Reunion feat. Trance to the Sun hosted by Paul Mercer

NORTHSIDE TAVERN:Daniel "Mudcat" Dudeck

PEASANT UPTOWN:Steven Charles Jazz Duo

THE PUNCHLINE COMEDY CLUB:Emo Phillips

SAMBUCA JAZZ CAFÉ:Melvin Miller

SMITH'S OLDE BAR:Dirty Dozen Brass Band

STAR BAR-L5P:The Stimulants, The Union and Yum Yum Tree

TABERNACLE:Insane Clown Posse, Esham

TASTY WORLD-ATHENS

66 Goat

N'hood
Arts Agenda
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Arts Agenda


Dance

MIYA The India American Cultural Association presents a benefit performance featuring a fusion of dance styles portraying the theme of marriage, directed by Preeti Shah. 14th Street Playhouse, 173 14th St. June 17. 6:30 p.m. $20-50. 404-733-4754.

ATLANTA DANCE FESTIVAL 2000 The Phoenix Dance Project presents repertory and concert style works from professional dance companies, private studios and school programs from around Atlanta. Rialto Center for the Performing Arts, 80 Forsyth St. June 14. 7:30 p.m. $10-$12. 404-875-3122.


Music

ATLANTA GAY MEN'S CHORUS Celluloid, Footlights and Video Tape, the 19th annual Pride Concert features a sampling of the best from television, cinema and Broadway. Rialto Center for the Performing Arts, 80 Forsyth St. June 17. 8 p.m. $15-$30. 404-320-1030.

ATLANTA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA A Celebration and Appreciation of Yoel Levi, a tribute consisting of seven all-Beethoven concerts conducted by Yoel Levi and featuring special guests pianist Bruno Leonardo Gelber and Eroica Trio. June 9-24. $25. Yoel Levi and conductors Michael Palmer and Jere Flint lead the ASO and the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra in a concert including Dvorak's Symphony No. 9. June 17. 7 p.m. $21. Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St. 404-733-4800.

MUSES GARDIN The Baroque ensemble performs a farewell concert with core members and featured guest, lutenist and theorbist Lyle Nordstrom. Borders Books and Music, 4745 Ashford Dunwoody Road. June 15. 8 p.m. 770-396-0004.


Theater: openings

A HOLE IN THE DARK Horizon Theatre Company presents the premiere of a comic fantasy of American racial identity by Hilly Hicks, Jr. as part of its second annual New South for the New Century Play Festival. 1083 Austin Ave. Shown in repertory June 16-July 25. Wed.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 5 p.m. $16-$25. 404-584-7450.

CABARET The Atlanta Broadway Series presents the Tony Award-winning musical about Berlin in the early 1930s featuring actress Lea Thompson. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. June 20-25. Tues.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 and 7:30 p.m. $20-$42. 404-817-8700.

GLORY BOX 7 Stages presents performance artist Tim Miller in a comic exploration through the challenges of love, gay marriage and the struggle for immigration rights for gay people. 1105 Euclid Ave. June 15-18. Thurs. 7:30 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 5 p.m. $20. 404-523-7647.

SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER FirstStage Theatre Company presents Oliver Goldsmith's comic tale of secret romance, mayhem and mistaken identities set in the 18th century. 500 Amsterdam Ave. June 16-July 2. Thurs.-Sun. 7 p.m. $5-$7. 404-843-4968.

ST. JOAN The Penny Players present George Bernard Shaw's rendition of the story of Joan of Arc. The Little Theatre, Brenau University, Gainesville. June 15-17, 22-24. Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m. $8-$12. 770-532-0977.

TWELFTH NIGHT Georgia Shakespeare Festival presents Shakespeare's festive ode to truth and love, shown in repertory with Moliere's Tartuffe and Shakespeare's King Richard II. Conant Performing Arts Center, Oglethorpe University, 4494 Peachtree Road. June 16-Aug. 13. Tues.-Sun. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. $20-$26.50. 404-264-0020.


Theater: continuing

AS YOU LIKE IT The Atlanta Shakespeare Company presents the romantic comedy set in the forest of Arden featuring jesters, lovers, a wedding and a case of mistaken identity. New American Shakespeare Tavern, 499 Peachtree St. Through June 25. Thurs.-Sat. 7:30 p.m., Sun. 6:30 p.m. $10-$19.50. 404-874-5299.

CRITIC'S CHOICE Stage Door Players present Ira Levin's comedy about the lightening that strikes the household of a drama critic who must review a play written by his wife. DeKalb Cultural Arts Center, 5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Road. May 26-June 18. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2:30 p.m. $7-$15. 770-396-1726.

DAVID MAMET SHORT PLAY FESTIVAL PushPush Theater presents a showcase of 30 David Mamet short plays and sketches in a three-evening repertory. 1123 Zonolite Road. May 4-June 24. Tues.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 and 7 p.m. $8-$12. 404-892-7876.

ELEEMOSYNARY Square Globe Theatre presents a story by Lee Blessing about three generations of women and how each learns the secret of flight. 158 Cherokee St. Through June 17. Thurs.-Sat. $10-$12. 770-425-0640.

FOUR JONES AND A FIRE-EATER Horizon Theatre Company presents the comedy-drama about passions and past lives in New Orleans as part of its second annual New South for the New Century Play Festival. 1083 Austin Ave. Shown in repertory through July 23. Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 8:30 p.m., Sun. 5 p.m. $16-$25. 404-584-7450

MISS FIRECRACKER CONTEST Aurora Theatre presents the comic tale by Beth Henley about Carnelle Scott and her desperate attempt to save her tarnished reputation by winning the Miss Firecracker Contest. 3087-B Main St., Duluth. May 26-June 24. Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. $15-$16. 770-476-7926.

