Looking for some longform (or longerform) reads to cozy up with over the weekend? Here’s a round-up of our leading feature stories from the last seven days. Happy reading!
In Asheville and beyond, creative problem solvers are hatching new solutions
By Able Allen
Carl Sandburg called Chicago the “city of the big shoulders”; if he were alive today, he might describe Asheville as “the city of the big thinkers,” acknowledging the passion so many area residents display in seeking out new solutions to the issues we face. On many fronts, creative new approaches are being hatched and put in play.
Big ideas can seem small at first, but even the huge tulip poplars of Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest germinated from tiny seeds. These solutions may address problems small or large; they may also be a new way of looking at something that seems to be working reasonably well. Sometimes, the key to a difficult question seems too slippery to grasp; other times, they just bubble up, as easy as falling off a log. Sometimes a big idea appears to be the answer, and sometimes it just helps us ask better questions.
What follows is only a small sampling of the many big ideas and amazing things local people and institutions are dreaming up and trying out. And while we’ve undoubtedly missed some equally important examples, it’s worth noting that the promising ideas presented here are either being implemented now or will be soon.
Today, big ideas are more likely to be small steps with big potential than immediate giant leaps. They’re a better mousetrap, not the steam engine, and the people representing the ideas presented here would all readily admit that they’re standing on the shoulders of giants. (continue reading)
Commissioners take a look into Buncombe’s future at retreat
By Hayley Benton
Prior to the Tuesday, Jan. 19 Buncombe County Commissioners’ retreat, staff in various departments sat down and took a good look at the county’s priorities, coming up with ideas and alternatives of how to accomplish these goals in 2016 (and beyond).
Those topics? Examining the budget and core county services, continuing to look into affordable housing, implementing a public pre-Kindergarten program, connecting the greenways, using bonds to fund capital intensive infrastructure or IT projects, reducing county waste production, using zoning to promote sustainable development and promoting the living wage.
“As we go through and look at things, we, every year, prepare a budget focusing on priorities,” said County Manager Wanda Greene. “We serve over 250,000 citizens and we touch over one million individuals with the services we provide.”
That being said, it’s extremely important to focus on the county’s needs, she said. “Ninety-two percent of our budget goes to core services. We do everything as efficient as we can, and then we go back and look to see if we got it right” when considering the next year’s budget. (continue reading)
Asheville band leader launches yearlong history of jazz concert series
By Bill Kopp
On Feb. 12, 1924, jazz bandleader Paul Whiteman staged a concert at New York City’s famed Aeolian Hall. That event, billed as An Experiment in Modern Music, featured George Gershwin’s premiere performance of “Rhapsody in Blue.” Whiteman (sometimes called the King of Jazz) would go on to stage many more concerts in the Experiment series, and the shows would become an important part of jazz history in the U.S. This year, Asheville’s godfather of jazz, Russ Wilson, is mounting a similar concert series that he calls Russ Wilson’s History of Jazz. The yearlong Sunday evening series at Isis Restaurant & Music Hall kicked off with a Jan. 3 set, and the next installment, “The Roots of Jazz,” takes place Jan. 24.
Pausing between three back-to-back gigs within the space of 24 hours, Wilson explains the idea behind the concert series. “Almost every style of jazz is being played” here in Asheville, he says. He goes on to list some of the many jazz ensembles currently playing in and around town. This city of under 100,000 people is host to no fewer than three larger-scale jazz groups, he says. “There’s my orchestra, there’s the Asheville Jazz Orchestra, there’s Steve Alford‘s Rational Discourse. That’s three fabulous big bands just in Asheville!” Wilson is also putting together yet another big band, the Euphonic Ragtime Orchestra, specifically for the series’ Sunday, Feb. 7, show. (continue reading)
Choose your own chili: Asheville eateries offer varied takes on a winter favorite
By Jonathan Ammons
If there is a more contentious meal than barbecue, perhaps it is chili. Not only is there raging debate over what constitutes proper chili, but there is even an argument as to where it came from. Was it cattle drivers on the road from Laramie? Or Aztecs feasting on the corpses of invading conquistadors, seasoned generously with spicy peppers? The legends abound, and the facts are scant, to say the least.
What is known is that by the mid 1800s, there were chili outposts all over the Southwest and Midwest. And according to the International Chili Society, an unnamed legend out of Marfa, Texas, regarded by many as the Johnny Appleseed of chili, famously planted herbs and spices along the well-worn cattle trails to provide an endless supply of flavors wherever he drove his chuck wagon.
The mix of meat, chili peppers and seasonings has earned the title of Texas chili. This cowboy cuisine is traditionally composed of the aforementioned ingredients and nothing else, and many purists will swear by it and decry any variation as not “real chili.” (continue reading)
New plant-based living group takes root in WNC
By Hannah Sentenac
Asheville may be way ahead of the curve when it comes to plant-based living, but with fast-food restaurants on every other corner, there is still plenty of room for growth in that area in Western North Carolina.
That’s where Plant Based WNC comes into play. The new group (or “pod”) is part of a larger effort to promote plant-based living, all inspired by the PlantPure Nation documentary.
The film, released last year, was spearheaded by Nelson Campbell, son of Dr. T. Colin Campbell. T. Colin Campbell is the author of The China Study, a groundbreaking book that helped launch the modern plant-based movement. He also played a starring role in the documentary Forks Over Knives, and, thanks in large part to his work over the past several decades, organizations from theAmerican Cancer Society to the the United Nations have started recognizing the importance of plant foods.
Fast forward to now, and PlantPure Nation’s focus on the transformative power of plants has inspired a grassroots effort dedicated to promoting a vegan lifestyle. WNC’s arm is led by community organizer Jane Champion and blogger and cooking instructor Lauren Vaught, and it’s one of several hundred such pods nationwide. (continue reading)
Invisible yet everywhere: Recognizing white privilege
By Mike L. Czeczot
Wait! White privilege? Me? I’m no more privileged than anyone I know…
It was Week 3 of a nine-week lesson in awareness that I hope I’ll never forget — and wish I’d taken years ago. Building Bridges of Asheville is one part awakening, two parts “whack upside the head” and nine parts “meet you halfway,” as in “This is what life is like for us African-Americans here in the Asheville area. If you want to help change that, will you meet us halfway?”
We were given a worksheet titled “White Privilege” and asked to score each of the 26 statements with a 5 if “always true,” 3 if “sometimes true” and 1 if “seldom true.” Statements like:
“I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.”
Well, no one’s ever said to me, “Great job! You’re a credit to Caucasians everywhere!” Gets a 5.
“I can swear, dress in secondhand clothes or not answer letters without having people attribute those choices to bad morals or the poverty or illiteracy of my race.”
OK: Another 5. (continue reading)