Friday, August 15, 2014

Shem Creek Fail: Parking garage to be tallest building at Shem Creek

Walking Tall

Posted by Chris Haire on Fri, Aug 15, 2014 at 8:10 AM

Remember that old adage, be careful what you wish for because you just might get it? Well, it's one that the Save Shem Creek crowd is now learning all too well.

Mt. Pleasant Town Council may have voted to limit the height of buildings in the Shem Creek area to 45 feet, but it won't apply to the previously approved 54-foot tall mixed-use parking garage.

And given that the garage's developer intends to proceed with construction, that means that this so-called eyesore — a full nine feet taller than all future structures — will be the single most prominent building at Shem Creek. Alanis, don't ya think?

The P&C's Jennifer Berry Hawes reports:
A vote Tuesday to lower allowed building heights along Shem Creek from 55 feet to 45 feet won't affect a controversial planned office building and parking garage, town officials said.

Some residents left Tuesday's marathon Town Council meeting either unsure of the vote's effect or hopeful it meant the demise of the 54-foot building's plans, said Jim Owens, a leader of efforts to reduce development some fear would overpower Coleman Boulevard.

"There was a lot of uncertainty," agreed Brett Bennett, a member of the Old Village Historic District Commission who opposes Shem Creek building. "I had my fingers crossed."

However, the office building and garage, which includes a $2.8 million parking lease agreement with the town, is only a few architectural details shy of completing the planning approval process, Mayor Linda Page and other council members said.

"(The vote) will have no impact on the parking garage," Councilman Paul Gawrych said.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sorry Mt. P, you're not a quaint coastal town, you're a sprawling suburb

With love

Posted by Chris Haire on Wed, Aug 13, 2014 at 11:50 AM

Proposed development along Coleman Blvd. at Shem Creek - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Proposed development along Coleman Blvd. at Shem Creek

Hey Mt. Pleasant,

It's me Chris Haire. I don't know if you know me or not, but I'm the guy who finally figured out how you got your name. And I know you probably found it a little bit embarrassing to learn that you're named after lady parts, but it's really no more embarrassing than the fact that the economic center of your town is a shopping mall with a P.F. Chang's and a Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

I know, I know. That's what suburbanites like. That's what they're used to, whether they're transplants from Atlanta or Cleveland. They need Longhorn Steakhouse. They need Ann Taylor. They need Banana Republic. And if they don't have it, well, things get all zombie apocalypse-like real fast. Highway 17 is bad enough as it is without a horde of soccer moms wandering aimlessly about, desperately looking for something to do during the workday hours. Not even yoga class can fix that.

Which is why I'm confused about this chatter that Mt. Pleasant is some kind of quaint coastal town like, I don't know, Sag Harbor,  Kennebunkport, or hell, Amity Island.

For starters, you don't have a coast. No seriously, you don't. Yes, you're surrounded by marsh, and Shem Creek is a wonderful and charming place to get schnockered on a Saturday afternoon, but your streets aren't exactly packed with bikini-wearing teens and bermuda shorts-wearing grandpas with more back hair than a honey badger who lost all his teeth. The last time I drove down Coleman Boulevard I saw folks lined up at Page's Okra grill, not in lines sunbathing. Face it, Mt. Pleasant, you're not Haleiwa Town. You're Alpharetta Lite.

And so, I really don't get all this hate directed toward The Boulevard development. I mean, you guys have never really cared about over-development before, so why do you give a flip now — pardon my French? Johnnie Dodds is less a street than it is a strip-mall parking lot, and Coleman's not much better. Heck, The Boulevard is the best solution that's been proposed to address the problems with sprawl you've never addressed before. In Mt. Pleasant, development is like a rash that has been left untreated, and The Boulevard is a high-density salve that aims to cure what ails you.

Now look, you're well within your rights to demand height-restrictions along Shem Creek and Coleman Boulevard, and in the case of Shem Creek, they're welcome. I mean, we don't want high-rises blocking our Mich Ultra sunsets. All I'm saying is just admit what you are, and what you are ain't a quaint coastal town.