PARADE Theater of the Stars presents the Tony Award-winning musical written by Alfred Uhry. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. June 13-18. Tues.-Fri. 8 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 2 and 8 p.m. $15-$42. 404-817-8700. [page]

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET Theatre Gael presents the musical thriller depicting the social corruption and the odd alliances made between the residents of London's underclass, written by Stephen Sondheim. 14th Street Playhouse, 173 14th St. June 9-July 2. Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 5 p.m. $10-$18. 404-876-9762.

THE DYING GAUL Actor's Express presents Craig Lucas' tale of sexual politics, seduction and treachery set against a sexy, fast-paced backdrop of modern technology. King Plow Arts Center, 887 Marietta St. Through Aug. 12. Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. $20-25. 404-607-SHOW.

THE LIMOUSINE RIDE Peachtree Playhouse presents a comic tale about Hillary Clinton, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush and Rosalynn Carter riding in the back of one car. 878 Peachtree St. Through July 30. Thur.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. $20. 404-875-1193.

THEATRESPORTS Dad's Garage Theatre presents a competition between two teams of improvisors fueled by audience suggestions. Ongoing. Sat. 10:30 p.m. 404-523-3141.

WHEN PIGS FLY Onstage Atlanta presents a grab bag of sketches, songs, dances and gags that combines traditional music theater, visual humor and shameless wordplay. 14th Street Playhouse, 173 14th St. June 9-July 1. Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 5 p.m. $15-$18. 404-897-1802.

WHOLE WORLD THEATER The improvisational comedy troupe performs live weekly. 1214 Spring St. Ongoing. Thurs. 8 p.m., Fri. 9 p.m., Sat. 7 and 10 p.m. $11-$17.50. 404-817-PLAY.

WIT The Alliance Theatre Company presents Margaret Edson's play about an English professor who discovers she is in the advanced stages of ovarian cancer. 1280 Peachtree St. Through June 25. Tues.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. $21-$27. 404-733-5000.


Visual arts: openings

ABSTEIN GALLERY Pastels by Elsie Dresch on display. Demonstration by the artist June 14 at 7 p.m. Artist discussion June 21 at 7 p.m. 558 14th St. June 13-25. Tues.-Fri. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Wed. 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. 404-872-8020.

APG GALLERY Photographs by Women, a Women in Focus group exhibition curated by Cathy Byrd. Opening reception June 16 from 7:30-10 p.m. 660 9th St. June 14-July 22. Wed.-Fri. noon-4 p.m., Sat. noon-5 p.m. 404-877-1144.

ARTWALK AT LENOX Manipulated Clay: Five Georgia Artists, an exhibit of clay sculptures by five women artists from Georgia. Lenox Square Promenade. June 14-Aug. 27. 770-435-1745.

ATLANTA HISTORY MUSEUM When the Spirit Moves: The Africanization of American Movement, an exhibit that examines the history of African American dance and how it became a central part of American culture. 130 W. Paces Ferry Road. June 17-Nov. 7. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sun. noon-5:30 p.m. $4-$10. 404-814-4000.

CARY-MCPHEETERS GALLERY The Mule Train: A Journey of Hope Remembered, a photo documentary by author and photographer Roland L. Freeman documenting the Poor People's Campaign of 1968. Opening reception June 16 at 6 p.m. Auburn Avenue Research Library, 101 Auburn Ave. June 16-Aug. 10. Mon.-Thurs. 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Fri.-Sun. noon-6 p.m. 404-730-4001 ext. 302.

KUBATANA GALLERY Tradition, a collection of works by Zimbabwean stone sculptor Gedion Nyanhongo. Opening reception June 16 from 7-10 p.m. 1841 Peachtree Road. June 16-July 28. Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. noon-5 p.m. 404-355-5764.

MARCIA WOOD GALLERY New paintings by Tommy Taylor including 12 works in oil and acrylic on canvas and panel on display. Opening reception June 16 from 7-10 p.m. 1831 Peachtree Road. June 16-July 29. Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 404-351-3930.

RAILROAD EARTH STUDIOS The high tech arts community presents a week-long multimedia festival including CD releases and performances by local, national and international artists, virtual reality installations and more. 1467 Oxford Road, Emory. June 18-23. Sun. 3-9 p.m., Mon. 8 p.m., Wed. 8:30-10 p.m., Fri. 9 p.m. 404-373-1561.

RED LIGHT CAFÉ We Must Have Music, an exhibit of photographs by Felicia Graham and Eve Kakassy. Opening reception June 16 from 7-9 p.m. 553 Amsterdam Ave. Through Sept. 16. Sun., Tues., Thurs. 6 p.m.-2 a.m.; Fri.-Sat. 7 p.m.-3 a.m. 404-874-7828.

SPRUILL CENTER GALLERY Take a Second Look, an exhibit of works made from recycled materials by artists Michael Asente, Sally Mankus, Robert Walden and more. Opening reception June 16 from 6-8 p.m. 4681 Ashford Dunwoody Road. June 16-Aug. 19. Wed.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 770-394-4019.

VAKNIN SCHWARTZ Color, an exhibit of color photographs by Harriet Leibowitz that use light, body and space as a canvas to capture the beauty residing beneath the surface of her subjects. Opening reception June 16 from 7-10 p.m. 1831 Peachtree Road. June 16-July 28. Tues.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 404-351-0035.


Visual arts: continuing

1000 TOWER WALK Tranquil Views, landscapes by Helen Zarin and Jeff Surret. 3340 Peachtree Road. Through Aug. 31. Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-7 p.m. 404-816-9777. [page]

3 TEN HAUSTUDIO Mythical Rhythms, paintings on wood and canvas by Diane Hause with African drumming by Chuck Cogliandro. 310 Peters St. May 20-June 30. Mon.-Wed. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. 404-524-6541.

AMERICAN MUSEUM OF PAPERMAKING Visions & Voyages: A Renaissance Within, a showcase of recent cast paper sculpture by Kim Kettler. 500 10th St. May 18-August 18. Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. 404-894-6663.

