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Jennifer Rainey Marquez


My month-long quest for lustrous hair

Ever since puberty, the texture of my hair has resembled that of curly straw. And as I’ve gotten older—and, let’s face it, grayer—it’s only gotten drier, particularly in the arid winter months. I happily volunteered to embark on a month-long quest for lustrous, supermoisturized locks.

My first stop was eco­friendly beauty boutique Fig & Flower. The owner, Sara Lamond, suggested a Briogeo deep-conditioning hair mask (pictured above), applied at home in the shower. It softened my hair, but the effects only lasted through my next shampoo.

It was time to call the pros. I booked an appointment at Helmet, where a stylist massaged a deep conditioner (Aveda Dry Remedy Penetrating Moisture) into my hair, then wrapped it in a toasty warm towel for 10 minutes ($65). Afterward, I noticed a slight difference in shine for a week.

Next up, I tried Barron’s London Salon in Buckhead, which customizes its treatment for each client. The stylist chose a leave-in conditioner from Eufora for me. After a spin under a rotating heat lamp and a blow dry ($70), my hair felt silkier. Days later my coworkers were still commenting on how shiny it was. The salon recommended repeating the treatment every three to four weeks. But at $70, I think I’ll try to mimic the results at home, using the Briogeo mask, a shower cap, and a hair dryer.

31 splendid spring events for Atlanta families in March

Through 3/5
The Phantom of the Opera
Where: Fox Theatre
When: Various
Cost: $30 to $125
What: “Sing once again with me our strange duet” when this new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s gothic musical—including updated special effects, staging, and choreography—hits the Fox.

Through 3/12
The Adventures of Mighty Bug 
Where: Center for Puppetry Arts
When: Various
Cost: $20.50 ($10.25 for members), free for kids under 2
What: In this comic book-style show, Mighty Bug must rescue the citizens of Bugville from the villain Scorpiana. For ages 4 and up; attendees can also make a lightning bug rod and string puppet.

Through 3/19
Exit Strategy 
Where: True Colors Theatre at Southwest Arts Center
When: Various
Cost: $20 for adults over 30, $10 for those age 30 and under
What: Recommended for teens ages 15 and up, this play explores the neighborhood tensions that arise when a Chicago public high school is slated for closure.

Through 5/7
Wild Weather 
Where: Fernbank Museum of Natural History
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Monday through Saturday); noon to 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Free with admission ($18 for adults; $16 for kids 3 to 12; free for kids 2 and under)
What: Have you ever wondered about the forces that create severe weather events like tornadoes or hurricanes? In this interactive exhibition, you can whip up your own storm and learn how scientists are learning how to better predict extreme weather.

Engineering Day
Where: Fernbank Museum of Natural History
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission ($18 for adults; $17 for students; $16 for kids 3 to 16; free for kids 2 and under)
What: Want to get your little one excited about STEM? Fernbank’s event, inspired by the museum’s new “giant screen” movie Dream Big, will include crafts, games, and other activities, and the chance to meet real-life engineers.

The Phoenix Flies
Where: Various
When: Various
Cost: Free
What: Each year, the Atlanta Preservation Center offers a peek inside some of the city’s most beautifully preserved historic structures and landmarks—from the Callanwolde mansion to Castleberry Hill—in this series of free guided events.

Gunthman Musical Instrument Competition
Where: Ferst Center for the Arts
When: 7 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: Every year, Georgia Tech hosts a competition to find the world’s best new musical instruments. Semifinalists will demonstrate their creations at what may be the Ferst Center’s weirdest concert, and a winner is crowned at the end of the night. Just be prepared: your kid might just come home asking to play the “guitarbot.”

Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird
Where: Center for Puppetry Arts
When: 7 p.m.
Cost: $10.50 (free for members)
What: The Center for Puppetry Arts screens the 1985 Jim Henson film in which Big Bird runs away from home. Ticket prices include admission to the Worlds of Puppetry Museum, and (bonus for parents!) there will be a cash bar available leading up to the show.

Harlem Globetrotters
Where: Philips Arena
When: 2 p.m., 7 p.m.
Cost: $22 to $160
What: The basketball-comedy team returns, this time with a “four point line” located 30 feet from the basket. The Globetrotters will also perform at Infinite Energy Center on 3/18.

Daffodil Day
Where: Oakland Cemetery
When: 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: Ring in spring with storytelling, children’s activities, and guided garden walks in the peaceful Victorian cemetery.

Peter and the Wolf and Friends
Where: Symphony Hall
When: 3 p.m.
Cost: $15 to $20
What: The ASO performs the Prokofiev symphony, Peter and the Wolf, plus Flight of the Bumblebee, “Elephant” from Carnival of the Animals, and other kid-friendly classical compositions.

Poetry Out Loud State Final Competition
Where: Atlanta History Center
When: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: Watch as Georgia high school students perform great works of poetry and spoken word—the winner will go on to represent the state in the national competition in D.C.

The Dragon King
Where: Center for Puppetry Arts
When: Various
Cost: $10.25 for members; $20.50 for nonmembers
What: In this marionette show based on a Chinese folktale, a grandmother sets out to find the Dragon King, who rules over water from the bottom of the sea, and ask him why he won’t bring rain to her drought-plagued village. For ages 4 and up.

Where: Alliance Theatre
When: 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. (Tuesday through Saturday); 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: $10 for adults; $5 for kids ages 6 to 17; free for kids 5 and under
What: Developed in collaboration with Fernbank Museum of Natural History, this world premiere production gently introduces kids to the giants of the prehistoric world.

