Saturday, September 20, 2014

Atlanta Arts Festival's Artists Share

This year's Atlanta Arts Festival was one of the best ever! Unfortunately, I didn't make it until the afternoon of the last day. Still, I wanted to write about how fantastic a festival it was, so I reached out to my favorite artists of the Festival. Please, enjoy a sample of their work and a few words from them about the experience...

One Ring To Rule Them All, Chad Moore
One Ring To Rule Them All, Chad Moore

"I was really taken with the quality of work at this year's Atlanta Arts Festival. There were so many great artists there with some really amazing work! It really was an honor just to be included with them all and be able to set up my tent and say, 'Yep. I'm with these people'. I kept waiting for someone to show up and tell me that they'd made a mistake and that I would need to pack up and leave," said artist Chad Moore.

I was all smiles and continuously laughing while venturing through Chad's booth...and it was indeed an adventure! His was one of the most popular booths and probably the most dense area of smiles in the entire Festival. 

Chris makes photos of stuffed animals and action figures in the most precarious and hilarious situations. Have fun exploring his website.


Robo-Rabbit Rocket Boots, Greg Stones
Robo-Rabbit Rocket Boots, Greg Stones

I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Greg Stones at my first festival after moving back to Atlanta a number of years ago. I've been a huge fan since! 

Not long after meeting Greg, he published three amazing books—not that his meeting me had anything at all to do with publishing—and he has three more on the way! He'll have his next book with him when he returns for next year's Atlanta Dogwood Festival, presuming they approve his request to show...I hope they do!

"My favorite thing about the show was all the super nice people that I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with," said Greg Stones of Watercolors by Greg Stones.


Sh 2-252, Paul Tankersley
Sh 2-252, Paul Tankersley

My  friends, family and fans know how much of a space enthusiast I am. Well, some of them. I sometimes have to restrain my enthusiasm...not everyone gets it. But Paul, I think, totally gets it. In fact, beyond his being a professional engineer, he's made (considerably more than) a hobby of space photography, which he calls "collecting photons"...I like that!

One of the more fascinating aspects of his space photography...it's made from right here in Georgia!

"I always enjoy meeting people who share my love for the 'night sky', and being able to do that at the Atlanta Arts Festival here in Piedmont Park is really an honor. Everyone has a different view of my images, which are taken with a telescope, whether it be the name of a Nebula, the shape or colors that speak to them. So, it's fun to talk to each person that stops by my booth and share my passion for astro-photography." said Paul Tankersley of Helix Imaging.

A special "Thank you" to Gail, Paul's wife who helps him with the business side of Helix Imaging and was my direct liaison for Paul's contribution to this post.


And Everything's Quiet, Michelle McDowell Smith
And Everything's Quiet, Michelle McDowell Smith

"Being the poster artist for this year's Atlanta Arts Festival was so much fun. I met lots of people who, just because of the poster, had become immediate fans of my work. It was awesome! And that is what makes festivals great, meeting new people and enjoying all of the amazing art," said artist Michelle McDowell Smith.

Michelle's husband was helping her in the booth...a delightfully funny couple! It was nice to see a wife-husband team working so well together at the Festival. Certainly there are others, but I got to see them in action. You guys rock!

And I had the pleasure of talking with Michelle about her work. She puts a considerable amount of thought and deliberation into each element of each piece. I was fascinated and quite impressed. Talk with her...I think you'll be impressed, as well.

Michelle's work is also being featured in the marketing material for the upcoming Chastain Park Arts Festival, Saturday and Sunday, November 1 and 2, where she'll again be showing.


Tricycle Multi-media, Chris Mason
Tricycle Multi-media, Chris Mason

Have I saved the best for last? Perhaps. I find myself mesmerized by Chris Mason's photography...the man is brilliant!

I saw Chris' work at another festival recently—his multi-media work in particular—and was immediately fascinated and surprisingly captivated. I explored numerous pieces in great detail. I applaud Chris' brilliant coupling of photo with paint, material, and relics. I'd not seen anything quite like this before.