ARTISTS' ATELIER Rosing and Mann, expressionistic figures in bonded bronze, resin and clay by Toby Rosing and oil and mixed media landscapes by Carolynn Mann. Reception June 16 from 5-8 p.m. and June 17 from noon-4 p.m. 800 Miami Circle, Suite 200. Through July 7. Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. noon-4 p.m. 404-231-5999.

ARTRAGES Handblown glass by Paul Bendzunas on display. 2850 Paces Ferry Road. May 25-June 25. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 770-432-4888.

ARTS FOR ALL GALLERY A Memorial Exhibition, an exhibition celebrating the late James Seymour Lunsford and his contributions to the art world. Healey Building, 57 Forsyth St. May 11-June 16. Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. 404-221-1270.

ATLANTA COLLEGE OF ART GALLERY Spiritual Migration, an large-scale installation by college alumnus Radcliffe Bailey. 1280 Peachtree St. June 2-Aug. 13. Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Fri. 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. 404-733-5050.

ATLANTA CONTEMPORARY ART CENTER Precious: The Pathos and Pleasure of Kitsch, an exhibit that explores kitsch artwork as a vehicle for inexpressible emotions, limited options and economic marginality, curated by Felicia Feaster. May 6-June 17. Brad Freeman: Lite Interventions Into Symbols of Power, an exhibit including 20 years worth of photography, digital prints and artist books. A selection of work by Atlanta artists in the 2000 Whitney Biennial also on display. May 5-June 17. Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. $1-$3. 535 Means St. 404-688-1970.

Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. $1-$3. 404-688-1970.

ATLANTA FINANCIAL CENTER The Con/Text Series, an exhibit of works by Gregor Turk which focus on Atlanta's historic places. 3333 Peachtree Road. April 28-July 26. Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-6 p.m. 404-816-9777.

ATLANTA INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM From Africa to America: Honoring Our Ancestors, an exhibit of a variety of works with local, regional and global significance. 285 Peachtree Center Ave. June 1-Nov. 11. 404-688-2467.

AURORA COFFEE Pilgrim Pictures, photographs by Julie Puttgen of a pilgrimage in Tibet and Ledakh. 992 N. Highland Ave. Through June 14. Mon.-Wed. 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m. 404-892-7158.

BANK OF AMERICA PLAZA Emotion and Illusion, abstract landscape paintings by Tom Swanston. 600 Peachtree St. May 3-July 27. Mon.-Fri. 8 a.m.-6 p.m. 404-816-9777.

BARBARA ARCHER GALLERY Sam Doyle and Friends: 20th Century Folk Art Masters, a selection of paintings by legendary folk artist Sam Doyle as well as works by his contemporaries including Nellie Mae Rowe and Mose Tolliver. 1023 Zonolite Road. June 10-Sept. 30. 404-815-1545.

BENDER FINE ART The Narration of Dreams, a three-person show featuring paintings by narrative artists Louise Britton, Alejandro Mazon and Nancy Scheinman. 309 E. Paces Ferry Road. May 5-June 16. Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. noon-5 p.m. 404-842-1913.

BEVERLY LIBBY GALLERY Interpretations of a Poem, watercolors, collages and pours by Beverly Key. 75 Bennett St. June 9-July 10. Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 404-351-1174.

CENTER FOR PUPPETRY ARTS Reflections: The Global Representation of Puppetry in Posters, a collection of 85 rare posters from around the world. Rene: From Then Till Now, showcases the variety of Rene's work as a puppeteer. 1404 Spring St. Through Aug. 19. Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. $2-$5. 404-873-3391.

CENTRAL LIBRARY GALLERY Effects of Mass Media on Modern Culture, a photographic essay by Phillip Mosier focusing on a journey of visual discovery into the land of American society. Reception July 12 from 3-5 p.m. Margaret Mitchell Square. Through July 20. 404-730-1700.

CITY GALLERY EAST African American Abstraction, an exhibit of paintings and sculpture by established and emerging African American artists who have shown a dedication to abstraction. Reception June 16 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. June 9-Aug. 4. Coming Home Series, landscapes of urban settings photographed by Shelia Pree. Paintings by Traci Molloy and mixed media by Kevin Sipp also on display. Through June 16. Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 675 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-817-7956.

CLARK ATLANTA UNIVERSITY ART GALLERIES To Conserve a Legacy: American Art from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, a consortium of more than 200 works of American art from the 19th and 20th centuries presented jointly with the High Museum of Art. June 13-Sept. 24. Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. $2-$6. 404-880-6644 ext. 6102.

FERNBANK MUSEUM Life & Death Under the Pharaohsexplores the span of Egypt's rich history from the Predynastic Period through the Byzantine Period. Featuring more than 300 objects including statues, mummies and more. Through Sept. 2. A Walk Through Georgia, large format landscape photography by Craig M. Tanner. June 1-Aug. 31. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. $9.95-$11.95. 767 Clifton Road. 404-929-6300. [page]

FINAL TOUCH GALLERY Flowers, Faces & Cozy Places, an exhibit of paintings by local artists Nancy Dell Mitchell and Ellen Cavendish Phillips. 133 E. Court Square, Decatur. Through June 30. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. 404-378-5300.

GALERIE TIMOTHY TEW A comprehensive exhibit of new works by Chuck Bowdish and an introduction to the work of Sydney Licht on display. 309 E. Paces Ferry Road. May 10-June 22. Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 404-869-0511.

GALLERY SKLO Reflections, a study in black and white featuring new glass works by Rony Plesl and figurative photography by Runn Turner. TULA Art Center, Suite E-2, 75 Bennett St. May 23-July 1. Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. noon-5 p.m. 404-350-9763.

GALLERY SUNFLOWER An exhibit showcasing the work of Southern artists including watercolor, oils and acrylics on display. 3389 Main St., College Park. May 25-July 31. Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 404-209-9433.

