Let every other newspaper and magazine in the country wax philosophic about 2006 with year-end overviews, highlights, lists, and synopses. Our annual double issue straddles two years — the old one and the new one — and, perennial optimists that we are, we've chosen to look forward, not back. So as we step into '07, we've got our eyes on the horizon, chins thrust forward, ready for whatever the New Year holds and hoping really, really hard that it's a lot of money. And peace on earth, what the heck, while we're wishing.
In the spirit of the New Year, therefore, we've dedicated our cover story this issue not to rehashing old news but to celebrating the new and the novel — trends and fashions, ideas and inventions, breakthroughs, icons, pastimes, people, places, and more. New is just more fun (and hairless).
40 is the New 30
I'd heard it before, of course, but it never really made sense until it affected someone in my own family.
My older sister and her husband, married 20 years, had finally decided they wanted a child. But they were worried about their ages. I'm 31 now; my sister is 12 years older and her husband a year older than that. That's when the woman at the adoption agency brought it up to put their fears to rest.
"Oh, no, you're the perfect age. People used to do this in their early thirties, but that's not true anymore. Forty is the new 30, you know."
So, age-related worries assuaged, they are now on the path to adopting a baby.
It's really an absurd concept when phrased in the conventional form. "40 is the new 30." What does that mean? Is 30 the new 20? Is 20 the new 10?
But if you abstract it a bit, it makes a lot of sense. We're in a society where a long life is not only wished for, but expected. My grandmother's aunts lived long enough that I knew them both, and my grandmother's now 90. Her husband's even older, and steady as can be.
Casting aside the whole anti-aging cosmetics industry, which has reached the level of the ridiculous, we're forging a new way of looking at age and aging. I look at my parents, and when I think, "They're closer to 70 than to 60 now," it freaks me out. I'm at the tail end of the generation to whom 70 seems OLD. Yet my parents aren't old. I can't keep up with them. In the past three months they've been to Florida, Turkey, Greece, and St. Maarten. If I had to travel that much I'd collapse from exhaustion. Apparently 67 is the new 20.
I saw a news segment sometime last year about the "Tweeners" — young people who had gone to college, done well, gotten degrees, and then fallen off the map. It's an epidemic, apparently. Kids moving back in with their parents after college. Kids who, at 22, have a great education but no idea what to do with it, who don't really have any sense of what they seek in life, or how to get it.
I believe there are two factors at play here. One is scientific, the other entirely sociological. First, research is beginning to show that our brain development doesn't quit as early as we thought it did. In fact, a process that was assumed to be finished at age 18 more than likely takes an additional seven years. As humans, we aren't fully adult until we're 25. And in an industrialized country, we have the luxury of developing at our own pace — we're finally able to take advantage of how hard our ancestors worked so that we'd have a better life, but we're not doing anything with it.
The second factor — the sociological one — cuts two ways. Those of us who do wind up being career-driven become so focused on work that it's not uncommon to work 70- to 80-hour weeks. Sure, you might get burned out and have no social life, but you have toys to show off, and at the rate you're going, you'll make partner before you're 30.
Then there are the people who saw their parents work like drones and don't want to share that commonality. My dad recently retired, but he worked hard. And seeing him work so hard for so many years kind of puts a damper on my desire to follow in his footsteps. When he was my age, he was married with two children, going to grad school and working. I can't imagine how difficult that must have been — and I don't want to. By the time I came along, my mother had more or less raised my siblings and had to start all over — at the ripe old age of 35.
While I don't like living with financial uncertainty and no long-term plan for the future, I like it better than I would being stuck in a cubicle and dreaming of a corner office, or stuck at home raising kids, or trying to balance both.
So here I am at 31. And you know what? It's not like I imagined it would be at all. It's, well, fun, for one thing. My clothes haven't suddenly become frumpy and even though I've never been conventional, my thoughts are easier to express now. No kids, no rules, no one to answer to. Twenty-one was stressful. I'll take 31 over it any time. So whatever age you are, live young. Be new. And have a good time doing it. —ML Van Valkenburgh
Urban Outfitters | The New A+F
When the übertrendy Urban Outfitters first came to town in December of 2005, some locals lamented the lost fight over the 1920s-built Garden Theatre, crying that the treasured space should've been restored to its original glory, that entrenched Charleston history trumps some global conglomeration's latest link in the chain.
How did Urban Outfitters respond? They opened their doors to the eager throngs of hipsters and sent them home with their purchases in a bag with "Urban Outfitters" on one side and "Save the Garden Theatre" on the other.
The mocking faux sentiment was perfect for a store that regularly thumbs its nose at history as it hawks distressed "vintage" T-shirts next to trucker hats and clothes that appropriate the hipness of thrift-store threads, offering the style without forcing young trust-funders to actually dig through the bargain bins at Goodwill.
Judging by a jaunt down King Street, the store has more than succeeded in its mission to infiltrate Charleston society — you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a girl sporting baggy gauchos, multicolored leggings, a pleated dress with sloppy-looking asymmetrical hems, an oversized bag, or slipper shoes. What Urban hath wrought, other stores have copied; you can find knock-offs at Target and other department stores — and so can everyone else.
The whole point of thrifting is to put together outfits that you can be damn sure no one else is wearing. But with the advent of shabby chic, it's turned into yet another contest fought in the streets, only Instead of brandishing knives and Glocks, they come into battle wearing layers and long socks. —Sara Miller
New Science at MUSC
At MUSC, lead investigator Naren Banik, Ph.D., and his team are taking that knowledge to the next level by looking into the question of exactly how estrogen protects against nerve cell damage. The question is not just academic. Banik and his team have demonstrated that estrogen, administered therapeutically, can minimize damage significantly following a spinal cord injury. For a patient, this could potentially mean as much as 20 to 40 percent of feeling and function saved rather than lost.
And that's a giant leap forward toward alleviating one of the most devastating injuries a person — often a person in the prime of his or her life — can sustain. —Jason Zwiker
New Nerds' Clubs | Blogger parties
Right, then — so you're here for the blogger's banquet, the RSS rave, the gathering time for those who share their lives with the whole wide world online?
Never mind the awkward silence and the nervous glances around the table — the lack of computer monitors has an unsettling effect on many of the participants. And why, yes, the guy in the corner is indeed maneuvering his napkin around like a mouse and attempting to point and click with his fork. Be polite and give them a moment to master this new "reality" interface format.
Kindly old Charleston, no stranger to the soirée, has of late found itself host to a new type of social gathering — the blog party. Blogs, by their very nature as online journals that invite commentary (and therefore dialogue between writer and reader), foster the development of microcommunities: communities bound by political views, mutual fascinations, reciprocal voyeurism, or geographic location. So is it really any surprise when a big bunch of bloggers decides to collectively break away from the blogosphere for an hour or two by setting up a shindig at a local eatery, park, or pub?
Tuesday, May 16, 2006 marked the first official large gathering of Lowcountry bloggers — at Toucan Reef, overlooking Charleston Harbor. Since then, "big tent" events have alternated with small spontaneous lunches all over town.
How many Lowcountry bloggers are slapping the keyboard at any given time? It's hard to say, but "The Big Blogroll" (postscripts.typepad.com/lowcountryblogs) lists well over 100 active blogs. Credit where credit is due to Dan Conover of the Post and Courier for taking the lead on pulling a ragtag collection of individual bloggers together under a common tent as well as to sharp event organizers like local bloggers Joan Perry of "Walk This Way" (japee.journalspace.com) and Heather Solos of "Moncks Corner Moments" (cantalyssa.blogspot.com) who keep the local nerd club from ending up as just two or three dazed and confused techies in a row at the bar.