Atlanta Science Festival
Where: Various
When: Various
Cost: Various
What: One of the coolest events for kids and teens in Atlanta (in our humble opinion), the ASF is a weeklong celebration of local science and tech. Drop by one of the dozens of events held in venues across the city—this year’s lineup includes a talk by astronaut captain Mark Kelly, a demonstration of the science of circus tricks, a mock crime scene investigation, a 3D-printed pancake design challenge, and an astronomer-led tour of the night sky. On Saturday the 25th, Centennial Olympic Park hosts the free Exploration Expo, with more than 100 interactive exhibits, demonstrations, and performances.

DRUMLine: Live!
Where: Ferst Center for the Arts
When: 8 p.m.
Cost: $28 to $38
What: This touring show brings the HBCU halftime experience to the stage, with a high-stepping drum major leading a cast of percussionists, other musicians, and dancers.

Atlanta St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Where: Midtown
When: Noon
Cost: Free
What: Atlanta was a baby city when this parade first began in 1858—making it one of the country’s oldest St. Pat’s celebrations. Show up early to race (or cheer on runners) in the parade’s 3rd annual 5K, which starts at 10 a.m.

Where: Fox Theatre
When: 8 p.m. (Friday and Saturday), 2 p.m. (Saturday only), 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. (Sunday only)
Cost: $30 to $75
What: The Tony-winning musical stops by the Fox, where you can introduce your kids to Ms. Hannigan, Daddy Warbucks, and all the classic songs—from “Tomorrow” to “It’s a Hard Knock Life.”

White Woman in Progress
Where: 7 Stages Theatre
When: 8 p.m. (Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday), 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: $22.50 for adults, $15 for students
What: After Atlanta actress Tara Ochs played the role of civil rights activist Viola Liuzzo in the film Selman, she was inspired to create this one-woman show that tackles issues of privilege, race, and social justice. Teens may find inspiration in message, which stresses the power of the individual to spur change.

Secrets of Slave Songs
Where: Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center in Decatur
When: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Cost: $20 for adults, $10 for students and children
What: This expressive, full-length work by Threads Dance Project founder and artistic director—and Georgia State alum—Karen Charles is a moving reimagination of traditional Negro spirituals. The theater will host a discussion after each performance.

Forest Fairy House Trail
Where: Chattahoochee Nature Center
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Monday through Saturday), noon to 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Free with admission ($10 for adults, $7 for students ages 13 to 18, $6 for kids ages 3 to 12, free for kids 2 and under)
What: Tinkerbell would feel quite at home in a Fairy House—a tiny, magical-looking abode made from moss, leaves, and other natural materials. As you wander the Homestead and Kingfisher Pond trails, see how many you can spot.

Cinderella and Fella
Where: Alliance Theatre
When: Various
Cost: $32 for adults, $18 for kids
What: Janece Shaffer is known for writing plays that feature strong female characters, and this world-premiere musical is no exception. Expect a spunky take on the classic fairy tale, in which Cinderella is a high-tops wearing gal ready to join her new best friend (aka the prince) in fun and adventure.

The Price is Right Live
Where: Fox Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m.
Cost: $35.50 to $75
What: Have you ever wished for a chance to spin the Big Wheel, prove yourself at Plinko, or place the winning bid on a Showcase? Well come on down to the Fox for this touring interactive stage show, in which audience members have a chance to win real prizes. (You must pre-register with the producer to be eligible to play.)

Atlanta International Auto Show
Where: Georgia World Congress Center
When: Noon to 9 p.m. (Wednesday and Thursday), noon to 10 p.m. (Friday), 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Saturday), 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: $12 for adults, $6 for kids ages 6 to 12, free for kids ages 5 and under
What: Is there any kid alive who doesn’t like to slide into the driver’s seat and pretend to take the wheel (or at least fiddle with all the controls)? This 400,000-sqare-foot auto extravaganza will feature hundreds of futuristic concept cars, classic cars, off-road vehicles, and more. If that’s not enough, Spiderman, Scooby-Doo, and Captain America will make special guest appearances.

International Cherry Blossom Festival
Where: Macon, Georgia
When: Various
Cost: Various
What: Did you know that one of the world’s largest cherry blossom festivals is in…..Macon, Georgia, whose streets are lined with more than 300,000 of the pink-blooming trees? Make the trek, and you’ll find concerts, amusement rides, puppet shows, a butterfly encounter, an open-air market, pink pancake breakfasts, and more. The 35th annual (free) cherry blossom parade kicks off at 4 p.m. on March 26.

Rescue Dog Olympics
Where: Brook Run Dog Park
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: Bring the family pet (pre-registration is free, but not required) to compete in games like “toss and fetch” and “Scooby says.” Don’t forget to stop by the kissing booth for a drooly smooch.

Brookhaven Cherry Blossom Festival
Where: Blackburn Park
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
If Macon is a little too far (see above), you can hit this ITP festival featuring a classic car show, live music, pet costume contest, and children’s village (think face-painting, balloon art, and bounce houses)—plus 140 cherry blossom trees.

Conyers Cherry Blossom Festival
Where: Georgia International Horse Park
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: Free ($5 to $8 for parking)
What: ‘Tis the cherry blossom season! This annual weekend event will host plenty of live entertainment (including traditional Japanese dance), arts and crafts booths, a newly redesigned children’s area with climbing walls and obstacle courses, and lots of festival treats.

Atlanta’s Young Artists Concert
Where: Michael C. Carlos Museum
When: 4 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: Some of the city’s best middle- and high-school musicians show off their chops in this one-hour concert.

Side-By-Side Concert featuring the ASO and ASYO
Where: Symphony Hall
When: 8 p.m.
Cost: $10
What: This annual concert features student performers from the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra playing alongside professionals from the ASO.

