Category Archives: Atlanta

Theater Tales: ‘Book of Mormon,’ ‘Fun Home’ Storytelling Lessons

Book-of-Mormon-690x310fun_homeStorytelling thoughts from a recent trip to New York, where I caught a couple of master classes about character, point of view and theme on Broadway — both with some great songs, too.

“Book of Mormon” and “Fun Home” aren’t just Tony-winning musicals. They’re both fascinating examples of art that’s about art – in this case, writing about writing.

In “Mormon,” a young missionary has to wing it when Africans ask to hear the story of his religion’s, uhm, genesis. It’s funny and profane and super-tuneful – and his impromptu take on the meaning of life unexpectedly proves as inspiring as any version any believer could hope for.

With “Fun Home,” a woman looks back on her troubled father and, through her cartooning and writing, tries to make sense of her family chaos.

Both shows reveal themselves to be about the power of storytelling – how we all create or consume art to make sense of things we can’t understand. You laugh at “Mormon” and get goosebumps at “Fun Home.”

Walking around the Theater District, I couldn’t miss ads for “Wicked,” another musical about storytelling — about looking at one of the most famous characters of all time from a different point of view.

wizard_of_oz_0456_wicked_witch

Oh, she’s wicked, all right. And that’s enough for me.

I’ve never wanted to see it because, to me, the Wicked Witch of the West neither has nor needs a back story. She is evil, pure and simple. She wants to kill Dorothy to get the ruby slippers so she can rule Oz. That’s it.

Still, back in Atlanta, I saw the Alliance Theater’s production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and wondered what that tale  would look like from Nurse Ratched’s point of view.

Call me crazy.

All this reached its apex when I saw “Stupid F—ing Bird” at Actor’s Express in Atlanta’s West Midtown.

091815-bird_SFB-Prod-4

A scene from “Stupid F—ing Bird” at Actor’s Express

Theater folk can tell you it’s an update of Chekhov’s “The Seagull.” I can tell you it poses interesting questions about art and how much is too much – even whether we’d all be better off under a 100-year moratorium on the stuff.

“Bird” takes the self-gazing one step further, into meta-fiction. Characters address the audience and talk about the play they’re in. It’s amusing, maybe insightful, definitely an attempt to goose theatrical devices.

Turns out I didn’t have to fly to New York to find that.

And this is all good fodder for anyone writing anything. What’s a story? What material is presented? From whose point of view?

As communicators, what do we want the audience to feel, think or do?

Curtain up.


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How to Link Your Love for Food and Travel

Atlanta Curb Market, Atlanta Municipal Market, Atlanta, Curb Market, Martin Luther King Historic District, Sweet Auburn, black history, African-American history, produce, meat, pork, Grindhouse Burgers

Love the neon sign in the middle of the Curb Market

Everybody loves food and travel, right? Put them together and you have a dream vacation when you’re traveling, or a great itinerary when guests come.

Millions of Americans consider the availability of food (and drink) activities when making travel plans. That can mean going to Northern California for tours and tastings in wine country, or looking for cheap, local eats wherever you happen to be headed. The “culinary tourism” trend isn’t slowing down, according to foodie experts gathered to discuss it in Atlanta this week with PR and communications folks.

It was a great conversation, with interesting points about Georgia and metro Atlanta’s top spots and trends.

  • We have our own “wine country” in the North Georgia that can make for a fun day.
  • Ethnic “niche” marketing is growing.
  • Buford Highway remains the best location for endless “hole in the wall” ethnic spots.
  • West Midtown is still booming with fun restaurants and shops in a few walkable areas.
  • I’ve gotta get to Gun Show.

But for me, the most interesting aspect was the setting: the Sweet Auburn Curb Market in the original Municipal Market on Edgewood Avenue. I’m ashamed to say I’d never been, and I felt like a tourist in my own town browsing the food and produce of 24 businesses – including produce and meat shops, a bakery, bookstore and about a dozen great little spots to eat.