Hey, what do you expect? Get people swapping stories and sooner or later, they get curious. Even the nerds. —Jason Zwiker
Human papillomavirus is a tangle of thorns, all right — you've got about 100 different strains of HPV (well, okay, you personally probably don't have all 100 — there are just that many types out there) and 30 of them are sexually transmittable.
It's frightfully common, but most people who become infected will not show symptoms. While there is no cure, per se, given enough time most individuals will clear the infection on their own. That said, there are a couple of especially nasty types of HPV to worry about. Some of the nasty types manifest as ugly genital warts that need to be dealt with by your friendly neighborhood medical professional, and persistent infection with the nastiest "high-risk" types of HPV is a significant risk factor for cervical cancer — a condition that kills approximately 3,700 women per year in the United States (a quarter of a million worldwide) and leaves numerous others unable to become pregnant.
Enter Gardasil, quadrivalent HPV (types 6, 11, 16, 18) recombinant vaccine. The four types of HPV the vaccine protects against are among — but not all of — the aforementioned nasty types. So what the vaccine offers is very good, but not 100-percent, protection (i.e. pap testing will remain a crucial component of cervical cancer prevention and early detection).
In June 2006, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended the vaccine for girls 11-12. Though that's the target age for the vaccine, it may be given to girls as young as 9 as well as girls and women between the ages of 13-26. (Sorry, guys. Though wanting to be immunized against HPV to protect your future ladies makes you a prince of a fellow, further study is still needed before the vaccine is approved for use in the XY crowd).
The vaccine is given as a series of three shots over a six-month period, at a cost of about $120 per dose ($360 total). —Jason Zwiker
New Protection | Condom in a can?
Girded by the firm belief that most guys will stick their peckers into anything that doesn't say no, German sex education experts are planning a new kind of condom. In response to complaints from men who found their contraceptive devices too small or (in rarely reported cases) too big, the Institute for Condom-Guidance is developing a spray-on alternative.
The theory is simple enough. A user would insert his penis into a kind of aerosol can with nozzles inside the cylinder. Five seconds after pressing a button, his phallus would be sheathed with a snug-fitting rubber. "We call it the 360-degree procedure," says the Institute's Jan Vinzenz Krause, who is based in Singen near the Swiss border. "Once 'round and from top to bottom. It's a bit like a car wash."
Inspired by spray-on medical plaster, Krause has tempered his product's sensational press attention by stressing the conviction of his team in their quest to perfect protection. "We're very serious," he says, claiming that his supercan would provide a better-fitting, more effective condom than the ones currently in stores. In the long run, they'd also be able to compete cost-wise with the top brands. If all goes as planned, by the time it hits the market in 2008, the can would cost around $30, with latex cartridges (good for 20 applications) selling for $16.
Krause's group still has some creases to iron out. They've got to make sure that the latex will spread evenly when sprayed, and they're still optimizing the vulcanization of the rubber. They've also yet to answer the question that everybody's been asking — how would you get the damn thing off after you were done with it?
If the thought of dipping your wick in an aerosol can pushes your button, then you're in luck. The ICG is currently seeking 30 willing condom testers, although guidelines are strict. The organization's website specifies certain penis lengths between 3.5 and 8 inches, and stipulates that applicants are "beeing almost 18 years old [sic]." If the Institute's technology is as spot-on as its English, then it looks like guys will be stuck with plain prophylactics for a long while yet. —Nick Smith
Old TV Shows Are New Again
In stark contrast to the brainless banter and strobe lights of mainstream television and popular news shows and sitcoms broadcast via satellite and cable television, the best stuff on the idiot box is often the least obnoxious and most respectful ... at least for some discerning viewers who've grown tired of the buzz and howl of Fox, CNN, Bravo, ESPN, etc.
While it may sound a bit stuffy, one new destination for viewers is, surprisingly enough, public television. South Carolina's public network SCETV regularly features a string of well-assembled, intelligently-produced programs and documentaries. Carolina Stories, ETV Road Show, Remember My Name, and Southern Lens each stand out as some of the best on the schedule. These programs get back to basics and cover similar ground as the best programs NPR regularly dishes out.
Perhaps the strongest and most authentically "Carolinian" of the weekly ETV lineup is the homespun Making it Grow! — a no-frills, gratifying, gardening, and horticultural program produced by ETV's South Carolina Channel and Clemson University. It's as warm and welcoming as the mild, hilly Piedmont region of its origins. Already in its 13th year, the award-winning weekly program is a live show (a rare thing these days) with substance and personality.
Is using pre-emergent herbicides the best way to get rid of crabgrass? Is fall the prime time for planting flowering bulbs? Wondering about an invasive plant species? When and how exactly should you place your tomato plants in the backyard? Can planting extra trees help keep your house warmer in winter by creating a "windbreak" and blocking those arctic blasts?
Host Rowland Alston Jr. knows the answers and is more than glad to share them. For over 30 years, Alston has worked for Clemson University (where he earned a B.S. in Agricultural Education and a Masters in Agronomy) as a university extension agent in the Sumter area. He knows his stuff and delivers his suggestions and answers in a respectful manner. He's been associated with public broadcasting in this capacity since the 1980s and helped create Making it Grow! in 1993.
The set resembles an old-timey supply store. The host wears a button-down plaid shirt and thick eyeglasses. With a refreshingly casual and amicable interactive call-in segment, Making it Grow! provides genuine know-how and current research-based horticultural information without pretense or flashiness.
"We have many gifts living in South Carolina," says the host. "Our mild winters, generally moderate rainfall, and a long growing season make the Palmetto State an ideal place for gardeners. As our major crops shift from agronomic to horticultural ones, we are still connected to the soil by growing plants both indoors and out of doors."
Alston and his featured guests focus on gardening topics, while highlighting interesting places and products from around the state. They regularly seek out local places and products for feature segments. Nonscripted interviews focus on the positive highlights from that particular product or business.
The show recently shot segments at the American Tea Plantation in Wadmalaw, Charleston Place, and Full Circle Farm on Johns Island. They're due back on Wadmalaw for a segment in February.
Making It Grow! airs live on all ETV stations every Tuesday at 7 p.m. See www.mig.org for more. —T. Ballard Lesemann
New Worlds | Second Life
Back in 1992, when mostly unheard-of author Neal Stephenson published his third novel, Snow Crash, the internet was mostly invisible infrastructure — the military-purposed Darpanet — upon which a very few übergeeks and technonerds trafficked with data-sharing software like FTP, Fetch, and Stone-Age e-mail variants. The handy visual interface we know as the World Wide Web was in its mewling infancy, and most folks had never even been online with a dial-up connection. Yet Stephenson's near-future sci-fi fable, set in the mid-21st century, spun on the idea of an immersive, 3D online world called the Metaverse, in which regular meatspace types could interact, visually represented by custom-fashioned digital dopplegängers called avatars, where the physical laws that constrain us here in the real world could be bent and reshaped to any user's whim.
Fourteen years later, more than two million people around the world regularly slip into an online facsimile of Stephenson's vision called Second Life. Now a little more than three years old, Second Life has caught the attention of not just regular people but entities like Starbucks, rock stars and film celebrities, and even the Department of Homeland Security. Continents, oceans, cities, neighborhoods, office parks, gardens, concert arenas, malls, nightclubs, strip joints, you can find all of these and much more on the roughly 95 square miles (and growing) of this new world. It has an economy and local currency — the Lindenbuck, exchanging at about L 300 to the U.S. dollar presently — and everything in it has been built from the ground up by users who've purchased or are renting property from other Second Lifers.
The economy, which is very real, is largely based on real estate rentals and manufacturing, all of which are run completely by locals. Users have even been ditching jobs in the real world to devote themselves full-time to SL bread-winning.