"I am a big fan of the Atlanta Arts Festival, I love seeing the diversity of people that come out and all enjoying the arts, park and great things that goes on in the Atlanta area," said Chris Mason of Chris Mason Photography.

And a Thank You...

May I offer a huge "Thank you!" to these five artists for sharing their work and giving time to wanderlust ATLANTA. I have friends who have done the festival circuit, so I know something of the amount of work and dedication it takes to attend a show like this. It's no small undertaking. 

Thank you to each of the artists, and other participants, at the Atlanta Arts Festival for contributing to our city's cultural experiences. You're appreciated!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tellus Revisited

Barry and I had talked about going back to Tellus Science Museum for quite a while, recounting our individual visits, and finally went up a few months ago. Turns out, we'd visited very different places.

It was a number of years ago that Barry had visited what was later absorbed by Tellus...an impressive gem and mineral collection, which was housed near today's Tellus. Before changing his major in college, Barry studied geology, so Tellus was a welcome excursion.


Tellus Science Museum, T-Rex & Barry
Tellus Science Museum, T-Rex & Barry

I've mentioned previously that before I wanted to be an astronaut I'd wanted to be an archaeologist. Louis Leakey—who was a mentor to Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey—was my early childhood hero. So, you can imagine, a geologist and an archaeologist set loose in a gem gallery and a dinosaur gallery...we had as much fun as we did when we were kids!

Actually, I don't remember seeing a dinosaur exhibit when I was a kid, but I remember visiting my 5th Grade teacher, Mrs. Cobb, after I graduated high school and remember how tiny the desks and chairs were...and as adults we think dinosaurs are big!

The dinosaur skeletons at Tellus are replicas, BUT each of the larger exhibits have within it a real fossil, and there are many other fossils throughout the gallery. 


Tellus Science Museum, Travis S. Taylor
Tellus Science Museum, Travis

I mentioned that Tellus was very different memories for Barry and for me. I'd been for the first time a few years ago and Barry long before that. So, when we were pulling up to Tellus, a familiar sight for me, the giant Komatsu truck was new for Barry. I just love that truck! 

To give you an idea of just how big it is, I'm 6'2" and the tires alone are considerably taller than I am. I wonder if they ever let visitors take it for a test drive...

Tellus Science Museum, Foucault's Pendulum
Tellus Science Museum, Foucault's Pendulum

One of my favorite exhibits at Tellus is the Foucault's Pendulum, which is near the entrance, if I recall correctly. It's captivating. One could easily get lost in understanding the premise of the Pendulum. To give you an idea, the original was built to demonstrate the Earth's rotation of approximately 1,000 miles per hour.

The sphere is moving back and forth, but always in the same plane...the floor is moving, with the Earth—it's fixed...hemisphere and latitude come into play, as do friction and gravity. It's truly fascinating...you must observe (and read about) it!

And just for the record, the reflection in the sphere is about as close to a "selfie" as I typically get. Fortunate for my readers I'm not as photogenic as some of my friends. 


Tellus Science Museum, Quartz Sphere
Tellus Science Museum, Quartz Sphere

Back to when we first arrived, it was a first experience for Barry. Turns out that we'd not been talking about the same place...the same gem and mineral collection, yes, but not the same structure. It was a pleasant surprise for Barry, especially that what he'd seen before had grown to become the Weinman Mineral Gallery.

I have a small collection of crystal spheres myself (some glass ones, too), just because I like them. I especially like the larger ones at Tellus, one being quartz (at which Barry is gazing above) and solid black one of Obsidian, from Brazil, which is mesmerizing.

Tellus Science Museum, Amethyst
Tellus Science Museum, Amethyst

My sister would love all the amethyst at Tellus. They have quite the collection, including a display of Georgia amethyst. The piece pictured above is (not from Georgia), I venture to guess, several feet wide...an impressive specimen!

There are hundreds and hundreds of other gem and mineral specimen that are much more colorful than what I've shared in this post, as well as some fascinating phosphorescent (glow-in-the-dark) specimen.


