Sunday, May 19, 2013

Double Festing

It's been a few years since I went to two festivals in one day, but sometimes the local festival schedule lines up just right (or wrong) and you don't really want to choose. This happened to me yesterday, when I was planning (as I have been all year) to attend the International Biscuit Festival downtown but was then invited to also attend the Smoky Mountain Highland Games, which I have never been to before. Unable to choose between the two, I decided that I would hit the Biscuit Festival as early as possible in the morning, and then meet up with Kristin, Logan, Becky, and their friends for the Highland Games in the afternoon.

The morning dawned a little rainy:

rain bulb

but that didn't keep people away:

rainy market

rainy biscuit festival

I had a good time at the Biscuit Festival. I met the Biscuit Queen:

biscuit queen

and was informed by the man standing next to me that, "I think her hair is a wig."

Really? Next you're going to tell me that the biscuits in her wig are made of plastic.

I got to walk around the festival vendors and the Farmer's Market vendors:

farmer's market flowers

(I love that Pepsi case display for the bouquets; awesome vintage repurposing)

hot sauces


and, most importantly, I got to eat biscuits.

Bella Luna's Pepperoni Pizza Biscuit:

pepperoni pizza biscuits

was good, especially since many of the other competitors went with sweet biscuits. It was nice to have something savory in there. The festival winner was also a savory biscuit, so I may not have been the only one who felt this way.

The gluten-free biscuit:

gluten-free biscuits

was better than I expected, although a little chewy.

I was rather disappointed in Tupelo Honey Cafe's Green Eyed Monster Pimento Cheese biscuit:

green eyed monster pimento cheese biscuit

which was a biscuit sandwich with fried jalapeno peppers. While the restaurant is kind of locally famous for their biscuits, and they've always been good when I ate them there, I think they were trying to put out too many too fast yesterday, because my biscuit was underdone and doughy in the middle. This was disappointing, because this was the only competitor that I waited in line for, since they have such a good reputation. Sadly, they may have been coasting on it yesterday, which may also explain why they didn't win.

Once I was all carbed out, I went home to rest for a few hours (it was only supposed to be an hour, but everyone was running late yesterday), and then Kristen picked me up for the Highland Games, at nearby Maryville College. I don't really know anything about Maryville other than that they are private and are rumored to pay employees well, but their mascot is apparently the Scots:

Maryville College Scots

so I guess it makes sense that the Highland Games would be held there.

The games were interesting, if a little rainy. We saw a lot of people in kilts:


and some traditional Scottish food, like haggis...

Scottish food

...and deep fried candy?

I'll never forget the scene in MacBeth when the three witches gather around a bubbling cauldron of deep-frying Snickers bars. It's good to see those modern traditions carried forward to the present day.

And hey, speaking of MacBeth, it turns out that I am a descendant according to wikipedia. Yesterday at the festival all of the Scottish clans had their own booths, so Kristin and I went looking for the MacMillan booth, since the Scottish part of my dad's complicated ancestry was of the Clan MacMillan. Initially, we had trouble locating them, and it seemed like we were walking forever, especially since the booths were not in alphabetical order. Eventually I made a suggestion:

"They'll probably be in a booth all by themselves because they can't get along with any of the other booths if they're anything like Dad's family."

Sure enough, all the way down past all of the other booths and separated from the next closest booth by an empty booth we found the MacMillans:

MacMillan clan

and our traditional tartan:

MacMillan tartan

which none of the vendors were carryng. According to wikipedia, the clan was at one point banned from Scotland (no surprise there), so that may eplain the lack of MacMillan popularity among the vendors present.

Once we got tired of researching my ancestry we watching some of the games, including caber tossing:

caber toss (1)

caber toss (2)

caber toss (3)

with the goal being that the caber (the log/telephone pole) tumbles end over end, but the most often result being that it just splats onto the ground in the mud.

I also saw an adorable dog herd some adorable sheep:

sheep (2)

sheep (1)

sheep (3)

sheep (4)

rounding them up each time they drifted too far from their trailer.

I also saw some Civil War re-enactors who apparently came to the wrong festival:

wrong festival?

but it's possible that they were two festing, too.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dear Cheerios

Dear Cheerios,

Every morning, while I'm getting ready for work, one of your commercials airs on CNN and I stare at it in horror. I can't find the commercial on your YouTube channel, which may be for the best, but I'm sure you'd recognize it if I described it:

There are no adult actors. There is no sound, other than the noise of consumption. For fifteen seconds, the camera shows a baby scooping handfuls of Cheerios into its mouth and then beginning to chew them before it has removed the fingers. After that, the camera mercifully fades to a Cheerios branding screen.