Wanna buy a fashion outfit for your avatar to wear to a live U2 concert? Grab it at Midnight City, a high-fashion district strewn with boutiques from top SL designers. Tired of that outré homo sapien look? Create an avatar that's a bear, or a minotaur, or a walking flame. Bored with hoofing it everywhere? Save up and buy a jetpack or a hovercraft, or simply teleport to your favorite SL destination. Feel like getting frisky with that curvaceous avatar you've been chatting up in one of the Sapphire Moon Casino's underwater rooms? Sex is definitely on the to-do list in Second Life, as long as you've purchased the requisite, er, equipment (genitals aren't standard options on out-of-the-box avatars). Not so good with the small talk? Not to worry; escort services abound.
For the time being, Second Life is still experienced on a computer monitor rather than through a set of virtual reality glasses. But it's telling that one of the first real-world businesses to set up shop in Second Life was Random House, the publisher of Snow Crash. You can buy your own copy in Midnight City. —Patrick Sharbaugh
New Performance Venue
For years, the Charleston Symphony Orchestra has bemoaned the lack of a truly excellent performance facility downtown. And they have plenty of company. Gaillard Municipal Auditorium, built in 1964, is a splendid example of that era's devotion to the butt-ugliest architecture of any civilization in history (the Brady home, anyone?). But acoustically speaking, it's an even bigger pig, and, with a whopping 2,700 seats, far too massive to get decent sounds out of anything but the most amplified sort of music, which excludes pretty much anything symphonic. Even Spoleto Festival USA prefers not to use it if they can program the operas elsewhere, like the Sottile on George Street. What's more, after the Garden Theatre on King was converted into a vanilla hipster fashion mart by Urban Outfitters, that venue dropped off the available list.
In a hunt for viable alternatives, Spoleto cleaned up the abandoned Memminger Auditorium and started producing concerts there in 2000. The gutted shell of a facility is structurally sound, but has sat empty and quietly eroding since Hurricane Hugo roared through in 1989 and peeled the roof off. The kind of performances Spoleto mounted in it — a few symphonic concerts, an opera, and two consecutive runs of Don Giovanni, for which it was thoroughly retrofitted — have left audience members impressed by the cavernous room's top-notch acoustics.
In October, therefore, Spoleto officially announced an ambitious plan to create Charleston's newest high-end performance venue at the Memminger. They plan to spend $6 million renovating the place, and the Charleston County School District, which owns the building, has agreed to let the city of Charleston use it rent-free for 50 years as long as the festival renovates and expands it. With Spoleto occupying it only a couple of months, max, out of the year, that'll free it up for other groups — like the CSO. Let's hope they're around to take advantage of it when it's completed in 2008. —Patrick Sharbaugh
Chazzfest is the new Wavefest
If there's one thing about Charlestonians that crosses class, cultural, and age boundaries, it's our shared fondness for parties. And what bigger, better party is there than a festival?
The year 2006 brought the inception of an upscale foodie fest in March (Charleston Food + Wine Festival), a stadium-sized music fest in September (Chazzfest), and a community-oriented, environmentally focused film festival in October (The Charleston Documentary Film Festival, or ChasDOC), not to mention the smaller gatherings that seemed to pop up each month almost out of nowhere.
Each of these three large-scale festivals wisely took place at times when they didn't have to compete with the juggernaut that is Spoleto/Piccolo, serving the double purpose of giving locals a chance to celebrate and luring tourists to town during the off-season.
Naturally, there were a few first-year stutters: the Food + Wine Festival was criticized for being too exclusive despite the fact that it was stationed in Marion Square, right smack in the middle of town; Chazzfest volunteers manning the booze booths were overwhelmed for nearly the duration of the daylong event; the outdoor screening finale of ChasDOC was dampened a bit by a sudden storm.
Any minor glitches were easy to overlook, however, when the events were viewed as a whole. All three included local and regional talent as well as national and international stars, with the Food + Wine fest inviting well-known foodies to town, then thrilling them with the output of local stars Mike Lata (FIG), Frank Lee (Slightly North of Broad), and Marc Collins (Circa 1886). A super-fun (and, at $25, well worth the price) event at the Food + Wine fest was the "Bubbles and Sweets" party, where over 20 top pastry chefs from Charleston and around the Carolinas created spectacular desserts as festivalgoers sipped on endless bubbly courtesy of Moët.
ChasDOC united community organizations like the S.C. Aquarium's Sustained Seafood Initiative with documentary films like One More Dead Fish, about a group of Nova Scotia handline fishermen who barricaded themselves inside a government building to protest government regulations that were destroying their community, Go Further, documenting Woody Harrelson's part in the Simple Organic Living Tour, and Kilowatt Ours, which addressed learning to use alternative energy sources. Despite the serious content of many of the films, ChasDOC retained a jovial spirit as conscious Charlestonians mixed and mingled at the Old Navy Yard and the American Theater for the viewings.
Perhaps the best of the new fests, however, was the ragingly successful Chazzfest. Buddy Guy wandered through the crowd with his wireless guitar, the Drive-By Truckers enthralled a crowd that overflowed the field they were playing in front of, there was plenty of shagging going on at the beach music stage, and Al Green brought everyone together at the end of the night with his still-sultry vocals and plenty of rose-throwing. Chazzfest has grand potential to blossom into a concert event that draws thousands from around the region, turning the Family Circle Stadium complex into a venue that's not just for tennis anymore.
If there's anything the organizers and inhabitants of Charleston should've picked up from their endeavors, it's that this town was hungry (both literally and figuratively) for big events that can be more accessible than high-dollar Spoleto; here's to many more years of all three newbies. —Sara Miller
No Static at All | Newly hatched Fuzzco bursts onto the graphic design scene
Tucked away in the back like the Wizard of Oz behind his curtain, graphic designers Helen Rice and Josh Nissenboim, a.k.a. Fuzzco, work at symmetrical West Elm tables with identical double-widescreen monitors.
Even with a ping-pong table and a Corbusier-knock-off chaise longue, their loft space on the old Naval Base is cavernous. Of course, Nissenboim and Rice, each 25, don't exactly fill a doorway. By no measure large people, they look like they're newly hatched from some kind of emo egg.
In less than two years of existence, the aggressive and precocious Fuzzco has churned out a wilderness of websites and hustled its way onto the impressive dance floor of Charleston's graphic and web designers.
On this day, Nissenboim has learned that a highly-charged downtown firm now has a ping-pong table as well.
"I'm mad at them," Josh whines. "They stole that idea from us."
"Oh, whatever," Rice says. "Everybody has ping-pong tables. It's in a freaking commercial."
Rice is wearing argyle socks, an orange-and-blue-print mini dress, and, even though it's 70 degrees out, a wool sweater and scarf. (She's a local girl and likes it warm.) The artist of the duo, her pen-and-ink drawings of kids from her Buist Academy yearbooks hang on the wall. On each she's recopied the actual messages: "Helen, you are small and weird. Eat ants and die... —Jesse."
Nissenboim, a St. Louis native, wears black-rimmed glasses and a cowboy shirt. The more entrepreneurial partner, he was working as a day trader, math tutor, and Safety Cab owner when the two decided to launch Fuzzco in early 2005.
Asking about the name feels as unhip as asking a band the same question (by the way, Nissenboim's band, box_ ['box underscore'], released a debut CD last spring), but it explains a lot about the firm's "8-bit-modern, Nintendo aesthetic."
"Fuzz implies fluffy and furry," Nissenboim says, thinking out loud, "but also static and abrasive. So it allows people to interpret us in different ways. We can get people who like poodles and people who like electric guitars."
It was left unsaid which of their clients is which, but the local list includes Rawle-Murdy advertising, Mary Edna Fraser batiks, Permar consulting, Sandy Logan photography, L_Design purses, the recent ChasDOC film festival, and Felice Designs jewelry. They're also working with a theatre company in Chicago and clients in D.C., St. Louis, and New York. There's little they won't do — print ads, T-shirts, business cards — and Nissenboim wants to add custom audio and video. "I'd love to write jingles," he says.
