Buzzworm news briefs

Campaign Calendar

Sept. 21 community forum: The West Asheville Business Association is sponsoring an open community forum for candidates for Asheville City Council and mayor at 6:30 p.m. The forum will be held at the West Asheville Community Center, 970 Haywood Road, behind the fire station and West Asheville Library.

Sept. 21 pub party: City Council candidate Bryan Freeborn is hosting a “Political Pub Party” featuring locally produced refreshments and music starting at 9 p.m. at the Westville Pub, 777 Haywood Road in West Asheville.

Sept. 22 rally: Council candidate Robin Cape is rallying voters at 11 a.m. at Pack Square to celebrate the beginning of one-stop absentee voting. Cape will then lead the group to the Board of Elections office to cast their votes.

Sept. 22 candidate meeting: At 7 p.m., the WENOCA Sierra Club presents a candidates’ night meeting with Terry Bellamy, candidate for Asheville mayor, and Robin Cape and Holly Jones, candidates for City Council, at the Asheville Unitarian Church, 1 Edwin Place (corner of Charlotte St. and Edwin). Free and open to the public.

Sept. 23 candidate meeting: The Buncombe County Republicans are holding a “Meet the Candidates” session with Asheville mayoral and Council candidates, 4:30-7:30 p.m., in the meeting room of the North Asheville Library (1030 Merrimon Ave.). Drop by anytime; refreshments will be served.

Sept. 26 precinct party: The Montford Precinct of the Democratic Party is sponsoring a City Council Democratic Candidate Forum from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Montford Community Center, 34 Pearson Dr.

Sept. 27 after-work reception: Robin Cape hosts a wine-and-cheese reception at the Laughing Seed Restaurant from 4 to 7:30 p.m., celebrating endorsements by WENOCA Sierra Club, PARC and Democracy for America.

Oct. 5 candidate forum: The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2005 Candidates’ Forum for Asheville mayoral and Council candidates takes place from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Resort. Open to Chamber members only, reservations are required ($10, including lunch) and can be made online at www.ashevillechamber.org, or by calling 258-6118.

Oct. 17 council forum: Finalists for the Asheville City Council election will participate in a public forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel at 7 p.m. Mayoral finalists will also be on hand for a meet-the-candidates session.

Voter deadlines: One-stop absentee voting begins Sept. 22 and ends Oct. 8 at 1 p.m. For further information, contact the Buncombe County Board of Elections at 250-4200 or visit www.buncombecounty.org/governing/depts/Election.

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.

Folk festival history at your fingertips

It’s always fascinating to look at photographs from another era — at the hairstyles and clothes that were in fashion at the time and the moments, frozen forever, that document our history.

Such is the case with the photos in the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival Collection, recently acquired by UNCA’s D.H. Ramsey Library Special Collections Department. Donated by the Asheville Chamber of Commerce’s Folk Heritage Committee, the archive (which heretofore was stored in Chamber’s basement) contains a wealth of visual material that documents the evolution of both the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival (the nation’s oldest folk festival) and its offshoot, Shindig on the Green, from the late 1960s to the present.

Much of the collection — photographs and promotional materials such as posters and brochures — has been digitized and recently became available online (toto.lib.unca.edu).

“We are delighted to take in this collection and to properly preserve and archive the materials,” says Helen Wykle, the library’s special-collections coordinator. Wykle notes that the process of digitizing material is ongoing and that more images will be available online in the future.

One of the most exciting things about the collection, she says, “is to look at the images from that era and to identify people who were musicians or dancers during that period. There are so many people in the community who have a connection with either the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival or the Shindig on the Green, and being able to recognize a relative or a friend can be just really a delightful process.”

And if anyone perusing the collection does recognize individuals in the photographs, Wykle encourages them to contact her with that information. “Knowing who these performers are enriches the history,” she says.

While the collection is an important contribution to preserving the history of the festivals, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Earlier visual material can be found in the archive of Bascom Lamar Lunsford (who founded the festival in 1928) held by Mars Hill College. Wykle says that she and Cassie Robinson, who coordinates that collection, hope to at some point bring the collections together in some way.

The UNCA collection also doesn’t contain significant audio material, Wykle notes. Historical recordings can be found at the Smithsonian (in its Folkways recordings), the Library of Congress’ Archive of Folk Culture, the American Folklife Center and the Lunsford archive at Mars Hill College.

UNCA’s Ramsey Library Special Collections Department is open from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. For more information, call 251-6645.

— Lisa Watters

The anti-imperial humorist

He entered the world as Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a son of a still-young nation trying to make its mark on the world stage. He left it as Mark Twain, as beloved a humorist and writer as this country has ever had — and a dyed-in-the-wool opponent of American empire.

It’s a part of Twain’s long and rich career that rarely makes it into the history books, an omission redressed by Ron Power‘s authoritative new biography of the man from Hannibal, Mark Twain: A Life (Free Press, 2005).