Tellus Science Museum, Periodic Table of Elements, Chromium
Tellus Science Museum, Periodic Table of Elements, Chromium


I've told so many people about Tellus' Periodic Table of Elements display that I can't remember who I've told and who I haven't. Anyway, it's absolutely brilliant! And a super fun way to teach youngsters about chemistry.

What I like about Tellus' exhibition so much is their humorous approach to connecting elements to household names, including a toppled dinosaur (Iridium), Einstein (Einsteinium), and a pink Cadillac (Chromium). 


Tellus Science Museum, Copper
Tellus Science Museum, Copper

The "piece" of copper pictured above is actually a copper boulder! It's 9 feet by 7 feet and weighs 4,950 pounds! There is fascinating exhibit after fascinating exhibit at Tellus...I could go again and again, and to my delight I have.

There's so much going on at Tellus, it's practically impossible to do it justice in a single writing. In addition to the mineral, fossil, transportation, and family galleries, there's a planetarium, an observatory, a panning for semi-precious stones and digging for dinosaur bones experiences, and LOTS of events and special exhibits!

There's a model train exhibit being featured right now, stretching over 100 feet of track, that I want to go back and see! What kid, grown or otherwise, wouldn't want to see a massive collection of model trains? Even theoretical physicists like model trains!


Tellus Science Museum, Fossil Gallery, Turtle
Tellus Science Museum, Fossil Gallery


The Fossil Gallery is fascinating! From the jawbone of a shark the size of a school bus to a fossilized pine cone, and a T-Rex, this gallery is fantastic. And it has specimen of animals that I'd never heard of before...I used to think I was a fairly knowledgeable dinosaur enthusiast! But you gotta love learning and that's what Tellus is largely about.

Tellus Science Gallery, 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen
Tellus Science Gallery, 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen

The Science in Motion gallery at Tellus is quite impressive. It features transportation from the earliest motorized bikes to one of the first electric cars—1903, believe it or not!—from Kitty Hawk to humans' journey to the stars.

One of the things that I love about this gallery, a feature that I'd quite honestly forgotten about so was pleasantly surprised by again, are the mirrors under the various vehicles on display. You get to see the underbelly of the awesome vehicles, making them even more awesome!

There's also a collection of launch vehicles—rockets—some of which I've seen in person, including a Proton. At a former job, I had the great fortune to travel to the Baikonur Cosmodrome, where the first human was launched into space (Yuri Gagarin), to see a satellite liftoff on its way to geosynchronous orbit. What an amazing experience!


Tellus Science Gallery, Apollo 1
Tellus Science Gallery, Apollo 1

Tellus does a remarkable job of chronicling humankind's journey into space, given the limited space allotted for that era of our history. 

Among the artifacts is a replica of Apollo 1, the capsule in which Edward White, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, and Roger Chaffee lost their lives in a fire during a routine pre-flight exercise. As a space enthusiast, I'm grateful that Tellus has remembered these brave men.

I've also had the great fortune to be mere feet away from the Space Shuttle Endeavour, to see the Space Shuttle Atlantis on its launch pad, to visit the White Room where various components of the International Space Station have been built and to visit Cape Canaveral for a live launch. I'm a lucky guy to have experienced so much, and places like Tellus bring those memories flooding back!

And I must give a shout out to JD's Bar-b-que in Acworth. We left Tellus just as rush hour was at its peak. Barry remembered a really good BBQ place in Acworth, so we exited the interstate for a quick bite before meeting our friends later. We couldn't find that place, but found JD's on my phone and tried it out. Fantastic! I totally recommend going.

Check out my first visit to Tellus here and then get yourself and the kiddos up there! You're going to have great fun—I can practically guarantee it. I've been several times now and have had a wonderful time every visit, especially this last visit.

Head over to the wanderlust ATLANTA Facebook page where you can find more photos of our Tellus visit!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Dragon Con 2014 | Cosplay!

The cosplay alone would be enough to bring me to Dragon Con year after year. These cosplayers are brilliant! If you've not been to Dragon Con, but you're been to the Dragon Con Parade, then you know a little of what I'm talking about. but know that the Con itself is a whole other, absolutely incredible, experience!

