Buzzworm news briefs

Will the real free market please stand up?

If all goes well, jokes Nable Wallin, the Wildflower Community Fair might spark the end of capitalism.

This Saturday, April 29, the Montford Complex will be transformed into a kind of egalitarian flea market. All manner of goods will be available, with everything from basement clutter to handmade works of art. Skilled folks with a little free time and a need to share will give workshops on such pursuits as yoga, bookmaking and bike repair. And — get this — to take it all in, you don’t even need to bring your wallet.

“Everything will be free,” says Wallin, one of the Fair’s handful of nonhierarchical organizers. “We’re not even asking for donations.”

While some may balk at the concept of the Wildflower Fair, claiming that it seems like a half-baked utopian fever dream mixed with a rummage sale, there’s actually a grounded goal behind it.

The fair “is based on an idea that has been around in activist circles for a while, which is to have a really ‘free market,’ as opposed to the idea of ‘free market’ economies,” says Wallin. “We’re also using it to be a community-building experience. That’s why we’ve organized a pretty good selection of people with skills to hold workshops, rather than just having stuff to give away.”

Aside from the organizers’ socioeconomic agenda, Wallin says that the main goal of the event is to build a more connected community. “You don’t have to have a certain political philosophy to participate,” he says. “We want to get more people involved in our projects, and we want to be involved in other people’s projects, too.”

The Wildflower Community Fair will be held at the Montford Complex (34 Pearson Drive) on Saturday, April 29. For more information, e-mail

— Steve Shanafelt

For the guy with a gig (and other guitar buffs)

The recently opened instrument shop Smashing Guitars boasts the distinction of being Asheville’s only music store with a gold record. Now, the award isn’t for the store, but for owner Owen McMahon, who toured with post-punk outfit the Butthole Surfers in 1996, after the release of Electric Larryland (the gold record in question).

The small shop, which is tucked back from Walnut Street on Carolina Lane, is an instrument-lover’s dream. At first glance, it’s homey; there are couches, magazines, and guitars neatly arranged on stands, but everything has a casual, it’s-okay-to-touch vibe, and there’s no snooty wanna-be guitar gods-turned-salesmen attempting to impress customers with Zeppelin riffs. “I saw a need for this kind of business in Asheville,” McMahon explains. “Nobody in town was offering quality vintage gear. Other stores offer secondhand gear, but it’s not their focus.”

By “vintage,” the shop owner means instruments that are at least 15 to 20 years old and no longer produced. Look for unusual, unique guitars, especially imported ones that are undervalued.

“A guitar’s like nice wine,” muses McMahon (who, coincidentally, worked as a wine merchant before opening Smashing Guitars). “They both get better with age.”

Vintage keyboards and Moog synthesizers are also available. Smashing Guitars happens to be the only Moog dealer in Asheville (the late instrument creator Robert Moog was a local, and the Moog factory is close by). And though there’s plenty of specialized gear, musicians with low-end budgets need not shy away. “We’re not all about expensive old guitars,” the proprietor notes. “We’re about being accessible and accommodating. The store isn’t a museum; everything here is geared toward working musicians.”

Love guitars but can’t play? McMahon has that covered, too. Local teachers currently offer lessons (also on bass and percussion) out of the shop.

For touring bands, Smashing Guitars offers a backline rental business (offering amplifiers, keyboards and other equipment that wouldn’t fit on the van), as well as in-house repairs. John Mulholland of the Rib Tips works on guitars while Todd Kelly, owner of Altamont Studios at 15 Carolina Lane, handles keyboards. “He’s one of the only guys in the tri-state area who can work on Hammond organs, Clavinets and tube organs,” McMahon says. “Those services make this a shop [for] the working musician — the guy who needs his equipment because he has a gig this weekend.”

Visit Smashing Guitars at 16 Carolina Lane, or call the shop at 225-6800.