As varied as their interests are (Nissenboim is also a champion chess player), the duo's number one goal is to earn the complete trust of clients. Their current project, a retail business they can't talk about, has them the most excited, "because it's the first one we've been able to brand from the ground up," Rice says.
They've been able to do that with a new wine bar, Social, set to open soon on East Bay Street, and, most notably, with their own ever-growing brand.
Standing in their 800-sq.-ft. bay at 10 Storehouse Row, the converted warehouse that is Noisette's new design colony, Nissenboim puckishly brainstorms about putting it to better use.
"We've been thinking about putting in an above-ground pool," he says. "Maybe some elliptical trainers, treadmills in the window." —Jonathan Sanchez
New Ways to Reach Your Lover
As our means of communication continue to evolve (from the letter, to the telephone, to e-mail, to texting), so too evolves the embarrassing romantic gesture. Here's a look at four examples over the years, set to music.
Dec. 28, 1979
Where it began, I can't begin to know when. But then I know it's growing strong. Oh, wasn't the spring ... And spring became the summer. Who'd believe you'd come along.
Hands, touching hands, reaching out, touching me, touching you! Oh, sweet Stacy, good times never seemed so good! I've been inclined to believe it never would.
And now I ... I look at the night and it don't seem so lonely. We fill it up with only two. Oh, and when I hurt, hurting runs off my shoulder. How can I hurt when holding you?
Oh, one, touching one, reaching out, touching me, touching you! Oh, sweet Stacy, good times never seem so good! Oh, I've been inclined to believe it never would.
Answering machine transcript
Date: Dec. 28, 1989
Stacy, it's Richard. (music begins playing in background) Love! I don't like to see so much pain. So much wasted. And this moment keeps slipping away. I get sooo tired of working so hard for our survival. I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive. And all my instincts, they return. And the grand facade, so soon will burn. Without a noise, without my pride, I reach out from the inside. In your eyes, the light, the heat. In your eyes, I am complete. In your eyes, I see the doorway to a thousand churches. In your eyes, the resolution of all the fruitless searches. In your eyes, I see the light and the heat. In your eyes, oh, I want to be that complete. I want to touch the light, the heat I see you in your eyes ... in your eyes ... in your eyes ... in your eyes ... in your eyes ... [End of tape]
Subject: Rub me the right way
Date: Dec. 28, 1999
I feel like I've been locked up tight for a century of lonely nights — waiting for someone to release me. You're licking your lips and blowing kisses my way, but that don't mean I'm gonna give it away. If you wanna be with me, baby there's a price to pay. I'm a genie in a bottle. You've gotta rub me the right way. If you wanna be with me, I can make your wish come true. You gotta make a big impression. I gotta like what you do. I'm a genie in a bottle, baby. Gotta rub me the right way, honey. I'm a genie in a bottle, baby. Come and let me out. :-) Love, Stacy
Rich, loosen up my buttons baby!
Volunteering is the New Dial-A-Mate
Did you ever make a New Year's resolution to get involved, to volunteer, to make a difference in someone's life? But when the time came to get started, you didn't know who to call or where to go?
Well, you just ran out of excuses.
Hands On Charleston opened shop in August with the purpose of recruiting volunteers to support the missions of existing social service organizations.
Hands On Charleston is part of the international Hands On Network, made up of over 60 volunteer organizations. The Hands On Network creates and manages nearly 50,000 projects a year, from building wheelchair ramps in San Francisco to teaching reading in Atlanta to rebuilding homes on the Gulf Coast.
Now Hands On is in Charleston and they're ready to get to work. Are you? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call Diane at 367-9910. Tell the Hands On staffer what your interests are, what your schedule is, and when you can start to work. They'll take care of the rest.
2007 is here and someone out there needs a hand. No more excuses. —Will Moredock
Charleston is the New Off-Off Broadway
You walk into a theatre, sit down, and an hour, maybe two, later, you stand up and leave. But during those few moments when you're sitting in the dark, something extraordinary happens. You are made to laugh, and often to cry, and you catch a glimpse of the bright, infinitely complicated stuff that makes us human, in a way that rarely happens in real life.
Creating a new play from scratch is an awesomely challenging undertaking. Hundreds of hours of writing, rewriting, and re-rewriting, dozens of drafts, staged readings, and endless workshopping only get you to a final product on paper. Producing the finished result for an audience is another thing altogether. That's why it's so much easier for theatre companies to produce the stuff other playwrights and companies have already created through similarly lengthy ordeals. But it's also what separates professional theatres from community theatres — and, to a more general extent, genuine loci of artistic creation from the wannabes.
Increasingly, Charleston is making a name for itself as one of the former. At Charleston Stage Company in the Dock Street Theatre, founder and producing director Julian Wiles has, over the course of 30 years, written and premiered a half-dozen plays of his own, including this season's Nevermore! (the show's third production) and 2004's The Seat of Justice. At the College of Charleston Theatre Department, playwriting instructor Franklin Ashley regularly churns out groups of budding playwrights (many of them award-winners) from his classes, for which students travel to New York and have their work evaluated by the chair of the NYU dramatic writing program.
Recently, though, other theatre companies have been getting into the act, so to speak. Footlight Theatre's new Salt and Battery series — designed to showcase edgier work that appeals to younger, more progressive theatregoers — produced a short play from Charleston-raised New Yorker Brian PJ Cronin last September called I Am Drinking the Goddamn Sun. Cronin is currently writing another original short that Footlight will premiere for its 75th anniversary gala in February, plus a third work to premiere there in the spring. Over at the Cigar Factory on East Bay Street, PURE Theatre has made it their mission to create and produce entirely original work. Cofounder and executive director Rodney Rogers has written and premiered three of his own plays in the short four years PURE has been around, including last month's Killing Chickens and writer/actor John Paulsen's performance art piece Doolymoog.
The PURE Lab, a collective of local playwrights created to develop new work for the company, will workshop, stage, and produce an original full-length play of its own, under the guidance of artistic director Sharon Graci, this April and every spring thereafter.
Even at Theatre 99, best known as a home to improv comedy, a number of groups are branching out into original scripted work, from the one-act relationship comedy Men Are From Goose Creek, Women Are From Savannah to Hobo: The Musical to the carefully honed sketches of The Bottom Line and The Measled Knights.
It's starting to look a lot more like New York, Louisville, and Chicago around here. —Patrick Sharbaugh
A New Era | The P&C plays a new race card
In mid-December, Dot Scott and the Rev. Joseph Darby of the Charleston NAACP went down to the editorial offices of The Post and Courier to register a complaint about the paper's coverage in a recent matter.
The two veteran civil rights leaders were exercised over the way "The South's Oldest Daily Newspaper" had reported on the Woodhill Place condominium controversy the week before. In that fray, the Woodhill homeowners association wanted to double the regime fees in order to make critical repairs on the condos. Many of the condo residents say they cannot afford the increased fee and will be forced out if the homeowners' association goes forward with the fee increase.
What the Post and Courier did not report is that most of those owners who face eviction are black. "Some people don't want to discuss the race card," Scott said in a telephone interview. "They want to pretend that it doesn't exist."
Perhaps she is right, but some would say that she has a very short and selective memory. The fact is that civil rights leaders like Scott and Darby once fought this stodgy and conservative old paper over the identification by race of individuals in the news. A couple of generations ago, the P&C seemed to take malicious delight in reporting that a "negro" had been arrested for burglary in North Charleston or one "negro" had stabbed another in a tavern brawl in Hollywood. It was considered progress when the editors decided — sometime in the early 1970s — to stop racial identification.