GALLERY V LTD. Americana and Beyond, an exhibit of works by 30 member artists. Visions, paintings of the Northeast by Rusty Bralley and watercolors by Carole Poole on display. 10 Elizabeth Way, Roswell. Through June. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. 770-992-4144.

GALLERY ZEBU Contemporary Slovakia, an exhibit featuring the works of nine Slovak artists including Milan Bockay and Rudolf Sikora. Tula Art Center, 75 Bennett St., Suite M-1. May 5-June 16. Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 404-605-0408.

GENEMA GALLERY Exile, an exhibit of 50 pieces representing individual responses to the theme of exile. Christ Church Presbyterian, 81 Peachtree Park Drive. June 9-Aug. 27. Sun. noon-1 p.m. 404-605-0505.

HAMMONDS HOUSE GALLERIES Icons of a Landscape, a solo exhibition of paintings, prints and sculptures by Guyana-born artist Gregory Henry. May 19-July 2. At First Glance, a solo exhibition of drawings and paintings by California artist Joseph P. Llorens. Through June 18. Tues.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 1-5 p.m. $1-$2. 503 Peeples St. 404-752-8730.

HAMSA GALLERY Imagination Happens, an exhibit of paintings by Seth Cole. 3234 Ponce de Leon Ave. June 4-30. Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 1-5 p.m. 404-508-4263.

HEAVEN BLUE ROSE GALLERY Voyeur?, new mixed media paintings and sculpture by Sarah Wolfe. 934 Canton St. May 19-July 5. Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sun. 1-4 p.m. 770-642-7380.

HIGH MUSEUM OF ART Narratives of African American Art and Identity: The David C. Driskell Collection, a show comprised of 100 paintings, prints, photographs and sculpture representing the work of more than 60 African American artists. 1280 Peachtree St. June 13-Sept. 24. Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. $2-$6. 404-733-4437.

HIGH MUSEUM OF FOLK ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY GALLERIES Building a Collection: Recent Photography Acquisitions in the High Museum of Art, including images by master photographers Dorothea Lange and Richard Misrach. Through June 24. Contrasts and Connections: Photographs from the High Museum of Art Collection, a broad sampling of the High's photography collection including works by Irving Penn, Man Ray, Diane Arbus and more. Through May 5. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 133 Peachtree St. 404-577-6940.

JACKSON FINE ART Still Points, recent platinum palladium prints by Frank Hunter and New Color Work by Mike Smith on display. 3115 E. Shadowland Ave. Through July 29. Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. 404-233-3739.

JIMMY CARTER PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY First Families: An Intimate Portrait from the Kennedys to the Clintons, an exhibit of photographs by Harry Benson. 441 Freedom Parkway. May 20-July 30. Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m., Sun. noon-4:45 p.m. $5. 404-331-0296.

MACON & COMPANY FINE ART The Swimmers, etchings by printmaker Art Werger. 1198 Howell Mill Road. June 8-July 8. 404-603-9122.

MICHAEL C. CARLOS MUSEUM Karel Appel: Form Becomes Vibration, works produced in the late 1970s depicting favored childlike motifs such as masks, faces and animals. First Floor Galleries, 571 Kilgo St. Through June 23. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. 404-727-4282.

MODERN PRIMITIVE GALLERY African Beauty, paintings of scenes from Africa based on a recent journey to Tanzania and Kenya by artist Mary Klein. 1393 N. Highland Ave. Through June 27. Tues.-Sun. noon-6 p.m. 404-892-0556.

ONE BUCKHEAD PLAZA Beneath the Surface, an exhibit by Drew Galloway including rusted sheets of metal painted and nailed together to create landscape settings. 3060 Peachtree Road. May 5-August 2. Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-6 p.m.. 404-816-9777.

RIGHT BRAIN ART GALLERY New paintings by John Borden Evans and David Yaghjian on display. 664 N. Highland Ave. May 12-July 1. Tues.-Fri. noon-6 p.m., Sat. noon-5 p.m. 404-872-2696.

THE SIGNATURE SHOP AND GALLERY A Touch of Porcelain, works by Peter Beasecker, Sandy Simon, Sam Chung and others on display. 3267 Roswell Road. Through June 17. Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. 404-237-4426.

SMYRNA PUBLIC LIBRARY The Beginning, a group of mixed media paintings and prints by Jamaican born artist Camellia Brissett. 100 Village Green Circle. Through July 31. Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 1-6 p.m. 770-431-2860. [page]

SOLOMON PROJECTS Reliquary, an exhibition of toned silver prints by John Brill. 1037 Monroe Drive. Through June 30. 404-875-7100.

SUNTRUST PLAZA Observations, paintings by Benny Andrews encompassing themes of religion, American history, politics and jazz music. 303 Peachtree St. June 7-Aug. 30. Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. 404-816-9777.

SWAN COACH HOUSE GALLERY Handles and Spouts, teapots by contemporary Southern artists including Rick Berman and Mark Burleson. 3130 Slaton Drive. May 4-June 16. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 404-266-2636.

THOMAS DEANS & COMPANY William Hoare of Bath: Private Drawings, drawings and sketches in chalks by the 18th century portraitist. Tula Art Center, 75 Bennett St. June 10-July 1. Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 404-352-3778.

TRINITY GALLERY An exhibition of new paintings by Bryce Hammond and Jason Rohlf on display. 315 E. Paces Ferry Road. May 12-June 16. Tues.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 404-237-0370.

XCHANGE GALLERY The Reconstructionist Movement, a collective of four artists under the age of 30 exhibit recent work that is revolutionary in form. The Arts Exchange, 750 Kalb St. May 26-June 16. Tues.-Fri. noon-7 p.m., Sat. noon-4 p.m. $2. 404-215-0467.