— Alli Marshall

The long arm reaches out

Asheville Police Chief Bill Hogan, who’s coming up on two years’ service here, is working the public rope-line, making appearances about town and pointing out the changes he’s instituted since taking the helm in June of 2004.

Speaking last week before the Leadership Asheville Forum’s luncheon at the Country Club of Asheville, Hogan emphasized the department’s graduation of new personnel from the city’s police academy and the mission statement to which he says he holds his officers: “Integrity, Fairness, Respect, Professionalism.”

When interviewing officers about the handling of a case, Hogan said, he asks, “How does your behavior line up with our guiding principles?”

Hogan said the department, which is preparing for the structured chaos of Asheville’s festival season, is training in “emotional intelligence” and “verbal judo” — ways to keep hostility in check for both citizens and officers. “We have to be very patient and very tolerant,” he said.

The approach may be paying dividends. For example, a March 11 antihomosexuality rally in Pack Square went off without any arrests or scuffles, despite a crowd of boisterous counter-protesters, some heated exchanges and a large police presence. The events of the day were in stark contrast to those at a similar rally in March 2004 (during the previous police chief’s tenure), which was marred by 11 arrests of counter-protesters and allegations of police brutality.

But hindrances for the department remain, Hogan said, including a legal system that lets too many criminals walk with probation rather than putting them in jail and a lower-than-average local pay rate for officers that encourages high turnover.

High on Hogan’s agenda is community outreach, he said — trying to mend the gap between police and the citizenry. Methods range from public forums such as tomorrow’s meeting in West Asheville to the purchase of two Segway Human Transporters — those two-wheeled gizmos that scoot people around in a way that seems to defy physics. Those vehicles, added to a police fleet that already includes bubble-topped electric golf-carts, will be “conversation pieces” intended to spark interaction between police and passers by, Hogan said.

Chief Hogan and officers responsible for patrolling West Asheville will appear at a forum at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 27, at Emma Baptist Church Fellowship Hall, 520 N. Louisiana Ave. Residents are invited to hear about changes in the department and share ideas about how better to serve the area. Translators will be available for Spanish speakers. For information, call 258-3953.

— Brian Postelle

The fix for film fanatics

When arts enthusiast Carlos Steward relocated to Asheville from Cleveland, Ohio, he brought with him the Twin Rivers Media Festival, now in its 12th year. The event — which will be held Friday, April 29 through Thursday, May 4 — features both films and performing arts such as poetry, music, juggling and dance.

Though in its inaugural run in Steward’s new home, the festival still attracted film entries from around the globe, including 22 world premiers and one North American premier. A panel of six judges selects festival winners, providing an array of films for audiences to take in. Genres run the gamut from shorts and animation to documentaries and feature films, and movie buffs can catch these flicks at the Courtyard Gallery (which can be accessed from 62 Lexington Ave., 13 Carolina Lane or 9 Walnut St.), Pack Memorial Library’s Lord Auditorium and the Fine Arts Theatre.

Among the films on tap, viewers might recognize Plagues and Pleasures of the Salton Sea, written and directed by Christopher Metzler and Jeff Springer. Released in 2004, the movie looks at a desert paradise of sorts in California. Quirky dark-comedy filmmaker John Waters narrates.

Another feature film offering is Deadly Passion: The Tragedy in Katmai by Stefan Quinth — the true story of Timothy Treadwell. For viewers who don’t revel in Hollywood glitz, this movie (the real-life version of Grizzly Man, the grizzly bear whisperer who was, in the end, eaten by his furry friends) might just hit the spot.

Belgian filmmaker Rudolf Mesdagh’s movie Ellektra — the dark tale of an ex-junkie and a runaway girl — is represented, along with the psychological drama Ed I Hide by Len Peltier, an art director associated with big-name recording artists.

Festivities kick off at noon on Friday with pre-show poetry followed by eclectic entertainment from the likes of Ash Devine, Michael Farr and Utah Green in the courtyard (that’s outside the Courtyard Gallery), and films screening indoors from 2 to 8 p.m. After 8 p.m., the movies are shown outdoors.