The Post and Courier's current, more enlightened attitude on race and race relations is a stark and welcome contrast to its ugly past. It would seem that racism was in the very DNA of the newspaper. The old Evening Post and The News and Courier — the two papers which were combined in the early 1990s to create the Post and Courier — have been owned for more than a century by the Manigault family, rice planters from the Santee. The Manigaults seem to have brought with them some strong views on race, and those views were reflected for generations on the pages of their newspapers.
In 1948, The News and Courier endorsed Gov. Strom Thurmond for President on the segregationist States Rights Party ticket, and supported him again as an avid segregationist when Thurmond was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1954. The N&C took its most strident positions against racial progress under the editorship on Thomas R. Waring Jr., who became a leading spokesman for Southern resistance to court-ordered desegregation. His article, "The Southern Case Against Desegregation," appeared in Harper's magazine and a collection of his editorials was published by The Evening Post Co. under the title We Take Our Stand.
In his denunciations of federal courts and the civil rights movement, Waring equated the Ku Klux Klan with the NAACP and denounced the "liberals" and "near-communists" who sought to end segregation. On the heels of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, which struck down segregation in public schools, Waring wrote: "...we view the decision with distaste and apprehension."
On July 16, 1963, the N&C was the focus of a demonstration by hundreds of protesters. Police arrested 68 in front of the paper's offices on Columbus Street. Later in the year, a biracial committee urged Waring to exercise editorial restraint on civil rights matters, but he pointedly refused.
By 1968, the N&C essentially threw in the towel on desegregation when it editorialized, "We have fought the battle against integration of the schools a long time. Whether further stubborn resistance ... is justifiable seems to us debatable. Without advocating surrender on the racial issue, we would prefer to see arguments about schools confined to administration, discipline, and learning. In the long run, these are the real problems of public schools."
Over the years the P&C has continued to evolve in its racial awareness. Today its news pages celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr., black history, black arts and artists, including Charleston blacksmith Philip Simmons. Its coverage of black political candidates seems fair, if not particularly deep.
When were the decisions made to change the P&C's coverage of race and racial issues? Who made them and under what circumstances? Newspapers are notoriously reticent to discuss editorial policy, and P&C Editor Barbara S. Williams did not respond to an e-mail asking these questions.
So be it. The important thing is that the P&C has changed, and changed for the better. It is still a rock-ribbed conservative — some would say reactionary — paper which will brook no serious criticism of George W. Bush and his administration. But on matters of race, the old paper has finally entered the 21st century and that is something to celebrate. If the Post and Courier can change, there is hope for all of us. —Will Moredock
Brown is the new black
Sandi Engelman is the new John Graham Altman III
Daniel Island is the new Mt. Pleasant
Iraq is the new Vietnam
Cell phones are the new PDAs
iTunes is the new TiVo
Identity thieves are the new pickpockets
Mockery is the new sarcasm
Xanax is the new X
Manorexia is the new heroin chic
Pirates are the new ninjas
Cell towers are the new asbestos
Henry Brown is the new Fritz Hollings
Cougars are the new milfs
Mt Pleasant is the new Village of the Damned
Beer dinners are the new wine tastings
Blue is the new red (red is still red in S.C.)
Sea Pro is the new Hummer
Myrtle Beach is the new Jersey Shore
Borat is the new Walter Cronkite
David Hasselhoff is the new William Shatner
Oprah is the new Jesus
Ellen is the new Oprah
Elizabeth Hasselbeck is the new Ann Coulter
Breast implants are the new Wonderbra
Rachael Ray is the new Ryan Seacrest
Celebrity racial tirades are the new career suicide
Sleazy Congressmen are the new pedophile priests
Pamela Anderson is the new Liz Taylor
Dr. 90210 is the new Wizard of Oz
Grey's Anatomy is the new ER
Naomi Campbell is the new Mike Tyson
Trans fats are the new cigarettes
Red wine is the new martini
K-fed is the new David Gest
Hybrids are the new Hummers
Schnoodles, puggles and labradoodles are the new mutts
Restylane is the new Botox
Lost is the new Land of the Lost
Coral reefs are the new canaries
Uncomfortable Don is the new Stupid Mike
Johns Island is the new Daniel Island
Dreamgirls is the new Chicago
Polonium is the new anthrax
Rudy Giuliani is the new John McCain
Barack Obama is the new Jed Bartlet
The New (though not very gusty) Political Wind
As the country prepares for a pendulum shift in Congress, it's not surprising that South Carolina is looking around in ho-hum boredom as the winds here remain unchanged. But, in a few cases, out of necessity, November's elections provided a little something new.
Though he carefully selected his successor, former Republican Statehouse Rep. John Graham Altman III saw his West Ashley seat go to Democrat Leon Stavrinakis, whose barbs were aimed as much at Altman as they were at his opponent, Suzanne Piper. Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum's decision not to seek reelection frightened Democrats worried about losing one of their few statewide seats, but it seems they should have been more worried about Treasurer Grady Patterson, who lost to one of two Ravenels who each took wins for conservatives in November.
When Stavrinakis, a two-term County Council member, began positioning himself for a Statehouse run, it looked like he would take on Altman. But the decades-long public servant stepped out of the running, likely due to his last and most noted controversial comment. When a female reporter asked Altman why a bill making gamecock fighting a felony was moving faster through the statehouse than a bill increasing the penalties for domestic violence, the legislator told the reporter she wasn't very bright and wondered aloud why women go back to abusers, saying, "You women want it one way and not the other."
The comment garnered the national spotlight and the resulting attention catapulted the legislature into action on the domestic violence bill, but it set the stage for Altman's challengers from both parties.
When asked at one forum how his tenure at the Statehouse would be different than Altman's, Stavrinakis said, "Hopefully in every way possible."
But voters in the majority-Republican district didn't vote for Stavrinakis to one-up Altman (well, at least most of them didn't). Stavrinakis has gone to Columbia as County Council Chair and brought back money for Charleston, including funds to extend the Mark Clark over Johns Island and conditional endorsements for an access road to the expanded Charleston Port. He's also proven that he can work with Republicans, being elected to chair a majority-Republican council. Stavrinakis' plans for education reforms and regional planning also come with previously established support in the Statehouse, signaling that his first term might be more productive then most.
Sure, Jim Rex was running to replace a fellow Democrat as Superintendent of Education, but he couldn't run a "stay the course" campaign with the state's schools continuing to struggle. As Republicans swept every other statewide race in November (and we had several), the superintendent race hinged on tuition tax credits proposed for parents to send their children to private school. While Rex's opposition to the tax credits likely won him at least the 457 votes needed to best Republican Karen Floyd, he's going to have to make big changes in the state's schools to keep his job in four years.
Rex is setting up the department around five main goals: accelerating innovation, providing more choices within public schools, elevating the teaching profession, enacting accountability reforms, and funding schools equitably. Like Stavrinakis, the monetary and legislative realities that Rex will face in accomplishing these goals will make it a necessity for the lonely Democrat to cross the aisle more than once in Columbia to get things done.
Grady Patterson has bested challengers year after year, regardless of the party in power, but the 82-year-old state Treasurer ran into trouble this year battling Thomas Ravenel, a man about half his age with instant name recognition in the Lowcountry who had vied two years ago for the U.S. Senate. Ravenel ran on bringing innovations to the office, but it's likely his family name, a disinterest in the race, and the R beside his name that won Ravenel the seat.
So, what can we expect "new" from the office? Likely not as much as promised. A talking point for Ravenel was that he would be a like-minded voice for Gov. Mark Sanford instead of the persistent foil that he framed Grady Patterson to be. But Ravenel, like Patterson, is only one of five voices on the powerful Board of Economic Advisors, and when Sanford is foiled, it's always at least one Republican (and often it's two) that joins the opposition. Considering there's no doubt Ravenel will be looking at higher office in the coming years, it wouldn't be surprising if he made some high-profile breaks from the ranks if it seems advantageous for future campaigns.