In the book, Powers recounts how the dawn of the 20th century found the United States embroiled in its first major counterinsurgency operation — in the Philippines — and Twain on the barricades of public argument over the intervention. “I am an anti-imperialist,” he told reporters in October of 1900. “I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.”

It would have been “a worthy idea,” Twain said, to “relieve [the Filipinos] from Spanish tyranny to enable them to set up a government of their own.” But instead, he complained, “we have got into a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater.”

It’s a critique that sounds all too familiar today, with U.S. forces once again mired in a bloody intervention abroad. And it’s just one bit of Twain’s remarkable life and work that Powers can discuss when he reads from the biography at Malaprop’s Bookstore at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 29.

— Jon Elliston

The schoolhouse rocks

When it comes to school supplies, pens and paper are so pedestrian. Students arrive to Christine Ray‘s Blue Mountain Schoolhouse class lugging Harley Davidson boots, light fixtures and night goggles.

“It’s a big variety of items,” Ray said of the junk-cum-treasure that students enrolled in her “Selling on eBay” course hope to unload.

Ray’s class has been one of the most popular offerings by the Blue Mountain Schoolhouse, a community-based open university celebrating its one-year anniversary this month. In addition to learning how to select the right opening bid for their fishing gear, participants are also translating Hungarian texts, hypnotizing themselves to quit smoking, swapping out brake pads on their bikes and keeping bees without getting stung.

More than 1,000 students have studied with nearly 100 teachers in the program’s first year. “What’s so cool is not that it got this big this quickly,” says Schoolhouse director Zhenya Gene Senyak. “What’s cool is it’s percolating through the community. Students are becoming teachers and they’re influencing where Blue Mountain goes.”

Ray said students in her classes — a third session was added to accommodate overflow crowds — appreciate the cooperative’s hands-on approach to pedagogy. Teachers take the time to delve deeply into subjects which would be neglected by degree-driven programs. Although quickie online auction 101 workshops occasionally surface at technical colleges, few devote hours to helping students craft perfect item descriptions.

Ray, co-owner of the Consignment Center, shepherded the owner of the women’s size 8 1/2 Harley Davidson boots through the entire posting process, from photographing — “we took pictures of the inside, the underside and several different angles,” — to choosing the best list time. The boots sold for $51.

“The nice thing about the Schoolhouse is all the classes are taught with the idea there’s a lot more learning that can go on, no matter what your age or educational background,” Ray says.

According to Senyak, the plan for Blue Mountain is to keep offering classes while further expanding their reach. “There are all sorts of thing in the hopper,” Senyak said. “We could get a bus, add senior programs.”

Senyak said the board is being careful not to replicate or compete with any existing community programs: “Sometimes we can help by offering a workshop and stepping out of the way,” he said.

“Blue Mountain is special in Asheville,” Senyak says. “It’s big because it’s true, true community building.”

— Hanna Miller

Winning the prescription drug war

If you’ve asked around, you’ve doubtless discovered that nobody pays a “same price” for health care and prescription drugs. Each health insurance plan offers its own variation on the theme, and the uninsured seem to pay full price — at least most of the time. Other times, if they are lucky, they get a bump up from one or another charitable or government program.

To help Buncombe County citizens cope with the high price of prescription drugs, the county is providing a discount drug card under a program sponsored by the National Association of Counties. The card is available to all county residents, regardless of age, income or existing health coverage, and it’s accepted at most local pharmacies. It will benefit anyone who doesn’t have full prescription drug coverage.

Cards are available now in all county offices including branch libraries. There are no enrollment forms, no membership fees and no restrictions or limits on frequency of use. Savings range from 13 to 35 percent on purchase of drugs at local pharmacies and up to 50 percent on mail-order purchases. There are more than 50 participating pharmacies in Buncombe County and the card may be used anywhere in the United States where participating pharmacies are located.

This program has been instituted at no cost to participating counties. (Kind of makes you wonder: If pharmacies can afford to drop their prices by 13 to 35 percent for anyone who bothers to pick up a county card, why don’t they simply drop their prices for everyone?)

— Cecil Bothwell

Chimney Swift Watch

Local group People Advocating Real Conservancy will hold its Third Annual Chimney Swift Watch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening, Sept. 23-25. The public is invited to meet with PARC members on O. Henry Avenue near the Grove Arcade between 7 and 8 p.m. to watch the birds.

Each year, chimney swifts in North America gather in preparation for their annual migration to Peru, denning each night in chimneys. While they are present at several locations around Asheville, one of the best places to witness this unique natural spectacle is at the Grove Arcade.

Many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the swifts gather every evening and then swirl into the Arcade chimney. At the peak, it looks as though they are being poured through a funnel, with more than 100 birds per minute entering the chimney. The swifts started gathering around Labor Day and can be seen nightly until they head south during the first week of October.

For further information, contact PARC spokesperson Julie Brandt at swiftwatch@skyrunner.net.

— Cecil Bothwell

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