Buzzworm news briefs

Recess for teachers

It’s possible that, after a full week of playing itsy-bitsy spider and singing the ABCs, more than a few Early Childhood teachers find themselves needing (if not a juice box and a nap) a serious dose of grown-up talk. The Western Regional Early Childhood Conference offers just that — in a big way.

This year, the Friday, May 20, and Saturday, May 21, event celebrates its 25th anniversary. And, more than just racking up years of teacher training, the gathering has also enjoyed growth. “The conference started out as an event involving three counties,” noted Buncombe County Child Care Services training specialist Pat Creighton in a press release. “It was held for years in the First Baptist Church in Asheville and drew fewer than 200 child care professionals. Now we draw an average of 1,100 participants from all of Western North Carolina, the Piedmont, South Carolina and Tennessee.” As a testament to that increase, the conference now meets on the A-B Tech campus in Asheville.

Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. Friday. With 150 workshops to choose from — covering infants, toddlers, preschoolers, school-age children and administrative topics — conference participants can check out classes like “Field Trip and Transportation Safety,” “Turning Your Stress into Dessert” and “Children with Attachment Issues.”

At 4 p.m. Friday, attendees get to unwind at the Silver Anniversary Gala. State Rep. Susan C. Fisher is the special guest, and the party includes awards, refreshments and live music by Sherri Lynn and Mountain Friends.

On-site registration is $70 for both days, $60 for Friday only and $50 for Saturday only. For more information, call 254-9850.

— Alli Marshall

Hobnob in the Hamptons!

The Writer’s Workshop wants to offer you every possible chance to knock back a few drinks with Kurt Vonnegut and Peter Matthiessen at Kurt’s digs out in the Hamptons. First, they came up with the writing contest mentioned in these pages a month or so ago. You know the drill: short, unpublished fiction or nonfiction up to 5,000 words, 12-point type, paper clip, SASE (the long, self-adhesive type), $25 per story entry fee.

Then, they launched a lottery. Fifty (tax-deductible) bucks gets you one entry and a one-year membership in the Workshop. Mail a check or money order with another long SASE to “Author’s Drawing” at the address below.

Finally — and this is sweet, because only you can decide to lose – there’s an auction. Yep, they’re putting Kurt and Peter on the eBay auction block, starting June 1 and ending June 10 (the winning bid is also tax-deductible). Log on to ebay.com and search for “Meet Kurt Vonnegut” to cast a bid.

The much-heralded cocktail party with literary greats will be held in mid-August.

For more information: The Writer’s Workshop, 387 Beaucatcher Road, Asheville, NC, 28805; www.twwoa.org; or (828) 254-8111.

— Cecil Bothwell

Dollars and sense

Sure, a penny saved is a penny earned — but how far will a penny get you these days? According to the America Saves program (www.americasaves.org), a national campaign to encourage individuals to save money and build wealth, even low and moderate wage earners can pay down debt, accumulate savings, and work toward goals such as buying a home, taking a vacation, paying for education, planning for retirement or creating an emergency fund.

After the ’80s and ’90s trend toward amassing credit card debt, America Saves is out to prove that not spending is cool. Managed by the Consumer Federation of American Foundation in Washington, the program is advised by dozens of national governmental, business and nonprofit groups — but it also works on the local level. In March of this year, North Carolina Saves (under the Department of State Treasurer) kicked off a local pilot program.

In Western North Carolina, banks and credit unions are offering “savers” accounts to those who want to commit to a monthly savings plan. At the banks’ discretion, these accounts can offer perks ranging from waved membership fees to no minimum amount to open the account to no monthly fees. Large statewide institutions like Wachovia are already offering these accounts, and local lenders such as Home Trust and Asheville Savings are coming on board.

A “Build Wealth Not Debt” brochure in English and Spanish offers tips on both compounding money and paying down debt. Program members receive free financial advice and invitations to participate in initiatives like the recently issued Visa “Save $500 Challenge,” which encourages women to put away a minimum of $500 in an emergency fund. Individualized campaigns, such as Black America Saves, Hispanic America Saves and Army Saves can be contacted through the America Saves Web site.

Need help getting started? America Saves suggests bringing lunch to work for a monthly savings of $60, paying a credit card bill on time to avoid a $25 late charge, and reducing credit card debt by $1,000 to reduce monthly interest by $15. Then, drop that “found” money into a fee-free bank account and watch the nest egg grow.