Breaking ranks will certainly be commonplace for Ravenel's father, Arthur Ravenel Jr. The politician had hoped to bring a few friends with him when he ran for Charleston County School Board in November, but the results left only Ravenel and unchallenged incumbent Ray Toler as victors in Ravenel's "A-Team" of candidates, pulling the frequent 5-4 minority in past school board decisions down to three.
That's not to say Ravenel won't be able to get things done. In his first few weeks on the board, he replaced a years-long practice of secular invocations at the beginning of school meetings with a prayer. Granted, the decision was made with the support or indifference of those who campaigned vigorously against Ravenel and his "A-Team" in November. Those opportunities may be few and far between in the new year.
So the political winds have calmed, likely only to gust up sporadically as presidential hopefuls visit South Carolina; but any changes, even to the minimal levels of 2006, aren't likely until 2010, at least, when most of these newcomers face their first real test. —Greg Hambrick
Jetvee is the New Jetski
The surface of the water on Charleston Harbor is smoother than glass as John Crotts navigates his tiny vessel past several fishing boats, then pulls back on the joystick-controlled throttle. Within seconds he's skimming over the water, past a barge towards Drum Island.
Crotts first had the idea for a new kind of boat while teaching in New Zealand in the mid-'90s, and in a decade has made it a reality. Licensed by the Coast Guard as a "boat," the JetVee can go places jet skis are no longer allowed, and has all the advantages of a personal watercraft and then some. It comfortably seats two, side by side, and is the only boat on the market controlled by a manual joystick. Operating on three push-pull cables, you can turn on a dime — the sensation is what you'd imagine a flying saucer on water would feel like.
Not only is the JetVee unsinkable, it's apparently unflippable due to its low center of gravity. The Coast Guard tester (whose job it is to flip boats) was unable to turn it over, even with a 100-hp engine pushing him along at nearly 50 mph.
As the chair of the Hospitality and Tourism Management Program at the College of Charleston, Crotts has made his brainchild a reality in his free time. Eight of the boats are on display at dealerships in Charleston and Columbia, but his avocation is increasingly becoming a vocation. "I've got aggressive hopes for this," says Crotts. "I'm fully prepared to build 100 boats next year."
With the exception of the upholstery (N.C.), all of the parts are built and constructed in South Carolina. Crotts holds three patents for the boat, including a spring-depression system on the engine that allows the boat to plane out at high speeds.
The JetVee looks a little funny gliding past full-sized fishing boats with its riders sitting at water level, but the small size (520 lb.) allows anyone and any car to pull it and launch it. Once you're up to speed, it's a wind-whipping sensation that inspires smiles and vocal "whoooeeees!" This independent startup from Charleston might just be the biggest thing to hit the water in years. Find a dealer to go test drive one at www.JetVee.com. —Stratton Lawrence
Grease is the New Gasoline
By the time this issue hits the stands, Southeast BioDiesel should be cranking out 20,000 gallons of biodiesel a day from its facility at the old Navy base. "Right now we're testing all the equipment, getting everything right," says plant manager Ary Fun. "We've built everything from scratch."
Fun's a stalwart of biodiesel in Charleston, perfecting a backyard process that he's now expanded from 50 gallons a batch to 10,000 every eight-hour shift at the new plant. Unlike some facilities in the midwest, Southeast is utilizing totally recycled oil (both from restaurants and "poultry grease") rather than virgin soy. With the organic movement and the public's increased aversion to spraying chicken fat on animal feed, the grease has found a new market in fuel tanks.
The North Charleston plant will churn out pure "B100" biodiesel, which they'll sell to distributors who may dilute it with petroleum diesel to "B20" or "B5." Due to the large scale of the operation, distributors will con trol whether or not the product reaches pumps in Charleston. Kangaroo and Pantry stations have expressed interest, but availability will depend on the distributor's determination of market feasibility.
Fun expects that the plant will produce 5 million gallons in 2007, all emissions-free, 100-percent-petroleum-free oil. Whether or not it's then mixed and sold in New Jersey, that ought to be enough to quell Rep. Henry Brown's hard-on for oil rigs off Cape Romaine. —Stratton Lawrence
Hydras are the New Hovercraft
Head down a few peninsula streets after a hard rain and it'll feel like your car is a boat. Thanks to the innovation of one Lowcountry company, it can be! Cool Amphibious Manufacturers of Ridgeland is producing a line of floating cars, vans, and RVs that can function as boats.
The idea stemmed from John and Julie Giljam's Hilton Head Island tour company. They'd developed the Hydra-Terra, a big yellow tour bus that you could drive out onto the water. After making a presentation on the Hydra-Terra at a National Transportation Safety Board event, the couple got requests for two.
An RV/yacht soon followed. Where the Hydra-Terra could be mistaken for a tour bus on land and a tour boat on water, the Terra Wind looks like an RV in five feet of water. The luxury cruiser starts at $850,000, with the show model besting $1.2 million.
The gem of the business is the Hydra Spyder. Part yellow convertible and part speed boat, if James Bond had an affinity for American made cars, this would be his ride.
"We wanted something that was purely built for speed," Julie Giljam says.
Starting at $155,000, the Spyder can reach at least 125 mph on the road and a cool 50 mph on the water.
The next vehicle (likely the Hydra Gator) may be a six-to-eight passenger vehicle.
Though there aren't many people who can afford these puppies, business is good. The company is relocating their production office from Bluffton to Ridgeland and they've currently got eight orders for the Spyder and 15 for the Terra. It will likely be a year before they can fill any new orders, Julie Giljam says.
"You're stuck in traffic and there's a lake nearby, you get on the lake," she says. "It's such a cool way to go." —Greg Hambrick
New Worlds | Extrasolar Planets
Thirteen years ago, if someone had suggested ours might be the only solar system in the universe and Earth the only habitable planet in a galaxy of 400 billion stars (and they did, in legions), there wouldn't have been one shred of evidence to prove such statements wrong, no matter how counterintuitive they might seem on a cloudless, moonless night in the country. Only 13 years ago there was no more proof of planets outside our solar system than there was proof of the Abominable Snowman, the Big Bang, or God.
In the intervening 13 years, a lot has changed. We still have no firm evidence of the Abominable Snowman or God, but scientists have recorded the lingering echo of the Big Bang from 15 billion years ago. They've also made one of the most imagination-firing discoveries of our age: proof of the existence of planets outside our solar system — 209 of them, to be exact, and more coming into view every month.
The two most common methods of detection are indirect: catching the ever-so-slight change in the position of a star caused by the tiny gravitational influence of an orbiting planet, and observing the slight dimming of a star's light when an object (like an orbiting planet) crosses between it and us. Because planets must be huge to have such an effect on their suns, most of the planets discovered to date have been Jupiter-sized or much bigger. But if those are out there, then rocky, Earth-sized planets must almost certainly be as well, and we'll begin seeing them as detection equipment continues to improve.
With more and more effort being put into the hunt, now that we know they're out there, planet detection has become a big industry; since 2002, scientists have discovered an average of 20 new planets each year. Eventually, we'll find one that's Earth-sized and rocky, maybe even sporting liquid water. What then? The sky's the limit. Or not. —Patrick Sharbaugh
Rising Water is the New Apocalypse
"Dude, Sam Ritt's breaking head-high." If water levels rise at the rate some scientists predict they could, surfers 50 years from now might be driving the new version of Folly Road (Highway 61) to West Ashley Beach.
Many of the Southeast's leading coastal researchers gathered on December 6 at the Francis Marion Hotel for a conference titled "The Nation's Coasts: A Vision and Action Agenda for the Future," hosted by the Heinz Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment. When the clean-cut suit-and-tie types are taking this stuff seriously, it must be bad.
