Buzzworm news briefs

Today Asheville, tomorrow the world: AGR-TV goes satellite

Air time: AGR-TV co-anchors Eamon Martin, far left, and Anna Belle Peevey, far right, produce a new episode of the program. Pictured in the center, from left, are sytlist Denise Wolcott, producer David Connor Jones and editor Sean McNeal. photo by Jonathan Welch

Quick—name an Asheville-based television show that reaches millions of homes every week.

The answer is: There isn’t one, yet. But starting in April, Asheville Global Report‘s weekly program, AGR-TV, will be aired on the Free Speech TV channel via the satellite broadcasts of the DISH Network, which claims more than 25 million subscribers.

Produced at local public-access channel URTV since last October, the program is anchored and edited by Eamon Martin and Anna Belle Peevey and produced by David Connor Jones. Like its namesake newspaper, the show offers world-news reports of the sort that are often ignored by corporate broadcasters, all delivered in a commercial-free half hour. A recent episode, for example, touched on everything from faulty U.S. Justice Department terrorism statistics to doubts about Washington’s claims concerning Iran’s nuclear program to U.S. military attacks on Iraqi media centers.

With a print circulation of about 3,000, it would be fair to say that the Asheville Global Report isn’t a household name. Yet the weekly newspaper has published steadily for eight years and reaches a wider audience via its Web site and a weekly radio program on WPVM-103.5 FM. At present, AGR-TV airs locally on cable channel 20 every Friday at 6 p.m.

Of course, satellite-network distribution represents a much bigger deal—and a potentially much larger audience. “AGR has come a long way from a 40-copy newsletter printed at Kinko’s,” Martin notes.

Peevey, who has volunteered with AGR since 2004, lit the spark for the satellite-TV deal in January, when she attended the National Conference on Media Reform in Memphis, Tenn. There, she shared a recording of AGR-TV with a producer from Free Speech TV, who said, “We’ll call you.” Soon thereafter, public-access channels in Chapel Hill and Raleigh begin airing the program. Then came a call from the Boulder, Colo., headquarters of Free Speech TV, a nonprofit channel that carries progressive political programming.

For more information, visit www.agrnews.org.

— Cecil Bothwell

The sequel: Broadway Video, R.I.P.

photo by Jonathan Welch

These days, movies tend to wrap with an open-ended possibility of a sequel. Rather than let something good die, studios would rather leave the option open for another installment, something bigger and better.

The same goes for longtime downtown Asheville fixture Broadway Video. After purchasing the store last month, Orbit DVD owner Mark McCloud and Static Age Records proprietor Joel Hutcheson are preparing for its next incarnation on Lexington Avenue.

Both owners profess a respect for the underground atmosphere the store has cultivated over the past decade, and vow to maintain a similar selection of obscure and hard-to-find films at the new location.

“Chris has always been good at finding the greatest and most obscure movies I’ve ever seen,” McCloud says.

The new store, dubbed Satellite DVD, is slated to open April 1 in the storefront previously occupied by Make Me! Fabrics. The new space is about four times as big as Broadway Video’s current, cave-like interior, and will allow for a larger selection. McCloud says some of the more abrasive (read: antitourist) touches of the old business will be left behind.

As for former Broadway owner Chris Yountz and his dog Champ, they will continue to work at the new location.

In the meantime, the Broadway location is still stocked full of rare VHS movies, most of which the new owners hope to unload. The whole shebang, with the exception of 100 or so out-of-print selections, is up for sale through the rest of March.

“He’s been there for 10 years, and he’s got tons of VHS that you can’t find anywhere,” McCloud notes. Video cassettes are selling for $7.99, with prices expected to drop to $3.99 by the end of the month. Already, film buffs have been snatching up their favorites, lest they end up in less-appreciative hands.

— Brian Postelle

Jackson County takes a breather from development

A controversial subdivision-moratorium ordinance, softened slightly by last-minute changes, was approved in a 4-1 decision by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners on March 8, with only Chairman Brian McMahan voting against it.

“We’re happy and we’re thankful that the commissioners have taken the time—and they had the guts—to address the issue [of] rapid development,” says Jeannette Evans, president of the local Tuckaseegee Community Alliance. “I think ultimately what has to happen [is that] the community needs to work together,” she says, “and I think the commissioners did a good job of listening.”

Originally set for six months but now reduced to five, the moratorium puts a hold on new subdivision approvals so that subdivision, steep-slope and ridge-top regulations can be written to guide the area’s rapid development. The pause will stop when those regulations are made active, or at the end of five months—whichever comes first.

In another nod to public input, the commissioners decided to allow one-time subdivisions, provided they are in a parcel not more than 25 acres that’s divided into three or fewer lots. Commissioner Tom Massie says the provision was added in response to concerns regarding landowners’ “need to sell” in, for example, a medical emergency or financial crisis.