Here are a few reasons why I’ll be taking my next out-of-town guests. There’s probably something similar in your town. Check it out. Here are just a few reasons why. (Click pics to enlarge.)

1. History

Atlanta Curb Market, Atlanta Municipal Market, Atlanta, Curb Market, Martin Luther King Historic District, Sweet Auburn, black history, African-American history, produce, meat, pork, Grindhouse Burgers

The market, built in 1924, is located within the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District. From the market’s website:

Whereas blacks were permitted to shop inside of the market when its doors opened, they were relegated to vend outside along the curb. Transforming that segregated time in the market’s history, it is today affectionately called the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, a name that was adopted in the 1990s. The name also reflects the market’s proximity to Auburn Avenue, which in 1956 Fortune magazine called “the richest Negro Street in the world” and was dubbed “Sweet Auburn” in a nod to that prosperity.

2. Streetcar

Atlanta Curb Market, Atlanta Municipal Market, Atlanta, Curb Market, Martin Luther King Historic District, Sweet Auburn, black history, African-American history, produce, meat, pork, Grindhouse BurgersThe market has its own stop on the new Atlanta Streetcar, which is free throughout 2015.

3. Miss D

Atlanta Curb Market, Municipal Market, soul food, Miss D's, praline, popcorn, soul food

Come in through the back door (where the parking lot is) and you’ll encounter delightful Miss D and her mouthwatering pralines, peanut brittle and gourmet popcorn.

4. Lunch

Atlanta Curb Market, Atlanta Municipal Market, Atlanta, Curb Market, Martin Luther King Historic District, Sweet Auburn, black history, African-American history, produce, meat, pork, Grindhouse Burgers, soul food

Atlanta Curbside Market, curb market, Grindhouse burgers

Curb-Market-Boy

In Atlanta, ya gotta have your “meat and three.” The food court includes Metro Deli Soul Food, Grindhouse Burgers, Sweet Auburn BBQ, Tilapia Express, Awesome Juicery and more.

4. Produce

Atlanta Curbside Market, Municipal Market, produce, peppers, meat, poultry, MLK, soul food

Curb-Market-Peanuts

Fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms. (Peanuts, too.)

6. Meat

pigs, pork, butcher, Atlanta Curb Market, Municipal Market, 1924, MLK, Atlanta, buy your whole pigs here

Atlanta-Curb-Market-Butcher

prices

Because you never know when you’ll need a whole pig.

The food experts on the panel also gave some other suggestions for where to eat around town. I love how they weren’t focused on the most expensive spots. Good food is about more than white tablecloths.

  • Fred Castellucci, @fwc3, owner of The Iberian Pig, Cooks & Soldiers, and other restaurants:  “The new Victory Sandwich Bar in Inman Park is awesome. It’s a very cool spot and the guys who own it are super-nice. They do a great job.”
  • Kate Parham Kordsmeier, @KPKords, food writer: Depending on her mood, she loves Umi Sushi, Bocca Lupa, and Gun Show.
  • Lindsey Isaacs, @Explore Georgia, from the state Department of Economic Development: “If somebody says Six Feet Under by the Oakland Cemetery some time, I’m there in a heartbeat.”
  • Dale Gordon DeSena, @TasteofAtlanta, suggests people try something new, “a little out of your comfort zone,” at least once a week.

Great advice, Dale — whether you’re traveling or at home.

Thanks to the panelists and the Georgia Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America for putting the discussion together. 

One of Atlanta’s Most Exciting Chefs Takes It to the Streets

Westside Provisions, Atlanta, Westside, West Midtown, Hector Santiago, El Burro Pollo, Pura Vida, latin food, restaurant, latin restaurant, latin eatery, burrito, chicken burrito, Atlanta, street food, fair, market, Ponce City Market,

Chef Hector Santiago, of Pura Vida and Top Chef fame, serving his delicious burritos at the Westside Provisions District Farmers Market.