I'm willing to bet that your company is very happy with this commercial. I bet the advertising firm showed it to your executives and spoke of how it would melt the hearts of parents everyone, tugging at their instincts to feed their human larvae solid foods that are both vaguely healthy and easy to mash into a pulp with gums and a few newly sprouted teeth. In all likelihood, parents do love that commercial.

You know who doesn't love it?


When I see that commercial I'm not reminded of my child (actual or aspirational), a favorite niece or nephew, a younger sibling, or even the child of close friends. Instead, I see a baby whose sticky soiled fingers, cheeks, chin, and shirtfront are probably smeared with saliva-coated, partially digested and half-chewed bits and lumps of Cheerios and whatever else manages to stick to it. I see jam-hands, and I want nothing to do with them.

Why do I mention this?

Because tonight I was in Kroger, in the breakfast foods aisle. I was looking for the new peanut butter flavored Pop Tarts, but they have not reached Tennessee yet. Disappointed, I turned away, and was confronted with a selection of Cheerios on the other side of the aisle. I thought, "Mmmmm... Cheerios. They even make peanut butter ones. Maybe I should..." and then my internal monologue was silenced by the image of a sticky baby jamming handfuls of Cheerios into its gaping maw, chewing and smearing and jamming and then reaching for me with its slimy wet hands, dripping with spit and whole grains. I cringed away from your cereal display so hard that for a second I felt like I had abs, and they were crunching me into a fetal position.

I had to buy two different kinds of cheese to settle myself.

I just thought you should know.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

"Whatever Happened to Day 30?"

I already explained what happened to Day 27 of my 30 Days of Blogging project for the month of April, but yesterday Jeannie pointed out to me that Day 30 was also strangely absent. I did actually have an entry for Day 30 mentally sketched out in my head, but on the evening of Day 30 I came home to write it and Comcast no longer felt like providing internet service. This has been happening fairly often lately, with Comcast's only explanation being, "Oh... unplug your modem for ten seconds so that it resets, and that should solve the problem." When I have to do that four times in an hour, because the modem comes back on and then immediately goes back out again, I just give up and do something else.

Anyway, the topic for Day 30 of 30 Days of Blogging was:

"American Idiot": The Musical

Green Day released the album American Idiot in 2004, and I consider it to be one of the best pieces of musical art to come out of the "W" Bush presidency. Whether or not you agree with it, the album is still emotionally resonant almost ten years later, with the anger, disillusionment, powerlessness, and outrage of liberal Americans still palpable when you listen to it. It certainly holds up better than Toby Keith's Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue, which seems to sum up the worst parts of American ignorance, bullying, and jingoistic enthnocentrism, or the open, shamelessly grasping artificial sentimentality that drips from every word of Alan Jackson's Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning). The feelings in "American Idiot" have at least been validated over the intervening almost-decade: the American people were lied to, repeatedly, and railroaded into a senseless war over imaginary weapons of mass destruction to bring democracy to a people that don't want the kind we have to offer, and they have a right to be angry about it.

These are the themes of the musical, too, which uses the music of the album and the weaker (but still good) followup album, 21st Century Breakdown to tell the story of three friends in post-9/11 America and the roads that life takes them down. My parents bought me a ticket for Christmas to see the touring version of the show downtown at the Tennessee Theatre:


and it was fantastic.

At the end, when the main character sings "Whatsername" about the woman he loved and lost through drug addiction and domestic abuse, I cried a little bit. I've always liked that song, but it touched me in a whole new way when I had a story to go with it, and it's not just some mythic story or a Hollywood movie: it's the story of us. Sure, I never moved to the big city and got hooked on drugs, but we all have friends that we drifted away from, and some of us are the friend who was left behind in the hometown while everyone else went out into the world. I have friends who joined the army and went away to the war, and friends who came back damaged and lost because of it. I enjoyed the show so much that I wished I had a ticket for the second night, too, just to see what I missed after being overwhelmed by it the first time.

On top of how good that part of the night was, I also took a short stroll down the alley on the back of Market Square between Wall Avenue and Union Avenue, and was delighted to see that almost all of the graffiti has been painted over since the last time I was there, and that artists have added new things:

halloween themed

wine bottle


(that one was a little unexpected, as I rarely see graffiti depicting non-Christian religions around Knoxville besides the ones for the Church of the Sub Genious:

bob, in fire or motion

but, you know, hey there Baphomet, I guess someone likes you)



about tv

drug baby


drug zombies

not mc escher


chief of tapes

It was like my own little quiet art gallery tour, if the gallery smelled vaguely like sewage. I especially liked this painting:

mirror ball

or is it a metapainting, since it's a graffiti painting of a wall with graffiti on it?

Either way, walking through the alley on my way to the show made the evening that much better.

Until I got home and the internet was dead.