Archive for September, 2009

Rules of Birmingham Driving (#2)

Monday, September 28th, 2009

When pulling out from a parking lot or a side street, you must put your car directly in the middle of the outlet. This makes it difficult at best for other vehicles to turn into the area you’re leaving, and reinforces that you have the right of way in any such situation.

You can’t fight city hall…

Monday, September 28th, 2009


Some jails have rooms painted pink because it apparently has a calming effect. I guess it’s an attempt to sedate people when they’re tempted to bring their issues to city leaders!

It’s actually bathed in pink light for breast cancer awareness month, which is October. (They’re apparently getting an early start.) I noticed tonight that some street lights have also been fitted with pink bulbs.

The good, the bad, and the just plain disturbing.

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

It was a good weekend in Birmingham. I spent most of it downtown, attending the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. I don’t tend to miss this one, as I have a passion for short films- and the feature length films I can see at the times when there isn’t a block of shorts playing.

When I got on site, the sign for the Carver Theater reminded of the added bonus: Sidewalk goes on at the same time as the Taste of 4th Avenue Jazz Festival.

Carver Theater

I didn’t have time right away to enjoy the jazz fest, as I spent the morning running between blocks of short films that were too close together on the clock, and too far away on the map. I started with some excellent documentary shorts done by UAB students, then headed over for two blocks of shorts. The fun part was when I rushed over to see Troll 2, which was the subject of opening night documentary Best Worst Movie. Troll 2, made in 1986, is a display of some of the worst writing, acting, costumes, and effects I have ever seen on the big screen, and it was fabulous! It’s not a sequel to Troll, and it contains no trolls. However, it does teach us three important things:

  • Softballs are very good communication devices
  • Goblins are vegetarians
  • People have a very hard time seeing that ‘Nilbog’ is goblin spelled backwards, even if they’re in a family constantly troubled by a child telling horror stories of them
  • Midgets clad in sackcloth are supposed to be terrifying, but are actually very funny
  • Corn on the cob can be sexy and deadly
  • A double-decker baloney sandwich can be an effective life-saving device

It was rather horrible, but in a really good way.

After Troll 2, I got a chance to grab a BBQ sandwich at one of the 4th Avenue businesses (something I don’t do enough), and took in a little bit of the jazz fest.


I like this fest a good bit, as it takes place in a predominantly black neighborhood, but having Sidewalk on at the same time brings in people of many ethnicities. It’s a good reminder that a city known for being the site of sometimes violent racial strife has mostly moved forward, and people of all types can come together and enjoy themselves side-by-side.

I returned to the fest today for more films, and was treated to a rather more relaxed pace than the one I had Saturday. When I got to my first block of films, I got another nice reminder- this time about the number of my friends who volunteer for Sidewalk. Here, my friend Thomas uses a scanner to get attendance numbers for a block of local short films.


Just after the block of shorts, I had a really special moment. World-famous animator Bill Plympton was on hand for a screening of his new feature, Idiots And Angels. I got a chance to chat with him about film for a while, and we even exchanged a few film tips before he signed my copy of his compilation Dog Days.


Sadly, I only got to see about half of Idiots And Angels before I had to run to my next block of shorts. The block was followed by one of the most disturbing films I’d ever seen, Taxidermia. It was full of things like a pig slaughter, graphic sex, competitive eating, men with tails, human embryos encased in plastic, and self-taxidermy. Yes, self-taxidermy. You jsut have to see it. I’ll offer the warning given by the guy who introduced it: “Taxedermia- in case there are any concerns- is just fucked up”.

The fest ended for me with a screening of Alabama Moon, a family-friendly tale of a young boy making his way into civilization after living in the woods with his reclusive father most of his life. It’s set in central Alabama, and was a decent film- though I was amused at their representation of Tuscaloosa as a slice of small-town south, complete with early 20th century courthouse. If you’ve been to Tuscaloosa, you’ll understand. :)

Sidewalk to me ranks among the best the city has to offer. It’s a good chance to highlight some of the talent the region has to offer, and brings in some fabulous national and international films. If you’re a film fan at all, be sure to get to the Magic City for next year’s fest.

Nothing says ‘Opa!’ like eating lunch in a parking deck.

Friday, September 25th, 2009

A non-traditional lunch is a big tradition in Birmingham. Every year, thousands of people gather in the parking deck of a downtown church for a massive Greek fest that centers on the food.

Greek food in a parking deck!

A parking deck isn’t the most inviting atmosphere for lunch, but people keep coming back for the good eats. It was load and hot, but the company was good- and somewhere in the background, we could actually hear a Greek band (Well, actually some guys with a drum machine and a few bouzoukis) playing Miserlou.

The assembly line.

The folks who put on the festival have a lot of practice at feeding thousands in a place designed more for storing cars than being a dining hall. Over nearly four decades, they’ve developed a great assembly line technique for keeping folks from standing in line.