The Westside Provisions District Farmers Market, which just started for the season, was humming Sunday with sunny browsers picking up produce, handmade candles and kimchi. But the draw for me was Chef Hector Santiago, whose insanely missed Pura Vida tapas restaurant was my favorite spot in the city for years.

At the El Burro Pollo burrito stand, he rolled me up a  lunch so tasty it took me back to the orgiastic delights of Pura Vida — those flaky empanadas packed with juicy meat, the sweet and sticky pork puff pastries, the silky fresh seafood ceviche… and the avocado ice cream. Ah, yes and truly … the avocado ice cream.

Hector also had Pura Vida’s sister sandwich shop, Super Pan; appeared on “Top Chef;” and served as executive chef at Abattoir for a while. Lately, he’s been doing “pop-ups” like this one at fairs and markets around town. (You can keep up with his appearances on Facebook and Instagram.)

Hector Santiago, El Burro Pollo, Pura Vida, latin food, restaurant, latin restaurant, latin eatery, burrito, chicken burrito, Atlanta, street food, fair, market, Ponce City Market,

Santiago rolls up my lunch, El Burro Pollo.

Now he’s planning a one-night return on June 25 to Pura Vida, with a pop-up at the old spot, 656 N. Highland Ave., now home to Sweet Auburn BBQ.

Any of that avocado ice cream planned?

“Oh, man,” he said. “You know, I could do that as one of the desserts for the pop-up.”

And he says he’s about ready to share details of his upcoming spot, which could be El Burro Pollo or Super Pan. He didn’t want to talk about the location on Sunday, but media outlets have reported it will likely be in Ponce City Market.

That’s almost as close to my home as the old Pura Vida. I’ll take it.

Here are some pics from Sunday’s market. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday through September, at Howell Mill Road and 14th Street. Click a picture to make it bigger; mouse over to see the captions.

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Love for Atlanta’s New Icon Looks Like a Good Sign: PHOTOS

(Click the pics above to enlarge; mouse over for captions.)

Ponce City Market, PCM, Atlanta, Ponce de Leon, Sears, old Sears building, Borders, Dancing Goats, apartments, retail, restaurants, new, cool, big project, redevelopment

It pops above Ponce de Leon Avenue.

The sign for Ponce City Market went up Sunday, and Atlanta’s newest icon was met with spontaneous applause from onlookers on the BeltLine.

Seriously. People had stopped to watch the crews work and to take selfies and other pics. And when the last piece of the sign — with the ‘PO’ —  was attached, they clapped and cheered.

That’s a lot of goodwill no one can buy.

And I took it as a sign for the positive buzz about Ponce City Market, the old Sears building on Ponce de Leon Avenue that’s being famously renovated into new office, retail and restaurant space. It’s a centerpiece and symbol for positive urban renewal, and we have a lot of that going on here in Atlanta. People are proud about it — the BeltLine, too. And Krog Street Market and more.

I was out riding my bike when I came upon the scene Sunday. I stopped to take a few pics, which I shared on social media. Within 24 hours, my Facebook and Instagram feeds had plenty of examples from other folks, too.

On Monday, I walked around the site a bit, as office workers were taking a King of Pops break. PCM has drawn Twitter, Mail Chimp, athenahealth and, possibly, Google. Inside, the Food Court is shaping up for an opening around the end of summer. Some of the shops and restaurants coming soon include:

  • Holman & Finch Burger
  • Anthropologie
  • Williams-Sonoma
  • Honeysuckle Gelato
  • West End
  • Simply Seoul Kitchen

Binders and Dancing Goats coffee have been open for a while.

Here are some more shots from the ongoing development. Mouse over to read a caption, and click to make them bigger. (And here are photos from more than a year ago. It’s fun to see the progress.)

More info on Ponce City Market’s website.

Bringing Men Easy Tips, Fashion Advice from Online to Real Life

Aaron Marino, StyleCon, Atlanta, fashion, men's style, grooming, expert

Aaron Marino

Aaron Marino likes to tell a story about a friend named Steve.