Two Boys Kissing
Where: Druid Hill Presbyterian Church
When: 8 p.m. (Friday and Saturday), 2 p.m. (Saturday only)
Cost: $12.50 to $30
What: The Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus performs a new work based on the critically-acclaimed YA book of the same name, which follows the interlocking stories of gay teenagers.

The story behind PBS’s new John Lewis documentary

Whether you live in Georgia’s 5th district or had never heard the name “John Lewis” until Trump began tweeting about him last month, now’s your chance to learn more about the civil rights hero. On Friday, February 10, PBS will air John Lewis—Get In the Way, a new documentary that chronicles Lewis’s life from his childhood in rural Alabama, where he was born to sharecroppers in 1940, to his leadership of last year’s Congressional sit-in for gun control. We recently chatted with the film’s producer and director, Kathleen Dowdey, about the project:

Can you talk a little bit about how this movie came to be? I read that footage for this film was shot over 20 years.
In the 1980s, I was living in Atlanta and working for Turner Broadcasting, making independent films. We did a big film on Ralph McGill, and it was actually while we were interviewing [Lewis] for the McGill film that I first heard his story. It was clear right away that someone should be making a film about this guy.

We shot maybe 20 hours of tape in the 1990s, and then the film basically sat in my closet for about 15 years. Then around 2010, after President Obama had been in office for a while, people started asking about it. I thought, “Well if it’s ever going to get made, it would be now,” because Obama’s first presidential campaign had put the spotlight on a lot of civil rights leaders. I brought some tape of what I had shot in the 1990s to Lewis’s office, and I asked him, “Should we finish it?” He agreed. There was about 150 hours of tape, which we edited into a film-length documentary.

Congressman John Lewis at his polling station in Atlanta.

Courtesy of Early Light Productions

Is there a particular scene or interview that stands out to you?
There’s a whole section that we shot early on of his family in Pike County, Alabama—a big family reunion. It was amazing to get a truer sense of where he comes from and how integral that is to who he is. You can read all you want about the Black Belt in Alabama, but when you go there, especially back then in the early 1990s, you get a glimmer of what the hardship of growing up in a place like that would be.

I think a lot of people meet him and hear his stories and just can’t figure out how this guy can be so authentic, have this spirit of optimism and commitment to nonviolence. The challenge to a filmmaker is to be able to show that, and when I started this film, I had no idea how I ever would. I felt like in that scene with his family, you could begin to understand that essence in him and where it came from. This was the start of his road, and if you look at the extraordinary path he has traveled since then, it’s built on the foundation of this place.

The film doesn’t cover Lewis’s recent criticism of Donald Trump or the President’s counter-attack on Lewis. Were you surprised by the events?
John Lewis is an unusual member of Congress. He is someone who is referred to as the conscience of Congress, someone who speaks his mind and speaks it very plainly and straightforwardly. To hear him say [what he said] about Trump, it was not an unusual thing. It was the timing and the essence of it that brought international attention. For those of us who follow him, though, the words were not surprising.

Can you talk a bit about the title, Get in the Way?
That’s one of the Congressman’s favorite phrases and one of his real identifiers: Make some noise, get in the way. It refers to, I believe, the need for all of us to respond to injustice in our world and in our society. It means that it’s up to us—those of us who are in positions to do so—to stand up and to speak out, make some noise, and not allow those injustices to continue.

John Lewis was jailed in Jackson, Mississippi,
during the 1961 Freedom Rides.

Courtesy of the FBI

What do you hope viewers—especially those who aren’t already familiar with Lewis’s story—take away from this documentary?
In screenings so far, people have just been enormously inspired. And that’s something I had hoped for. Some people want to go out and start voter registration drives, other people want to go volunteer at the soup kitchen. Lewis is a master at connecting people and giving them a sense of purpose in their lives. And I hope that seeing the film, even for people who already have a sense of purpose, it kind of reignites them. I would be very proud to be associated with a film that has that effect.

As for the Congressman, he was most eager to support this film because he wants what he learned and what he went through in the [civil rights] movement to be of use to future generations. And as we were putting the film together, we kept that in mind. It is meant to be a useful tool as well as a piece of entertainment. There are so many things that John Lewis’s generation, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s generation went through in a really concentrated period of time. It was an extraordinary period in history for so many reasons, and they carry those experiences with them. It was our job to take that and put it together into film.

29 fun February events for Atlanta families

Through 2/12
I See a Story: The Art of Eric Carle
Where: High Museum of Art
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Tuesday through Thursday, Saturday); 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Friday); 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Free with admission ($14.50 ages 6 and up; free for kids 5 and under)
What: Even if your kid is too young to read, he or she would likely still recognize the distinctive hand-colored collages of children’s book author and illustrator Eric Carle, best known for The Very Hungry Caterpillar. See 80 original artworks from 15 of Carle’s most popular books in this career retrospective.

Through 2/15
Atlanta Jewish Film Festival
Where: Various
When: Various
Cost: $13 for adults, $11 for students
What: The 17th annual festival will include screenings of three family-friendly flicks: Abulele, the E.T.-like story of a grieving child who befriends a furry monster; The Children of Chance, a coming-of-age drama set in a children’s hospital in Nazi-occupied France; and Fanny’s Journey, about a 13-year-old girl who leads a group of young orphans to safety during WWII.

Through 2/26
Snow Mountain
Where: Stone Mountain Park
When: Various
Cost: $28; free for kids ages 2 and under
What: Make it a white Christmas (er, New Year) at Stone Mountain’s annual winter wonderland, with tons of trucked-in snow for sledding, tubing, and snowman making. Work up an appetite for warm drinks and roasted marshmallows.