Screenings continue at Pack Library on May 2 from 5 to 7:45 p.m., and at the Fine Arts Theatre on May 4 with a closing program from 9 p.m. to midnight.

Admission to screenings is $5; performing-arts shows are by donation. For more info, call 273-3332 or visit

— Alli Marshall

Sounding the alarm

Bill McKibben, arguably the most eloquent and certainly the most prolific contemporary observer of human impact on the natural world, will touch down at the Warren Wilson College Chapel Tuesday, May 2, at 7 p.m. His talk, free and open to the public, is titled “Climate Change as Moral Challenge: How Big Should We Be?”

McKibben, a regular contributor to such diverse periodicals as Adbusters, The Atlantic Monthly, Mother Jones and The New Yorker, is the author of many books, including The Age of Missing Information (Plume, 1993), an exploration of the absence of meaningful content from television programming versus the wealth of information gleaned from a night spent beside a mountaintop lake, and The End of Nature (Random House, 1989), in which he argued that “wildness” now exists only insofar as humans allow it to. Now available in 20 languages, the latter book was the first one aimed at a general audience to seriously discuss global warming.

In it, McKibben wrote: “In other words, our reassuring sense of a timeless future, which is drawn from that apparently bottomless well of the past, is a delusion. … Events, enormous events, can happen quickly. … In the last three decades, for example, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased more than 10 percent. … In the last decade, an immense ‘hole’ in the ozone layer has opened above the South Pole. In the last half-decade, the percentage of West German forests damaged by acid rain has risen from less than 10 to more than 50. … In 1988 — for perhaps the first time since that starved Pilgrim winter at Plymouth — America ate more food than it grew.”

McKibben has received Guggenheim and Lyndhurst fellowships and the Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction. His most recent book is Wandering Home (Crown, 2005).

For more information, call (828) 771-3006 or e-mail

— Cecil Bothwell

Black Mountain residents duck and run

Throwing things at other people can be a great way to vent and a lot of fun to boot, particularly when the hurled objects are low-density foam balls and a third party is keeping score. Dodgeball has made a comeback recently, boosted by the 2004 film of that name, but the game was already scoring with Black Mountain residents two years before the film’s release.

Casey Conner of the Black Mountain Recreation and Parks Department began organizing dodgeball games in 2002. He says that in the current season, 12 teams are playing, and that there’s a “free agent list so anyone can sign up to join a team when there is a vacancy.” There are spring, summer and fall seasons; the summer season starts June 12, and will be preceded by a May 22 meeting for interested players.

To keep the balls flying, the department and the National Amateur Dodgeball Association will host a free tournament on Saturday, May 6, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Pre-registration is required. The event will celebrate the opening of the town’s new indoor rec center on Blue Ridge Road. In addition, Black Mountain will host the Southeast National Qualifier for the NADA on June 3.

For more information, to register or to join a team for the upcoming season, phone 669-2052.

— Cecil Bothwell

Civic Center proposals head to City Hall

The package may look a little ragged, but the Asheville Civic Center Task Force wrapped up five months of deliberations April 19 with a decision to present two recommended options to City Council on May 9.

Reconfirming an earlier consensus, the group is recommending that Council either adopt the Asheville Area Center for the Performing Arts’ adaptive-reuse proposal to transform the current arena into an up-to-date performance hall and construct a new arena at a separate site; or else pursue the recommendation of the 5-year-old Heery Report to renovate the existing arena and construct a new performing-arts hall.

