What is “Atlanta,” exactly? It’s a fair but limiting question.
Fair, because, look, if one week you were watching a show about a couple who might have broken up at a German-culture festival, and then the next week they’re gone and you’re watching a road comedy about an exasperated rapper and his pathologically distractible barber, and the episode after that is a mini horror film built around a different character trapped in the mansion of a kooky human mannequin, the changeups might feel destabilizing. But the question is limiting since so much TV in general right now resembles no TV that’s come before it.
“Atlanta,” whose second season wrapped up on FX on Thursday night, proudly embodies that development. No episode looked or felt the same as the one before it.
The show has four central characters — Earn; Alfred; Darius; and Earn’s sometimes ex-girlfriend, Van — who veer in and out of friendship, selfhood, personal clarity and, often, the show itself. In a classic television sense, “Atlanta” is about them. But it’s also increasingly about itself: what its makers can do with the medium, yes, and also what’s possible for the twinned comedies of race and status. It knows the assorted bars a half-hour “sitcom” faces and sets out to raise, vault over and demolish them, to prioritize “sit” over “com.” “Atlanta” is like a rapper obsessed with his own brilliance. You want to see if the show can top itself because that self-regard is part of the hook. But loving this show means worrying that it might be devoured by its own genius, that it’s too great to last, that, eventually, conceit will cannibalize concept. This second batch of episodes was more obviously, aggressively ambitious. The show became cinema (one ominous aerial shot of a vegetal forest canopy made me want vinaigrette) and appeared to have on its mind the ideas in “Get Out,” the moods of “Moonlight,” the hypnotic ambiguities of David Lynch. Some of that reach toward movie-ness nudged the show into self-conscious precocity, the equivalent of skipping a grade.
The choreographer, dancer and social activist Katherine Dunham made headlines in 1944, when, after reluctantly performing for a racially segregated audience in Louisville, Ky., she declared that if the theater wanted her to return, it would have to integrate. This scene introduces an in-depth, necessary new book on Dunham and her trailblazing career, “Katherine Dunham: Dance and the African Diaspora” (Oxford University Press), by the dance historian Joanna Dee Das. Ms. Das, who grew up studying Dunham Technique, examines the relationships, both explicit and subtle, between Dunham’s art and activism, from her formative travels in Haiti to her support for the Black Arts Movement in East St. Louis, Ill. A multifaceted portrait emerges, of a woman who believed, as Ms. Das puts it, that “living in the space of diaspora, in between-ness, was the way to achieve wholeness.” Though Dunham is celebrated for her contributions to modern dance, her works are rarely restaged today. Ms. Das leaves us wondering: How can we see more?
This is an extended interview from the 2013 ESPN The Magazine Body Issue. Subscribe to The Mag today!
Why did you decide to pose for the Body Issue?
CK: I’m not your typical quarterback. I don’t like when people say, “Quarterbacks aren’t supposed to run” or “Quarterbacks aren’t supposed to work out a certain way.” Quarterbacks can still have good bodies. I’m always conscious of the stereotype. I want to change what people think. There’s a lot more to it than what you see on the field.
What did you set out to do with your training this offseason?
CK: To get faster and better at everything, from my drops to accuracy to the playbook. I took one week off after the Super Bowl, then went down to Atlanta. We train most of the day, from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Coach [Jim] Harbaugh was a little worried I was going to get too jacked — he talked to me about that — but I think the biggest thing for a quarterback is making sure that as you get bigger, you keep your flexibility. You have to train hard and be strong while staying flexible and limber, so I’m trying to find that balance. I’ve been trying to make my legs stronger and more explosive and build more fast-twitch muscles. I’ve been running with bands and chains, I’ve been pushing sleds, I swim tied to a bungee. Will I be faster this year? You’ll just have to wait and see.
What do you think is your best physical skill?
CK: It would have to be my arm. A strong arm along with knowing where I want to throw the football can be a deadly combo. Teammates tell me to bring it down a notch in practice or that their hands are hurting. Randy Moss told me I was the first person to ever dislocate one of his fingers. That happened during my first “Monday Night Football” game. That was crazy to hear because he’s played with Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Daunte Culpepper — quarterbacks with strong arms. He wasn’t upset, more impressed. I think being a baseball pitcher helped my arm health. Throwing year-round kept my arm strong; it kept it conditioned. I topped out at 94 mph [pitching] in high school, and at the combine I clocked 59 with a football.
If you could change something about your body, what would it be?
CK: I wish I could get my legs bigger, but I can’t put weight on them. My legs will get stronger but never grow. One of my good friends, Kyle Williams, has huge calves, so I mess with him and he messes with me because my legs are skinny. We have opposite problems.
What is your favorite thing to do to train?
CK: I look forward to sprint work for the simple fact that you get to compete and see who is faster. Every rep, you are out there trying to win, trying to beat your teammates. It’s bragging rights. Even between reps there’s a little back and forth, and that only intensifies the workout and makes sure everyone is going hard.
When I lift, I try to do as heavy as possible until I can’t do it anymore. That helps me endure a season, and that’s what separates me. If we’re doing sets of five, it’s not, “All right, that was good, I’m comfortable with that.” No, I’m going to do it until my arms are about to give out or my legs are about to go. I think that earns the respect of teammates. They see I’m not just going in there, keeping my shoulder healthy and leaving. I think they appreciate that I’m trying to get stronger the same way they are.
What’s the biggest challenge you face with your body?
CK: Making sure I’m feeding my body the right things. I was a candy junkie and ate a lot of fast food in college, and that’s something I’m trying to cut out. From time to time I’ll relapse, but I stay away from junk as much as possible. And I can eat quite a bit. I don’t think I’d have any problem eating a whole pizza by myself.
Why are your tattoos so important to you?
CK: It’s what I believe in. They’re part of me. They relate to my faith or things that shaped who I am. My favorite right now is “My gift is my curse,” written on the inside of my arm. That’s applicable right now. There are great things I can do in this position, great opportunities, but there are also things I have to sacrifice. For instance, time with my family. And privacy, being able to go to the grocery store or mall and just hang out — that’s not something I can do. It’s unbelievable how different it is right now compared to last year. A lot of camera phones, a lot of pictures, a lot of signatures.
I didn’t just walk into a tattoo shop and say, Hey, I want that thing on the wall. All my tattoos were planned more than a year before I got them. I think if people knew what tattoos mean to people, they wouldn’t feel the same way about them. Kissing my biceps started from the whole tattoo controversy. I’d kiss “Faith” on my right biceps. That was my way of showing that I love my tattoos, and regardless of what anyone else thinks, they mean something to me. They’re more than just ink on my body. CONTINUE READING
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