“He had a hot date coming up,” Marino recalls. “And, not knowing what to wear, he asked me for some suggestions. I said, ‘Why don’t I swing by your place, check out what you have, and if you need something we can go shopping? While we’re out and about, we should visit my hair stylist for a new cut. And by the way… you have got to do something about those nose hairs!’ ”

With that initial make-over a few years ago, Marino not only proved himself a good friend, but he unknowingly started his Atlanta-based business as a men’s style consultant.

That tale also leads to an interesting example of taking online relationships into the real world, and of building your brand through social media.

Online branding

Marino started blogging at iamalpham.com and built a multi-channel social media presence that includes more than 2,000 YouTube videos.

Antonio Centeno, Aaron Marino, StyleCon, Atlanta ,men's style, fashion, grooming

Antonio Centeno

And now he’s promoting a men’s conference on style this Friday-Sunday (May 1-3) in Atlanta, called StyleCon2015. His partner on the project is ex-Marine Antonio Centeno, founder of the Real Men Real Style site The friends have invited other bloggers and Internet coaches to meet and counsel their readers and others men who are looking for help in bumping up their style and confidence.

“This is so much more than just style,” Centeno says. “This is lifestyle – fitness, relationships, career, life…”

Marino says the goal is to give men a place to talk comfortably about issues like accessorizing and manscaping – without having to defend their masculinity or listen to a bunch of lame “metrosexual” cracks. (If it matters to you, Marino and Centeno are straight, and the StyleCon agenda includes advice on impressing women.)

Looking Good as a Competitive Advantage

“It’s a competitive world, and there is nothing wrong with trying to put your best foot forward at all times,” Marino says.

Seminar titles include:

  • Modern Manliness: How to ‘Man Up’ in Your Daily life
  • 10 Masculine Style Essentials
  • Art of Charm: Going from Ordinary to Extraordinary in 7 Steps

Marino and Centeno promise tailors and hairstylists onsite at StyleCon, along with whisky and wine tastings. And the list of bloggers on the schedule includes:

Keeping It Real – and Social

I’m no style expert, but I love the idea of Internet entrepreneurs (in any line of work) taking their online personas out into the real world, meeting their readers and sharing tips and camaraderie.

It keeps the focus on “social” in social media.

And while I’m not a slob by any means, I have been in poor Steve’s worn-out shoes a few times. Maybe I’ll go and see if I can pick up some pointers.

You can get more details on the StyleCon site. Mention this blog and you’ll get a deal – three days admission for the price of one. 


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See Why Inman Park Remains an Atlanta Jewel — PHOTOS

Inman Park, Atlanta, neighborhood, festival, tour of homesOne of Atlanta’s oldest and best neighborhoods is gearing up for its yearly party this weekend. But the story of its recent, ongoing growth spurt goes beyond the 44th Inman Park Spring Festival and Tour Of Homes.

Hundreds of new apartments have gone up in just the last couple of years, along with trendy restaurants and cafes. Much of it’s centered around the Atlanta BeltLine, which currently ends next to the Krog Street Marketanother of the area’s exciting projects.

Walking around the neighborhood Wednesday afternoon, I bumped into Alex Kinjo at the site of his soon-to-open MF Sushi on North Highland Avenue near Elizabeth Street. Sushi lovers all over metro Atlanta have missed MF since Kinjo closed the flagship on Ponce in Midtown and the second location in Buckhead.

Inman Park, neighborhood, Atlanta, MF Sushi, Alex Kinjo

Alex Kinjo is getting ready to relaunch MF Sushi.

“I fell in love with this spot,” he says. “The Inman Park folks and the people in Midtown (nearby),  have been very loyal … and they support the community.”

His place is still under construction for a planned opening in late May. And that’s only fitting, since there’s so much construction going on within one of the city’s most prominent, historical zip codes. It is home to countless gorgeous mansions as well as the rolling namesake park.