To volunteer as a motivational speaker or wealth coach, or to learn more about America Saves, call the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of WNC at 255-5166, or visit www.debtstress.org and www.treasurer.state.nc.us.

— Alli Marshall

The pendulum effect

A needle on the end of a thread can tell the gender of an unborn child. A forked hazel branch can find water. Are these examples of dowsing techniques simply old-wives tales or are they evidence of advanced psychic ability?

According to the Appalachian Chapter of the American Society of Dowsers, this ancient art form (some claim it goes back 7,000 years) is “a developed skill that focuses normal human intuition, and can be used to answer almost any question.”

Intrigued? Experienced and novice dowsers alike are invited to the May Dowsing School, held at Warren Wilson College. The Appalachian chapter meets quarterly at the college, but this month’s meeting is not for membership business alone — in addition, four workshops are offered.

Those new to dowsing can get an introduction in Dr. R. Lee Barnes‘ class, “Dowsing for Dummies.” In the workshop description, Barnes notes, “Dowsing is a practical way to communicate between your conscious mind and your subconscious mind and body.” The hands-on program includes the use of L-rods and pendulums.

Sam Richardson, a dowser for 14 years, instructs students on how to clear negative energies from homes, offices and other spaces we frequent. Geopathogenic zones, electromagnetic pollution, hauntings and problematic thought forms are discussed in “More than Ghostbusting.”

Chapter president Richard Crutchfield deals with ways to access information about where to drill for water, build a house or plant a garden, and other property-based issues in his workshop, “Dowsing About Land.”

The fourth class, “Dowsing the Dog,” is all about communicating with animals. Kate Pittman, who’s been a dowser for more than 30 years, suggests that workshop participants have a sound understanding of dowsing basics before attempting these lessons in dialoging with pets.

Registration for the Saturday, May 21, event begins at 9:30 a.m. Workshops and discussions end at 4 p.m., and the cost is $2 for chapter members, $5 for nonmembers (annual membership is $15 for those wishing to join). Full-time Warren Wilson students are admitted free. Lunch is potluck-style. For more information and directions, call 452-5716 or 658-3671, or visit www.WNCdowsers.org.

— Alli Marshall

Going to the Source

Not all art supplies can be snapped up at Michael’s. In fact, for traditional Cherokee artisans, finding the materials needed for their work can be as much of a process as actually completing the crafts. River cane required for double-weave baskets now comes from as far away as Georgia, and clay and stone used by potters and carvers is found in Georgia and Florida.

“So much land is developed now,” explains Dr. David Cozzo, director of the Revitalization of Traditional Cherokee Artisan Resources (RTCAR). “A lot of [local] clay sources are now under parking lots.” So, RTCAR — a grant-making initiative — was launched in January by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation to help teach, promote and protect traditional Cherokee art and resources.

Open to nonprofit organizations, RTCAR’s second grant cycle runs through Thursday, June 9, and focuses on river cane, geographic information systems (GIS) and mapping.

“We’re interested in working with projects of land preservation and preserving river cane,” Cozzo explains during a recent phone conversation with Xpress. In a press release, he elaborates, “Initially RTCAR will focus on basket making materials. The project will eventually expand to include dye plants, quality clay for potters, good materials for carvers, and the culturally significant edible medicinal plant resources.”

While Cozzo notes that it’s functional for artisans to gather traditional materials from any location — even out of state — a sense of place is important to the creative process. So, for Cherokee crafters, collecting materials locally adds to the historic and cultural impact of their work. “We’ve funded a project to locate clay sources within the Qualla Boundary,” the program director reveals.

Projects must fall into one of three categories: planning, capacity and project specific. In the first two categories, grant requests can be for amounts up to $20,000; project-specific grant requests may exceed $20,000. The first grant cycle, which began in January, partially funded Transformations: Cherokee Baskets in the Twentieth Century, currently on display at the Asheville Art Museum.

To learn more about RTCAR, call 488-8495 or e-mail cozzod@wcu.edu.

— Alli Marshall

Caffeine, adrenaline and one wild ride

@text: When the 48 Hour Film Project came to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 2003, this is how the The Cincinnati Enquirer described the event: “Over two sleepless nights and two frantic days, some 400 hometown moviemakers turned Cincinnati into one giant back lot in a contest of speed, skill and artistry.”