I'll share in this post some of my cosplay photos and tell you a little about my convention experience—which was pretty awesome, even if exhausting. It finished a week ago today and I'm just now beginning to feel rested. Granted I dove right back into work—a LOT of work—but Dragon Con is nearly round-the-clock programming!

This year I went to some favorite events, attended a number of panels and of course went to the Parade. Surprisingly, my favorite panel was the very last one I attended.

Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay | Captain America
Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay | Captain America

There's so much programming, it's impossible to see and do everything you want to, but you end up doing so much that you feel completely and totally fulfilled. I wish I'd gotten to see Sir Patrick Stewart, but that'll have to wait for another time.

The last panel I went to, on the last day of the Con, featured the cast from Being Human, a Syfy Channel program that I've really enjoyed. The panel was off the charts! These guys—Sam Witwer, Sam Huntington, Meaghan Rath and Kristen Hager—came in totally exhausted, but in no time were engulfed in an onstage tangled...I don't know what to call it, but it was hilarious. One got their eye poked and another scraped an elbow, I think. They were hilarious.

Next thing you know they're running around the stage creating festive, mischievous havoc. They later very graciously brought the Dragon Con volunteers from behind stage for an applause of gratitude for their contribution to the Con (Again, "Thank you" to all the volunteers...you are appreciated!). And later they sang a song that I think was dedicated to their hair stylist??? An absolute blast, I tell you. 

Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay
Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay

I'd seen Sam Witwer, who has also worked on various iterations of Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Glactica, Dexter, Smallville, The Walking Dead and so many other shows. The man is wonderfully talented. 

Also on the last day I got Witwer's autograph and was amazed and grateful that even after a very full four days of Dragon Con he was delightful, kind and gracious. I'm an even greater fan after seeing and meeting him than I was before. Thank you, Sam!

I'm sure it made sense when they were scheduling, but some of the bigger Star Trek celebrities were on concurrent panels. I was fortunate to get to see and hear Gates McFadden, Dr. Beverly Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation

Talk about talent...Gates is wonderful! And so modest about it, too. She's even more beautiful in person than she was on the show and so personable, as well. I loved her relating her having a child of her own while she was playing the mother of Wesley Crusher. You could tell that she loves being a mother, that she wouldn't trade that for anything.

Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay | Spock Monkey & Red Shirt
Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay | Spock Monkey & Red Shirt

The very first panel I went to this year was 10:00 a.m. on Friday, opening day (although I hear Thursday night was quite a happening night). That panel was hosted by Stephen Collins, who played Captain Willard Decker on Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the first movie in the Star Trek franchise. 

As some of you know, I've been a fan of Star Trek since I was a little kid, and for some damned odd reason I also like sock monkeys...they make me smile. So, you can imagine my delight when I saw the life-size "Spock Monkey"!

Collins is also known for 7th Heaven, Falling Skies, and Revolution, to name just a few of the shows on which he's acted.

I'd quite by serendipity met Collins last fall at An Afternoon in the Country, a local, quite large culinary event hosted by Les Dames d'Escoffier/Atlanta Chapter at Serenbe. We were at the after party and talking with friends of a friend. 

After almost realizing who I was speaking with, I asked, "Are you THE Stephen Collins?" Of course he was and he regaled us with a funny story about someone who attempted to hijack his identity. A gentleman he was, and I found him to be the same at Dragon Con.

Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay
Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay

I'd saved more than 25 events on my Dragon Con app (Their app is brilliant! "Thank you, Dragon Con!"), knowing that I'd want to pick and choose depending on time and mood. It worked out well. If I missed someone on their first day, it was likely that there was another opportunity to catch them.

Such was the case with Walter Koenig, who played Chekov on Star Trek: The Original Series and Bester on Babylon 5. For someone who is 77 years old, he is remarkable and funny! Shoot, he's remarkable and funny for someone a third his age...who am I kidding. 

The panel on which I saw him he was speaking mostly about Babylon 5, but he touched on a number of other shows on which he has worked—and there are a lot of them! You could tell, not only in that he said it, but with the way he said it, that Babylon 5 was one of if not his most cherished acting experience. 

Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay | Wolverine
Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay | Wolverine

I want to offer a huge "Thank you" to my friends who hosted breakfast and coffee, Perry and Scott for three days and Barry for the final day. It's wonderful to have a "home base" when so much is going on.

I'm seriously considering a hotel room for next year! And I just do the morning, afternoon and early evening events...I'd definitely have to stay at one of the five host hotels if I wanted to do the nighttime events as well.

Several of us went to the Parade together, but I'm going to save that for a separate post. I have more than 900 photos from that event alone to sort through! Wish me luck. For now I'll just say we had a great time, and I'm thrilled to see so many others—families, other conventioneers, and tourists—enjoying that part of Dragon Con.

Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay
Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay

Also on the final day of the Con, I went to a Joss Whedon panel featuring Adam Baldwin and Ron Glass, who both worked on Firefly, one of the best shows ever to grace the television screen. Sadly—due primarily to an irregular air day of the week—the show was cancelled after only one season, and some of the episodes didn't make it to the air. Thank goodness for DVD sets!

Baldwin and Glass were amazing. They played quite well off each other, even though you tell that, just as in the show, in real life they have very contrasting personalities. But...they are both funny, quick witted, and highly entertaining. 

One conventioneer asked a question something along the lines of, "If the show had continued, how would you have liked to have seen your characters develop?" That left Ron Glass speechless for a moment, who momentarily gave the only obvious answer. (You'll have to watch the show and follow-up movie, Serenity.)

Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay | Dr Who
Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay | Dr Who

There's a LOT to Dragon Con, more than I could possibly share in a single post. Dragon Con has bee going and growing since 1987, the year I moved back to Atlanta. Although it wasn't until I moved back to Atlanta in 2010 that I first attended. So this year made my fifth year and I can't imagine ever missing another one.

Okay, get this. Of the four days of programming on the Science Track, the one panel I attended was "Science Doesn't Have to Mean Lecture", which was amusingly a lecture. It was insightful, but formatted more for science educators. Fortunately, I've been a science enthusiast since I was a kid, so I did enjoy it.

Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay | Star Wars Red Guard
Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay | Star Wars Red Guard

On the Space Track, I couldn't resist the "Benefits of Commercial Space" panel, having worked in aerospace for nearly a decade. A lot of the talk was about satellites, which is the specific industry I worked in—I spoke the language the panelists were speaking! 

That's one of the things that I love about Dragon Con. They're my peeps! Well, kinda sorta. They're actually exponentially smarter, but I'm quite comfortable in their midst. Three or four of the four panelists in this talk were graduates of Georgia Tech, one of them currently a professor at Tech, and another has been to the International Space Station and his father was also an astronaut. Impressive panel!

Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay, Steampunk Fairy
Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay

One thing you begin to notice when you attend Dragon Con year after year is the ebb and flow of costumes trends. Steampunk is one theme that has withstood the test of time. I loved the Steampunk Fairy pictured above...brilliantly creative and executed!

I'm not exactly sure when Steampunk came onto the sceen, but it's been a Con favorite during my tenure. I hope it's around for a long time to come.

Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay | Star Wars Costume Contest
Dragon Con 2014 Cosplay | Star Wars Costume Contest

The Star Wars Costume Contest was filled with entertaining talent and costuming mastery...and a great deal of fun. 

I do wish, and it pains me to say this (you know I like to keep a positive attitude), but I do wish the host/master of ceremonies hadn't kept on and on about the night before being a long night. If you're hosting, bring your A-Game, no excuses. These people have been working on their amazing costumes for months, some of them for a year, and they deserve better than some hungover, rude remarking jerk hosting their contest.

I do hope the Dragon Con leaders rectify that for next year. Enough said.

Don't worry, I'm not forgetting the Miss Star Trek Universe Pageant. That's one of my favorite Dragon Con events and one that also deserves its own post, so more about that later.

If you've never been to Dragon Con, and especially if you're on the verge of going, I highly recommend that you do. If you're not too sure, you can always start with a single-day pass and go for the full four-day pass when you discover how incredible and wonderfully amazing it is.

There are more cosplay photos over on the wanderlust ATLANTA Facebook page!