The new vitality is unmistakable around the Inman Park Village area, where Fritti has been serving gourmet pizza for 15 years. Chef Riccardo Ullio, who also has Sotto Sotto down the street, is an Inman Park native.

“It’s popular because it’s the coolest neighborhood in town,” he says.

Displaced to make room for new apartments, Dad’s Garage theater company has moved to nearby Little Five Points. Dad’s is currently mounting a new musical there at 7 Stages based on none other than The King of Pops – another local hero with its base on the block.

The Inman Park festival is one of the biggest in town, and definitely worth checking out if you don’t mind the crowds. And the tour of homes promises to be spectacular – any drive or walk through Inman Park reveals a treasure of sprawling Victorian homes lovingly maintained amid impressive landscaping.

Here are a few links pieces about the neighborhood, too.

Inman Park, Atlanta, neighborhood, festival, tour of homes

North Highland Avenue, just off the BeltLine has restaurants, shops, apartments, doctors offices and more.

Inman Park, Atlanta, neighborhood, festival, tour of homes

Dining al fresco at Barcelona, a tapas restaurant and bar


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How a History of Computers Will Make You a Better Communicator

innovatorsWalter Isaacson tried something different as he was finishing his newest book, “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.”

In the acknowledgements, Isaacson says he turned to crowdsourcing for suggestions and corrections on many of the chapters.

“By using the Internet, I could solicit comments and corrections from thousands of people I didn’t know,” Isaacson writes. “This seemed fitting, because facilitating the collaborative process was one reason the Internet was created.”

“The Innovators” offers other key lessons for today’s digital communicators — content marketers, brand journalists and corporate writers, among them.

Walter Isaacson, The Innovators, Atlanta, CNN, Time magazine, computers

Walter Isaacson

Isaacson has been both chairman of CNN and managing editor of Time magazine. His best-selling biographies include “Steve Jobs,” which came out shortly after the Apple genius died in 2011.

“The Innovators” dovetails beautifully with the Jobs bio — and both are beautiful examples of journalistic reporting and writing at its best.

Isaacson says one excerpt was read by 18,200 people the first week he posted it. He received scores of comments and hundreds of emails. And he used them to make changes and additions to his manuscript.

Outsourcing isn’t a new idea, of course, as Isaacson acknowledges. It’s part of the useful fun of social media, and I’ve enjoyed doing it for this blog, for free-lance articles, and on internal communications projects at large corporations. After I spent 20 years in newsrooms, with their constant swirls of collaboration, I still value reaching out to others as part of my communications process.

Ada Lovelace, Turing, Jobs, Gates, Isaacson, Atlanta, CNN

Ada Lovelace, computer pioneer

Validation from a master is nice. And here are seven more great lessons for all communicators from “The Innovators,” which tells the history of how today’s digital innovations came into being, from programming pioneer Ada Lovelace to more familiar names like Alan Turing, Jobs, Bill Gates and more. It’s a fascinating tale, with each chronologically ordered chapter so rich you could write a separate book on individual players (which, of course, many people have, including Isaacson).

By tracing the history and innovators, Isaacson shows us:

1. Creativity is a collaborative process. “As brilliant as the many inventors of the Internet and computer were, they achieved most of their advances through teamwork.”

2. Collaboration can go from one generation to the next, and on and on. “The digital age may seem revolutionary, but it was based on expanding the ideas handed down from previous generations.”

3. Physical proximity is beneficial. “There is something special … about meetings in the flesh, which cannot be replicated digitally,” Isaacson writes. He cites Yahoo! CEO Melissa Mayer discouraging the idea of working from home, and others who designed workspaces to encourage random encounters.

Franklin, Isaacson, Innovators

“Benjamin Franklin: An American Life”

4. The best leadership teams combine people with complementary styles. Here, Isaacson cites the varying strengths of our country’s Founding Fathers — including Benjamin Franklin, the subject of one of his earlier books.