Through 3/12
The Adventures of Mighty Bug 
Where: Center for Puppetry Arts
When: Various
Cost: $20.50 ($10.25 for members), free for kids under 2
What: In this comic book-style show, Mighty Bug must rescue the citizens of Bugville from the villain Scorpiana. For ages 4 and up; attendees can also make a lightning bug rod and string puppet.

Through 5/7
Wild Weather
Where: Fernbank Museum of Natural History
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Monday through Saturday); noon to 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Free with admission ($18 for adults; $16 for kids 3 to 12; free for kids 2 and under)
What: Have you ever wondered about the forces that create severe weather events like tornadoes or hurricanes? In this interactive exhibition, you can whip up your own storm and learn how scientists are learning how to better predict extreme weather.

Le Petit Prince
Where: 7 Stages Theater
When: 8 p.m. (Friday and Saturday), 3 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: $27.50 for adults, $18.50 for students
What: For decades readers of all ages have loved the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry story of a pilot who befriends a mysterious child. Atlanta’s Francophone theater company Théâtre du rêve will stage the play entirely in French—but don’t worry, there will be subtitles projected onto a screen.

Roswell Roots
Where: Various
When: Various
Cost: Various, though many events are free.
What: Roswell’s monthlong festival of black culture and history includes concerts, plays, storytelling, living history demonstrations, a poetry slam, and more.

Timothy Tyson
Where: Atlanta History Center
When: 8 p.m.
Cost: $10 ($5 for members)
What: Tyson, a senior research scholar at Duke University, discusses his new book The Blood of Emmett Till, about the brutal 1955 murder of Till, a 14-year-old African American boy accused of violating racial norms by engaging in an exchange with a white woman named Carolyn Bryant. The book includes the only interview ever given by Bryant, and is a powerful way to introduce teens to Till’s story and talk abut the region’s history of racial violence.

Where: Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center
When: Open gaming runs 10 a.m. Thursday through 11 p.m. Sunday. Events take place throughout the weekend.
Cost: $50 for a three-day pass. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
What: Bring your gaming nut to this three-day convention dedicated to board games, miniatures, card games, and roleplaying. Events include game demonstrations, workshops, and championship matches.

Groundhog Day Jugglers Festival
Where: Yaarab Shrine Center
When: 5 to 11 p.m. (Friday), 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. (Saturday), 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: Daytime events are free for spectators
What: Watch as jugglers, unicyclists, yoyo-ists, and hula hoopers show off their skills, then pick up some new tricks at one of the many workshops.

The One and Only Ivan
Where: Synchronicity Theatre
When: 7 p.m. (Friday), 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. (Saturday), 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. (Sunday). There will also be some weekday matinees for school field trips.
Cost: Various
What: This kid-friendly production (for ages 5 and up) pays tribute to Ivan, a real gorilla who lived at Zoo Atlanta from 1994 to 2012, with a story loosely based on his life and adapted from a Newberry Award-winning book by Katherine Applegate. Show up on Fridays, and the kids can wear their PJs and snack on cookies and milk while watching the show.

Too Heavy For Your Pocket
Where: Alliance Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m. (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday); 8 p.m. (Friday and Saturday); 2:30 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday)
Cost: $35 to $42 for adults, $10 for teens
What: This world-premiere play, recommended for ages 13 and up, takes place in rural Tennessee during the peak of the Civil Rights movement. The story follows a college student who joins the Freedom Riders—and whose fight against racism in the South takes a toll on his personal relationships.

Super Museum Sunday
Where: Various
When: Various
Cost: Free
What: As part of the Georgia History Festival, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources offers free admission to a number of parks and historic sites throughout the state—including some not normally open on Sundays. Participating sites include Andalusia Farm, the Dahlonega Gold Museum historic site, the Marietta Museum of History, the Millennium Gate Museum in Atlanta, and SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion and Film.

Malpaso Dance Company
Where: Rialto Center for the Arts
When: 8 p.m.
Cost: $31.21 to $62.64
What: See this young Havana-based dance troupe, which blends ballet, modern, and Afro-Cuban styles.

Culture Through Rhythm and Movement
Where: Center for Civil and Human Rights
When: Noon to 3 p.m.
Cost: Free for kids under 18; $18.25 for adults
What: Kids can learn how today’s popular music and dances are inspired by African culture and traditions in this month’s SPARK Saturday event.

Snow White
Where: Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center
When: 2 p.m.
Cost: $10 to $51
What: Each year the Atlanta Ballet presents a one-hour, family-friendly performance in the month of February, offering young arts lovers an opportunity to experience the beauty and drama of classical dance. Designed for kids 12 and under, this year’s production of Snow White will have special appeal for Disney fans.

Champion Tree Tour
Where: Fernbank Forest
When: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission to Fernbank Museum ($18 for adults; $16 for kids 3 to 12; free for kids 2 and under). Advance reservations required.
What: Celebrate Arbor Day with this guided hike through Fernbank Forest (for kids ages 8 and up). You’ll visit and learn to identify some of the city’s largest, most impressive trees.

Fancy Storytime
Where: Little Shop of Stories
When: 3 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: It’s fancy day at the beloved Decatur bookshop. Don your finest dress-up clothes, and settle in for some fancy tales and fancy snacks.

Love Stories of Oakland
Where: Oakland Cemetery
When: 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Cost: $16 for adults, $10 for students
What: Learn about the romantic pasts of some of Oakland’s “permanent residents” in this guided tour.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Where: Fox Theatre
When: 8 p.m. (Wednesday through Saturday); 2 p.m. (Saturday only); 3 p.m. (Sunday only)
Cost: $25 to $90
What: African American choreographer Alvin Ailey, who grew up during segregation and would have turned 86 this year, was a pioneer in the modern dance world for his socially conscious works and diverse troupe of dancers. Decades after their creation, many of his most famous pieces—including the extraordinary Revelations—continue to resonate deeply with audiences.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus
Where: Philips Arena
When: Various
Cost: $15 to $225
What: In January, the nearly 100-year-old Ringling Bros. announced that this spring’s tour will be its last, making this your last chance to see the spectacle before it closes permanently in May. Infinite Energy Center will also host Circus XTREME later in the month.