I hope to see you at Dragon Con 2015!


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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Dream Cars is Approaching the Finish Line

Dream Cars is on its final lap. 

Extended for one week, the exhibition crosses the finish line on Sunday, September 14. If you've not yet experienced Dream Cars at the High Museum of Art, you have only one week remaining to do so...so get yourself over there and prepare to be amazed!


Dream Cars | High Museum of Art
Dream Cars | High Museum of Art

Here's what others have had to say about Dream Cars

CNN: These vehicles were designed to look like the future.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution...as opportunities to experiment with new technology.

Field Trips With Sue...that is similar to a thick speedo swimsuit.

Atlanta Business Chronicle: ...including some rarities

Motor Authority: ...the phrase can take on a more literal meaning.

Access Atlanta: have a look...


And of course I had a little something to share about the exhibition here on wanderlust ATLANTA...approximately $10,000...in 1947 dollars.

I'm betting that you'll find Dream Cars to be a checkered-flag winner!


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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Atlanta Animal Lovers Tour

Do you love animals? Are you visiting Atlanta? Great news...we have LOTS of animals! But enough about our citizens. We actually have lions and tigers and bears...dolphins and horses and a Big Chicken! No, seriously...we have a Big Chicken!

So, let me share with you here quite a few fun animal encounters. It's by no means an exhaustive list, but it's a great start.


Atlanta Animal Lovers Tour, Whale Sharks, Georgia Aquarium
Atlanta Animal Lovers Tour, Whale Sharks, Georgia Aquarium

First of all, in the four years since I moved back to Atlanta, and perhaps throughout my entire life, one of my most remarkable experiences was Journey With Gentle Giants—swimming with Whale Sharks and Manta Ray—at Georgia Aquarium. We got the video, too!

Georgia Aquarium offers a number of animal encounters, some of them included with admission (petting rays and anemones, etc.), as well as optional animal encounters, including time with penguins and the Beluga Whales!


Atlanta Animal Lovers Tour, Tiger, Zoo Atlanta
Atlanta Animal Lovers Tour, Tiger, Zoo Atlanta

Of course Zoo Atlanta offers acres and acres of animal sightings, as well as animal encounters. There's a Petting Zoo and and their optional packages include feeding the giraffe or you can interact with the lemur, tortoise, or elephants...there are lots of options!

If you can't make it to Atlanta, you can always watch the Panda Cam

When you're at the Zoo, be sure to seek out the bronze statue of Zoo Atlanta's most famous gorilla, Willie B., and make a photo with him.


Atlanta Animal Lovers Tour, Frog, Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta Animal Lovers Tour, Frog, Atlanta Botanical Garden

The Atlanta Botanical Garden is considerably more than pretty plants and flowers. It's an "oasis in the city" and home to quite a few animals!

One of their better known projects is amphibian research and conservation. They're working to help save a number of South American frog species. 

There are several on display in the Fuqua Conservatory (on the right just as you enter), and on Saturdays at 11:00 a.m., there's a frog feeding! There's an amphibian specialist there to answer questions and give the frogs their crickets, fruit flies and various other treats.

Keep an eye on the Garden's website/Social Media channels for an announcement about the annual Reindog Parade—the one day of the year when visitors may bring their canine companions. You'll see Dog Santas, Dog Elves, Dog Christmas Trees...it's great fun! And the doggies enjoy playing with each other and their many adoring fans.


Atlanta Animal Lovers Tour, Orangutans, Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta Animal Lovers Tour, Orangutans, Atlanta Botanical Garden

2014 is the second year, as well as the final year, of "Imaginary Worlds", an exhibition of living plant sculptures. There are 28 this year, the greater majority of them being animals, including the orangutans pictured above. There are also some berries and an AMAZING pink unicorn!

There are lots of animals for kids to discover at Fernbank's "Nature Quest", animals to discover at the Chattahoochee Nature Center, and animals to discover at Stone Mountain Park. Like I said, we have LOTS of animals!