N'hood
All aboard
Phone Number not listed.
Website not listed.
FESTIVAL

If you knew the recording existed, where in the world would you turn to find Skateboarding in Sarajevo and other poems, the latest CD compilation by local writer Jerry Cullum? How about Clark Vreeland's Digital Tape Conkrete or The Aleph by Maurice Clifford? And do you know how to ferret out the Hidden Tracks recorded at Chelsea Studios by local musicians like Smoke, Kelly Hogan, Bill Taft and Grace Braun?

These CDs and more will be available at Railroad Earth Studios' weeklong MultiMedia Festival. Beginning on June 18, the RRE MultiMedia Festival presents an opportunity to decipher what members of the self-described "artist community and production facility" have been up to for almost 10 years now.

Situated in a rambling house near Emory University, the Studios don't look exactly like the brainiac headquarters that they are. The house used to be the private Ar'lyn Worth school. Now a bit musty and cluttered, what Fried calls "the parallel university" is a home for wayward techno-heads and musicians. The place is riddled with rooms of computers and recording equipment.

Resident Earthmen Neil Fried, Maurice Clifford and Scott Childs maintain an open door attitude about life that is refreshing and scary at the same time. Their laid-back, somewhat spacey style belies the fact that they spend most days (and some nights) involved in intense commercial video production, sound design and composition. Their paying clients include the Centers for Disease Control, Easter Seals, Turner Broadcasting and all manner of music makers. Still, they find a way to facilitate esoteric gatherings that involve the creative synthesis of art, philosophy and new sounds.

"I've observed with fascination as Railroad Earth has documented one amazing performance event after another, and I'm very happy to see this work finally being made available," comments Cullum, who regularly frequents RRE events. Cullum is heavily committed to Artists in Residence International, an organization whose monthly activities are hosted at the Studios. Robert Cheatham, another RRE operative, says the festival is "an effort for us to pool together to get a little attention in Atlanta, but also to find new markets and communities. Atlanta hasn't paid much attention to alternative forms. We have to develop an audience."

RRE was established by Fried and Childs in 1995, though three years before that, Fried was already recording music in the basement studio of his parents' house in Druid Hills. Says Fried, "We've been doing production for many years and have accumulated archives of music and networks of clients and collaborators. This festival is the launch of a publishing catalogue that includes much of that archive. It's an attempt to form critical mass in like-minded producers and artists."

The "network" he refers to probably consists of less than 100 locals along with the international arts community they're developing on the Internet. Railroad Earth's website pictures the collective concept as "a communication metaphor" and "a point of connection." The group's name is taken from the title of a Jack Kerouac short story that explores the railroad and its relationship to the wanderings of the Beat generation. Trippy indeed. The guys have developed a multi-dimensional idea of the past, present and future of artistic expression that defies a truly focused description. They are definitely outside the box.

Here's the lowdown on the hi-tech happenings they've scheduled from June 18-June 23:


Third Sunday


For the past three years, Railroad Earth has collaborated with Artists in Residence International (an Atlanta group that sponsors artists' residencies here and abroad) in Third Sunday. The monthly event includes slide presentations by artists, one-night exhibitions of artwork, a literary event (performance or reading) and a musical event.

This Third Sunday features poet Jerry Cullum, musicians Dick Robinson, Clark Vreeland and Paul Jorgensen, the Mediterranean ensemble Makari and presentations of work by RRE members Neil Fried and Scott Childs. Cullum will perform excerpts from Skateboarding in Sarajevo, a recording that represents 15 years worth of his poetry. Seventy-five year-old Robinson plays and discusses his ElectrocAcoustic Music, Volume I.

Railroad Earth presents work on Synergetic Crystallography, German artist Herbert Koller and the compilation of musical performances from Third Sunday artists, including the Dribbling Hermits, Woody Williams, Glenn Weinstein, Bill Taft, and others.

June 18 from 3-9 p.m. at Railroad Earth Studios, 1467 Oxford Road. Free.


Identity Paper Series


According to organizer Robert Cheatham, Identity Papers presentations "examine various issues of identity formations in art, self and society as we move into the third millennium of human civilization."

A musician and visual artist, Cheatham talks about his work and contextualizes the oeuvre of former Nexus Contemporary Art Center curator Alan Sondheim. Cheatham plays sax and theremin to fête the release of his new CD-ROM, materialisms. He'll introduce (Con)Text(Sub), a CD-ROM that contains 4,000 pages of Sondheim's writing.

June 19 at 8 p.m. at Eyedrum, 253 Trinity Ave. Free.


Solstice Celebration


Maurice Clifford presents a special solstice performance of his virtual reality installation environment, The Aleph. Seatings of 8-10 people at a time in a digital cave will experience the aleph, or a point of connectedness in all things.

For the past few years, Clifford has used the aleph as the principle of design for his work with VRML, virtual reality model language. With a mouse, the CD-ROM viewer can navigate through 3-D worlds. In performance settings, the artist works with projectors and quadraphonic sound to simulate the same virtual environment.

June 21 from 8:30-10 p.m. at Railroad Earth Studios. Free.


Hidden Tracks Release Party


This previously unreleased work by Smoke, Kelly Hogan, Bill Taft, Grace Braun and others was recorded by Neil Fried at Chelsea Studios. "These are songs that slipped through the cracks," says Fried. "They weren't heavily produced and were very much from the heart."

The event features live performances by Lydia Brownfield (Long Flat Red), Bret Bush, Bill Taft, Kelly Hogan and ex-members of Smoke, along with classic films and video footage by Neil Fried.

June 23 at 9 p.m. at The Earl, 488 Flat Shoals Ave. $5 admission.

For more information call 404-373-1561 or visit. www.rre.net.