Sweet Honey in the Rock
Where: Rialto Center for the Arts
When: 8 p.m.
Cost: $38.56 to $73.44
What: For more than 40 years, this Grammy-nominated all-female group has combined a capella singing and American Sign Language interpretation to create powerful, uplifting performances.

Vanilla Sunday
Where: Atlanta Botanical Garden
When: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission ($18.95 for adults; $12.95 for kids 3 to 12; free for kids two and under)
What: Did you know that vanilla comes from an orchid? Taste a vanilla ice-cream sundae, and learn about the process by which vanilla beans are turned into vanilla extract. Then stop by the conservatory to marvel at the Garden’s annual ode to orchids.

Founders Day
Where: Callaway Gardens
When: All day
Cost: Free
What: Each year, visitors can explore Callaway Gardens’ beautiful grounds for free on November 6 and February 21—the birthdays of its founders. Stop by the Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel between noon and 4 p.m. for special organ concerts.

Exit Strategy
Where: True Colors Theatre at Southwest Arts Center
When: Various
Cost: $20 for adults over 30, $10 for those age 30 and under
What: Recommended for teens ages 15 and up, this play explores the neighborhood tensions that arise when a Chicago public high school is slated for closure.

The Phantom of the Opera
Where: Fox Theatre
When: Various
Cost: $30 to $125
What: “Sing once again with me our strange duet” when this new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s gothic musical—including updated special effects, staging, and choreography—hits the Fox.

National Tell a Fairy Tale Day
Where: Children’s Museum of Atlanta
When: 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission ($14.95; free for babies under 1 year)
What: See Atlanta Ballet dancers perform excerpts from Snow White, meet Cinderella, listen to Anansi and The Magic Stick, and learn to dance the minuet.

Black History Month Parade
Where: Downtown Atlanta, beginning at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
When: 1 p.m.
Cost: Free
What: Last year’s parade drew everyone from the Atlanta Dream to marching bands, cheerleading squads, and Girl Scout troops. In 2017, the event will pay homage to the late Earl Little, a community leader who launched the city’s first Black History Month Parade in 2011, and will end with a post-parade ceremony at Woodruff Park.

Mardi Gras Fun
Where: Children’s Museum of Atlanta
When: 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Cost: Free with admission ($14.95; free for babies under 1 year)
What: At this G-rated celebration, kids can make their own glittery masks and then don them for a Mardi Gras parade.

The “Jerry Seinfeld of France” is ready to conquer America

Gad Elmaleh
Gad Elmaleh

Photograph by Arié Elmaleh

In 2015, French Moroccan comedian Gad Elmaleh made an unusual decision. After enjoying years of fame and success in France—he is often referred to as “The Jerry Seinfeld of France,” and indeed, Seinfeld is a friend and supporter—Elmaleh decided to learn English and discover how his comedy translates in America. In early 2016, he began a six-month stint at Joe’s Pub in New York City, and has now embarked on a U.S. tour. We recently chatted with Elmaleh in advance of his show at Symphony Hall on February 3.

You are a major comedy headliner in Europe, and yet you (at least temporarily) gave it up to pursue a stand-up career in the U.S.—and in English. What has been the most difficult part?
There were many, many difficulties when I first started. Obviously the first issue, the first struggle, is the language. Two years ago, I didn’t speak English like I speak now. I took so many lessons, and worked with a dialect coach, and tried to watch the news everywhere I was in English.

I had to master speaking English, and I also had to learn a new way of delivering my jokes. The way the Americans are used to hearing and receiving stand-up is so, so different. In Europe, we have a tradition of acting and performing during stand-up, and I’m not saying the American audience is not ready to receive that, but you have to stay sharp with the delivery so they can follow what you’re saying.

What kinds of changes did you have to make to your stand-up routine?
When I first started doing stand-up in English, I tried to translate some jokes from my French act, and it didn’t work at all. I think people want to hear a unique new perspective. In my act, in my show, there’s this whole perspective about me coming from France and observing American culture, behavior, traditions, the way of talking, eating, dressing, traveling, dancing. I like that; I was really happy to see that [for] Americans, stand-up comedy is such a big part of the culture, they’re used to that style of self-deprecating jokes.

Does your new material draw on your time on tour?
I just have new material all the time when I travel. When I first moved to France, because I was born in Morocco, my first stand-up show was about my journey: being Moroccan and moving away to Canada, and being established in France. And now I feel like I’m doing it again, but instead the material is about me traveling across the U.S. Stand-up comedians always talk about personal stuff, and this is my life now.

Do you have any preconceived ideas about Atlanta?
Not a lot. I know just the clichés, so for Atlanta I think of Coca-Cola. It’s stupid, but this is all we learn in France. But I realize the history of the city is so much more interesting than only Coca-Cola. I’m looking forward to exploring, and then later I can talk about this trip in my act when I go to other cities. There’s always something new to say.

Can you make yourself smarter? We asked one of the world’s leading intelligence researchers.

brainIn the late 1980s, psychology researcher Dr. Randall Engle presented his study subjects with a “dippy little task,” as he calls it. “I gave them a simple arithmetic problem to solve, and then I gave them a letter to remember, and then another arithmetic problem, and then another letter, and so on. And then I asked, ‘Now what were all of the letters that I just told you, in order?’” The exercise was designed to test something called working memory, or what you can recall when you’re shifting your attention away from the task at hand and then back again. It turned out that the number of letters that subjects could remember correlated strongly with a variety of real world cognitive aptitudes, including reading comprehension and complex problem solving.