After the emcee acknowledged that "we are in a time of real crisis — a cultural and natural crisis," Mayor Riley flat-out stated that the pressure generated by the number of people who move within 25 miles of the coast in the coming decades is "unsustainable."
Adding to the growing number of people is a potentially shrinking amount of land. Carolyn Boltin, the deputy commissioner for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control's office of Coastal Resource Management, has one mouthful of a job title. She's also one of the top researchers studying how to balance responsible development with preserving sensitive and fragile areas along the coast.
"Beaches and shorelines are vital for hurricane protection and animal habitat," said Boltin. "Despite hurricanes, we've seen a tremendous increase in development on the coast." Her presentation included photographs of Isle of Palms in 2003 that featured 100 yards of dunes between buildings and the water. The same area in November had sandbags lined against the houses to protect them from encroaching waves. "The beach is an even more dynamic place, with sea levels rising and increased storm intensity,'" she said. "These situations are only going to get worse."
So where is all the sand going? Chris Marsh, executive director of the Lowcountry Institute, explained that the erosion is natural, but the problem lies in a lack of sand to renourish due to dams on the rivers blocking sediment flow from upstream. "If I lived on Isle of Palms, I'd be in fisticuffs with anyone on Lake Marion," he joked in all seriousness. "And I'll just toss this out — maybe Lake Moultrie should disappear."
Marsh compares South Carolina to a 45-year-old. We're not ready for retirement, but we should prepare because it's coming soon. He illustrates his point with a photo of a dead tree rising out of the salt marsh. There's not a species of tree that can grow in the middle of a salt marsh — the marshes are moving inland. Walk down any of South Carolina's "boneyard" beaches on Bull, Capers, Edisto, or Huntington islands and you'll see a strong testament to the ocean's power of "taking over."
Jim Morris, the director of the Baruch Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences at USC, presented graphs detailing the past and projected sea level rises. Over the last century, the ocean has risen about 2 millimeters per year, or a foot total. We're picking up speed, with an anticipated rise by 2050 of at least a foot.
None of this seems too appetizing for beachfront homeowners forking over goliath insurance payments, and Eleanor Kitzman, director of the S.C. Department of Insurance, didn't offer much reprieve with her presentation. "The private insurance industry is not increasing its supply to keep up with demand," she said. "Perhaps the government should look into it." Kitzman seemed a little taken aback by the grave words from reputable sources that spoke throughout the day. "We all have to choose our issues," she said.
If we continue to increase emissions of greenhouse gases at the current rate, worldwide, we could see as much as a centimeter/year rise, according to the Baruch Institute's Jim Morris. That'll drown our salt marshes faster than they can move inland and renourish, with the problem escalated by development along the edges of wetlands throughout the Lowcountry. Pluff mud and oysters are the ocean's natural cleaning agents, so the increasingly frequent floodwaters will be that much dirtier.
What to do? Buy a house in Goose Creek and wait for it to be waterfront? Dredge and fill as waters rise, just like downtown was built centuries ago (today's flooded Crosstown was once a tidal creek)? Or maybe ride a bike. Because before too long it might be time to buy a canoe. —Stratton Lawrence
City Hall is the New City Hall
About 200 years old and more than 100 years past its last major renovation, Charleston's City Hall was overdue for an upgrade. The more than $10 million project that began in 2004 is on the final leg, with the Mayor already moved back in and City Council expected to follow early next year. Considering changes were made wall-to-wall, it would be a near impossible task to list everything that's been renovated or added to the building, but here's a list of some of the most notable items, floor by floor, thanks to project architect Jim Schmidt of Evans and Schmidt. —Greg Hambrick
2nd Floor/ 3rd Floor
• Restored the mayor's office ceiling to its original height of 22 feet
• Restored the original light fixture design for council chambers
• Reconnected the two side chambers to the main City Council Chambers; creating audience overflow and a second conference room
• Restored the 1882 three-sided balcony configuration in council chambers for additional seating
• Installed state-of-the-art audio/visual system for council chamber meetings
• Reinforced the building against the event of an earthquake
• Re-created the 1882 City Treasurer teller windows with views to Washington Park
• Created a conference room in the 1882 treasurer's office
• Removed the 1960s storage lofts in the Clerk of Council offices and reestablished the original 17-foot ceilings
• Leveled the floors that had sagged 2.5 inches in the 1886 earthquake
• Installed fire sprinkler system throughout
• Removed temporary wood handicap ramp dividing the entry and provided a permanent handicap access from Washington Park
• Increased public toilets from one toilet each to four toilets each
• Provided self-tour interpretive exhibit of renovation and site archeology
• Removed false ceilings and exposed original arched ceilings
• Increased the size of the elevator cab by 50 percent
A New Route | Commuter rail system in the works for the Lowcountry
Honk if you love traffic! Highway 61 and I-26 at 5 p.m. can be a great chance to catch up on the latest pop rock hits or NPR-sanctioned news, but day after day the gridlock takes its toll on the psyche. Breathe deep — help may be on the way.
The Berkeley-Charleston-Dorcester Council of Government (BCDCOG) has recently examined the possibility of a commuter rail system a lá the country's real cities, like New York and Chicago. Utilizing existing rails, the idea would link commuters in Summerville and Moncks Corner to downtown, (hopefully) cutting down on traffic congestion in the process.
In 1999, City Paper covered the start-up company Futrex with a feature story, detailing their ambitious plans for a monorail system. At the time, the company had built a small-scale prototype and was confident they'd begin construction in Charleston within a few years. Howard Chapman, executive director of CARTA, commented last week that "we have not conducted any business with them in at least three years." Apparently Futrex was unable to garner local funding, but who really expected Charleston to build a frigging monorail?
Ron Mitchum, executive director of BCDCOG, explains that attention has now shifted to regular commuter rail cars, which we could hopefully purchase "pre-owned" from a bigger city. "With commuter rails, your start-up costs are much less and operating costs are comparable, if not much less," explains Mitchum. "But if we had success with commuter rail, light rail would be in our future somewhere."
A primary study is completed, and the COG is currently awaiting approval from the S.C. Department of Transportation to use $75,000 for a secondary feasibility study. "We want to look at what sorts of land might be involved, and what size facility would be necessary in order to generate the ridership that we need," says Mitchum. Stations would have to be accessible to CARTA buses and automobiles, and finding a terminal location downtown won't be easy. Perhaps on King Street, on top of that big building that currently spits out "the South's oldest daily?"
Provided the funds are okayed, the secondary study should be completed by August 2007. But don't go selling your car just yet, frustrated Summerville commuters.
"If we end up doing something like this, it'll probably take us 10 years," says Mitchum. On the COG's website, their Charleston Area Transportation Study "Long Range Plan" states "It's time for an update to the plan, scheduled to be completed by the end of 2004." More like time for an update to the website. Progress takes its sweet time here in the South. —Stratton Lawrence
Navy Yards and Trolley Barns are the New Spaces
Affordable rent. Cool digs. Enough room to think, create, design, and execute without distraction or disruption. Security and community. For many visual artists and independent business entrepreneurs, this "ideal situation" is within reach, thanks to the revitalization efforts of a few folks from the Noisette Company and
the Civic Design Center. Through their work in refurbishing existing structures on the peninsula and in North Charleston, fresh opportunities are cropping up for creative types with limited resources.
Jeff Baxter, a project manager with the Noisette Company, has put considerable time and effort into the development, historical preservation, and planning efforts at the Navy Yard and 10 Storehouse Row — a massive structure originally built in the 1930s as a naval warehouse. He calls it the "rehabilitation of Storehouse Row."