N'hood
Miller's crossing
Phone Number not listed.
Website not listed.
PERFORMANCE ART

Tim Miller is not a happy man these days. "The NEA compared to this was a walk in the park," he says of his current circumstances. "A $5,000 grant compared to the possibility of having to leave my home, quit my job at UCLA, sell the house and leave the country, that's almost like direct warfare by the state on my citizenship."

Miller is referring to his current ordeal with U.S. immigration and marriage laws, which follows by 10 years his decision, along with three other solo artists, to sue the federal government after their grants were revoked on the basis of content. Miller's partner of six years, Australian Alistair McCartney, who lives with him in L.A., has a student visa which runs out in a year, at which time he'll have to leave the country. Their struggle is the subject of his new show, Glory Box.

"Any heterosexual person could meet someone, get married the next day in Las Vegas and the next morning go to the INS and get a temporary green card," he says. "Couples like Alistair and I, who have been together for six years, ... of course have no legal standing in America ... People almost don't believe it when they see the show. They think I'm making it up ... By the end of the year we'll be the only western country without a law respecting gay and lesbian relationships for immigration purposes. Either the law would have to change or there's not hope: People like us are forced to leave. If they force Alistair to leave, I'll go with him. We won't stay illegally."

The title of the piece comes from the Australian word for hope chest. "Alistair and I were moving my mom's hope chest that she had given us from her house to our house," says Miller. "He had never heard the expression 'hope chest,' and I had never heard 'glory box.' I had been drawn to the hope chest metaphor anyway. For straight people, they're nurtured and encouraged to think about partnering, and society rewards them. I'm trying to create my own queer hope chest, seeing what's in this box, sifting through memories and somehow trying to conjure a hope chest, a glory box that Alistair and I need right now, gathering the things we need to keep our family and our life together."

Recent initiatives regarding gay marriage and the Vermont Supreme Court decision put the issue on the front burner. "Making performances about subjects is perilous," he says. But Miller says he deals with the dangers of turning the piece into a diatribe by keeping it personal. Anyone, he says, can identify with the prospect of being separated from the person they love.

The resulting show is his most popular and has garnered the best critical response of any of his performances to date. "I'm really happy with the show because it's doing something really gnarly and challenging. On one level it's my most intense show, but strangely I think it's also my funniest show."

Glory Box opened in Iowa, but has also been to Salt Lake City, Portland, Seattle and all around California this winter and spring. In addition to Atlanta, stops are planned in Pittsburgh, Boston, Minneapolis, St. Louis and Chattanooga.

Last year, Miller was front-page news when he performed in Chattanooga. Demonstrations against him, complete with Confederate flags, took place outside the packed theater where he performed. His detractors may have been surprised to know that during his off hours, Miller spent time at Civil War battlefields in the area.

"I'm a giant Civil War queen," he admits. His experience there will become the basis of a project he'll be working on this fall. "I'm going to be doing a big interdisciplinary ensemble project in Chattanooga using the metaphors of the three major Civil War battles that happened there.

"I actually was paying attention during civics class and still believe it," he says about his commitment to keeping his work political. "Just as white people are oblivious to white privilege, straight people are completely oblivious to straight privilege. They're clueless about the 1,500 special rights they get with marriage that are denied gay people, probably the most significant human rights you get in America. Most people would be more ready to give up their voting rights than the huge amount of economic goodies that come with marriage. I hope that by focusing on one of these special rights, making it personal, I can cut through."

Tim Miller performs Glory Box at 7 Stages, 1105 Euclid Ave. June 15 at 7:30 p.m., June 16-17 at 8 p.m. and June 18 at 5 p.m. $20. 404-523-7647.

N'hood
Personal history
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VISUAL ARTS

Waves breaking on a beach are the first sounds that draw the visitor into the world of Radcliffe Bailey's Spiritual Migration at the Atlanta College of Art Gallery. Entering the space, one comes upon a fluid shrine. More than 50 clear glass jugs half-filled with water are arrayed in the shape of a pirogue or an island. On opening night, many of the vessels held burning votive candles in their throats. Large misty photographs of deep bends in a slow, wide river evoke gospel songs. The slim vase beneath a woman's full-length photo-portrait holds a bird of paradise (Bailey's aunt's favored flower). Next to the bloom stands a small jar of honey covered in melted wax. To one side, an earthen jar of water holds colored stones, like a poor man's wishing well.

The sounds of a train passing nearby beckon the traveler into a larger space where a long, white wall is filled with stenciled train tracks. Edging those curved shapes, the names of towns appear: St. Louis, Natchez, Nashville, Charleston, Chicago.

At the far reach of the room, the scratched photo of a tobacco field (his grandfather's field) comes to life in a low-lying shelf of fragrant tobacco leaves. Names of other towns are lettered at intervals on that bitter green wall: Vernon, Georgia, Vuelta Abajo, Cuba and Chesapeake, Va. Around the room, smaller shelves hold more Southern memories — more tobacco leaves, raw cotton, a bundle of sugar cane, oil lamps, an anvil, stakes and horse shoes. Big, faded photos depict train workers and black travelers boarding passenger trains. Small glass cases on pedestals hold dried beetles, their carapaces painted with white runes.

The chirping of insects rises in the air as the sounds of the train fades away. Then the viewer notices a high shelf with two bottles of rum and a half-smoked cigar. To the left, a jar of red and black jelly beans, a black-and-red satin jockey flag, a jar of dried red peppers. To the right, a calabash, a model train car and again, raw cotton. The top hat of a black dandy and a mound of dried corn materializes next to his life-sized photo.

Radcliffe Bailey's pictures have always told stories. Viewers never escape the pull of family history in his multi-media paintings. African masks and symbols, vintage family photos, postcards, ledgers and letters have been key elements in his work. Early success has led the young African-American artist to solo shows from New Orleans to New York. His paintings have been collected by North Carolina's Mint Museum, the High, the Smithsonian and the Art Institute of Chicago.