5. A great team pairs visionaries, who generate ideas, and operating managers, who carry them out. “Visions with execution are hallucinations.” Isaacson cites “lingering historical debate over who most deserves” credit for inventing the electronic digital computer — a lone professor whose machine never fully worked, or a team of three who were able to get their machine operating.

6. Man is a social animal, as Aristotle first noted.

 Almost every digital tool, whether designed for it or not, was commandeered by humans for a social purpose. Even the personal computer, which was originally embraced as a tool for individual creativity, inevitably led to the rise of modems, online services, and eventually Facebook, Flickr, and Foursquare.

7. Creativity matters most. Isaacson opens the book with the story of Lovelace (1815-1852), who wrote the first algorithm meant to be carried out by a machine. He brings it back around to her at the end. “As she pointed out, in our symbiosis with machines we humans have brought one crucial element to the partnership: creativity.”

Isaacson castigates people who might scoff at engineers lacking an appreciation the arts, while blithely admitting they don’t know a mole from a molecule. The next round of innovation will rely on those who can link the two — “beauty to engineering, humanity to technology, and poetry to processors,” Isaacson writes.

It’s good advice and maybe a warning.

What’s His Story: From Atlanta to Uganda in the Fight Against AIDS

Erik Friedly, former spokesman for the Atlanta Opera and the Fulton County district attorney, has taken his communications skills as far from home as possible: to Africa. He moved to Uganda in January 2012 as a health communications specialist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the fight against AIDS. He’s also openly gay and married to a man from Kenya, in a country known around the globe for its homophobia. The images above are from his social media accounts.

1. Where are we in the story of HIV in Africa?

Erik Friedly, CDC, Uganda, AIDS, HIV, gay, Africa, Kenya, Atlanta, communications, Americans in Africa,

Erik Friedly

The HIV epidemic in Africa is still real and still a terrible burden. But programs like PEPFAR (the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, for which I am privileged to work) have made a huge difference. AIDS was once a death sentence for millions here — simple as that. We have turned that tide. There remains much to be done in terms of expanding treatment access and in preventing new infections across this continent, but there is real hope that we could one day see the end of AIDS here.

Almost anyone you speak to in Uganda over a certain age can tell you about someone they lost to AIDS — family or friends or teachers or neighbors. AIDS has been a shared nightmare here, which is a bit different than it has been in other parts of the world.

2. How comfortable are you as a gay man there? What about for your husband?

Erik Friedly, CDC, gay, wedding, Atlanta, San Franicisco, AIDS, HIV, Centers for Disease Control

Erik Friedly with Festus in San Francisco for their wedding last fall.

Uganda prides itself on being a conservative, “traditional” society, yes. Homosexuality is not widely accepted here. But my position is probably not a good barometer, since I am a white man, an American and a diplomat. I do sometimes feel uncomfortable, of course, and one cannot be truly open. But for the most part, on a day-to-day basis, there really are no significant issues.

My husband is Kenyan and so lives with very different family and cultural pressures than I do. But he is remarkably comfortable in his own skin and with his own life, and I think he would agree with my characterization of our life here.

3. It’s a long way from Atlanta to Kampala. Tell me how you got there.

Erik Friedly, CDC, HIV, AIDS, Uganda, Atlanta

CDC fact box. Click to enlarge.

When I first came to CDC in 2006, I joined the communication team within the office of the director. From there, I moved into CDC’s tobacco control office, but then made the jump to CDC’s Division of Global HIV/AIDS. In July 2011, I accepted this assignment to CDC’s Uganda office and deployed here in January 2012. I have at least one more year here.

4. What’s the job about? What kind of communications are you doing?

The job is an interesting hybrid of public affairs, health diplomacy and health communication.  Part of CDC’s work in global HIV is, of course, to encourage and promote risk-reduction behaviors among targeted populations — things like condom use, male circumcision and so on.

But working in the environment of the U.S. Embassy also requires communicating back to U.S. stakeholders about the tremendous investments in health the American people are making, while also promoting that same commitment to the people of Uganda. I can also act as a resource for CDC Headquarters by helping them tell CDC’s global health story better.