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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Robin Williams of the stage was rarely seen on screen

Remembering a comedy great

Posted by Chris Haire on Tue, Aug 12, 2014 at 4:43 PM

  • Flickr user Eva Rinaldi
Robin Williams was arguably the greatest stand-up comedian of his era, a whirling dervish of impersonation, improvisation, and internal dialogue writ large in all caps and jazz hands. At his peak in the late 1970s and 1980s, he was a farcical freak of nature, a sweat-drenched Tasmanian devil who took audiences on a ripping, tearing trip through his beautifully fractured mind.

But for all of his talents on the stage, he will not be remembered as one of the great movie comedians. Yes, he was a fine actor, and he appeared in several comedies. But few of his most memorable roles could be considered strictly comedic. There's the beloved professor in Good Will Hunting, the damaged indigent in The Fisher King, the deranged killer in Insomnia. In fact, most of Williams' roles were not comedic, at least by contemporary standards.

Williams rarely played characters who generated laughs the way that Will Ferrell, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Melissa McCarthy, or Jason Sudeikis do. From The World According to Garp to The Best of Times to Hook to even Mrs. Doubtfire, he portrayed sweet-hearted, often misunderstood men, who doled out frequent ill-fitting-suit smiles and gazed fitfully at the ground with world-weary eyes. 

In part, it was because, as yesterday's events have made known, Williams had a lifelong battle with depression, in addition to his lifelong battle with drugs and alcohol. And in part, it was also because the Robin Williams we loved on stage didn't have a place on the big screen except in a few larger-than-life roles, like the genie in Aladdin or the DJ in Good Morning, Vietnam. He was simply too big of a personality, too explosive a performer, to craft a character around. And so, the very thing that made Robin Williams unique had to be restrained. The final half of his career is proof of that.

Like many of you, I took the news of Williams' passing hard, but of course, whatever sorrow I felt pales in comparison to those who truly knew and loved him. However, as I followed social media and I watched the tweets and Facebook posts roll in, I began to wonder if the Robin Williams I loved was the same man as so many others.

In their tributes to Williams, the masses rarely mentioned his brilliant first-year on Mork and Mindy or any of his early great HBO specials. Instead, they praised Jumanji, Hook, Night at the Museum, Mrs. Doubtfire — works that came out after his career had been split in two. On the one side, there were the comedies that dripped schmaltz and Celebration, Fla.-sentimentality, and on the other, the dark, brooding dramas, where the comedian increasingly found comfort as a villain. That Williams' career seemed to flounder once he entered his Disney years is a sign of just how damaging this path had been. The once-magnificent man-child was split between childish entertainments and punishing adult-oriented melodramas. The very thing that made him so electrifying as a performer was gone.

Who knows if Williams would have ever gotten back his earlier spark. I'd like to think he still had another Good Morning, Vietnam or an Evening at the Met in him. Here's to you, Robin. You will be missed.

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

It's time to put the local vs. non-local debate to bed

It's not even a contest

Posted by Chris Haire on Thu, Aug 7, 2014 at 3:56 PM

Charlestonians are a proud lot — and rightfully so. We live in arguably the most beautiful and loved city in the United States and clearly one of the most historically important. We're home to a celebrated food scene, a burgeoning music mecca, and, if we get lucky, a future hub for high-tech firms. And no one is more fiercely proud of our fair city than the men and women who've lived here all their lives. 

Sadly, far too many Holy City natives are dismissive of anyone who wasn't born in town. In the minds of these provincial puritans, if you aren't from here, well, then you have no business having an opinion about what goes on here. You're not from here, you never will be from here, and, honestly, you might as well go back to wherever the hell it is you're from. Charleston doesn't want you, and it certainly doesn't need you. Charleston is what Charleston is, and all of you outsiders can't do a damn thing about it.

Except, of course, the outsiders are.

When it comes right down to it, the people who define today's Charleston and who are guiding us into the future, well, they're from off. 