With Spiritual Migration, the ACA graduate has transcended the limits of two-dimensional space. He's separated his layered ideas and brought them to life at an experiential level. Fusing sight, sound and smell, the environment evokes curiosity, nostalgia and reverence. The effect is an immersive aesthetic experience.

The artist is hesitant to explain too much of his rationale, preferring instead to let the viewer interpret the signs and signifiers. According to curator Rebecca Dimling Cochran, "There's not a simple answer as to why he's selected these materials or their placement. There isn't a linear history."

Says Bailey, "It's about me as an artist and a person. It was a conversation I had with myself." The personal and universal resonance in Spiritual Migration is a dialogue well worth sharing.

Radcliffe Bailey's Spiritual Migration continues at the Atlanta College of Art Gallery, Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St., through Aug. 13. Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun noon-5 p.m. 404-733-5050.

N'hood
Southerly gaze
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VISUAL ARTS

When Tennessee photographer Mike Smith is good, he is very, very good, displaying a uniquely Southern perspective that recalls William Christenberry, Birney Imes and Shelby Lee Adams, while remaining true to his own vision. Finding a peculiar grace in the strange, borderless melt of the human into the natural world that defines the South, Smith fugues on the lack of division between a rusted outbuilding constructed of scrap metal panels and the landscape's encroaching, enveloping brambles, ivies and swampy morass.

There is an intimacy between the human and the land in Smith's work — so much so that the dwellings seem an extension of the soil as a barn sprouts from the Earth like moss or some knobby growth. The human element is here, but it's so subtle you could easily miss it on a drive through the country. Smith approaches such signs of life as if they were unearthed Indian arrowheads or a trailmarker of stones left in the forest, suggesting that with eyes wide open, all sorts of mysteries will be revealed.

Smith's photograph "Unicoi County, TN," of a pair of dogs ensconced in an overgrown yard, could be a Natural History Museum diorama of a lost world. Smith endows the most marginal sights with an element of nobility and rarity. The image has the stage-crafted brilliance and otherworldly aura of Jeff Wall's theatrical tableaux, though in Smith's images, all is real. The juxtaposition of rich colors — the lush greens of deep South foliage and the auburn fur of a hound dog captured in noble profile — makes the image glisten. In the almost holographic depth of the image stands a trailer, and like almost all things human-made in Smith's photographs, the building has begun its process of decay, the metal husk of the structure peeled away to reveal the guts of the rooms inside. Smith is entranced by what time and neglect and weather can do and measures the progress of seasons in wood and metal, which mellow and change. There is something forlorn about these places left standing in a landscape so wild and encroaching. Time has left them behind, but they remain resilient.

What Smith seems anxious to record in all his work is a past that stubbornly lingers. Buildings that fade and weather but will not decompose or a single towel hung out to dry on a clothesline signify some human hold-out still occupying his/her abandoned fraction of the South. In "Bristol, VA," a glade of windowless 1950s automobiles weathered down to their husks are hidden in a gray forest of winter trees like some Mason-Dixon Pompeii transformed from a civilization of speed and movement into a graveyard.

The best of Smith's works inspire questions about the lives and people implied in these settings: the impulse to construct an outbuilding out of scraps or to hang a telephone pole with an array of broken plastic baby dolls, cow skulls and discarded scraps. And while the spirit of Smith's work comes through in this Jackson Fine Art exhibition of Recent Color, this particular sampling of photographs does not give the best representation of Smith's wonderful photographic breadth and depth, leaning too heavily on the artist's depopulated landscapes with their trope of the sturdy, lonely barn.

While Smith is clearly enraptured by the circumstance of the South, the photographer who shares the gallery, Atlanta resident Frank Hunter, approaches landscape and human-made structures with an almost entirely formal, surface vision in his series Still Points. Far more concerned with the interplay of light and shadow, which has often beguiled photographic forefathers like Edward Weston or Edward Steichen, Hunter hones in on the delicate detail: the lacework on the edge of a curtain, the curve of a wooden banister, the shadow cast by a windowpane on the floor.

The exquisite craftsmanship and intricacy of antiquated buildings reoccurs in Hunter's photographs, which themselves emphasize vintage technique in their making. While Smith seems eager to find the past as an element in the present South, for Hunter the past is more a stylistic flourish seen in his use of a platinum palladium printing technique associated with the early days of photography. The technique invests his photographs with an ethereality in which edges often bleed into the creamy paper they are printed on. The works not only resemble the stark compositions in photography's early formalist experiments, they intentionally mimic an even earlier phase in the medium's development and the fragile, aged images taken a century ago.

Although they often recall Sally Mann's photos of the South made to resemble daguerreotypes, Hunter trades Mann's romanticism for a more mannered, studious control. You can see his labor in almost every image hung on the gallery's walls, each one speaking to time spent crafting the perfect shot. Often the work that really sings seems to partly give up control, to surpass the ordered frame of the photographer's organizing vision. One of the most striking images in Hunter's body of work astounds because it seems to resist the control so evident in other work. A nighttime shot of Queen Anne's lace, whose frothy white heads glow like phosphorescent sea creatures in the nighttime surf, allows the magic of the subject to shine above the intrusion of the artist as nature turns itself, for an instant, into a picture postcard of itself. Much of the work seems to strive for some comparable enchantment and comes up short.

Frank Hunter's Still Points and Mike Smith's Recent Color run through July 29 at Jackson Fine Art. 3115 E. Shadowlawn Ave. Tues.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. 404-233-3739.

N'hood
Close shave
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THEATER

The incongruity surrounding Theatre Gael's production of Sweeney Todd is not that Atlanta's Celtic-themed playhouse should stage a musical with an English setting, written by an American composer. Any pretext for presenting Stephen Sondheim's challenging, ingenious work should be seized upon, with Theatre Gael pointing to the plight of Irish immigrants in the play's 19th century London.