5. What’s been the biggest shock, and the biggest joy, of living in Uganda?

Erik Friedly, AJC, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, AJC, CDC, Centers for Disease Control, Paul Howard, Fulton County, district attorney, courts, Africa, Uganda, AIDS, HIV

I wrote this article at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, when I covered the courts and Erik Friedly was the spokesman for Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.

Prior to being permanently assigned here, I had worked brief assignments in Cameroon, Mali and Haiti, so I had some limited experience in the developing world. But I suppose the biggest shock here is the fact that so many things simply don’t work. Things like electricity. The ability to provide potable water even in the capital city. The roads, which are more pothole than pavement. There is such an overwhelming lack of the basic infrastructure and capacity to provide a basis for people to make the most of their lives.

The biggest joy (in addition to the amazing weather, the beauty of the landscape, etc.) might be the special way people live their lives. I don’t just mean the poverty or basic cultural differences. I mean the things people are prepared to accept, endure and make the most of. The ability to live a full and happy life without all of the things we come to expect are necessary. There is an abiding acceptance of life, which in turn breeds a quiet and abiding strength. There is a southern African concept of Ubuntu: “I am because you are.” It’s a wonderful concept of shared humanness, and it informs the spirit of sub-Saharan Africa.

social-icons-01Click here to tweet: “I am because you are.” — Southern African concept of Ubuntu

6. What are the big challenges of your communications job there?

Education levels tend to be relatively low, so one must try to keep messages simple and straightforward. This isn’t always easy when communicating complex scientific and health information. Ugandan media can sometimes lack professional acumen and that makes delivering a message difficult. Frank and open and fact-based discussions around sexual behaviors and realities can meet with resistance. This is not unlike the American attitude in the past, but in Uganda, with an HIV prevalence of around 7 percent, the stakes are higher and the need for honest discussion even more critical.

7. What are you reading these days? Print or digital?

I love books and magazines, always have. But day-to-day, digital is just easier. Bookshops here tend to be filled with religious or inspirational or self-help titles and magazines are imported and incredibly expensive. I am fortunate to be able to receive mail through the embassy, so I get magazines like The New Yorker and Vanity Fair with consistency — albeit a bit late.


For more on HIV/AIDS in Uganda, visit the Centers for Disease Control.


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‘Midnight in the Garden’ Goes Multimedia — Now there’s an App for That

John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, book, Savannah, Atlanta, Georgia, Margaret Mitchell House, meatball

John Berendt signs a copy of “Midnight in the Garden of Evil” at an event to promote the new “metabook” version. Photo by Lindsey Wright

A good story will always find new ways to be told, and here’s proof featuring one of the most popular tales of the last 20 years.

First, back in 1994, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” was a book. And not just a book, but a publishing sensation, selling millions of copies and pushing Savannah into the tourism stratosphere.

Then came an audiobook, a lifeless movie by Clint Eastwood, and plans for a Broadway musical.

Now, 21 years after John Berendt insisted on publishing it with no photos of its real-life cast and locations, “Midnight” is the first title of a multimedia iPhone/iPhad app called Metabook. The app is loaded with photos, text, audio clips – even an audio dramatization of the book with Laverne Cox of “Orange Is the New Black” voicing The Lady Chablis.

John Berendt, metabook, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Savannah, Atlanta, Georgia, murder

The new version is for iPad and iPhone.

Berendt spoke Thursday night at the Margaret Mitchell House about the new version of his book, probably the second most-popular Georgia title after Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind.”

He was joined on a panel by audio director Robin Miles and creative director Benjamin Alfonsi. They plan to produce a second non-fiction Metabook soon, augmented again with a tremendous volume of authentic source material. And Alfonsi promised a new novel by a famous American author will follow.

The digital book app includes the “Midnight” text, a 3D rendering of the Bird Girl statue, bios and updates on the characters, and a panoramic view of Bonaventure Cemetery. It also has crime scene photos with Berendt’s commentary and audio recordings of central figure Jim Williams (played, not to Berendt’s pleasure, by Kevin Spacey in the movie).