Another accommodation will allow new subdivision applications to move forward, as long as “mutually agreed upon,” minimum-development standards are met. This was added, Massie says, to address complaints from bankers who foresaw problems that could arise with loans given without knowing “what the rules are.” Such an agreement, he adds, would be contractual with the county.

One of the original arguments for a moratorium—that development applications would accelerate during the period regulations were being drafted—seems to have been well grounded. County Manager Ken Westmoreland reported in an e-mail to Xpress that in January, plans for 84 subdivision lots were filed. “In February, after the call for the moratorium, 289 applications were submitted,” he added.

“It kind of justifies the thought process” behind the moratorium, Massie observed.

Both Massie and Westmoreland say they are confident that five months will be sufficient for the Planning Board to craft new regulations. “I fully expect the ordinance will be complete in 60 to 75 days,” Westmoreland says.

— Nelda Holder

Asheville women’s conference seeks art for the unsilent majority

The women’s movement is resurgent, and nowhere more visible than at national conferences such as “Women and Power: Our Time to Lead” (New York City, 2004) and “Enlightened Power: How Women Are Changing The Way We Live” (Rhinebeck, New York, 2006). Such empowerment conferences, staged annually since 2002, are largely the creation of Elizabeth Lesser, co-founder of the Omega Holistic Center in Rhinebeck, and Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues and founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls.

Last fall, three Ashevilleans attended the Enlightened Power conference and experienced an epiphany on their return trip. “Why not Asheville?” wondered Xpress staffers Patty Levesque and Lisa Watters, and Lisa Sarasohn, a yoga instructor and author of The Woman’s Belly Book. The trio engaged in a bit of blue-sky “what ifs?” and decided to make it happen.

Soon after their return, Watters wrote about the experience for WNC Woman, and Maureen McDonnell, a Weaverville-based professional-conference coordinator, read her story. McDonnell contacted the three women and said, “You ladies have the dream and I just happen to have the machine.” McDonnell’s “machine” is nine years of experience organizing conferences, most notably the Autism Research Institute’s “Defeat Autism Now!” events.

The “Southeastern Women’s Time for Our Power! Conference” is slated for the Asheville Civic Center, May 16 to 18, 2008. The three-day event “will provide women with both inspiration and practical skills to bring about positive changes in their own lives and the world,” according to the initial press release. Organizers expect to present keynote talks, discussion groups, panels, performances and workshops.

According to Levesque, “action” is the event’s theme. “You can get inspired and you can have hope, but until you act, what’s really going to happen?” she says.

One of the first steps toward the 2008 event will be to create a logo. To that end, organizers are calling for logo submissions from female artists. There are no other criteria; designers are encouraged to use their imagination. The winning logo will be used in promotional material for the conference, and the winning artist will receive a $500 prize. Deadline for the contest is May 1, 2007; entries can be submitted via e-mail at TimeForOurPower@yahoo.com, or c/o Patty Levesque, 2 Jones St., Asheville, NC 28804.

For more information, call 691-5472.

— Cecil Bothwell

A passion for history

“To me, history is the most exciting subject,” says Rob Neufeld. “There are many students who consider history to be a tedious subject because of the way it’s taught. I believe that what’s missing from a lot of those stories is the human-interest aspect of it.”

Neufeld should know. He’s spent much of the past three decades studying and writing about the history and culture of Western North Carolina, a somewhat unexpected calling for a man who hails from Rockland County, N.Y. Nevertheless, Neufeld explains, the subject simply fascinates him. “I have a passionate interest in local history, and my connection to these mountains is significant.”

That passion has fueled his career as a writer. As a columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times, he’s explored the theme from all sides, tackling everything from the conflicted local loyalties during the Civil War and the often-overlooked history of the Cherokee, to more subtly complex subjects like “Growing Up Black in Black Mountain.”

And slowly, these stories started to become more than the sum of their parts: They were becoming a history book.

The result is A Popular History of Western North Carolina: Mountains, Heroes & Hootnoggers (History Press, 2007), a unique collection of local recollections and insights. And, true to Neufeld’s views, it’s written to be an engaging collection showcasing the human face of history.

“I really wanted to reach general readers,” Neufeld says, noting that there’s one group of readers he’s particularly excited about talking to: Folks who are, like he once was, new to the unique culture of WNC. “I’m really hoping newcomers to the area read it, so that they can get some idea of the things that should be preserved and respected in this region.”

Neufeld will read selections from the boook at Malaprop’s Bookstore on Sunday, March 25, at 3 p.m.

For more information, call 254-6734 or visit malaprops.com.

— Steve Shanafelt

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