It looks like Asheville will undergo the same transformation this July. The 48 Hour Film Project, a high-energy film competition, is coming our way — as well as to about 30 other cities on three continents. The project has grown by leaps and bounds since it started in Washington, D.C., in 2001. Asheville will be one of the smallest burgs to participate.

Here’s how it works: Over the weekend of July 22-24, 24 teams in Asheville will be given 48 hours to make a short film from scratch. Between 7 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Sunday, they must write, shoot, edit and add a musical soundtrack to a 4- to 8-minute film. If they hand it in even 1 minute late, their team will be disqualified.

To keep things honest, each team won’t know what genre they must make their film in until a random drawing 15 minutes before the start of the competition. In the past, genres have included mockumentary, comedy, horror, romance, mystery, superhero and even musical. Additionally, all the teams must incorporate the same character, prop and line of dialogue into their project no matter what the genre.

Bonesteel Films, which won runner-up for ‘Best Film’ at the Greensboro competition last year, will be the production sponsor for the Asheville event. The WNC Film Commission, a program of AdvantageWest, will also provide sponsorship.

“It’s just fun!” exclaims Paul Bonesteel about the contest. “You throw a team together of people and then all the sudden you have a genre you had no idea that you would have — and you have these variables … It’s rare that you get to approach [filmmaking] so spontaneously.”

But while the event’s certainly a blast, “It’s also competitive,” reports Bonesteel. “Yes, there are film festivals that are competitive — but in this it’s more like head-to-head competition because you’re dealing with a lot of the same variables and the same 48 hours. If it rains, if it’s 100 degrees, whatever, you’re all playing with the same rules.”

The contest is open to pros and amateurs alike, and it’s not always the high-end production companies that walk away with the prize. As Bonesteel notes, “When you get into the screening room usually … it’s still the story that matters most. [A film] could have pretty low production value but if the story is good it’s going to win the applause and the interest of the judges.”

A few days after the competition, all the films will be screened at the Asheville Pizza Company. The winning film will go on to represent Asheville at the international 48 Hours Film Project’s Annual Awards Ceremony and compete for the coveted “Best of 2005″ prize.

There will be a 48 Hour Film Project informational party from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, May 19, at Club 11 (11 Grove St., across Patton Avenue from the Federal Building). The evening will offer an opportunity to network, learn more about the project and watch a screening of films from previous competitions.

“It’s a great chance for people who want to participate and be on a team but don’t know anybody,” adds organizer Katie Kasben. “This is a place to go to find your team.”

Registration for the competition begins Friday, May 20, and the cost to participate is $125 per team. The first 10 teams to register with a credit card online will automatically be entered into the contest; all registrants thereafter will participate in a lottery for the final 14 slots.

For more information, contact Kasben at 337-3854 or katiekasben@hotmail.com, or visit www.48hourfilm.com.

— Lisa Watters

Making the A list

A new Asheville-based Web site aims to help local artists and fans alike with a new online distribution service.

Rare tracks from The Blue Rags, a legendary WNC band, are among those available for download on the new Web site (www.atonemusic.com). A-Tunes, a distribution service of A-Tone Music, features exclusive tracks from select artists. The new collection includes tracks from Steve Carter, keyboardist for the San Francisco band Los Mocosos, and from Look at the Trees, a Montreal-based composer. The company plans to post tracks in advance of CD releases, out-takes, live and alternative versions — with a concentration on local musicians.

Unlike other online music distribution Web sites, A-Tunes requires no subscription fee from musicians or customers. “We want to pay the artists, not vice-versa,” says Jim Gardner, co-owner of A-Tone Music. “It’s difficult to make a living playing music, and we want to offer musicians a no-risk, no-fee way of making money and promoting their songs.”

A-Tune tunes cost $1.50 apiece, and “We pay musicians one dollar per download, which is significantly more than any other online service pays the artist,” declares Gardner.

Unlike the big players in the online music business, A-Tunes intends to remain selective. “We want to make available rare musical gems that are unavailable anywhere else,” Gardner explains. “Listeners won’t have to search through pages and pages of songs and bios, but instead can quickly check out featured tracks.”

— Cecil Bothwell

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