Buzzworm news briefs

Campaign Calender

Voter deadlines: To vote in the Oct. 11 primary election, you must be registered by Friday, Sept. 16. Absentee voting by mail for the primary begins Friday, Sept. 9, and ends Monday, Oct. 10. One-stop absentee voting begins Thursday, Sept. 22, and ends Saturday, Oct. 8, at 1 p.m. For further information, contact the Buncombe County Board of Elections at 250-4200 or visit

Sept. 19 mayoral forum: From 7 to 9 p.m. at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel, the League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County will host the primary candidates in Asheville’s mayoral race following a pre-forum “meet and greet” with City Council candidates. Open to the public.

Oct. 5 candidate forum: The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2005 Candidates’ Forum, highlighting Asheville mayoral and city council candidates, takes place from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Resort. This forum is open to Chamber members only. A reservation is required to attend, and the $5 registration cost includes lunch. Reservations can be made online at, or by calling 258-6118.

Candidates, organizations and citizens: Send your campaign-event news — as far in advance as possible — to (fax) 251-1311, or “Campaign Calendar,” Mountain Xpress, P.O. Box 144, Asheville, NC 28802.

Mourning Moog: music’s most old-fashioned forward thinker

The gleaming accomplishments of modern rock were his to trumpet.

At the same time, Robert “Bob” Moog was no stranger to acoustic instruments. When he moved to this area in 1978, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported that a plain old piano, curiously enough, was “the only keyboard” to be found in his self-constructed home.

Moog, inventor of the electronic performance synthesizer, lived in rural Buncombe County’s South Turkey Creek area from that year until his death earlier this month. The musician and scientist succumbed to a brain tumor on Aug. 21, at age 71.

In an interview in Moog, Hans Fjellestad’s recent documentary which was released on DVD this spring, the eponymous inventor attributed his genius to the influence of traditional instruments. Explaining the circuitry on one of his synthesizers — it was his portable “Minimoog” in 1970 that altered music forever — Moog told the filmmaker that in building his boards he experienced “a similar feeling to what a violin maker feels when he’s getting the right amount of wood in a certain part of the violin.”

In fact, for every prog-rock techno-head who reveres Moog, there appears a retro-minded nostalgia buff who’s likewise in thrall: Witness the recent Ether Music Festival at the Orange Peel — an event dedicated to Moog — where neo-vaudeville rockers Barbez and baroque-garbed Goth diva Armen Ra, among other international performers, showed off their respective artistry on the theremin. (Moog’s company in Asheville builds and distributes sleek versions of Leon Theremin’s early 20th-century invention, an electronic instrument with a quavering vibrato most prominently featured in early sci-fi films. Today’s players are inspired by such glamorous theremin virtuosos as Clara Rockmore, whose meeting with Moog was highlighted in another documentary, 1995’s Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey.)

Even the inventor’s wild white hair and disinclination for social niceties transmitted an old-fashioned quality, a la the classic absent-minded professor. In a 2002 interview with Xpress‘ Steve Shanafelt following his win for a Technical Grammy, Moog admitted that he forgot to tell his own local employees about the award (they found out about it from the company’s public-relations rep in California).

“What can I say?” he quipped then. “[That’s] 21st-century communication.”

Hear, hear.

— Melanie McGee

Shaking the money tree

AdvantageWest’s Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council connects the dots between venture capital and regional businesses seeking investors. A nodal point in BREC’s annual calendar is Carolina Connect, a day-long conference where entrepreneurs and money lenders get together for seminars and discussions with tangible results. According to Executive Director Jim Roberts, “This conference has played a big part of new-company formation, capital investment and last year led to over $130,000 of new sales and partnerships for our entrepreneurs.”

This year’s Carolina Connect will be held on at the Renaissance Hotel in Asheville, Thursday, Sept. 8.

The conference will include three keynote presentations starting with a “conversation” interview with Tom Fisher, Qualcomm’s vice president of information technology. Fisher is a graduate of UNC-Charlotte and a former chief technology officer of both eBay and Gateway Computers.

The luncheon keynote speaker is former Asheville resident Jim Armstrong, managing partner of Clearstone Capital, a $650 million venture-capital firm based in Silicon Valley.

The final keynote is a panel discussion on “The State of the State’s Economy and the Role of Western North Carolina.” This panel will be moderated by Chris William, host of the Charlotte-based TV show Carolina Business Review.

The conference will concentrate on helping entrepreneurs get more private investor capital, increase sales revenue and learn more about the process of partnering for research grants. There will be three breakout sessions per topic on investment capital, sales and marketing, and technology transfer and research grants. Panelist highlights include David Worrell, a writer for Entrepreneur Magazine, Casey Porto, director of technology transfer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Asheville native Doug Ellis, CEO of DecisionPoint International in Charlotte.