Much of the evening, however, was spent discussing a new spin on the old Heery plan. Instead of placing a new performing-arts hall adjacent to the current structure, the task force opted for a “parkside” option, making the performing arts hall a key component of a mixed-use development that would be built on city-owned land adjacent to City/County Plaza. The idea had surfaced at the group’s March 15 meeting, and additional information was presented at the April session. The 2.43-acre site, it was said, could accommodate 200 residential units, 100,000 square feet of commercial space and a 600- to 700-car garage in addition to the performing-arts facility. Incorporating 10 additional acres that include the site of the Public Works Building on South Charlotte Street could step up those figures to a dizzying 1,000 residential units, 2,000 parking spaces and 250,000 square feet of commercial space — with an estimated total investment of $300 million. Tax-increment financing — which relies on anticipated future tax revenues to finance development — was mentioned as a possible route for such a project.

Meanwhile, representatives of Global Entertainment Marketing Systems — which builds and manages new arenas around the country — arrived to discuss the possibilities. But GEMS President Wayne Davis was quick to stress that his company no longer deals with older arenas. “To have those new amenities that you need for the new shows … we build 24 suites, 500 club seats, then the arena,” Davis explained. “Those seats give you revenue back to help you pay for the building.” Other revenue sources such as naming rights, selling rights and pouring rights become much more attractive in a new facility, he added.

After spirited discussion of some of the shortcomings in both options, task force members weighed in. Buncombe County Commissioner Bill Stanley and AACPA Chair Sidney Powell favored the performing-arts center’s proposal; former Mayor Charles Worley and Council member/task force Chair Jan Davis preferred the parkside option. Ron Storto and Max Alexander, meanwhile, voiced support for both options, and Mayor Terry Bellamy was unable to attend the meeting.

And despite Davis’ declaration that allocating $15 million in maintenance for the current building should be a fallback position, several task force members did not agree. “I don’t think throwing $16 [million] or $17 million at this facility is an option,” said Storto. And Alexander, who chairs the Civic Center Commission, added, “You’re still going to end up with a 1940s, 1970s-vintage building, and I don’t think that’s what the citizens of this area want.”

— Nelda Holder

Campaign Calendar

Heading for the polls: Tuesday, May 2 is primary-election day, with ballots for contested races for local, state and federal offices. Primary voters receive ballots according to their party of registration; unaffiliated voters can vote from either the Democratic or the Republican ballot. Contested offices include the Buncombe County Sheriff (Democratic ballot); N.C. House of Representatives, District 116 (Democratic) and District 115 (Republican); and N.C. Senate District 49 (Republican). Contested nonpartisan positions for N.C. Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Associate Justice will appear on both the party ballots. Buncombe County polling places will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. To check on polling-place locations, call the Buncombe County Board of Elections at 250-4200 or visit their Web site at Sample ballots may also be reviewed at the Web site.

Changed your address? If you have moved since the last election and have not submitted a change-of-address to the BOE, you have two options for voting in the primary. You can report to your old voting location and pick up a form to take to your new location, verifying that you have not voted at the old location; or you can report to the new location and fill out your registration change form there before voting.

Early voting ends Saturday: One-stop absentee voting (or “early” voting) ends at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 29. The no-excuse opportunity to vote before the May 2 primary is offered at the Board of Elections office, 189 College St. in Asheville, from 8:30 until 6 p.m. today through Friday, and from 8:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Voting by mail: Primary ballots being submitted by mail must be received in the Board of Elections office by 5 p.m. on Monday, May 1. The deadline to request absentee ballots ended April 25, with exceptions for illness or disability. In the event of illness or disability, requests must be received by 5 p.m. on Monday, May 1.

Gearing up for November: Rep. Susan Fisher, running for re-election in House District 114, will kick off her campaign with a Cinco de Mayo Fiesta on May 5 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Grove Arcade. The evening, which is open to the public, includes special guests with introductions by Patsy Keever, former Buncombe County commissioner. Tickets for the fund-raiser will be available at the door for $25 ($10 for students).

We’ll be back! Campaign Calendar will resume in the summer as campaigning gets more active for the general election in November. Until then, campaign events that are open and free to the public are eligible for free listings in our Community Calendar. (Please limit to 50 words.) To submit a free listing, e-mail your information to Special, paid listings are also available; call 251-1333 for information.


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