Friday, February 28, 2014

Soca Monarch Friday 2014

Here is the link for this year's competition, everything starts tonight around 8......or was that 9? 

But anyways, it's that time again, it's Carnival Friday, Trinidad and Tobago is abuzz, thoroughly beset by a whirlwind of activity and anticipation as the "Greatest Show On Earth" begins in earnest. For those fortunate enough to be in Trinidad, somebody please jam a rolly polly for me. 

Sadly, like many reading this, there is to be no Trinidad Carnival for yet another year, having suffered the misfortune of being stuck abroad for one reason or another. But as usual, thanks mainly to the robust broadband connections available to us and the proliferation of online streaming options, we foreign-based trinbagonians still experience a bit of the bacchanal. 

It's just that this "experience" unfortunatley brings it's own unwanted form of bacchanal. Case in point, the aforementioned Soca Monarch finals......yes I can hear you all groaning already. 

Those that go through it every year, you know of what I speak, the crashed servers, the broken links, the frozen video feeds and dropped audio; trying to watch Soca Monarch these past few years has often required the patience of Job. I even had a friend who resorted to watching it on Facetime through an ipad setup streaming from a tv in Trinidad. 

Last year's experience I think was the absolute worst we'd had in years due in part to the removal of the pay structure previously in place to access the stream. Right on cue, the suddenly free service got slammed (I'm not sure why organizers didn't see that coming) and the servers were down and offline long before the show even got started. By the time we were able to find reliable access some kind soul on Ustream, our crew had already missed all of the Groovy Soca segment. 

But this year promises to be different. Soca Monarch is now available over pay per view on many of the major US cable providers. The option is also available for paid online streaming; the hope is that this new system would limit the strain on existing infrastructure hopefully leading to a stress free viewing experience later tonight.

Have a Happy Carnival.

...........please Lord don't let them mess this up. 


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Stone Mountain Park - Snow Mountain

I have a unique dysfunction if it's even appropriate to call it that. I am a creature of habit, often settling into a routine from which I do not often stray. But when some force causes me to deviate and in essence, try something new, I tend to binge on that new experience if I happen to like it.

Case in point, Snow Mountain at Stone Mountain Park.

Fun without the added insurance premiums.
To put things in perspective, I hate snow; I am practically racist when it comes the stuff. I don't mess with it on any level. Georgia is my ideal habitat as the State shares with me an acute aversion to the devil's piss, having only had actual snowfall four times in the last decade, most times barely an inch or two.

The thing is, I hate the cold, I hate to feel cold and in order for there to be snow, a place has to be cold. How does one enjoy something that must be enjoyed in the cold? It is undoubtedly this line of thinking that had kept me from Snow Mountain these eleven long years.

Stone Mountain Park is arguably the State of Georgia's most popular tourist attraction. Snow Mountain is its attempt to bring some of the "joys" of playing in the snow to the people of the south.

For three months each winter, Stone Mountain Park converts their laser show greens area into a winter wonderland of sorts complete with lanes for snow tubing and and a snow play area for making snowmen, snow angels and the occasional snowball fight. Now hold on to your seats northerners while I explain this concept......we pay money to play in the "snow" down here.

I'll give you a moment to let that sink in.

In all my years living here, I'd never considered going but once I actually tried it out last December, I couldn't stop. I must have done Snow Mountain at least four times this past season, even got me an annual park pass to make going easier.

Quite the backdrop if you ask me, not quite the Poconos but close enough.

And what's not to love? Georgians get the benefit of experiencing the fun aspects of snowy conditions with none of the downsides. Just think, snow tubing, tobogganing, snowballs and snow angels yet none of the sidewalk shoveling, firewood chopping nonsense that they deal with up north.

As a matter of fact, the only downside to Snow Mountain (other than long lines) is the fact that it's only around for three months each year. If I had my way I'd have them drain that stupid, man-made lake no one goes near to make way for an indoor snow facility like the one in Dubai for year round Snow Mountain excitement......make it happen.


The author attempting to "not have fun" but failing miserably.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

New Attractions

Atlanta certainly cannot be accused of being stale or outdated by any measure (except transit).

Many of the popular attractions that have been around for decades, have been busily renovating and expanding their offerings. Zoo Atlanta for instance is in the midst of constructing an entirely new exhibit, Six Flags over Georgia, a new water park due later this year.

Stone Mountain Park, fresh from adding three new attractions last year, continues to seek new ways to entertain as has the Georgia Aquarium which also added several new exhibits recently.

Needless to say I've been forced to add a few already visited items back onto my bucket list.

But expansions aside, a wave of development has begun in Atlanta, promising a dizzying array of brand new attractions to the City, attractions which will serve only to further cement Atlanta as the premier travel destination in the south east. This year alone, Atlanta will hopes to welcome the Atlanta Streetcar, the College Football Hall of Fame and the National Civil Rights History Museum.

But there is no need to wait till the summer to try something new, two recent additions have taken the City by storm: Skyview Atlanta and the Global Winter Wonderland (one of which I'll touch on today) have proven to be exceedingly popular already.

Global Winter Wonderland
Big Ben
With little forewarning, Global Winter Wonderland showed up one day at Turner Field's "Parking Lot C" and took Atlanta by storm. Promising to bring many of the world's Christmas traditions together in one place, the park dazzled patrons with a wide array of lighted displays featuring reproductions of many of the world's wonders, Big Ben, The White House, San Francisco's Bay Bridge and the Taj Mahal, to name a few.