“I wondered, Why would this relationship exist?” says Engle, who now runs the Attention & Working Memory Lab at Georgia Tech, which focuses on the role memory and attention play in human cognition. We recently spoke with Engle about intelligence and memory, why it declines as we age, and what we can do to help (or hurt) our brainpower.

Twenty-five years ago, you showed that working memory was closely related to “fluid intelligence.” Can you explain what that means? Most theories of intelligence contend that there are two types. One is crystallized intelligence, which is everything that you’ve learned: knowledge you gained in school or on the job, languages you speak. I’m nearly 70 years old, and I can still recite “Jabberwocky.” Fluid intelligence, on the other hand, is the biological side of intelligence. This is what you do when you haven’t learned what to do: your ability to solve a novel problem that you’ve never encountered before, complex reasoning. It’s also what’s most heritable. We had a discovery in the early 1990s that these working memory scores that we’d been measuring were correlated quite highly with fluid intelligence. The question was why.

And what is the connection? About 10 or 15 years ago, we discovered the relationship really had to do with how well you focus and maintain your attention. It’s your ability to not be distracted, which varies greatly from person to person. And attention control is something that declines as we get older.

So this is not about dementia. It’s just normal decline that happens with aging?  Yes. Mind wandering happens at a very molecular level. We’re not talking about your mind wandering during a boring lecture. We’re talking about a biological tendency to quickly shift your attention from topic to topic. Some people are just easily distracted, and as we get older our attention is more easily captured by events that are off-task. That creates a bit of a problem because it affects working memory and fluid intelligence and our ability to do complex things.

So you’re saying that we get less smart as we get older? Well, yes and no. Crystallized intelligence continues to increase over the course of most of your life span. At age 75, your vocabulary, for example, will be as high as it ever was and probably higher. If we look at fluid intelligence, however, it increases to about age 22, and then it kind of levels off. Then at about age 40, it starts going down, and it drops like a rock.

Fantastic. Do we know why? It likely has to do with the breakdown of insulation surrounding our neurons, called a myelin sheath. Similar to the way insulation that’s wrapped around an electrical cord prevents the wires from touching each other, the myelin sheath keeps signals in that neuron from leaking into other neurons. This myelinating process happens in the frontal lobe of the brain, and it’s completed around age 22. And that’s also when fluid intelligence hits its peak; then, later, it starts to degrade.

Is there anything that you can do to curb that decline? What about this idea of “training your brain” by playing games or using specialized apps or computer software programs? Brain training is a wonderful promise, and as a soon-to-be 70-year-old, if I thought that playing these games for an hour every day would retard that decline, then I would be doing it. But I’ve done tons of work evaluating these programs, and the evidence is quite compelling that when you do a well-controlled study—and that’s key—you find no benefit.

What I tell people is, if you enjoy playing this game, you should play it. If you love crossword puzzles, then do it for the joy of solving them—not because it will magically fix your declining memory. Do it because it adds life to your years, not because it adds years to your life.

I’ve been a sudoku addict for a long time. But I have no illusion that it’s making me smarter. It’s just making me a better sudoku player.

Dr. Randall Engle

Photograph courtesy of Georgia Tech

Do you think that bad habits—like relying on our smartphones to remember things for us—make the problem worse? Not really. Technology is not the culprit for declining memory, though it has certainly given us a lot more stuff that we need to remember. But that’s just the product of living in a complex world. I think it’s a good thing to make use of technology to help you manage it, for example to keep track of your calendar or to send notes to yourself.

What about multitasking? Is it a bad thing? The reality is that you can attend to one thing at a time. That’s it. You can’t divide your attention. Even the best multitaskers are just shifting their attention very rapidly. But it’s your ability to retain information while you’re switching your attention back and forth that’s the real issue. You have to remember what you were doing at task A when you return from task B. Fluid intelligence is really important in your ability to do that. But nobody has enough fluid intelligence that they can text and drive at the same time. There’s a reason why you see these videos of people walking and texting on a cell phone, and then they walk right into an open manhole.

That said, if all of the tasks are pretty simple, or if they can be done relatively mindlessly, then no, it’s not bad. Think about reading your kids a bedtime story. After you’ve read The Cat in the Hat 40 times, you can think about something else while you’re reading it and still do a perfectly good job as a reader. But the more complex the tasks are, the more thought they require, the less capably you will be able to switch between them. It’s really a case of diminishing returns.

So is there anything we can do to help preserve our brainpower as we age? A friend of mine, a neuroscientist named Art Kramer, has shown that the answer to this is exercise. Research has proven over and over again that aerobic exercise—lifting doesn’t do it, calisthenics doesn’t do it—will lead to improvements in working memory and fluid intelligence. It’s not going to make that decline go away, but it retards it a little bit. And it’s true for children as well as old people. You take kids who are fairly slothful, and you give some of them stretching exercises and some of them aerobic exercises and you keep some of them as a control group, and then you look at all three groups. And you find that the kids who are doing aerobic exercise are doing better in school, and they’re doing better on tests that measure fluid intelligence.

What is it about exercise that makes it so protective of intelligence? The physiological mechanisms are still being worked out. There’s a gene called brain derived neurotropic factor that leads to the growth of new blood cells if you exercise. It’s not just increased blood flow or oxygen to the brain, though that’s part of it, too. But for now, I tell people: Just take a brisk 30-minute walk every day, and it will give you all the benefits that you’re going to get.