Two Western North Carolina companies have been chosen to present their business plans to the audience full of investors: Genesis Molecular Discovery — an Asheville-based molecular-design company founded by Jeff Schmitt, the former chief scientist of Targacept; and SmartBand Technologies — an Enka-based technology company that has a patent on a plasma-based antennae for communications devices. The founders of SmartBand Technologies met and formed the company at the first Carolina Connect in 2003.

The $45 early registration fee for the conference is meant to make the event affordable for all types of entrepreneurs. A special discounted rate at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel is available for those who identify themselves as Carolina Connect Conference attendees.

For more info, contact Jim Roberts at 273-9862 or; to RSVP, contact Pam Lewis at or visit

— Cecil Bothwell

Preceding Hair-lines

Between the psychedelic clothing, Summer of Love backdrops, tantalizing dance moves and all the flowing tresses, the 1960s-era musical Hair is quite a visual spectable. Still, there’s more to the production than meets the eye.

Katie Kasben, producer of the upcoming local rendition of the show, wants audiences to get more out of it than catchy songs and peace signs. Sure, Hair touches on issues of race, war, drugs, patriotism and the counterculture, but wearing tie-dye and singing along isn’t enough to take the show from ’60s nostalgia to 21st-century relevance. “To start that dialogue, we have an educational component,” Kasben explains.

Leading up to the Sept. 9 and 10 performances at Diana Wortham Theatre, the H.A.A.I.R. Project (Helping Asheville Artists Inspire Revolution) will host an educational series in the community.

On Saturday, Sept. 3, astrologer Kelly Phipps will offer a talk on the Age of Aquarius. “The whole show can be summed up in the first [verse] of that song,” Kasben notes, referring to the number originally sung by the 5th Dimension. The words — feel free to hum along — go, “When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then peace will guide the planets, and love will steer the stars.” Ever wondered exactly what it means for the moon to be in the seventh house? Phipps will break it down. E-mail for time and location.

On Wednesday, Sept. 7, catch a panel discussion in the Swannanoa Room of UNCA’s Highsmith Union. Panelists include Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University; Michael Butler, the original Broadway producer of Hair; Pat McAfee, who teaches drama at Reynolds High School and has authored two books on Vietnam; and Tim Pluta, former president of Asheville Veterans for Peace. The discussion runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Kasben, who grew up in a military family and has traveled to Vietnam, says the workshops are “not to make apologies for the issues, but to give them context.” These forums are free and open to the public. Donations will be accepted; all proceeds go to the Western North Carolina Peace Coalition. For more information, visit

— Alli Marshall

Spotlight on Minority Business Award winners

When it comes down to it, one of the main purposes of the annual Western North Carolina Minority Enterprise Development Week is to celebrate the contributions of local minority entrepreneurs.

In that spirit, there will be no keynote speaker at the Minority Business Awards Banquet this year, MED Week Chairman Marvin Vierra explains.

“Some people said it took away from the main purpose of the banquet, which is to highlight the winners,” he recently told Xpress.

So this year’s recipients will receive their due recognition at the banquet, which will be held on Thursday, Sept. 8, at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel. The reception begins at 6 p.m. and the banquet at 7 p.m. The cost to attend is $40.

When choosing the award winners, Vierra notes, “the nominating committee looks for growth in a business in terms of sales and employment and … also community involvement.”

The winning entrepreneurs this year are Asheville’s Renita Fields and Johnnie Sanders of WB Fashions in the retail category; Cherokee’s Raymond Mathews of RM Chemical Services in the wholesale category; Asheville’s Theo Pritchett of T&E Technology Inc. in the service category; Alexander’s Julio Monzon of Monzon Painting & Drywall Work in the construction category; and Cherokee’s Brad Jacobs of Lil’ Harvey’s Catering in the restaurant category. Savannah, Samantha and Hoppy Ferguson of Cherokee Mechanical Inc. bagged the Entrepreneur of the Year award.

In addition, awards will also be given to lending institutions that have promoted minority business as well as to the winner of the youth essay contest.

Other highlights of MED Week, which runs Monday, Sept. 5, through Friday, Sept. 9, include: the Awards Banquet for Tribal Employment Rights Office businesses at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 6, at the Smoky Mountain Convention Center in Cherokee; and, on the same day, Celebrating Business, a festive networking social for minority business owners to meet agency representatives and make potential business connections, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at The New French Bar Courtyard and Cafe (12 Biltmore Ave. in Asheville).

One change in the scheduled events should be noted: The Small Business Jump Start Day that was to be held on Wednesday, Sept. 7, at A-B Tech’s Small Business Center on the Enka Campus has been rescheduled for Thursday, Oct. 27, due to construction now going on at the Center.

For more information, call the Asheville Business Development Center at 252-2516.

— Lisa Watters


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