In addition to the light displays, the park featured different cultural shows. On the night I attended, there was soca feature on the main stage, complete with costumes and the obligatory "jump and wave" session. I was thrilled to see my culture represented, though I didn't understand it's appearance at a Christmas focused event especially when parang might have been more appropriate.

To be honest, despite being billed as a Christmas-themed event, I didn't really sense much of a yuletide atmosphere. Apart from the gigantic Christmas tree near the entrance, I'd have easily mistaken the place for an ill advised, winter time carnival complete with the typical assortment of carnival rides, a carousel, bumper cars, funnel cakes, etc.

The carnival rides were an interesting choice for a winter time event because it was freezing that night. Who's  riding a carousel in December? There was even a circus on site, Universoul Circus to be exact.

All in all, Global Winter Wonderland turned out to be a smashing success its very first year in Atlanta. By the looks of it, the event will be returning every Christmas, my only hope being that next winter not be nearly as cold as the last, maybe I'd be able to enjoy the event a bit more then.

I'll eventually get around to trying out Skyview Atlanta but it's newness still results in ridiculously long lines. Atlantans are worse that Trinbagonians when it comes to "never see come see," I swear.


Monday, February 10, 2014

More Yuletide Revelry

Ben Hur, King of Kings, The Ten Commandments, three titles that should be instantly familiar to a Trinbagonian child of the eighties. Harkening back to a time when one television station (TTT) was all we had, one would be hard pressed to find an eighties trini who hadn't been forced to watch all three of these every year on Christmas Day.

Though the venerable Charton Heston's movies did dominate, by the early-nineties, another Christmas classic started to become popular, a Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. Patrick Stewart's version in particular I grew fond of the most.

A Christmas Carol
Chris Kayser reprising his role
as Ebeneezer Scrooge
The Alliance Theater has clearly made a name for itself. While "The Fox" has The Nutcracker, the Alliance has its very own Christmas classic which it has been running for more than twenty years. For sixteen of those years, the role of Ebeneezer Scrooge had been played Chris Kayser, a gentleman who recently announced his retirement from the role (not from acting altogether mind you) to which Atlanta responded by selling out nearly all this season's shows a month in advance. Seriously, these tickets were harder to find than the Nutcracker.

I understand now why Mr. Kayser was so popular; he not only had the look, but the demeanour as well. The gentleman performed so well as Scrooge that I found myself actually hating the guy. I experienced genuine feelings of pity for him during times of despair and rejoiced at his seemingly remarkable overnight transformation.

Not to be outdone, his supporting cast absolutely impressed. There was a chemistry among the castmates, a near tangible sense of cohesion that made this whole portrayal seem believable. It's not often easy to convincingly emulate a time and place that far removed from your own, but this group pulled it off.

I should mention also, costumes and set design; tasked with creating a mid-nineteenth century, Victorian era English town, the set designers took care to include many elements intrinsic of the time. From furnishings to rugs, bedding and tableware, for two hours I was convinced I'd been roaming 1830s England. The set itself incorporated ingenious hidden trap doors for grand entrances or stealthy departures and rigging that made some characters fly. This was way more "theatrics" than I'd have expected for a stage play, and I loved every minute.

Like I did with the Nutcracker, I am highly recommending A Christmas Carol. Add it to your annual family Christmas rotation, particularly Alliance Theatre's version and be sure to take the younguns. Good stories with morals are often hard to find and morals are just what society needs more of these days.


Monday, February 3, 2014

Ice Fiasco

I'm not going to do an in depth analysis of Atlanta's Snowpocalypse, that's been done to death already.

I am however going to point out how this whole circumstance would have been avoided had this State been run by Trinidadians. Prior to Tuesday's events, word started going out from as early as Sunday, that snow "might" be in the forecast that Tuesday. By the following morning, the word "might" disappeared entirely and it suddenly became "it's snowing tomorrow......seriously."

At that point, the sensible trinbagonian would have said "dat sounding like trouble, me eh going to work."

Little Miss Slave Driver Boss Lady person's response however was "forget the snow, come to work.....I'm from Jersey, 2 inches ain't shit." And this scenario repeated itself throughout the city, schools, businesses, government offices all ignoring the warnings. True to form, Tuesday afternoon promptly at 12 pm (right when the weatherman said it would) it begins to snow and all hell breaks loose. 

I was fortunate in that east and northeast Atlanta were the last areas to get hit so I was able to get home before the worst of it hit Gwinnett County. My commute thus was only two hours vs the 8, 12, 15 and 25 hour commutes endured by some of my less fortunate co-workers. 

Why were were all at work exactly? 

I suppose we could feel vindicated in a ways, as Ms. Slave Driver Boss Lady, the same one talking the "I'm from New Jersey" talk, somehow managed to be the only co-worker to crash her car that day; karma at it's best....she's okay by the way (in case you were wondering).   

Coming from the land where a little rain and "oh the labasse on fire" is ample reason to skip work, had Kamla been running the show here, Atlanta would have been a ghost town Tuesday. Traffic gridlock? Walmart the day before. Schools would have been shut down pre-emptively for at least a week and there would not have been a single train or bus running anytime that day. 

We can learn something from all this, first off........this is the south, we cannot handle snow here, not even a little. Our drivers are not conditioned for this, our state and county budgets do not include ample funding to handle it. Northerners always speak of their cold weather driving experience; that experience doesn't count for much on southern roads with southern drivers.

So the next time there's snow on the forecast, tell the boss to go somewhere an scratch, politely excuse yourselves from work/school, and keep your behinds safely at home.