Atlanta Animal Lovers Tour, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
Atlanta Animal Lovers Tour, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament

I've shared before that I worked on a horse ranch in Wyoming the summer after I finished high school, also in Wyoming. I'd loved horses since I was a little kid, so working on a horse ranch, with real cowboys, was an incredibly awesome experience. 

So you can imagine how exciting it was to see the gallantry and pageantry of the horses at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament. Spectacular show!

Speaking of larger animals, you can see a two-headed cow at the Georgia Capitol Building Museum, which is open to the public at no charge. No, that wasn't a typo...there's a real two-headed cow—born right here in Georgia—at the Capitol!

Not too far outside of Atlanta is Cheehaw Wild Animal Park, home to 84 species of animals including rhinos, zebras, cheetahs, and a camel! I've not been there in a number of years, but have fond memories. Especially of their goal to breed and release animals back into the wild.


Atlanta Animal Lovers Tour, Miss Piggy, Center for Puppetry Arts
Atlanta Animal Lovers Tour, Miss Piggy, Center for Puppetry Arts

There are many, many animal encounters in Atlanta...of every nature, including the celebrity sort. No, no, Atlanta is not home to Mr. Ed, but we do have the considerably more famous, even if testy, Miss Piggy! And Kermit, too! Thanks to the amazing—soon to expand—Center for Puppetry Arts.

If you're an animal lover, you'll LOVE the wide range of puppet animals you'll see at the Center!


Atlanta Animal Lovers Tour, The Big Chicken
Atlanta Animal Lovers Tour, The Big Chicken

Some of our super fun animals are not exactly sentient, but still rather well known by the locals. 

For instance, The Big Chicken, which is regularly noted in traffic reports and was even once referred to on the sitcom Designing Women, a show set in Atlanta [mention of The Big Chicken]. 

There's also the GIANT fish at the Atlanta Fish Market, and of course the animated, weathered gorilla at the "Gorilla Car Wash" on Cheshire Bridge Road, another Atlanta landmark.


Atlanta Animal Lovers Tour, Coca-Cola Polar Bear
Atlanta Animal Lovers Tour, Coca-Cola Polar Bear

I could go on and on about all the animals in Atlanta! Okay, one more. There's a GIANT polar bear—the Coca-Cola Polar Bear, in fact—that you can see and make a photo with at the World of Coca-Cola.


The fact is, any animal lover can come to Atlanta and have a remarkable visit. Feel free to reach out to me with questions about these and other opportunities. I'd be happy to help bring to light the range of fun possibilities. Have a great, fun time!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Confederate Odyssey

I feel like I've written about war a bit much over the last few years. I am not a warmonger. I detest war. But don't think I'm not a patriot. I proudly served my country in the U.S. Navy. And I'd do it again to preserve our freedom. It just confuses me to no end that we call ourselves "civilized" and yet we can't manage to live in peace. Perhaps one day.

Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center
Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center

I am, however, quite grateful for exhibits such as "Confederate Odyssey: The George W. Wray Jr. Civil War Collection", currently on display at the Atlanta History Center

Why? Because it reminds us of the atrocities that humans are capable of and should strive to fully and completely mitigate. The 670,000 souls we lost in the U.S. Civil War, for example, could have led very different, fulfilling lives...were humankind the peaceful sort.

Quite on the other hand, Confederate Odyssey is a beautiful collection. It also reminds us of the artistry and industry that humans are capable of when challenged. The exhibit includes the rarest-of-the-rare, including Southern-made uniforms, flags, firearms, bayonets, and small-caliber artillery pieces, many of which are one-of-a-kind!

Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center
Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center

I was caught off guard when I first entered the exhibit, located on the lower level, under the Olympic Games exhibition. The collection contains an inordinate number of rifles. I didn't do my research before going in, which sometimes I won't do so that I experience an exhibition as a tourist who was brought to the museum unexpectedly might experience it. I don't do that too often, but I feel doing so once and a while keeps me on my toes. And did it ever this time!

Don't get me wrong, the exhibition is presented in extremely good taste. It demonstrates some of the remarkable achievements resulting from that time. 

Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center
Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center

Confederate Odyssey includes uniforms, including rare enlisted uniforms, caps, and the bloodstained coat of a 17-year-old boy killed at the Battle of Chickamauga, the first major battle of the war that was fought in Georgia.

I love uniforms. And as much as I indulge in creativity, I'm a fan of uniformity...when the situation calls for it. Now, there are some of my friends and colleagues who might disagree, but that's perhaps because they see my wide range of interests and the challenges of keeping those organized.

I recall the great pleasure I derived from marching in Boot Camp, and later during team aerobics at the gym, when EVERYONE was in perfect cadence. I suppose that's where I learned to marvel at the success of real teamwork, which serves as a motivator today. Not the precision of "left", "right", "about face", but the success of a team effort.

Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center
Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center

Even though I was an expert marksman with an M-16 when I was in the Navy, the lead-spitting sort of weapon just didn't grab my attention. An afternoon at the range can be fun, but I always wanted to learn how to fence.

Whether my captivation was Hollywood's influence of depicting the chivalrous act of dueling to the death for the woman who captured your heart or Obi-Wan Kenobi calling the light saber "an elegant weapon for a more civilized age", the sword can be, and often is, a beautiful work of art. 

Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center
Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center

Allow me to share with you the thoughts of a friend, when I shared my initial surprise about there being so many guns in this exhibition, paraphrasing of course:
"There's certainly nothing wrong in finding beauty in such items. They were a craft, a treasured art form back then, more so than today. In large part, anyway. But they certainly gained a bad reputation, and for good reason. Many certainly have stories to tell, most of which we will never know, and probably shouldn't. Before the war, the gun was already necessary in everyday life. Guns enabled us to more humanely put food on the table and up until mass production for wars, guns and swords were a personal possession to take pride in, especially a finely made sword. Even gentlemen who would likely never have the opportunity to use a gun or sword would carry one, or both, as a sign of wealth, fashion, masculinity, tradition, or to showcase a family heirloom, much like a woman wearing jewelry or her grandmother's diamonds."
Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center
Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center

The exhibition is divided into nine (9) different themes, so be sure to explore them all...I think you'll be quite fascinated. 

If you're thirsty for Civil War information, you're in the right place. There's of course the Civil War exhibition upstairs—one of the most comprehensive in the world. There's also a temporary exhibit next door in the Kenan Research Center titled, "Wilbur G. Kurtz: History in Gone With the Wind". 

That exhibit chronicles Kurt's influence as the film's historian and technical advisor, including accuracy of the film's depiction of the Civil War.

Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center
Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center

The American Civil War was the first conflict where soldiers were specifically selected and trained as snipers, or sharpshooters. Arms technology developed such that, although incredibly expensive to purchase, said snipers could hit a target three-quarters of a mile away! Some of these sharpshooter rifles were made in Macon, Georgia.

The highest quality sharpshooter rifles designed during the war were out of England, by an engineer named Whitmore. One of the most rare in Confederate arms collections, there are only about 20 Confederate-purchased Whitmore sharpshooter rifles in existence today.

Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center
Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center

You're also going to see the flag carried by a Georgia regiment in the 1864 Battle of Atlanta, as well as the patent model and prototype of George W. Morse's breech-loading gun, the direct predecessor of all modern firearms.

Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center
Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center

The collection on display features quite an array of remarkably preserved weapons utilized in the American Civil War. If truly an interest, I highly encourage you to visit the permanent Civil War exhibit at the Atlanta History Center, "Turning Point: The American Civil War".

Confederate Odyssey is impressive with nearly 200 artifacts, but Turning Point contains more than 1,500 Union and Confederate artifacts. May I suggest completing your Civil War exploration—or starting it—with that exhibition.

Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center
Confederate Odyssey, Atlanta History Center

Confederate Odyssey: The George W. Wray Jr. Civil War Collection is considerably more than a wonderfully impressive collection, it's a reminder to honor the 670,000 lives lost in the U.S. Civil War, to ensure that their sacrifice is never forgotten.

Remember, there's lot more to see at the Atlanta History Center, ranging from Native American history in Georgia to folk art, and Bobby Jones to the 1996 Olympic Games. Not to mention the on-campus historic homes and gorgeous gardens. Go explore!