The more peculiar thing is choosing to stage in summertime a musical whose mood is so suitable to Halloween. The polar opposite to the sunny song-and-dance shows that other theaters like to produce this time of year, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street fits the eerie tradition of Grand Guignol with its dark subject matter and spooky stage effects. Director Heidi Cline and an ensemble of 16 actors put a tremendous amount of energy into the production, which nevertheless doesn't quite meet the full potential of the material.

Taking the tale of one of England's most enduring bogeymen, Sondheim shapes Sweeney Todd (Jeff Dye) in the mold of other musical protagonists. Like Jean Valjean of Les Miz, he spent the earlier part of his life unjustly accused, sentenced to life in the Australian penal colony for trumped-up charges. Like The Phantom of the Opera, he's motivated by revenge, aiming at the conniving judge (Bryan Davis) who sent him away and is currently raising Todd's long-lost daughter Johanna (Wendy Melkonian). Unfortunately much of the sung exposition can be unintelligible, although a flashback involving Johanna's mother at a strobe-lit masquerade makes an effective, creepy image.

Haunted by his past, the former barber takes up with a Mrs. Lovett (Jill Hames), proud baker of "the worst meat pies in London." She happens to have Todd's steel-handled razor blades still in her possession, and their Faustian partnership turns them into ghoulish entrepreneurs: He slashes the throats of barber customers new to the neighborhood, and she cooks the remains into pies, which start selling like hotcakes.

They concoct the scheme in the duet "A Little Priest," which ends Act 1, as Todd and Lovett pretend to sample pies made with men from all professions, including "Shepherd's Pie peppered with actual shepherds." Replete with Shakespearean puns, it's the evening's most giddily entertaining number, with the performers perfectly in sync with the script's black comedy.

Although the Theatre Gael ensemble seems most comfortable with the play's darkly humorous elements, Sweeney Todd's primary intentions are more serious, offering caustic social commentary and the grim consequences of tragedy in the midst of blood-curdling melodrama. Sondheim's Brechtian compositions can be chilly and forbidding, and in this production have only sporadic emotional force. The show's certainly not helped by the use of ear-splitting mechanical shrieks as dramatic stings, or having men sing "Sweeney! Sweeney!" in falsettos.

Dye has an undeniably forceful singing voice, and certainly few performers can convincingly serenade a razor blade. But he tends to strike the pose of a generic musical theater leading man, and apart from his memorable glower, he conveys a rather narrow range of feelings. Hames provides a very funny turn as the clownishly cockney Mrs. Lovett, who can turn from maternal nurturer to calculating cannibal within a heartbeat, but still may be a bit young and perky for the part. They make a fine team, like blue-collar versions of Macbeth and his wife.

Melkonian proves a charismatic performer, although she seems a bit worldly as ingenue-in-distress Johanna. Craig Waldrip, as trusting sailor Anthony, makes an engaging romantic lead and sings with persistent clarity. While individual members of the ensemble might overdo some of their traits (like Rita Dolphin's deranged beggar woman), they can be an effective chorus of downtrodden but righteous rabble.

Phil Santora's set perfectly evokes the grubbiness of London's slums, even stringing clotheslines over the audience's heads when they enter. The design exploits every available inch of the 14th Street Playhouse's second stage, even sending cast members through the audience and down trapdoors. Theatre Gael's Sweeney Todd certainly makes full use of the resources it has, taking to heart Mrs. Lovett's advice, "Waste not, want not." Although you leave feeling it isn't the ideal production of the play, Theatre Gael's take on The Demon Barber of Fleet Street can still cut to the quick.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street plays through July 2 at Theatre Gael, 14th Street Playhouse, 173 14th St., with performances at 8 p.m. Tues.-Sat. and 5 p.m. Sun. $18. 404-876-9762.

http://www.geocities.com/Broadway/Wing/9617/index.html

N'hood
The free and the brave
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REVIEW

***

Return With Honor

Directed by Freida Lee Mock and Terry Sanders

Rated ?

Opens June 16

Cynical types may look at the documentary about American POWs in Vietnam, Return With Honor, as a feature-length advertisement for the United States Air Force. A film project, instigated by three 1965 alumni of the U.S. Air Force Academy and funded in part by Boeing-McDonnell, Return With Honor never ventures far from its military origins.

The film records the experiences of the hundreds of pilots who were shot down over North Vietnam during the course of that deeply unpopular, divisive war and spent, in some cases, up to eight-and-a-half years as prisoners of war. A host of former soldiers still wearing the cropped hair and immaculate grooming of career servicemen, including Sen. John McCain, are interviewed. Most describe a common experience of cocksure flyboy elation followed by a devastating crash as the invincibility of the pilots' detached station of airborne superiority crumbled after their literal and psychological grounding in Vietnam. The pilots describe in harrowing detail the devastation of years of torture and separation from families, a separation so painful, in fact, that many would not allow their minds to even wander to wives and children.

The stories recounted by the soldiers in Return With Honor are often thrillingly hard-core — the stuff of adventure story and John Wayne legend — like the POW who drew a stag on his cell wall using his own blood, or the unwavering resolve of all of the prisoners to reject early release from their prisons unless all prisoners were freed.

Return With Honor is a traditional, by-the-book documentary made by a pair of über-conventional directors, Freida Lee Mock and Terry Sanders, who crank out biographies and Academy Award-nominated product. But in Return With Honor, such directorial innocuousness can't swamp the gripping personal accounts by these soldiers of what they endured in captivity. Though their survival is testament to their strength, many of the soldiers recount still-raw feelings of shame and despair over breaking down under torture. Return With Honor is a reminder that one of the most devastating sights in a cinema awash with untold tragedies, heartbreak, longing and suffering is still that of a grown man crying.

Because of its military sponsorship, the film's emphasis is on the concept of returning to the United States without having compromised your country or yourself — the "return with honor" of the film's title. With the same single-m