Yes, there are a few native sons and daughters who are still helping to plot Charleston's destiny, but their numbers are small. Here's a by-no-means comprehensive list of local-born VIPS (Feel free to get back to me with more):

1. Joe Riley (mayor, Charleston)
2. Jeremiah Bacon (chef, Macintosh, Oak)
3. Thomas Ravenel (former state treasurer, reality TV star)
4. Tim Scott (U.S. senator)
5. Darius Rucker (singer-songwriter, Hootie and the Blowfish, Grand Ole Opry member)
6. Glenn McConnell (CofC president, former S.C. Senate leader)
7. Dorothea Benton Frank (author)
8. Leon Stavrinakis (state representative)
9. Pierre Manigault (owner, chairman, Evening Post Publishing)
10. Charlton Singleton (trumpet player, bandleader, Charleston Jazz Orchestra)
11. Joel T. Hamilton (singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, Mechanical River, former Working Title)
12. Quentin Baxter (jazz drummer)
13. Nate Dapore (entrepreneur, People Matter)
14. Charles Carmody (Charleston Music Hall)
15. Hank Holliday (hotelier, restauranteur)

(Note: Neither Shepard Fairey nor Stephen Colbert count since they don't live here and haven't for some time.)

They're an impressive group for sure, but let's consider the ranks of the non-natives (Once again, get back to me with more):

1. Mike Lata (chef, FIG, The Ordinary, James Beard winner,)
2. Sean Brock (chef, Husk, McCrady's, Minero, James Beard winner)
3. Mark Sanford (former governor, internationally known lothario)
4. Jenny Sanford (former first lady)
5. Mary Alice Monroe (author)
6. Marjory Wentworth (poet)
7. Cary Ann Hearst (award-winning singer-songwriter, Shovels & Rope)
8. Michael Trent (award-winning singer-songwriter, Shovels & Rope)
9. Mark Bryan (singer-songwriter, Hootie and the Blowfish, instructor)
10. Ben Bridwell (singer-songwriter, Band of Horses
11. Bill Murray (actor, kickball player)
12. Mike Veeck (minor league baseball owner, promotional legend)
13. Nathan Durfee (painter)
14. Jonathan Green (painter)
15. The Lee Brothers (cookbook authors, foodie personalities)
16. Spoleto 
17. Jamee Haley (activist, Lowcountry Local First)
18. Jamie Tenny (Coast Brewing, beer pioneer)
19. Anita Zucker (the richest person in the state, InterTech)
20. Harve Jacobs (investigative journalist, Live 5)
21. Dana Beach (activist, Coastal Conservation League)
22. Nancy McGinley (school superintendent)
23. Mike Seekings (city councilman)
24. Bobby Harrell (S.C. speaker of the House)
25. Four out of five of the City Paper's editorial department
26. Robert Stehling (chef, Hominy Grill, James Beard winner)
27. Brian Hicks (journalist, Post and Courier)
28. Alison Piepmeier (columnist, professor, feminist activist)
29. Steve Palmer (restauranteur, Indigo Road)
30. Ayoka Lucas (fashionista, Charleston Fashion Week)
31. Rodney Lee Rogers (actor, founder PURE Theater)
31. Pat Fucking Conroy (author)
I don't know about you, but I think that pretty much settles it, once and for all.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The PASS scores are out and, boy oh boy, our boys are stupid

The dum-dum club

Posted by Chris Haire on Wed, Aug 6, 2014 at 4:26 PM

State Superintendent Mick Zais gives a speech in Columbia in 2012 - FLICKR USER LOONYHIKER
  • Flickr user loonyhiker
  • State Superintendent Mick Zais gives a speech in Columbia in 2012
The most recent PASS scores are out, and it doesn't look good. Our students are getting stupider.

The Greenville News' Ron Barnett reports:
Students in grades 3-8 took PASS tests in five subjects — writing, English language arts (reading and research,) math, science and social studies. Statewide, scores fell in 22 of 30 grade levels and subject areas.
And that's not the only bad news. The PASS report also notes that in South Carolina, male students in grade 3-8 are a heckuva lot more stupiderest than their less stupider female counterparticle de-excellerators. 

Out of those 30 categories, boys score less than girls in all but two — science and social studies for 5th graders. Writing and English Language Arts are particularly troublesome for boys, with the girls often outpacing boys by 10 percentage points.

Of course, this shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has grown up in South Carolina. With its misguided ideas about masculinity, our state is one that champions the physical prowess of the male sex over mental fitness. The upper echelons of society don't believe this line of BS, but it works to their advantage if the lower classes, including a substantial portion of the vanishing middle class, do. After all, the uneducated male mind is a mind that doesn't question. And so we've fostered a system where it's acceptable for high school boys to read at a fifth-grade level, dooming them to a life of menial labor, chronic unemployment, and crime.

If these PASS results are any indication, these problems aren't going away any time soon.

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