Some areas in the facility (located at 2120 Noisette Blvd., formerly known as Avenue D) are currently being refurbished into residential lofts, while many are already fully set up as small offices, workspaces, studios, and headquarters for area artists, independent business owners, and design professionals. Storehouse Row officially opened in June 2006.
Jenny Wiedower, executive director of The Navy Yard at Noisette Community Association, recently described the facility as "a place that serves as the Building Arts and Design Center and an urban clubhouse for The Navy Yard at Noisette and the Greater North Charleston community."
Among some of the specialty businesses amid the maze of concrete, steel, corrugated metal, and elegant wood trim are graphic design group FuzzCo, apparel company Source Substrates, Global-Eze Inc., wood specialists The Timber Shop, fotopopART, and the campus of the Charleston Trident Homebuilders Association. Working artists utilizing the spaces at the facility include painters Katie Mixon and Bill Matalene, muralist Rick Austin, photographers John Carter and Lauren Preller, gallery owner Charles Ailstock (of Artizom Gallery), and others.
While things are already bustling in the Navy Yard, a buzz of activity has surrounded another raw space in the upper peninsula — the stately but gently-crumbling Trolley Barn, located just off of a main ramp between the Crosstown and the starting line of I-26 W at 665 Meeting St. The cavernous brick 'n' steel facility has certainly seen better days, but good things are in the works this year as the Charleston Civic Design Center and the Clemson Architecture Center are in serious planning stages for a variety of ideas and projects.
Civic Design Center has held workshops in the facility and plans to move ahead with a variety of possible uses. What's the next step? Will this place become something of workshops for artistic creativity, or are things leaning more toward a row of small offices and businesses? Perhaps a bit of both.
Originally owned by the S.C. Dept. of Transportation, the City of Charleston took hold of the 13,000-square-foot facility this year. While signs of urban blight are evident along those blocks of Meeting Street, the Trolley Barn is still within blocks of several churches, convenient stores, restaurants, a veterinary clinic, and neighborhoods-on-the-rise.
In October, the Civic Design Center held a community workshop to discuss and evaluate appropriate future use for the Trolley Barn. The strongest ideas included creating a variety marketplace, affordable housing, a museum, a recreation center, retail space, a transit hub, and, as Civic Design Center director Michael Maher calls it, an "innovation incubator."
Maher considers the role of the CCDC to "enhance the quality of life in Charleston by engaging the community in creating a dynamic urban design direction for the city ... and to promote a positive vision for the future of the city."
Dynamic urban design, smart use of raw space, revitalization of neighborhoods and communities ... it's the beginning of a new era for the city and its artists. —T. Ballard Lesemann
Mt. P's Waterfront Park is the new Waterfront Park
In Charleston, you can't get from here to there without crossing some sort of bridge and encountering some sort of magnificent scenery. It automatically comes with the territory — from the barrier islands to the inland riverfronts.
One of the most enjoyable things for those Lowcountry residents in Mt. Pleasant and East of the Cooper is the view across the harbor and the Cooper and Wando rivers — from Fort Sumter, Castle Pinckney, and the southern tip of the peninsula to the marshes of Drum and Daniel islands, the north area shipyards, and the vast horizon beyond.
In one of the most ambitious projects in its history, the Town of Mt. Pleasant is determined to utilize the natural beauty and proximity of its Cooper River and harbor shoreline with a "state-of-the-art" visitor's center and waterfront park. According to city officials, the Mt. Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park will "embrace key features that will transform the base of the Ravenel Bridge into a beacon of community offerings ranging from festivals and special events to fishing, walking, and cycling activities."
The vision for the park is to provide a welcoming, safe environment to create a unique "sense of place" for park visitors. The current plans for the park (located at the riverfront where Coleman and Johnnie Dodds boulevards previously met at the former Grace Memorial and Pearman bridge ramps) include a large-scale military memorial, a 1,200-foot fishing and observation pier, a visitor's center, a playground, and walking and cycling trails.
"Memorial Waterfront Park is an unmatched gift to our residents," says Mt. Pleasant Mayor Harry M. Hallman. "This crown jewel will honor our area's history and memorialize the Mt. Pleasant heroes who selflessly paid the ultimate price so that our residents could enjoy the liberties they have so dearly defended. The park will also foster environmental and cultural education and restoration and provide a distinctive entryway into Mt. Pleasant. Our passive multiuse areas and pedestrian and bicycle connections will tie this unique place to the rich heritage of the Lowcountry and I hope that our residents will turn out for this community input event."
The proposed 20-acre park may include facilities that celebrate the town's history (sweetgrass preservation, wetland restoration) along with food concessions, bike rentals, waterfront access, and kayaking. Planners hope to have construction finished within the year and have the park open by early 2008. For more info, visit www.townofmountpleasant.com on the web. —T. Ballard Lesemann
A New Hope
One in 166 children is born with autism. Down syndrome and other mental disabilities affect countless more families whose lives are literally changed by the extra care required for their child. Then consider the fate of these people when their parents and caregivers become too old or pass away. More than likely it's a future of fluorescent lights and linoleum floors.
Mary Tutterow hopes that Healing Farm Ministries will allay the uncertainty of "what's going to happen when I'm gone." More than five years ago she began raising money to begin a working farm that would give people with mental disabilities a job, a home, and a purpose. After four years she'd raised $15,000 of the needed half a million, when by "an act of God" the 100-acre Thornhill Farms in McClellanville was donated, no strings attached.
Each weekend for the past year, people of all ages with disabilities have visited the farm to work, play, swim in the lake, and enjoy being part of a community. Last weekend they threw their second annual Christmas party, featuring a live nativity scene. Tina Paul's daughter Patty, age 52, played Mary. "This is the first time she was able to participate in an event like that — she really felt so special," says Tina. "It makes Patty feel normal. She's able to participate in things just like everybody else. It puts a glow on our faces whenever we're able to go out there."
In the coming months, Healing Farm will literally become home to a few individuals and their caretakers. Tutterow expects that groups and individuals with disabilities will begin visiting daily, bringing regular school groups out to work alongside them.
"Sometimes our adult volunteers begin the day totally scared, afraid they're going to catch it," says Tutterow. "By the end of the day they've made wonderful new friends."
Tutterow, whose 14-year-old daughter Mary Addison has autism, hopes that the program will help people realize that people with disabilities are important to society, so that the next generation won't allow the abuses and neglect of the past. "Otherwise," she says, "the only people who care about this are the ones who have children with disabilities."
Healing Farms plans to operate as a fully functional specialty farm, thus becoming self-sustaining financially rather than relying on constant donations. This year brought over 1,000 volunteers to the farm and as many smiling faces. Check out www.healingfarm.org to learn more. —Stratton Lawrence
New Idea That Needs to Work | The Radius
It sounded so good when it was first announced in early 2005: a city-enveloping Wi-Fi cloud, providing a free broadband internet signal to anyone with a laptop or a desktop computer on the peninsula. The high-tech, futuristic enterprise was to be the product of a partnership between the Evening Post Corporation (owner of The Post and Courier) and Mt. Pleasant ISP WidespreadAccess, with lots of logistical assistance from the City — but, importantly, no tax dollars. The Radius was to launch in November 2005, and it was going to change everything.
But The Radius didn't launch in November. Nor in January, or March, or April. Technical and logistical delays kept it from coming online except in scattered areas like Marion Square and Liberty Park until this past summer. And you probably still don't know it's there, because — not to put too fine a point on it — it doesn't work worth a damn.
If you're lucky enough to find a signal for The Radius, it's almost certain to be a less robust one than the College of Charleston's, or the one offered by the coffeehouse you're in, or the music store's on the corner, or the unencrypted one called DLINK651 beaming into space from some kid's apartment on King Street.
We wish The Radius worked. We really do. It could have changed everything. But at the moment, it's mostly chump change. —Patrick Sharbaugh