Engle on the presidential debates:
When you watch Hillary Clinton in a debate, it’s amazing how much information she can remember: details about all of these policies, all of the countries she has visited. She’s also notorious for remembering names and faces. When she walked out on stage, she’d point and wave to all of these people that she recognized. She had acquired a lot of that information on the job as senator or Secretary of State—that’s crystallized intelligence—but she also had to pack it into her mind quickly to prepare for the debates, and that’s what fluid intelligence is all about. Your crystallized knowledge reflects your fluid intelligence at the time that you learned it; the higher your fluid intelligence, the more (and the faster) you can learn. Of course, Trump hadn’t spent his life in politics, immersed in these same kinds of policy details. But he also wasn’t prepared to—or else wasn’t willing to—put in the effort to learn them. And neither was Gary Johnson, who infamously couldn’t remember what Aleppo was. Independent of politics, there’s a clear difference in what these people know and how much they were able to learn in a given period of time.

This article originally appeared in our January 2017 issue.

Atlanta photographer shows off girl power with book, Strong is the New Pretty

Strong is the new Pretty
Parker’s first subjects were her daughters. She took this photo of Ella, then nine, before her first triathlon.

Photograph by Kate T. Parker

“This whole thing began because I was just a mom taking pictures of my daughters,” says Kate T. Parker, an Atlanta-based photographer. “They weren’t posing. They were just being themselves.” Later, when she looked through the images, Parker noticed something. “It’s rare to see portraits of girls who aren’t ingratiating themselves to the camera, who look strong, fierce, dirty. It hit me: I can show girls that they don’t have to change for anyone to think they’re beautiful.”

Parker posted the images on her website and sent out a link to some of her favorite photo blogs. After the Huffington Post took notice, the attention snowballed. Parker found her work—which she had then dubbed “Strong Is the New Pretty”—featured on the Today show, BuzzFeed, and Glamour. Since then, she’s been photographing girls around the country for a book, Strong Is the New Pretty, out in March.

Atlanta soccer players take a well-earned break.

Photograph by Kate T. Parker

This project started in a very small, personal way. How has it changed since then? At first I was photographing my kids and their friends. But I realized they represent one type of girl: They all play sports, and they’re not particularly diverse. With the book, my goal was to shoot all kinds of girls in all kinds of places: musical girls, artistic girls, girls who are fighting cancer, girls who love nature, girls who dance. I spent a year and a half trying to find the greatest variety of subjects that I could.

Kekai, 12, at Banzai Skatepark in Oahu, Hawaii

Photograph by Kate T. Parker

Many of your images celebrate athleticism in girls, but you say that your message isn’t just about being sporty. When the pictures first came out, there were some comments like, “My daughter doesn’t play soccer; she likes princesses. What’s wrong with that?” But I just want girls to see that being yourself is worthy and beautiful. They’re bombarded with so many messages: You need to be sexy.  You need to be pretty. You need to be popular. And at that age [adolescence] you internalize it more than at any other time.

Having photographed so many girls for this book, I’ve seen that these kids really do believe they’re badasses, and they have such confidence. And then puberty hits, and it gets lost. I wanted to do as much as I could to preserve that confidence and sense of self. I want them to see: I’m not the only girl that wants something different than just being pretty.

Aris, a 16-year-old pilot in Atlanta

Photograph by Kate T. Parker

In your book, the chapter titles each include the word “strong.” How can girls maintain strength and confidence as they grow beyond childhood? I know I said the book isn’t about being athletic, but for me it has been sports. I played soccer through college, and my teammates and I were never worried about how much we weighed; we weren’t worried about guys. I was more focused on what my body could do as opposed to what it looked like. And having something to pour your time and energy into is a good thing; you don’t have time to obsess over celebrities or get sucked into social media. I say to my daughters, who are now 8 and 11, “I don’t care what it is. It could be art, music, photography, writing. But you gotta have something.”

This article originally appeared in our January 2017 issue.

From Radiohead to James Brown, ATL Collective re-creates iconic albums in concert

ATL Collective
Ruby Velle and Fred Wesley perform at last year’s Funky Christmas concert

Photograph by Ronald Scott

In an era when you can hear any song by any artist in any order you choose, does anyone have the patience to listen to an entire album, front to back, without interruption? Songwriter and musician Micah Dalton says yes.

In 2009 he and fellow musician David Berkeley created ATL Collective, a performance project meant to champion not only great albums but also local musicians. “We wanted the enthusiasm that people have for the city to bleed over into music,” says Dalton.

About once a month, they began gathering a group of musician friends together to re-create one classic album live onstage. No music genre is off-limits; the only rule is that the record must be at least 20 years old or close to it. Concerts have included Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, the Clash’s London Calling, Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison, Radiohead’s OK Computer, and Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On.

When selecting an album, “we consider whether it works well with the season. Graceland is perfect to relive in the summer, while Pink Moon is fabulous for winter. Is it a major anniversary of an album? Is there something happening culturally that the album speaks to?” says booking and ticketing director Rhiannon Klee, one of a handful of ATL Collective staff. “We also try to choose performers who have a close relationship to the material.”

ATL Collective often uses theatrical elements to create a more immersive experience, inviting dancers to perform moves from a music video, or a musician who has worked with the original artist to offer personal anecdotes onstage. “Everything is very intentional, to glue together the album and give listeners more context,” says Dalton. Yet some of the most memorable moments have been unexpected. During a 2013 performance of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the power went out, and audience members jumped in to finish singing “Billie Jean.” Says Dalton, “It’s all about shortening the distance between the fans and the music.”

See them live: The next ATL Collective show, covering Pearl Jam’s Ten, is at 9 p.m. Saturday, January 21 at Terminal West.

This article originally appeared in our December 2016 issue.

