Buzzworm news briefs

Women in the wildwood

The second annual Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference will bring several hundred women together at Camp Pinnacle in Hendersonville Sept. 22-24 to learn, explore and celebrate their healing connections with the earth, with plants and with one another.

Keynoting this year’s conference will be teacher/author Starhawk, who’ll speak on “Earth as Teacher, Earth as Healer.” Starhawk is an advocate of earth-based spirituality and sustainable agriculture.

The theme for the conference is “Weaving Together Women in the Southeast”; activities will include numerous workshops, plant walks and lectures by some of the region’s leading female herbal teachers. The organizers say the event is designed to appeal to a diverse audience, including novice herbalists, experienced practitioners and spiritual seekers.

The conference, whose principal sponsor is New Life Journal, is produced by Red Moon Herbs, based at Earthaven Ecovillage in Black Mountain.

Other major sponsors include the North Carolina School of Holistic Herbalism, Mountain Xpress, Greenlife Grocery and the Hendersonville Community Co-op. Registration is $260 ($195 before Aug. 25), with scholarships available for low-income applicants. Camp Pinnacle is 30 minutes from Asheville. Accommodations, meals and childcare are available.

To register or for more detailed information, visit the conference Web site at redmoonherbs.com, or call (888) 929-0777.

— Cecil Bothwell

Geek god

OK. He’d already been featured in the supermarket tabloid Weekly World News for his disturbing collection of personal nail clippings — complete with a large photo of him licking said prized items. How in the sweet hell do you top that?

How about parlaying your rendition of the Star Wars theme on a banjo into yet another 15 minutes of fame? Whether through serendipity or simply inspired genius — Asheville resident Will Chatham, 33, has done just that.

Chatham, a seasoned musician who owns the Web-development firm Asheville Technologies, says he simply sat down one day with his Gibson RB-3 banjo while his wife and two kids were gone and, in two takes, set the movie theme down on video and posted it to one of his Web sites. A stranger found it there and posted it to Fark.com. Eventually it wound up on YouTube.com, the world’s most-viewed site.

But unlike Chatham’s first brush with international exposure, this time nobody gagged. In fact, his video is one of the more popular items on the site, with 275,000 viewings at press time — doubly impressive given the massive amount of content on the site. In fact, Chatham recently created thebestofyoutube.com (where he originally posted his banjo clip) to help sort out the digital chaff on the byzantine site. “There’s a whole lot of crap you have to sort through to find the good stuff,” he explains.

YouTube also contains numerous other Asheville-related clips, though only Asheville Tourists Manager Joe Mikulik‘s recent crazed meltdown over a blown call comes close to topping Chatham.

Thousands of people have commented on the clip (viewable at Chatham’s thebestofyoutube.com or at www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQBRSwZiYS4). Some are a bit harsh in their appraisals of Chatham, Star Wars and the sonic qualities of banjos in general, but the vast majority are effusive in their praise.

“This is not JUST you playing the theme music from Star Wars on [your] banjo. THIS is you spanking the majority of YouTube’s ass,” says one. “You sir are a god of awesome-ness,” says another.

But the story doesn’t end there. People with way too much time on their hands are not the only ones who’ve discovered the clip. So have the folks who work for director George Lucas. Chatham has even been invited to perform at Lucas’ annual nerdfest, the “Star Wars Celebration,” though nothing is finalized yet, he says.

The May 2007 event will coincide with the film’s 30th anniversary, so a big blowout with its stars and director is in the making. For a rabid fan who vividly remembers seeing the original with his mom and still has the toys — well, it’s enough to make a person start gnawing their nails in anticipation.

“I’ve been a pretty big Star Wars geek my whole life,” says Chatham, sporting a broad grin. “I am so stoked.”

Or as Yoda might correct him: “So stoked I am.”

— Hal Millard

The bleep goes on

Bob Moog
Bob Moog. photo by Alex Manesss

Next Monday marks the first anniversary of Bob Moog‘s death. And while his legacy as a musical innovator is assured — especially for anyone of an age to have Herbie Hancock’s Rockit branded on their cultural sinews — a new foundation promises to keep Moog’s spirit very much alive.

The family and friends of the man best known as the father of the synthesizer have spent much of the past year creating The Bob Moog Memorial Foundation for Electronic Music. Moog’s daughter, Lexington Avenue business owner Michelle Moog-Koussa, is the group’s director.

The foundation’s purpose, she says, is to honor both her father’s fame as an electronic-music pioneer and his legacy as “a warm and humble human being.” Accordingly, the group plans to endow three academic scholarships in electronic music — one at UNCA, where both Moog and his wife taught for many years; another at Cornell University, where he earned his Ph.D.; and another at the acclaimed Berklee College of Music in Boston.

A more ambitious objective is creating a Moog museum to house 50 years’ worth of photographs, correspondence, schematics, rare instruments, articles by and about the music icon, and artwork that fans sent him.

Moog’s ties to Asheville were considerable. He moved his family here in 1978, and appropriately, the city tops the short list of planned sites for the museum, his daughter reports.

The foundation also plans to support mentoring and outreach activities, bringing the possibilities of electronic music to disadvantaged students.

“When I think of Dad, the words ‘curiosity’ and ‘innovation’ come to mind,” says Moog-Koussa. “Those are also the main themes for this foundation.”

The more than 100,000 letters of concern (and, later, condolence) posted on Moog’s page at www.caringbridge.com, a site that kept the inventor and well-wishers in touch during his battle with cancer, are ample evidence of how many lives he touched.

“Dad really believed in bringing people together,” says Moog-Koussa. “We hope, ultimately, that’s what this foundation will do.”

— Kent Priestley

From hate to unity

In an attempt to erase the remnants of an ugly incident with racist overtones, the Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Asheville & Buncombe County has organized a “From Divisiveness to Diversity” rally Thursday, Aug. 17, in Asheville.

“We’re gathering to show solidarity in our community after Martin Luther King Park was leafleted with fliers that carried a very negative message about a race of people,” association Chair Oralene Simmons said delicately.

“We want to come together and show that we don’t have room for this in our community,” she explained.

On July 29, Asheville’s Martin Luther King Drive was littered with crude fliers. “It was a very inflammatory thing, a very insulting thing, and it made threats,” said John Dankel, public-relations officer for the Asheville Police Department. “This is stuff right out of the ’50s,” Dankel added. “It was horrendous.”

The APD received calls about the situation even as its own officers had spotted the strewn leaflets and begun picking them up by the dozen.

“We opened an investigation under the [state’s] hate-crimes statute,” said Dankel. An incident in a downtown parking lot was seen as a possible instigation for the threats on the flier, but Dankel said the police found no evidence linking the people involved to the leafleting.

And the investigation lost steam after it was learned that the incident didn’t fit the terms of the state law. The Buncombe County district attorney’s office, said Dankel, advised the APD that “hate crimes have to be directed at an individual” rather than a group or class of people. The only charge the police could bring against the perpetrator(s) would be for littering, he said.

So the association decided to stage a rally and invite city and county leaders and officials to speak. The event will also feature music and prayers, said Simmons, emphasizing that her group wants “to nip these things in the bud and create unity in our community.

The association, which has sponsored an annual MLK prayer breakfast and celebration for a quarter-century, is dedicated to “keeping the wisdom and inspiration of Dr. King alive and vital in Western North Carolina,” according to its Web site.

The “From Divisiveness to Diversity” rally happens Thursday, Aug. 17, at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, from 7 to 8 p.m. The park is off Martin Luther King Boulevard in central Asheville. For more information about the association, go to martinlutherkingofashevillebuncombeco.org.

— Nelda Holder

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