‘It Will Be a Wholly Different Shape’

Will Metabooks catch on as a way to appeal to younger readers used to more interactive experiences than print or plain e-books? “Midnight” seems a good place to test the waters, given its enduring popularity and the wealth of extras that flesh out the story. It might bring in new readers and please fans who crave even more details about Savannah, Williams and his multiple trials for killing his young lover.

John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, 2015

Berendt at the Margaret Mitchell House. Photo by Lindsey Wright

For Berendt, it now makes sense to add multimedia material (including those photos he objected to originally) because readers today can easily find the real thing online. That wasn’t an option when he wrote the original narrative, and he wanted them to rely solely on his prose for their mental images, rather than on snapshots in the middle of the print copy.

“Midnight” spent 216 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and sold some 5 million copies. Even the awful movie had an upshot: It paid for Berendt’s New York City townhouse.

Could a publishing phenomenon like that happen today, Berendt was asked by moderator Richard Eldredge of Atlanta magazine.

“It will be a wholly different shape,” Berendt replied. “It will never occur in the way it happened back then because bookstores were at the heart of it, and that’s not the case anymore. So I don’t know what the scenario will be, but there will be publishing phenomenon.

“It’ll be much harder for a very small book to break out. On the other hand, there is this incredible digital revolution and the Internet, so something could go break out, something could go viral very quickly from small to big.

“It’ll have to be viral , and I didn’t have any viruses going for me back then, so I can’t tell you.”

Relax, Atlanta: Manuel’s Tavern Isn’t Going Anywhere

In the video, spokesman Angelo Fuster clears up the confusion about Manuel’s. 

Manuel's Tavern, Atlanta, bar, institution

Manuel’s Tavern on the corner of North and Highland is an institution. People ask me where I live, and I say, “Near Manuel’s,” and they say, “Oh, yeah, I love that place.”

Facebook and Twitter were all abuzz this morning over news about beloved Manuel’s Tavern being closed to make room for a new development on the corner of Highland and North avenues.

I was confused by the articles (from Creative Loafing, the Business Chronicle and the AJC) as well as the response from people on social media. I saw responses slamming the “news” as just one more example of how we don’t value anything here in Atlanta, how we toss aside our institutions for something new and shiny.

Those reactions didn’t jibe with how I took it, as a reasonable approach to improving and preserving an old spot that’s on a prime corner of real estate — especially after reading owner Brian Maloof‘s Facebook statement.

So I walked the two blocks down to Manuel’s for chili and a grilled cheese, and to get it clear for myself.

“This building is going to be here. This place is going to be here just as you see it now,” spokesman and longtime Maloof family friend Angelo Fuster told me. “This bar is gonna be here. These booths are gonna be here. Those walls are gonna be here.”

Seems this is just another example of people reacting on social media to headlines, assuming the worst, and popping off emotional responses. (Scroll down this Twitter feed to see some examples. There were plenty more on Facebook — “sad,” “end of an era,” etc…)

Manuel's Tavern, Atlanta, bar, institution

Where everybody knows your name…

The business remains with Maloof, son of the late founder Manuel Maloof, Fuster said. The property was sold, from Manuel’s Properties to Green Street Properties. The plan allows for a four-story development on the 1.6 acres but doesn’t mandate one, Fuster said. The new buildings will go where the large parking lots are now.

In his statement, Maloof said,

The land sale is part of a partnership deal with Green Street Properties to renovate our building on North Ave. and North Highland Ave., refurbish the tavern and also develop a neighborhood-scale, mixed-use development on the immediately surrounding property.

Under the agreement, I will continue to be the sole owner of Manuel’s, Green Street will become our landlord, and the tavern will have a long-term lease at its present site.

The sale will allow much-needed structural updates to the building, which is about 100 years old and has been home to Manuel’s since 1956. The bar will be closed during renovations for about three months next year.


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