I enjoyed my short stay in the parking deck- but I doubt I return during the rest of the weekend. Saturday and Sunday are reserved for one of my true loves- the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. This year will be a challenging one- as I love short films, and the blocks of shorts are way too close together timewise- and way too far apart geographically.

Overheard at J. Clyde…

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

“It’s like a food fight…except God is involved.” – David C.

Rules of Birmingham Driving (#1)

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

When on the Interstate, you must remain in the left lane, unless passing or exiting. You are allowed to get out of the left lane if a driver behind you insists on illegally passing on the left. You may move to the middle or right lane to allow the pass, but then you must immediately return to the left lane.

In any other bar, it would have been disturbing…

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

I went down to J. Clyde tonight to have dinner, hang out with some friends, and have a bit more of one of the beers featured at Oktoberfest. (The Big O from Pennichuck, for the record) When I ordered my dinner, the bartender asked if I wanted a cupcake. That’s not something a bartender frequently asks. One of the cooks came out with a tray of them, and I selected a chocolate one with a cherry on top. After my dinner (the kitchen staff was kind enough to substitute some Spaetzle leftover form Oktoberfest for the fries), I launched into the cupcake. I must say, it’s one of the best I’ve ever had. It was cream filled, with a crunchy wafer-ish bit at the bottom. On the way out, I commented to the cook that it was one of the best cupcakes I’ve had in a long time. She shot back that I’d just made her day.

Yet another thing I like about my little corner of Birmingham. Anywhere else, I might not have trusted a bar cupcake. But J. Clyde is sort of like my ‘Cheers’- and I’m pretty happy about that.

Oktoberfest returns to the Tragic City!

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

It’s been a few years since Birmingham had a good Oktoberfest. I remember fondly the events hosted by the FDSK, which focused quite a bit on German music and food. (They were also rife with very nice old German ladies trying to get me to join the FDSK.) This time around, beer took the front seat. You’d expect no less from a festival sponsored by Free The Hops. Rain was a bit of a downer in the first session (this fest was structured like a brew fest, in two sessions), but it was still great fun.

Jon tends to Joseph's shoe needs.

I got my first amusement before the fest even opened. I was met by my friend Joseph, who showed up in rented lederhosen one size too small. He couldn’t bend over to tie his shoes, so our friend Jon had to help him out.

Good People!  YUM!

My neighbourhood brewery was, of course, there with some new brews. This cask was one of the highlights of the day for me. (Good People brewery has the best tap handles anywhere!)

Die Mitternaechters

It had been some years since I’d seen Die Mitternaechters. They’d played the Weindorf at Tuscaloosa’s CityFest long ago, and allowed me the great plasure of seeing the mayor and the governor do the chicken dance together. This time around, they couldn’t take the stage early in the day because of the wet conditions- so they played unamplified on the street instead. I really liked hearing them this way.

The view from 21st Street

An overhead view of the fest, taken from the 21st Street overpass. The crowd is still a bit thin. Morris Avenue was a nice spot for the fest- not as big and sprawling as Sloss Furnaces, where we hold Magic City Brewfest.

The pretzel fairy...

it wouldn’t be an Oktoberfest without women selling pretzels! She’s made quite a bit of headway there, it looks like.

The sexiest dirndl in town...

And finally….she may not have had the most authentic dirndl at the fest, but it was the sexiest. Too bad you can’t see the white stockings, which would get any hetero male’s heart pumping. Heck, her getup was sexier than my kilt. :) As I drove home, I saw her walking down a city street, looking very far away from her car or her apartment. I wanted to pull over and offer her a ride, but that would have been really creepy- considering we’d just met an hour before, in the line for the porta-johns. But it was that kind of day; people made friends easily, and total strangers came up and danced with me. I hope next year’s fest is just as much fun.

That’s live TV… (#1)

Friday, September 18th, 2009

It’s sometimes funny when someone gets their words crossed on live TV. Today, a meteorologist on a local station was trying to slip in a PSA, and the following came out:

“Take advantage of the free prostate cleaning…”

Ouch. I do not want to know the method used to clean a prostate.

It’s not quite girls on sheep…

Monday, September 14th, 2009

The Alabama State Fair starts this weekend. It’s sure to be a chance to see a unique segment of humanity, while offering the opportunity to sample such culinary delights as roasted corn and deep-fried Twinkies. But there’s one thing the organizers do NOT want you to miss. Indeed, it’s been mentioned in every fair advertisement I’ve seen or heard. (This makes someone in broadcasting take notice. When an entity has the opportunity for multiple ads, the usual strategy is to feature different points in the different ads.) The people at the fair don’t want you to leave without witnessing the spectacle of monkeys riding dogs. What could be any more all-American than spider monkeys dressed up and plopped on the back of a flea-bitten pooch?

Some of you reading this may not be near Pelham, where the fair is held- or may not have plans to go to the fair. Never fear, you will not miss this amazing attraction. All you have to do is play the video below….if you dare.

By the way…if you’re wondering about the reference in the title, just follow the bouncing link