President Jimmy Carter is close to wiping Guinea worm disease from the planet

At a 2015 press conference discussing his cancer diagnosis, former President Jimmy Carter joked that “I’d like to see the last Guinea worm die before I do.” Now, two years later, the Carter Center has announced that they remain on the cusp of wiping the disease from the planet. If successful, the eradication campaign would make Guinea worm disease only the second disease to reach that milestone, nearly 30 years after smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980.

When the Carter Center first became involved with Guinea worm, there were an estimated 3.5 million cases. Yesterday, the President announced that the number of cases has dropped to just 25 in three countries: Chad, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. This is thanks to a decades-long effort spearheaded by Carter and the Carter Center—an effort made all the more remarkable given that, unlike smallpox, there is no vaccine for Guinea worm disease, or even a medical treatment.

Though not fatal, Guinea worm disease is painful and debilitating. People contract it when they drink water contaminated with tiny organisms containing Guinea worm larvae. Those larvae turn into worms that reproduce inside the host’s body. The male worm then dies, but the female remains in the body, growing up to a meter long. After a year, the worm slowly begins to emerge from a painful sore that can develop anywhere on the skin. Yesterday, President Carter recalled the first time he traveled to a village where residents were suffering from Guinea worm disease, and he spotted a woman carrying a newborn. Upon approaching her, he realized the baby was actually her swollen breast, a worm excruciatingly emerging from her nipple.

Carter initially became aware of Guinea worm disease through physician Peter Bourne. As Governor of Georgia, Carter appointed Bourne to run the first state-wide drug treatment program, and as president he named him national drug czar. After Carter’s presidential term ended, Bourne became Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, where he conducted a study of the diseases caused by bad drinking water.

“He came to the Carter Center to give us a lecture on the subject, and explained that Guinea worm was a major, terrible disease,” President Carter said in an interview yesterday. “I saw that it fulfilled one of the basic principles that Rosalynn and I established when we put together the Carter Center, and that was filling vacuums in the world. This was a disease that needed a lot of attention, and nobody was paying much attention to it because it was so difficult to address.”

Carter spoke of the Center’s unique focus on disease eradication, a problem that he says the Carter Center is the “only place in the world” addressing. “We have the International Task Force on Disease Eradication analyzing every human illness and seeing which ones might theoretically be eliminated from any particular country, or might be eradicated from the whole world.” So far the Center has identified eight diseases that are possible candidates for eradication, and Carter predicts that Guinea worm will be followed “very quickly” by polio.

President Carter and his wife Rosalyn Carter enter the "Countdown to Zero" exhibition at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum.
President Carter and his wife Rosalynn Carter enter the “Countdown to Zero” exhibition at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum.

The Carter Center/Michael A. Schwarz

“We have 25 cases of Guinea worm, and I think we have 36 cases of polio in the world. So I think we are near the closing stages,” he said. “But those last few cases are always the most difficult. [The remaining host countries] have violence, so you can’t get in to work, or people get overconfident, or the leaders of the country drop their commitment, or you have a war going on.” In the fight against Guinea worm disease, a recent surprise challenge has been an outbreak among dogs in Chad.

Still, progress continues. Though the number of cases of Guinea worm disease increased slightly from 2015 to 2016, more cases were caught early before they could spread, making the disease better contained than ever. “We’re actually accomplishing a very major goal: to get rid of it among millions of people,” said Carter.

Among the country’s increasing number of isolationists, setting out to tackle enormous, seemingly insurmountable problems in third-world countries might seem like a fool’s errand. But Carter says he wants to show people the importance of it. Coinciding with yesterday’s announcement was the opening of a new exhibition at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum, Countdown to Zero, which chronicles the innovative strategies that make disease eradication possible. Developed by the Natural History Center in New York, in collaboration with the Carter Center, it is a testament to the power of painstaking work and unwavering will.

“We’re trying with this exhibit to let people know about the importance of [this work],” said Carter. “Not only the importance of the disease, because it afflicts so many people horribly, but also the fact that you can do something about it.”

A Message of Hope: Ebenezer Baptist Church marks MLK Day with a powerful service

Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964

Photograph by Reg Lancaster/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Picture Martin Luther King Jr., and you likely imagine him leading marchers across Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, or speaking before a quarter million civil rights supporters on the mall in Washington D.C. But perhaps no place is more closely connected to King than Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. His father, Martin Luther King Sr., was pastor there, as was his grandfather Adam Daniel Williams. Seventy years ago this fall, MLK delivered his first sermon from the pulpit of Ebenezer, and 60 years ago the Southern Christian Leadership Conference grew out of meetings King held at the church. Ebenezer is where King was  baptized and where he was eulogized in 1968.

Ebenezer Baptist Church
Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church

Photograph Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center

Obama Ebenezer Baptist Church
Obama speaking at Ebenezer in 2008

Photograph by Barry Williams/Getty Images

Although years ago the congregation moved from the small Auburn Avenue building—now a federal historic site—to a larger space up the street, Ebenezer remains the spiritual home of not just the King family but many prominent members of Atlanta’s black community. Every year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, hundreds gather there for a commemorative service honoring MLK’s message and work. Previous keynote speakers have included Cornel West, Rick Warren, Andrew Young, Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, and Coretta Scott King. (This year’s keynote will be delivered by Father Michael Pfleger of the Faith Community of Saint Sabina in Chicago, along with a tribute by Sen. Bernie Sanders.) In 2008 then-senator Barack Obama spoke there on the eve of MLK Day. Recalling King’s appeal for unity, Obama said, “We can no longer afford to build ourselves up by tearing someone else down. We can no longer afford to traffic in lies or fear or hate. It is the poison that we must purge from our politics, the wall that we must tear down before the hour grows too late.”

This article originally appeared in our January 2017 issue.

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